‘Guardians of the Galaxy’s’ Karen Gillan on Why It’s Fun to Play the Villain

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Austin – Scottish actress Karen Gillan accompanied Relativity Media’s horror flick “Oculus” to SXSW. The 26-year-old actress sat down with Variety at the Four Seasons to discuss her first lead role in a film, and her forthcoming portrayal of Nebula, the main villain in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Edited excerpts below.

Variety: Horror films can make, but often break, and typecast a young actress. Why did you choose to star in “Oculus”?

Gillan: It was really original and I love horror films. I grew up on them. I love the really cheesy slasher film and this one was quite cool and original. Plus, I got to play a really fun character. But it’s not as easy as to say I made a conscious decision that I was going to do horror film now. It was a leading role in an American production.

How’d you handle the adjustment? You’ve been on several British television series, most notably “Doctor Who.” How was the transition?

I watched so many American television shows; I played Barbies in an American accent. There’s such a strong cultural influence and that’s why I feel like British people can do and American accent. Americans aren’t inundated with the British accent.

How different was it going from “Oculus” to James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”?

Weirdly, it was exactly the same. The same makeup tests and process, but just 20 times bigger. The production was bigger in terms of so many more people and we spent more time on more things. We shot a fight sequence for four days, and they made me train for two months to do that. There’s a beautiful attention to detail.

Tell me about Nebula.

Nebula is the female villain in the film, she goes around with Ronan the Accuser [played by Lee Pace] and their mission is to make the hero’s lives difficult, and be blue and bald and really good at fighting. She’s also got a really interesting relationship with Gamora [played by Zoe Saldana]. There’s a lot more animosity than you would first think. They’ve got a history together.

How’d you approach the character? Did you read up on who she is and the Marvel world she’s a part of?

I really let the script and the tone be set by the character and what was on the page. I just wanted to make it as truthful as possible, not just fluff. She’s really sadistic and creepy, and I tried to play her quietly creepy. I love playing the villain. My father once told me you don’t want to play the Bond girl, you want to play the villain. There’s just more layers to work with, to explore a person like that, to give them a reason for being the way they are. It’s so good.

The film seems to be quite funny, a departure from the status quo superhero flick.

It is surprisingly comedic. It’s a really cool turn for Marvel. It’s not a man saving you with his testosterone.