Who's that girl?

FOR new "Doctor Who" assistant Karen Gillan, a Tardis might be a very useful thing to have.

On Tuesday morning the 22-year old actress will return to her home city of Inverness, bringing with her new Doctor Matt Smith, to give local children a sneak preview of the new Doctor Who team and their first adventure.

Immediately afterwards, she and Matt will begin their bus journey for the show's English premiere in Sunderland, 280 miles away.

"I don't really know how we're going to do that," Karen admitted.

"But it's a Doctor Who bus anything could happen!

"The plan is to come to Inverness in the morning and then we are going to host a screening event in Eden Court Theatre where local kids can come and see the first episode of the series. That will be a bit of a premiere of it, which is quite cool, then we are going to meet the kids and do a bit of a Q and A. It'll just be really nice to see the reaction of kids."

With the new Tardis team's first feature length adventure, "The Eleventh Hour", still just over a week away, Karen is already well on the way to becoming a household name.

The other members of the Doctor Who team have also been unstinting in their praise of this star in the making with new head writer for the show, Paisley-born Steven Moffat, declaring that while attention had inevitably focused on Smith, Karen is the series' secret weapon.

However, before her debut as new companion Amy Pond is beamed across Britain, it will fittingly get a showing in the theatre where Karen's acting career began.

"I was very much involved in Eden Court growing up, taking part in all sorts of dramas and classes and things like that, so I know the theatre really well," she said.

"It's quite strange. I never thought I'd come back this way, but it's lovely. I get to bring it home."

Post Doctor Who projects and even whether she will return in Matt Smith's second series as the Doctor are "up in the air" at the moment, but the down to earth Karen is aware Doctor Who will change her life.

"It's a role like no other," she acknowledged.

"When you get involved with Doctor Who, it's not just filming the show, there's so much that goes with it. It's lovely that people are so interested in the show and are really passionate about it."

However, this does not mean Karen has been going on-line to find out what the fans are saying about her.

"When I first got the role, I was really tempted to go on the internet, but I don't think that's the best idea," she said.

"It's quite strange to have people forming these opinions of you and they haven't seen you yet. I thought it was best I ignored all that and just concentrated on the acting."

For former Charleston Academy pupil Karen, there was just one drawback to getting the role keeping it quiet from her Doctor Who fan mum Marie.

"I couldn't tell my mum because she's such a Who-vian. I knew if I told her she was just going to burst with excitement, so I thought a nicer way to do it would be to tell her just before it was publicly announced," Karen explained.

"It was absolutely agonising! I had my phone in my hand and I really wanted to tell her, because I could tell my immediate family and that was all, but I opted out of that. I think that was for the best."

Karen, who left Inverness at 16 to study acting at Telford College in Edinburgh before going on to attend the prestigious Italia Conti stage school in London, made her Doctor Who debut not as Amy Pond, but in a small role as a Roman soothsayer in the fourth season episode "The Fires of Pompeii" alongside Tenth Doctor David Tennant and then companion Catherine Tate.

"That was so much fun and just knowing how excited my mum was about that made me think that, definitely, I wasn't going to tell her about my next role!" she said.

"But it's not linked to me getting the companion role in any way because it's a brand new team for this series. I suppose it couldn't have hurt to have already been in the Doctor Who environment and know what was involved, but they are just completely different characters so it requires a completely different approach."

In the meantime, Karen is not giving away too many secrets about Amy Pond.

"I can't say too much because I want you all to watch it but Steven Moffat has created such a brilliant companion character," she stated.

"She's completely relevant to the storyline and she's a very sassy young lady and certainly very questioning of the Doctor and not in awe of him all the time. She takes him on and gives him a run for his money. There's an interesting dynamic between Amy and the Doctor, which is due to the way they meet."

Both Karen and the 11th Doctor are new to the Tardis, something which has strengthened the bond between the two actors, she acknowledged.

"That's one of the lovely things about working with Matt because we are going through this crazy experience together," she said.

"I'm sure it would be very different if he was already an established Doctor and then I came into it, but it's just so nice to share this journey with someone who's going through the same thing as you. It's really exciting times because there's a whole new turn over in a way, so it's new and exciting and fresh.

"Having worked with him for the last nine months, I find it weird to think that anyone else played the Doctor. He's completely taken on the role and made it his own."

In interviews Matt has been equally generous to his co-star, calling her beautiful, talented and, somewhat less gallantly, "mad as a box of cats".

"I don't know where he's got that from," Karen laughed.

"I don't see any evidence to support that!"

So how would she describe her co-star?

"You know what? When Matt walks into a room, you know that he's there," she said.

"He's got that aura about him and that's what makes him so brilliant at playing The Doctor because his Doctor is a force of nature. He's very eccentric and playful and funny and we have a great time together filming."

Which is handy because a science-fiction show like "Doctor Who" presents some challenges most other acting jobs do not.

"Every episode you are on a green screen or you are acting terrified of a tennis ball on a stick that will be CGI-ed as a monster," Karen said.

"As an actor, you react off things, but a lot of the time you have to react to a tennis ball or a cross on the side of a camera.

"That's really challenging, but you do get used to it. Now I find it really normal to be terrified of tennis balls."

Likewise, most other acting jobs do not require the cast to be transformed into action figures and Karen has already had a glimpse of the Amy Pond toy.

"It's uncanny!" she declared.

"It's exciting, but also a little strange, to see a tiny version of yourself."

Karen is the latest in a long line of Scots associated with "Doctor Who", whose previous Inverness connections have included discovering the Loch Ness monster is an alien cyborg and picking up his longest serving companion, clansman Jamie MacCrimmon (played by Yorkshireman Frazer Hines).

Does Amy Pond follow David Tennant or Sylvester McCoy when it comes to accents?

"She will be Scottish, yes," she announced.

"In my first audition, I did it in an English accent and in my own accent. It was up in the air in the beginning, but then we decided to go with my own accent, which is nice."

So does Amy reveal herself as an Invernessian by speaking that well known Highland phrase "right enough"?

"No! I'm going to have to get it in there now," Karen laughed.

"I'd love to hear 'right enough!' in 'Doctor Who'!"

? Tuesday's roadshow screening is by invitation only. Anyone not lucky enough to get an invitation can watch the 11th Doctor's first episode on Saturday 3rd April on BBC1.

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