The Real Truth Of Karen Gillan

By 2010, Karen Gillan had made her lifelong dream of becoming an actor a reality. The Scottish-born star hit the big time when she was cast as Amy Pond in the epic sci-fi franchise "Doctor Who," a role which lasted three years. She eventually felt like it was time to move on from the show, admitting to IGN, "It just felt right! I like to go on instinct." Gillan obviously knew big things were on the horizon.

It wasn't long after leaving "Doctor Who" that she made the leap from the U.K. to the U.S., and Gillan quickly became a household name thanks to her roles as Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Ruby Roundhouse in the "Jumanji" franchise. Her first decade in the U.S. led to a myriad of TV and theater roles too, and she even did a stint on Broadway.

Over the years, Gillan has become best known for her action roles, but there's much more to Gillan than her dance-fighting moves. If you've ever wondered what her biggest guilty pleasure is, or what skill she hasn't mastered yet, then look no further. We've got you covered with all the lesser-known details about the redheaded actor.

Karen Gillan began suffering from anxiety as a child

Karen Gillan is one of many celebs who've publicly opened up about their mental health. The movie star revealed that she first started to struggle with anxiety as a child and she often turned to music, and subsequently acting, as a way to cope with it. "I was such an anxious person growing up. I couldn't even maintain eye contact. I was really hunched over, walking around — people would comment on it all the time. And then when I performed, I was able to be all of the things that I was so scared to do as a real-life human," Gillan explained to

Gillan has also noted that her parents were really supportive of her interest in acting, with her dad often helping her make short films at home. As a result, Gillan decided to pursue acting professionally and landed her first screen credit in the Scottish drama "Rebus" in 2006.

As her career developed, Gillan has continued to experience bouts of anxiety, but she finds ways to deal with it. When it comes to acting, she's admitted that portraying characters with an American accent is like a "disguise" that often makes her less anxious.

She's obsessed with Alice in Wonderland

Everyone has something they were obsessed with while they were growing up, and for Karen Gillan, that was "Alice in Wonderland." "I've always loved Alice in Wonderland. Ever since I was a girl, I was obsessed with her. She was my favorite of the Disney princesses, if she counts as one." Gillan told Glamour. Her love of Lewis Carroll's memorable character stayed with her as she grew up, too, and in 2010, Gillan told The Independent that she continued to hold the character close in a special way. "I'm going to call my daughter 'Alice,' if I ever have one," she revealed.

Gillan even found a way to incorporate her love of Alice into her "Doctor Who" character, Amy Pond. "I remember thinking: 'What's her favorite film?' And I thought it could be 'Alice in Wonderland,'" she explained. In the sci-fi series, Gillan's character was the companion of the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) and her life was never the same because of this role. The "Gunpowder Milkshake" star completely fell in love with Amy, who Smith dubbed "the sexiest companion" of all time (via Daily Mail).

She auditioned for Game of Thrones before Doctor Who

Karen Gillan definitely left her mark on the sci-fi series "Doctor Who," and she has gone on to be a part of some of the biggest TV and movie franchises of the last decade. But had one past audition gone a different way, Gillan could have had a completely different career. "I remember I auditioned for Game of Thrones, and then got Doctor Who, like right after that," Gillan revealed in WIRED's Autocomplete Interview. She didn't reveal which part she tried out for and obviously, she didn't get it, but the Scottish star added that she often gets mistaken for Sophie Turner. Could she have been the Queen of the North in another life?

While Gillan is no doubt happy with the direction her career has taken, an unknown role in "Game of Thrones" isn't the only one she's missed out on over the years. Gillian also auditioned for the role of Agent 33 in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The part ultimately went to Emily VanCamp, but Gillan impressed Marvel casting director Sarah Finn enough that she wanted her back to play Nebula in "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Gillan made her Broadway debut alongside a fellow Scot

Before setting off on an epic journey around the galaxy for Marvel, Gillan embarked on a theatrical adventure, making her Broadway debut in 2013. She starred in "Time to Act," a series of 24-hour plays where the cast learned and performed a new play every day, alongside fellow Scot James McAvoy.

Just a year earlier, Gillan shared how she has been dreaming about Broadway but was "scared" to swap the big screen for the stage. "That is a dream of mine. One day. I think I'm too terrified to try it, but I'm going to try it anyway," she admitted to Collider.

The experience ended up being a blast, and she loved working with McAvoy, who she revealed to be the best on-screen kissing partner she could have asked for. "He's a great kisser. And he's also Scottish, which makes him an even better kisser," Gillan gushed to On Demand Entertainment. McAvoy's "Atonement" co-star Keira Knightley paid him a similar compliment after they worked together, too, so no need to just take Gillan's word for it.

She has a passion for vintage fashion

Karen Gillan fell in love with thrift shopping and vintage fashion when she was a child. Thrifting was an activity she would do with her dad growing up, but that love of pre-loved clothing continued well into adulthood. Now, anytime she's in London, she likes to hit up the famous vintage stores on Brick Lane. "It's one of my favorite hobbies. I start at the top of Brick Lane and work my way down and I always have an outfit by the time I get to the bottom," Gillan explained to The Standard.

Gillan's passion for vintage fashion came full circle in 2012, when it aligned with her passion for acting as she played former supermodel Jean Shrimpton in the period drama "We'll Take Manhattan." It was one of her biggest movie roles before moving to Los Angeles and Gillan found herself very inspired by the film's aesthetic. This bled into her personal sense of style and she has plenty of pieces in her wardrobe inspired by the swinging sixties. "It's the same kind of look that I like. Not just with clothes, everything I own looks a bit old. The older, the better," she told Vogue

Gillan became an action star by accident

After a decade in Hollywood, Karen Gillan has starred in countless action movies. The most notable among them were the "Jumanji" franchise and near-dozen appearances in the MCU, along with playing Sam in "Gunpowder Milkshake," Carol Cobb in Netflix Covid-19 spoof "The Bubble," and Sara Morris in "Stuber."

Observing Gillan's credits, it would be easy to assume that each of these roles was strategically chosen to further her credentials as a bona fide action star. However, Gillan is the first to admit that she fell into the genre completely by accident. 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" marked her entry into the world of action, which she was somewhat unprepared for. "It must have looked hilarious, just limbs flying around. They were like: ooookay, you've got the role, but you need to learn to fight," Gillan admitted to The Guardian. But it marked a huge turning point in her life on a personal level as well as a professional one.

With all the roles Gillan was taking on, the "Dual" star had to start working out consistently for the first time in her life, something that ultimately spurred on her love of exercise. "That sort of changed my life because I'd never worked out before. I'd never eaten healthily in my life. I didn't know how to do it ... It wasn't healthy at all. I can't believe the way I used to go on," Gillan admitted.

She donated her hair to Star Wars

Karen Gillan has had quite the transformation over the years, but the biggest change to her physical appearance came when she shaved her head in 2013. As fans of the actor will know, she agreed to chop off her red mane to play Nebula in "Guardians of the Galaxy," but you might not know what Marvel did with her hair afterward. In an interview with Collider, Gillan revealed, "They made my hair into the most incredible, well-made wig and they gave it to the 'Star Wars' people. It's just so funny to think that my hair is made into a wig, next to all these Star Wars monster heads in a warehouse. I thought that was really funny."

Her wig was earmarked for use by the hair and make-up department of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," although it ultimately didn't make it into the movie. And as far as we know, that's the only wig made from Gillan's hair, as she wasn't required to shave her head again for her subsequent appearances in the MCU.

Gillan stands by her Jumanji costume

After 22 years, Robin Williams's famed "Jumanji" movie got a sequel. 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" follows teenagers Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany, who are sucked into a '90s video game. Karen Gillan plays Martha's avatar, Ruby Roundhouse, in the world of Jumanji. She's characterized by her martial arts and dance fighting skills, as well as her teeny-tiny, not-appropriate-for-the-jungle costume, which consists of shorts and a crop top.

The outfit is part of a larger commentary on '90s stereotypes, but it was met with backlash from many movie-goers. However, Gillan defended the costume and said she likes the way it's addressed in the movie, since her character criticizes it and points out how unsuitable her leather halter top is for the jungle. Speaking about the backlash, Gillan told The Guardian, "I could understand people's reactions. But I don't have any regrets at all. It's a fun film, and we were making a comment on the fact that women were dressed like that in those '90s video games. It felt like there was more substance to it." Gillan was happy that the costume was a part of a larger conversation about sexism.

Gillan loves reality TV

Karen Gillan has acknowledged that when she was younger, she tended to favor watching high-brow, critically acclaimed movies. "I've started to appreciate more of a pure popcorn movie. When I was going through my 20s, I was quite serious with my cinema choices, which I cringe at now," Gillan admitted to The Guardian. Over the years, she's come to appreciate the escapism that movies and TV shows can provide beyond intellectual purposes.

Nowadays, when Gillan is watching anything purely for entertainment, she's looking to reality shows. During an interview for "Guardians of the Galaxy 3," her co-star Chris Pratt spilled the beans on how Gillan opted to spend any downtime she would have on set, revealing that she constantly watched "Vanderpump Rules." Gillan said that this is a major guilty pleasure of hers and watching the reality show was how she got through hours in the hair and make-up chair for "Guardians," since she had to undergo a huge transformation to play Nebula each day.

She can't swim

Despite all her action skills, Karen Gillan can't do everything. For a long time, the Marvel superstar was also among a number of celebs who don't know how to drive, although she decided to learn later in life. However, Gillan has revealed that she can't swim. And, as it turns out, swimming would have been a really useful skill for her to have in her arsenal, as she was required to take a plunge during one particular "Doctor Who" scene. "There was actually a scene in one episode when I needed to swim in the Tardis, and they cut it out. I have ruined the show," Gillan recalled to The Scotsman.

In fact, it went so terribly that her co-star Matt Smith thought she was drowning. Gillan, completely aware of her sub-par swimming abilities, had just hoped she'd be able to pull the scene off on the fly. "I wasn't that scared because I was 21 when I did it so I had blind optimism on my side,"
she said. Gillan has since addressed her swimming abilities, clarifying that she can make her way across a pool but not be able to stay afloat in the ocean.

Gillan met her husband Nick Kocher on Instagram

You'd be forgiven for not knowing that Karen Gillan is married since the actor is extremely private about her personal life. However, she tied the knot with her long-time beau, comedy writer Nick Kocher, in 2022. They enjoyed a private ceremony in a Scottish castle complete with a bagpiper, but kept all the details of their wedding secret until a year later, when they celebrated their first anniversary. There were also plenty of celebrity guests in attendance, including Gillan's Marvel co-star Robert Downey Jr, along with rom-com leading lady Julia Roberts, and "Doctor Who" showrunner Steven Moffat.

Gillan and Kocher met in a very 21st-century way: via social media. "Oh gosh. I slid into his DMs on Instagram!" Gillan revealed on "Live with Kelly and Mark" (via People). "He popped up on my recommended friends list on Instagram. The algorithm is tearing the country apart, but it brought me together with my guy," she added. Gillan had already been following Kocher on Twitter, and began her message by complimenting him on his hilarious tweets — and the rest was history!

She has maintained a strong connection with Scotland

Ever since moving to the U.S., Karen Gillan has felt a little bit homesick. Her career forces her to split her time living between New York and L.A., but she's tried her best to bring some of Scotland over to the United States. For example, Gillan and Kocher's California cottage has plenty of Scottish charm. But it seems nothing compares to the real thing. Gillan dreams of one day moving back to her homeland and owning a property in the highlands.

In the meantime, Gillan has used her work to pay tribute to Scotland. She wrote, directed, and starred in "The Party's Just Beginning" as a love letter to the country. The movie, which marks her feature-length directorial debut, follows Gillan as Liusaidh, a young woman grieving the death of her friend by suicide. "That's actually typically Scottish, to go really dark with it but still have a sense of pride. It's funny, I think, we all possess this thing where we go like, 'Scotland's sh*t.' But also, we love it so much," she told Den of Geek, explaining her inspiration for the film's setting.

Gillan hopes to bag roles in two major franchises

Karen Gillan has scored a number of dream roles throughout her career, from playing Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to playing Groundskeeper Willie's Scottish love interest in "The Simpsons," which she said was a part she was "born to play," or at least voice, per Instagram. But Gillan has her sights set on a few more roles that would also be career highs.

Having already starred in the MCU, Gillan would be keen to join the DC Universe next. Of course, this wouldn't be too big a leap with her long-time collaborator, James Gunn, at the helm. In terms of the character she'd want to play, Gillan has her heart set on two villains. She'd love to portray a female version of the Joker in a "Batman" movie or Gotham City botanist-turned-rogue Poison Ivy.

Gillan has villainous ambitions for another major movie franchise, too. She hopes to one day land a part in a "James Bond" movie. "My dad used to tell me when I was younger, 'You don't want to be a Bond girl, you want to be a villain'. That stuck with me," Gillan told Interview Magazine.

But her dream is to be behind the camera, not in front of it

While Karen Gillan has a few more acting roles on her bucket list, her big career goal now is to spend more time behind the camera. "I just know that I want to direct. That's what I want to do with my life," she told The Guardian. Gillan said she feels a strong need to "tell your own story, rather than helping someone else tell theirs — which is what acting feels like."

Gillian is already making that dream a reality. After writing and directing her first three professional short films in 2015, Gillan proved her mettle with "The Party's Just Beginning." This led her to start working on another feature-length project, "Axe Wound." However, Gillan admitted to The Hollywood Reporter that she's taking her time to get it perfect. "I'm rewriting it now. I finished it, and then I thought, 'I don't like it.' So I am rewriting it now. This is very typical of me as a writer and filmmaker. I have been known to spend up to a year tinkering with the edit of a short film."