Not that it has held her back at all – she’s as chirpy as ever, and clearly keen to crack on with her schedule. “I’m here because there’s lots of opportunities career-wise. There are parts in the UK too, but they’re mostly period dramas, and that’s just not my immediate casting.” It was a film that brought her to LA in the first place – Oculus, a frightener from the producers of Paranormal Activity. And before long, she was on location in Mobile, Alabama, a place she has compared to Scotland because “it felt quite rural and they fry everything”.As we talk, her phone goes off, then her Skype, and there are knocks at the door which a couple of publicists, who are listening in from the bathroom, pop out to answer. She was in her childhood home in Inverness, when her LA agents demanded that she submit an audition for the film within 24 hours. And when filming was over, she thought, “Why not stay?“It kind of kills it when you see the ghosts having lunch and stuff,” she says. “I was afraid to be alone in the dark after The Ring. Things we can’t perceive because our brains aren’t developed enough.” Not all brains are alike though. Someone’s looking out for her.” You might say someone was looking out for Gillan too, given how far she’s come, so quickly. Gillan is very sensible and hard working and avoids the temptations of Los Angeles. “So I went to Soul Cycle [a modish spinning class] to just listen to their voices, because it’s a really specific way of talking. ” Selfie was another deft piece of casting, because Gillan knows a bit about rebranding herself – she did it as a child in Inverness.Gillan’s mother, for instance, is something of a mystic. Even when the sun’s down, apparently, she’d sooner stay in. Remarkable though it seems now, given how effervescent Gillan is in person (even with a cold), she was very shy and withdrawn as a younger girl.She looks in fine fettle – her fiery hair in a pixie crop, still growing back from the time she had to shave it all off to play a cyborg super-villain in Guardians of the Galaxy.But she’s also fighting a cold, which is why she’s wrapped in a blanket and curled up in an armchair. The director, Mike Flanagan, was a huge Doctor Who fan (he even had a Tardis mug) and tailored the part for Gillan specifically.
For Gillan, of course, there was no such conundrum. The music is so loud, they turn the lights off, and then they shout positive things at you while you’re doing it. So she tries to rebrand herself, with the help of a marketing expert played by John Cho (Harold, from the Harold & Kumar films). “My character’s this real Kardashian-type girl,” she says.
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“She’ll be like, 'This dead relative is here in the room right now.’ Really casually, not scared at all.” But Gillan’s not spooked by her mother. “You can go to a lot of events if you choose to, I just never go,” she says. “Americans seem to go about it in a different way where they date loads of people at the same time. “I prefer the UK way, where we just drink near each other and no one knows if it’s a date or not.” That said, there are certain aspects of LA life that she has warmed to – the healthy stuff, mostly. “I was an only child, so I didn’t really learn how to interact with other people,” she says.
It’s not the paparazzi that put her off – “That barely happens here, compared to the UK.” She’s just not interested, not when there are scripts to read and television to catch up on. ’ ” Ask Gillan if she’s gone native, and you get a long “nooooo”. She only knows a handful of Angelenos – most of her friends are other expats; she’s even found a pal from Inverness. It’s probably a healthier way of finding someone, because you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. “I had a couple of friends in school, but that’s it.” She discovered in drama class that her shyness would evaporate on stage, so she decided that she would be an actress, and set about her goal with characteristic focus. There were a couple of years of staying up late, and drinking, but that was all out of her system by the time she was offered the chance to take an acting course in Edinburgh. We’re all fine without breathing training.” She decided to leave when she won a part on a Scottish detective show called Rebus – a small, eight-day shoot.