Actress Octavia Spencer poses for a photo as she promotes the movie "Smashed" during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Wednesday.

Actress Octavia Spencer poses for a photo as she promotes the movie "Smashed" during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Wednesday.

Small roles prove smash success

Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer rose to the ranks of Hollywood’s elite with a small but key role as an outspoken maid in The Help.

TORONTO — Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer rose to the ranks of Hollywood’s elite with a small but key role as an outspoken maid in The Help.

And now she’s returning to the big screen with yet another small but key part, this time as a recovering alcoholic in the buzz-laden indie drama Smashed.

It’s the kind of supporting gig Spencer has become used to playing.

While promoting Smashed at the Toronto International Film Festival, she says winning an Oscar hasn’t really changed the type of secondary parts she’s being offered.

Not that she’s complaining.

The affable Spencer gushed over how much she loves the intimate addiction feature, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a schoolteacher whose drinking spirals out of control.

Spencer says “you have to create your own path and I’m up to the challenge.”

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sunday.

Spencer says Smashed was the first film she was offered after her career-changing turn in The Help.

She landed the part in July 2011, before The Help was released, and shot her part in October, before her awards season success.

Since then, she’s been marvelling at the incredible run she’s had, including Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies.

Still, Spencer admits the floodgates to juicy parts haven’t opened — although she now has access to “all the roles that are out there for my character type.”

“There’s a little crack in the dam and there’s little trickles carrying in and I’m thrilled about the trickles because before there were no trickles,” Spencer said during a round of interviews Wednesday, adding that the Academy Award has allowed her to meet Hollywood’s “best and brightest.”

“It would be crazy to look at this situation and say, ‘There’s not enough roles out there.’ It’s like, OK, then that’s the challenge you have to meet.”

Spencer, 42, says she looks for parts that thrill her and move her, no matter the size. And if that means she may never land a leading lady role, she’s OK with it.

“I’m a woman who eventually will get married and have kids — adopted at this point — but I see myself with a family and less time to commit to wanting to be a lead character,” says Spencer.

“This has been a transformative year for me and my career. Lord, talk about Cinderella stories — I got to go home with the prince and the slipper, so there you go.”

Smashed opens Nov. 2 in select cities.