Octavia Spencer knows what it’s like to grow up with very little money and miss out on things other kids get to enjoy, like going to the movies.
So on Friday, to begin the Martin Luther King. Jr. weekend and to honor the memory of her mother, she bought out a showing of her new movie, “Hidden Figures,” at a theater in Los Angeles and invited people who didn’t have enough money for tickets to see it.
She issued the invitation on Instagram.
“If you know a family in need that would like to see our movie but can’t afford it have them come,” she wrote on Instagram, where she posted a Stella Blu watercolor image of her character in the movie. “It’s first come, first served.”
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“My mom would not have been able to afford to take me and my siblings. So, I’m honoring her and all single parents this #mlkweekend. Pass the word.”
Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughan, one of three female black mathematicians whose contributions to NASA’s first successful space missions in the 1960s are featured in the film.
The movie has quickly become a must-see for girls and young women across the country.
Last week a group called Girls Build LA held a special screening for 10,000 Los Angeles County middle and high school students.
Girls Build encourages girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math — also known as STEM.
Spencer and co-stars Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe attended the showing and spoke to the girls.
“These are your new superheroes,” Monáe told the crowd, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Monáe also offered a bit of relationship advice to the female audience: “If you are in a relationship with someone who does not support your dreams, ditch them. You are meant to do great things, and you should always have the support of your significant other.”
Peter Chernin, who produced the film, said he hopes the film’s message hits home with at least one girl.
“If we reach one girl, much less hundreds, much less thousands, it will be one of the most satisfying things as a producer I can imagine,” Chernin said.
According to Fortune, 20th Century Fox has partnered with Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit that introduces black girls to programming and technology, to host a series of free screenings in the 11 cities that host a BGC chapter.
Black Girls CODE built a website called Futurekatherinejohnsons.com that spotlights members of the group and how they’ve been inspired by Katherine Johnson, the mathematician and physicist played by Henson in the film.
Paying for families to see the movie was a personal act for Spencer, whose mother, Dellsena Spencer, died when the actress was 18.
Dellsena worked as a maid to support her seven children, Spencer told People.
“I had a very strong mom who made me and my sisters understand that there were no limitations on our lives except what we placed on ourselves,” Spencer said. “She taught us to see people as people. All people. Taught us to understand our place in the world. And our place in the world is, if you want to be a leader, you can be that.
“There was no glass ceiling until I got into the real world and realized there are glass ceilings everywhere!”