“I’m thinking. I really am. I’m racking my brains,” says Karen Gillan. The classical chin-on-hand thinker’s pose is offset by poison-green nail varnish. As she concentrates, one long leg winds tightly about the other, slim and supple as the limbs of an elegant octopus. But it’s no good. Gillan is stumped. She cannot come up with a single downside to fame.
It’s three months since the red-haired, 5ft 10in Scot first climbed aboard the Tardis and the escalating profile of Doctor Who’s latest companion is approaching warp speed. Magazine cover shoots, personal appearances and almost daily puffs of tabloid outrage – the kind of outrage, requiring extensive photo-coverage, that’s reserved for exceptionally pretty girls in short skirts –have all been taken in Gillan’s athletic stride.
“It’s weird,” she says, of her crash landing on Planet Famous, “but nice-weird. It feels like you’re being monitored a bit more and I really wasn’t prepared for that kind of attention. Of course, it’s strange to wake up and find journalists staking out your house, but no one’s been nasty. And it’s not like I’m cowering inside, scared to put a foot wrong.
“I went on the Tube the other day, at night, and no one looked twice. Bit of an anticlimax, really. I can use public transport depending on the time of day – if there were a lot of children around, it would probably be impossible. But that’s not something you can worry about. I mean, Doctor Who is just the most brilliant job. I’m not going to take that for granted and start moaning about ‘the cost of celebrity’.”
Surfing on adrenaline, Karen “Kaz” Gillan is the original breath of fresh air. When she giggles – and she giggles a lot – it’s not so much nerves as sheer good nature. None of which disguises the best-foot-forward determination that, at 22, has made her Britain’s most bankable new talent.
Having left home in Inverness at 16 to go to drama school in Edinburgh, she went on to appear in Rebus, Stacked and The Kevin Bishop Show – as well as playing a soothsayer opposite David Tennant’s Doctor in The Fires of Pompeii (2008).
But as Amy Pond, she’s raised the game of the Doctor’s companion from sidekick to genuine co-star. There’s a classic screwball energy in her professional relationship with Matt Smith that knocks sparks out of the screen. “Actually,” she says, as if confessing to a great cheat, “it’s the same off screen. We just kind of bounce off each other. The banter that you see on screen – that’s what we’re like all day on set.
I sometimes wonder if it’s our way of keeping our energy up between scenes, but it’s all subconscious. And I think we might have been like that if we’d met in any other situation.