The Inverse Interview

“That’s an Arc.” Karen Gillan on Nebula’s Happy Ending and Future Superhero Roles

The prolific actress reveals how she'd want to be in the DC Universe and what she's doing next.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Actress Karen Gillan attends the 28th annual Art Directors Guil...
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The Inverse Interview

Karen Gillan wants to do it all.

After a career on television in shows like Doctor Who and Selfie, she became a mainstay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Thanos’s daughter Nebula, Gillan played a crucial role in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, first as a part of the Mad Titan’s evil plot and later as a member of the superhero team.

Gunn is now leading the charge in creating a new DC Universe, beginning with Superman and branching from there — and Gillan is eager to follow the director the other side of superhero cinema.

"I always thought that Poison Ivy was really fun. So maybe something like that would be cool," Gillan told Total Film. "Honestly, if James asked me to play an alien that sits in the background of a shot and doesn't talk, I would say yes [laughs]. Because working with him has been one of the great joys of my career so far." Later, she told ScreenRant she would especially love to play a version of Poison Ivy in a relationship with Harley Quinn.

But the DC Universe is incredibly varied, with multiple versions of the Batman characters in particular. While Gillan wants to play the red-haired villain, there is one big catch.

“I would rather do it with James Gunn,” Gillan tells Inverse. “I love James Gunn, and he's one of my favorite filmmakers on the planet. It would be hard to imagine doing that without him or his involvement in some way.”

Gillan, who appears alongside Russell Crowe in Adam Cooper’s mystery thriller Sleeping Dogs (out this week), opens up about her past roles, seeing her former co-stars hitting it big, and the happy ending Nebula got at last.

Karen Gillan as Laura Baines in Sleeping Dogs.

The Avenue

This interview has been edited for brevity and/or clarity.

What drew you to Sleeping Dogs as a project?

When I first read the script, there was just so many twists and turns I didn't see coming. I was like, "This is a really good version of this twisty, slightly noir thriller type of thing."

And then, I think the main thing that drew me to it was the opportunity to play the character. I just thought I could have a bit of fun with her, because she's introduced through other people's perspectives. I knew I would get to play slightly different versions of her and change it up and transform a bit. That's what I was excited about.

What was it like working with Russell Crowe?

Amazing. He is the best. I mean, he's truly one of the greats and just getting to watch his process and how he conducts himself and works was cool, and a little bit trippy because I was starstruck.

After this and Guardians, are you looking for more action, thriller-forward projects?

I don't know if I'm actively looking for a particular genre other than I would really like to dabble in something straight and dramatic.

Speaking of different genres you've done, your Selfie co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph recently won an Oscar for The Holdovers. What was your reaction to the movie and her win?

I loved The Holdovers. I thought she was brilliant in it. And I actually worked with Paul Giamatti in another film as well, and they were both brilliant in it, so I was really, really, really happy to see that. It was just so cool to see her up there on the stage, and I was really chuffed for her.

Gillan and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in Selfie back in 2014.


In 2022, Doctor Who released an unfilmed ending to Amy and Rory's story in Doctor Who where we find out how Rory’s dad Brian learned they were sent back in time. Did you know about this ending?

I don't know what that is. Who released it? Where did it come from?

It was released on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel.

This is amazing. Okay, so we get some more information about what happens beyond the old angels.

How did you imagine Amy and Rory's life after they were sent back in time?

Well, I imagine them in New York back in the 1950s, on the scene, drinking martinis, and having a few kids. And writing books, of course.

You’re reuniting with former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat on his upcoming show Douglas is Cancelled. What can you tell me about it?

It's so great. The scripts were on fire, which was so exciting to get to deliver. It's about two news hosts in the U.K. and one of them tells a questionable joke at a wedding that may or may not involve my character.

Then, in pursuit of the truth, it winds up being this escalation of events surrounding him. It's really verbal gymnastics, just brilliant, witty dialogue being fired around at a really fast pace. It gets a little bit farcical at points, but then it flips on everyone and becomes much more meaningful and dramatic.

Nebula finally getting her happy ending in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Marvel Studios

Would you ever return to the MCU as Nebula? Could you see a TV show about her life on Knowhere in the future?

That would be cool. I love playing Nebula. It's one of the most interesting characters I've ever played, and every time I play her I find something new. There's just so much discovery that has happened with her, finding new parts of her personality and seeing her rebuild and start to feel love for the first time, accept it, think that she's worthy of it. That's been really cool. I would absolutely continue her journey.

When they're all dancing at the end to Florence and the Machine, there's a shot of Nebula just looking elated. And I remember James Gunn screenshotted that when he was editing it, and he sent it to me saying, "I'm crying," because we thought about her journey from where she started to the image of her looking happy, dancing, and it's like, "That's an arc."

Sleeping Dogs premieres in theaters March 22.

Related Tags