Diana Hopper on Acting and Finding Inspiration
Diana Hopper stars alongside Billy Bob Thornton in Amazon Prime series, Goliath.
Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Diana Hopper was one of many fledgling youths with her heart set on a career in acting. But hustling into the spotlight does not come easy. It means learning to dance with audacity, to the tune of fear. It also means diving into the unknown in pursuit of impossible-sized dreams.
Diana has remained undaunted in the face of these challenges, earning a rightful place among heavyweights in the film and television industry. After moving across the country to pursue her dream at full-throttle, she landed roles in Criminal Minds, the comedy series Casual and a lead role in the Lifetime movie, Hidden Truth. Diana is currently starring in a supporting role alongside Billy Bob Thornton in the Amazon Prime TV series, Goliath.
In our interview, Diana shared details on her journey to acting, advice for aspiring creatives, and some of her biggest inspirations.
From Memphis Community Theatre to Los Angeles
Diana developed a love for acting while performing community theatre as a child. At age 11 she was cast in a production of The Music Man. From there, her talent and passion blossomed and led her to move to New York for formal training. “At seventeen, I decided to go to New York Film Academy. It was there that I fully realized my passion for film acting. The year after that, I landed my first role in an independent feature film called The Wicked. I loved the experience so much that I decided I wanted to give full-time acting a real shot. So I packed up my things, and moved to Los Angeles.”
Once in LA, Diana quickly picked up a handful of roles across TV projects including Criminal Minds and Earthfall. In 2015 she joined the cast of Goliath alongside Billy Bob Thornton. The show chronicles the story of Thornton’s character Billy McBride, a disgraced lawyer who is looking to redeem his past. Diana plays Billy’s 16-year-old daughter Denise McBride, a teenager who is striving to connect with her father while navigating the pressures of high school.
“Denise is fun to play as she is the voice of reason for her dad, even though she’s still a teenager. In season two, you get to watch her fears, needs and anxieties unfold in a way you can relate to. All these emotions come to a head towards the end of the season, which has been an exciting journey to be a part of”. As for working alongside Thornton, Diana says it could not be easier, sharing, “he elevates any scene he is in. It’s an honor to work alongside him”.
Getting into character and advice for other actors
At only 25 years old, Diana emanates a steady maturity and strength both on and off camera. It’s not surprising that her biggest onscreen inspirations are women who share the same characteristics. “Katharine Hepburn and Liz Taylor really inspire me. They are powerhouse actresses with a strong sense of self,” she says. Despite her success on screen, Diana says she has to focus on living out her strength when acting, admitting, “I still get nervous with every performance.”
In addition to inner-strength and confidence, Diana shared another quality she believes goes hand in hand with great acting. “I believe the ability to listen is the most important thing. If you are listening, you are present. Many great actors throughout generations have shared this plain and undeniable truth, but one of my favorite takes on the subject comes from Sir Anthony Hopkins. He said acting is all about listening and reacting. John Wayne said the same thing, acting is just reacting. You don't have to do much as long as you stay out of the way of others. That's why it works."
Diana also offered a few tips on how she prepares for new roles, saying that the process looks a bit different with each new character. “I go over the script a lot and just take the words off the page. I will say them out loud with no specific intention and just see where they go. Then naturally, certain questions will arise, like the how’s and why’s. But once I am on set, I don't focus on what I think I know. I only focus on what's happening right there in front of me.”
When asked what specific advice she would offer other actors, she stressed the importance on finding your originality. “I would encourage actors not to focus on what others are doing. I would say focus on creating your own content, and find things outside of your career to make you happy. This will lead to longevity in pursuing acting as a career, because a career in acting is ultimately a game of probability. You need to celebrate your own journey, and understand it will take time.”
Diana shared how she practices this in her own career by choosing to take a long-view on setbacks. Like many actors, her journey has also been full of highs and lows. She says it’s her ability to be grateful and focus on her own path that’s kept her going. “When I get down on myself or feel exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster, I try to ‘zoom out.’ I look at the things I have that I am grateful for and focus my energy on them. It could be having a roof over my head or the fact that I have a great support system of beautiful friends and family. Then I go cook something really delicious and I eat it while watching The Office.”
It turns out that watching The Office is one of Diana’s favourite pastimes. That and cooking, writing, and hiking. And of course, going to the movies to draw inspiration for her next roles. Diana plays a vampire for the first time in a new movie called Bit. “I play the head of a vampire girl gang. Look out for it coming soon, it’s a ton of fun!
Catch Diana in season two of Goliath, and new comedy horror film, Bit!