Shauna Macdonald‘s film and TV career has ranged from acclaimed horror movies like The Descent to TV favourites like Danger Mouse, via Filth and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. On Saturday 9 February she’ll be at An Lanntair to introduce a special Hebridean Dark Skies Festival screening of one of the films that kickstarted her career, The Rocket Post, which tells the true story of a German scientist’s attempt to launch a rocket-powered postal service between Scarp and Harris. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Shauna.
Hi Shauna. We’re looking forward to your visit to the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival in February. What do the Hebrides mean to you?
My Dad’s family is from Gress so my family and I used to come up to Lewis every summer to visit everyone. It was a magical time for my big sister and me as we spent a lot of our days frolicking on the beach and on the North Sea or running across moorland with our cousins. My Hebridean family have always embraced us and welcomed me to the point where I can easily delude myself in to thinking that I belong here. It’s so nice to now have daughters of my own who can experience the sheer beauty of the Outer Hebrides and the freedom it brings. It’s not so much of a hidden jewel as it used to be thanks to an increased amount of tourism but it is still my favourite holiday destination of choice. I remember Gary Lewis, during the filming of The Rocket Post, said that you could get drunk on the air here. At the time I didn’t understand what he meant but I now understand just how gloriously intoxicating it is here. The light, the land, the sky, the sea, the people… it’s just astonishing. Every time I visit I wish I could stay longer.
What are your memories of filming The Rocket Post?
I was 19 when I filmed The Rocket Post but I remember it very clearly. I remember being in awe of Kevin McKidd and Ulrich Thomsen. I remember getting the speed boat across to Taransay every morning with my hair in curlers. I remember we had four days of freakishly hot weather which luckily co-incided with the filming sequence of launching the rocket. I remember how bitterly cold I was as my character never wore a coat. I remember being taking to hospital because I had sprained my ankle and the nurses told me that it didn’t matter if I was filming a movie, I was still not going to get crutches. My memories are clear yet ridiculously romantic. I thought I was gonna be a movie star.
What wisdom would you pass on to your younger self?
Enjoy every single moment of a job. The older you get the less parts there are around. Work hard but ENJOY the process. Enjoy the auditions, enjoy the re-shoots, enjoy standing around in the freezing cold and enjoy everyone that you work with, not just those who are in front of the camera. Never believe your own hype and always be open to learning.
Congratulations on your recent BAFTA win for White Chamber. What impact has it had on you?
The BAFTA win has restored my faith that I don’t have to re-train, that I should stick with my chosen profession. It shows me that on some level the viewers think I am doing a good job.
What do you think has been the favourite role of your career?
Apart from playing Catherine in The Rocket Post I would say that playing Sarah in The Descent was a pretty amazing experience and I role that has definitely led me on to other opportunities.
Finally, which was more fun – getting to be in a Star Wars film or doing the voice of Professor Squawkencluck in Danger Mouse? And were your children impressed by either of these?
Definitely voicing Squawk was my favourite out of the two. My kids were finally allowed to see some of my work which was great. Danger Mouse tends to go off the radar as very few people stop me in the street and say ‘hang on a second, I recognise that voice!! I think my kids were probably more impressed by my Star Wars gig.