Margaret Thompson

played by Kelly Macdonald

Beautiful and intelligent, Margaret can hold her own with powerful men.

Character Bio

Beautiful and intelligent with a survivor's instinct, Margaret can hold her own with powerful men, traits that served her well with Nucky Thompson. The pair married when Nucky ran into legal trouble, but Margaret tired of the risks that came with Nucky's business. She packed up her family for a fresh start in New York where she works at a Wall Street brokerage firm.

Bio

A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Kelly Macdonald is best known for her performances in films by some of the most influential filmmakers of our time: 'No Country for Old Men,' by the Coen brothers, Robert Altman's 'Gosford Park' and Danny Boyle's 'Trainspotting.'

Macdonald made her acting debut as Diane, Renton's (Ewan McGregor) one-night stand in 'Trainspotting' (1996). In 2001, she played Mary, a visiting servant who works for Maggie Smith's countess in 'Gosford Park' (SAG, Critics Choice Awards for the ensemble). More recently, Macdonald garnered the London Critics Circle Award for British Supporting Actress, a BAFTA nomination and a SAG Award (ensemble) for her performance as Carla Jean Moss, wife to hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) in 'No Country for Old Men.'

Macdonald's screen credits also include 'Choke,' with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston (Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for the ensemble cast), 'Nanny McPhee' with Emma Thompson, 'Lassie' with Peter O'Toole, 'All The Invisible Children' for Mehdi Charef and Emir Kusturica, John Crowley's 'Intermission,' 'Cousin Bette' with Jessica Lange, 'Elizabeth' with Cate Blanchett, 'Strictly Sinatra,' Gregg Araki's 'Splendor,' Phil Joanou's 'Entropy,' Mike Figgis' 'The Loss of Sexual Innocence,' Hugh Hudson's 'My Life So Far,' 'Stella Does Tricks' and 'Some Voices' opposite Daniel Craig. For 'Two Family House,' Macdonald received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead.

Macdonald also made cameo appearances in Marc Forster's 'Finding Neverland' (as Peter Pan), Michael Winterbottom's 'Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story' and 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' Most recently, she completed work on 'The Decoy Bride,' a comedy with Alice Eve and David Tennant.

For television, Macdonald garnered an Emmy® Award for her performance as the title character opposite Bill Nighy in the HBO original movie 'The Girl in the Cafe,' directed by David Yates from a screenplay by Richard Curtis. Last year, she co-starred with Tim Roth and John Simm in 'Skellig' for SKY.  Macdonald previously portrayed journalist Della Smith in the groundbreaking BBC miniseries 'State of Play.'

Interview with Kelly Macdonald

HBO

In Episode 3, Margaret makes a real journey from widow to...something else. What is driving her?

Kelly Macdonald

It's gone beyond just looking after her family at this point. It's something else. She's had this different idea of who Nucky is and then when he rebuffs her soda bread offer she thinks, "That's it. I'm going to get noticed." She's playing a bit of a game. She can give as good as Lucy, I think.

HBO

Terence Winter refers to Episode 5 as a chess match between Margaret and Nucky -- is she learning to play?

Kelly Macdonald

I think she's got a bit of a history. But she's seen something that she wants. You know, "a woman scorned..." -- she's going to get noticed no matter what.

HBO

It's interesting that she's gone from battered wife to accomplished chess player.

Kelly Macdonald

But we also know that she travelled a long way to bigger things in Atlantic City. She must have had some gumption to get to America in the first place because it wasn't an easy trip in those days. So I think you can tell something about her already, that she's wanted a better life for herself. And she ended up in quite an abusive relationship and has seen a glimmer of this other life that's just so tantalizing and within her grasp. I think she's desperate, really, to see out her possibilities.

HBO

Is that why she steals the lingerie in the Episode 4?

Kelly Macdonald

She wants a little bit of that life. And like I said, I think she's got a history. I think possibly it's not the first time she's stolen anything. I think she's been the good wife and living an honest life for awhile and she just needs something. It's like with chocolate -- you can be really good with your diet for quite awhile and then it's like "I need chocolate!" You just need a taste of something delicious.

HBO

At the temperance meeting, she offers to talk to Nucky for help with their cause. Do you think her motives are purely prohibitionist?

Kelly Macdonald

No, not at all. I mean, not "not at all," but she's showing off to these women that she knows the man in charge and she'll be able to sort it out. She's feeling a little bit giddy with a tiny bit of power. In the end she's totally mortified that it doesn't work out. He lets her down in more than one way.

HBO

She then ups the ante and goes to Van Alden. Do you think she intended to rat Nucky out when she went there?

Kelly Macdonald

Oh absolutely. She's going to get noticed no matter what. She definitely goes into his makeshift office with that in mind. She's furious. She's not in a calm state at that point. She's acting without thinking. I don't think she realizes quite how dangerous both of these men are. She's playing with fire.

HBO

Outside Dante's Hall after the raid, Nucky and Margaret exchange a look...

Kelly Macdonald

She's sending him a message. He looks at her and that was the goal. She was trying to show to these women she had a little bit of power and control with Nucky to get him to sort things out and he robbed her of that little moment of glory. This is her making a definite point. And it could totally backfire. But it's too late. She's going down a certain path.

She wants a certain kind of lifestyle and she wants Nucky. And that's basically what's driving Margaret at this point.
HBO

Terence Winter talks about it being an interesting time for women. Did women have to hide their intelligence then?

Kelly Macdonald

I think the smart ones did. And she's smart enough and well read enough to know things and to know more than the average woman in her situation. Knowing when to use your...[Sound of water splashing] Sorry, I'm totally distracted by sea life. I'm at the water's edge. I'm scavenging for crabs and things... I'm on an island on the west coast of Scotland. I'm way out on the rocky outcrop. It's actually lovely. Apart from a dead seal on the beach which is quite unpleasant. Sorry. What was the question?

HBO

About women hiding their intelligence...

Kelly Macdonald

I think it's about knowing when to show your smarts. And women use their smarts in different ways. Lucy and Margaret are very similar, I think. Lucy's a lot smarter than she lets on. She uses her body to get what she wants. But she's no different than Margaret. She wants a certain kind of lifestyle and she wants Nucky. And that's basically what's driving Margaret at this point.

HBO

There must be something terrifying to be alone, a widow, with two children, wondering how she can provide for her children.

Kelly Macdonald

That's the thing that motivates her to start with. And Nucky helps her, but as she gets to know him, she wants a bit more. She wants him, basically, and the life he can offer her. I think she's going to give Lucy a run for her money.

HBO

Were there any specific challenges to playing Margaret?

Kelly Macdonald

The real challenge was not knowing what was coming up and thinking I had a handle on her. From the pilot, say, she was this ultra-stiff goody two shoes. But things started to change. She's much more interesting than I gave her credit for. Nobody's just entirely painted one color. So it was really interesting to see this other side of her.