Interview: Karen Gillan Talks Bringing Eyes to Life in ‘Spies in Disguise’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Kaity  - Co-Director
10 Min Read
Image courtesy of BlueSky

You may know her as Amy Pond from Doctor Who, Martha in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Ruby in Jumanji: The Next Level, or Nebula from the Guardians of the Galaxy, but Karen Gillan as taken on a new role, the brainy H.T.U.V. (Honor, Trust, Unity, and Valor) specialist in spectral analysis and quantum optical thermography, Eyes, in the animated film Spies in Disguise.

Spies in Disguise stars Will Smith as Agent Lance Sterling, Tom Holland as scientific genius Walter Beckett, Rashida Jones as Agent Marcy Jones, Ben Mendelsohn as the villainous Killian, Reba McEntire as the director of H.T.U.V., Joy Jenkins, Karen Gillan as Eyes, DJ Khaled as Ears, and Masi Oka as Killian’s associate Katsu Kimura.

We had the chance to chat with the magic behind Eyes, Karen Gillan, about her character, the challenges of voiceover work, and the greatest takeaway from the film.

Spies in Disguise is out on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD today!

Image courtesy of BlueSky

Nerds and Beyond: Eyes was such a smart and fun character, what drew you to her?

Karen Gillan: I think that I just always found her really fun, interesting character. I liked how enthusiastic she is about literally everything that she’s doing. I think that’s a really fun quality about her and what she’s really excited about is incredibly nerdy things, and so she’s just a massive nerd. But she is incredibly intelligent and very devoted to the team that she works for and just to see that enthusiasm towards all of these gadgets that she has, just made her incredibly endearing to me.

Nerds and Beyond: Did you see Eyes’ on-screen manifestation before recording?

Karen: I did! She was already designed to look like that, and I think they must have based that on me [laughs]. Because she’s pretty like, gangly and ginger [laughs]. Before they unveiled it, I had like these visions though maybe it’s going to look like Jessica Rabbit or something, and then I saw that it was the gangliest, nerdy girl ever and I was like “yes, that’s about right.”

Nerds and Beyond: Did it affect any of your character choices?

Karen: It did give me just an overall sense of who she was. I think you gain a lot of information about someone by looking at them. I mean you also gain a lot from talking to them and spending more time with them, but that immediate first vibe is quite strong. So when I saw her I was like “oh, okay, you’re this person.” She’s nerdy and excitable, and you can tell even from the expressions of her gesticulations and everything. So I definitely got a sense and that definitely informed the character and my delivery of the lines.

Nerds and Beyond: You’ve done previous voiceover work for your Doctor Who character Amy Pond. How was the process different in bringing an entirely new character to life versus an established one?

Karen: I did! It was interesting because I haven’t done a whole lot of voiceover work, so this did feel like new territory for me and it was the first completely animated film I’ve ever done. So, I sort of realized how much I do rely on my whole body actually to act and to convey emotions and then to convey other emotions lying under those emotions. There’s a lot going on and then all of that was stripped away from me and then I just had my voice. And I was like okay, so everything needs to be channeled through just one form of communication. So, that was a challenge at first, and then I get into it and then it became really fun. But it was new for sure.

Nerds and Beyond: What would you do if you had access to Eyes’ impressive technology?

Karen: That’d be so cool! I would definitely not take those glasses off ever. Those goggle things [laughs]. Those would be really fun. In fact, they should just invent some of those, because like, instead of having to google things on your phone if somebody references something, you can just, do it on your eye goggles. And then you could know what people are talking about.

Nerds and Beyond: I mean that would make me feel better about my glasses! [laughs]

Karen: Yeah exactly! Everyone would be wearing glasses, and we’ll seem really smart. Because when you’re at a dinner party and people are referencing things that you don’t understand, I’m just googling it in my eye goggles, and then I’ll be like “oh yeah, exactly.” [laughs]

Image courtesy of BlueSky

Nerds and Beyond: Your character spent the majority of the film with Rashida Jones’ Marcy and DJ Khaled’s Ears. Did you get to work in the studio with them at all?

Karen: I didn’t! I was totally on my own. It’s pretty typical for these types of movies. It’s funny, you sort of are just locked in a room, don’t even have to get dressed that day, record your thing, and then suddenly there’s a whole movie with all of these other actors that you’re in the movie in that you’ve never met. [laughs] It was fine though, it felt like “oh is this is going to be weird to not actually act much with the actors,” but our director was reading a lot of the lines — the other lines — with such gusto and he was really good at acting and so that made it a hell of a lot easier than it could have been.

Nerds and Beyond: There’s a lot of great messages in the film. Which one stuck out to you the most?

Karen: I think what I really connected with and liked in the film was this idea of fighting bad with good, rather than fighting bad with more bad. And I think that’s such a valuable lesson for all of us in life. It’s like stop the cycle of bad, because if you fight bad with bad then more people will fight you with badness, it continues. It’s about being a good person, even with bad people. And that’s a lovely message.

Nerds and Beyond: Ears and Eyes made the ultimate team. Who would be the Ears to your Eyes in real life?

Karen: Maybe it’s my dad … [laughs]. I just feel like he’s such a sounding board for me, for all of my ideas all the time. I’m always coming up with ideas for different projects like whether it’s films or other random stuff and he’s the same, because I inherited it from him [laughs], so we’ve become each other’s sounding boards for a lot of crazy ideas. And it’s nice to have someone who’s got a different brain to you, but it’s similar enough that you shoot them the same thought a lot of the time, because it’s just really handy. So probably him.

Nerds and Beyond: Which Walter invention was your favorite?

Karen Gillan: What was that hug thing again? There was the hug I liked.

Nerds and Beyond: Yes, the inflatable protection bubble [laughs].

Karen: Yes! But it was like meant to be a hug or something?

Nerds and Beyond: Yes!

Karen: I thought it was cute. I would like one of those right now actually, not for danger. [laughs]

Nerds and Beyond: I know, right? [laughs] 

Karen: Like when you’ve had a bad day, just come home and set up the hug.

Spies in Disguise is now available on Digital, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD!


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By Kaity Co-Director
Kaity started with Harry Potter in second grade and it’s been a losing battle ever since, or maybe a winning one ... She lives in New England with a small herd of cats, two dogs, three chinchillas, and one daughter. You can definitely find her either watching anime, reading manga, or playing the same five video games over and over again. Contact:
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