HEAT VISION

Why 'Ma' Star Diana Silvers Worried She'd Failed Her Audition

There was an extra scene the actor did not realize would be part of her reading, but she soon learned she'd landed the part and found herself being mentored by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.
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There was an extra scene the actor did not realize would be part of her reading, but she soon learned she'd landed the part and found herself being mentored by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

For Diana Silvers, the road to starring in the horror film Ma began with a little scare of her own.

The model turned actor plays Maggie, a teenager who moves to a small town with her single mom, Erica (Juliette Lewis). She becomes involved with a group of kids who begin partying in the basement of a woman (Octavia Spencer) who insists they call her Ma — and who soon becomes involved in their lives in frightening ways.

The film is a hit for Blumhouse, having already earned $21 million globally on a $5 million budget.

“Truthfully, I didn't think I was going to get the part,” Silvers tells The Hollywood Reporter, explaining that she went in to read for the New York associates of Ma’s casting director, Kerry Barden.

“There were three scenes I was supposed to prepare. I thought there were only two, so I had to cold read the third scene,” Silvers says. “I thought I bombed the audition.”

But the audition went much better than she thought. Soon after, she was invited to audition for Barden, director Tate Taylor and producer John Norris. Then came a chemistry reading with Oscar winner Spencer.

“Octavia was just so encouraging, and she really wanted me to be Maggie,” Silvers says. She was cast as the film’s protagonist, making it her second Blumhouse project after Hulu's Flesh & Blood.

Even though Silvers had lot of experience in front of the camera as a model, being chosen over “far more seasoned actors” felt like a miracle.

“Obviously, modeling and acting are very different,” she says. “With acting, there's just so much more to explore on an intellectual, emotional and physical level, especially with Ma. I was nervous, and I was just trying my best to be present and learn as much as I could from Tate, Juliette and Octavia.”

She came to view Taylor and Spencer as mentors during the process. When the cast was not filming, Silvers says, “Tate would cook for all of us, and we had cast dinners.”

Ma also gave Silvers the opportunity to play the on-screen daughter of her childhood acting idol, Lewis, whom Silvers first saw in 1993's What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

“Her role in that film is what made me want to become an actor,” Silvers says. Working with Lewis taught her that “you can still have a very strong sense of who you are and be successful in this industry."

Even though she has gained experience in both the horror and thriller genres, through work in Glass as well as director Taylor’s next crime drama, Eve, Silvers says she does not have a genre preference.

“I’m drawn to interesting female characters and good storylines,” she says. Booksmart, a female-centric hit comedy from director Olivia Wilde in which Silvers has a supporting role, fits that description. 

As for continuing to work in horror or on another Blumhouse project, Silvers says she would welcome the opportunity.

“I'm definitely grateful that I've been able to work with a company that has given me a solid start to my career, a company I hope to work with again in the future, maybe even as the director or writer,” she says.

  • Lorraine Wheat
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