Karen Gillan on conquering the universe and how Doctor Who got her the Guardians of the Galaxy role

“The Oculus director is a really big Doctor Who fan too. When he Skyped me he was drinking out of a Tardis mug – I was like, ‘I’ve totally got this role!’”

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Karen Gillan on conquering the universe and how Doctor Who got her the Guardians of the Galaxy role
Written By
Kim Taylor-Foster

Since her stint as Amy Pond – sassy sidekick to Matt Smith’s Doctor Who – Karen Gillan has been in high demand. And now she’s picked up the role of baddie Nebula in Disney’s new Marvel franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, she’s generated another memorable character ripe for the Cosplay dress-up treatment. So perhaps it's understandable when she walks into the room wearing a top emblazoned with the words “Leave Me Alone”.

It seems everyone wants a piece of this red-hot Scottish property – and not just science fiction fans keen on channeling their inner vixens. The journalists at an international press conference held in London last week were virtually clambering over each other to get their questions in.

But although she’s becoming a big star across the pond, she’s not likely to forget where she’s come from anytime soon – not least because she’s reminded by fans Stateside on a regular basis.

“I was actually really surprised by the amount of people that come up to me in the States saying that they’re Doctor Who fans,” she tells RadioTimes.com. “They’re just discovering it more and more because it’s on Netflix, and they think I’m still in it.”

It’s directly because of her work in Doctor Who that she was cast in both Guardians of the Galaxy (director James Gunn saw her and was impressed) and last year’s supernatural horror Oculus.

“[Director Mike Flanagan] is a really big Doctor Who fan and he Skyped with me when I was in my bedroom in Scotland in my parent’s house,” says Karen. “He was drinking out of a Tardis mug – but he didn’t realise he was drinking out of a Tardis mug – and I was like, ‘I’ve totally got this role!’”

So how does working on a big budget Hollywood blockbuster compare to working on Doctor Who?

“There are actually a lot of similarities because it’s sci-fi. There’s a lot of green screen and reacting to things that aren’t there, so I feel like I was trained up for it,” she says. “But the main difference is that everything is just bigger in scale. More set, more people… just a bigger budget.”

And, presumably, a much earlier start? “Yes. I was getting up generally at around 3 or 4am. There was one time I was in the make-up chair at 1am – I was so confused! I think we worked a couple of 19-hour days which was pretty crazy.”

With a Guardians sequel just announced (slated for a July 2017 release), are there any firm plans for Karen to make a return to the blue Luphomoid alien character battling a serious case of sibling rivalry? “I can’t talk about that because that’s a spoiler as to what happens to her!” she exclaims.

But let’s just suppose she does return; what would Karen like to see happen to Nebula? “I think I would like to see her turn on everyone, so she really can’t be trusted. It’s really cool – in [comic book] The Infinity Gauntlet, she screws over [supervillain] Thanos and tries to take over the universe. That’s what I want her to do.” 

For Gillan herself, conquering the universe may be a little ambitious – but as far as the planet goes, she's well on her way.

Guardians of the Galaxy is in cinemas from Thursday 31 July.

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