Karen Gillan is making a transition from Doctor Who companion to Hollywood starlet. Before she hits the screen in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, she stars in the Blumhouse horror film, Oculus. She plays Kaylie Russell, who along with her brother, try to prove that the mirror in their childhood home is to blame for the death of their parents.
ScreenCrave sat down with Gillan to talk about her jump to horror, her enthusiasm for scary movies and being a part of the Marvel Universe. For you Whovians out there, she also discusses the possibility of attending next year’s Gallifrey One convention.
Oculus is intriguing, intense and suspenseful. What drew you to the character and film?
Karen Gillan: The script, the strength of the script. I thought it was amazing. I thought the story was really original. [I] hadn’t read a script like that ever in my life and I loved how much time was devoted to the development of the characters. Also, I just loved what my character got to do in it. And I loved that monologue. There is like a 13 minute monologue which I just loved doing.
What was it like to get into that head space?
Karen Gillan: Well I had been building up to that speech for like a month or more trying to learn it because I had to be able to do the entire thing in one go. So that was quite a challenge and I just remember like cause she’s an auctioneer–or works at an auction house that I was like, ‘I wanna do this like an auctioneer would deliver the history of something.’ So that gave it the pace. And then the passion, I don’t know where that came from actually. [Giggles] It just came out like that actually.
Did anything spooky happen while filming?
Karen Gillan: I wish! I wish! We just laughed the entire time, it was a really jovial atmosphere. But we also wanted to keep it light for the kids. We wanted them to have a good time.
Speaking of kids, what was it like to have a mini-you? Are you involved in selecting them or were they just brought to you?
Karen Gillan: That’s exactly it, yeah. They’ll show me a picture like, ‘That’s the little you.’
Did you get to meet them beforehand? I know you had one during Doctor Who as well.
Karen Gillan: Yeah. The one for Doctor Who was my real-life cousin. I recommended her, so that was really fun. And Annalise Basso (Young Kaylie) was so fantastic and is an amazing little actress. Yeah, they introduced her, and we went out and did fun things for bonding time. We got to spend time together and I also got to observe her a little bit to see if she has any ticks. And then I just watched her filming all her stuff to see what she was doing with the character.
Did you guys agree upon little things to say? The brother’s nickname for example.
Karen Gillan: Timbo, yeah that was in the script. Right there on the page for us which was quite nice.
As a scary movie fan, which ones are your favorites and inspire your choices in roles?
Karen Gillan: The Ring is my favorite. I love that movie so much! Naomi Watts is amazing in that film. I think she’s an incredible actress and did that amazingly. I love The Exorcist and The Shining.
How did you build the fear behind Kaylie’s motivations?
Karen Gillan: For me her greatest fear is the thing that happened to her and the mirror forces her to relive that which is terribly traumatic for the girl. And yeah, I guess her biggest fear is probably failing against the mirror.
What are the characters chances against the mirror, really?
Karen Gillan: I think that they might have bitten off more than they could chew. On paper, Kaylie’s plan is totally foolproof.
How did you work on developing your American accent? It reminded me very much of Old Hollywood.
Karen Gillan: Oh really? I feel like in the U.K. we’re sort of saturated with American entertainment. So like it’s really familiar. Like I’d play Barbies in an American accent which I only now realize. Is that a bit strange? I just would do it automatically. That’s strange! And because of all the television. I’d watch so much American TV growing up and then I worked with a dialect coach and she kinda tweaked it. It was kind of already there and she just help me with a couple of sounds I couldn’t really do Scottish to American. Like phone the ‘O.’
Tell me about your upcoming projects.
Karen Gillan: So I have a film coming out on the first of August, Guardians of the Galaxy, which I’m really excited about!
Yeah! There is so much excitement for that. How was it to go from Kaylie who experiences something scary to becoming a predator like Nebula in Guardians?
Karen Gillan: Well I worked out for two months beforehand. I had to learn how to fight which I had to do everyday. It was like an action movie boot camp. I just got so into it. I got to learn how to use a staff and stuff. It was just so cool! That helped and shaving my head kinda gave me a different feeling. I felt like a different person. That really helped. The makeup really helped. And probably the most important thing was finding the emotional drive for her which I can’t really explain cause that would be like a spoiler but it’s in there.
Also, I know that this year Arthur Darvill did Gallifrey One (The Doctor Who Convention), will you be doing it next?
Karen Gillan: I hope so, yeah! I want to for sure.
Oculus opens in theaters April 11.