Five minutes with Kelly MacDonald
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER IN GIRI/HAJI?
I play Sarah, who is a detective in London. You realise in episode one
when you meet her, she's sort of been ostracised in her working
environment, and as the series develops you begin to understand what her
She's a pretty broken person and her work - which had been pretty much
everything - has been taken away from her.
She finds herself embroiled in this Japanese crime story and this sort
of explosion of gang warfare in Tokyo; that story gets propelled into
COULD YOU EMPATHISE WITH HER IN ANY WAY?
I just felt like it was a good fit for me. Julian Farino [director],
I've worked with before on The Child in Time, and he phoned me directly.
He said, 'Can I send you a couple of scripts of the first couple of
I was working on another BBC thing at the time; I had a bit of downtime
on set because it was a courtroom scene and I wasn't on the stand yet,
so I did actually have time to read them the day I got them. I couldn't
wait to get my hands on more.
I think the characters have all got a common thread - they're all
lonely. As the series goes on and the characters get meshed, there's
this weird family dynamic, these sort of loners that end up coming
together. And there's something just very sweet about it.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE ON SET...
Playing Sarah is just a joy because she's kind of f***ed up and doesn't
get things right, and she's making more of a mess than her already messy
But I got to play a little bit, you know? In my experience, when you're
filming something and it feels like you're playing, that's when things
work out the best.
WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT TO OTHER SHOWS?
It's one of those dream jobs that come along. I was so lucky, my first
job in this industry was on Trainspotting; I landed in this world and
everybody was so excited to be there, everybody was at the top of their
game and trying to achieve the same thing.
I thought every job thereafter would have that same energy, and I
thought, 'What an incredible thing'. And I got to the next job and it
was all very mundane, and people were there to pay their mortgages,
This was a very long shoot and it was pretty intense. But everybody just
wanted to be there and everybody in the room is so good at what they do,
so it makes me think of Trainspotting in that regard.
DO YOU DO ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR TO PREPARE FOR A HIGH-PRESSURE SCENE?
Everybody has got their little processes. But I think I'm quite long in
the tooth now...
I used to get wound up, say, if it was an emotional scene. I would worry
about it for weeks and then I'd have that big asterisk on my schedule,
'That's the day and it's going to be really hard', not sleep well the
night before and then just be worried all day. Then you get it done and
you think, 'What a release'.
Now, I trust myself more that I'm capable, and I don't have to beat
myself up beforehand to achieve the same outcome.
WOULD YOU SAY THERE ARE MORE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE TV INDUSTRY NOW?
Absolutely. There's been a whole revolutionary change in TV over the
past 10 years. I was lucky - Boardwalk Empire [a HBO period crime drama]
seemed quite new in the way that was made.
I think there's much more possibility in TV... Films are really hard to
make now. It's changed since I started my career, where it's like TV is
the exciting place to be.
WHAT ROLE WOULD YOU SAY YOU GET RECOGNISED FOR THE MOST?
The one that surprises me is Harry Potter. I literally filmed my bit in
that after they'd wrapped principal photography on the entire series of
films, so I was brought in to do my special effects stuff and work with
a cardboard cut-out of Daniel Radcliffe, because he'd already wrapped.
So that I find quite funny!
IF YOU HADN'T BECOME AN ACTRESS, WHAT JOB DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE
I would like to have been a book editor. I was thinking about this, it's
weird you asked me! I don't know why, but I think that would have been
quite a good fit for me.
Watch Giri/Haji on BBC Two and Netflix from Thursday, October 17