Captain Marvel star Gemma Chan on how it took 10 years to become an overnight success
Gemma Chan is on a roll. Having enjoyed breakthrough success on the small screen in the likes of Sherlock, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl and Fresh Meat, in recent months she’s appeared in hit movies such as Transformers: The Last Knight, Mary Queen Of Scots and one of 2018’s surprise smashes Dirty Rich Asians.
We caught up with an actor truly on the march. After all, her latest project? Superhero smash, Captain Marvel. And Gemma is only getting bigger and better…
HOW IS IT BEING ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH AN AWESOME MOVIE?
It’s great! I feel really proud to be a part of this film and I think this film being made was overdue.
INDEED. HOW LOVELY IS IT TO BE MAKING SOMETHING THAT FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL BE ABLE TO FULLY APPRECIATE?
I feel like we’re taking steps in the right direction and it’s not only important for young girls and women to watch and be inspired by this to see a woman doing her thing and being incredible, it’s just as important for young boys and young men to engage with an essential protagonist who happens to be a woman.
HOW DID THE ROLE COME ABOUT?
I heard that they were casting for a Marvel film, which we deduced was Captain Marvel, and I didn’t know what part I was auditioning for. They said it was a supporting part and I auditioned with dummy sides so hadn’t read the script. I went on tape in London, sent it off and didn’t expect to hear anything back. I heard back that they were interested and did some more sides, but again not from the real script.
The next stage was I Skyped with Anna Ryan and the directors and they pitched me this character but didn’t mention the name, so so I was still kind of in the dark. It was only when they offered me the part that they told me it was Minerva, so I went on Google. Only when I signed up to do the film was I allowed to read the script, so it was a full-on secretive process in every stage.
I WOULD BE TERRIFIED OF BLABBING! HOW ON EARTH DO YOU KEEP SECRETS ON LOCKDOWN?
I just don’t say anything about anything and that was my rule from the beginning. It will be such a relief when this film is out because you don’t want to be the one to let a spoiler slip. We got told on a daily basis what not to mention, but then that is all that’s in your mind.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT ASSUME THESE ROLES FALL OUT OF THE SKY, BUT THIS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. HOW HARD HAVE YOU HAD TO WORK TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
They say that you have to work for 10 years to become an overnight success. Funnily enough, I’ve been an actress for 10 years! I graduated from drama school in 2008. I’ve been very lucky to be a part of these projects over the past year, particularly this year and Mary Queen of Scots that have in some way shifted the conversation forward in a way that is entertaining in its own right, but also has the added dimension of being something significant and not every project is like that. But I feel really grateful and really happy to be working and doing what I do.
VERY FEW PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY HAVE HAS A 12 MONTHS QUITE LIKE YOURSELF. WHAT’S THAT BEEN LIKE?
It’s been a lot of promotion and a lot of press. I’ve been on the road and living out of a suitcase being a nomad for a very long time, so I’m looking forward to taking some time off after this press tour is done and seeing my family and friends who I’ve neglected over the past year. It’s been amazing and they’ve all kind of come along together like that, it’s been great.
WHAT DO YOU FOR DOWNTIME?
I read, listen to music, sleep. Because my call times were so early on this job so I was going to work at 2:45am and I’m a natural night owl anyway so it was kind of a disaster for me. I would nap but it was hard because the suits were so uncomfortable.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU? YOU HAVE A LOT MORE HEAVY LIFTING TO DO THAN OTHERS
They told me I had to train for the suit because it’s a resistance suit so it tries to snap you back to the superhero pose. So even lifting your arms up takes double the effort. My character is a sniper so I would have to have my arms raised a lot of the time, so that was pretty tiring.
DO YOU HAVE MOMENTS WHEN YOU WORK WITH CERTAIN PEOPLE ARE TRANSPORTED BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD?
Yeah! Still have those moments, but you’ve also got to be a professional and just be cool. You do have to just get over that and then you work with them, and for me, most of the people you work with are just so down to earth and nice.
HOW DO YOU STAY DOWN TO EARTH?
I’m really lucky that I’ve got a good set of family and friends who treat me exactly the same as they always have done, and that’s really healthy. It’s really important to carry on doing all the stuff that you’d usually do. I’m pretty low key day to day anyway; when I’m not working I just try to have as low key an existence as possible. You know, doing the recycling, doing your own laundry, washing your own pants, I think is really important, all of those things.
BIN DAY WILL GET YOU EVERY TIME
Bin day! Dealing with the bins! All of those things
Captain Marvel is at cinemas now