For a genre that has found every kind of antagonist imaginable, one might mistake Universal Pictures’ box office hit M3GAN to be just another killer doll film, similar to the likes of Chucky, Annabelle, or Small Soldiers. What audiences find out is that it’s equal amounts of ridiculous fun and terror, coming together for an enjoyable blend of comedy and horror.
Violet McGraw, one of the stars of M3GAN, is no stranger to acclaimed horror media. Her previous credits include Doctor Sleep, Separation, and Netflix’s widely successful series, The Haunting of Hill House.
“When I was in The Haunting of Hill House, I thought it was so cool how they did all the ghost makeup,” she says, laughing as she mentions having lunch with all of the ghosts. On what keeps drawing her back to the horror genre, she continues, “I just thought it was really cool to be part of scary films. I also love doing other films but scary films are just really cool.”
She adds that her work in the genre has led her to become a bit of a horror fan as well. “I’ve been watching a few scary movies and shows,” Violet says. “But I think that’s what keeps drawing me back – I’ve worked with amazing people on a bunch of films and I just love all the makeup and effects.”
For Violet, knowing behind-the-scenes details of horror flicks hasn’t changed her viewing experience too much. “The scary movies that I’m in, when I watch them, I know what’s going to happen. I know where the jump scares are. When I watch other scary things, I can get probably a little bit more scared than I usually do for my movies because I don’t know what’s going to happen.” She says, “I think sometimes I can make pretty good guesses on how they did it, but I think it’s really cool to see other films and not know what’s going to happen next.”
When asked if she tends to Google what happens in the movie or series, the young actress laughs, noting that her sister does it sometimes. “I don’t want to do any of that,” Violet says before admitting that, if it’s media that won’t be out for a while, she might. “If it’s coming out in like two weeks or something, I want it to be a surprise because if I look it up, it’s definitely not going to be the same. So I’m just going to sit and maybe wait to see what happens.”
Whenever I go into a theater and I’m watching M3GAN, I love seeing how the audience reacts to it.
Violet follows in the footsteps, so to speak, of other young stars who emerged through the horror genre to become well-known in the industry in the early years of their careers. It’s a feeling that the actress sees as “cool”.
“I’m just really lucky and I feel very grateful for where I am now because I have worked very hard,” she says. “What I love about acting is when you work on a movie or a show for a very long time, it’s amazing to see how it all is at the end and I’m very proud of how far I’ve come in acting.”
Violet has a lot to be proud of, especially when it comes to M3GAN. With a budget of about $12 million, the film has grossed nearly $160 million worldwide so far – that’s more than 13 times its budget.
“M3GAN is about this little girl named Cady James who loses her parents in a car crash,” she says. “So she goes to live with her Aunt Gemma, and Gemma is this amazing toy creator but she’s so busy with this deadline coming up [that] Cady has to deal with the loss of her parents all on her own. Gemma realizes that she’s feeling kind of sad and lonely so she then decides to make M3GAN to become Cady’s best friend.”
So what makes M3GAN a winning formula in a genre that’s seen so many other killer dolls? “Well, M3GAN is an artificial intelligence doll, so I think that’s a little bit different. When I was filming it, I knew M3GAN wasn’t just going to be just a doll movie. I knew she was going to be different and very special because she’s an artificial intelligence doll, she has an amazing dance, and she’s got great outfits. She’s got amazing hair,” Violet answers. “I think [M3GAN] is actually very different from some of the other doll movies.”
M3GAN initially made waves with the first trailer for the film; the iconic dance by M3GAN went viral then and once more following the film’s release. The film’s marketing used it to its advantage, employing dancers dressed as M3GAN to perform her iconic routine at sporting games and other events.
“I do love all the dance memes and all the TikTok dances. I think it’s so cool that people are recreating the dance [from] a movie I was in,” she says.
“Whenever I go into a theater and I’m watching M3GAN, I love seeing how the audience reacts to it,” Violet continues with a grin as the conversation shifts to audience reactions. “I think it’s just so much fun, but I love when people come up to me and they tell me that [M3GAN] was a great way to start 2023, and it makes me feel very happy inside because I’ve worked on that movie for three months and it just came out so amazingly and I’m super proud of it.”
Bringing M3GAN to life took multiple teams, from CGI artists and puppeteers to the young actress Amie Donald who brought M3GAN to life on the set through her movements.
“I became very close with Amie Donald, so whenever she was all in the prosthetics and things like that, I felt like I was talking to M3GAN but I knew it was Amie Donald in there. So I kind of felt like I was talking to her,” Violet says about working alongside the different versions of M3GAN. “When it was the puppeteer, like the robot, I actually had real conversations with her, like when we weren’t filming.”
She laughs as she shares, “Some people thought it was a little creepy, but I would tell her about myself or I would tell her about my day.” Since the M3GAN puppet was so life-like, if Amie Donald wasn’t on set, Violet still talked to M3GAN like she was a real person. “That’s why I never found it difficult when I was just talking to the doll because she’s so life-like I felt I was talking to a real person.”
She adds, “It was just really cool seeing how they brought M3GAN alive.”
M3GAN will come to life once again in a recently announced sequel following the film’s commercial success.
“I was so excited and I was just so happy because I can’t wait to see what M3GAN does next,” Violet says of finding out the news, grinning as her delight is evident on her face. “I don’t know what [M3GAN will do], but I’m actually very excited to see what she does.”
While the actress isn’t sure what she wants to happen in the sequel, she is certain in her hope of another iconic dance from M3GAN. “I feel like that’s kind of her signature thing, is to do a dance. I definitely want another dance in the sequel,” she laughs.
Though production on the sequel is still far away, Violet cannot wait to reunite with the cast and crew and hopefully return to New Zealand to film again.
“I definitely want to see how [the cast and crew’s] life are going, and I can’t wait to see Allison Williams again and Amie Donald, because they’re amazing people. Allison Williams is just so funny and super smart. I love hanging out with her,” she gushes. “New Zealand is so beautiful and it’s big, so there’s definitely some more places that we could explore in New Zealand because we did so much there. We went to the Shire because I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan. It was like three or four hours away, but I had to go there so I could see the Shire and how beautiful it was.”
It’s definitely one of my other passions, but hopefully, I could do both.
She is already planning on returning to a few favorite locations, like an ice cream parlor called Duck Island. “We would go there very often. It was very close to where we were staying,” she says. “I definitely want to go back and explore New Zealand and [see] all the cast and crew.”
Until Violet can return to New Zealand, she can reminisce about her wonderful memories from filming M3GAN. One awesome sequence in particular that fans have really enjoyed comes when Cady operates Bruce, one of the first robots Gemma built at the start of her career, to defeat M3GAN and save her aunt.
“It was really cool because it felt very real. When I was watching the movie, it felt like I was actually controlling Bruce because the eyelines were so amazing and on point,” she says of the scene. “But when I had the gloves, I kind of felt like a superhero. It was really cool getting to see how they did it all because working on a movie and then you get to see how the special effects go… In real life, I didn’t see any of that. It was all just eyelines and I just had to picture it all in my head. So it was so amazing seeing it all in the movie, but I definitely loved controlling Bruce. That was definitely one of my favorite scenes in the movie.”
When she looks forward to what she hopes to do next, Violet is down for anything. “I want to do whatever,” she says with a short laugh. “I definitely would like to keep doing horror because it’s so fun. I would also like to be in a murder mystery movie because when I watch Knives Out, I think it’s just so cool seeing how people solve the mystery.” She continues, “What I really want is for like, when someone’s watching it, they’re going to be like, ‘Who? Who did the murder? What’s going to happen next?’ I think it would be really fun and cool to be a part of a murder mystery, so hopefully, I could do one of those in the future.”
In addition to being in a murder mystery, she would love to be in any superhero film, particularly a Marvel film. She previously played Young Yelena in Black Widow but she hopes she can play another Marvel character. “Like the daughter of somebody or something like that. I think that would be fun,” she offers up.
No matter what her next project is, Violet hopes to work with two of her former co-stars again.
“There’re so many people that I love,” she starts when thinking of dream co-stars. “I would love to have Carla Gugino who plays my mom in The Haunting of Hill House and in this TV show called Jett on Cinemax. Or I would love to have Allison Williams again. She was amazing to work with! One of those two [actresses] because I loved working with both of them. They’re both amazing people.”
Acting is one of Violet’s main passions but another one is soccer.
“I’m a big fan of soccer. I love to play it,” she says. She adds that she’s been on a club team for three years. “Hopefully I can also be a professional soccer player because I love soccer so much. It’s definitely one of my other passions, but hopefully, I could do both.”
When it comes to her soccer inspirations, she has two that come to mind immediately. “I really love Alex Morgan. She’s a great player on the US team,” Violet says of the two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner. Her other inspiration is a star player who played fantastic soccer during the recent FIFA Men’s World Cup. “I also really love Kylian Mbappé on PSG because I think he’s such an amazing play and he does really good in games,” she says. “So those two I definitely really like.”
M3GAN is in theaters and available to stream now!
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