James Gunn‘s original Guardians of the Galaxy were all unlikely heroes. A thief. An assassin. A tree. A talking raccoon. Whatever Drax is. Over a decade in the MCU, the team has evolved and brought on new members but there may be no more unlikely hero on the team than Nebula. After originally teaming with the Kree extremist Ronin to take on the new team in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Nebula went on a journey unlike anything else we’ve seen in the MCU. After reconciling with Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, she was tortured at the hands of her father, Thanos, killed a past version of herself and joined the Avengers in saving the galaxy. Now, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, she finds herself a full-fledged member of the team as they go on what Gunn has said will be their final tour. That’s a lot of growth for a villain who was supposed to be a one-off.
Of course, the reason Nebula was provided with the opportunity to grow was the wonderful work of the actress who brings her to life, Karen Gillan. Gillan went all in on her performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, shaving her head and working with Gunn on finding a way to make Nebula more than the one-note character she’s often been portrayed as in the pages of Marvel Comics. Gillan‘s work was so good that Gunn carved out a bigger role for her in the 2017 sequel and the Russo brothers took it from there. While talking with host Nathan Fillion during the global press junket for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gillan reflected on her time as Nebula.
“She’s had quite the arc,” said Gillan of her character. After describing the character as “misunderstood” and “bitter” in Guardians of the Galaxy, the actress explained where Nebula stands in Vol. 3. “I think, you know, post-Thanos being eliminated from her life, she’s starting to flourish a little bit more and she’s starting to have a lighter personality and she’s a little more willing to show vulnerability.” It’s always good to see someone overcome their personal monsters.
Interestingly enough, Gillan explained that it wasn’t only Nebula who has grown. After playing the character for nearly a decade, the actress explained how the experience has changed her as well. “What’s changed for me? Definitely my understanding of what it’s like to be a scapegoat sibling,” she said. “I’m an only child,” explained Gillan, “because Nebula was definitely that. She was never the golden child. And so, I never understood that because I’m an only child. And so, that was a really sort of interesting exploration for me. So, now I just have so much respect for people that have gone through that.”
Gillan’s time as Nebula may or may not have run its course but she’s certainly established the character as an MCU powerhouse and one of Marvel Studios’ most interesting and complex.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in theaters now!