Karen Gillan is one of the main attraction of the 2015 Fan Expo Convention, though in truth she is the main attraction of most conventions that she goes to. She is a fan favorite thanks to her portrayal of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, but more so as having played Amy Pond in Dr. Who. She got a chance to talk with the fans about her experiences.
Moderator: It’s just been announced that you are joining that new film, the Circle. What can you tell us about that?
Karen Gillan: It’s a film about this internet based company and they track their [employees’] lives quite extensively, and it’s about how far is too far when it comes to documenting what you’re doing all the time.
M: Your old friend Arthur Darvill is going to be playing Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow. Have you imparted any advice to him on playing a superhero character?
KG: No I haven’t actually, I feel like he has it down. He knows about time travel. He’s done it before. I think that he is well-equipped for the job.
Question from the floor: Can you talk about your time working on Oculus? Would you like to do more horror movies in the future?
KG: I had such a good time working on Oculus which is a horror film about an evil mirror. It was always a dream of mine to be in an American horror film because that is what I grew up watching. I would love to do more.
QFF: You recently directed a short horror film, what was the inspiration for that. And what was your experience with it? And also whether it is getting a public release?
KG: It is getting a public release. These shorts are really complicated, I want to just tweet them, but I’m not allowed. This one I just made is my second short and it’s set at a horror convention. It’s about a girl who was in a horror film sequel, and then didn’t do anything after that, and she’s had a lot of surgery so I play someone that’s got a lot of prosthetics. Then it gets a lot more serious when she starts talking about her life.
M: Do you have a title?
KG: Conventional. She doesn’t want to be conventional, that is her greatest fear. I think that it is going to be online later this year, as part of a horror short [collection].
M: How short is short?
KG: It’s 8 minutes.
QFF: I like you in the movie Not Another Happy Ending. If you were [the main character] Jane Lockhart and if you wrote a book what would it be about? What type of genre would it be and what would you call it?
KG: If I wrote a book I think that it would have to be about something that I have experienced, or something that I know quite well, because I feel that if you are going to write – like that old saying “write about what you know” – I think that is is more specific and detailed and that’s good. Maybe I would write about growing up in the middle of nowhere in Scotland and see where that goes. I would call it “Haggis and Tartan”
QFF: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
KG: My favorite superhero is Spider-Man. I just want to shoot web from my fingers! Wouldn’t that be so cool?
QFF: If you could be in any musical what would it be?
KG: A musical? One that Arthur Darvill writes for me specifically. He is the most amazing talented musician ever, like he can play any instrument that you put in front of him. It’s really weird and freaky, and any song you can just shut out a request and he can automatically play it. And he writes musicals so I feel like this would be a good team-up.
QFF: Doctor Who has become such a huge phenomenon since it rebooted in 2005 and since you joined as a companion, it must have been a huge culture shock. What was the biggest change that you noticed and what was the thing that scared you about taking on this huge role?
KG: In the U.K. it is quite a weird thing to take on a role in Dr. Who just because it is such a national institution, and everybody knows what it is, and it’s headline news when someone joins the show. And that doesn’t normally happen because usually they’ll establish a character on the show, and then you will see them become successful. When I got the role I knew that my life was going to change, but I wasn’t scared because I was 21 and I had the blind optimism of youth. If I got the role now I would be way more scared.
M: What’s your reaction to Capaldi so far?
KG: He’s great. I think he’s brilliant! First of all he’s a brilliant actor, second of all he’s Scottish, so he’s a winner.
M: Is there any chance that Amy and Rory might come back?
KG: I have said before that I wasn’t going to return and my reason for that was because I wanted my departure to have the same impact years down the line. I wanted people to feel upset when they watched it. But then I went back for Matt’s regeneration so obviously I lie about that stuff. So, yeah! If they asked me to go back I would absolutely do it.
QFF: What is the favorite Dr. Who episode that you were in and why?
KG: It was “The Eleventh Hour” because I think that it is the best episode that Steven Moffat wrote because he had that in him since he was a little kid. It was always his dream to write for Dr. Who and I think that he had that planned for a very long time. It was a particularly magical and special episode, and we were playing the characters for the first time, and I thought my little cousin Caitlyn [Blackwood], who played the younger Amy, did such a good job introducing my character and making people like her so I was like “thank you”.
M: How did she become involved in it? Did you suggest her?
KG: I did. We were looking for this little Scottish girl who looked like me and sounded like me, and I don’t have the same Scottish accent as the central belt of Scotland like Glasgow, so they needed a particular one. I was like “I have this cousin, who looks like me, she’s never acted before, she’s never expressed an interest in acting” and they were like “just let us audition her.” And then they auditioned her three times, so it wasn’t that easy for her, which made me happy that she didn’t just get handed [the part]. She nailed the audition, I think that all the other little girls were sweet and lovely, and she had a lot of attitude, and she just put her hands on her hips and was like “What? You’re a time traveler?” I think that she did a really good job with that.
QFF: What is your second favorite episode of Dr. Who?
KG: It would have to be “The Girl Who Waited.” I got to play an older version of Amy and see what I look like older, and now I live really healthily after seeing that (laughs). It was cool because I felt like I got more to play with emotionally.
QFF: Of all the villains in Dr. Who which one is your favorite?
KG: It is actually the weeping angels, they are so scary and horrible and you had to look at them.
QFF: When you played in the episode “Fires of Pompeii” did you know that you were going to be a Dr. Who companion then? Or did you have to re-audition for the part.
KG: I did not know that I was going to be a Dr. Who companion when I was in the “Fires of Pompeii” with Peter Capaldi, who didn’t know that he was going to be a Doctor! That was quite random. I had to re-audition for the companion role, and by that point the whole team had changed, all the producers had changed over, so it wasn’t even as if they went “Oh that girl from that episode could do it!” It was just random and completely separate.
QFF: If you could be the companion of any other Doctor who would it be?
KG: I think that it would be David Tennant. I love his Doctor, I think it’s a really interesting version of the character, he’s so energetic and charming. I think it would be fun.
QFF: Do you think that you share any personality traits with Amy Pond?
KG: I think that a lot of me bled into that performance, especially when you are playing [a character] every single day for ten hours and that’s all that you are doing, it sort of molds into you a little bit. And you mold into it. I think that she is a bit more sassy and a bit more sarcastic than me and has just a bit more attitude than me. She’s like a cooler version of me.
M: But part of becoming a companion on Dr. Who is much like actually being a companion of the Doctor in the sense that you’re going on this fantastic journey that’s brought you all over the world.
KG: We would always talk about that. Me and Matt would always sit down and be like “What’s real and what’s not? Because it feels like our lives have completely changed. We’re going on this fantastic crazy journey, and obviously we are not actually traveling through time but our lives have turned upside down.”
M: You do share that quality then [with Amy] of taking that chance for adventure?
KG: I remember actively thinking that lot. I’d be like “How does she feel in this situation?'” And then I thought “Well how do I feel in this situation? Ok, I understand.”
QFF: What’s your favorite Dr. Who episode that you’re not in?
KG: I really liked “Doomsday” with Billy and David just because it was so sad. When they’re separated by the White Wall and his face was the saddest face that I have ever seen. It haunts me.
QFF: Did you watch Dr. Who when you were a child?
KG: It wasn’t on when I was a kid, which is a travesty, and I am so mad at the BBC for that. I didn’t really get to watch it growing up and have that amazing experience of being a child and being like “What is this?” It came back in 2005 and I watched it with my mother because she is the biggest Whovian that I have ever met and she introduced me to it. I remember thinking that the acting was really strong and hard because it’s all these high octane situations and it’s life or death all the time. It’s not just a tv show where you are walking around corridors talking like a doctor on ER.
M: Was it difficult watching the episodes with your mom when you were on it? Was she critiquing the episodes in terms of the canon?
KG: She would always come up with theories in things. She would be like “I think that that means that. Does it?” And I’d be like “I’m not going to tell you that.”
QFF: Are there any people that you would want to work with? Or any specific roles that you would like to have?
KG: I would love to work with Tilda Swinton, because I think she’s so amazing. Such gravitas. I would love to work with Matt again, he’s the best actor that I think that I have ever worked with, just in terms of how we work together. He’s one of the most generous actors. Even he’s not on camera and you’re on camera, he’s sort of giving you the lines. He works so hard to provoke things out of you, and so we would never have to fake laugh, he would always do something to make me laugh. Stuff like that. That’s when acting is really enjoyable, when you’re not even acting, it’s like reacting. He did that for me so he remains my favorite one to work with.
M: If an opportunity presented itself, is there a role that you would want to take on in Star Wars?
KG: Here’s what I want to do in Star Wars … and I have spoken to my agent about this as well. I want to play a weird looking alien that you have never seen, nobody knows it’s me, and I’ll just walk past in the background and have no lines. That’s all I want.
QFF: Have you ever had a Dr. Who script where you didn’t really know what it was about or where it was going?
KG: And then they come to make sense a few episodes later sometimes, so you just have to bide your time. I remember being really confused by the “The Rebel Flesh” episode when I first read it because it’s much easier to watch that visually than to read on a page, because there are two of everyone. I was like “What is happening?” That was probably the most confusing for me … then I watched it and I understood it.
QFF: If you could play a doctor, which one would you want to play?
KG: I can’t say Matt, because that would be really weird, I’d have myself as a companion. Maybe I would play the first one, William Hartnell.
QFF: If there was a role reversal and Amy Pond was the doctor, would she be a good doctor?
KG: I think that she would try really hard to save the universe, although I kind of like her as the companion, because she gets to be sarcastic and make fun of the doctor, and was quite a nice position to be in.
QFF: If you could come back to Dr. Who as a villain who would you choose?
KG: Matt always says that I would make a good Silence. So maybe I would do that and hang from ceiling.
QFF: How would your experience have been different if you filmed with a different Doctor?
KG: I feel like it would be a totally different experience actually. I am so grateful to have had the one that I did because I feel like it was a special time because everyone changed over, so I got to experience things for the first time while he was experiencing things for the first time and we bonded over that. We were both really young as well. But I feel that it would be good to work with an other Doctor, I did work with David Tennant very briefly, and that was really cool. It was in the “Fires of Pompeii.” I remember watching him and Catherine Tate when we were shooting in Rome, and I remember seeing them come out of TARDIS and doing the scene when they first arrive. I was like “They have the coolest jobs ever! I really want to do that!”
M: What do you think that the vibe would be like if you were to come back and do an episode with Capaldi?
KG: It would be a lot of Scottish, we would have to put in a tartan. I think that it would be quite funny though, two slightly aggressive Scottish people.
QFF: Was there any moment which sticks out for you as super intense to film?
KG: So many moments. The main one is maybe the most obvious one. It was my last scene, saying goodbye to the Doctor. That was really really emotional, and I remember building up to it. First of all, I wouldn’t read the script for a very long time. And Arthur and Matt were like “Will you just read this thing so we can at least talk about it?” I was like “No, it’s not happening.” And then I finally read it and I was really worrying about how I was going to play because I was like “Where do I pitch this? This is the climactic moment! This is it! If I am ever going to deliver it has to be now.” When I got there, I remember feeling so genuinely upset and Matt Smith was sitting on a grave listening to the Carpenters close to me. And I was like “I don’t need to act at all, this is just the worst day of my life.”
M: How did you pick yourself up after shooting that scene?
KG: It wasn’t the last scene that we ever shot, so we just had to get on with it and shoot another episode afterwards, because we don’t shoot them in chronological order, but I do remember just sitting down on a grave and just staring for a second. And then I remember, in mid-scene, breaking part, I was like “This is rubbish! This is rubbish!” And everyone was like “Are you ok?”
M: How was your favorite co-star on Dr. Who?
KG: It has to be Alex Kingston. She is just the coolest woman ever, in real life. She is such a brilliant actress.
M: Can you remember a set that you walked into that was the most awe-inspiring?
KG: That one was a big one for me, because I like Kubrick films and that one was like a Kubrick film. There was a lot of white and symmetry. Also “Asylum of the Daleks”, that was probably the biggest set that we ever had. It was huge, and they shot some kind of huge fireball through it so it was pretty epic to look at.
QFF: What was your favorite out-take from Dr. Who.
KG: I think it was when we had to go on that whale tongue in “The Beast Below”. Trying to stand up in that goo stuff was jokes. We were falling over constantly, and there was real cabbage in it, we were in it all day, and I remember not being able to get through one line without laughing.
QFF: What has been your favorite role that you have ever played?
KG: That has to be Amy Pond, just because she has such a special place in my heart. It was the longest time that I ever spent playing a character, it was such a crazy life-changing experience, and everything was new and exciting.
QFF: What is the most challenging role that you ever had to play and what did you do to prepare for that?
KG: Nebula was pretty challenging just because I had to do a lot of physical stuff that I had never done before. Like I had to learn this whole choreographed fight scene, and that involved so much practice. I never practiced so much on anything in my life. They would make me come in everyday that I wasn’t shooting and just do hours of working out and then I would learn how to kick and punch. Doing that stuff was quite foreign to me.
QFF: How was the transition between your roles as the Doctor’s companion and then Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy? Was it hard to switch between the two different sci-fis?
KG: They are quite different characters. There were a few other characters in between those two so I didn’t have to … but you know what? It was actually weirdly similar going from Doctor Who to Guardians because it’s in the same genre and I was kind of nervous because Guardians is like a big scale film, and I was like “I’ve never done one of these before.” And then I got there and I was like “This is a spaceship! I know this! I’ve got this!”
QFF: They are two completely different characters, but are there any similarities in the way you went through the acting process with them?
KG: Yeah, they are really different characters. I don’t know if there are any similarities. I hope not! In terms of the way that I approached the roles, that was quite similar, just because with any acting role, you have your way of trying to understand the [character]. For me I got to the bottom of why I think that Nebula is the way she is and I justified all of her behavior, so in my head I think that she is a good person.
QFF: What was it like on set as Nebula with all the makeup?
KG: Yes, it’s really weird to see yourself transformed into an alien. It was cool though, it was just such an extreme experience, and it took 5 hours every morning, and if I don’t shave my head it will take longer, so I’m considering shaving it to keep the time down.
QFF: Who do you think would win between Nebula and Gamora if they had been able to finish their fight?
KG: Who do I think would win? Nebula! She has a bionic arm! Although Gamora is good, she’s a really good fighter, who’s known as the deadliest woman in the universe.
M: Nebula fights dirtier.
KG: She does, she doesn’t play fair.
M: On that note do you think that we could see her turning to the good side in the upcoming films?
KG: Who knows what James Gunn has in store? He hasn’t mentioned anything about that, but even if she continues to be bad, I think that I understand why she’s doing it.
M: What can you say about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2?
KG: I can say that I have not read a script yet, that I will be back and I still don’t know if I am going to bald or not.
M: There’s a possibility that you won’t be.
KG: There’s a possibility, I don’t know why or how, but there is.