Kelly Macdonald is everywhere at the moment, thanks to her compelling portrayal of (possibly) bent copper Jo Davidson in the BBC’s Line Of Duty. So much so, in fact, that it’s difficult to remember her as anyone else; surely she’s always been the troubled detective at the centre of the flawed Gail Vella investigation, right?
Wrong. The talented Macdonald has been something of a cinematic icon ever since she rocketed to fame in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, not to mention stealing scenes in the likes of Gosford Park and Boardwalk Empire.
And, naturally, we’ll keep adding to the list as and when those upcoming television and movie projects come out.
Jo Davidson in Line Of Duty
Has there ever been a Line Of Duty character quite as divisive as Jo Davidson? Fans can’t decide if she’s a scheming machiavellian mastermind, a helpless pawn in a terrible situation, the heir to a criminal empire, a police officer doing her utmost best to do the right thing, or a potential love interest for Vicky McClure’s Kate Fleming.
Karin Parke in Black Mirror
Set (as ever) in the near future, Black Mirror’s ‘Hated In The Nation’ sees Macdonald take on the role of a police detective forced to work alongside a tech-savvy sidekick to investigate mysterious deaths linked to social media. And, this being Charlie Brooker’s dystopian nightmare, you better believe nothing is quite as it seems…
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Merida in Brave
Tenacious, strong-willed, and thoroughly disinterested in true love’s first kiss, Merida isn’t like any other Disney princess. We love that she takes on all of her suitors in an archery contest – and beats them, hands down, in a battle for her own damned hand in marriage. And we love that, when her mother dismisses this as an option, our bonny Scottish princess charges off into the lands surrounding the castle, tracks a will-o-the-wisp, and purchases a spell from a witch. A spell which, the old lady promises, will change her destiny.
No spoilers, but it’s a beautiful watch.
Katie in The Decoy Bride
And now for something completely different! The sort of film that critics hated (but audiences loved), The Decoy Bride takes place on a remote Scottish island, where a very famous Hollywood actor is planning a secret wedding. When the media finds out and storms the church, though, she hires a local girl – enter stage left Macdonald’s Katie – to pretend to be the bride to get rid of the paparazzi. And, naturally, chaos ensues.
Helena Ravenclaw in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
It’s a fleeting performance from Macdonald, but a memorable one; the ghostly ‘Grey Lady’, aka Helena Ravenclaw, plays a pivotal part in the final instalment of the Harry Potter franchise. And Macdonald deserves extra kudos for the fact that “all of the main cast had already been wrapped” and so she “had to work with a cardboard cut-out of Daniel Radcliffe.” Now that’s acting!
Diane in Trainspotting
“Times are changing, music is changing, even drugs are changing,” lectures Macdonald’s Diane in Trainspotting – and, in doing so, this wise-beyond-her-years schoolgirl effortlessly exposes the many, many, many inadequacies of the film’s main protagonists.
No wonder they brought her back for the sequel and elevated her to the dizzying ranks of solicitor, eh?
Mary Maceachran in Gosford Park
Not exactly a leading role, no, but Macdonald shone in Gosford Park as the quietly rebellious and impossibly bright Mary Maceachran. And that’s no small feat, considering she was working alongside such Hollywood stalwarts as Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, and Charles Dance.
Margaret Thompson in Boardwalk Empire
Perhaps the role that Macdonald is best known for, Boardwalk Empire gave her the chance to step into the spotlight as Margaret Thompson, who eventually becomes the mistress and wife of Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson.
Her role isn’t just that of the woman behind a great crime boss, though; Margaret is an independent woman who adheres to a strong moral code and always strives to achieve her goals. And, over the course of the period drama’s five-season run, we see her open a prenatal care clinic, become involved in important storylines around abortion and contraception, and make some incredibly difficult choices about her marriage, too.
Evangeline in Nanny McPhee
The real hero of Nanny McPhee, Evangeline is the scullery maid who makes it her business to care for the Brown children, scold them whenever necessary, and stand up for what’s right. And on top of all that, she teaches herself to read, too.
We love to see it!
Agnes in Puzzle
In this superb character drama, Macdonald stars as a woman whose life completely changes when she discovers her passion to solve jigsaw puzzles. A passion which, incidentally, takes her to New York to compete in a big tournament.
Essentially, it’s a warm-hearted film that feels deceptively gentle – and a must-watch for fans of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, obviously.
Images: Getty, BBC
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.