How Karen Gillan embraced sci-fi stardom and baldness (Wired UK)


Stepping out of the TARDIS and into the Marvel
Universe as bad girl Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy

2014 Marvel Studios

Karen Gillan won legions of fans starring as Amy Pond, companion
to Matt Smith’s Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who. Since her run
on the show ended, the Scottish actress has been making a name for
herself on the movie circuit, headlining horror film Oculus
and most recently appearing as the lethal hunter Nebula in
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. sits down to chat with Gillan about the physicality
of the role, the legacy of Doctor Who, and the merits of
going bald.

You did Oculus recently
and now you’re on Guardians. Are you stealing all the
choice genre roles?

It seems to be that way! But I’m not complaing because I think
the roles in genre films now, for females, are fantastic! They’re
really amazing. These girls in the Marvel films are strong,
especially in Guardians. And in Oculus, I played
the lead, as a woman. It seems to just to be a good place for
female actors.

There seems to be a surge of strong female roles in
horror lately, at least compared to slasher flicks where almost all
of the women were victims.

Those are the ones I watched growing up. There’s always that
process of elimination of a group of teenagers getting killed off
one by one. I think we’re going in a new direction now. We’re used
to female characters in horror films, that’s nothing new. It’s
really good now that that’s not a big deal now that it’s a female
lead. That’s just the way it is.

How much physical training did you have to do for the
role of Nebula?

An intense amount of training. As soon as I got the role I had
to start working out four times a week with a trainer, the guy who
does all the Marvel superheroes. It’s quite funny that there’s just
one man behind every superhero! So, he trained me and then I had to
do martial arts training every day I wasn’t filming.

James Gunn was saying that after Guardians,
Chris Pratt could kick everyone’s ass.

Well, I’m saying I could kick Chris’ ass now! I think I could
kick everyone’s ass now. [laughs]

Did you have any nerves going from British TV to

I was really excited. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was
a bit intimidated when I walked on to the set of the film because I
knew it was a big Marvel film. But ultimately it’s the same job on
a bigger scale, if you know what I mean.

What’s been the biggest difference work-wise between TV
shows and something like Guardians?

Well, on a basic level, the budget’s a lot bigger in films and
that informs everything else. You spend a lot more time doing
certain things. We spent an entire week, seven full days, filming
the one fight sequence between me and Gamora. In television I was
used to spending a couple hours on something, doing maybe one or
two takes of running down a corridor. We would just have such a
sense of momentum, which I love because it’s good creatively to
keep the pace up. So they both have their ups and downs.

Nebula’s fate is left fairly ambiguous. Would you like
to return? Where do you see the character going?

I would love to come back and I’d want to see her relationship
with Gamora explored further, just get into the sibling rivalry a
little more. That’s a really interesting part of her character to
me. In a dream world, I would love to see her go after the Infinity
from the comic books, and maybe take on Thanos.

That’s some proper nerd-tier knowledge — were you
already into the comics?

I didn’t know what it was before, no, but when I got the role I
immediately started reading the comics. The Infinity Gem storyline
was one I got obsessed with. It’s got Nebula in it and she comes in
to steal the glove. Then she tries to screw over Thanos and it was
really cool.

How did you work with Zoe to build up your fight

I had to train for a long time before I could get to the point
of being able to do the fight sequence with Zoe, who is extremely
talented in that sort of area. She’s done loads of films like that
before and she’s a trained ballerina, so she’s very good
physically. I’m not good physically and I really had to work. I
trained for a good couple of months before I even started training
with Zoe, to learn the fight sequence. When they did put us
together it was fun but it was a lot of work to get to that point
where we were able to film.

Your shaven head reveal at last year’s San Diego Comic
Con was show-stopping. How was it day-to-day afterwards,

It was fine, absolutely fine. I would go shopping in the
supermarket for eggs and milk, bald. I didn’t feel the need to
cover up. It was fun because it made me feel like an entirely
different person. I’ve certainly not been recognised nearly as

Any advice for people dealing with going bald who aren’t
starring in a superhero action movie?

Commit to it. Commit to the bald. Do it. I mean, your hair might
look good [for a while] but you should commit to it 100%. Go
shopping with it!


rivalry doesn’t begin to cover Nebula’s rage issues in Guardians of
the Galaxy

© 2014 Marvel Studios

You’re about to return to TV with Selfie
— what’s that going to be about?

Selfie is for ABC in America. It’s about a girl who’s
really narcissistic and loves herself. She takes so many pictures
of herself, floods social media, but doesn’t have any real friends.
The story is about her journey to overcome her addiction to the
internet and become a better person. It sounds dramatic but it’s
actually a comedy. It’s a half-hour sitcom but it doesn’t have a
laugh track. It’s really funny!

Does that feel strange after all the genre and
geek-culture roles you’ve done recently?

Yeah, a bit actually. It’s kind of like returning to where I
started from. I started off in comedy so going back to it’s going
to be really fun.

Are you pursuing your career more in the US

I’m really, really not trying to just do stuff over in America
but it’s just panning out that way. There are a lot of roles that
are coming up over there and I’m not quite sure why.

Well, Doctor Who exploded over there, more than
anyone expected.

Yeah, I think maybe that’s opened up a lot of doors for me over
there. I just decided to go over there because the opportunities
were really good for actresses my age over there, instead of just
doing period dramas over here.

Do you find that playing Amy Pond on Doctor Who
for three years is still influencing your career?

Oh, for sure. I feel Doctor Who’s been my big break and
helped me get roles since then. I know for a fact that I’ve gotten
roles in films because the directors are fans of the show.

Do you think the British TV industry is still shy of
doing anything other than period dramas and romantic

I think actually we have really good variety on British
television. We have Sherlock, which I think is excellent,
and Fargo. There are some really cool things out there.
But there is a tradition of regurgitating these period dramas over
and over again. I get that they’re popular but I don’t necessarily
want to wear a corset for the rest of my career!

Does that drive a lot of people away from British TV,
when there’s more exciting American shows imported?

Yeah, and we do get a lot of imported American stuff. That’s
what I grew up with. I grew up watching the X-Files, I was
so into that, and my mum is really into geeky stuff. She’s
the biggest geek in the world. My mum loved Doctor

She must have loved it when you got the role as

It was like all her dreams coming true and all her Christmasses
happening at once! It was so funny. She literally loves the TV show
already and then I came home and told that her I was going to be in
it — she almost fainted!

Your cousin Caitlin Blackwood was in the show as Young
Amy — did she audition or did you go “hey, I’ve got a

Yeah, I told them I had a cousin. Basically, they were looking
for a younger version of me and basically started scouring Scotland
looking for a little girl. My accent isn’t actually central belt
Scottish, it’s very specific to the highlands. They were saying “We
can’t find anyone! Shehas to have ginger hair and sound like you!”
So I was like “Well, I have this cousin who looks exactly like me
but I don’t know how she is at acting, she’s never acted before,
she’s never expressed an interest….” The BBC said to let them
audition her because they were really struggling to find someone.
So she comes in and she nailed it! She’s a fantastic
little actress. She was the only little girl to put her hands on
her hips in the audition and that’s when everybody knew, that

Has that kickstarted her acting bug, do you

I think so. I don’t know if she’s going to keep it up or not,
because I told her to focus on school and maybe do it on the side.
Maybe she’ll go back into it when she comes out of school. She’s
only thirteen now.

You briefly cameo’d in the Doctor Who 50th
anniversary special. Do you see a chance for Amy to

I see less of a chance now that Matt Smith’s not there, so “my”
Doctor isn’t in it any more, so that sort of narrows the chances.
But I don’t know. Stephen Moffat’s still writing. I don’t really
see it happening but I’d love to if it came up.

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2 August 2014 | 9:00 am – Source:

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