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This week, The Victim premiered on BritBox. The four-part Scottish miniseries is a thriller about a bereaved mother whose young son was murdered. Fourteen years later, she's on trial for attempted murder after going online to share the personal details of the man she believed to be guilty of her son's murder. He was violently beaten, his reputation left in tatters.
The thriller was filmed on location in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Port Glasgow, and the town of Largs.
We recently got a chance to chat with Kelly MacDonald, star of the series. She was joined by Paul Sheehan, an STV producer who worked on The Victim. This interview was made possible by BritBox, and we thank them for their help in arranging it.
Interview with Kelly MacDonald of The Victim
Editor's Note: As always, please remember this was a phone interview that we've transcribed, and there's always a chance we could have mis-heard a word here and there. If anything sounds a bit off, please chalk it up to a transcription error.
Can you tell us a little bit about the show and how it came to be?
Paul: Oh gosh. So, in terms of how it came around, our writer Rob Williams wanted to create a courtroom thriller. A mystery, which polarized audiences and really examined the criminal justice system, and whether it delivered justice and particularly in terms of justice to the victims of crime. And then he came up with this concept of playing around with who really is the victim? So the tagline is, in court there is an accused and there is a victim, but in life, it's more complicated.
Paul: And, the story is, Kelly plays Anna, and Anna's son was brutally murdered 15 years previously by a young man, or a child, a 15-year-old who was convicted. Pled guilty, was convicted, his identity was protected and he was given a new identity, and Kelly is seeking justice… Sorry, Anna is seeking justice. She outs this young guy on social media, as being the killer of her son, and the young man who's outed, is just a regular guy with a young family, and he says, “This is not me and this has destroyed my life.” And he's brutally attacked and Kelly is in court for having…
Paul: Sorry. Anna, [inaudible] conspiracy to commit murder.
Paul: It's very intense.
Kelly: It's a comedy, though.
A comedy, yes, when you get down to it. Kelly, how did you prepare for the role in such a serious show?
Kelly: The preparation, it wasn't any different for any other job, I didn't have to learn an accent so that was something less to do. I don't know, all I needed was a script and the performances of my co-stars, having them to react to and yeah, so I didn't do much else.
Paul: I think that Anna is a character, who has had a horrific experience in terms of her child being killed and naturally we would have a huge amount of sympathy for Anna. But in terms of how the script is written and certainly for Kelly who has played the part of Anna, it's very divisive and Anna isn't always the most sympathetic of characters. She's seeking justice and nothing will get in her way.
Yeah, that was actually leading into my next question, that Anna can be unlikeable at times, but sometimes in the show, you're not sure if you should like her or you shouldn't, I imagine. It sounds like that is the purpose with her character to… Like you said the tagline of the show, who's the victim?
Kelly: Well, yeah I think when you are given the tagline, and you're just, I'll be feeling sorry for this woman and on her side, 100% and it's not that at all. The writing takes you somewhere unexpected and your allegiance switches from person to person, and you start doubting, and you start doubting this woman and her mental clarity. She's so convinced, and she is so unhappy and angry to the point of almost mental illness.
Paul: I think her grief is overwhelming, and it's affected so much of her family life, her marriage came to an end, and she has remarried, and she has two fantastic kids, but it really compromises her relationship.
So going back to the last question. After seeing the show play out, being involved in the show and then seeing it come to life on the screen, did it change either of your perception in the real world of how you view who the victim is and not?
Kelly: I don't know if it's changed my perception, I've always been aware that if someone is damaged themselves, it's like a domino effect and you've got to be sympathetic to people's backgrounds, I think, no matter what crimes have been committed to look back, be able to… Not many people are just born evil, things happened in life and some people are luckier than others.
Paul: She gives a really interesting examination of the court system and whether the court system actually delivers closure or justice particularly to the victims. And there's some really interesting quotes within the scripts and within the views about what is the victim's place? And at one point Anna says she actually receives more support as the accused then she ever did as the victim or the mother of the victim. So that's interesting, and I guess punishment, there's three principles of punishment in terms of the parent's rehabilitation and retribution, the restoration doesn't really form part of that. And that's something else that's explored with the restorative justice process. And actually it just asks big moral questions that it really examines whether that restorative justice process delivers more effects of closure then more conventional forms of punishment, so yeah there's a lot going on in there.
Yeah definitely. What are each of your favorite… Do you have a favorite scene or one that you are most proud of, you think came together really well?
Paul: Oh gosh, well, I'm really concerned at times about spoilers. But there's a moment at the end of Episode three, there's a lot of twists and turns in this, but there's a real great moment at the end of Episode three, which I think a lot of people will have dropped their popcorn. And then the very final dinner, the very final scene, it's just incredibly powerful, it's very impactful.
Paul: I watched the series again over the weekend before coming here, and I haven't seen it since April. I was just shattered at the end of it, we have such a fantastic cast, and they just performed so incredibly well and without giving away any spoilers about that final scene, it's a killer. Kelly-
Kelly: I've still only watched the first two episodes, there's a scene in the final episode that when we shot it, was pretty intense and I felt proud myself that day. I didn't know what it's like to watch but-
Paul: Well, earlier, Kelly was telling me look at that scene too, “You should see it. You should see it. I mean, it's really, really powerful.” It's just that, I know, I was there.
Kelly: I remember.
Yeah. Well, I know it's been a long day, and I don't want to keep you guys. But last question, what can we expect to see from both of you in the future? Any new projects on the horizon?
Kelly: I did another BBC, it's a series. Eight episodes in a show called Giri/Haji which is a Japanese crime story. And which was just so fun and it's just a great part and it was a director that I've worked with before, and just working with all these incredibly talented Japanese actors. That, I think, is coming out in October, maybe. I'm not sure.
Paul: >>inaudible crosstalk<<
Kelly: It really was. It was a part that it's very close to me, and that's why Julian wanted me to do it because he knows me and because we're friends. Yeah. It's a drama, but there's humor there.
Paul: I really look forward to seeing that.
Paul: We're in production with a new TV movie at the moment called, Elizabeth is Missing. Which is an adaptation of the Emma Healy novel and it's a story of a woman with dementia, her friend, Elizabeth has gone missing and no one believes her, and so she realizes she has to solve this mystery before she loses her mind. And It's starring Glenda Jackson.
Kelly: Oh wow. Oh wait, is Jamie in that as well?
Paul: So we're very excited, that's just started shooting this week.
Okay, well that sounds great. Congratulations on the show, it's fantastic and I know everybody's really enjoying it. For those of your viewers that haven't seen it, they also will really enjoy it. Thank you guys for doing the interview, I really appreciate it.
Kelly: No worries. Thank you.
Paul: Thank you so much for your time, thank you. Yeah I hope you enjoy it.
Where to Watch The Victim
If you haven't already, check out The Victim on BritBox. It premiered September 10th on BritBox. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Remember, new members can get a free 7-day trial of BritBox, and if you don't have a smart TV or device compatible with their app, you can always subscribe through Amazon's Prime Video service. Thanks again to BritBox for coordinating this interview for our readers!