From Memphis to Hollywood, Diana Hopper has come a long way to take on her own “Goliath” and make her mark.
Photography by John Hong
Styling by Franzy Staedter
Makeup by Sunny An
Hair by Benjamin Terry for Solo Artists/Oribe Haircare & T3 Micro
Story by Sarah Yoo
Video by Jonathan Navales
Actress Diana Hopper rises to the top as she tackles her latest role in Amazon’s original series “Goliath.” “Goliath” is the classic David and Goliath tale reinvented and set in the modern day, as dishonored lawyer Billy McBride, played by Billy Bob Thornton, goes head-to-head with a corrupt American legal system. Hopper brings to life the complex, angst-filled teenage daughter to Thornton’s McBride, and she delivers with an impressive maturity and grace you need to see to believe. Composure sits down with the Memphis native to learn the secrets of young Hollywood success.
Composure Magazine: You’re from Memphis. What was it like growing up there, in the arts?
Diana Hopper: Memphis has a very rich culture. Wonderful food, music, and people. It is a great place for an artist to grow up. I started in community theater in Memphis when I was 11, and I have been hooked on the arts ever since. Actually, I can almost always be found doing something in which I get to create: cooking, drawing, writing, just to name a few. I’ve always been like that.
CM: What ultimately made you pursue acting professionally?
DH: After high school, I sent an audition tape in for a movie shooting outside of Detroit. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but when I ended up booking a role as one of the main characters, my eyes were opened. I realized I really could do this. I could make this my life!
CM: And now Los Angeles! How is the transition to L.A. life?
DH: At first, moving to L.A. can be scary. It is so fast-paced, and everyone is doing their own thing. It can be hard to make friends, but I’ve learned that as long as you put yourself out there and say “yes” to things, you’ll be fine. Say “yes” to participating in that music video for a girl you just met or “yes” to a group dinner in which you don’t know anyone. You never know who you will meet. If you put yourself out there enough, you’ll realize one day you have friends, and those friends will turn into more friends until you have a network of people you love. That is when it starts to feel like home. It’s all about good people for me. That’s actually what draws me to acting. People. And exploring the human experience through all types of characters. Plus, there’s always something interesting going on in L.A.!
CM: You’ve certainly been saying “yes” to the right things. You currently appear alongside Billy Bob Thornton on Amazon’s “Goliath” as his daughter, Denise McBride. What has that experience been like?
DH: Speaking of being from Memphis, the first time I met Billy, he said, “So I hear you’re from Memphis.” As soon as he said that, I knew we were going to get along just fine. [Laughs] The first time on set, I was really excited and a little nervous. After Billy and I began working together and talking, though, I started to relax. I love the moments in between takes — the head nods and smiles in which we acknowledge we felt good about a take, or the quiet moments when we are just getting focused and ready to go. Those moments are quiet but sacred. I’ve learned that all an actor has to do is listen. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to do our best work. It’s such an honor and a pleasure, truly. And not to mention, I also got to meet and work with Maria Bello and Nina Arianda, which was lovely as they are both kick-ass women!
CM: What an opportunity! Tell me more about “Goliath.” What makes it an interesting project, both as an actor and as a viewer?
DH: Watching Billy Bob Thornton in a role like this is unlike anything you have seen him in before. He is funny and cool, as always, but there is something incredibly human about him in this role. He’s vulnerable. As an actor, it was really fun to explore all the aspects of our dynamic as father and daughter.
CM: And your character, Denise. What is she like? In what ways do you relate to her?
DH: Denise is a high school junior but a bit of an old soul. With an alcoholic father and a mother who works all the time, she grew up fast. She is stylish and smart — a little too smart — and is always forcing her dad to step up his game as a parent. I definitely relate to her sarcastic attitude and her love for her father.
CM: Wow, you really get to tackle an interesting mental and emotional space. It’s cool to see more niche and out-of-bounds characters being brought to life on new platforms such as Amazon.
DH: Yes, there is so much content being made right now, and it is definitely a very exciting time to be an actor. The streaming services in particular have really pushed the boundaries of creative content being made, and people are loving it, including myself. They’ve turned the game upside down, and I feel that’s absolutely a good thing for the industry. There are so many quality programming options now, and with services like Amazon, they are at your fingertips 24-7.
CM: It certainly is an exciting time to be in entertainment. What has been the biggest surprise to you so far about the pursuit of an acting career?
DH: The biggest surprise to me about pursuing acting is how unpredictable and subjective it is. You think you know it or that you have a grasp on it, but everything can just change, for better or for worse, in one second. It makes you really appreciate the highs and work that much harder during the lows. That’s why I really look forward to playing more characters that scare me, that I’m afraid in some way I won’t be able to pull off. It sounds crazy, but I love the challenge of that. It is extremely humbling and forces you to grow in so many new ways.
CM: Are you glad you’ve been able to get started now, at a young age?
DH: It is never too late to start exploring anything that interests you. Obviously, the sooner you start anything, the more experience you’ll have doing it and the more you’ll learn. Learning takes time, and when you start younger, you have more time to learn. But that doesn’t mean someone can’t just pick it up and be incredible. They can. But they’ll still have to work at it. I hope to always be learning, growing, and expanding. That comes with challenging myself and taking risks. I’m grateful to be able to do that. I hope to never stop taking risks.
CM: Well, you clearly have a long career ahead of you. You’ve gained an impressive and well-deserved momentum. What is the key to keeping a healthy balance in your life in the midst of it all?
DH: Thank you! I think the key to balance is awareness. It’s important not to place your happiness on things you can’t control. This career is hectic and unpredictable, and if you use it to measure your self-worth, you will never be happy. So, travel, love your family and friends, and remember what’s really important.
CM: Well put! Do you have any additional or future creative endeavors for your career, like writing or directing?
DH: I do write. I have several songs and a screenplay that I’m working on. I would maybe like to direct, but I know how difficult it is! I have immense respect for what directors and producers do.
CM: And outside of work? What do you enjoy doing? What’s a perfect day off look like to you?
DH: I love the outdoors. I love to hike and camp. I love music and attending concerts. I cook all the time! I love animals and dancing and watching movies. I also love fashion, so all of this has been really fun. In my opinion, everything you do is art. Life is about expressing yourself, and that makes me passionate about life.
And a perfect day off? Hm, it would start around 11 a.m. with an adventure to a museum or the botanical gardens. Then a lunch happy hour with a nice La Fin Du Monde, followed by an afternoon movie, a beautiful dinner, and then drinks and dancing!
CM: Life is art — I love that. And at the end of it all, what are you, as an artist, hoping to share with your audience?
DH: I hope to give my audience a genuine experience. Something that makes them think and evokes their own private emotions, thoughts, and memories. I hope to share something personal.
CM: Beautiful, thank you so much you for sharing.
DH: Thank you!
“Goliath” season one is available now on Amazon Video.