Karen Gillan is finally directing an action movie. But she is already ready for the future.
Karen Gillan has found a suitable pace as an action and adventure star, leaping from stunt to stunt in major roles for Doctor Who, guardians of the galaxy, Avengers: Endgame, and Jumanji. Yet, rarely had she had the opportunity to prove herself as a singular lead woman, megaheroine directors shape their cast and crew. So, after a decade in Hollywood, Gillan’s turn as the protagonist of Milkshakes with powder, Netflix’s new all-female assassin movie that landed on July 14, is an interesting experience for the 33-year-old actress.
Growing up in Scotland, Gillan would admit that it wasn’t the action that drew her to Hollywood; it was comedy. “I loved watching American comedies, especially Friends and Will and grace“Gillan told ELLE.com as they approached Milkshakes with powderthe Liberation. “I would say Jennifer Aniston was a big inspiration to me. I thought she was so funny and charming. I also loved Drew Barrymore. So it was a bit of a shock that her own career attracted more hitters than of slapstick.
“It was a crazy adventure. I didn’t think I would be in so many action movies, but now I’m learning to kick people, “she joked.
In Milkshake, Gillan plays Sam, the daughter of murderer Scarlet (Lina Headey, of Game of thrones Fame). Sam was abandoned by her mother when she was 12 but grew up in Scarlet’s shadow, learning to be an adult career killer. When a mission goes awry, Sam must team up with his mother and deadly associates to save an 8-year-old girl.
To mentally prepare for the role, Gillan researched and read essays on abandonment issues. She also drew inspiration from other action successes, including the John wick franchise, Atomic blonde, The meanie, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But she has only had three weeks to prepare for one of her most “difficult” roles yet, she said. Below, Gillan details how she approached her first time as the frontman of an action movie, as well as where in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and Hollywood in general – she’s headed next.
What type of training did you have to take to prepare for this role?
It was definitely the most difficult role for me physically, more than any other role I have played before. I’ve done quite a bit of fight sequences in movies, but normally I would only have one or two big fights to focus on. Milkshakes with powder is a non-stop action, from start to finish. I only had three weeks to practice before I started shooting because I was doing a different movie before. To prepare, we worked every day. We started by running in the studio, then we boxed. We are so past the combat routines. It was just a lot of rehearsals.
How did the collaboration with star actors like Angela Bassett, Lena Headey, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino go?
Working with these women was probably the highlight of the whole experience for me. I was able to see their process. Lena Headey was absolutely amazing and really stupid. I was particularly struck by Angela Bassett and just saw how serious she is as a person and performer. Carla Gugino, of whom I was already a fan of her other work. I had to fight Michelle Yeoh, who is an action legend, which was just embarrassing.
What was your favorite scene to film?
My first fight sequence, because the director [Navot Papushado] was like, “This is the first time we’ll see you fight; that must be good. We want to do it all in one take, with no cuts or stunts. I appreciated this pressure. It was exciting, in a way, and empowering.
Do you hope Milkshakes with powder will have a sequel? If so, who would you add to the set of assassins?
I don’t know, but I hope so. I had a great time making this movie. It would be great to get all the girls together for another adventure. I would add Meryl Streep to the group; I think she would be a good addition.
Beyond Doctor Who, you are perhaps best known for your work as the Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We last saw your character in Avengers: Endgame. What can fans expect from her in Thor: Love and Thunder?
I think fans can expect to see a different side of the character, because she’s in a different world. So the world is a little crazier and wackier in the best possible way. Nebula will move around this territory while retaining her own personality.
How will Nebula change in this new post-Thanos reality? What are you most looking forward to exploring with his character arc?
[Thanos] defined his life in many ways. So what happens when that person is suddenly removed from your life and that presence no longer weighs on you? How does she react to Thanos’ death? How does she deal with this? Is she starting to find herself a little more? These are the questions I ask myself about Nebula.
If you could bring a Marvel character back to life, who would you choose?
You know what, that would be Thanos. So Nebula could kill him.
Beyond the nebula, beyond Milkshake, what do you want for your career? Are you trying to stay in action?
I would love to do a really meaty dramatic role. I’ve been fortunate enough to play in all of the other genres, but this is probably the one that is a bit unexplored for me. So I would like to immerse myself in something like that and also direct more films myself.
Watch Milkshakes with powder on Netflix
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