M3GAN Star Amie Donald on Dancing Her Way Into Our Nightmares

M3GAN Star Amie Donald on Dancing Her Way Into Our Nightmares

She was 11 when she filmed it, and is 13 now, but Amie Donald has indeed seen PG-13 horror smash M3GAN — in which she plays the title character. “I thought it was really amazing,” she told Gizmodo over video chat. “I was shocked. It looks so good on camera!”

M3GAN was a bona fide horror hit — so much so that an unrated version was released to meet fan demand for the dancing, ear-mangling, manipulating, murder-happy AI-powered doll. According to a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment press release, the M3GAN UNRAT3D VERSION “delivers more distressing violence and profanity,” as you might expect, and the home release, which is out March 21, features “never-before-seen bonus content including a breakdown of the creation of M3GAN and behind-the-scenes featurettes showcasing the film’s complex stunts and gory deaths.”

And when you talk about the creation of M3GAN, Donald is definitely the performer to pepper with questions. She played M3GAN with some assists: a different actor (Jenna Davis) did the voice, and the murderous robot is also brought to life in part by animatronics and CG. “M3GAN has two different sides to her,” the actor said. “She’s got a robotic side and a human-like side to her. But it was really fun to work with the puppeteers, and it was amazing just to see the process of M3GAN coming to life. They’d have the puppeteers working on the animatronic in some scenes, in some scenes it would be me, and some scenes it would be both together.”

Aiming to bring that blend of robot and human to life was a big part of Donald’s approach to the character. “My movement coaches, Luke Hawker and Jed Brophy, worked with me in creating M3GAN and her style and her way of moving,” she said. “Her walk is very different throughout the movie, because the very first time she walks it’s stiff and robotic, but the more time she spends with [Violet McGraw’s character] Katie, the more human-like she gets. So during that filming time it was very stiff, and then you’d loosen up the arms a little bit. And then you’d just get looser, which was really fun to do.”

Speaking of McGraw, the two performers are close in age, so it’s no surprise they hit it off on set. “I love Violet — I remember the moment I met her, we kind of just clicked. We just became more and more friends with each other the longer we spent together. And we were just best friends at the end of it. We still keep in contact now.”

Obviously, we had to ask Donald about M3GAN’s standout scene — the outrageously alarming dance number that came out of nowhere in the film’s first trailer and immediately went viral. Even taken out of context, the scene embodies M3GAN’s perfect blend of sly, campy humour and gruesome horror. Donald has a background in dance, so it makes sense to have the character show off some smooth moves, but M3GAN’s signature moment wasn’t actually in the original script. “The dance was never planned in the script. But one day [director Gerard Johnstone] thought it would be a great idea to put that in there,” she said. “So he asked my mum if my dance teacher would be able to choreograph the dance. We just went to the dance studio and came up with a couple different versions of the dance, and we sent it off to Gerard and he picked his favourite one. That was my favourite scene because I got to do something I loved while filming M3GAN. And the day that we filmed it, it only took four takes — and everyone was calling everyone in to watch the dance. It was really fun.”

When asked for more specifics on how they came up with the dance moves, Donald explained, “Gerard gave us a list of things that M3GAN would do as she would dance. It was a fun process to try and come up with it, because he wanted it to be creepy and distracting — because after all, she is about to go kill someone! So he wanted it to be very distracting. He wanted it to be really weird and confusing. When we got it, he was very happy with it.”

The instant reaction to the dance was a thrill for the young performer. “I was amazed because I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” she said. “The first time I saw it was when the trailer came out, and everyone was going crazy over the dance, they were recreating it and they were posting their own dances of it. And that was so crazy. I just loved it.”

We had to ask: was it hard to move in that costume? It wasn’t, Donald said, but the M3GAN mask she had to wear was a bit troublesome. “It was hard to see out of the mask because I had limited vision. And if I was in the mask for more than 30 minutes, my eyes would fog up. So they’d have to take the mask off and wipe out the eyes so that I could see,” she said. “They did CGI to make my lips move, and the eyes. But the animatronic did do some scenes when the lips would move and the eyes would blink, which is really cool.”

M3GAN already has a sequel on the way; Donald hasn’t heard yet if she’ll be involved in it, but her fingers are crossed. “We haven’t heard anything about if I’m going to be in it. But I hope so!”

M3GAN UNRAT3D VERSION is already out on digital; it hits Blu-ray and DVD on March 21.

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