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Confronting her sibling, who raped her as a teenager, Maggie's demons come to the surface in the latest episode of the BBC Scotland drama as she fears she will never escape his shadow. It's just the latest trauma for Maggie, a recovering alcoholic who recently murdered paedophile cop Joe Dunn after discovering he’d groomed her underage grand-daughter for sex.
On Monday, Maggie's turmoil begins with a letter from her brother, played by another Edinburgh actor, Frank Gilhooley. Her emotions quickly spiral out of control when, later, he steps back into her life pleading forgiveness for raping her. And he has another bombshell to drop, he's dying, but will the pressure drive Maggie back to the drink?
Howden, who was brought up in Pennywell and is the daughter of the late Alex ‘Happy’ Howden, has been playing Maggie for the best part of five years now and says, "I was absolutely knackered after filming those episodes, Maggie’s behaviour carries on from the killing of Joe; because she was never charged for his murder, she feels guilty she was never punished... and then John turns up."
She recalls, "The majority of our scenes together were filmed in the backyard over one day. It was a lot to learn but I'm glad we did it that way because it was kind of surreal; just Frank and I. It was quite intense. We didn't really see anyone else.”
And just when it seems Maggie's mental state can't deteriorate any further, there's one final bombshell waiting to push her over the edge.
"I remember reading the script and getting a real shock," she reveals, admitting that she loves playing "raw and emotional" storylines
"It's like doing theatre. I love doing comedy and I love doing tragedy, it's the middle bits that are kinda boring. I love the extreme of a big Greek storyline and the fact it's more fun to play. I just throw myself into it, it's the only way I know. I'm sure there are less exhausting ways to do it, I've just never found them. I always feel I'm not being truthful if I don't really go for it."
Maggie’s current storyline comes to a head over the next couple of episodes and Howden reflects, "Looking ahead, I think Maggie will have an easier time, they really have put her through the wringer. Nobody wants to watch doom and gloom all the time, there's always a need for a bit of comedy, but you never know. It's like a surprise box, you never know what you're getting until you read the script."
Before any good times that may or may not be in the 'surprise box' the bad times have to be resolved soon.
She says, "It's quite horrific. She loses it completely after having shut things out her whole life, something that what her brother did to her has made her very good at it."
River City, October 4, BBC Scotland, 10pm / October 5, BBC One Scotland, 7pm