It isn’t my favourite – there are many to choose from – but it is hard to forget because, as it played out in the shiny screening room at London’s Soho Hotel, I was overwhelmed by a barely repressible urge to stand up, reach out and take Ian, the male lead, by the throat and shake him until he turned blue.
Partly it’s because she has the build and size of a teenager – and a young one at that. Even when we finally introduce ourselves and retreat to the café for tea and coffee (she’s buying) and a seat in the window, people pass by and no-one gives her a second look. “I like to be left alone,” she tells me at one point. It's not out yet." (Kathleen Hepburn’s debut feature, Never Steady, Never Still, in which Henderson co-stars with Théodore Pellerin, has yet to be given a release date.) "I don’t know if it will be OK," she adds. “To get to that point it’s a slightly torturous thing because you’re going so far away from yourself and you’re trying to make yourself do something that’s not natural for your body and make it look natural.
Partly, too, it may be that no-one else seems to notice who she is. And yet Henderson is one of Scotland’s most familiar actors, one who first came to our attention more than two decades ago in Trainspotting on the big screen and Hamish Mac Beth on the small one. You’ve probably not heard of them.) But here we are unnoticed. “I’m happy to be anonymous and just to lead my own wee quiet life.” She must get noticed now and again, though, especially when she turns up in something like the second series of Sally Wainwright’s hugely successful drama, Happy Valley. Not to the point where every second person speaks to you. That kind of character for me is a great acting role.
She’s usually the quiet one in the corner, she says. What struck her while making Urban Hymn, she says, is how mature the film’s young actors (including Letitia Wright, who plays one of Henderson’s care home charges) seemed in comparison to how Henderson remembers her own late teens and early 20s. And yet at 17, Henderson, a girl from a modest enough Scottish background, whose performance history mostly consisted of singing in pubs, decided to go to drama school in London on her own, far from the support of friends and family. “Such a lovely, lovely man.” Did she realise the first film, in which she played Spud’s girlfriend Gail (if I say soiled sheets … And I was just so excited that I was going to be in a film. It would drive me crazy.” And yet she has just finished bits and pieces in four different projects including Trainspotting (don’t tell anyone), another Michael Winterbottom film and a film by the South Korean director Joon-Ho Bong that saw her up a South Korean mountain surrounded by thousands of people on the first day of shooting.
“They seem capable and comfortable with the whole thing,” she says. That must have required a certain inner steeliness surely? Yeah, that bit), would become quite the phenomenon it has? “For me nothing really came of it but I think in the last handful of years there’s been much more interest in me being in it than there was then.” Anyway, she says, it’s like the Harry Potter films (in which she plays Moaning Myrtle) or the Bridget Jones movies (as Bridget's friend, Jude). It’s not like every single week I get three or four scripts coming in.
Besides, at that stage, when you saw the tears shining in Ian’s eyes as he holds his boy at the end of the visit, before he is led back to his tiny cell to lay on his bunk-bed and stare at the ceiling for another 24 hours, a part of you thinks whatever the crime was, you don’t care; rather, what concerns you now is what happens next, because what use is this man to his children and his wife while he is in here?
Given recent comments by the Government about prisoner rehabilitation and the future of the criminal justice system, this story, which will be shown on Channel 4 in a couple of weeks, comes at an interesting time.
“But then when you’re in it, you just do.”The youngest of three growing up in a working-class family in Fife, Henderson studied drama in Kirkcaldy on the same course as Ewan Mc Gregor (with whom she later filmed Trainspotting) and Dougray Scott, before going on to study at London’s Guildhall.
From there, it was the National Theatre before bit-parts in TV (not least, BBC’s Hamish Macbeth) led her to film.
It was an extraordinary experience, she tells Charlotte Philby.
There is one scene in Everyday, the new feature-length drama by Michael Winterbottom, that sticks in my mind.
“You’re good with certain people and you’re bad to people behind the scenes because you’re human. That’s what makes you want to find the character because the best person in the world must have times when they’re tired or sick fed up or just a shadow passes over them the longer they live.” That idea was one of the reasons she wanted to be part of it. I can say I’m in it.” She pauses, then wonders should she even have said that. Maybe the guys did because they were all doing very well. But then something pulls you back and you have such a great time with people.