With the science fiction horror film M3GAN currently showing in cinemas, Violet McGraw plays one of the lead characters Cady alongside a cast including Allison Williams (as Gemma) and Amie Donald (as M3GAN), and she was directed by Gerard Johnstone. In the 2022 Christmas Netflix film I Believe in Santa, Violet played Ella, where she worked with the film’s writer and star John Ducey, who went on to write A Christmas Mystery for Violet, in which she played lead detective Violet Pierce and was once again released at Christmas last year. Amongst Violet’s other films, she has worked on Marvel’s Black Widow, Separation (for which she was nominated for Best Performance in a Feature Film: Leading Youth Artist at the 2022 Young Artist Awards), the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, and Our Friend (which is based on a true story). For Violet’s first regular character in a TV series, she played Young Nell across all episodes of the 2018 series The Haunting of Hill House, which was written by Mike Flanagan, who was the writer and director on Doctor Sleep. Violet spoke to us about playing lead character Cady in the science fiction horror release M3GAN, working on the Christmas films last year and her time as Young Nell in The Haunting of Hill House.
In the new release of the science fiction horror film M3GAN, you play one of the lead characters Cady, what was she like to play?
I loved playing Cady. It was really fun to explore all these different sides of this little girl. I got to get crazy angry, feel happy, depressed, and sad. I had so much fun making this relationship with M3GAN. I would have conversations with her on and off set. I would tell her about what happened to me after I left set the day before or share a funny story from a FaceTime I had with my sister. I really loved talking with her. We would also have staring competitions, which she always won by the way.
Can you tell us about the film and your character and how did you prepare for your role?
M3GAN is about an eight-year-old girl who loses her parents in a car crash. She then goes to live with her Aunt Gemma, who works for a cool toy company and is a genius roboticist. Gemma doesn’t really know how to deal with Cady and is so busy at work because of a deadline, that Cady is left to deal with the loss of her parents all by herself and feels very lonely and sad. That’s when Gemma decides to move forward with her latest creation, an AI doll named M3GAN. Who, once paired with Cady, will serve as her companion and protect Cady from harm. M3GAN takes her job very seriously, as you will see. *laughs*
In order for me to prepare for my role as Cady I had to really feel the loss of losing both of my parents. So, I focused on the time I left my favourite stuffed animal, a purple bunny named Ruby, that I had had since I was a baby, on an airplane. Ruby travelled with me everywhere, protected me, and kept me safe from bad dreams and when I was far away from my family, that bunny was my best friend. So losing Ruby, I am actually getting emotional talking about it right now, was and is still very devastating to me. Focusing on that loss would bring up all kinds of emotions. I still get angry at myself for not checking the airplane seats, not realising Ruby was gone until I got home. I get mad and sad just thinking about it now.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast and how did you find the experience on set?
I loved every single second on set. The cast was amazing! Allison (Williams) is such a fun person. She’s super funny. Not everyone always gets my sarcastic side, but Allison totally got me. She’s also super caring. She always asked me how I was feeling and checked in with me often.
Working with Amie (Donald), who played the physical M3GAN, was so much fun. We became super close friends right away. I taught her how to play UNO and she was so good, she even beat me a few times.
Working with Gerard (Johnstone) was a dream. First of all, he has an amazing accent. Secondly, he always allowed me to ask questions and never got annoyed with me. He is a very patient person. I guess you would have to be if you are working with a doll and a kid. *laughs* But seriously, we became really good friends and I just trusted him, which made filming so easy.
The rest of the cast and crew were truly so lovely. I loved the days when after lunch the cast and crew would play a game called 9 square. We would try to finish our lunch extra fast so we could play before going back to set. It was like we were one big family and it was just the best.
How does it feel now M3GAN is released and what has it been like seeing the fan response to the film?
I am so excited people are loving M3GAN. She really is the it girl! I mean, I wish she was real. I miss her all the time. I went and saw the movie with friends and family on the opening night and then again the next night with Amie, who plays M3GAN. We loved hearing the audience get so involved. I loved hearing them laugh and gasp at certain parts. It made the movie even more fun! I love following M3GAN’s Instagram and seeing what she and her besties are up to. It makes me smile every day.
Was there anything you enjoyed most about playing Cady and what are some of your favourite memories from working on the project?
What I enjoyed most about playing Cady was definitely the friendships I made. I also got to live in New Zealand for a few months and I was able to bring my brothers with me. So we made some incredible memories.
Like I mentioned earlier, playing 9 square with the cast and crew was just so much fun. I loved seeing how competitive everyone was. They would play fun music and we would all laugh a lot.
I loved getting to see how they worked M3GAN and Bruce. It was fascinating. We even took a special trip to Wellington where we were given a special tour of the Weta Workshop. My brothers and I are HUGE The Lord of the Rings fans and they let us hold Gimli’s axe and Legolas’ bow and Aragorn’s sword. We may have gotten emotional. *laughs* We also took a trip out to Hobbiton and I felt like I died and went to heaven. So many great memories!
You played Ella in the 2022 Netflix Christmas film I Believe in Santa, what was the film like to be part of and how would you describe your character?
Playing Ella was really special. First of all, it was a Christmas movie and I LOVE Christmas movies, second of all, I got to work with Christina (Moore), John (Ducey), and Lateefah (Holder). You have no idea how fun these three are. John really could be the funniest person I know.
My character Ella is just a sweet, curious girl, who is really enjoying all the holiday activities. It was really fun getting to play a normal little girl for a change. *laughs*
While filming I Believe in Santa, John Ducey, who also wrote that, became like my best friend and he said to me, “you know what? I’m going to write you a movie”, and he did! He wrote A Christmas Mystery for me!
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Ella and how was it filming for a Netflix Christmas release?
Ali (Afshar) ESX Productions, called my mom while we were in New Zealand, told us about the role of Ella, and then sent us the script. I knew I wanted to do it right away. It just sounded like such a fun role. I didn’t even know it was going to be on Netflix. I was just excited to do a Christmas movie.
What was Violet Pierce like to play in A Christmas Mystery and how was it reading the script for the first time?
Getting to play Violet Pierce was truly a dream come true for me. John Ducey wrote the movie for me and named the character after me. He even named my sister Maddie in the movie, just like my real-life sister. I was so excited when I read the script. It was a mystery, it took place at Christmas and I basically get to play the lead detective, no way! I was 100 percent so in!
When I met the rest of the cast, it felt like we had known each other forever. I seriously loved them all instantly, the kids and the adults equally.
How was it watching the completed film and did you have a favourite scene to work on?
When I finally got to see the finished film, I was so thrilled. I loved it. It was so fun seeing it on the lot at Warner Brothers. My mom literally had it on repeat over the holidays. She would watch it first thing in the morning and it would be the last thing she watched at night. I guess she loved it too. *laughs*
My favourite scene to work on was probably when Santino (Barnard) and I got to ride our bikes all over Petaluma. I just thought that was so much fun and felt like all the 80s movies my mom and dad had shown us. I don’t know, I just really loved getting to do that. Maybe because I can never ride my bike alone anywhere, so getting to pretend to was pretty cool.
In 2021, you played Sarah in the short film Grummy, can you tell us about this?
Sarah is a very special character. The movie itself was difficult, but only because Sarah is so sad. My mom explained to me that Sarah’s dad was really a scary monster hiding as a human and he was very mean to Sarah, and she didn’t like how he treated her anymore so she had to find a way to make it stop.
Meeting Micheline (Pitt) and Chip, the writers and directors of Grummy was very special. They actually feel more like family now. They were so sweet and very protective of me and how they were going to film. They always checked in with me and my parents and wanted to make sure we were all comfortable and felt like things were appropriate. I really hope I get to work with them again in the future.
How was the experience filming as Young Yelena in Black Widow and do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role?
Getting to film a Marvel movie was one of the coolest experiences ever. My sister Madeleine played Young Hope in Ant-Man and the Wasp, so I was always hoping to follow in her footsteps and get to be a part of a Marvel movie. So getting to portray Young Yelena was very much a dream. We shot in London, so I got to spend a lot of time there. I had the most amazing time. My mom is big on exploring the cities we stay in, so we walked all over! I saw just about everything there was to see and I made it to Hamleys toy store and Harrods at least twice a week.
The day I found out I booked it, I was coming home from an audition and my sister Maddy was in the car with me when my agents called with the good news. After my mom hung up the phone, we all started screaming. My sister was so excited for me. She kept telling me how much fun I was going to have and that I was going to be a part of the MCU. Sharing the news with her made it even more exciting.
Can you tell us about your time filming for Separation as Jenny Vahn, and how was it being nominated for Best Performance in a Feature Film: Leading Youth Artist at the 2022 Young Artist Awards?
I loved filming Separation. Brent, the director, is one of my most favourite people in the whole world. I had so much fun working with him. He was so nice to me and I really felt like he trusted me with Jenny. He would ask me questions and ask my opinion. I was eight. He treated me like I really mattered and wasn’t just a kid actor. I will always love him for that. I also loved working with Rupert (Friend), Madeline (Brewer), and Brian (Cox). Seriously, they were all so kind to me!
I also got to spend several weeks in New York around the holidays. My family flew in for a week and we celebrated thanksgiving in New York. We got to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, even though they said it was the coldest New York had been in, like, 100 years, it was still super fun. We went ice skating in Central Park and I got to see all the holiday windows and the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center. It was magical! I will never, ever forget it.
As far as being nominated, this is the first time I heard about that. That’s really nice.
In the 2019 release of Doctor Sleep, you played the role of Violet, what was it like being part of an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel?
After wrapping The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan told me he wrote a role for me in his next movie, Doctor Sleep, where I open the movie. I was too young to understand how cool it was to be a part of anything to do with Stephen King but believe me, I was honoured nonetheless. It was Mike Flanagan! I love Mike so much. If it weren’t for him, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten to do all the cool stuff I have done. I will always be grateful for Mike and for the opportunity to play Young Nellie.
What was it like playing Evie Teague in Our Friend?
Playing Evie was really special. Our Friend is a true story and we filmed it in the town where the real story took place. Getting to meet all the people in the town and hang out with my pretend big sister, Isabella Kai, was just so special. Also, I loved working with Casey Affleck, Jason Segal, and Dakota Johnson too. We were such a small cast, so we bonded a lot. I really felt like Casey was like my dad. I missed him a lot after we wrapped and Jason was just so funny every day. There is a scene in the car where we are talking about if elves are real. Jason was improvising a lot of those lines and he made me burst out laughing more than once. One of those takes is what made it in the film.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from playing Young Nell in The Haunting of Hill House towards the start of your career?
There are so many things that stand out to me. I was just six years old when I worked on that. It was my first really big thing and I was so nervous. But after my first day on set and working with Mike Flanagan, my nerves went away. Mike was beyond kind and so super patient. I knew I had nothing to worry about. I also met one of my most favourite people on earth while filming, my pretend mom, Carla Gugino. If I could work with her on everything, I would. She is the kindest, sweetest, most loving, and definitely one of the smartest people I know. You can’t help but feel happy when you are around her. She has the best energy. Henry Thomas is also one of my favourite people. Being that he was a kid actor, he had a lot of good advice. I always wanted to make sure I was prepared for our scenes because I never wanted to let him or Carla down. I also loved working with Lulu Wilson and Julian Hilliard. We all stay in touch until this very day. I consider them some of my closest friends.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
I had a picture hanging in a mall window from one of those mall picture places and someone left information for my mom about an agency. So my mom checked it out. I had done some baby modelling and a couple of commercials, but I wasn’t really into it. When I was four, I went to visit my sister on the set of her show, Outcast. The show was filmed in South Carolina and I got to go to set with her every day and watch her work. I started to see why she loved it so much. So when we got back I asked my mom if I could start auditioning again. Now I can’t imagine not wanting to do it. I love it so much.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
My favourite films are The Lord of the Rings. Especially The Return of the King. Best movie ever. I love watching Cobra Kai and Stranger Things. I really loved Wednesday too.
My favourite thing to do besides acting is playing soccer. I am on a club team that I love and I hope I get to keep playing.
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
I hope I get to continue acting, win some soccer games, and travel. Other than that, I hope everyone stays healthy and happy.
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