Gemma Chan is best known for playing a hyperrealistic android on Humans or the glamorous socialite Astrid in Crazy Rich Asians, but for her latest role in Captain Marvel, she’s practically unrecognizable.

The 36-year-old British actress stars in Marvel’s latest blockbuster as Minn-Erva, a blue-skinned alien Kree who crosses paths with Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers. When the film starts, Minn-Erva and Carol are teammates on Starforce, an intergalactic military team of elite Kree warriors. Carol is the only member with superpowers, but Minn-Erva is deadly enough on her own, thanks to her top-notch sniper skills.

“Before Carol joined the team, Minn-Erva was the star of Starforce,” Chan told EW when we visited the Captain Marvel set last summer. “So she’s slightly threatened by someone else who has come in and is also very talented.”

Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/©Marvel Studios 2019

Audiences have met the Kree before in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but Captain Marvel spends more time on their home planet of Hala. For Chan, it was a “lovely surprise” to be asked to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe and dive into this complex alien society.

“It’s not about the individual,” she says. “The saying that we all say is, ‘For the good of the Kree.’ Everything you do is for the collective good, so it’s almost like a Buddhist philosophy, as well as a militaristic element.”

Another fact about the Kree? Some of them are blue. (Others look like regular old humans from Planet Earth.) In early makeup tests, it took about four hours to transform Chan into a blue-skinned Kree, and they experimented with several different shades of blue makeup to see which would look the most luminous on camera.

“She’s pretty badass,” Chan explains with a laugh. “She’s got this slightly punk, goth vibe going on, hence the hair, and obviously she’s blue. It’s a lot of time in the makeup chair!”

Captain Marvel is in theaters now.

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