Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald was 19 when she joined the cast of “Trainspotting,” her first movie. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but one that put MacDonald on a path to becoming a film and TV actress who works easily in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Her latest project, “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” follows the relationship between “Winnie the Pooh” author A.A. Milne and his son. MacDonald plays Olive, Christopher Robin’s real-life nanny, in the tear-jerker of a flick that was directed by Simon Curtis. “I think everyone needs an excuse to be in a dark room crying right now,” the actress notes.
Macdonald is also shooting the comedy “Holmes and Watson” with Will Ferrell and has a TV drama “The Child in Time” out on PBS next year playing opposite Benedict Cumberbatch. For her, the recipe for success is simple, although sometimes hard to find.
The actress doesn’t necessarily see a connection between her many roles, which range from “Gosford Park” to “No Country for Old Men.” She prefers period pieces to contemporary work a lot of the time because it allows her to more fully transform.
“They all look very like me – unfortunately,” she quips of her roles. “I walk away from jobs generally feeling good about it and that I’ve done a good job. And it’s always slightly deflating when I see the film thing because it’s still me up there.”
Here Macdonald talks about some of her most pivotal characters.
“Goodbye Christopher Robin,” Olive (2017)
“It was a just lovely project to be involved in. The character is a kind and good person, so that’s nice to play a good guy. With Simon at the helm and the actors involved and the writing – sometimes you have to pinch yourself with these jobs that come along.”
“T2 Trainspotting,” Diane (2017)
“It was amazing to go back. It brought back all the nerves of the first time, even though 20 years have passed. My body remembered it. It was just nice to be with the guys again and it was a lot of the same Scottish crew, so it was very nostalgic. What really took me by surprise was that they included bits from the original film. That I found so moving. It brought a tear to my eye.”
“Boardwalk Empire,” Margaret Thompson (2010-2014)
“It definitely changed things as far as my status in the States. I was quite ready to leave Margaret behind. I wish they’d killed her off, in a way. I know that sounds really bad. But it was lovely being there. I was there on the very first day of filming the pilot and I was there the very last day of filming. That was quite emotional. I’ve not felt up to another [TV series] since because it is a big commitment.”
“Brave,” Merida (2012)
“I was one of the last people to be involved, weirdly. Pixar will come to wherever you happen to be filming or they’ll record you via satellite link-up. I liked that it wasn’t about some prince. Her story was her story and it wasn’t about a guy coming in to rescue her. It was the first female protagonist in a Pixar film. There wasn’t a lot not to like.”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” Helena Ravenclaw (2011)
“I flew over to be there for Daniel Radcliffe’s side of the filming, but I felt really daft because I was playing a ghost but I wasn’t really in a ghost costume. I was having to be spooky around him while he was in costume. And then when it came to shooting my end of things it was all after they’d finished the film, so I was on my own. But they did, very sweetly, make a cardboard cutout of Daniel Radcliffe for me to work with.”
“No Country for Old Men,” Carla Jean Moss (2007)
“I know it’s been written online that I lobbied for the part, which is not at all the case. I just happened to be in New York for a friend’s wedding and I went in to meet the casting director because the Coen brothers were going to be making this film. She said, ‘I think you should actually meet Joel and Ethan while you’re in town.’ So while all my friends were partying around New York I was locked in a hotel bathroom learning lines. It went well, but months went by and in those months they saw everybody. And then they came back to me, the first person in the room.”
“Gosford Park,” Mary Maceachran (2001)
“Robert Altman was such an incredible person to have the privilege to know and meet and have dinner with. When I went to meet him at some hotel in London for the part he spent the whole time on the phone to someone – God knows who – talking about me. ‘I have this wonderful actress with me.’ It was a bit odd. And then I got a phone call from him saying, ‘Come play with us.’”
“Trainspotting,” Diane (1996)
“The immediate feeling was nerves, always. It was low budget so when we were on location we shared a caravan, but it wasn’t like a film trailer you’d be used to now. It was like someone’s grandparents’ caravan. When we were at the self-made studio – we were filming at an old cigarette factory in Glasgow – there was a green room there for the actors. I found them all so intimidating and charismatic and young and cool, so I was always to be found in the toilets when I was needed on set. I was always hiding there.”