In the new Blumhouse Horror film, Ma, a lonely middle-aged woman befriends some teenagers and decides to let them party in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober, don't curse, and never go upstairs. They must also refer to her as Ma. But as Ma's hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma's place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on Earth. Screen Rant recently had the opportunity to sit down with Octavia Spencer who plays the title character in the film and discuss how she approached the character.
First of all: the last time you and Tate Taylor teamed up, it resulted in an Oscar win for you. Why was this the first project for you to reunite?
Octavia Spencer: Actually, it wasn’t. The last time we teamed up was for Get On Up with Chadwick Boseman. But when your friend brings you a project, and it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever done – and he knew how I just needed a break from period wigs and corsets and all that stuff – you have the opportunity. You know it’s going to be a journey.
It’s crazy, because I see you and I love every single thing you’ve done. To see you in this role in a terrifying kind of way is so shocking to me, but Ma brings a whole new dynamic to the horror genre. What are you hoping that audiences take away from that?
Octavia Spencer: You know what? I never ever try to tell an audience what to think, because I think the moviegoing experience – whatever message you’re supposed to get, that will be your message. What I hope is that people will allow her into their space for a moment and then draw their conclusions on what the movie is about for themselves. But, yeah, I just hope that they allow Ma the space to be a villain.
It’s interesting with Ma, because there’s so much I sympathize with her as well. And it reminded me a lot of Kathy Bates’ character in Misery. Is there any inspiration you drew from other classic horror villains, in a sense?
Octavia Spencer: You know, I didn’t approach it at all as a horror film. To sell her for me, in order to believe that she goes from Point A to Point Z, I had to build her character based on all of the things that she went through mentally. And so I didn’t approach it – because then I probably would have found myself walking through rooms [like a monster]. So I had to ground her in her reality.
Amazing job too on the emotional switches that triggered her – just so much emoting in your face when you were doing that character. But when you opened the script and started reading the character, what were the first things that kind of jumped out at you and made you want to jump on board?
Octavia Spencer: Well, the fact that she was damaged and didn't know it. The very first time that she agrees to buy booze for those teenagers lets you know that there is something not right with this person. And of course, I wanted to read on, and I'm thinking, "Well, this is going to be a great journey." She did everything with good intentions, and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
We also know that in Hollywood it takes a long time to choreograph things, and I gotta say you had some sick dance moves – I saw a little bit of the Sprinkler going on there. I loved the dance moves. Was that just kind of all improvised, or was that…?
Octavia Spencer: That was all Tate! He would just throw things out. And, you know, the other thing is Ma is stuck in a time warp. So her dances – these kids are like, “What is she doing?” So it was all about showing just where she is emotionally.
More: Watch the Ma Trailer