Sir Michael Gambon: 'I'm quite good at villainous characters. There's more meat in them'

(Image credit: BBC/Bronte Film and Television L)

Sir Michael Gambon famously played Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films and now he's starring in the BBC's adapatation of The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling's first adult novel...

In this three-part adaptation Michael stars as Howard Mollison, the chairman of the Parish Council in Pagford, a picturesque country village where not all is what it seems...

What can you tell us about your character Howard Mollison?

"He's chairman on the Parish Council and he helps run the place. He regards Sweetlove House, the community centre in Pagford which houses various projects for the people who live in the nearby Fields council estate as a ghastly eyesore and wants to turn it into an exclusive spa..."

Tell us about his family...

"He has a son Miles, who is a solicitor and has done quite well - mainly because Howard and his wife Shirley have pushed him. Miles is a very nice man. He's married to Samanatha, who's played by Keeley Hawes, with two children, but Howard doesn't particularly like Miles being married to her."

What about his wife, Shirley?

"She and Howard are a double act. She's worse than him. She comes out with terrible things and she's very, very ambitious. She's the main force behind it all!"

Howard is still a nasty piece of work though...

"Yes, I’m quite good at villainous characters. There’s more meat in them. I’ve played lots of tough characters and heavies, horrible parts."

Are complex characters like Howard easier to relate to than Albus Dumbledore?

"I’d say I prefer the wise wizard, wouldn’t you? The pleasant old chap who is nice to children. He came naturally."

Do you know people like Howard?

"I’ve been an actor for so many years now, the only people I ever meet are actors and kindred spirits. My whole world is actors, really. We’re all very nice."

Did you read the novel by JK Rowling before filming?

"She did send me one, which was very kind, but it didn’t arrive until I got home, having just finished the whole thing. It’s a bit thick for my storyline."

The series has a fantastic cast, did you have good fun on set?

"It’s a big cast, and the young cast especially are brilliant. I never worked with them all at any one time during the process of my part in the series so I didn’t get to meet everyone.  When you’re filming your scenes it tends to be a little world you live in, and you’re not always aware of what else is going on with the other cast during filming and their storylines!"

And the locations are stunning. Are you familiar with the Cotswolds and the west Country where filming took place?  

"It was breathtakingly beautiful, I don’t know how I’d get on living somewhere like Pagford, I like a lot of noise around me which is why I like living in London. That’s where I exist."

The Casual Vacancy continues on Sundays on BBC1

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.