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Why Young Madison From Malignant Looks So Familiar

Contains spoilers for "Malignant."

After creating terrifying universes with "Saw," "Insidious," and "The Conjuring," master of horror James Wan is back with another twisted tale where nothing is quite what it seems. "Malignant" follows Madison Lake-Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant woman who begins to have vivid dreams about a murderer after a physical altercation with her husband.

As the story unravels, Madison uncovers repressed memories about her not-so-imaginary childhood friend Gabriel (Marina Mazepa, Ray Chase), who wanted her to harm her unborn sister. Family secrets come to light, and she sees herself as a troubled child named Emily May. Her supernatural twin brother's killing spree is revealed to be coming from within her mind, and the battle for control begins. In these flashbacks, Emily talks to an unseen Gabriel in front of her adoptive family and later calls him "the devil." Cloaked behind bangs and long dark hair, the young girl exudes that effortless "terrifying child in a horror movie" persona.

So, why does the younger version of Madison look so familiar? Here's who she is, and where you have seen her before.

Mckenna Grace has a knack for playing younger versions of adult characters

At just 15 years old, actress Mckenna Grace has amassed a prolific body of work. What she's best known for, though, is portraying the younger versions of leading (adult) characters. From her first film credit in 2013's "R" to her recent turn in "Malignant," she has appeared in quite a number of flashbacks to help bring characters' backstories to life. She has even performed this role in animation: most recently, she voiced a young Daphne Blake alongside Amanda Seyfried in the 2020 reboot "Scoob!," for instance.

If you're a Marvel fan, then you saw Grace play a young Carol Danvers (played in adult form by Brie Larson) in 2019's "Captain Marvel." Perhaps her most notable "younger version" role to date, though, was in 2017, when she starred as a young Tonya Harding alongside Margot Robbie in "I, Tonya." Portraying the infamous ice skater was a challenge for the then-10-year-old. "Physically, it was the most challenging role I've ever done before because I had to learn to ice skate, and I've never done ice skating before," she told The Boston Globe. "I'd fall and I was all beaten up but I had to get up and keep trying."

On TV, Grace has portrayed younger versions of characters on "The Goodwin Games," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "The Vampire Diaries," and "Once Upon a Time." She's appeared on two Netflix originals as well: "The Haunting of Hill House" as young Theodora Crain, and "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" as young Sabrina Spellman.

Mckenna Grace was a child prodigy in Gifted

In addition to portraying the younger versions of other characters, Mckenna Grace also boasts small roles in a variety of films — from oddball supernatural films like "Suburban Gothic" to animations like "The Angry Birds Movie," she's done it all. 

However, her breakout role was in the 2017 drama "Gifted," where she portrayed Mary Adler, a mathematically gifted young girl at the center of a messy custody battle involving her uncle, who is portrayed by Chris Evans. For this part, Grace received nominations from the Online Film & Television Association Awards, Women Film Critics Circle Awards, and the Critics' Choice Movie Awards and won Best Performance by a Youth and Breakthrough Performance at the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (via IMDb). Evans, when asked in an interview what it was like working with Grace, had nothing but praise: "I know how tough those auditions can be, I've been through a lot. When Mckenna walked into that audition she just nailed it."

Following the success of "Gifted," Grace starred as Juliet Walker in "Amityville: The Awakening," Christmas Flint in Amazon's "Troop Zero," and Judy Warren in "Annabelle Comes Home," among others. She stars as Phoebe in the upcoming "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," which is scheduled for a November 2021 theatrical release.

Mckenna Grace has also made many TV ventures, including The Handmaid's Tale

From Disney sitcoms and soap operas to Netflix originals and critically acclaimed dystopian dramas, Mckenna Grace has explored many TV genres in her young career. Most recently, she has portrayed Paige on "Young Sheldon," Rose Harbenberger on "Fuller House," Penny Kirkman on "Designated Survivor," and the emotionally volatile Esther Keyes in "The Handmaid's Tale."

For the latter role, Grace received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Sharing the news to her Instagram, she wrote, "I spent an hour this morning crying and just feeling the most insane amount of happiness and joy. Today was genuinely one of the coolest days of my life and the best day of my acting journey. I've been dreaming of something like this happening for so long and I genuinely didn't think it was going to happen now," she added, thanking everyone involved for making her feel at home on set.

What's next for Grace's TV resume? Soon, she will star in the upcoming Disney+ show "Just Beyond," an anthology based on the R.L. Stine graphic novel of the same name. The spooky series will premiere on October 13, 2021.