‘Doctor Who’: Karen Gillan on Amy Pond’s past and future

Dec. 14, 2011 | 11:40 a.m.
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Karen Gillan plays Amelia "Amy" Pond in "Doctor Who," the traveling companion and best friend to Matt Smith's eleventh Doctor. (BBC)

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Matt Smith, left, plays the Doctor, a two-hearted alien who defends the Earth while traveling in space and time. Karen Gillan, right, plays his traveling companion, Amy Pond. (BBC)

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Alex Kingston, left, portrays The Doctor's lover River Song in the Series 6 premiere episode, "The Impossible Astronaut." Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill play The Doctor's best friends and traveling companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. (BBC)

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Amy Pond spends some time on this side of the pond in the Series 6 premiere episode, "The Impossible Astronaut." (BBC)

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Amy Pond faces a haunting new "Doctor Who" villian -- the Silence -- in "Day of the Moon." (BBC)

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A behind-the-scenes glimpse of Karen Gillan in action, filming the episode "Day of the Moon" in Utah. (BBC)

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Rory, Amy and The Doctor find themselves aboard a pirate ship in the episode "The Curse of the Black Spot." (BBC)

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Karen Gillan wields pirate garb and sword in the episode "The Curse of the Black Spot." (BBC)

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Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) in "The Doctor's Wife." (BBC)

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Eleanor (Annabel Cleare), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Jimmy (Mark Bonnar), Dicken (Leon Vickers) and Buzzer (Marshall Lancaster) in "The Almost People." (BBC)

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Episode 6: Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) try to sort out who is a "ganger" and who was born human in "The Almost People." (BBC)

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Amy and Rory discover River Song's true identity in the episode "A Good Man Goes to War." (BBC)

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Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), The Doctor (Matt Smith), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) in "Let's Kill Hitler." (BBC)

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"Doctor Who" actors Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan arrive at the New York premiere of the show's sixth season. (BBC America / Nialla Photos)

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"Doctor Who" executive producers Piers Wenger, left, and Beth Willis, actor Arthur Darvill (who plays Rory Williams), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), president of BBC Worldwide America Herb Scannell, writer Steven Moffat, the eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, who portrays River Song. (BBC America / Nialla Photos)

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Writer Toby Whithouse and actors Karen Gillan and Matt Smith speak during the "Doctor Who" panel during Comic-Con 2011 on July 24 in San Diego, Calif. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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Matt Smith, left, and Karen Gillan arrive at a store in London to sign copies of the sixth series of "Doctor Who" on Nov. 21, 2011. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

Even after the October finale of the nail-biting sixth season of “Doctor Who,” there’s been plenty of suspense for Whovians — they’ve been counting down the days until the Christmas special, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”; keeping track of the “Doctor Who” feature film speculation; celebrating TARDIS Day; and reveling in the recovery of long-lost classic “Who” episodes. The most recent season also hit store shelves last month in a new fancy boxed set. To look back at what some fans consider the most enthralling season in the show’s 48-year history, Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark caught up with Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond, the traveling companion of Matt Smith’s Doctor. Click through the gallery above to look back at Amy Pond’s adventures this season, and read her interview below. But if you’re not caught up, beware spoilers below.

NC: Series 6 has been quite different in tone from previous seasons.

KG: I think so. I think that the stakes were upped this time ’round. Everything got a little bit more dangerous, and everything got a little bit more funny and a little bit dark at the same time. So there’s kind of light and shade to it, so it’s not all serious, you know. I just think it’s been the best so far, I really do.

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The Doctor, played by Matt Smith, faces a Silent. (BBC)

NC: It’s been a lot scarier. The Silence are terrifying villains.

KG: They are absolutely hideous physically. I find them repulsive. Yeah, I think it’s gotten a lot scarier. People are worried that it’s gotten too scary for kids, but I really think that kids love being scared. I loved being scared when I was a kid. The thrill of it, it’s like going on a roller coaster.

NC: This season has also brought a lot of big reveals and changes. How much did you know along the way? There were so many surprises for the fans.

KG: Well, it’s exactly the same for us. Basically Steven Moffat tells us what we need to know, but we are finding out things as we read the scripts. Like, I did not know that River Song was Amy and Rory’s daughter until we got the script for that episode. Because if I’d known that, it probably would have changed the way we interacted with one another, River and Amy. So it’s kind of good that I didn’t know that. And it’s kind of cool because you get the surprise element.

NC: How did your interaction change once you found out?

KG: That kind of changed the dynamic a lot. But I remember Steven Moffat always saying to me, “Amy is never jealous of River and her interaction with the Doctor.” Because in the earlier episodes, in the previous season, it could quite easily have been played that Amy was a little bit miffed that the Doctor seemed to have more of a relationship with this other woman. But we made the decision that Amy wasn’t the jealous type, and that she would never be like that towards River. And now I understand why he said that to me, because actually, the whole time, she had this connection with her, such a strong connection. … Which Alex Kingston knew the whole time, by the way, which is really cool in terms of the characters, that we knew exactly what the characters knew, which is what Steven Moffat does so well. He has us keeping secrets from one another. So we then just kind of decided to play around with that a little bit. And let some of that maternal instinct come through in the performance. And she sort of had a child-like quality around me. It was fun.

NC: You really see it in that wonderful scene in the season finale when River and Amy are drinking wine on the patio and talking.

KG: That’s one of my favorite scenes of all time to film. Just because it’s beautiful. It’s this mother and daughter, sharing the love for this man.

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Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) discover the true identity of River Song (Alex Kingston) in the episode "A Good Man Goes to War." (BBC)

NC: And then there’s also Amy’s relationship with Rory, Arthur Darvill’s character.

KG: Oh, I love that relationship so much because it’s developed so much throughout the last two seasons. If we remember back to “The Eleventh Hour,” the very first episode, Amy was so reluctant to commit to this man. Like he would say he was her boyfriend, and she’d say, “kind-of boyfriend.” And then Amy runs away on the night before her wedding because she doesn’t want to commit. And on the night before she’s, you know, supposed to grow up, she decides to run away like a child. And then Rory kind of proves himself through a series of heroic events. And they just kind of…  it’s like not knowing what you have until it’s gone. And I guess with being faced with the prospect of Rory being gone, Amy’s realized how much she cares about him, and finally marries him, and now they have a child. It’s developed so much.

NC: And what a strange family tree it is.

KG: I know! How do you even put that on paper as a family tree? I don’t know.

NC: And to have grown up with their daughter without knowing it.

KG: I know! Isn’t that brilliant? You named your daughter after your daughter.

NC: So what about next season. Will we see the family dynamic change?

KG: I have no idea. I have not read a single word of the next season. I know I am coming back, but that’s all I know, to be honest.

NC: Will we see you in the Christmas special?

KG: Yes, I’m making a brief cameo appearance with Arthur Darvill in the Christmas special. Steven Moffat says it’s not Christmas without the Ponds, which is lovely.

NC: I love that it’s the Ponds, and not the Williams. That’s too funny.

KG: I know, right?

NC: Amy’s had quite a season. We’ve seen her as a robot, a model, an older version of herself. What’s it been like to play so many aspects of her character?

KG: It’s just so amazing to have the opportunity as an actor to play around with the character in so many different ways. And that’s what Steven Moffat gives me. And that’s why I’m just so grateful for his writing. Because he oversees all the scripts, even the ones he hasn’t written, and makes little suggestions and puts little bits in. And I’ve just been really lucky to receive so many opportunities like that.

NC: Which has been your favorite?

KG: Being aged up in “The Girl Who Waited.” That was really fun for me because that was just kind of like playing a different character, but the same. That was a real highlight for me. And it was a lot of hard work in terms of coming in hours early and leaving hours late to get into the prosthetics. But it was just so worth it because we got to see a lot more of her, the character, and also a lot more of Rory’s character in the episode, and their relationship. And I think there was a lot to be explored in that.

NC: It must have been so strange to see yourself in the mirror during that episode.

KG: Oh yeah. It was one of the weirdest experiences in my life. It was horrible, actually, because I realized that I don’t age well at all. And my parents found it so strange, because they were like, “You should never see your child that age.” It’s kind of almost like the wrong way around.

NC: At Comic-Con, several “Doctor Who” folks mentioned that Matt’s personality is very similar to the Doctor’s. Do you find that you are similar to Amy?

KG: I actually really feel like I’m playing a character when I play Amy. I’m not anywhere near as sort of sassy and confident as she is. At all. That’s not me at all. I wish it was, though. But obviously there are bits of me in there, but it’s probably … bits that are a bit odder.

NC: Like what?

KG: I don’t know. Steven Moffat described it as like a kookiness that I didn’t see that I was doing until he actually said that. Which I quite like, though, for the character, because she’s supposed to be a little bit strange because she hasn’t had the most normal of childhoods. Basically I see her as this really vulnerable person, which is probably closer to myself, but then she’s covering it with this feisty, sassy act.

NC: Were you nervous coming into this role after Catherine Tate and Billie Piper and the other women who have played the Doctor’s companion?

KG: I really admire what everyone else has done with it. I never thought that I would ever get the chance to have a go at it. But in all honesty, I didn’t feel any of the pressure that I probably should have felt. In retrospect, I’m thinking, “What happened?” But I was really kind of OK with it because I don’t really like to approach things with worrying about them or thinking about the negative side of anything. So it’s kind of nice to just enjoy something amazing.

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"Doctor Who" star Karen Gillan. (BBC)

NC: And now you’ve become an icon in your own right. Amy Pond is such a popular costume for Halloween and Comic-Con.

KG: Oh my God, a Halloween costume. I didn’t even get dressed up for Halloween this year. But I love going to conventions because you get to spend a day with people who are really enthusiastic about the show you work on. It’s brilliant. It’s tiring, but I could never complain about it. And we got to go to Comic-Con in San Diego, which I never thought would ever happen. I think it’s incredible.

NC: What’s the craziest experience you’ve had with a fan?

KG: Walking down the street in Comic-Con in San Diego with Matt. And then just running into the Doctor and Amy was really strange, ’cause we all stared at each other for a second, like “Whaaaat is thiiis?” and this was just on the street. It was just the weirdest thing. It was so strange. What else has happened? There was a woman in New York who proposed to me dressed as David Tennant. That was quite strange. It’s something to tell the grandkids.

NC: It seems like “Doctor Who” has crossed the pond. Why do you think “Doctor Who” has gone from being a cult obsession to a more widely popular show in the U.S. over the last two years or so?

KG: I have no idea why it’s suddenly getting such a following around the world. I don’t know. Obviously the head writer has changed. And it’s a really universal show. Anyone can watch it and enjoy it. In terms of the actors being different, it’s kind of hard to see it when you’re in it. I really wouldn’t know, but I’m glad that they do. I think anyone can watch it. I hope that we’re portraying it well enough.

NC: What’s next for you? I hear you have some movies lined up.

KG: I can’t really talk about any of the projects coming up as such, but right now I’m actually doing a play on the West End in London at the Donmar Warehouse, and it’s called “Inadmissible Evidence.” I’m actually in the theater as we speak. And that’s so much fun because it’s my very first play, and it’s an amazing play to be involved in, and we’ve got loads of amazing people working on it. So that’s really fun. And I have a one-off film for BBC Four being shown in January. I think it’s going to be shown on the channel Ovation over there.

NC: Oh, is that the Jean Shrimpton film? You’re going to be playing the supermodel?

KG: Yeah. I know! I really didn’t think that would happen. When I got offered that, I was like, “Really?” She’s actually watched it, and she loved it. That’s all I wanted from that role. That’s enough for me, that she was happy with what she did with it.

NC: At 23, you basically have your whole career ahead of you. Is there anything you haven’t done that you’d really love to take on?

KG: I want to do more theater. I want to do more stage. I have a real passion for it. I want to do it as much as screen stuff, in all honesty, so that would be really amazing. Maybe something on Broadway. I’d love to do that. Not a musical, maybe like a play on Broadway. I genuinely just want to do good work. I’m interested in character, whether that’s in a play or a film or an indie film.

— Noelene Clark


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3 Responses to ‘Doctor Who’: Karen Gillan on Amy Pond’s past and future

  1. Steve says:

    Karen is terrific! And I'm not saying that just because she's a gorgeous redhead…

  2. Matt says:

    If Moffat is adamant in getting rid of Karen Gillan, Emma Watson would be the preferred successor. I would still prefer Gillan, nonetheless.

  3. Iceni says:

    I think it is time that Amy Pond and Rory left the show I am so fed up with them. I thik the first two seasons were good with them but after that it was too much as it seemed more about them than the Doctor.
    Speaking of the Doctor I still miss David Tennent playing the part I think along with Tom Baker he was the best he also had the better companions.

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