"Raggedy man, good-bye."
Every Doctor Who fan was a mess after that emotional scene in The Angels Take Manhattan, Karen Gillan's final scene as Amy Pond. With the exception of a short cameo in Matt Smith's final scene as the Eleventh Doctor last Christmas, you wouldn't have seen her on British TV since. Instead she's stepped up to films and TV stateside, including starring as Nebula in the much-hyped Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (out this autumn) and Oculus, a horror film about a haunted mirror, released in U.K. cinemas today.
Speaking to BuzzFeed via telephone from Beverly Hills, I asked Karen whether at the end of Doctor Who she would expect that this would be how it all turns out. "I don't really know if I thought that life really existed after Doctor Who," she said. "I mean, those were the best years ever. I really didn't look beyond it to be honest. And then it just seemed to pan out this way so I'm so happy." And what is the biggest thing she's noticed from her time in America so far? "The teeth. Oh god, they have too good teeth over here. Almost too good to the point where I start to think, I don't believe your teeth."
There's a lot about Oculus that would appeal to Doctor Who fans: the rich storytelling and the constant flashbacks between past and present. She landed the role as the director of the film, Mike Flanagan, is a huge Doctor Who fan and wrote the character of Kaylie with her in mind. He then got in contact with her via Skype whilst she was in Scotland. During the conversation she noticed what he was drinking his coffee from: "He took a swig of coffee from a TARDIS mug and that is when I knew it was in the bag."
Here is the trailer for Oculus.
One of the most notable scenes from the film is one where her character, Kaylie, is trying to convince her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) that a mirror in their parents' house is haunted. She relays fact after fact, statistic after statistic, becoming angrier and more frustrated when her brother interrupts her with more doubts. This one scene lasts approximately 10 minutes, and she says it was the hardest thing she's ever done as an actress: "I had to do all of it in one, which you couldn't tell from the film because they cut bits, but I had to work on it for like, two months to be able to do the entire thing, so that broke my memory for like, two months afterwards."
What was the transition like from for Guardians of the Galaxy? Not as difficult as she first imagined. "I was quite intimidated because I've never worked on a film of that scale before, so I walked on for the first time and I was like, Oh god, this is a real Hollywood film and then I realised that it was just a spaceship in front of a big screen and I was like, I've got this." Many people have become aware of her part because her signature ginger hair had to be shaved off, but another sacrifice she had to make was the amount of time she required for makeup during production: five hours a day. "Nothing is done in post-production with the look of that character. It was something that we're all really proud of. It was 100% practical effort. So no CGI whatsoever."
Karen will also be starring later this year in Selfie, an American sitcom to be shown on ABC loosely based on My Fair Lady. Selfie is about an American woman who has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers but very few actual friends, so she asks a marketing guru called Henry Higenbottam to help her improve her image. Just as in My Fair Lady, when a British woman with a strong cockney accent asks a phoneticist called Henry Higgins to improve her accent, so she could appear more ladylike.
At the time of the interview Karen was waiting to see if the sitcom was going to be picked up (later that day it did). She was just offered the part. One aspect of the show she enjoys is the fact that everyone on the show is female. "The showrunner is female, the director is female and that is so rare in this industry. It really is..."
A few days after the show was picked up, the trailer for Selfie was released on the internet. The thing that many picked up from the teaser on social media? Her American accent. People reacted to it like Marmite. Some said that it was better than they thought it would be, others thought that it sounded "too cringey".
The trailer for Selfie.
The thing is, Karen can manage an American accent. Her accent in Oculus sticks out so little that if you didn't know Karen before you watched the film, you wouldn't be able to tell that she is in fact Scottish. I wasn't able to ask about her accent in Selfie as the interview was before the trailer was available, but when asked how hard it was to adjust to an American accent for Oculus she said: "I feel like we have so much American entertainment in the U.K. — like music, films, everything that is American, so we're just saturated with this accent all the time."
Clearly a lot has changed for Karen, but Doctor Who has changed a lot of well since her departure. Will she continue to watch even though she's involved in other projects? "Oh, I will totally watch it when Capaldi takes over. Definitely. I mean, I cannot wait to see what he does with the character. I think he will be huge for the show."
"Also this is a departure for Matt Smith, [Peter] gets to do something completely different with it. I'm hoping that he curses loads and they bleep it out."