Birthdate: November 28, 1987
Birthplace: Inverness, Scotland, UK
Best known as the MCU character of Nebula and as Martha in the Jumanji movies, Scottish-British actor Karen Gillan (birthname: Karen Sheila Gillan) first broke through as Amy Pond, the sidekick to The Eleventh Doctor (played by Matt Smith) in the long-running science fiction/fantasy series, Doctor Who (2008-2013).
Gillan’s first notable feature was Mike Flanagan’s acclaimed indie horror film, Oculus (2013), with Rory Cochrane, but it was her role as Nebula in James Gunn’s rollicking MCU space adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), that elevated Gillan to major fan favorite status.
The box-office success of Guardians—earning $773 million globally—established Karen Gillan’s spot in the MCU galaxy, leading to appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), with Waititi, Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, and Russell Crowe, and the third entry in the series, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), with the regular cast led by Chris Pratt, and new cast addition, Will Poulter.
Beyond the Guardians’ Galaxy, Karen Gillan landed another role in a hit franchise, the reboot of Jumanji, with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Nick Jonas, which led to the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level (2019), co-starring Awkwafina, Danny Glover, and Danny DeVito.
The combined worldwide gross of both comedies totaled $1.78 billion. Karen Gillan’s most notable indie film achievement to date was her writer-director debut, The Party’s Just Beginning (2018), in which Gillan also starred in a drama set in her hometown of Inverness and earned multiple award nominations, including Best Debut Screenwriter from the British Independent Film Awards.
Gillan’s other major work was as part of the ensemble of Adam McKay’s Wall Street satire, The Big Short (2015), with Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling; James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle (2017), starring Tom Hanks; and Riley Stearns’ Sundance indie discovery, Dual (2022).
Inverness-born Karen Gillan was raised as an only child by Scots mother Marie and British father Raymond Gillan. Attending Inverness’s Charleston Academy, Gillan performed in numerous school productions. After graduating, she studied theater at Performing Arts Studio Scotland, followed by studies at London’s Italia Conti Academy. Her height is 5’ 10¾”.
Close Cousins: Karen Gillan and her cousin, Caitlin Blackwood, were both in the cast of Doctor Who, with Gillan playing Amy Pond and Blackwood playing the younger Amy.
Scottish Clan: Gillan’s father is part of Clan Macnab, and her mother belongs to Clan Paterson.