Karen Gillan is one bad b*tch in the movies – but she is the sweetest thing in real life! I had the chance to sit down and chat with her on the set of her new film Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and she couldn’t be more different than her character, Nebula. She is bubbly and enthusiastic – two things you would never say about Nebula, Gamora’s evil adopted sister. She told us that it was so nice to be back on set with everyone. “It’s such a line to say like we’re like one big happy family, but we genuinely are.” We got the same vibe from the other actors we interviewed – that they were all genuinely happy to be back on set with each other. Karen told us that the atmosphere backstage is very much like what you see on the screen. “It’s that sort of banter – that sort of nature to it. That’s what it’s like off screen – and they play music, which really lifts people’s spirits. The music is an integral part of these films. Also everyone is really nice – there’s not one person that’s standoffish or surrounded by people. It’s not like that at all. It all filters down from the top – that’s from James [Gunn]. He sets a really good tone for everyone and casts nice people.”
Karen was in full costume because we were on the set, and there was quite a bit of dirt on her. Someone mentioned that it looked like she had been though something intense because of it. She responded by saying “[Nebula] gets up to a lot of stuff in dirt with Gamora“. If you recall, when we left Nebula and Gamora in GOTG Volume 1, they were not on the best of terms. So we asked Karen how their relationship has changed in this film. “I think we’re going to delve much further into it. We’re going to learn about their back story which is really exciting for me as an actress to explore. We’re going to learn that they have very severe daddy issues. When Thanos is your father, of course you’re going to have those. They’re going to really talk to each other – usually they communicate quite physically. Sisters pull each other’s hair – they sort of try to kill each other.”
Karen’s costume and makeup were pretty impressive to see in person, and we asked about the process of becoming Nebula – and if the costume was comfortable. “I mean elements are comfortable. [It’s] not what I would choose to wear lounging around the house. I mean this is not very comfortable but it looks so cool so it’s worth it. Nebula has a bit of a different look going on in this film so she gets a costume change, which is very exciting. I do love the purple though – the original. I have been able to keep half of my hair for this film, which is very exciting. So that added an hour of just wrapping all the hair up in a bald cap. Then it takes about 2 1/2 hours to put the makeup on, which is actually quicker than the last film. The last film was around five hours for the full process. Then to get into this (her costume) is about 20 minutes. So it’s quite a long process, but it’s so worth it. Sort of does half of the job for you as an actor because you look like this.” That particular day, Karen was able to nap through the entire makeup process. She told us she doesn’t always get to pull that off, but it is nice when she does.
Karen’s role is a very physical one, so we asked her what she does to prepare – as far as workouts go. “I work out with the Marvel stunt team – and that is so ridiculous. Oh my God, I come out and I like to take a nap. It is with all the stunt guys and they’re jacked. I do that as much as I can. Also the stunt girl, Kelly – Nebula’s stunt double, makes me look good because I look like spaghetti.” We learned that Kelly has to get in full makeup too when she does scenes fro Karen. But Karen does try to do as many of her stunts as possible. “I’m aware I do not look as good doing them as Kelly, so I’m happy for her to do them – she’s going to make the character look cooler. But I do have to do most of them. There was one where she had to drop from the ceiling really fast. I didn’t do that. They want to be able to use you as much as possible just so that they can see your face in the shots. So I try to get involved. But there’s been one I was too scared to do. It was being on wires and then we had to run at the edge of a cliff. It wasn’t too high but it was swaying really high – we were jumping really far. I was a little nervous to do that because I’d never done it before. Kelly did a great job – I was watching from the sidelines.”
We asked her how she felt when she read the script and discovered what Nebula would be going through in Volume 2. “I emailed James [Gunn] and wrote Oh My God, I can’t believe I get to do all this stuff. When I went in to the first film, it was originally an eight day shoot. I felt that that was the end of my character as well. So when I found out I was coming back for the next film up I was like what? It was really cool because in the first film they just kept on rewriting my ending. I was like okay, which one is going to be used? – I don’t really know because we shot a few of them. Then when I found out I was coming back for the next one, it was amazing. He’s given her all this back story and we understand why she is so bad. She has motivations and it’s really fleshed out which makes me really happy.”
We asked Karen if we were going to see a softer side to Nebula. “Maybe, yes, maybe. I think so. I think we’re going to understand her more. We’re going to have a bit of empathy towards her. As to whether that makes her soft, I don’t know, because she’s still classic pissed off Nebula. But we’re going to understand why she does the things she does and understand her relationship with Gamora in much more detail. And maybe understand that Gamora wasn’t as nice as she makes out towards Nebula in their childhood.” Sounds like classic sibling rivalry and I cannot wait to see what James has up his sleeve for us in Volume 2 with these two!
As I mentioned before, Karen is super sweet and bubbly – so we asked her how she gets in to character as Nebula, since she is clearly nothing like her. “Honestly, this makeup does half of it for me. It feels really natural to go into this mean thing. It’s cool though because I’m getting to play something that’s just completely removed from myself and getting to explore different sides of that. When you’re acting is quite nice. And I get to do an American accent, which is fun.” Since Karen is so different than Nebula, we asked her what it was that attracted her to the role. “When you audition for a Marvel film, you don’t really know that much about it. All I knew is that it was a female villain – and that was enough to attract me to it because with these big films quite often a girl is the girlfriend or some sort of glamorous role. But this was totally different. My dad always told me to aim to be a Bond villain rather than a Bond girl. So that was kind of like a cool moment for me. I auditioned it felt like it was going to be a fleshed out interesting character with places to go. And she was just creepy, which is fun.”
We asked Karen if anything was challenging going from Volume 1 to Volume 2. She responded, telling us “just delving further into the history of the character. I am finding that balance between playing an evil villain people love to hate but trying to tell the truth and not make her likable. That’s not what I’m setting out to do, I want to serve the role in the right way. I guess it’s just been more of an acting challenge because there’s more to play with.” I asked Karen if she read any of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics at all. “I did. I read the Infinity Gauntlet, which I hear is going to be in the next Avengers – or they’re going to make them. I read that and I was like this character is really cool. It was the best one for me to read for Nebula research. And it was great.”
In Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1, we saw Nebula lose a hand – by her own doing – so we asked Karen what she could tell us about her new hand, if anything. “Ooh, the mystery of the hand. I don’t want to give away anything but then is the hand really a spoiler? She’s definitely got something in place of the hand that she chopped off – not necessarily a hand. She goes on a mission to rectify this – it’s a whole thing. She’s on the hunt to replace whatever is there, and then she does replace it with something really, really cool.”
We ended the interview by asking her which Guardian of the Galaxy character is her favorite, besides Nebula. “Oh, good question. The new character Mantis is pretty great and the actress who plays her is brilliant. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing the role. But I’m going to say that my favorite is actually Drax. I think he’s the funniest person I’ve ever met on and off screen. He can make anything funny and he doesn’t try to and that’s why it’s so funny. His dry delivery – just how huge he is without dry delivery is such a funny combination to me. Everybody dies whenever he’s acting.”
Read more about my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Set Visit:
- Interview with Chris Pratt, Star-Lord
- Interview with Zoe Saldana, Gamora
- Interview with Dave Bautista, Drax
- Interview with Michael Rooker, Yondu
- Interview with James Gunn, Director
- Set Visit Experience
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is in theaters May 5th!
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