This past weekend, a new horror icon arrived in the form of a sassy killer doll named M3GAN, who is brought to life in the film by Gemma, a determined purveyor of innovation who wants to push the boundaries of AI in our everyday lives by creating a best friend for kids that caters to their every need. Played by Allison Williams, Gemma is a character we don’t see a lot of these days in Hollywood, which was just one of the many aspects of M3GAN that this writer thoroughly enjoyed.
During the recent press day for the film, Daily Dead had the chance to speak with Williams about her involvement with M3GAN and how excited she was to be invited back to work on another Blumhouse project after Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Williams also discussed her thoughts on some of the themes that screenwriter Akela Cooper explores throughout her script for M3GAN and much more.
It’s such an honor to get to speak with you today, Allison. Get Out and The Perfection are two of my favorite modern horror movies and you did a fantastic job in M3GAN, too. What was the initial appeal for you in terms of wanting to be a part of this project and exploring the character of Gemma?
Allison Williams: Well, it moved from the superficial, more peripheral elements of it, to the meatier stuff. The first thing I remember was that Jason Blum reached out and said, “Will you take a look at this?” So already, I was inclined to say yes because I love Blumhouse. I love Jason personally, but I loved the experience of making Get Out from start to finish. It was a pretty unusual perfect experience. So I was like, "This will feel like coming home." I loved working with Blumhouse so much and then knowing that James Wan was involved, I was also in because of that. Then I read the script that Akela Cooper wrote and it was phenomenal. I was so engaged with it and I felt totally hooked by it. Then I spoke to Gerard and I thought he had a really unique tonal perspective on it, and I loved his first film, Housebound, and I thought that he would have a really interesting take on it.
And then being able to dig into Gemma and help flesh her out a bit and create this person was just such a delight. I just liked being able to make someone who felt really specific and three-dimensional, someone who's really brilliant and really focused on her work to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, that’s the kind of person I know so many different versions of, and I see very rarely on screen. So it was just rolling pluses. Each new part of it that I examined was just yet another reason to do it, and it was a very easy decision to make ultimately.
What I think is really cool about this movie, too, is that all of the facets of the story are driven by women, whether it’s Gemma, Cady, or M3GAN, too. And in relation to your character, I just thought that was really interesting because I don't feel like we see a ton of stories these days about women working in the tech world in a way that feels relatable and humanized, if that makes sense. It was a really interesting dynamic to explore here, to me.
Allison Williams: Yeah, for sure. And also, what is the movie ultimately saying about Gemma's focus on work and the balance with this new version of motherhood that she encounters? I think it's a really interesting subject area. And in my research, talking to women in the field was really inspiring in terms of trying to get it as real as possible. With these movies, you can't nail everything totally accurately obviously, because you have to keep the story moving and all of that. But my hope is that people will recognize some part of her as someone that they know, and understand her obsession is with getting it right—her obsession with moving quickly with progress, with making something that no one's made before, and with achieving her vision. Of course, she’s thinking about ethics slightly later, but I think that pattern is one that a lot of people can relate to in any field where you're innovating a lot. It can be something where momentum is such that you just don't feel like stopping and going back and pressure-testing things, which of course, Gemma should have done. But I know a ton of women who are brilliant in their fields and who are not thinking about those other parts of life right now. They're just focused on it, and I love the idea of bringing someone to the screen that was in that space.
Yeah, I don't have kids, but the enormity of having to take on that kind of responsibility is extremely daunting—especially out of nowhere—and I think you guys really tapped into something in this that I think is very relatable to a lot of people, whether they are parents or not.
Allison Williams: Oh, good. And I think Gemma fits into both categories. She birthed M3GAN, for lack of a better word, and then inherited Cady, so she becomes a mother to both, but she is certainly someone who would never have thought of motherhood as a part of her future life at all. I think that's a really interesting area to engage with. In what ways are you responsible for the things that you bring into the world or the people you bring into the world? In what way are you responsible for the people you become responsible for? It's something we talk about a lot and the tragic timing of what Gemma learns, and when she learns it, demonstrates how she can do a better job in both cases.
I know we've only got a few minutes left, but I wanted to ask one last question. I'm a really big believer that whenever you do something creative, you put a piece of yourself into that project, but I think there’s a piece that you take with you from the project as well. And I'm curious, what was the biggest takeaway you had from your experience working on M3GAN?
Allison Williams: What a good question. The biggest thing I came away with is—without spoiling the magic of how she came to be on screen—that the experience of making and working with M3GAN was unlike anything I'll probably ever experience again. I learned a ton. It was super challenging for everyone involved [laughs], as M3GAN was a temperamental gal, but it was an experience that will make me a better actor and a better producer. I learned so much about collaboration and artistry and engineering, and all of it. It was this collision of every department descending on this one character's portrayal.
I know that's a vague answer because I’m deliberately trying not to spoil the magic, but I think that's definitely one of my bigger takeaways for sure. And also, just having subject matter that is serious and worth talking about but injecting humor and fun into it is just this combination I continue to feel is magical and I hope that people agree when they go see the movie.
Go here to catch up on our previous coverage of M3GAN!