The actor on the thrill of the Harry Potter shop, why she’d like to do more comedy and her latest role

Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald, 43, began her career as Diane in Trainspotting. Her film credits since have included Gosford ParkNo Country for Old Men and the voice of Merida in Disney’s Brave. She has two children with her ex-husband, Travis bassist Dougie Payne. On TV, she has appeared in State of PlayBoardwalk Empire and now stars in BBC1 thriller The Victim which starts tomorrow at 9pm and continues for the next three nights.

In The Victim you star as a grieving mother who, 15 years after her son was murdered, reveals the new identity of his killer. What drew you to the role?
She felt real: sympathetic at times, unlikable at others. The title is great because you’re wondering who the victim is. Reading the script, my allegiances were switching, so I hope it’s the same for viewers.

As a mother yourself, how did it feel going to such dark places?
It wasn’t so much as a parent, just as a human. Those emotions apply to anyone. Mothers don’t have a monopoly on them.

It will inevitably remind viewers of the James Bulger case. Were you sensitive to that?
I was very aware of the James Bulger tragedy at the time because it was so nightmarish. I can see why people might compare, but The Victim isn’t based on any specific real-life case. There are parallels but it’s a fictional story. I don’t work like that anyway. I have played real-life figures like Olive the nanny in Goodbye Christopher Robin, but tend not to base parts on anyone in particular. I’m always impressed by actors who create character dossiers and do lots of research. I’m more instinctual.

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