There is no show on television that I follow as closely as Boardwalk Empire, and a big reason for that is incredibly talented actors and actresses featured on the show. One of the series’ strongest lead characters is Margaret Thompson, played by Kelly Macdonald, whose recent career has even lead her to being cast as the lead character in Pixar’s last film, Brave.
In a conversation with NPR, Macdonald talks about what she enjoys about her Boardwalk Empire role, what she learned from her first major audition, and how she feels about being an “untrained” actress.
Macdonald explains that she relishes her role on Boardwalk Empire because it’s not the type of role she is usually offered. She says, “I don’t generally get to play the stronger characters. I get very lovely parts, but they’re quite quiet and thoughtful and watchful — and that’s all well and good, but I’ve been enjoying getting my teeth into something else.”
Macdonald’s first major role was in Danny Boyle‘s Trainspotting, which she landed after an open casting call. But practicing the part with her mother was difficult before the audition. She explains, “So my mom was reading the Renton part and being really annoying because she was really superacting. And I had to keep stopping and saying, ‘Just read it. Just read the words.’ And weirdly, I got the same direction from Danny Boyle. At my screen test, for some reason … I decided … this was it. I was going to do superacting — kind of like my mom. And as soon as I started doing it, it was all wrong. And Danny stopped me and said, ‘You know, John Hodge has written a very good script, and the words are all there, and you don’t have to put gaps in. Just read it. Just say the words.’ And that’s advice that I’ve kept with me.”
However, despite her success she admits that at some points she felt like she was never properly trained as an actress. She says, “I definitely did feel like at some point I should go to drama school to be in the same league as the people that I was working with. It took me a few years to get over that and to realize that I wasn’t ever going to go to drama school — that I was doing quite well without it. And I think the way that I work, there’s no technique. I’m just — it’s very intuitive, and it happens when I’m on the set and I’m with another actor. And it’s very much a back and forth. It’s listening and reacting, basically, and that’s what I do. So I don’t know how helpful drama school would be to that. I’ve heard stories of learning techniques and writing your character’s histories. And I’m not that hard-working.”