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Interview: Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan
One of the biggest success stories of the new series of Doctor Who has been the introduction of Scottish companion, Amy Pond, played by Invernesian actress Karen Gillan. With just a few weeks to go until the climactic finale, ReelScotland caught up with Karen to discuss her time aboard the Tardis and what the future (and past) holds for both her and Amy.
ReelScotland: We’re halfway through the new season – how have the last few months been for you?
Karen Gillan: Insane! It’s been pretty mental. We were shooting the series for nine months and we got into our own little world and actually forgot it was going on television. And then it did, and that’s when everything changed, but we couldn’t have asked for better reviews and it really exceeded all of our expectations and we’re glad it’s remaining the popular show that it was.
That must have been a concern, taking over from David Tennant who has become something of a British icon.
It was, and for Matt there was a lot of pressure, but for me it was a massive honour to be able to carry on this tradition and it’s exciting because people feel so passionately about the show, which is better than feeling indifferent!
Did you see that The Eleventh Hour [Karen’s first episode] has become the most watched programme ever on iPlayer?
That was something none of us could ever imagine, it was an amazing feeling.
After David Tennant, you’re continuing the “Tartan Tardis” theme on Doctor Who – how does it feel to be perhaps the only Invernesian actress on prime time TV?
[Laughs] It’s an honour! I really wanted to play Amy with an Invernesian accent but I auditioned with an English accent and my own and we unanimously said she should have mine. I was really happy about that because it’s not one you hear very often on television and I love the fact Amy’s got an Inverness accent.
I must admit that my own formative years as a Doctor Who fan were spent north of Inverness and all my books and videos were bought there…
…but for you growing up there wasn’t really a series to watch [Karen was born in 1987 and the last episode of Classic Who was in 1989], did you know about it a child?
I think everybody knows about Doctor Who, and I did before it came back in 2005, because it’s such an iconic part of British culture. I’m sure kids were being born knowing who Doctor Who was. It’s like Elvis, in that kids always seem to know who he is even though he’s not of their generation or era. I think Doctor Who’s the same in Britain: I definitely knew what it was but I’d never really watched it.
What’s been the highlight of filming the series?
There have been so many, they came up on a daily basis. For me, what’s always going to stick in my mind is filming the finale in episodes 12 and 13, which are completely mind-blowing and so powerful. Amy’s story, which has been building up throughout the year, is going to come to an incredible climax. I felt really in tune with Amy and her story, so filming it really meant something to me.
Were you told how Amy’s story was going to play out over the course of the season?
No, the first time I found out what was going to happen to Amy in the end was last November, well into filming. We were out in Croatia filming episodes six and 10 and I got this finale script. I quite like not knowing how she’s going to end up while I’m filming earlier episodes.
What are the highlights of the next few weeks?
Episode ten is about Vincent van Gogh and is written by Richard Curtis, which is pretty exciting, and then the finale is something that everyone in the world should watch!
What was it like working with the Cybermen?
I can’t say anything except that they will be making an appearance.
You’ve had a great reaction from fans and the public. What’s it like being something of a geek goddess these days?
[Laughs] A geek goddess?! I like that! I don’t know, I don’t think about it that way I guess, but I have been converted into a geek after getting this part and it’s so much more fun. Once you get sucked into it then that’s it, you feel you’re part of something and I love that about Doctor Who.
Has there been any talk of filming in Scotland?
Not as far as I know. The studios are based in Cardiff so we just film around there.
Are you going to try and get them to go up and film in Culloden?
Wasn’t [1960s companion] Jamie McCrimmon from Culloden? There’s already been an Invernesian companion!
He was! You’ve been doing your research. That does your geek cred a lot of good. Have you watched much of the classic series?
No, I haven’t actually. I watched the first ever episode, which I was interested to see, but I sort of thought that Amy shouldn’t know this whole history and back story because she might find herself taking things for granted in the scripts. She wouldn’t just accept things or know about companions, so it’s easier for me to come to these things with fresh eyes.
You’ve also been immortalised in the online Adventure Games advertised at the end of the episodes. What were they like to do?
They were really fun. We had to do this weird thing called motion capture where they’d tell us to run, and we’d have to do it while they filmed us, then walk, crawl, creep around, laugh, scream, look happy, all these things. That was really bizarre. Then me and Matt did the voices for it, which was fun, and then we watched a demo for it and it was so weird seeing yourself as a computer character, one of the oddest things ever.
In Doctor Who you’ve got the whole of time and space at your disposal: what’s the smallest space you’ve ever acted in?
The smallest physical space? That’s the weirdest question I think I’ve ever been asked! Well, ironically, although we can go anywhere in time and in the universe, the smallest confined space I’ve worked in would probably be in episode 10 of Doctor Who.
For your second series of Who, is there anything you’d like do or places you want to go?
I would love for Amy and the Doctor to go back to the 1960s and to a big music festival and watch Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton play live together.
Steven Moffat is one of the finest TV writers we have, and he writes some of the strongest female characters. Is a Moffat script more exciting to receive that the others?
Doesn’t he write the best female characters? They’re so strong and funny, look at River Song as well as Amy, they’re just fantastic female characters. I love them all in different ways, but it’s always special when you open up a Steven Moffat script for the first time. There’s something different about those.
Have you met David Tennant or John Barrowman yet?
Well, I met David while filming my first episode of Doctor Who, The Fires of Pompeii, but I’ve not met him since then. And I’ve never met John Barrowman, I’d love to though.
I think you’d remember meeting John Barrowman, you know he’s doing panto in Glasgow this year?
Really? Maybe I can go and see him there!
Have you got any other projects planned ahead of filming for the next series?
We’re starting to film the Christmas special at the end of June and I’m doing promotional work and voice recordings before going back to film.
So you never really get a day off?
No, not really, but I like quite like that.
Finally, would you ever consider an Amy Pond spin-off?
I don’t know, that would be quite cool. I wouldn’t rule that out, it’d be interesting to see Amy go off and do other things. What would they call it? Pond and Beyond?
Doctor Who continues on BBC One on Saturday evenings, times vary.