Ghost in the Graveyard: Maria Olsen chats with us about her spooky witch character

Photo: Ghost in the Graveyard.. Image Courtesy DarkCoast
Photo: Ghost in the Graveyard.. Image Courtesy DarkCoast /

Maria Olsen, who plays the Witch in the upcoming horror film Ghost in the Graveyard, chatted with us about what working on the movie was like!

You may know Maria Olsen from her work in films like Percy Jackson, Paranormal Activity 3, or Reunion. Next, you’ll be able to catch her playing the sinister role of the Witch in upcoming movie, Ghost in the Graveyard also starring Jake Busey, Nikki Blonsky, and Kelli Berglund.

Maria was kind enough to chat with us here at 1428 Elm and let us know what it was like to make the movie and get into the mindset of someone draw to the satanic. She’s no stranger to playing creepy characters but the Witch will surely rank among the scariest on her lengthy resume of horror films!

1428 Elm: What initially drew you to the project and what was the audition process like?

Maria Olsen: I think it was the character description of The Witch that originally made me sit up and take notice of the breakdown! It was awesome, and, as I love playing enigmatic and powerful women who also just happen to be witches, I submitted right away.

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I was thrilled to receive an audition invitation, and I went all out in prepping my audition tape (I’m based in Los Angeles, while Charlie is in New York). My scene involved acting out a Satanic ritual to curse our poor unsuspecting ingénue, and I learned the whole scene in Latin and didn’t stint on the amount of energy and power I put into the character.

A few weeks later, I was very pleased to hear I had a callback. Charlie arranged for a Skype callback for me, during which I terrified one of his daughters who read a scene or two with me, and he then offered me the role. Needless to say, I accepted immediately!

1428 Elm: Can you introduce your character in your own words?

MO: I play Zoe’s mother, and Zoe – played by the amazing Olivia Larsen – and I are both working on our own dark plots to get what we want out of Sally (Kelli Berglund). The Witch is truly enigmatic as the character poses many questions throughout the story but does not offer up many answers.

I, of course, have my own answers to these questions, but viewers may find themselves pondering, for instance, who – or what! – Zoe’s father really was, exactly how old am I, how wide-spread is my coven etc.

1428 Elm: Did you draw any influences from other works of horror when getting into the mindset of your character? 

MO: Actually, yes! We shot a lot of the film in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and other small towns in the vicinity, and one thing that Tarrytown is famous for is its association with the original Dark Shadows TV series. The Spratt Mansion, which is unfortunately no longer with us, overlooked the banks of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, and also played the important role of “The Old House” in the DS series.

Another thing that DS is famous for is the powerful and enigmatic witch Angelique – played by the exquisite Lara Parker – and yes, many times during our GITG shoot, I did indeed say to myself “what would Angelique do?”

1428 Elm: I remember playing the “Ghost in the Graveyard” game as a kid. Did you ever play it (or something similar) or hear about it prior to the movie? 

MO: I grew up in South Africa, where, although we do have creepy traditions, Ghost in the Graveyard doesn’t really exist – or at least it didn’t exist when I was at school in the seventies! I also hadn’t heard about it before the film, so the game came as an intriguing surprise to me!

Ghost in the Graveyard
Photo: Ghost in the Graveyard.. Image Courtesy DarkCoast /

1428 Elm: Your character is pretty creepy. It seems like you’re attracted to roles where you get to play someone with sinister intentions. What about playing an antagonistic presence appeals to you?

MO: I enjoy the psychological aspect of researching these types of roles while I try to find out what makes these deviant people tick. I also enjoy making some part of these characters relatable – although I didn’t choose to do that with The Witch because I feel that her story isn’t over – and I take fiendish delight whenever a viewer finds themself identifying with my usually despicable characters! Then my work is done!

1428 Elm: Were there any characters, or actors, in the movie that you wished you could have shared a scene with that you didn’t get the chance to? 

MO: Oh, yes. I would have loved to have worked with both Jake Busey and Nikki Blonsky! I love their work, and I’m so sorry that I didn’t even get to meet them on set.

1428 Elm: What do you think motivates your character in the film?

MO: The love of power and, also, the fear of being powerless. Insecurity. Greed. Love – for herself and, somewhere inside her twisted mind, for her daughter, Zoe. Fear in general…I think that somewhere in there is a bargain or two with the devil.

1428 Elm: Do you have a dream role in mind? Or maybe a particular film franchise you’ve always wanted to be part of? It doesn’t have to be horror. 

MO: I would love to have a larger role in the American Horror Story series than what I’ve already played, and I would also love to work with horror directors Mike Flanagan and Anthony DiBlasi. And with Ari Aster and with Robert Eggers and with David Brucker again. Oh, I could just go on and on.

And I would kill to be a part of the new Dark Shadows series. I want to be a Cenobyte, ha! Maybe if I’m nice, Santa will put one of these things in my Christmas stocking.

Ghost in the Graveyard
Photo: Ghost in the Graveyard.. Image Courtesy DarkCoast /

1428 Elm: What do you think sets Ghost in the Graveyard apart from other films in the genre?

MO: I think that what sets this film aside is the almost unique reveal of what Kelli’s character’s heritage is. Without giving anything away, all I’m going to say is that it’s not a theme or a topic that I’ve really seen before in the horror genre – or any genre for that matter!

I obviously don’t want to spoil it for viewers, but GITG also continually hints at a much wider universe of which our story is merely part. There are questions that are raised and not fully answered, but, to me, this doesn’t detract from the story but merely enhances the mystery and makes me want to learn more about the GITG world.

1428 Elm: Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from Ghost in the Graveyard?

MO: The feeling of wanting more! If they do that, we can get on with the sequel and the series that may or may not be planned. I can neither confirm nor deny.

Daybreak: Interview with series production designer. dark. Next

Are you planning to watch Ghost in the Graveyard when it releases? What do you think about Maria’s interview? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Ghost in the Graveyard will be released on digital platforms beginning Nov. 15.