I’ve really come to appreciate the acting talent of Kelly Macdonald while watching Boardwalk Empire. The way her character has transformed from a victimized, God-fearing Irish Catholic immigrant and vulnerable widow in the show’s first season to a brazen, bold and unpredictable woman has allowed Macdonald to display some seriously good acting chops and has provided for one of the most interesting character journeys on the show. You can never be sure on what trajectory her character is going to go next because Margaret and her circumstances are always changing.
There was a time when Macdonald was a celebrity who went unnoticed in public. She had been in movies but it’s the “TV thing,” or so Macdonald calls it, which has propelled her from unnoticed to recognized celebrity. Once you’re on a hugely popular show and in people’s living rooms every week, anonymity pretty much goes out the window.
It’s great to see Macdonald starring in an epic, lavish, period drama and holding her own and then some amongst an ensemble cast mostly comprised of men. But she’s proven that she’s got the grit and the presence to stand out as the lone female (or the most interesting female) before. Take her role in Trainspotting for instance. She was a green actress unknown to audiences and tapped to play the seductive schoolgirl who seduces the film’s leading man in a role that called for explicit nudity in a graphic sex scene. She was also the only female face on the film’s poster. She was brave and feisty and a great choice by Danny Boyle for the part. She was given a tall task and a lot of responsibility and she delivered on all that was expected of her.
In No Country for Old Men, Macdonald again played the main female role in a film full of men, and she created, for me, one of the film’s most memorable and powerful moments. When Carla Jean returns home after her husband’s funeral to find Anton Chigurh there waiting for her, she calmly engages in a conversation with him and bluntly asks him if he is going to kill her. She knows her fate and is resigned to it and is never flustered or hysterical or tearful. As easy-going as she is early on interacting with her husband Llewellyn is just how easy-going she is near the film’s end when she is faced with certain death.
Macdonald’s other notable film roles include Mary in Gosford Park, an unassuming maid who see and hears everything, and Gina in The Girl in the Café, a young girl who finds herself talking about third world debt and poverty when a man who’s in love with her brings her with him to a G8 Summit in Iceland. Macdonald has demonstrated that she can play any part, big or small, with impact. You know that old saying, “When you’ve got it, you’ve got it?” Well, Macdonald’s definitely got it and it’s been a treat getting to watch her work every week.