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Octavia Spencer on how 'Ma' propels Hollywood's black-led horror movement

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There’s long been an unfortunate, racially tinged trope in horror movies: If there was a black character in the film, he or she was dying first — second at best.

And that is exactly what Octavia Spencer mentioned to director and longtime friend and collaborator Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) when he first called to pitch her a role in the new movie Ma.

"I stopped him, I said, 'Listen, black people usually die within the first 15 minutes of a horror film,'" she recounted to Yahoo Entertainment at the film's Los Angeles press day (watch above). "And he said, 'You get to kill everybody.' So I said, 'Sign me up! We'll talk about the logistics later.'"

The horror landscape has changed in recent years, thanks in large part to writer-director Jordan Peele, who followed up his Oscar-winning 2016 social thriller Get Out with this year's Us. With those movie, Peele's plans to remake the 1992 slasher film Candyman, and the recent announcement that Chris Rock is following in Peele’s footsteps in pivoting from comedy to horror to reboot the Saw franchise, it feels like a full-on movement is afoot for black-led horror.

In the case of Spencer's role of Sue Ann, a.k.a. "Ma," a veterinarian assistant who gradually goes off the rails after allowing some local teens to party in her basement, the role was not specifically written for a black woman.

And Spencer, 47, takes pride in the fact that she may be the first black woman to take on the mantle of Lead Psycho Killer in a major Hollywood movie (some could argue that distinction belongs to Lupita Nyong'o in Us, but that was more of a killers-by-committee situation; here it's all Ma's show).

"I wanted that opportunity for young girls to be able to play whatever role they wanna play," she said. "If you want a romantic comedy, you should have that. If you want to be a villain, you should have that. If you want to be in a horror film, you should have those roles available."

Ma opens Friday. Watch the trailer:


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