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Scottish actress Karen Gillan is one of the most talented and fastest rising movie stars in the world. The versatile actress is known for her ability to effectively play characters that are based in the world of science fiction. One of Gillan’s most well-known characters is the space-assassin Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The talented actress is dedicated to her role as Nebula, and likely has a bright future in the next phases of the ongoing cinematic multiverse. The complicated character Nebula has become a major part of the Marvel series of films, so who the actress who plays Nebula, and what did she do to her hair for the part? 

Who is Karen Gillan? 

Karen Gillan on the red carpet
Karen Gillan | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The Inverness, Scotland born Gillan rose to popularity in Europe due to her roles in a variety of television shows and films. Her big breaking role was as Amy Pond in BBC’s long-running Doctor Who television series.

Gillan’s role in Doctor Who was as the Doctor’s human companion during the eleventh season of the show. The eleventh season is a fan-favorite, as the extremely popular Matt Smith took the role of the time and space traveling Doctor. Human companions of the Doctor are extremely important, helping the show’s hero in their wild adventures.

Gillan was such a popular companion that she was the titular star of a Doctor Who mini-series named Pond Life, which focused on Pond and Rory Williams’ (Arthur Darvill) adventures as the trusted companions of the Doctor. Gillan then burst onto the movie scene as Nebula in the 2014 blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Who is Gillan’s character Nebula? 


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Nebula is the adopted daughter of the powerful and villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin), and the sister of Guardian of the Galaxy Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Like her adopted sister and rival, Nebula was taken as a child by the Mad Titan Thanos after he murdered the rest of her race and destroyed their planet.

The first appearance of Nebula is in Guardians of the Galaxy, as she attempts to help Ronan the Accuser hunt and kill the Guardians which includes her sister. Both the Guardians and Ronan are in pursuit of the powerful Orb, which contains the Power Stone within.

Nebula plans to betray her evil father Thanos with help from Ronan and the stone. Gamora, who is also betraying her father, wants to protect the universe, and hide the Infinity Stone from her family.

The two sisters battle in Ronan’s ship, and Nebula is saved from a disastrous fall by Gamora and escapes. Nebula has also made appearances in other Marvel films, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In Endgame, one version of Nebula joins the Avenger team to save the universe against Thanos.

The other version of Nebula is still aligned with her father. After the epic battle, the good version of Nebula attends Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) funeral, and leaves Earth with the Guardians. Nebula will make her next Marvel appearance in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3directed by James Gunn. 

What did Gillan do to her hair for her Nebula character? 

Multi-faceted in many ways, the character Nebula is a bald human-cyborg amalgamation. Ever dedicated to her craft of acting, Gillan was more than willing to shave her long red hair for the part.

While some Hollywood actresses would never consider shaving their heads, Gillan loved chopping off her hair. Gillan said that the act of going bald, was liberating and a total identity change.

For her first portrayal of Nebula, Gillan went full-Vin Diesel, cutting off all of her hair. For the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the actress did not have to completely shave her head as she did for the first movie. According to the Daily Record, Gillan had more of an issue with the prosthetics involved in her costume saying:

“The prosthetics are tough… Especially when there’s action that needs to be done. The worst part is that your sweat has nowhere to go under all that make-up and the costume, so sometimes, when they take it off, the sweat literally squirts out on people.”

It will be interesting to see what the blue-skinned and bald Nebula will look like in coming Marvel films, and what Gillan’s reaction to the look will be.