Guardians of the Galaxy Set Interview: Karen Gillan Talks Nebula's Cybernetics and Mission

Official Guardians of the Galaxy Photo - James Gunn and Sean Gunn
Brothers James & Sean Gunn

What’s it been like working with James Gunn as a director?

Karen Gillan: Oh, it’s been really amazing working with James. He’s the best! He’s just so much fun, as well. I've never worked on a set where you receive notes over a microphone, and I don’t think he’s ever done that before. Because of the scale of this film, there’s just no way you can run in and out of the set, so it’s like you’re getting notes from God! (laughs) “Can you do that with more of a smile?” But yeah, he’s really great, and he just makes it really free, and allows us to take risks. He’ll say, “Let’s do another take, and this one’s for you to have fun,” and that’s great as an actor. We get to explore and go to places.

I think they were saying this is your last day on set?

Karen Gillan: Yeah, I just wrapped on main unit!

Now that you've come to the end, do you have a particularly favorite day on set?

Karen Gillan: Shooting the fight sequence. That was particularly fun, but also really, really difficult. They had two stunt girls and we kind of switched in and out. I just look like spaghetti when I fight, so I’m really lucky with the makeup, because they can use a lot from the stunt girl, because she wears the makeup too. That was really challenging. I've never done anything like that before! That’s when I felt for the first time that I was really in a Marvel movie.

You talked about the rivalry and jealousy with your character and Gamora – can you talk a bit about Nebula’s motivations and ultimate goals through the story?

Karen Gillan: Well basically she is a lieutenant of Ronan the Accuser, a daughter of Thanos, and sister of Gamora. They are on this holy mission to kind of cleanse the galaxy of all that is weak. That is her ultimate objective and what’s been drilled into her as a kid. So she is brainwashed by these people, and she just wants to impress, and achieve, and be as strong as possible. That’s her ultimate goal.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Ronan and Nebula
Ronan and Nebula

What have you done to keep that from being a one-note villain then, and continuing to flesh out the character?

Karen Gillan: I kind of based it on, I researched Spartans a lot, that whole lifestyle. It’s crazy, and it feels very similar to this thing. Also, to keep it interesting as well, I kind of find her battling emotions coming back in. She’s fighting to not have any emotions, basically, because that’s as strong as you can be. So there’s an internal conflict going on there.

You talked about your makeup; can you talk about your costume a little bit?

Karen Gillan: Oh! (presents herself) So this is my costume… I've got this arm… It’s quite intense! There’s many layers. There’s all sorts of weird suits underneath to pull me in at all the right places. I was like, “so that’s how they look like that in those films!” (laughs) Yeah, there’s purple…

Will you give them some tips on the Halloween costume version of this then?

Karen Gillan: The Halloween costume? Yeah, I should make like a youtube video of it. Right now! That’s gonna be so cool. That’s amazing. I hope that people dress as Nebula, though I don’t know about this (rubs her head). Loads of bad bald caps!

It seems like humor is a big part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, of that crew – is humor any part of your characters life? Does she have any room for humor or fun?

Karen Gillan: I think my character takes herself absolutely way too seriously, and that’s kind of funny in itself when someone is like that. So I find her funny, but she doesn't think it’s funny.

Last year at Comic-Con, Tom Hiddleston came out as Loki, brought the place down…

Karen Gillan: Yeah, I saw that!

Comic-Con 2013: Guardians of the Galaxy Cast on Stage
GOTG Cast at SDCC 2013

So you guys, with this makeup, it’s truly unbelievable – I’m just curious, next year, you’re coming out the month after Comic-Con, the possibility of coming out like this…

Karen Gillan: Oh my God, I would love to do that. That would be…

Well you’d have to shave your head again.

Karen Gillan: Oh my God, well… (laughs) I’ll have just grown back some hair! I take it back, I’m not doing that! I just want like a little bit of hair for Christmas. A small tuft! (laughs)

What was the reveal like, standing in front of all those people and pulling off that wig for you?

Karen Gillan: That was a random thing that happened, actually! It wasn’t something all that planned. I was just going to go out bald, and they were like, “why don’t you pull the wig off!” I thought that was fun, and Chris Hardwick said he’d set me up. So yeah, it was kind of weird! I don’t know. I wanted to throw it out into the audience like it was a bouquet at a wedding. (laughs) Then I saw these two girls just jump on it! It was funny.

Talking to the other actors, they've said that James Gunn actually told them not to go too much to the comics. Was that the same case with you?

Karen Gillan: Oh! He didn't tell me that, and I did go to the comics. (laughs) I read the Infinity Gauntlet which was really cool! I’m not a huge comic book reader, I had just one in my house, The Incredible Hulk. So I did some research on that. I was reading that before I got my hands on this script. This is kind of reinventing that whole thing anyways, so I understand why he would've said that.

You’re kind of the only female villain in all of the Marvel movies so far. Is that something you thought about at all before you took the role?

Karen Gillan: Oh! Oh my God, no! You’ve just brought that to my awareness! That’s really cool. I like that. No, I didn't think about that, and I’m glad I didn't because that would've scared me. (laughs)

The robotic arm, does that affect the way you can fight and certain action sequences?

Karen Gillan: Um, it’s pretty mobile, we decided. I mean, I was thinking, we considered all sorts, whether it moves like a robot, but we decided it’s a really good fake arm.It’s stronger than her other arm, so if she has someone in a headlock, for instance, she’ll use this arm.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice, tell yourself something at the beginning of filming now that you’re close to the end, what would you tell yourself?

Karen Gillan: I would probably tell myself that it was worth shaving my head for! (laughs) It was definitely, definitely worth it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer Nebula Nova Hostage

There’s concept art of you in the makeup room that I can’t shake where you have your head tilted in this teasing, manipulative way, is that something we’re going to see?

Karen Gillan: The head tilt? There’s many a head tilt! Yeah. I think it’s like a reptile, that’s what I decided.

What was the weapon use like, getting into that and using them in a fight sequence?

Karen Gillan: Oh yeah, that was so cool. That was amazing. We practiced for two months with just wooden ones, then I got the real things. They are magnetic, so they join together, they flick down, they light up. It was the coolest thing! They’re quite difficult to use! That was really, really tough, but I think it’s going to look amazing.

I've been asking people what they collect [given the nature of the property]; is there anything that you collect?

Karen Gillan: Oh my God, do I not collect anything? I've forgotten everything that I own, as it’s been in a storage unit for a year now! I moved to America, and then never sorted it out. So I don’t even know what I own anymore. (laughs) Is this too revealing? I do have a lot of old smelly vintage clothes!

Thank you so much!

Karen Gillan: Thank you!


More: Guardians of the Galaxy Set Visit Report


Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

Key Release Dates
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) release date: Aug 01, 2014
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017
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