Karen Gillan: 'I got rejected for the local panto'


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Media caption“Never been more happy to be rejected from a film”

Film star Karen Gillan says she struggled to win roles in school plays and the local pantomime when she was a young girl in Inverness.

Gillan, who is now one of Scotland’s biggest movie stars, tells BBC Scotland’s The Edit she had to overcome many knockbacks while trying to break into acting.

“I got rejected from everything growing up,” the 32-year-old says.

This might be something of a surprise given she has rarely been far from cinema screens since her breakout role as Doctor Who companion Amy Pond about seven years ago.

She has appeared in the Marvel blockbusters Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, starred opposite Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks and provided voices for characters in a Will Smith and a Harrison Ford film.

Next year, she will be the lead character in an all-female assassin movie Gunpowder Milkshake also starring Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey and action movie actress Michelle Yeoh.

Before that, this Christmas sees her reprise her role as Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: The Next Level, the sequel to 2017’s hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Her fellow cast members include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and comedy actors Kevin Hart and Jack Black.

But Gillan said she struggled to win roles in her youth.

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Karen Gillan as Amy Pond in Doctor Who

“The local pantomime, I couldn’t get in,” she says.

“The school plays I couldn’t get in, and somehow I knew that it didn’t mean I couldn’t do this profession.”

She adds: “My drive wasn’t ‘I’m going to show them’, but ‘I know I can do this and you just can’t see it yet’.

“A lot of people might have been put off by those rejections, so that is why I think it is so important to have self-belief.”

Her perseverance paid off with her becoming a member of Inverness’ Eden Court Theatre’s youth dance company and senior youth theatre. She later studied acting and performance in Edinburgh and London.

She says her advice to young people wanting to break into acting would be to have self-belief, work hard and not let rejections end their dreams.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle represents one of Gillan’s biggest films to date. The movie made more than £730m worldwide.

Its popularity was evident on a trip home to Inverness.

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Gillan and her fellow Jumanji: The Next Level cast members

“I tried to go to see Jumanji but couldn’t get in because the cinema was full. I’ve never been more happy to be rejected from a film,” she says.

Gillan says among the reasons for the film’s success, and what she hopes will also help the sequel, is the chemistry among its cast.

She says: “It’s so much fun. It’s as much fun as you imagine it would be. Filming a scene there are tears in my eyes because I had just been laughing.”

For the sequel, Gillan was encouraged to do some of her own stunts which included being thrown from a bridge and fight scenes using nunchucks martial arts weapons.

“I’m covered in bruises because I had to learn how to use nunchucks. I kept hitting myself with them,” she says.

For Gillan, Christmas offers the chance of a break from her career, and injuring herself, as well as an opportunity to indulge in a Scottish delicacy.

“I’ll be eating everything under the sun including eating black pudding in the morning because I miss that,” she says, before adding: “And I am going to be working out – a lot – because of all the eating.”



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