An actress and former model, Karen Gillan was born in Inverness, Scotland, on November 28, 1987. She loved acting early on and worked in several youth theater groups. She moved to London at age 18 to study at drama school. Gillan was scouted by a modeling agency before working as an actress. Her casting as the Doctor's companion, Amy Pond, on the longtime hit U.K. sci-fi TV program Doctor Who was a career breakthrough.
Born on November 28, 1987, in Inverness, Scotland, Karen Sheila Gillan (sometimes called Kaz) forged an early attachment to acting. An only child to father Raymond and mother Marie, Gillan learned to play the piano at age 7 and loved to perform. After taking part in productions at Charleston Academy, Gillan pursued acting at Edinburgh's Telford College and at Performing Arts Studio Scotland, studying under renowned theater director Scott Johnston. She later moved to London, at age 18, to study drama at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.
Because of her height (5'11"), looks and distinctive red hair, Gillan was recruited by a modeling agency prior to becoming a working actress. (She would later play the part of 1960s British supermodel Jean Shrimpton in the BBC film We'll Take Manhattan (2012), which examined the icon's relationship with fashion photographer David Bailey.) Although she enjoyed runway shows and photo shoots, Gillan was always keen on furthering her acting career.
Gillan's early roles came in television, including the sketch comedy The Kevin Bishop Show and The Well, a series of episodic short horror films for the BBC. Her first stage appearance was in the John Osborne play Inadmissible Evidence, which debuted at London's venerable Donmar Warehouse in October 2011. She will also be featured in the independent comedic film Not Another Happy Ending, directed by John McKay.
In May 2009, Gillan was cast in the coveted role of Amy Pond, the Doctor's companion, in the long-running hit British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. The role was a major breakthrough for the actress, taking her recognition factor to the next level. She and actor Matt Smith, who played the time-traveling doctor, quickly became British television's hottest couple. The two (who, they claim, were never romantically linked) achieved superstardom and were mobbed by fans in several locations around the world.
"When I arrived at the BBC for my first audition for Amy Pond, I wasn't even allowed to say I was there for Doctor Who," Gillan told the U.K.'s Daily Mail. "I had to pretend it was for something called 'Panic Moon,' which is an anagram of 'companion.'" The chemistry between the two actors was a key to their enormous popularity. Gillan played Amy Pond from 2010 to 2013.
After moving on from Doctor Who, Gillan tried her hand at television once more — this time on the American side — starring as the lead role in ABC's Selfie in 2014. But the series never caught on and was canceled after one season.
However, Gillan kept busy appearing in an array of films: Not Another Happy Ending (2013), the horror film Oculus (2013), and the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). She also has plans to be part of its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is set to premiere in 2017.
In July 2016 Deadline announced the actress was signed on to play the lead role in the upcoming indie drama, All Creatures Here Below. She will also appear in the sci-fi drama, The Circle, starring opposite Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.
Gillan is an avid piano player and loves to shop for vintage clothing. As a model, she worked to promote the global Fashion Targets Breast Cancer charity initiative.
She currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
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