Karen Gillan made her MCU debut in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film as Nebula, the cyborg daughter of Thanos and sister to Zoe Saldaña's Gamora. She started out as an adversary working against the Guardians, but had a change of heart in Vol. 2 and officially joined the team.
With the threequel in the middle of filming, Gillan recently shared a behind-the-scenes photo of her in full Nebula makeup, which appeared to be damaged in some capacity. From a storytelling standpoint, not much has been revealed about what will be coming in the trilogy's conclusion, but actors have teased that it will be an emotional rollercoaster.
One aspect of the Guardians films that always goes hand-in-hand with the story is the humor involved. Even though the plot is the main focus, many viewers praise how well one-liners are delivered and the chemistry the actors have with one another. Gillan recently talked about how the lighthearted moments came to be and even revealed that improvisation plays a huge role in the script.
Karen Gillan's Improv in Guardians Vol. 3
Karen Gillan, who portrays Nebula in the MCU, recently joined The Wrap to promote her latest Netflix film, The Bubble. In the interview, the actress also talked about the upcoming MCU movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, in which she will play a major role.
The actress revealed that the upcoming film will feature more improvised lines from her than any previous MCU project she has been a part of:
“There’s been way more improv for me this time around than I have ever given before.”
Gillan then went on a short trip down memory lane to her experience filming Avengers: Endgame. According to the actress, the entire opening "montage" of dialogue between Nebula and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark was not in the script:
"I will say, I’ve improvised a fair bit of Nebula because I don’t know if you saw 'Endgame,’ which seems like that’s a ridiculous question. But basically, all of the stuff with Robert Downey Jr. at the beginning was like, that whole montage was improvised.”
She revealed that the script only contained minimal stage directions, which allowed them to come up with their own dialogue. Downey Jr.'s acting skills were also praised by Gillan, and she even described how the scene together ultimately led to a heartwarming moment for her character:
“Because all that was written was oh, they play football. They eat, they do this. And then we kind of ended up getting to improvise because he’s an amazing improviser. And so there was all this stuff about them playing the game and how much it meant to Nebula that she actually got to win something. And so she’s been slowly getting more improv-y.”
Gillan then reiterated that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has already led to "improvising a lot more lines," and she hopes to see them "make the cut" when the final product is released:
“This time around in ‘Guardians 3’, she’s, yeah, she’s improvising a lot more lines. I don’t know if they’ll make the cut but I hope they do.”
The Natural Aspect of Improv
Some directors clearly give a lot of freedom to their actors, no matter what the project is. While there is a script, which the actors are expected to follow, some of the most natural interactions between characters come from their own minds.
When thinking about the opening scene in Avengers: Endgame that Gillan referred to, the dialogue between Nebula and Tony Stark seems like it is just two people talking while playing a game of paper football. There aren't any hard-hitting lines or a revelation that really pushes the plot forward, but it seems like it would be a real conversation that would happen between the two characters.
However, as Gillan pointed out, it does progress Nebula's character, and ties into her arc of being accepted. The two Guardians films, as well as Endgame, show the lengths she would go to just to please Thanos, which makes the scene with Tony obvious that it meant a lot to her.
While there have been other improvised scenes throughout the MCU, that one is a good example of how it can make the story better. Even though none of the dialogue was in the script, it still played a role in the overarching story and built Nebula's character. With Gillan saying that she has improvised even more lines in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, some will probably not make it on-screen, but the ones that do may have more weight than viewers may think.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is expected to release in theaters on May 5, 2023.