Karen Gillan-Fan Expo Canada
The face you make when your character is amazing. Source: Fan Expo Canada

Karen Gillan turned MCU villain Nebula into a hero to root for. What drew her to the character?

How do you get into the skin of a villain? Guardians of the Galaxy actor Karen Gillan shared her secrets about portraying Nebula, Gamora’s evil sister, who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Speaking to fans at Fan Expo Canada, Gillan was effusive about the role, saying, “I love playing Nebula so much. She’s such an interesting, basically broken, character, who has very strong defense mechanisms and walls up. She’s trying to look like she doesn’t care but all she really wants is her family and her sister.”

Gillan also gave audiences at the Expo some insight into how she gets into the mindset of the character.

The Right Tone of Voice

Marilyn Monroe-IMDB
Unlikely inspiration. Source: IMDB

To get into Nebula’s head, Gillan worked on changing her voice and body language, saying it all “started with an impression of Marilyn Monroe and that’s why she has more of a deep voice.”

The voice also informed Nebula’s movements. “With that deep, husky voice came a sort of slinkier movement to the body.” It was something she had to work on as Gillan tends to be quite fidgety. But, “when you’re in all the makeup and the costume, it kind of just happens naturally”.

Getting the Nebula Look

This is my happy face. Source: IMDB

Speaking of the make-up process for the prosthetic-heavy cybernetic alien, Gillan said that the time it takes to do the make-up has decreased significantly. “They can do it in under two hours now, which is very exciting. On the first movie it was five hours. But it’s half an hour to get into the costume with the help of another person. They have to wrap my hair under a bald cap, so, all in all it’s about four hours for everything to be camera ready.”

Gillan has now been playing the character for so long now, that she forgets she is even in costume. “And then, like, a child will come to set and will be scared and I’m like ‘what is wrong with this child?’”. More laughter ensued.

Nebula’s Original Arc

Nebula and Gamora-GOTG2-Marvel
We almost didn’t get this! Source: Marvel

The Nebula we now know almost never happened. She was never meant to survive the first Guardians film. “I thought when I signed on for the first Guardians, that I was going to shoot for eight days and then die. That’s what it was in the script!”

Gillan is partly the reason why the character was given a second chance at life. During her screen-test for Nebula, she did a scene opposite Gamora, which was not for the film. “It wasn’t an emotional scene, but I started crying during it. [Guardians of the Galaxy director] James Gunn really responded to that and then we felt like we had found this whole other aspect of this character.”

Gillan is surprisingly humble about Nebula’s emotional arc and how it has resonated with audiences. “I think that that was always there within the character, it just hadn’t been tapped into yet.” Gillan says she didn’t expect the character to grow the way she has but the fact that this is the direction Nebula has gone has made her “really happy as an actor.”

When last we saw Nebula, she was on Titan alongside Iron Man, having witnessed the deaths of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man. Nebula will return in Avengers 4, due for release in 2019.

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books or video games. She always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media.