Karen Gillan

By
Photography PHIL POYNTER

Published July 29, 2014

ABOVE: KAREN GILLAN IN NEW YORK, MAY 2014. STYLING: JESSICA DOS REMEDIOS. JACKET: SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE. SHIRT: MAX MARA. TIE: LOUIS VUITTON. PANTS: HUGO BOSS.

Karen Gillan doesn’t want to talk about her hair. In every interview, heck, in practically every conversation, the 26-year-old actress has had in the past year—ever since she whipped off a wig to reveal a bald head at the Comic-Con Convention in the summer of 2013—her coiffure has been the subject of immense interest. Enough. Especially when there’s so much more about Gillan to get into—like her role in this month’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s latest ensemble-comic-to-screen blockbuster, for which she buzzed her red locks. “I play Nebula, the female villain. She’s really sadistic,” says Gillan, her weighty Scottish brogue punched up by high notes of excitement. “One time, I had a man in a headlock, and then I just decided that Nebula would lick his face. I feel like she’s a face licker.”

Nebula’s particular brand of comic violence will be America’s introduction to the actress. Born and raised in Inverness, Scotland, the painfully shy Gillan went to drama school in Edinburgh at 16. A short stint at acting school in London followed, which she left to take on a role in a Scottish detective drama. When that ended, she bartended in a pub in Kennington. (“Basically, no one was ever in there, and I would just stand behind the bar talking to the same five people every day.”) To make ends meet, she did some modeling, and in 2008, ended up on a British sketch comedy series, The Kevin Bishop Show (Is she funny? “Apparently—or maybe I used to be”) before finally landing a plum role on the BBC’s revival of Dr. Who. The series proved life changing. “That was my real acting training,” she says. Over the course of three seasons, she learned more than just craft. “I like the sci-fi fans. It’s really nice to be in things that people care about.”

What Gillan really cares about these days is her next role. She doesn’t yet know what it is, but it needs to be meaty. She’s constantly watching indies, devouring small, depressing films such as Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001). “If I could work with him once, my life would be complete,” she says, before adding, “I like Jumanji [1995], too, just to throw that in there.” Whatever the next role, the actress, who now lives in L.A., is looking for the less expected ingénue path. “My dad used to tell me when I was younger, ‘You don’t want to be a Bond girl; you want to be a villain,’ ” she recalls. “That stuck with me.” Fingers crossed that some day soon it will be Daniel Craig who she’ll have in a headlock, a notion she’s happy to contemplate. “I just want to lick his face.”

COSMETICS: CHANEL, INCLUDING QUADRA EYE SHADOW, PERFECTION LUMIERE VELVET, ROUGE ALLURE LIP COLOUR, AND LE VOLUME MASCARA. HAIR PRODUCTS: KÉRASTASE, INCLUDING FLUIDE CHROMA RICHE AND FORME FATALE. HAIR: ASHLEY JAVIER FOR KÉRASTASE. MAKEUP: TYRON MACHHAUSEN FOR CHANEL/BRIDGE ARTISTS. MANICURE: KELLY B FOR ZOYA/DEFACTO. SPECIAL THANKS: FAST ASHLEYS.