“Black people always die in the first 15 minutes of a horror film,” the actress tells EW, recalling her initial skepticism upon hearing longtime friend and collaborator Tate Taylor’s (The Help) pitch for a disturbing, darkly funny revenge story. “He said, ‘Not only do you not die, you get to kill people!’”
Spencer immediately dove into the psyche of the titular loner who befriends a group of rowdy high schoolers, offering the basement of her isolated home as a safe space for their partying. Teenage debauchery quickly turns to bloody butchery, however, after their concerned parents unexpectedly trigger Ma’s past trauma. “Because certain things happened in her life, there’s a domino effect for her future,” she teases.
Taylor, who revamped the character (originally a sadistic white woman) to suit Spencer, compares Ma’s tone to the “goofiness of Misery” mixed with classic teen movies of the ’80s. But genre tropes weren’t the only thing the duo subverted.
“There are archetypes people only want to see me as,” Spencer adds. (“Wise characters” wearing “period wigs and costumes,” as Taylor explains it.) “So I had to change that for myself [and] the next young woman of color to be able to play every type of role.”
Fittingly, Taylor calls the film a “cautionary tale” about the mistreatment of women. “Don’t brush them under the rug and think there won’t be repercussions,” he teases. “Not with Ma!”
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