At only 18 years of age, voice actor Jenna Davis is taking the world by storm with her breakout role in M3GAN. The new killer doll on the block quickly became a viral sensation upon the film’s first trailer, thanks to the comical impression Davis left on audiences with her standout voice (and one absurd dance sequence). This appeal would go on to prove itself at the box office, as M3GAN broke multiple box office records in just its opening week. The Blumhouse/Universal picture surpassed the opening weekend January gross of 2022’s Scream and now holds the record for the best opening weekend ever for an original horror film since Jordan Peele’s Nope and for a PG-13 horror release since A Quiet Place Part II. People can’t get enough of M3GAN it seems, and this wouldn’t be the case without Jenna Davis’ charismatic vocal performance.
Both killer doll and evil artificial intelligence tropes have come and gone in horror (2019’s divisive Child’s Play remake being the last big project to tackle them together). However, M3GAN finds new life by embracing today’s youth through its main antagonist. When brilliant toy-company roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) decides to test the prototype for her latest invention on her 8-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw), chaos ensues. The Model 3 Generative Android, M3GAN for short, is a life-like doll designed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. But when M3GAN’s protocols to care for Cady advance to the next level and the two get dangerously attached, Gemma must face her killer creation if she is to win back her own flesh and blood. M3GAN is brought to life on screen through an in-costume performance via actress Amie Donald, puppetry, CGI, and of course, Jenna Davis’ voice.
Many who are now jumping on the MEGAN hype train are discovering that the voice of the killer doll herself isn’t just an actress. In fact, Jenna Davis is a fully-fledged content creator and singer/songwriter. Those who don’t recognize her from previous roles in Disney Channel’s Raven’s Home, Netflix’s Treehouse Detectives, or Cartoon Networks’ Infinity Train will surely know Davis from her various social media channels, like her TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, which are close to accumulating 10 million followers combined. Now, with the great success of M3GAN, Davis can add “horror icon” to her growing repertoire. She captures a genuine youthful spirit in M3GAN’s voice, one that can easily flip on a dime from loving and caring to menacing and condescending. Davis mixes a Siri or Alexa-like tone with a sparky attitude, making M3GAN an exciting villain to root for.
Jenna Davis is continuing to push on all fronts of her multi-faceted career, though we were lucky enough to catch up with the young star the week after M3GAN premiered in theaters. In our exclusive interview, we discuss her life in the wake of the film’s roaring reception. We tackle M3GAN’s popularity in the horror community and how Davis found a vocal approach to the character that can be both terrifying and hilarious, to the point where her singing Sia’s “Titanium” as M3GAN has erupted theater audiences with tons of laughter. As a special treat, with a sequel titled M3GAN 2.0 confirmed to be in the works, Jenna Davis reveals to us what kind of horror story she would like to explore as the titular killer robot doll next.
Exclusive Interview with Jenna Davis for M3GAN
I’ve read that you’ve been wanting to see or “sneak” into theaters to see M3GAN as many times as you can with a crowd. So I have to ask, how many times have you already done this and what’s your favorite moment that you’ve seen get a good reaction from the crowd?
Jenna Davis: I guess you could say I’ve snuck into theaters twice. Last night, actually, I went with a group of my friends and the loudest reaction is probably when M3GAN starts singing. I think we get the most laughs there because it’s just incredibly comical to see a robot singing. Also, in the scene where she’s speaking with the therapist. When Cady starts crying and she has the box of tissues, there’s a line there that I call “flipping the switch,” and that gets quite a reaction [from the audience] as well.
It always satisfies me to hear that because I feel as though, “Oh, great! I did my job. I made them laugh, and they enjoyed it.” I think hearing people’s reactions has been one of the most rewarding parts of this film. It’s been so exciting as well as thrilling because every time I enter a theater to watch the movie or hear somebody’s new [reaction], I just think of how it’s an honor to even play M3GAN. So to be able to hear how people are responding to her is even more exciting.
You’ve already described your audition process for M3GAN in the press, how you did all of your takes from your own closet and didn’t even know what the movie was about. But when you found out that you were going to voice the main killer robot doll in a new Blumhouse horror film, what inspirations did your mind start gravitating towards, if any? I mean, you had a plethora of creepy dolls in horror to look up to as is.
Jenna Davis: Actually, I did not look into any prior villains because I wanted to make M3GAN different. I wanted to make her stand out from other villains. In doing that, I decided to make a choice about her very early on that I kept. Whenever I audition, I make a choice [about the character] and casting either enjoys it or does not. In this case, they very much enjoyed it. Then we just decided to expand on M3GAN and collaborate with one another throughout the process.
I had seen R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, there was a doll in there named Lilly D. She did not speak, however, I did begin to think about how she would speak if she could because she terrified me when I was younger. But for the majority, I just kind of made M3GAN up in my own head. I really stuck with a choice and had a lot of fun playing with her and bringing her to life through her voice. So I didn’t really get much inspiration from other villains because I wanted to separate her and make her stand out in her own way.
I’m curious as to how early on you were able to master the voice for M3GAN. It evolves so naturally in the film, was this more instinctual from the beginning, or how did you spend time getting this right with director Gerard Johnstone?
Jenna Davis: I had the voice prior to our sessions. I believe that’s what sealed the deal for Mr. Gerard. At least that’s what he expressed to me. I had her voice and together, we just expanded to make her more fun and enjoyable. So I don’t think I found it after I booked the role. I had it from the get-go except we expanded further and dove deeper together. There were directions that he gave that, of course, encouraged me and emphasized more of M3GAN but for the majority, I had her voice from the start. It was more of figuring out how specific lines or how her specific actions affect the other characters.
I think that’s what Gerard and I really worked on; how is she feeling at this moment and how is she feeling at that moment? Because, throughout the film, she very much does evolve. She plays with different tones and has a lot of personality and flair. So, together, we just emphasized that further and delved deeper versus finding it. I didn’t book the role and then found the voice. I always kind of had her.
So, in a dark but funny way, you can say that M3GAN is a piece of yourself. How many times have you caught yourself talking like M3GAN in your day-to-day life? Are you pranking your friends and family with the voice now?
Jenna Davis: You know, sometimes, yes. But I also don’t want to take away from the thrill of the film. So as much as I do have fun with the voice [in real life] and things like that, I really encourage people to see the film for themselves. I mean, I’ll throw in a few little lines once in a while, and she has been adapted very much into my vocabulary, especially with the phrase “It’s insane, right?” since this whole opening weekend has been such a blessing for sure.
For the majority, I think I keep her away from who I really am because we’re so different. But that’s also what makes it so fun, diving into a character and a part of me that’s very different from who I really am. So that’s what makes the thrill of it, and also the mystery of it because last night my friends and I went to see the film and after one of my friends was very scared. She was saying, “I’m hearing that it’s you, but I can’t believe it’s you.” So there’s fun in that this is a whole other person from myself yet, vocally, it does resemble me.
On that note, aside from voice acting, you’re known for being a singer and content creator with multiple social media channels. Why was now the right time to show off your villainous side with this role you think?
Jenna Davis: I mean, I’ve never really played a villain before. So it was very fun to dive into that. The past projects that I’ve worked on have been more comedic, and I’ve had a great time with those as well. But diving into a genre that is something I’ve never embarked on before has been both thrilling and refreshing. And it’s also a challenge, but not in a negative way. It’s been a challenge in a positive way that I think has only improved my acting.
So you had to keep quiet on the film for months, yet M3GAN was already going viral during that time, even having Twitter beef with Chucky himself. How insane has it been seeing your very own character rise to the top of pop culture and the modern horror genre like this?
Jenna Davis: Wow. It’s truly quite incredible. I never realized prior to the film just how large and passionate horror culture is, and now having M3GAN be a part of that community and being adored and accepted by them is more than I could ever ask for. I can’t emphasize that enough because they’re so passionate and I don’t think they’re always so quick to accept and adore characters. I think [horror fans] can be pretty harsh, so for them to accept her and adore her has been a dream come true.
I like to say that it’s almost a sigh of relief. I feel as though, “Okay, I did my job” because entering this was very nerve-wracking. You have these names like James Wam, Blumhouse, Universal, Allison Williams, Violet McGraw. So to be able to feel as though the fans enjoy the film, enjoy the voice, and they enjoy my performance has been a dream come true.
This dream of yours is one that’s going to last because there’s already reports of a sequel. M3GAN’s not going anywhere it’s safe to say. Obviously, these talks are still so early, but if there’s anything that you would love to further explore as M3GAN in the future, what would that be?
Jenna Davis: You know, I would like to see how M3GAN stands against another villain. That could be very intriguing to me because she had a lot of confrontations obviously with humans in this film, but I’m very open to anything. Of course, at the end of the film, there’s a spark for more. So whatever lane she does decide to go I’m very open to, but I also would like to see how she would battle against another villain, which could potentially be very fun. I don’t know, I’ll leave that to the brilliant minds of Akela Cooper and James Wan. My whole motto for this year that I’ve said in the majority of interviews is “we shall see” because there is that spark for more at the end. And that excites me, but I guess we shall see, right?
Finally, your own platform has been growing with the popularity of M3GAN. You’re getting a lot of new followers who probably didn’t know you also sing country music or do all kinds of challenges across social media. If M3GAN is going to be this huge part of your life moving forward, how are you planning to balance all these aspects of your career? I’m sure you don’t want people to just think of you as the M3GAN voice. Have you had time to think some of these things out?
Jenna Davis: I think that’s definitely a challenge in some regard. Balancing everything is sometimes tricky but also, for me, it doesn’t matter where anybody recognizes me from particularly whether it’s YouTube, whether it’s M3GAN, whether it’s anything else – as long as they support me and enjoy my performance, then that’s all that I could truly ask for. I’m just going to keep working at every avenue that I can because I enjoy it. And I feel grateful to be in a position where I can have an occupation that I love and have passion for.
I’m going to keep striving and working in all the different avenues and, hopefully, as audiences and supporters hop on my little train, they will enjoy it and perhaps they could merge. You know, it’d be cool to see people that are fans of M3GAN also check out my music. If they do that, that’s sprinkles on the cupcake for me. So any avenue that crosses paths, I think is just great. And if people stay in the lane that they just like M3GAN or just like my YouTube channel? That’s cool with me too. I’m open to mixing and matching, but I have no issues if people only want to follow one lane. Again, we shall see!
I think the beauty of the new year and M3GAN coming out has been such an insane experience. So I think all of this will unravel as the new year unravels. That’s what excites me, but I’m also wanting to make sure I stay working in all the different avenues. So I still have my YouTube audience. I still have my TikTok audience. I still have my acting audience and my music audience, just trying to create for every avenue because creating is what I love most.