On both the London set of Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2013 and last April at the Atlanta set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we had the opportunity to chat with the cast while they were dressed up and done up in their impressive alien makeup.
Karen Gillan’s blue and purple skinned, party cybernetic and bald look was arguably the most effecting and intimidating at a glance, and it’s easy to forgive someone for having challenges separating actor from villains killer working for Thanos if it weren’t for the always-positive and bubbly attitude Gillan brought to both conversations.
In our chat about the sequel, where Nebula finds herself at first a captive of the Sovereign before joining the Guardians of the Galaxy roster, we discuss the character’s unexpected backstory, twisted relationship with Gamora, wanting to fight Thanos in an Avengers movie, new characters, and costume changes.
Heard you were in make-up for four or five hours.
Karen Gillan: So we’ve gotten it down to about two and a half hours.
Karen Gillan: And it was five on the last film, so I am happy.
So can you tell us where your character is at this point? When we last saw her, she had chopped her hand off?
Karen Gillan: Yeah, so she’s on a mission to sort of rectify that because she’s missing a hand. And she’s also on a mission to find Gamora and rectify a few things there as well and we’re going to find out a lot about their back story and learn a lot about Thanos’s parenting skills and maybe how dysfunctional the entire thing is. So we’re going to chip away at those layers, which is really fun.
Okay. Kevin Feige said that maybe this time Nebula is a little bit more, we can empathize with her a little bit more this time around.
Karen Gillan: Yeah.
There’s more understanding of her.
Karen Gillan: I think so. When you understand anyone’s motivations for anything, I think you can empathize with them and that’s exactly the case with Nebula here. And that’s what I’m really excited about as an actress, because I want to empathize with my characters. And yeah, I think people might even feel a little bit sorry for her, if it’s possible.
Do you think, like I think a lot of people liked her as a villain, but do you think they’ll like her more as a hero this time around?
Karen Gillan: I hope people will understand her a little bit more, but she’s definitely, her default is very pissed off and that’s not going to change.
Thanos isn’t in this movie.
Karen Gillan: No.
But we learn more about him through you.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, I guess so. We learn a lot about their backstory actually and what happened to these two girls growing up and actually how awful it was for them and how it’s ruined their relationship and they’re sort of going to freely talk about it, which has never happened between these two people.
Are there flashbacks? Like with younger versions of your characters?
Karen Gillan: No. Although that would be cool.
Karen Gillan: No, they just sort of talk about it.
Karen Gillan: And when they have a conversation, it’s not like two normal sisters having a conversation, it’s both a conversation with words and also physically. That’s how they communicate through fighting, so there’s a lot of that as well.
How does Nebula get along with the rest of the Guardians that we know besides her sister? How does she kind of interact with Groot or Rocket or Peter? Or is there really not a whole lot of interaction between the rest of the team?
Karen Gillan: There’s definitely some interaction between all of them. I think her main focus is Gamora. Sorting out that situation. But she finds herself with all of them and I think she is unimpressed by Rocket. She’s like, she doesn’t know what he is as an animal. Like she doesn’t understand him.
Kevin [Feige] explained that at the beginning that Nebula is being held captive by the Sovereign and that the Guardians are plotting to get her back. That’s really all we know, so talk a little bit about how she gets into the rest of the story beyond just wanting to be in contact with Gamora.
Karen Gillan: Well that’s her main objective throughout the entire film. She obviously takes many paths to sort of get there in any way she can, but she is being held captive. So she’s there against her will, which is just a funny dynamic, because she’s like, “Oh for goodness sake.” Nothing like that. She doesn’t sound like.
Yeah, I guess she doesn’t really want to be there, but she does because she needs to sort out these things with her sister.
How much will we see Gamora interacting with new characters like Mantis or J’Son [Ego]?
Karen Gillan: We’re going to see a fair bit of that. Yeah. Mantis is a great character by the way. It’s so good.
Why do you like her so much?
Karen Gillan: I just think she’s a really cool addition to the cast. Really different from everybody else. Even her voice is just brilliant and Pom, the actress is doing a really great job with that whole thing. She’s just a complete departure from the rest of the cast.
We heard that she’s like a bit awkward, so how does Nebula react to Mantis?
Karen Gillan: I think that she doesn’t have any sympathy what so ever for her lack of social skills. Nebula doesn’t have time for that. She’s a sadist, she doesn’t care.
Have you gotten to work at all with Kurt while you’re on set and what’s it like being on set and watching him work?
Karen Gillan: All I want to do is watch him work, and I have watched him work. And it’s like just getting a lesson on how to act basically. It’s really cool, it’s sort of unbelievable actually. I’m just like, “What’s happening?” We get this whole thing, and he’s amazing and his character is going to be brilliant and he’s just really charming.
So if we’re going to be getting more understanding of Nebula, and getting more empathy for her, are we also going to still see her as a badass, or is she sort of crossing the line into a character that we’re going to love, or are we going to love to still hate her, like how’s that coming?
Karen Gillan: I think that probably I’d describe it as that you might love to hate her. She definitely doesn’t cross over to the good side completely because where’s the fun in that? But we will understand, we might feel sorry for, and she might, you know, this hard exterior, we’re going to chip away at that and we’re going to see the cracks in her sort of whole façade.
But she’s still dangerous again?
Karen Gillan: Absolutely, yeah. I mean everybody’s a bad guy in this film in a weird way, so she, yeah is definitely still on the dark side.
So what did you get to do in this film that you didn’t get to in the last one that you’re really excited about?
Karen Gillan: I guess it would be just like sort of really getting into all of those motivations behind the bad things that she does. I’ve gotten to do loads of stunts, like hanging off stuff that are really, which was really scary. Lots of wire work, but for me it really is just these scenes between these two sisters because that’s the sort of bit I can relate to as a human being. And they’re just amazing scenes, they really are. They are long and wordy, and brilliant.
Do you push to do your own stunts? Do you want to do all of your own stunts?
Karen Gillan: No. And I’ll tell you why. It’s fun, but we have a stunt girl, who’s just better at it then me. Like she makes the character look cooler. Like I really think this is a joint effort on this character. I’ll deliver the words and she can just make her look physically cool.
We see this awesome concept art of at the end of the movie, in I don’t know, the main conference room we met Kevin in earlier. And Nebula is in there with like Drax and Peter and everyone else. Obviously, you can’t talk to us about the end of the movie, but can you talk to us, sort of like the payoff for your, or the build of getting to be one of the Guardians in the Guardians new concept art.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, I mean, oh it’s the concept art? I have not seen that. That’s cool.
Oh you should check it out. It’s awesome.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, no that’s amazing. I sort of never realized that the part would go this far to be honest. When I did the first film they told me it was going to be eight days of filming and I was like, “Great.” And then it turned into 18 days and in the next one and I’m like, “This is amazing. What a brilliant thing that’s happened.” Yeah.
Did you get to keep your hair this time?
Karen Gillan: Half of it. I’m half bald under here. So from here to here it’s shaved and then the top is, you know, I have hair. So we met in the middle.
What if you have an itch?
Karen Gillan: Huh?
What if you have an itch on your head?
Karen Gillan: Under this? You have to stab it with something, because you can’t like scratch it. It’s really weird.
How does Nebula’s hand evolve throughout the film? Because we saw some artwork, sort like a little metal claw. A rudimentary claw and then it almost looks like she has sort of a Luke Skywalker-y hand by the end of the film.
Karen Gillan: So one of her other missions is to sort of fix her hand as well. That’s a whole other thing and it’s quite funny because I’ve been acting like this for half of the time. Yeah, so she at some point makes a deal with someone to sort of fix that. Might be linked to this costume.
Someone like Taserface?
Karen Gillan: Oh. Maybe Taserface is involved, maybe. I’m not committing to this mysterious hand spoiler that no one will care about.
Speaking of Taserface, what do you feel like the differences are between the villains in the first one and this one?
Karen Gillan: I guess I was one of the villains in the last one. So I was involved in that. They’re just completely different characters. Very villainous still. Taserface is amazing. Like his whole look, the delivery, the actors, like this really tall guy. And they’re really cool, and then we have a female. High Priestess Ayesha. And she is truly brilliant and also looks incredible and she’s like a really sexy villain. So that’s kind of cool.
Sexy and intimidating kinda.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, like dangerous. Dangerous, sexy. Like I might kill you, sort of sexy. You know, we all love that.
The new sense for this movie, because again we saw a bunch of the concept art for it. And this is the only set we got a chance to see.
Karen Gillan: I don’t even know what set this is. The sets are really elaborate on this film. There’s like a landscape inside to one of the studios, it’s crazy. They’re amazing. Spaceships are really cool. Yeah. And then there’s a lot of blue screen, because that’s the nature of these types of films.
Has one set stood out to you in particular that you were really excited when you got on?
Karen Gillan: There was a set involving some trees, which is really bizarre, because they were inside. And that was quite a novelty.
Since you were originally in the first film for a couple of days and then it expanded out. Now you’re back here, sort of a main player. Coming back to this world and to these other people, is there like a family feeling?
Karen Gillan: Yes.
I mean the Guardians feel like a family, on set is it the same thing?
Karen Gillan: Absolutely, yeah. It really is. I mean it was such a good experience on the first film, and I’m not just saying that because I’m sitting in front of press people, but it’s true. And it’s exactly the same on this one. It’s really, it’s just like a fun thing to work on. Some people think when you work on these bigger films, like some of the creativity is lost and stuff because you’re shooting action sequences for days, but honestly that’s not the case on this film. It’s so creative. James is so loose and free when he directs us and he plays the volume 2 mixtape throughout the scenes, which is so much fun.
What’s your favorite song from the mixtape?
Karen Gillan: I’m not going to tell you any songs! You sneak.
Karen Gillan: You had it really fast as well.
Does that help you though, in the scene? To hear the music out loud?
Karen Gillan: Oh, 100%. Yeah, and it sort of unifies all of us as well. When it’s big group shots or people walking, he blasts the music and it really effects everybody and their performances. But that is true of any film I think.
Do you feel like this film is more emotional than the first one?
Karen Gillan: I think it’s more emotional for sure, because the main theme of this film is family. And that’s true of the last film, but this is where we really get to see like that on a much deeper level and what it means to all of the characters. Also it’s just funnier. Like the really funny dialogue from the last film, it’s amplified in this film.
Since this film is going to show more of a history.
Karen Gillan: Yeah.
We’re going to empathize with her. Because of that are we going to learn some dark things about Gamora?
Karen Gillan: Yes.
She was depicted as the goodhearted one in the first one, now we’re going to think, maybe she’s not such a hero.
Karen Gillan: Well, they’ve sort, they’re at each other all the time. And I think that it’s going to be, “Is Nebula the bad one?” Like that’s definitely going to come into question because they went through a lot when they sort of went through their training and modification and battle when they were children.
At any point are they going to go and confront their father? At some point?
Karen Gillan: I mean that feels like a thing that they should do. But-
Yeah? Does this film kind of set something up in that respect.
Karen Gillan: I mean I think it’s definitely building towards something like that, but it’s not necessarily set up, but it feels like that would be some sort of progression for sure.
Gamora obviously broke away from Thanos, where does Nebula stand with him now? Does she still want his love or does she want something else?
Karen Gillan: I would describe it as a bit of an abusive relationship, where you know you should be away from that person, but you for some reason are drawn to them. But she is pretty angry about the entire thing. Like she doesn’t smile about it for sure.
Does Nebula still get to be funny? Does she get some of that humor?
Karen Gillan: I mean I think she’s hilarious. One of the funniest characters. I mean, but what’s so funny about her is that she takes herself so seriously. Which is always funny when someone does that.
I’m curious, whenever we come and do one of these things, we’re always trying to get information from you guys about what’s coming next and what’s the next movie and if anyone’s in it and stuff like that. How much do you guys know? Do they tell you stuff in advance?
Karen Gillan: No.
Or are you sort of getting it page by page as well?
Karen Gillan: Yeah, I mean I didn’t know the next one was the Infinity Wars until like everybody knew about that and I was like, “Whoa.” Which is really cool, because I’ve read that whole thing. The Infinity Gauntlet. But yeah, we don’t really get to know that much in advance. You get little rumors that sort of waft around the set every so often, you’re like, “Oh is it true.” But you just never know for sure until you’ve gotten a script.
So it’s just the same as at home.
Karen Gillan: We are in the same boat and the script is so secretive. They like deliver it to your house by hand, like there’s no emails. And then you sit there and you read it, and it’s all you know. It’s pretty cool actually.
How much does the script change from the point that you read it at home to actually filming?
Karen Gillan: Not that much actually. But one good thing about James is that he does rehearsals with all of us. Like quite a lot of rehearsals. And then changes the script and sort of tweaks the dialogue around us, and that’s really nice as actor, to have that input.
How do you think this movie is going to surprise fans who loved the first one?
Karen Gillan: It’s going to be so much funnier. It’s got an even better soundtrack, if that’s possible and we’re going to learn so much more about these characters and we’re going to care about them even more. I mean the last film was establishing everything so now we have this opportunity to really play around with it all and have fun with it.
So, acknowledging that you don’t know anything.
Karen Gillan: Yeah. I know nothing.
In the hypothetical world, where you do show up in an Avengers movie, who is the Marvel character that you would be most excited to see Nebula bounce off of? Sort of a dream.
Karen Gillan: Oh, if I were to be in an Avengers movie.
If it were to happen, what would your dream Nebula versus who? Who’s most interesting to you?
Karen Gillan: I want to say Thanos. If he’s there. I’m sure that he would be. I don’t know.
Karen Gillan: See! You know more than me. It’s my dad. What the hell?
Just because that would be explosive because they have so much history and a lot to sort out, so that would be really cool. But in terms of the actual Avengers, maybe she could hang around with the Hulk for a little while.
They have anger issues in common.
Karen Gillan: Well this is it, yeah. Like you wouldn’t like Nebula when she was angry.
What do you think of the new baby Groot?
Karen Gillan: It is the cutest thing ever. And it’s really hard because Nebula doesn’t find it cute at all. Well of course she doesn’t, but I do. So it’s real challenge for me.
Kevin told us that the Guardians having beaten Ronan are a little cockier this time around. A little rock and roll.
Karen Gillan: The Guardians?
Yeah, they have a little more swagger. Do you think that’s them writing themselves, this is James and the gang?
Karen Gillan: Like there’s more swagger to them?
Yeah because you guys just … right. The Guardians-
Karen Gillan: The character or the actors?
Karen Gillan: Oh yeah, I would say so.
You’ve got a little more swagger. I’m wondering if the crew’s got a little more swagger too.
Karen Gillan: I think everybody’s got a little more swagger.
Karen Gillan: I don’t even know how to use that word properly. Swagger’s like this. Like, “I’ve got this.” Yeah, I think everybody’s got that. Not to be mistaken with swag, which is something else, or no?
Swag, is yeah.
Swag is derivative of swagger.
Karen Gillan: Okay.
We’re going to use the actual Urban Dictionary entomology of swagger.
You’ve got swag.
Karen Gillan: Okay, okay. Yeah. I think Nebula’s got some swag. And that’s the quote you’ll use.
What Nebula merch would you want to see?
Karen Gillan: Merchandise?
Karen Gillan: I don’t know, but those little bobbleheads are so funny. Because they look cute.
Karen Gillan: I’m like, “This character is not cute.” I would like to see a life size blow up doll of Nebula.
Wow. That’s too swag.
How about the arm?
Karen Gillan: Oh yeah. It’s going to be even cooler. These are for CGI.
Karen Gillan: For visual effects. So it’s going to be cool.
Who wins in arm wrestling match. Nebula or Winter Soldier?
Karen Gillan: Oh, interesting. Nebula. She’s the biggest sadist in the galaxy. And also I feel like I can handle this arm better than the actor who played Winter Soldier.
I’ve got to take this off twice a day.
Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers.