Sometimes, when an actor gets involved with a massive franchise (or indeed several) it overshadows a ton of their other great performances. While it may be the massive project that makes them a star, it can also make discussion of the rest of their career less robust and less interesting.
Karen Gillan attained massive popularity early in her career, securing the role of Amy Pond, one of the most beloved characters in the pop-culture empire that is Doctor Who. Already a massive hit amongst the nerd audience, Gillan joined the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy as Nebula. She continues to appear in these massive blockbusters while also starring in huge titles like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but her career has gone far weirder and more interesting places over the years.
Navot Papushado co-wrote and directed this colorful shoot ’em up action film, which mixes a John Wick feature and the modern answer to an old-school Jackie Chan vehicle. Gillan takes the lead here, playing a skilled assassin who finds herself protecting a young girl from an army of trained killers. To survive, she must recruit her estranged mother and her former coworkers to take on the impossible odds.
Sam comes across as the effortlessly cool contract killer around 10% of the time. The excellent aspect of Gillan’s performance is the degree to which she still seems human. Sam is trying extremely hard to maintain that John Wick air, and when things go wrong, she’s a stellar comedic presence on top of the well-produced action. Gunpowder Milkshake was a mixed bag, but the cast was the only aspect of the film that received near-universal praise. Gillan is an excellent action star, even with relatively spare material.
The Greek tragedy of Emily Kapnek’s 2014 sitcom Selfie is largely shallow, but buried within the tale is a great performance by Karen Gillan. The show’s awful title preceded an extremely unfortunate show. Critics hated it, and it was canceled halfway through its only season, but fan outcry led to the remaining seven episodes dropping on Hulu. Critics came around and called it excellent by the time of that second half’s release, but it was far too late.
Once people finally got around to this troubled show, Gillan’s performance was venerated. The story is a bare-bones retelling of My Fair Lady complete with jokes about Instagram, but Gillan was stellar in the leading role. Eliza is a self-obsessed sales rep who hires an image consultant to convince people to like her, leading to a tempestuous romance and many sitcom hijinks. Gillan has excellent chemistry alongside co-star John Cho and brilliant comic chops in the role.
Karen Gillan’s first big American film is also one of the big early hits for horror guru Mike Flanagan. Gillan stars as Kaylie, a woman convinced that an ancient mirror in her home is cursed and responsible for a tragedy that befell her family.
The film, like much of Flanagan’s output, is more concerned with the horror of the human condition than jump scares or piles of gore. Much of the weight is on Gillan’s shoulder for this production. Her character has dedicated her life to proving an impossible hypothesis, and it’s slowly driving her mad. Gillan excels in this character-driven horror film, and keeps the audience emotionally invested in the gripping and tragic story.
Gillan is something of a movie star these days, but she is just as solid in smaller roles and smaller projects. This Adult Swim parody of omnipresent police procedurals and overblown Hollywood action schlock is packed with countless excellent comedic performers. Created by comedian and actor Paul Scheer, National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle was a hilarious season that never really got its day in the sun. Gillan only joined the show in the third and final season, but she arrived with a bang. She portrayed Daisy, the “Gadget Girl”, a hilarious cross between James Bond’s Q and a mad scientist.
The series is built around parody, so the performers are constantly taking the story extremely seriously. Gillan is hilarious in the role, unblinkingly proclaiming her robotic bodyguard a success despite its clear unwillingness to follow orders and obvious sapience. There is frankly not enough of Karen Gillan in this show, but what’s there is very funny.
This moving and emotionally ruinous dramedy stars Karen Gillan in its leading role, who also wrote and directed the piece. This is a deeply personal film, touching on extremely unpleasant topics with unflinching honesty and bracing sincerity.
Not enough people have seen Gillan’s feature directorial debut. She’s obviously stellar in the role, but the script is also razor-sharp, and the directorial vision is groundbreaking. If fans need one tight display of Karen Gillan’s talents on the screen, there’s no better crash course than The Party’s Just Beginning.
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About The Author
Joshua Kristian McCoy (391 Articles Published)
Joshua is a lifelong film buff, D&D enthusiast, tournament winning Smash Bros. player and extremely passionate writer. He also has a BS in Psychology.