SAN ANTONIO — Jenna Davis is a born entertainer. But as the 18-year-old YouTube personality has come to discover for herself while racking up millions of YouTube views, entertaining means something else entirely in the age of the internet.
The Plano native’s Gen-Z know-how to build a huge following (2 million on YouTube, 4.3 million on TikTok) makes it particularly perfect that she helped breathe life into the uncanny AI doll at the center of “M3GAN,” Blumhouse’s January horror hit and Davis’s first major Hollywood role. It might be her high-pitched, gumdrop-pure voice that got her the part, but it’s her generational awareness that makes it obvious to Davis why M3GAN – a cute-but-killer toy in the lineage of Chucky and Annabelle – has resonated with audiences and meme-makers.
“Because dances and TikTok and all these different things are so relevant to our generation, that’s what makes her so fun,” Davis said, speaking to KENS 5 over the phone. “Also she has an Instagram. She has all these things that people can interact with her on, which is quite comical.”
A musician, comedian and actress whose roles have largely consisted of voice work on animated shows, Davis says she recorded her audition for “M3GAN” from familiar confines: her closet. After finding out the project was a horror movie, she dug deeper to find new circuitry in the familiar, monotone robot voice moviegoers have come to expect for decades.
Her background as a content creator was a launching-off point; Davis already knew how versatile she could be, and the result is a voice performance that stretches from eerily comforting to fiendishly sinister over the course of “M3GAN’s” runtime.
“That is the beauty of both content creation and the performing arts: creativity, the ability to play with different things,” she said.
It’s what Davis has done over the last half-decade or so of being active on her YouTube channel, one filled with increasingly elaborate challenge, reaction and music videos that have served as her virtual stages. Having grown up in an artist’s household – her mom taught piano and voice lessons while they still lived in Texas – it was likely only a matter of time before she tapped into her own creative side.
Working with director Gerard Johnstone to fine-tune what M3GAN would sound like when she’s comforting her human, Cadi (played by Violet McGraw), or later unleashing chaos on the greedy toymakers who built her, Davis says she came by the voice and its various tones relatively quickly.
“Which I do think was influenced by my creative background,” she said. “I really had to dive into those creative elements… but I think I’ve been doing that for so long of my life that now it comes pretty quickly. Even when it comes to doing a TikTok or receiving a script or writing a song, I have to dive into those creative elements.”
Davis’s experience as a singer paid off elsewhere in “M3GAN,” namely a musical moment that proves to be one of the movie’s most memorable for sheer ridiculousness. Touching on how slippery a slope it is to keep young kids occupied with technology, the movie is aware of how silly its premise is—and leans ever further into it the more M3GAN’s directive to protect Cadi means targeting bullies with Terminator-esque precision. The character has made such an impression that some fans are already clamoring for a crossover that sees her doing battle against the likes of Chucky or “Malignant’s” Gabrielle.
Horror has always reflected the anxieties of the day, and “M3GAN” is firmly in that tradition, even as she’s likely to draw as many laughs as screams. The horror-comedy’s buzzy response isn’t all that surprising to Davis, who sums up her experience working on the movie with one word:
“It really feels unreal,” she said. “I’m so thankful that people love her. She’s relevant and she’s fun and she’s exciting, and you never really know what’s going to come out of her mouth next.”
>TRENDING ON KENS 5 YOUTUBE: