Standing almost six feet tall with flaming red hair and an obvious passion for vintage clothes, Scottish actress Karen Gillan brings style to sci-fi every Saturday night on BBC America’s Doctor Who. Gillan plays the feisty Amy Pond, co-star and companion to a 900 year-old alien Time Lord named the Doctor, flying together through space and time in a blue box called the TARDIS. On screen, her character is usually seen in short skirts and boots that accent her long legs, while also trying a new shade of nail polish on her tips each episode. "I felt quite strongly that she should have different colored nails all the time, because it was something I felt that the audience could relate to," says Karen. "Just don’t do your nails through a time vortex."
In her life outside of the TARDIS, Gillan was recently seen as iconic model Jean Shrimpton in the BBC television movie We’ll Take Manhattan, a role perfectly suited for the ginger beauty with a ’60s sense of style, who was named Scotland’s Fashion Icon of the year. Karen talks to Lucky about her suitcase full of fashion essentials, the character she’d most like to cosplay (that’s short for costume play, non-geeks!) at Comic Con, and which of the 11 incarnations of the Doctor truly has the best style.
You can catch Series 7 of Doctor Who on Saturdays at 9pm ET on BBC America.
Lucky: On Doctor Who, do you have any say when it comes to your character Amy Pond’s style?
Karen Gillan: Oh, yeah! A lot of say, because it’s really important that the character looks right and feels right in the outfit, and it really can just help you get into character if you get the outfits right. We went through so many different looks—it was actually a really difficult process at the beginning to establish what she should look like. And then we all landed on something we were really happy with, which was this feisty look: short skirts, because she’s confident in that way, and still slightly girl-next-door. My favorite thing Amy’s worn is probably the police outfit. [Laughs]
What’s it like going to conventions and seeing girls dressed up as Amy Pond?
That’s always a weird experience, seeing people dress up as you, you never get used to that. And also just, seeing these ginger wigs all around! I love it though. I just feel so flattered, because the cosplayers really make sure every detail is there. I don’t think I’ve ever cosplayed a character before, but if I were to, I’d probably go as a Klingon from Star Trek.
Ever been tempted to go to a convention and cosplay as Amy Pond, but not tell anyone who you were?
I would love to do that, so much! I don’t know if I’d get away with it, maybe I would! But maybe I’d put a ginger wig on, just so it didn’t look too natural.
Matt Smith, who plays the Doctor, and Arthur Darvill, who plays your on-screen husband Rory, also have notable style. Do you ever go shopping together?
I’ve actually been shopping with Matt a few times. He knows how to shop more than anyone I know, actually. He’s more extravagant than the rest of us, so he can just buy a lot of things in one go from a place, and I’m like, ‘I haven’t found anything yet!’ But he has amazing fashion sense, and I just think the clothes look really good on him because of his slightly strange frame.
Your character Amy Pond does a lot of time traveling on Doctor Who. Every era in history has its own unique style, which decade’s fashion is your favorite?
1960s! Always. I love it so much, the whole Jean Shrimpton thing. In We’ll Take Manhattan, I was playing her just as she was starting to get into fashion, so it was all slightly off, slightly frumpy outfits, but I kind of loved that as well. But my favorite thing about that would have to be my oversized men’s trench coat. I think Jean Shrimpton kind of brought in this whole beatnik style from the late ’50s, and it’s just like messy and I loved it.
Who are some of your current style icons?
I really love Alexa Chung‘s style. I really think she gets it right all the time. I’ve never seen a picture of her where I didn’t love the outfit. I think it’s her—she just makes everything look amazing. And right now, I’ve really been getting into Diane Keaton from the Woody Allen films. Like, ties and her menswear stuff from Annie Hall.
What was it like to be named the Scottish Fashion Icon of 2012? Could you tell us some of your style secrets?
It was really unexpected! I never expected to become a fashion icon. It was just really lovely because the designers have been so kind to let me wear their clothes, so it was kind of nice to get an award for that. I’ve done this radical thing where I have fit all of my clothes in storage, and I only have a suitcase cause I’m sort of homeless at the moment, so I’ve only got like a few jumpers and jeans. But then, if I look at what I actually have in the suitcase, which is probably what I can’t live without, a pair of jeans, oversized jumpers, and one black dress. Basically, I always go to vintage shops rather than going shopping for new clothes. So I guess there’s always a bit of history to them. I like it when things look a bit old and weathered and worn in. But yeah, I basically just trundle through a lot of rubbish to find stuff.
The first episode of Series 7 of Doctor Who aired last week, how did you decide what to wear to all of the premieres?
We do it so quickly! I just got sent a list of dresses, and they were like, ‘Do you like any of these?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, all of them! But I like this one most!’ and I just got sent the dress. So it’s really quite an easy process. I’m not one of those people who spends like a long time choosing it carefully. Just kind of choose it quite quickly, which is quite fun, I think.
The character of the Doctor has gone through several style evolutions since the show first started in the 1960s: Which Doctor’s fashion sense is your favorite?
Ahh…all of them! I think that Matt [Smith] actually has the best fashion sense, and it pains me to say that. [Laughs] I think that it’s really chic, his whole bow ties and tweed thing. So that looks really cool. It’s not supposed to be cool, but it does look really cool!
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