Sunday, 28 March 2010

Life in the Day: Karen Gillan. The 22-year-old, who is the Time Lord’s new companion, on Elvis, poached eggs and ‘alien things’

My first thought on waking up is always, “Have I slept through my alarm?” On a normal day it goes off at 6am. It’s pretty hideous. Wayne, my driver, is at my door ready to pick me up at 6.30, so it’s a bit of a mad rush — shower, dress, go. If I’m late out the door, he’ll call me, saying: “Where are you? Get up!” From my flat in Cardiff it’s a 25-minute drive to the studio, then straight into my trailer. It’s big and quite extravagant, with a bathroom, shower and lounge area. It’s incredibly nice. I’m used to tiny trailers you have to share with other actors.

Breakfast is on set — usually bran flakes, maybe with a banana, although on Fridays I treat myself to poached eggs on toast. After that it’s make-up for an hour, a couple of rehearsals, then we’re filming. Once you get down to work, it’s like a military operation. We work an 11-day fortnight, for just over nine months — it’s like a pregnancy.

Before I got the part of Amy, I’d seen Doctor Who but I wasn’t really a follower of the show. My mum is obsessed with it — and she was blown away when I got it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted about taking the role on. The show’s got so many fans who feel quite protective over it. Every time I pick up a script I’m like: “Oh my God, how am I going to do that?” Amy’s a human girl who’s experiencing the most mind-blowing alien things. There’s always a moment when you think: “This is going to take some serious acting to make it truthful.”

According to my dad, when I was little I pointed at some programme on the TV and said: “I wanna do that!” But I don’t believe him — I think that’s one of those stories parents make up. My dad’s really into music, so growing up I was subjected to his singing and became a fan of people like Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis. From there I got interested in the arts and started attending singing and drama classes in Inverness, where I grew up. I don’t have brothers and sisters, so when my parents bought me a video camera, I’d force my friends to make weird horror films. But I was never an attention-seeking kid. I was painfully shy. I still have really bad stage fright.

At 16 I auditioned for Rada, even though you’re not meant to if you’re under 18. It didn’t go well, but Italia Conti offered me a place soon after.

My recall for the part of Amy at BBC Television Centre was the scariest experience of my life. You’re trying not to want the part — you know it’s going to be too heartbreaking if you don’t get it. I remember being really cold but sweating, walking down this corridor to the audition room, thinking: “I’m walking to my doom.” Matt [Smith, the new Doctor] and I had to read together and we seemed to combust at the same time. When my agent called, there wasn’t even a discussion of whether I wanted it, just “You got it!” and then lots of screaming.

It feels incredibly normal to be on the Tardis now. It sort of feels like home, because we’re in there so much. Matt has worked out what every single little twiddly bit on the console does and explains it to me, although I can never remember.

Lunch is 1 o’clock for an hour, so it’s straight to the catering truck to get some sort of meat and potatoes, then I fill my plate with salad. I don’t take my phone on set, but in any spare time I make phone calls, family first, then friends, then I text everyone I’ve forgotten to reply to.

I’ve got a membership to a gym near my house, but I’ve only been twice, so I’m now trying to go on my days off. I hate it, but I like sitting in Jacuzzis, so it’s a compromise. I’m more of a shopper. I’m scouting the vintage shops all the time. I never really buy expensive items — I’ve got so many cheap clothes falling out of my wardrobe and I just keep buying more. I live on my own, so I can be messy. My Chanel bag is my one extravagant buy. I went to treat myself when I got the part, but she doesn’t come out much. I keep her locked away in case I lose her.

Dinner is a sandwich and a packet of crisps from Tesco. Matt and I do this nearly every day. He always has egg and cress and I go for deep-filled ham, cheese and pickle. He gets recognised everywhere he goes, but I’m pretty anonymous at the moment. People have started sending me pictures of myself, though. It’s quite weird when you open a letter and see your face.

Seven o’clock is usually when we wrap. When I get home I watch Friends because nothing much else is on at that time, then set about learning my lines for tomorrow. It’s not just normal lines either, it’s all this scientific lingo, which is kind of gibberish, so it’s quite hard. These days I can’t remember obvious things like people’s names, because my brain is filled with lines.

At the moment I’m reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, but I haven’t got very far. Someone told me you remember things better if you go over them just before you sleep. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s stuck with me. I give my lines a last read-through, then I’m asleep.

The new series of Doctor Who begins next weekend on BBC1


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