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Karen Gillan Talks Oculus
Guardians Of The Galaxy's Nebula on acting more 'italic' and wigging out

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Karen Gillan's lead role in magic mirror horror Oculus sees the former Doctor Who star dealing with fragmented timelines, brain-bending looking glasses and plants that keep dying. Shot before Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy turned her into a despicable blue bald alien, it's only now being released here in the UK on June 13, which just so happens to be a Friday. Speaking to The Girl Who Waited over the phone, the resulting interview is ever-so-slightly bonkers - but in a good way, of course.

Karen Gillan Talks Oculus

Is this your first interview of the day?
You are my very first interview - I only just got into this hotel room. I'm actually in the bed, right now, talking to you. (Laughs) As soon as I walked in, I knew I had to get into the bed. I don't normally do this - it's a rare occurrence, I promise, it's not like it's on my rider or something. If I tried to ask anyone for this, they'd tell me to shut up.

Another actress, Annalise Basso, plays the younger version of your character in the film. What was it like, watching her work on the same character as you?
I was... happy that she was getting people more invested in the character to be honest. You don't want any weak links in a film that you're in!

She's also on one of the posters - but you get your own, where it's your face but with hands covering your eyes from underneath your skin. Any chance that one's ending up on the wall at home somewhere?
The fleshy hands one? It is not going up in the loo or anything, no. It'll be the one of the kids! (Laughs) I figure, that's the official poster, everyone has signed it, I don't need to see my head with hands on it. I did think it was quite cool though, really freaky, as the film is all about perception and eyes and everything.

This is a complicated film with a complicated structure - did it take a few reads of the script to get your head around it?
Oh yeah, totally! It's jumping between these two different timelines, playing out simultaneously, so it was helpful in the script to have the past and present differentiated with normal font and italic font. It really helped, actually! The director's main note was "You need to be more italic." (Laughs)

The director, Mike Flanagan, is a big Doctor Who fan. How often did he ask questions about the show during the shoot?
I think my character in Guardians Of The Galaxy is the one point away from being the worst person ever. One person down from Hannibal Lecter.
You know, I think there were a few times, actually. He has a replica of Matt Smith's tweed jacket he had made, and he wore that a bit, and he wore a T-shirt with Matt Smith's face on it to work too - no really, it's true - and I think there's a picture somewhere on my phone of me next to him wearing his Doctor Who get-up. It was amazing. What I liked about it was his Doctor Who love was so subtle and unspoken. (Laughs)

Are you happy for your [Doctor Who episode] Fires Of Pompeii co-star getting the big gig?
Capaldi? Yes! I am so happy for him. But you're right, what's going on with that episode? We're all coming back! I think he's going to make a fantastic Doctor - I know he's a lifelong fan of the show, so if anything it's in safe hands because he really cares.

Fellow super-Whovian Craig Ferguson should take over the role after he's done...
I would love that so much. That would be amazing. Who cares if it'd be a good idea or not? I think he'd be excellent - he was an actor first, too. And he does have the TARDIS on his desk that he presents from, and anyone who cares that much deserves it, right?

Your character's mother, played by Katee Sackhoff, has red hair in this film as well - was this because of your casting?
Oh yes, I think so. I think I was cast first, and with the family and my character's younger version, they were cast after me, around me. How does it feel? Kind of nice! Always nice to be a lead, always exciting.

You know, I actually think she was fine with it, because somebody told me - this is a little rumour - that she's naturally a redhead. I couldn't believe it, because that means she's one of the lucky ones who gets the tan as well, and I'm not sure I could handle that. (Laughs)

Was there much room for improv on set?
We pretty much stuck to the script. That was kind of necessary, because a lot of what I was saying was exposition. I love that Oculus really commits to the exposition part. A lot of films try to bury it, or try to mix it with some action, but here there's a sequence where I'm talking for ten minutes, and it works! I'd love the beginning of a Doctor Who episode to have ten minutes of The Doctor just talking to the camera and saying, "This is what I do..."

Karen Gillan Talks Oculus

A lot of the film takes place in a very small room - did claustrophobia ever set in?
Well, here's the funny thing: me and the guy who plays my character's brother, the older version, Brenton Thwaites, we weren't really in the first three weeks of the shoot. Then we did all of our stuff in that room in four days. "How did we do all of that work in the film in just four days?" It was crazy. Then we were in Alabama for three weeks, running around doing the other stuff, drinking weird drinks and eating all the weird food. I feel like in The South with their drinks, they have all these "grenade" things - that's what they're called - and they're, well, lethal.

Is it true you became a fan of Community after one of your friends pointed you in the direction of their Doctor Who parody, Inspector Spacetime?
Yeah! They said to me, "Watch this, they do a spoof of your TV show." I was like, "What...?" I'm not fully up to date with the show though. I'm not a super fan of the show, I should admit, but everything I've seen so far I love.

For Guardians Of The Galaxy, you had to cut all of your hair off. When was that in terms of when you were shooting Oculus?
I've definitely pulled my wig off in front of people who weren't expecting it.
I was not bald then, no, it was way back in 2012 when we shot it. Ages ago. It makes answering your questions a bit hard, it's all so distant...

Were you ever tempted during the shaving process to ask for them to give you a mohawk, if only for a moment?
Ah, no, they didn't! They sort of, well, separated all my hair, and then cut it, and then shaved it. They wanted to preserve as much as possible to make into a wig for me. Not the one I was wearing at Comic-Con - that was a terrible synthetic wig that I had just picked up and shoved on, because my real hair wig hadn't been made yet. Always the way, eh?

But now I have my real hair wig - my real hair, as a wig. I keep it at the end of my bed, on top of a mannequin head. (Laughs) It's just a reminder, sitting there. Sometimes I just gaze at it of a morning. It's a weird world. Sometimes I'll wear it out, then sometimes I'll take it off mid-way through the evening, get other people to try it on.

Have there been many other pranking opportunities outside of Comic-Con?
I feel like there should have been so many. Well, I've definitely pulled it off in front of people who weren't expecting it. They have a really cartoonish reaction, normally: their jaws open and they don't say anything for a while. And then everyone immediately wants to wear it, of course. Actually, here's a tip: if you don't want to get hit on at a party, just take your wig off.

Were you friends with Katee Sackhoff before Oculus?
No, I met her for the first time on the set actually. We've become really good friends and she is lovely and I just like listening to her. She's such an amazing actress and so good in the film, and also she's a sci-fi actress who's transitioned into other things, so there's plenty of inspiration there.

Would you like to see your career become more action-orientated, the way hers has?
I feel like she's way more actiony. I'm not really very kick-ass, as a person. Maybe once people see Guardians Of The Galaxy, I guess... But like also, Katee really is kick-ass, in real life. She works out for two hours every day. I'm like a wispy sort of person, whereas she kicks doors down instead of opening them. She really embodies that thing, whereas I just sometimes play someone who does.

Karen Gillan Talks Oculus

You've said that your Guardians Of The Galaxy character is a really, seriously, very bad person. On a scale of one to ten, where Hannibal Lecter is ten and Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day is one, where does Nebula land?
I think I am the one point away from being the worst person ever. One person down from Hannibal Lecter. I know, the audacity!

Did you find it easier to channel your inner evil person when you have no hair and you've been painted blue and had pieces of metal attached to your face?
Actually, it really helped. It helped losing the hair, because I felt more intimidating. When you look really, really, really strange, and have these blacker-than-black eyes that are just pools of emptiness, you find it a bit easier to be evil, for sure.

How much potential was there to take stupid photographs of yourself when you look like that?
Oh, you don't know the half of it! (Laughs) Hats, brooms, any props, everything went on my head. I never had the chance to put my wig on top of my make-up, that would have been great. Also, they don't like me to touch my face too much. Or, at all.

Did you have your own personal nose scratcher?
Maybe I'll get to do some straight acting at some point. Eventually. I'll graduate to it.
Ah, well, the nose was okay, but if I got an itch under the prosthetics, that was difficult. We had to poke it with metal sticks. Any sort of pin-type thing.

You do an excellent American accent in Oculus. Do you often have American people attempting Scottish and English accents at you?
Oh yes. It's funny, because British people, for the most part, can do a passable American accent, while American people really aren't that good, by and large. Actually, I have a theory about this: it's because over in the UK we're so saturated with American entertainment, we pick it up, and in the US they just have Downton Abbey and Harry Potter. Downton Abbey plus Harry Potter does not make for a good Aberdeen accent.

Think about it: music alone, so many people sing with an American accent. We play with Barbies with an American accent. Can you even imagine an English Barbie? It definitely wouldn't be called Barbie, first of all. Mainly because that's not a name. Joanna? Jane? Let's work on this.

Are some people in Los Angeles not able to understand your Scottish accent?
I've had a few people ask me to repeat things. Like my auntie, for instance, she can't understand what I am saying on Doctor Who when she watches it. (Laughs) This is just hilarious to me - she's family! I don't feel like it's a put down, it's more of a... Look, I should say that she's American. "I just don't understand," she says. But generally, over here in LA people are pretty good at "understanding" me.

As for my American accent, thank you, by the way. I used to always do accents growing up. I thought they were all really good, but they weren't, they were really vague approximations and a bit awful, but I was still able to do them in some capacity. And then I just worked with a dialect coach for ages, and worked really hard. For Oculus in particular, I mean.

Karen Gillan Talks Oculus

Going back to the Comic-Con reveal, was that in any way a planned thing?
No! Actually, it was really on the spur of the moment. Well, it was sort of planned, but only minutes beforehand. I had the wig on already, because Marvel had already told me they didn't want me to be bald in front of anybody else. They didn't ask me to pull it off during the panel, they just wanted me to not be bald until the panel. So I was like, "Okay, so I'll go out bald." Then someone, my agent or something, was like, "I don't think anyone is going to know who you are if you walk out bald..." I said, "Maybe I should put the wig on then." Then he was like, "Just take it off mid-way!" "Really?"

How intense does the San Diego Comic-Con get for you guys?
It's bigger than anything else by such a long way. It's a nerd revolution, in San Diego, annually. It's huge, huge, huge. Massive movies are launched there now. It's absolute madness. I keep wanting to find a reason to go there for the next ten years. I'll be talking to my agent about a new projects and saying, "This is sort of genre... can it be genre?" (Laughs) Sure, it's a bleak drama with Meryl Streep, but could there just a couple of supernatural elements?

What sort of roles do you most get offered?
You know what? Quite a lot of genre stuff. Or comedies. And that's totally fine by me, because genre movies have the best female roles right now. The female roles are really, really amazing, and I've always wanted to do comedy, which is fine by me, but maybe I'll get to do some straight acting at some point. Eventually. I'll graduate to it.

Do you see yourself working with Mike Flanagan again any time soon?
Absolutely. I'd absolutely love that. If he would have me, I would love to do that. Also because I became really good friends with him, and the producers he works with, and they're so lovely, and I feel like Oculus turned out really well. Those films can go either way, and it totally was on the right side of all that stuff.

Going back to Guardians Of The Galaxy, how does it feel to be up there in the grand pantheon of cinema's finest blue aliens? Diva Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element, Neytiri from Avatar...
Oh my god, I mean, it's... very, very exciting to be bald and blue and in a Marvel film. (Laughs) I never anticipated that this is what I'd be doing! Ten years ago, when I was saying, "I wanna be an actress!" in a high-pitched voice, I did not thing of think of this.

Finally, have you met any of the people who you impersonated on The Kevin Bishop Show, such as Katy Perry or Angelina Jolie?
Oh God, no! But I am dreading the day when it happens. I mean, I'm sure they haven't seen it though, frankly. (Laughs) But though I know they won't have seen it, I can tell I'll start acting really peculiar. They'll be like, "Is she being weird with me?" And I'll be like, "Is she being weird with me?"

Then you'll take your wig off and leave.
Exactly. (Laughs) I'll panic, take my wig off, then run.

Oculus is out June 13.

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