10 Roles That Made Us Love Anna Friel: From 'Pushing Daisies' to 'Marcella'
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Anna Friel returns this week in Charming the Hearts of Men, a romantic drama movie set in the politically charged 1960s that opens in select theaters and VOD Friday (August 13). It’s another interesting choice from an actress who has always kept us on our toes, even if she didn't actually inspire a Madonna song. To whet your appetite, here's a guide to some of the prolific Brit's most memorable film and TV roles to date.
1. Brookside (1993-1995)
Friel’s career breakthrough came in Channel 4's edgy Liverpool-set soap opera, which was sadly axed in 2003. Nine years earlier, Friel made TV history when her character Beth Jordache took part in the first ever lesbian kiss broadcast in the U.K. before the 9pm watershed. It’s such an iconic moment that director Danny Boyle included a clip of the kiss in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
2.The Land Girls (1998)
Friel, Rachel Weisz, and Catherine McCormack convey plenty of female solidarity in this classy British period film. They play three very different women who, as members of the Women’s Land Army, run a country farm while the men are away fighting in World War II. Friel is on suitably twinkly form as Prue, a hairdresser with a mischievous glint in her eye.
3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
Friel credits this all-star Shakespeare adaptation with helping to launch her U.S. career. "I think that sort of changed things for me, especially in America, because the cast was really great — Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale — and people started to think, 'If she's working with them she must be doing well,'" she told The Independent a few years later. As Hermia, a young woman caught in a tricky love triangle, she's a natural and charismatic presence.
4. Me Without You (2001)
This British coming-of-age movie is a bit like a quirkier Beaches. Friel and Michelle Williams play two quite different young women whose teenage friendship often becomes toxic as they grow older: Friel’s Marina is a splashy extrovert, while Williams’ Holly is a bookish wallflower. It’s a well observed and entertaining friendship drama that's well worth seeking out.
5. Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
Friel received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in this disappointingly short-lived comedy series created by Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller. She appears in all 22 episodes as Chuck, a young woman who is coaxed back to life when Ned (Lee Pace) – who had a childhood crush on her – discovers he can bring folks back from the dead. Known for its super-quirky visuals and clever wordplay, Pushing Daisies often features on lists of shows that were canceled too soon.
6. The Look of Love (2013)
Steve Coogan stars in this flawed but enjoyable biopic of Paul Raymond, a sketchy impresario who became the richest man in Britain after building a business empire in strip clubs, pornography, and real estate in London's Soho. Friel co-stars as his wife Jean, a woman who initially seems like a game partner-in-crime, before becoming alienated by his extravagant playboy lifestyle. She gives both a sympathetic and poignant performance.
7. Marcella (2016-)
Friel's signature role comes in this excellent detective series from The Bridge mastermind Hans Rosenfeldt. She stars as D.S. Marcella Backland, a former Metropolitan Police officer who returns to her high-pressure job following the breakdown of her marriage. Over three seasons to date, we've seen Marcella investigate some very complex cases while battling a shadowy mental disorder that causes sudden blackouts and memory loss. It's consistently gripping and twisty stuff.
8. Broken (2017)
Friel deservedly earned a BAFTA nomination for her performance opposite Sean Bean in this gritty miniseries. She’s on searing form as Christina Fitzsimmons, a mom-of-three living in an impoverished English town who resorts to stealing her dead mother’s pension after losing her job. Friel’s harrowing character arc dominates the first episode, making for a truly haunting watch.
9. The Girlfriend Experience (2017)
Friel’s lead role in season two of Starz’s intriguing anthology series underlines her fearlessness: she’s prepared to take on parts that other actors might balk at. Here she plays Erica Myles, a high-powered Republican fundraising officer involved in intense BDSM relationships with several other women. It’s another complex and sensitive performance from Friel.
10. Butterfly (2018)
Broadcast in the U.S. on Hulu, this groundbreaking British miniseries follows an 11-year-old child, Maxine (Callum Booth-Ford), who begins to realize she is transgender. Friel gives a beautifully human performance as Vicky, her supportive but sometimes rather bewildered mother, who sticks up for Maxine in front of her less accepting father (Emmett J. Scanlan). It makes for an affecting and enlightening viewing.
Have we missed one of your favorite Anna Friel roles?