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    Saturday, January 28, 2023

    How actor Jenna Davis gave M3GAN her creepy voice

    DALLAS — The eerily sweet voice of "M3GAN" originated in Jenna Davis’ bedroom closet.

    That’s where Davis, an 18-year-old Plano-born voice actress, sequestered herself to record her audition for the voice of M3GAN, a 4-foot-tall robotic doll with out-of-control artificial intelligence.

    “In my closet — that’s where it all started,” Davis said in a recent phone interview.

    Her voice, paired with 12-year-old Amie Donald’s physical movements, bring a Model 3 Generative Android, or M3GAN, to life in a terrifying way.

    In the PG-13 thriller from Universal and Blumhouse, M3GAN is created by Gemma (Allison Williams) for her recently 8-year-old orphaned niece Cady (Violet McGraw). M3GAN is programmed to protect Cady, but as her self-awareness increases, she protects in a murderous way.

    Was Davis expecting this kind of success?

    “Oh, I had no clue,” she said. “I knew the project was called 'M3GAN,' and I was auditioning for 'M3GAN,' but I had no realization that it was tied to Blumhouse, not Universal, nor would ever be in theaters, nor would become what it is today.

    “So, that the fact that it has is quite literally, insane, and really feels quite surreal.”

    Hearing her say “insane” is surreal as well. Trailers and marketing efforts have turned her signature creepy phrase, “It’s insane, right?” into a familiar refrain.

    It’s also her favorite line in the movie.

    “My mom and I have ironically been using the word insane more frequently than we ever have in our life,” Davis said. “And we always giggle and chuckle about it because definitely because of 'M3GAN.'

    “I think it’s fun and just a repetitive thing that has stuck with me and probably will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

    Davis, who attends Pasadena City College in California, is also an singer, songwriter and dancer. She wrapped a supporting role in Zelda Williams’ new film, "Lisa Frankenstein." She also has a recurring role on the Disney Channel’s "Raven’s Home."

    She has a big social media presence with 4.3 million followers on TikTok, 2 million on Instagram and 2 million on YouTube.

    Davis talked more about her role in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.

    Q: As a voice actress, what personal signature did you put on the voice of M3GAN?

    A: From the get-go, when I received the audition details, I wanted to make sure ... I could make this AI fun and exciting and different. And how can I separate that from myself? I knew it was AI. But when you think of AI, you think of someone perhaps like Siri or someone like an Alexa that’s very monotone and has the very same way of speaking each time they talk. I believed that would be very boring to listen to for very long periods of time. And so when it came to M3GAN, I wanted to make sure that she has various tones. That is recognizable throughout the movie as well as she has a separate tone when she talks to Cady, she has a separate tone when she talks to Gemma and she has separate tones when she talks to other people.

    Q: Was it difficult to merge the voice with M3GAN’s physical appearance?

    A: A lot of it was the first choice on my end because I didn’t meet the artists before the audition. So when I sent in my first audition, it was making a choice. Thankfully and luckily, the choice that I made, it kind of spurred the voice and how M3GAN kind of came to life through her voice.

    Q: Did you feel that you put your own signature to M3GAN’s voice?

    A: Definitely. M3GAN had a lot of what I wanted her to have — personality and sass. With my own voice, I was able to play into that and have the moments where she is super peppy and bubbly, and fun, but also the moments where she can turn on you in the snap of a second.

    Q: Have you been to any of the screenings to watch reactions?

    A: I went to the premiere and screening Universal hosted the other night. It was interesting to hear how each reaction from the audience was quite different. So it’s interesting to see [the reactions of] people at the premiere who knew it was me versus the people in the general public who didn’t. It was very interesting because with both, the reactions were very similar. They enjoyed the film, they laughed at the film. They clapped. They shrieked. It was very similar.

    Q: Mason Thames of McKinney, who starred in another Blumhouse film, "The Black Phone," said he liked surprising people in the lobby who were watching the movie. Did you think of doing that at the screening?

    A: Actually, that’s a funny idea. I also think it’s more difficult because since I am the voice. You could probably hear my voice and recognize it, perhaps. When you’re in the film face to face, I think it’s easier, to recognize. So for me, I can kind of go [to the movie] more in disguise. I definitely thought about ordering popcorn very, very loudly and seeing if they can recognize me.

    Q: Tell us about your Texas ties.

    A: I was born in Plano, Texas, and I lived in Frisco until I was around 4 years old due to my dad having to move for a job. But all of my family on my dad’s side of the family lived in Lubbock. My dad grew up there, and went to Texas Tech. I actually went to a Tech game in November, and we visit quite frequently. Due to family, we have friends in Coppell, friends in Dallas and friends everywhere in Texas, and I love it in Texas. The food’s great. The people are great. I just love talking about the film and hearing how people enjoy it. I will forever say I’m a girl from Texas because I am.

    ———

    ©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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