Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, who has wowed critics and fans thanks her memorable roles in Trainspotting, Gosford Park, Boardwalk Empire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and Brave, took on the guest lead role in the latest season of the BBC hit series Line of Duty.
Premiering exclusively on BritBox in Canada and the U.S., Line of Duty’s sixth season follows Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) as they investigate the conduct of Macdonald’s Detective Inspector Joanne “Jo” Davidson on an unsolved murder case whose suspicious conduct attracts the attention of the Anti-Corruption unit.
The TV Watercooler recently had a chance to chat with Macdonald to discuss how this new challenging role came about, which role she’d love to revisit and which TV series she’s recently binged.
You were working on Boardwalk Empire in New York when Line of Duty began in the U.K., is that why you missed out on its initial hype?
That’s what I thought because I felt very awkward talking about it in front of Jed Mercurio [the show’s creator and writer]when I was doing another Zoom thing a while ago. Afterwards, I realized that I must have been in New York at the time – I couldn’t think why I had not watched it!
Did you end up watching some of the series before filming or did you come on board with a fresh frame of mind? Did you rely on any family or friends to fill you in on what you should know or even help you out with all the acronyms?
I watched about four and a half seasons before I started shooting. I had only stopped watching it because I was about to start filming so I had to concentrate [on that]. It’s definitely been the project that people who I know outside of the industry have been the most excited about.
I feel that my lot are used to what I do now, so it’s not that they aren’t interested [in my work], it’s just like its old news [to them], but this [project]was just a different thing altogether!
How did the opportunity to portray Joanne “Jo” Davidson come about?
It sort of came out of the blue. It was an offer. I got a phone call whilst I was on the train from London, coming back up to Glasgow and my agent said: “You’ve been offered this part.” It was quite exciting because although I hadn’t watched it, I knew what it had meant. I knew that Line of Duty was quite big as far as TV is concerned here. It’s like the biggest show and you get to be the lead for a season!
I got excited but I also knew that it was going to be challenging, in a different way than what I normally do. I’m used to emotional dialogue between two characters, but Line of Duty does this other thing really, really well. There’s a lot of information and a lot of police talk, and especially with my character, Joanne Davidson, she’s particularly mute when it comes to anything personal. [Laughs] She doesn’t give anything away!
I’ve read that they didn’t give you much information about your character. BritBox has just streamed the first episode, which ended with revealing that Jo and PS Jatri had broken up, she’s got quite a number of locks on her door and then she shared that close moment with DI Fliming (Vicky McClure). It was surprise after surprise for the viewers. Is that how you felt as well?
It wasn’t surprise after surprise . I had the first two episodes when I got the offer. It was then a little while until I got more [scripts]. We had started filming and then the pandemic hit. It was a crazy job anyway…[Laughs] and then the sky was falling at the same time! It was a big bonkers. I had to just go with it!
There were certain scenes that I shot, and id didn’t really know why I was emotional, but I was. I was asking around, but Jed wasn’t on set. There was also this one specific take, but then I knew enough after that point where I knew what I had to do.
The filming experience must have drastically changed in between the production break. Did you think that the mandate to physically distance yourself from the rest of the cast members helped your performance by not interacting with the other three when you weren’t filming?
Being incredibly lonely in a new city? Yeah, I’m sure that helped! I didn’t get to do all the things that they are always talking about on chat shows. They all like to go out for a curry, and after the big interview scenes, particularly, that’s when everybody can let off a bit of steam. It was definitely a different season!
Season 6 had impressive ratings in the U.K. and BritBox is now the official home for the entire series and any planned new series here in Canada and in the U.S. How would you recommend new viewers jump in? From the start?
Oh, they should start from the beginning! But it’s not totally necessary. Things that have happened in previous seasons are referenced throughout my season. I think it’s just a great show. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
You’ve played such memorable roles in both film and television. You got to revisit Diane with the Trainspotting sequel. Is there another one of your roles that you’d like to revisit and see how much that character has evolved over time?
Yes! I was just ordering a kitchen with my mum and afterwards we were back in the car, and she asked about Giri/Haji because I’m friends with Julian Farino [who directed and was one of the producers]and she said, “Why didn’t he want to do another series?” I was like, “He didn’t decide! It was Netflix!” [Laughs] I think that was a real shame. There was more life to Giri/Haji and to my character, DC Sarah Weitzmann.
Speaking of other series, was there any program that you got into during lockdown or have binged recently?
I tend to not watch anything unless I’ve got a day to do just that. I binged The Pursuit of Love the other day. Oh my god, I also totally binged The Flight Attendant. There’s a totally fantastic Scottish actress in it! Michelle Gomez [who plays Miranda Croft], who is just great. I thought that was a lot of fun!
I’d recommend Mare of Easttown right now. One of your co-stars from Puzzle, David Denman, is in it!
Oh – that’s next! David has been posting a lot about it. That’s on the list! What else… people have mentioned things and if too many people mention it, it usually puts me off. Too many people have said that I’ve got to watch Ozark, and I haven’t done it. I think there’s also something that I could possibly watch with the kids? WandaVision? Is that a thing?
Yes! It’s based off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yes, so maybe that could get us away from Modern Family, which seems to be on all the time.
What can you tell us about your upcoming projects? There’s the film Operation Mincemeat, about the Allied invasion of Sicily. It has quite an impressive cast. You got to work with Colin Firth and Matthew Macfayden.
Johnny Flynn is in it as well and he’s fantastic! He’s really annoying, actually, because he’s an amazing musician and he’s a really good actor, and I don’t think that’s fair! It was a great cast, and it was a lovely job with John Madden directing. That was pre-pandemic! When people think back to the olden days, that’s what I think of! [Laughs]
A new episode of Line of Duty’s sixth season premieres each Tuesday on BritBox in the Canada and the U.S. You can also stream the entire series on BritBox, click here to start your free 7-day trial.