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60 Seconds with Karen Gillan

The 30-year-old Avengers and Doctor Who star talks about her role in the Jumanji reboot and reveals how she can now beat men up

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle has a video game premise. Did you play any when you were younger?

I played Tekken and Crash Bandicoot all the time. I was quite boring on Tekken. I didn’t do any of the special moves, I just repeatedly punched people, which worked.

You filmed Jumanji in Hawaii. With your pale complexion, was that a problem?

It was. They had to do a full-body fake tan every morning to give me a normal level of tan. But that was hard to maintain with the amount of sunscreen I had to use and then the bug spray that made the fake tan run. It was a constant battle to make me look healthy.

Fighting fit: Zoe Saldana

How would you rate your fighting skills now? Have they improved since the first Guardians Of The Galaxy?

I’m much better than I was when I first started out. I was completely uncoordinated and didn’t know how to throw a punch. But now I feel I could take out a man on the street. I could throw a punch and jump on their shoulders and crack their neck.

Who have you learned the most about fighting from?

Zoe Saldana is the best action actor I’ve worked with. She’s the best at doing fight scenes and stunts. She has a background as a ballerina and is really strong and flexible — much more than the guys I’ve worked with.

Were you surprised there was so much commentary about your Jumanji costume?

No. If you look at that costume out of context, people had a valid reaction — all the men were covered and the woman wasn’t. However, it’s actively made fun of in the script. It’s a trope of 1990s video games, which still exists to some extent now.

Close shave: Gillan as Nebula

What’s The Party’s Just Beginning about?

It’s a film I wrote and directed. It’s about a girl who is dealing with the suicide of her best friend. She doesn’t connect with anyone and it’s about how the angst and guilt and shame she feels come out in self-destructive ways. We shot it in Inverness. It will be going into film festivals over the next few months.

What were the challenges of directing your first film?

I’d directed two short films before but not a full-length feature, so it was quite an undertaking. The biggest challenge was acting and directing at the same time — I found it incredibly frustrating. I’ll never direct something I’m acting in again as it’s multitasking to the highest degree. Budget constraints meant we shot it in three weeks, which is a rush.

Is it about the seething underbelly of Inverness?

It’s showing it in a way you don’t usually see on programmes such as Monarch Of The Glen. Those things are quite touristy and don’t feel like it feels to grow up there — I wanted to get behind the postcard image and see what it’s really like.

Are you concerned portraying it in this way will upset people in Inverness?

It doesn’t portray it in an unflattering light, it’s just a story about a girl that anyone can relate to. It’s not unflattering and it’s very beautifully shot.

You had to shave your head for your first time as Nebula but not for the subsequent Guardians Of The Galaxy/Avengers films. Why’s that?

I guess some actors negotiate for more money but I negotiated for more hair. Shaving my hair for the first one was something the director wanted because he wanted a slick look that was done with make-up techniques rather than using CGI. It was also something I wanted to do as I felt my hair had become a trademark, in a way, so it was cool to get rid of a defining feature like that. As we went along they became a bit more lenient with the hair and now they gel it all down and use a bald cap.

You made horror films when you were younger…

Yes, I was around 12 and used a video camera to make horror films at home with my friends and family. I remember I played a woman who went out wearing a blonde wig and stabbed people and then I stabbed my father. My dad loved it — he relished his moment in the spotlight.

What lessons has your career taught you?

That it’s important to go for what you want in life and don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t let that fear stop you from going for things you want to achieve that might make you happy.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday