Octavia Spencer on 'Hidden Figures' Co-Star Kevin Costner: "Like Me, He's All Business"

Tracy Bennett/Relativity Media
'Hidden Figures' co-stars Costner and Spencer also appeared together in 2014’s 'Black or White' (above).

This movie marks the pair's second collaboration after 2014's 'Black or White.' Says Spencer, "He comes to town, he gets to work. … We have similar styles."

Octavia Spencer was one of the first people on Hidden Figures to learn (via a note from their mutual agent) that Kevin Costner had been cast in the role of Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group at the heart of the film. It's the pair's second collaboration, after 2014's Black or White, a passion project for Costner in which the two played grandparents fighting for custody of their mixed-race granddaughter.

Their work on Hidden Figures overlapped by eight days. "Kevin's like me, he's all business," says Spencer. "He comes to town, he gets to work. I knew the type of commitment he'd bring to the role. We have similar [working] styles."

That process involved delving into the time period in which Hidden Figures takes place — the racially charged late 1950s and early '60s and the United States' space race with the Soviet Union. "Because you're supposed to be people who exist in these spaces for years, there has to be a shorthand to knowing things like where your pencils are on your desk," Spencer adds. "So Kevin and I do the same type of thing; he spends hours on set before it's time to shoot."

Spencer is particularly effusive about Costner's portrayal of Harrison, a character (created from three real-life men) who is blind to the social injustices experienced by Spencer's character and her cohorts. Says Spencer, "He elevated [Al] by making him so flawed, but still a person who was willing to learn from his oversight."

This story first appeared in a January standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.