When I am first able to speak with Karen Gillan, it’s a little later than expected. We had been scheduled earlier that day to discuss her new action-comedy epic, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. However, a last minute and entirely understandable necessity had occurred: Ms. Gillan was needed back in Atlanta where filming is already underway for the still untitled Avengers: Infinity War sequel (or simply Avengers 4). Nebula needed to make sky tracks again.
Once able to connect, Gillan is cheerful and ready to discuss Jumanji in that familiar Scottish inflection. But as she had only just completed 2018’s upcoming third Avengers film—which is to feature the first crossover between Marvel Studios’ enormous stable of costumed do-gooders and Guardians of the Galaxy’s groovier misfits—one might wonder if she’ll be done shooting Avengers movies any time soon?
“No,” Gillan says with a decisive laugh. “Nebula is very much needed on-set tomorrow and for the rest of the year.” Indeed, Gillan goes on to add that directors Joe and Anthony Russo have been filming Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 back-to-back, and they have already prepared reshoots to continue well into 2018.
Says Gillan, “So this is the longest shoot in the world. It’s been going since January, and it goes right up until December. And then it goes into reshoots—like immediate, more additional photography—next year. So it’s like an ongoing thing, which is really cool, because it feels like a whole family now.” Gillan even compares it to her time on television’s own beloved sci-fi epic, Doctor Who. “There were a lot of crew members who were on Jumanji who’ve gone onto [Avengers]. So I’m just like, ‘Okay, this really is my next family.’”
It’s also probably a good time for someone like Nebula to have a family, considering that she is finally facing her greatest personal demon: an alien demigod who wishes to rain hellfire down upon everyone else. For at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gillan’s blue and cycloptic anti-heroine was off to confront her malevolent father Thanos (Josh Brolin), who also happens to be the main villain of at least Avengers: Infinity War. So it would seem likely that these Avengers sequels will finally give Nebula her big moment, right?
“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” Gillan demurs. “But I definitely think that all of what we’ve been building towards, with all the backstories between Nebula and Thanos, is definitely going to come to a head in the Avengers film, and she’s definitely going to confront all of those traumatic memories. I definitely think she is going to have her moment.”
It’s one that Nebula and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at-large have been long anticipating. It’s also one that has had an impact on Gillan, right down to preparing her for her role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In that new spiritual sequel to the 1995 original, Gillan plays a shy girl… trapped inside the body of a Lara Croft-inspired warrior woman. It’s a part that Gillan was very game for tackling, and which Marvel inadvertently prepared her for.
“I’ve done quite a lot of stunt work before,” Gillan says of prepping for Jumanji. “I sort of trained up through the Marvel system on that. And so when it came to this, I was like, ‘I can do this,’ but I was not ready for the amount of fighting that I had to do. I mean it was just hard work. There was one particular fight scene in the movie that is so long, and I had to do the whole thing in one-take. You wouldn’t know it’s one-take from the way it’s edited, but we definitely shot the whole thing in a oner at one point.”
The fruit of all that work, and its fisticuff payoff, will only be fully experienced when Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle opens on Dec. 20. But this month’s special edition of Den of Geek Magazine does include our complete preview of the film, and our discussion with Gillan, as well as Jumanji director Jake Kasdan.
As for the Avengers movies? The first one is not even out until May 4, 2018. However, everyone has already learned the very good reason Gillan was needed on-set the next day: In full Nebula regalia, she took part in the cast and crew’s encouragement to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief. You can watch the video, and discover how to donate, below.