Best known for her role as Amy Pond in the series Doctor Who, and more recently as the villainess Nebula in the mega-hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Scottish actress Karen Gillan now takes on an American sitcom with ABC’s Selfie.
In this modern day version of Pygmalion, Karen stars as Eliza Dooley, who has become a Social Media phenomenon with 263,000 followers who hang on her every post, tweet and selfie. But when a workplace mishap goes viral, she quickly realizes that being ‘instafamous’ has its drawbacks and she enlists the help of her marketing guru, Henry (John Cho, Star Trek) to help her reinvent herself.
Karen came to the TV Critics tour to talk about her new series, which premieres on September 30th.
Could you talk a bit about being funny in an accent that isn’t your own?
That was one of the things that was most attractive about the role for me, was to get to learn to do an American accent.
I watched a lot of American TV shows for this research. Went to SoulCycle to listen to the women. It’s a combination of all the girls who go to SoulCycle.
Beyond SoulCycle, have you met a character like this in your life?
I know people who have aspects of the characters, but I definitely exaggerated.
Just the whole thing of being on your phone when the person is on their phone when you’re talking to them, it’s slightly irritating and that sort of thing I recognize in people.
Did you base your character on anyone you know, friends or acquaintances?
They have small aspects of the character. It’s a mixture of probably everyone I know, including myself. I just took it to the extreme.
You did the pilot for this and then went on to do Guardians of the Galaxy where you shaved your head. Your hair is short now, will you character’s hair be short?
I have my own hair that I shaved off that Marvel made into an amazing wig for me, so I’m going to be wearing that.
Can you talk a little bit about the physical comedy you do on the series?
I love physical comedy. The funny thing is it’s harder for me to suppress it and to just play normal physical movements.
For me to be myself seems to work in a physical comedy, because I’m really talented at falling over. (she laughs)
Tell us a little bit more about what your relationship is with social media, because when you were on Doctor Who, all of a sudden, that’s something that everybody blogs and tweets about. Did you suddenly become more into Social Media at that time?
I think so, actually. I think I became more aware of it because we were being talked about on it. And then I realized you should probably never Google yourself, so that became a rule in my life.
I did join Twitter while on Doctor Who. It was very exciting. I think Twitter is great.
What happened when you Googled yourself?
It was a really funny thing.
In the UK when you work on Doctor Who, there’s a lot of speculation before you’ve even shot anything on the show, and there were very strong opinions.
And I was like, ‘Oh, this is infecting my brain.
People are telling me that they want this, and it’s going to affect the way I do things.’ [It was] getting into my head.
So it was like, ‘This is a bad idea.’
Sci-fi has been really good to you with Doctor Who and now Guardians of the Galaxy.
Sci fi has been the best to me.
I want to continue working in genre stuff because I think it has amazing female roles and we get to do a range of emotions, comedy and drama.
Is Guardians the first time you’ve played someone who doesn’t even look like you?
Yeah, I think that’s the biggest transformation for me so far, I shaved my hair off and I’m blue, so that’s new.
Was that your decision to shave your head for the role?
No, that was a rule that was in place before I even auditioned for the role, so I knew I had to shave my head if I got it.
And you said okay?
Yeah, I was like, ‘Absolutely,’ because I didn’t think I was going to get it. (she laughs) No, I wanted to do it, because to transform for a part is the reason that I’m acting.