Speaking in her native Scottish accent, Karen Gillan has one of the most charming and endearingly goofy voices in all of show business. So why on earth would “Suburgatory” alum Emily Kapnek – creator of “Selfie,” a modern-day twist on “Pygmalion” starring Gillan as social media-obsessed Eliza and John Cho as Henry, the man who will turn her into a genuine lady – ask her to play the role as an American?
“I don't find Karen's (real) accent that convincing,” Kapnek joked during the ABC comedy's press tour panel. “People are charmed by it, but I feel like she's in and out of it a lot.”
More seriously, Kapnek argued, “Obviously, it's a very different story if you tell the story of a Scottish girl who is shunned by her co-workers; it takes on a different meaning.”
For her part, Gillan – alum of “Doctor Who” and soon to appear on movie screens bald and blue-skinned in “Guardians of the Galaxy” – said the chance to play Eliza as an American girl was one of the reasons she wanted the job.
“That was one of the things that was most attractive about the role for me, getting to learn to do an American accent,” Gillan said. “I watched a lot of American TV shows for this – research. I went to SoulCycle to listen to the women there. It's an amalgamation of all the girls who go to Soul Cycle.”
The other major sticking point of the “Selfie” session was about how the title and the social media obsession in general will hold up, or whether it will instantly be the most dated television show ever made.
“We definitely talked about” the name, Kapnek acknowledged. “'Selfie' is a very provocative word. For us, it really speaks to the disease that Eliza has, in that she's consumed by this world, and keeping the world at an arm's distance because she has the phone in her hand.”
The show didn't, in fact, start out as a “Pygmalion” riff, but simply as Kapnek's attempt to do a romantic comedy.
“We kind of came into the 'Pygmalion' element from behind,” she said. “We started off talking about relationships, shows and potentially romantic comedies, and what the modern obstacles are. The presence of the ever-present phone and laptop and tablets at dinner tables and bedrooms and every sort of occasion… We learned that there was inherently a Pygmalion aspect, and we embraced it.”