Sci-fi fans know her as ‘Amy Pond’ in Doctor Who and/or Nebula in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, however Karen Gillan’s not just big in the sci-fi genre. Gillan’s also keeping busy as one of stars of the new ABC half-hour comedy series Selfie debuting on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 8pm ET/PT. And during the 2014 summer Television Critics Association press day, Gillan talked about returning to comedy and her character, ‘Eliza,’ on Selfie.
When you put on the wardrobe for this character, does this help you get into that mindset of playing her?
Karen Gillan: “Yes, when I’m not wearing the clothes, I find it very difficult to do her voice which is very interesting. There’s a scene in the pilot where she has a make-under, and she doesn’t wear the clothes anymore. They wanted me to slip back into the old style of the character, and I found it very difficult.”
Is your character like any of your friends or even acquaintances of friends?
Karen Gillan: “They have small aspects of the character. It’s a mixture of probably everyone I know, including myself. I just kind of took it to the extreme.”
Will her hair change since you have short hair now?
Karen Gillan: “I have my own hair that I shaved off that Marvel made into a wig for me, so I’m going to be wearing that.”
They actually made your hair into a wig?
Karen Gillan: “Yes! They shaved my hair off for the role, and then they made an amazing wig out of it. They took it strand by strand and put it into a wig.”
Was that your decision to do that, because you could have done it via CGI?
Karen Gillan: “Oh, no. That was a rule that was in place before I even auditioned for the role. So I knew I had to if I got it. I said absolutely, because I didn’t think I was going to get it. [Laughing] No, I wanted to do it because to transform for a part is the reason that I’m acting.”
Have you noticed a difference between the short hair and long hair and people’s reactions to you?
Karen Gillan: “Yeah, I feel like I’m way more… Look, I felt more intimidating when I was playing the villain role in Guardians because of the hair change. So that was really good for me. It did half of the work for me.”
When an actress takes on an American accent, they usually take that Midwestern sort of flat accent.
Karen Gillan: “Like ‘general’ American. Yeah, that’s what I call it.”
In this you’re sort of Valley Girl-ish. Was that a little more difficult?
Karen Gillan: “It’s a voice I used to do as a joke when I first came here. It was supposed to be my bad American accent and then I was like, ‘This kind of works because it’s a really affected way of talking that girls are starting to do.’ It’s a very modern way of talking, and I just think it’s kind of really harsh and abrasive. But, it should be.”
Is it easier to do that?
Karen Gillan: “I wouldn’t say easier. It’s actually probably easier – I’ve studied general American, so that’s easier.”
One of the main things about this character is just how clueless he is and self absorbed she is, and yet the audience still has to like her and be cheering for her. How do you walk that line? You want to be irritating comedically…
Karen Gillan: “…but in the right way. Yeah, I mean, that’s where Emily [Kapnek, writer] comes in. She’s the smart one behind it all who will rein me in because I want to go full irritating with it. I want to make this the most annoying character in the world! I just think that’s funny, personally, but she reined me in and through the writing, she was given redeeming qualities.”
How would you react to someone like that?
Karen Gillan: “I would probably laugh at her. Maybe not directly at her, but I’m pretty open to people. I don’t really dislike anyone. I don’t! Everyone’s like, ‘You’re weird!'” [laughing]
Do you actually take selfies?
Karen Gillan: “I’m a terrible selfie taker in real life. I sometimes do it, but I just look startled every time because I don’t know what to do with my features.”
Even though you are the one pressing the shutter?
Karen Gillan: “Yeah, it’s like a full startle.”
Are fans of yours from past projects easily transferable to this? Are you hoping they follow you?
Karen Gillan: “I hope so. Comedy is what I started out in, so this is actually a return to it for me. I did sketch comedy in the UK, so I hope that they follow us. It’s a different genre, but at the same time, the people who are interested in sci-fi have a strong online presence so there could be a connection there.”
You’re great with comedy, but sci-fi has been really good to you with Doctor Who and now with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Karen Gillan: “Oh, sci-fi’s 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.”
What’s your opinion of the new Dr. Who?
Karen Gillan: “I’m so excited. I’m very excited, and I was actually there when Peter Capaldi walked onto the set for the first time with the costume on. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s in safe hands.”
What is it like having that intense fan base for something like Doctor Who? Are they on you all the time?
Karen Gillan: “It’s amazing. I don’t find it too much of a pressure or anything like that. I feel like I have a legion of loyal fans that all follow me from project to project. That’s what it feels like.”
So you don’t have to disguise yourself when you go out?
Karen Gillan: “It depends. It’s happening more and more in America. It didn’t happen at all like a year ago, and now it’s starting to really happen. And so that’s a transitional period for me where I’m starting to get used to that.”
What was your reaction to your finale on Doctor Who?
Karen Gillan: “They gave me the exit that I wanted. I mean, it was dramatic and emotional and all of the things I hoped it would be. And they gave Arthur, who played my husband on the show, a really good exit and a heroic moment which made me really happy.”
You were on set when Peter came out in costume. Do you visit the set often?
Karen Gillan: “I was back filming. I appeared in Matt Smith’s final episode, in the ‘Regeneration’ episode. Literally, it was like one in and one out. Matt Smith left the studio and Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor walked in. And I was there for both of them, and it was like, ‘Whoa. That really is that fast of a changeover. Wow.'”
What are you looking forward to audiences seeing in your Guardians role? Would you look forward to continuing your relationship with Marvel in the future?
Karen Gillan: “Oh, absolutely. I had such a good time working with Marvel. They’re the best company to work for, really amazing. I loved the role. I won’t say anything too much because it will be a spoiler about what happens to her in the film, but I had the best time playing that role. I really did.”
Is Guardians of the Galaxy the first time you’ve played someone who doesn’t even look like you?
Karen Gillan: “Yeah, I think that’s been the biggest transformation for me so far. I’ve shaved my hair off and I’m blue, so that’s new.” [laughing]
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The Selfie Plot:
Social Media superstar Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But after a workplace mishap goes viral, she quickly realizes that being “instafamous” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and being friended is not the same as having actual friends.
She enlists co-worker and marketing guru, Henry (John Cho), to ‘rebrand’ her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect with people in the real world. At first, Henry wants nothing to do with Eliza, who is the epitome of all he deems wrong with the app-addicted world. But soon, Henry takes pity on Eliza. With a few expert tweaks and some help from the effervescent office receptionist Charmonique (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Eliza’s quirky neighbor Brynn (Allyn Rachel), he can tone down her palette, teach her a few social graces, and help break Eliza of her instinct to put Internet connection above personal connection.
What Henry doesn’t anticipate, however, is how much he’ll learn. As a workaholic who rarely makes time for socializing, even Henry’s boss, Sam (David Harewood), knows he is disconnected from personal relationships. Henry eventually begins to realize that his little “project” just might have something to teach him. After all, keeping life at arm’s length is great for taking a selfie, but not so much if you want someone in the picture next to you.
Loosely based on My Fair Lady, Selfie explores the modern struggles of Eliza and Henry, as he tries to teach her how to live life offline-whether she ‘likes’ it or not.