Enjoying the ride
She looks bright and chipper as she strolls into Essex & Sons restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but Kelly Macdonald is wiped out. No wonder: She’d been filming “Boardwalk Empire,” in which she stars as Irish immigrant-turned-mob-mistress Margaret Schroeder, until the wee hours, was woken up at 7 a.m. by her son (she’s married to Travis bass player Dougie Payne) and will be on a plane home to Scotland in less than 24 hours to prep for the “Brave” junket (she voices the lead, Merida). It’s all a wild ride, one that she didn’t necessarily plan for but seems more than happy to take. Here, she talks about lingering accents, nude scenes and why her next career may be in the floral arts.
You’ve been in New York City for a while for “Boardwalk Empire.” Do you feel like a New Yorker yet?
Even though it’s been three years, it still feels temporary. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but ... it’s New York. That’s the main thing. I keep calling these my New York years.
What appealed to you about playing Margaret?
Honestly, I kind of accepted the role blindly. I’m not very good at planning in advance or looking at schedules. I had the pilot, and that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I signed up for. It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized that I’m involved now.
Was the Irish accent hard to slip in and out of?
It’s weird. When I’m here in New York, I find myself reacting not as Margaret but in her voice. If I bump into someone on the street, I apologize and my “Sorry!” is her “Sorry!”
You were in “Trainspotting” when you were just 19, and it was your first professional job. How did it change your life?
Entirely. It opened the door to the life that I wanted. I left school at 16, went to college, but I was sort of directionless. If I’m not interested in something I don’t make any effort, and it was just about having the [nerve] really to do something about it. Then I saw this flier for the open auditions, and it was a real effort to get myself there. I got to the building and nearly walked off, but another girl I knew was going to the same thing, so we went in together. I was quite shy.
Not so shy that you wouldn’t do a nude scene in the film. Was that awkward?
I was terrible, I just wouldn’t think about it. Almost the worst part was that Danny [Boyle, director] came from a theater background, so we had to rehearse. It’s one thing to do it on the day and just go for it and not shillyshally, but the rehearsals ... ugh. And the day we filmed it turned out to be the day I chose to invite my family to the set. That’s how much denial I was in.
“Brave” is your first shot at voice work; did you create a new voice or modulate your own for Merida?
It’s my teenage voice. I’m a little embarrassed at how quickly that came back to me. It’s just me being a teenager, complaining, whining and groaning.
Will this be your son’s first Pixar film?
No, he’s seen a lot of them again and again -- we’ve had to buy the DVDs over and over because they get so scratched. He’s aware of
At 3 a.m. Which means you could be in other professions.
Exactly! I come home really late, lipstick smeared all over my face...
What did you think success would look like when you started?
I thought success would be like a plastic bag with underwear in it. I know that sounds really weird, but when I started working regularly and had to go to London all the time, I was always traveling and carrying around this polybag with my used underwear back and forth. So that was one way I knew I had some success.
If you had to pick any other career aside from acting, what would you have gotten into?
Well, yesterday we were talking about flower arranging ... and I destroy flowers. No one should ever send me flowers. I keep cutting the stems shorter and I end up with single flowers in egg cups by the end. I was thinking I’d like to learn that. Maybe being a florist could be quite good.
-- Randee Dawn