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In 1969, Marvel comics introduced the Guardians of the Galaxy, a team of heroes in the 31st century, each member the last of its kind. In 2014, the movie version became the highest grossing film of the summer.
On May 5th 2017, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 saga continues, bringing back fan favorites Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper).
The first movie introduced Gamora’s adoptive sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Last seen fleeing from the battle over Xander, the galactic fugitive and cybernetic warrior still harbors a grudge against Gamora, and in the new movie sets out to extract revenge.
Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan came to the press junket for the film at the London Hotel to talk about their characters’ combative relationship.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - San Diego Comic-Con: Zoe Saldana
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Actress Zoe Saldana attends the San Diego Comic-Con International 2016 Marvel Panel in Hall H on July 23rd 2016 in San Diego, California ©2017 Marvel Studios

Which of you spends the most time in the make-up chair?

Zoe Saldana: Four hours. It can take a long time. I just talk my team to death. I don’t shut up from 2:30 in the morning until we’re on set and James says, ‘Action.’ It’s how I get the time to go by, because if not I’ll just go crazy.

There’s not much to do at 2:30 in the morning besides sleep, you can’t eat, and you can’t really move around that much because they need your hands and your face. And your mouth needs to be shut because if you open your mouth you’re going to get a whole bunch of green paint sprayed into it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - San Diego Comic-Con: Karen Gillan
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Actress Karen Gillan attends the San Diego Comic-Con International 2016 Marvel Panel in Hall H on July 23rd 2016 in San Diego, California ©2017 Marvel Studios, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Karen Gillan: I think we’re pretty even on our makeup times. For me, it has become my ritual of getting into character. It was quite interesting, I did this rehearsal as Nebula one time, not under makeup and I just didn’t feel like her.

It’s an imperative part of the process for me now. I literally get to wear her skin, which is the closest I can get to her, so that’s kind of cool.

Can you talk about portraying strong women on screen, and getting to fight and kick ass together?

Karen: It’s the greatest. I loved working on all of that stuff with Zoe. We have such a good time.

Zoe: We do, because we’re very opposite to our characters. Karen is very feminine …

Karen: Really?

Zoe: And goofy and a little clumsy, because these sets are dangerous, let’s be honest. The grounds are never flat and we’re around wires (with) weapons everywhere. And I’m either talking or laughing at something somebody’s saying.

Karen: You’re an amazing fighter. Zoe literally teaches me how to fight while we’re doing it. She’ll be like, ‘Turn your head like that.’ And, ‘You strangle someone like that, you’re going to look cool.’ I’m like, ‘Thank you.’

Zoe: Karen teaches me to just bring it. As soon as James says, ‘Action,’ she changes everything from her look, her walk and we’re all behind her going, ‘That’s Karen? No way.’ She brings it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - Zoe Saldana
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Gamora (Zoe Saldana) ©2017 Marvel Studios

Zoe, what were you most excited about returning to this?

Zoe: My favorite part was the makeup process. (she laughs) I’m joking.

I think that what I loved the most, and it may sound selfish, but definitely the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I’m one of three sisters. I have been itching and yearning to see more of a female presence in action films because I love action films.

I love watching The Equalizer and I’ll watch that 50 times over any kind of dramatic piece.

(It’s great) to have a film with three female characters that are adding such unique qualities, that are very relevant, and their relationships are explored deeply. That was my favorite.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - Karen Gillan
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Nebula (Karen Gillan) ©2017 Marvel Studios, photo by Chuck Zlotnick

Karen, how do you get into that dark space playing Nebula?

Karen: I feel genuinely so invested in this character. I care so much about her. I feel like I’m her lawyer and I’m here to explain to everyone why she’s justified in being a really mean villain, and she is.

For me that is just to do with her backstory and her relationship with her father and her sister. I was so excited to explore that in the second movie. I felt so lucky to get to portray that side of her.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - Zoe Saldana
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Gamora (Zoe Saldana) ©2017 Marvel Studios

How do you feel when you go to a science fiction convention and you see people dressed up as your characters, as Uhura or Gamora?

Zoe: You have an out-of-body experience each and every time. You feel grateful and lucky that you got to play a character that impacted people so much that their devotion drives them to go to these places.

They congregate and celebrate. And then you’re there. You’re like their best guest and you feel very humbled.

There’s a great scene in the movie in which Nebula says, ‘You’re not friends. All you do is fight.’ and Drax says, ‘No, we’re family.’ What does family look like to you growing up and now?

Zoe: I don’t see the Guardians as these awesome, kicking ass superheroes. I see them as these really delicate people that are just trying to get by day-by-day.

I’m very familiar with that aspect of a family, people that survive so many things and they teach you to always give the benefit of the doubt.

To keep looking within, because there is a very special person behind all that tough skin and all those walls, So that’s what family is for me.

Doctor Who - Karen Gillan
Doctor Who – The companion for the eleventh Doctor (Karen Gillan, not in costume) © BBC

Karen, how is it being back in this universe and how is it different from being in Doctor Who?

Karen: It’s amazing to be welcomed back into this. I had such a good time on the first film. I was this evil villain, kind of watching from the sidelines a little bit, so to be so involved this time is an honor.

It’s pretty different than Doctor Who. I’ve spent some time in space, so I’ve become accustomed to that. But it feels like this is a whole other thing. I’m an alien, I played a human before. So that frees me up as an actor. I can just make any choice, and it could be valid. That’s quite fun as an actor.

But I guess it has its similarities as well. It has such a loyal fan base. That’s the most exciting thing, to actually be in something that people care about.

That’s what I love about sci-fi in general.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - Karen Gillan
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Nebula (Karen Gillan) ©2017 Marvel Studios, photo by Chuck Zlotnick

Zoe, if you could choose another sci-fi franchise to be a part of, which one would it be?

Zoe: Dune. I was Lady Jessica like every other Halloween. And when I wasn’t Lady, I was a ninja. I would love to be in Dune.

And I heard Denis Villeneuve is thinking of revisiting it. I hope he does decide to do it.