“We had the team from Mission: Impossible [stunt coordinator, second unit director Wade Eastwood] come on to the movie,” Gillan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m not sure I was quite Tom Cruise level, but I did the whole nunchuck fight for sure. I had nunchucks on me on set every day so that I could practice in between other scenes. I’m pretty sure a few people got hurt in my practicing process. (Laughs.) I did the whole thing by the end.”
Eight months removed from her significant role as Nebula in the biggest film of all time, Avengers: Endgame, Gillan is finally able to open up about the experience of working closely with Robert Downey Jr. as well as the complicated process of playing two different Nebulas. Despite cutting her teeth on the beloved time travel series Doctor Who, even Gillan needed a primer for Endgame’s time travel shenanigans, noting it was confounding, especially since she didn’t have the full script.
“The way we differentiated them was by calling them ‘good Nebula’ and ‘bad Nebula,’” Gillan recalls. “I had a lot of time travel questions coming from a time travel background. The directors really kept me on track. I just found out whatever I needed to know for each scene.”
She also reveals who prevailed in an early scene in which Nebula and Downey’s Tony Stark play paper football.
“Well, I think it was me because that scene was improvised. And I won,” Gillan says with a laugh.
In a recent conversation with THR, Gillan also discusses the latest on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Marvel’s What If…? and how Nebula’s makeup and prosthetics inform her performance.
Since the avatars wore the same wardrobe for the entirety of the first movie and half of the second movie, were you and the rest of the cast thrilled to finally change your avatars’ wardrobe?
I certainly was because we went into some very cold conditions, and I was like, “I’m not going to be wearing that in the cold conditions, am I?” And they were like, “No, we’re going to get you a whole new outfit.” I think everyone was excited to change it up a little bit and evolve the look of the characters.
Growing up, when you envisioned your career, was being an action star remotely part of the plan?
(Laughs.) Not at all. That sounds so absurd even hearing you say that. No, I grew up in Scotland in the middle of nowhere, studying Greek tragedy. (Laughs.) I aimed for stage, film and television, but even that sounded crazy and far-fetched. Never did I imagine that I would be learning how to use nunchucks.
Your American accent seems pretty dialed in at this point. Do you still need a dialect coach, or do you have it down by now?
For general American, I don’t use a dialect coach anymore, but it depends on where the character is from. If it’s anything except general American, I will still use a dialect coach, and I really like doing that. Sometimes, it’s not even about the accent. It’ll just be: what period are we in, or what is the intonation or rhythm. So, I still like to work on that, but for the general American, modern-day girl, I don’t do that anymore.
It’s well established how good you are at impressions. So, as I was watching the film, I kept wondering what your Danny DeVito or Danny Glover would be like. Did you give director Jake Kasdan a little bit of a hard time about this?
I was a little jealous that I didn’t get to play around… I was and I wasn’t because I do love my character — and I do feel like I’m playing a character. I’m getting to put on an accent and play a teenager. She’s evolved so much from the last film; I did feel like it was something new for me because she was so shy in the last film. She started to access her confidence, but in this film, she has to become the leader of the whole team, essentially. She steps into the Spencer role a little. That was enough of an evolution to keep me satisfied as an actor. So, I was really excited to dive into all of that.
Did you at least do your own versions of DeVito and Glover in between takes?
(Laughs.) I didn’t, but I’ve been doing it a lot on this press tour. I don’t know why.
In the Jumanji berry scene with you and Jack (Black), Martha and Fridge briefly switch avatars. Did you enjoy playing someone different as fleeting as it was?
Yes, that was so much fun. I was so glad that I did get to play around with the character switching a little bit. I can safely say that’s the one and only time I’ll ever get cast as that type of role. (Laughs.) So, I relished the opportunity.