Karen Gillan

Not to be confused with Karen Gillon.
Karen Gillan

Gillan in July 2016
Born (1987-11-28) 28 November 1987
Inverness, Scotland, UK
Residence Los Angeles, California, United States
Alma mater Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
Occupation Actress, model
Years active 2006–present
Relatives Caitlin Blackwood (cousin)

Karen Sheila Gillan (born 28 November 1987) is a Scottish actress and former model. She is known for the role of Amelia Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor, in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who (2010–13). In film, she has starred as Jane Lockhart in Not Another Happy Ending (2013), Kaylie Russell in the horror film Oculus (2013), and Nebula in the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and its sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). She is also co-starring in the upcoming Jumanji film, with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black.

Early life

Gillan was born and raised in Inverness, the only child of Marie (née Paterson) and Raymond Gillan, a singer and recording artist.[1]

When she turned 16, Gillan moved to Edinburgh and completed an HNC Acting and Performance course at Telford College.[2] She moved to London at age 18 to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts drama school, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in acting.[3][4]


While studying at Italia Conti, Gillan was scouted by a modelling agency[5] and modelled in the launch party of Nicola Roberts' Dainty Doll Make-Up Range. Gillan has said she would not give up her acting career to return to modelling, stating that she enjoyed modelling but acting was always her main interest and goal.[6]


Gillan with Matt Smith, promoting series 5 of Doctor Who, March 2010

Gillan's early television acting career included guest appearances on several drama series, with her first role being in an episode of Rebus, a role she obtained while still at Italia Conti.[7] Gillan then undertook a two-year stint as a member of the ensemble cast of the sketch comedy series The Kevin Bishop Show, in which she played multiple characters including celebrities such as Katy Perry and Angelina Jolie. She appeared in the Channel 4 film Stacked, playing the role of Ginny.[8] Gillan also appeared on TV in a leading role in a horror project entitled The Well, which was broadcast as a series of episodic short films on BBC Two and later as a web series on BBC.co.uk. Part of the BBC's multimedia "switch" programming, the short episodes interconnect with online games that further explore the environments presented in the series.[9]

She was cast for the role of the Eleventh Doctor's first companion, Amy Pond, on the British sci-fi series Doctor Who in May 2009. She made her first on-screen appearance as Amy Pond in "The Eleventh Hour" with her cousin Caitlin Blackwood portraying a young Amelia (Amy) Pond.[10][11][12] She appeared in the following sixth series in 2011 and the first five episodes of the seventh series in 2012. She reprised the role in a cameo appearance in the 2013 Christmas special "The Time of the Doctor". Gillan had appeared in Doctor Who once before in the series four episode "The Fires of Pompeii" in the role of a Soothsayer.[5]

Gillan made her first theatre appearance playing the role of Shirley in John Osborne's play Inadmissible Evidence along with Douglas Hodge.[13] The play debuted at the Donmar Warehouse on 16 October 2011.[13]

During an interview at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con, Gillan revealed that she would be returning to Doctor Who for its seventh series.[14] On 15 December 2011, it was announced Gillan and Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) would be leaving Doctor Who during the seventh series in 2012.[15] On 26 January 2012, Karen Gillan played the part of supermodel Jean Shrimpton in the television film We'll Take Manhattan, which told the story of Shrimpton's relationship with the photographer David Bailey.[16]

In August 2011, it was announced that Gillan would star in an indie Scottish rom-com called Not Another Happy Ending alongside Emun Elliott.[17] She was selected by director John McKay because he came to know her during the production of We'll Take Manhattan, which he also directed, as "a very bubbly, vibrant, energetic, funny, slightly clumsy person" who was a perfect fit for the character.[18] Filming took place in July 2012,[17] though Elliott was replaced by Stanley Weber.[19] Gillan told journalists that she was happy to be involved in a Scottish production that "isn't about drug use or fighting the English".[20] The film premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2013.[21][22][23]

Gillan starred in the lead role in the supernatural horror movie Oculus, which was filmed in Alabama and released in April 2014.[24] She also revealed that she has been cast in comedian Charlie Brooker's TV series A Touch of Cloth.[25] Gillan has also been cast in a film titled The List which began filming in Los Angeles in May 2013.

FHM magazine ranked Gillan number 42 on their list of the 100 Sexiest Women 2011,[26] and in 2012, they also ranked her number 36.[27] Gillan has also voiced advertisements for eHarmony and The Royal Bank of Scotland. In May 2013, Gillan was cast as Nebula in the Marvel superhero science fiction film Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released in August 2014. Gillan had her head shaved bald for the role.[28]

Gillan joined the regular cast of Adult Swim's NTSF:SD:SUV:: for the show's third season in 2013.[29][30] In November 2013 Gillan appeared on Broadway in a play called Time to Act, one of the plays included in "The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway" to benefit the non-profit Urban Arts Partnership.[31]

In February 2014, Gillan was cast as the lead in Selfie, an American single-camera sitcom for ABC, which is produced by Warner Bros. Television and was greenlit for the 2014–15 US television season. Gillan played a social media-obsessed socialite named Eliza Dooley, a modern-day take on the main character from My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle. This is Gillan's first time starring in the lead role of an American television series.[32][33][34] The series was cancelled by ABC on 7 November 2014 after seven episodes;[35] the remaining six episodes were made available on Hulu starting 25 November 2014.[36]

In May 2014, Gillan was cast in the Ti West-directed Western film In a Valley of Violence opposite John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Taissa Farmiga. Gillan will portray Ellen, the older sister to Farmiga's character.[37] Gillan also appeared in TV on the Radio's "Happy Idiot" music video, released on 3 October 2014. BuddyTV ranked her number six on its list of "TV's 100 Sexiest Women of 2014".[38] In 2015, Gillan appeared in the Adam McKay-directed drama film The Big Short alongside Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Melissa Leo.[39]

Gillan speaking at the 2015 Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest

Gillan wrote and directed her first short film, Coward, which went on to win Best Independent Short at the Independent Film-makers Showcase at the Beverly Hills Film Festival 2015.[40] The film also screened at the 2015 Edinburgh Film Festival.[41]

In October 2015, Gillan completed filming The Circle in which she was cast in a main role alongside Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega. The film was directed and written by James Ponsoldt, based on the novel by Dave Eggers.[42][43] Gillan will reprise her role as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this time becoming a member of the film's eponymous team.[44]

On 30 August 2016, it was announced that Gillan was cast in the lead female role in the Jumanji sequel. Gillan will star alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Nick Jonas.

Writing, directing, and producing

Gillan made her debut in writing, directing, and producing with her short film, Coward, which premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival, and nominated for several awards. Later in the year she wrote, directed, and starred in another short film called Conventional.[45] On November 2, 2016, it was announced that Gillan will direct and star in her feature directorial debut with Burbank-based development and production company Mt. Hollywood Films' indie drama project titled Tupperware Party. The film is scheduled to start shooting in January 2017 in Scotland.[46]

Personal life

In 2011, Gillan helped promote Fashion Targets Breast Cancer (FTBC)[47] and the opening of Squirrel Ward in Great Ormond Street Hospital.[48][49] During a 2012 interview on The Late Late Show, she stated that she had relocated to the U.S. to star in the film Oculus and confirmed that she now lives in Los Angeles, California.[7]

She has stated that, though her family is Catholic, she was never baptized and is not religious, instead agreeing with the statement that, "we're just minuscule dots in the vast cosmic emptiness of the universe".[50]



Year Title Role Notes
2008 New Town Killers Young girl at bus station
2010 Outcast Ally
2012 We'll Take Manhattan Jean Shrimpton
2013 Not Another Happy Ending Jane Lockhart
2013 Oculus Kaylie Russell
2014 Guardians of the Galaxy Nebula
2014 Bound for Greatness Maeve MacDonough Short film
2015 Warning Labels Mindy Short film
2015 Coward N/A Short film; director and screenwriter
2015 Conventional Rachel Milligan Short film; also director and screenwriter
2015 List, TheThe List Lily
2015 The Big Short Evie
2016 In a Valley of Violence Ellen
2017 The Circle Annie Allerton In post-production
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Nebula In post-production
2017 All Creatures Here Below Martha In post-production
2017 Jumanji Ruby Roundhouse[51] Filming
2017 Tupperware Party Pre-production


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Rebus Teri Cotter Episode: "A Question of Blood"
2008 Stacked Ginny Turner Television film
2008 Doctor Who Soothsayer Episode: "The Fires of Pompeii"
2008 Harley Street Holly Episode 1
2008–09 Kevin Bishop Show, TheThe Kevin Bishop Show Various characters Main role (12 episodes)
2008 Coming Up Anna Episode: "Thinspiration"
2009 Well, TheThe Well Coll 4 episodes
2010–12, 2013 Doctor Who Amy Pond 34 episodes (Series 5, Series 6, Series 7, "The Time of the Doctor" (cameo))
2010–11 Doctor Who Confidential Herself 26 episodes
2012 We'll Take Manhattan Jean Shrimpton Movie
2012 In Love with Coward Laura
2013 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Daisy Main role (9 episodes, season 3)
2014 Touch of Cloth, AA Touch of Cloth Kerry Newblood 2 episodes
2014 Selfie Eliza Dooley Main role (13 episodes)
2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself Episode: "Karen Gillan Wears A Black and White Striped Pullover and Coral Skirt"
2015 7 Days in Hell Lily Allsworth Movie
2015 Robot Chicken Anastasia Steele Voice
Episode: "Zero Vegetables"
2016 Emo Dad Jessica Voice
4 episodes

Video games

Year Title Voice role
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: City of the Daleks Amy Pond
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Blood of the Cybermen Amy Pond
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: TARDIS Amy Pond
2010 Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth Amy Pond
2010 Doctor Who: Return to Earth Amy Pond
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada Amy Pond
2011 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: The Gunpowder Plot Amy Pond


Year Title Role Venue
2011 Inadmissible Evidence Shirley Donmar Warehouse
2013 Time to Act Karen Broadway

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
2010 TV Quick Awards Best Actress Doctor Who Nominated [52]
2010 Cosmopolitan "Woman of the Year" Awards Best Actress Won [53]
2011 SFX Awards Best Actress Won [54]
2011 TV Choice Awards Best Actress Won [55]
2011 Scream Awards Best Sci-Fi Actress Nominated [56]
2012 National Television Awards Best Drama Performance: Female Won [57]
2012 Nickelodeon UK Kids' Choice Awards Favourite UK Actress N/A Nominated [58]
2012 Scottish Fashion Awards Scotland's Fashion Icon N/A Won [59]
2013 National Television Awards Best Drama Performance – Female Doctor Who Nominated [60]
2014 Fright Meter Awards Best Actress Oculus Nominated [61]
2014 Detroit Film Critics Society Best Ensemble Guardians of the Galaxy Won [62]
2014 Nevada Film Critics Society Best Ensemble Cast Won [63]
2014 Phoenix Film Critics Society Best Cast Nominated [64]
2015 Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Ensemble Nominated [65]
2015 Empire Awards Best Female Newcomer Guardians of the Galaxy and Oculus Won [66][67]
2015 Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival Best Actress in a Short Film (Long) Bound for Greatness Nominated [68]
2015 IFS Film Festival Best Actress in a Short Film Won [69]
2015 IFS Film Festival Best Independent Short Coward Won [69]
2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival Best Short Film Nominated [70]
2016 London IFF Film Festival Best Lead Actress in a Short Film Bound for Greatness Won [71]
2016 FirstGlance Film Festival Best Actress in a Short Film Won [72]


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