Even traveling with the Doctor couldn’t help Karen Gillan avoid the fallout from the volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.
Stranded in the United States at the tail end of a BBC America publicity tour, Gillan – who plays the Doctor’s companion Amy Pond opposite Matt Smith – is anxious to get home to family and friends in the U.K., but told SpinOff Online there are far worse places to be marooned than Beverly Hills.
Especially when you consider that she and Smith are the toast of the town after last weekend’s Doctor Who season premiere proved to be the highest-rated telecast in the history of BBC America, delivering 1.2 million viewers in live and same-day audiences.
When SpinOff Online spoke with the Scottish model-turned-actor, Gillan shared her thoughts on her relationship with Smith off-screen, Amy’s relationship with the Doctor on-screen, how short is too short when it comes to miniskirts and how long is too long for fans to wait in line to watch a sneak preview of Doctor Who.
SpinOff Online: Are you enjoying your publicity tour here in the United States?
Karen Gillan: Yes, I am. This is so exciting. It’s fantastic here. And we were in New York, as well, which was very exciting but we’re actually kind of stranded here because of the volcano that erupted in Iceland, so I’m sort of just making the most of being stranded in Beverly Hills.
I guess there are worse places to be stranded.
You obviously knew that the new series would be closely followed back home in the U.K., but did you have any idea that the Doctor and his new companion would be so well received here in the U.S.?
I’m completely flabbergasted. I mean, none of us, none of us, expected anything on this level. It’s been so amazing because it’s so massive over in the U.K. — it’s an institution. And you’re quite aware of how your life will change in terms of that in the U.K. and then we came over here to promote it and we had no idea that there was such a following over here. We did some screenings in New York and they were the most incredible experiences. We did this one screening in the East Village. And it was kind of first come, first serve for fans of the show and people were queuing up from half-six in the morning and camping out overnight. … It was like, “Whoa.” It was just an amazing experience because they were just the best audience. They really were.
Were you a fan of the show growing up in Inverness?
No, actually because it wasn’t on television when I was growing up. So, no, I didn’t watch it as a kid. And then it came back in 2005 and my mum is a massive fan, so I have seen quite a lot of it through her. But I was never a proper follower of the show.
But you were obviously well aware of what you were getting into?
Yeah, it’s hard not to be. It’s kind of the #1 show over there.
Was your mum a big Sylvester McCoy fan because he is Scottish?
[Laughs] No. She’s more of a fan of it since it came back in 2005. And David Tennant is Scottish so she rather liked him.
I read that when you auditioned, you read for the part both with an English accent and your own accent. Are you happy that the producers went with your natural accent?
Yes, I am, because I’m from Inverness in the Highlands. And it’s not an accent that you hear on television very often. So I quite like the idea of having that accent on the show.
You and Matt have terrific chemistry on screen. And when I spoke to him he said you get along fantastically off-screen, as well. Do you concur?
It’s been so much fun, and I’m just so glad that I’m going through this time with him. It’s really nice to be sharing this incredible experience. And we have someone there — in each other — that can understand what it’s like. So I’m quite glad that I’m coming into it with a new Doctor at the same time rather than kind of coming into it when there is an already established Doctor. So that’s really exciting. And we just have so much fun. We genuinely do.
Amy Pond had such a great introduction in the first episode. First meeting the Doctor as a young girl and then meeting him again years later when he thinks only minutes have passed. When you first read the script and saw how the relationship was established, were you pretty excited?
Yes, I was so excited. When I first read it, it really tugs on your heartstrings — the fact that this little girl waited and waited, and I just thought, “This is beautiful.” It’s just like a little fairy tale but a really sad one. And then obviously, that just gives me so much scope as an actress to play Amy when we meet her when she’s older. Because she’s not a happy lady so she’s quite cynical and skeptical of the Doctor. I just thought it was really gorgeous and then also it kind of gives the audience a chance to see the vulnerability in her — well we know it’s there even though she has quite a hardened exterior.
Amy, I guess you would say, was in love with the Doctor — or at least infatuated with him — for most of her formative years. And while she is maybe not a ‘happy lady’ when he returns she does leave with him on the eve of her wedding. Might we see more of that side of the relationship explored throughout the series?
Hmm … It may well be. I’ll try not to give anything away [laughs]. But no, that was something that Matt and I were both very aware of how important that connection is between these two people — and it’s kind of the heart of the show. And we’ve just been working on that and developing it, more and more every day. And we’ll see some situations where you sort of really realize how much these two actually feel towards each other. But yeah, there is a lot to be explored in that.
And lots for fans to speculate on and chat about online in the forums.
It’s fun, it’s fun. And I don’t think people will be disappointed.
A lot has been made of Amy’s kissogram job and her wardrobe, specifically the length of her skirts. Does that faze you at all or is that just something that comes with the territory?
[Laughs] I don’t know. It’s just what she wears. It’s sort of perfectly kind of acceptable because it’s part of the plot — her job title suggests that she wouldn’t be wearing a traditional woman’s outfit. And so there is a reason for that and it’s not completely unnecessary. And also, when choosing those outfits, we just sort of went with something that seemed to suit her because she’s quite confident and would wear stuff like that.
I think it probably looks a bit more heightened onscreen than it does in real life because if you walked down the street I think you would see a lot of girls wearing a lot less than that and it’s sort of normal.
When I spoke with Matt, I asked him if there was going to be legion of young men in the U.K. wearing bow ties because of his costume choice. Do you think Amy’s look will prove to be an inspiration for young ladies’ fashion in the months and years ahead?
Oooh. I don’t know. Maybe. And you should know, Amy’s look does develop throughout the series, and by the end of it, it’s very different. It’s a lot more mature because we wanted to start with something that was quite young and fun — with some of the skirts and things like that. But by the end of it, she’s very different. So there is a nice arc to it.
Again, I know you can’t spoil too much just yet, but we have already seen that a crack in the wall of her bedroom — a crack in time and space — has followed Amy onto the TARDIS. Is it safe to say that Amy may be more important to the overall plot of this series versus your typical companion who is just along for an adventure with the Doctor?
Absolutely. I mean she is absolutely pivotal to the whole storyline of the series. So that’s exciting. And we’re given little clues throughout each episode, so you have to watch each episode a few times, I think, to pick everything up. And you start to realize more and more just how important she is throughout the series. So it’s really interesting.
The Christmas special isn’t filming until July. Will you be working on any other projects during the hiatus?
No. I don’t think so. I’m kind of meeting people at the moment but there is nothing confirmed. Nothing concrete. But there is still a lot to do in terms of promotion for Doctor Who, so I think that’s going to keep me busy.
And will we see more of Amy Pond in the next series in 2011?
Ah, you’ll have to wait and see [laughs]. I don’t want to give anything away.
OK, but you seem like you’re having good fun with all this. Would you gladly come back, if they ask you?
Absolutely. I’d be there in a shot.
Doctor Who airs Saturday, April 24, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America. For more on the international hit, visit the BBC America website.