Octavia Spencer offered a free screening of her critically-acclaimed film Hidden Figures for families in need — buying out Friday's 8 p.m. showing at a Baldwin Hills movie theater in Los Angeles

By Dave Quinn
January 15, 2017 04:47 PM
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Octavia Spencer kicked of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend with a generous gift in honor of her late mother.

The 46-year-old actress offered a free screening of her critically acclaimed film Hidden Figures for families in need — buying out Friday’s 8 p.m. showing at a Baldwin Hills movie theater in Los Angeles.

“If you know a family in need that would like to see our movie but can’t afford it have them come,” Spencer wrote on Instagram, captioning a hand-painted watercolor image of her character in the movie by artist Stella Blu. “It’s first come, first served.”

“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,” she added. “Pass the word.”

The gesture inspired Spencer’s Hidden Figures costar Taraji P. Henson, who also spread the word about the screening on her Instagram page.

“This is how phenomenal this woman is,” she wrote. “@therealoctaviaspencer bought out the movie theatre for tonight’s 8pm showing of #HiddenFigures …. for poverty stricken families who want to see this movie with their children on #MLK day. If you are in #LA & don’t have the money to see the movie with your children go watch for free tonight! ”

Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Hidden Figures is a powerful story of three African-American women behind NASA’s first successful space missions in the 1960s — whose courage, determination, and genius helps them overcome certain racial and gender divides to achieve greatness.

Based on a book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film’s box-office success has helped Katherine Johnson (Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) get the widespread recognition they deserve.

Buying the screening in honor of her mother was especially touching for Spencer, who lost her mother Dellsena Spencer when she was just 18.

RELATED VIDEO: Octavia Spencer Opens Up About Losing Her Mother And The Unforgettable Lessons She Left Behind

Speaking on The Jess Cagle Interview, Spencer opened up to PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly’s editorial director about Dellsena and the lessons she learned from her mother that she still holds firm.

Dellsna was a single mom who worked as a maid and at other odd jobs to provide for her seven children. Her mother also ensured that her kids were sheltered from bigotry and boundaries.

“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!”

Credit: Hopper Stone; Inset: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

For more from Octavia Spencer, watch the full episode of The Jess Cagle Interview, streaming now on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.

Although Dellsena never got to see her daughter become a successful actress, Spencer credits her mother with preparing her for Hollywood by teaching her that she was able to do anything — and for inspiring her to be practical, grounded and hardworking.

“I think she gave me the necessary foundation to be able to do what I do,” she shared. “I think you have to have blind faith in yourself and your ability. You have to not know that there’s a wall there because if you’re constantly looking for barriers, then they will be there.”

“You have to not see boundaries,” Spencer added. “You have to see the sky is the limit, otherwise you will never get off the ground.”