Julia McKenzie: 'I relished my nasty new role'

(Image credit: Steffan Hill)

Julia McKenzie is known for playing likeable characters, such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and and busy housewife Hester in the sitcom Fresh Fresh. But in the TV adaptation of JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, she can be seen playing a far more villainous character.

The actress admits that she was shocked when she was offered the role as spiteful social climber Shirley Mollison in the BBC1 series which is based on the writer’s first foray into novel writing after the Harry Potter books. She adds, however, that she relished the change.  

"I was amazed I got the part,” says Julia. “I'm normally offered something where I hold a duster in my hand, so it was nice to be offered a different sort of role."

The Casual Vacancy, which also stars Michael Gambon and Keeley Hawes, is set in a seemingly-idyllic country village that turns out to be a hotbed of simmering tensions when a local councillor suddenly dies and a seat on the council becomes vacant. 

The Casual Vacancy begins at 9.00pm on BBC One, Sunday, 15 February.