Octavia Spencer Wants 'To Be Fascinated’ When Choosing Projects to Adapt for the Screen

Spencer, who founded the production company Orit Entertainment, is developing Ashley Elston’s novel ‘First Lie Wins’ for Hulu

<p>Rob Latour/Shutterstock</p> Octavia Spencer in 2023

Rob Latour/Shutterstock

Octavia Spencer in 2023

When Octavia Spencer decides to adapt a project for the screen, it has to have something special.

The Academy Award winner, 53, spoke with Jordan Moblo at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 21, alongside Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff and author Ashley Elston. Spencer and Vernoff are adapting Elston's novel, First Lie Wins, into a Hulu film, and Spencer revealed that she’s looking for something in particular with the projects she takes on with her production company, Orit Entertainment.

“We like to read and develop things that resonate with everyone, but that there's always a little bit of light or hope at the end of it,” Spencer said. “I want to be fascinated. I am John Q. Public. If I'm sitting down to give anything my time, I want it to either educate me in some way, give me a little bit of escapism, teach me something or entertain me until no end, and hopefully bring some light into the world."

<p>Pamela Dorman Books</p> 'First Lie Wins' by Ashley Elston

Pamela Dorman Books

'First Lie Wins' by Ashley Elston

It was announced in 2022 that Spencer and Vernoff would adapt First Lie Wins for the screen. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Spencer, Vernoff and Elston will serve as executive producers on the film based off Elston’s novel, which follows a con artist who is running away from her past. The book was Reese Witherspoon’s January 2024 book club pick, and is a “fast-paced read [that] has everything you could want in a thriller,” according to the actress.

Spencer said that developing First Lie Wins for the screen was a meaningful experience. 

"For me to be working in conjunction with both [Elston and Vernoff], all of us, it's like eating ice cream every day," she said.

Related: Octavia Spencer on the Life Hack That Makes Her Feel Like Chef Ina Garten: ‘And I Don’t Cook’ (Exclusive)

The producer also explained that her production company’s name came from an interaction she had during her early days in the entertainment business.

<p>Earl Gibson III/Shutterstock</p> Octavia Spencer in 2024

Earl Gibson III/Shutterstock

Octavia Spencer in 2024

“I worked as an intern at a casting office and [on] my very first day, I met the casting director and she was amazing,” Spencer recalled. “But all day, she would say, ‘Orit, I need you to do this.’ And there were three other assistants outside the other office and the adjacent office connected to hers.”

“So I'm opening mail, and then by lunch, one of the other assistants walked over and said, ‘I think you're Orit. I haven't done any of these things,’” Spencer continued. “And so I love that name, and I've come to find out that it's Hebrew for light.”

Related: Octavia Spencer Says Whoopi Goldberg Encouraged Her to 'Get Your Education' Before Pursuing Acting

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Spencer, whose Apple TV+ show Truth Be Told aired its final season in 2023, also revealed her own favorite book-to-screen adaptation.

The Exorcist,’ Spencer said. “One of the best movies ever done in the genre. Nothing has ever topped it.”

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