Awesome Con fans were very excited to welcome actress Karen Gillan to Washington, D.C. over the weekend. By the time her Q&A started, there was only standing room left in the spacious Hall D, attesting to her popularity from some of the biggest TV and film franchises.
Gillan, who hails from Scotland, was determined from a young age to enter acting. However, she wasn’t exactly sure at first how to begin. She said, “There’s a few Scottish actors but not really ones that were right in the zeitgeist when I was growing up. I was obsessed with Jennifer Aniston from Friends. I don’t think Scotland had an equivalent [to her].”
Another obstacle was that Gillan wasn’t the star pupil in her acting courses. But she didn’t let that stop her. She saw a teacher talking to a star pupil and giving them a book; it had information about how to break into acting, as well as a list of agents.
Buying herself a copy, right away she put the book to good use and devised a strategy. “I’ll just find all the agents in Scotland. I’ll take pictures, send them, and call [the offices]. And it worked! I got an agent, which was miraculous.”
On ‘Doctor Who’
As to what was next, Gillan wasn’t expecting to land a role in Doctor Who, one of the U.K.’s most beloved TV series. “The idea of being the companion seemed really far-fetched to me, to the point actually that [when] my friend who’s really into Doctor Who said to me, ‘You should try and get an audition for the new companion’ I laughed in her face.”
Fortunately, Gillan’s agent was on a similar wavelength as the friend and booked her an audition. Looking back on her time as Amy Pond, Gillan has happy memories. “It was so fun being able to work with my best mates, Matt [Smith] and Arthur [Darvill]. We got to run away from monsters every day for a living and be in our 20s!”
Gillan has been in a lot of films since her time on Doctor Who. When she heard that a new Jumanji movie was going into production, she had initial concerns as a fan. “I was like, what are you going to do with this? Immediately so defensive. Then I read the script and I went, oh, this is a totally different take. It’s going to exist in its own little area.”
Shooting in Hawaii was an amazing experience, especially working with fellow actors Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or DJ as Gillan calls him, also calling him a true professional. “Sometimes you’re acting 18 hours a day. There would be people waiting for him outside the area where the trailers were. He would sign every autograph and take every single photo. He’s a pro and really values his fans.”
Gillan was thrilled to get the role of Nebula in the Marvel Universe, acting in both the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers series. In addition to shaving her head, she spent a while in makeup. “I’m usually in the makeup chair for four hours in the morning. We have to be ready to shoot on camera by 8 a.m. so you have to imagine what time I’m setting the alarm.”
“It’s not the nicest sensation at 5 o’clock in the morning. I feel like I’m being operated on.”
The hours of makeup were worth it, she assured the audience, because of memorable times with friend Pom Klementieff, who plays Mantis, and paper football scenes with Robert Downey Jr.
“He was improvising lines at me. That was scary but it was so fun. Like really good improvisers, he sets you up for success. In a way, you feel quite taken care of.”
Gillan is still amazed at how often she’s recognized these days. “Since Guardians 3 came out, it’s happening everywhere. I’m like, what’s going on? I don’t understand. You can’t see my face in this movie. In the coffee shop, ‘Nebula!'”
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