Anna Friel

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Anna Friel
Anna Friel TCA 2015.jpg
Anna Louise Friel

(1976-07-12) 12 July 1976 (age 42)
Years active1986–present
Partner(s) David Thewlis (2001–2010)
Rhys Ifans (2011–2014)

Anna Louise Friel (born 12 July 1976) is an English actress. Born in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, she has been acting professionally since age 13. Friel achieved fame with her portrayal of Beth Jordache on the British soap opera Brookside (1993–95), and came to international prominence when she played Charlotte "Chuck" Charles on ABC's Pushing Daisies (2007–09). She is the recipient of several accolades, including an Emmy Award, a Drama Desk Award, a National Television Award, an RTS Award, and an honorary degree, [1] as well as BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, Satellite Award, Saturn Award, Genie Award and Czech Lion Award nominations.

Rochdale town in Greater Manchester, England

Rochdale is a town in Greater Manchester, England, at the foothills of the South Pennines on the River Roch, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) northwest of Oldham and 9.8 miles (15.8 km) northeast of Manchester. It is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, which had a population of 211,699 in 2011.

<i>Brookside</i> British soap opera

Brookside is a British soap opera set in Liverpool, England. The series began on the launch night of Channel 4 on 2 November 1982, and ran for 21 years until 4 November 2003. Originally intended to be called Meadowcroft, the series was produced by Lime Pictures and it was conceived by Phil Redmond who also devised Grange Hill (1978–2008) and Hollyoaks (1995–present).

American Broadcasting Company American broadcast television network

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, But the network's second corporate headquarters and News headquarters remains in New York City, New York at their broadcast center on 77 West 66th Street in Lincoln Square in Upper West Side Manhattan.


Friel made her film debut in The Land Girls (1998). She has since appeared in various features, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream , Rogue Trader (both 1999), Sunset Strip (2000), Me Without You (2001), Timeline (2003), Goal! (2005), Bathory (2008), Land of the Lost (2009), London Boulevard , You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (both 2010), Limitless (2011), The Look of Love (2013), The Cleanse , and I.T. (both 2016).

<i>The Land Girls</i> 1998 film by David Leland

The Land Girls is a 1998 film directed by David Leland and starring Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh and Ann Bell. It is based on the book Land Girls by Angela Huth.

<i>A Midsummer Nights Dream</i> (1999 film) 1999 film by Michael Hoffman

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a 1999 romantic comedy fantasy film based on the play A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. It was directed by Michael Hoffman. The ensemble cast features Kevin Kline as Bottom, Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Everett as Titania and Oberon, Stanley Tucci as Puck, and Calista Flockhart, Anna Friel, Christian Bale, and Dominic West as the four lovers.

<i>Rogue Trader</i> (film) 1999 film by James Dearden

Rogue Trader is a 1999 British biographical drama film written and directed by James Dearden and starring Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel. The film centers in the life of former derivatives broker Nick Leeson and the 1995 collapse of Barings Bank. It was based on Leeson's 1996 book Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World.

Outside of film, Friel has starred in numerous British and American television series, such as The Jury (2004), Odyssey (2015), The Girlfriend Experience (2017), and Marcella (2016–present). Her stage work includes Patrick Marber's Closer (Broadway, 1999), and West End productions of Breakfast at Tiffany's (2009) and Uncle Vanya (2012).

<i>The Jury</i> (TV series) television series

The Jury is an American legal drama television series that was broadcast on Fox in 2004. Each week, in the same New York City courtroom, a new 12-person jury deliberates over a criminal case. Each episode begins at the start of jury deliberations; the trial is recounted through flashbacks.

American Odyssey is an American thriller television series which premiered on April 5, 2015, on NBC. Created by Peter Horton, Adam Armus and Kay Foster, the series revolves around the discovery by a U.S. Army team on a secret mission in Mali, that a major U.S. company has been funding Islamist terror groups, and the subsequent cover-up of this revelation, which involves the attack and killing of the team of U.S. soldiers by private military contractors dispatched by the same company.

<i>The Girlfriend Experience</i> (TV series) American television drama series

The Girlfriend Experience is an American anthology drama television series created, written, and directed by Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz and airing on the premium cable network Starz. The first season stars Riley Keough as Christine Reade, a law student intern who also works as a high-end escort. Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, it is based on the 2009 film of the same name. A 13-episode first season premiered on April 10, 2016, and all episodes were made available on Starz On Demand.

Early life

Friel was born in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Her mother Julie (née Bamford) is a special needs teacher. Her father, Desmond "Des" Friel, was born in Belfast and raised in County Donegal, Ireland. He is a former French teacher and folk guitarist, who now owns a web design company. [2] Her brother Michael is a physician, who in his youth did television advertising work for Hovis. [3]

Greater Manchester County of England

Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.

Belfast City in the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.

County Donegal County in the Republic of Ireland

County Donegal is a county of Ireland in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Donegal in the south of the county. Donegal County Council is the local council and Lifford the county town.

Friel attended Crompton House Church of England School, and later Holy Cross College. [4] She began her training as an actress at Oldham Theatre Workshop.

Crompton House Church of England School is a mixed gender Church of England academy and sixth form for 11- to 18-year-olds, located in the High Crompton area of Shaw and Crompton in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, Greater Manchester, England.

Holy Cross College is a Catholic Sixth Form College on Manchester Road in Bury, Greater Manchester, England. The college regularly ranks as one of the top ten sixth forms in the country, placing 8th on the list in 2007, and being placed 2nd in the country in 2008.

Oldham town in Greater Manchester, England

Oldham is a town in Greater Manchester, England, amid the Pennines and between the rivers Irk and Medlock, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) southeast of Rochdale and 6.9 miles (11.1 km) northeast of Manchester. It is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, which had a population of 230,800 in 2015.



Friel made her professional acting debut at age 13, playing the daughter of Michael Palin's character in the television miniseries G.B.H. , which aired in the UK in 1991 and was nominated for several BAFTAs. [5] This led to appearances on Coronation Street and Emmerdale . In 1992, she was cast as Beth Jordache on the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside . She played the role for two years, and was involved in some of the series' most famous plots, including the death of her on-screen father, [6] and a storyline featuring the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss in British television history, [4] which went on to be broadcast around the world (including 76 countries where homosexuality is illegal) when it featured as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. [7] She later said, "For a very long time I was defined by that kiss. And I didn't want to be. I spent years turning down other lesbian roles because it felt like going back to Beth. [But it] did also make me want to take on parts that showed extreme sides of women". [8] In 1995, Friel won a National Television Award in the category of Most Popular Actress for her work on Brookside. [9]

Michael Palin English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter

Sir Michael Edward Palin, is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter. He was a member of the comedy group Monty Python. Since 1980 he has made a number of travel documentaries.

<i>G.B.H.</i> (TV series) television series

GBH is a seven-part British television drama written by Alan Bleasdale shown in the summer of 1991 on Channel 4. The protagonists are Michael Murray, the hard-left Labour leader of a city council in the North of England, and Jim Nelson, the headmaster of a special school.

The British Academy Television Awards, also known as the BAFTA TV Awards, are presented in an annual award show hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). They have been awarded annually since 1955.

I was convinced I was making a terrible mistake, that I had ideas above my station, and for a while I really thought I'd never work again. But then ... suddenly everything clicked.

Friel on her decision to leave Brookside [10]

Upon leaving the show, Friel was cast in an episode of Tales from the Crypt alongside Imelda Staunton, and appeared in Stephen Poliakoff's television film The Tribe (1998), which drew controversy for its inclusion of a ménage à trois sex scene. [11] She then played leading roles in small-screen adaptations of Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend and Robert Louis Stevenson's St. Ives (both 1998), and co-starred in several British films, such as The Land Girls (1998), with Rachel Weisz; Rogue Trader (1999), with Ewan McGregor; and Mad Cows (1999), [12] with Joanna Lumley. Next, she appeared as Hermia in the 1999 film version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream .

I think that [role] 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 [those people] she must be doing well'.

Friel on A Midsummer Night's Dream [13]

During this period, Friel made her Broadway debut in a production of Patrick Marber's Closer , which ran for 172 performances at the Music Box Theatre in New York. The show was applauded by critics, many of whom mentioned Friel as a highlight. Charles Isherwood of Variety wrote, "... it's the exquisitely lovely Friel who is the discovery here. Her Alice is both the nihilistic core of the play and its tender center, and the paradoxical mixture of toughness and fragility [she] brings to it are essential to the play's deepest truths. It'a a star-making performance". [14] Later that year, Friel won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. [15]


In 2001, Friel made her West End stage debut in an adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Lulu . [16] Her film appearances during this time included lead roles in An Everlasting Piece (2000), directed by Barry Levinson and co-starring Billy Connolly; Sunset Strip (2000), opposite Jared Leto; Me Without You (2001), opposite Michelle Williams; and Richard Donner's big-budget fantasy-adventure film Timeline (2003), in which she played Gerard Butler's love interest. She also starred in the Canadian film The War Bride (2001), for which she received a Genie Award nomination for Best Actress.

Friel in 2001 Henry Bond for Mulberry.jpg
Friel in 2001

Friel's next starring role was in the television film Watermelon (2003). She was then cast as Attorney Megan Delaney in The Jury , an American legal drama series that ran on Fox for a single season in 2004. Speaking about the experience, which was her first role on American television, she later reflected, "Everyone was saying, 'you will never believe how much hard work it is', and I was telling them not to worry because I'm used to it ... but my God were they right ... You run off the set from one scene and get changed and run back on. It is so fast and so very well organised but it is hard, hard bloody work". [13]

In 2005, Friel played a Geordie nurse in the sports drama Goal! . The following year, she starred in the Canadian film Niagara Motel , and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Bolton for contributions to the performing arts. [1]

In 2007, Friel was cast as lead character Charlotte "Chuck" Charles in Pushing Daisies , an American comedy-drama television series created by Bryan Fuller, which aired on ABC from 2007 to 2009. The show received favourable reviews during its two-season run, [17] and Friel's performance won her a Golden Globe nomination. [18] However, it was revealed in November 2008 that Pushing Daisies had been cancelled due to declining ratings. [19] Subsequently, Friel was offered six television roles during the following year's pilot season, but declined all of them in favour of focusing on her film career. [20] Next, she starred as the title character in Bathory (2008), an historical drama directed by Juraj Jakubisko. Friel was nominated for a Czech Lion Award for her performance.

The following year, Friel co-starred with Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost, a big-budget adventure film based on the television series of the same name. Also that year, she returned to the West End in an adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's , which played at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and gained attention for its addition of nudity. [21] The production received mixed reviews, but Friel's portrayal of Holly Golightly (one of her "all time favourite heroines") [22] was praised; Alice Jones of The Independent described her as "infectious", adding, "Gorgeously gamine and wrapped, like a treat from Tiffany's, in an array of ever more extravagantly bowed cocktail dresses, she's a bewitching stage presence, at once perilously provocative and child-like". [23]

In November 2009, Friel received an RTS Award for her portrayal of a struggling single mum in the British drama series The Street . [24]


In 2010, Friel appeared with Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts in the Woody Allen-directed comedy You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger . That same year, she starred opposite Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley in the crime drama London Boulevard , and co-starred with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in the sci-fi thriller Limitless .

In 2011, Friel appeared as a fictionalised version of herself in an episode of the mockumentary series Come Fly with Me . [25] That same year, she starred in Neverland on the SyFy channel (a prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan ), and earned critical acclaim with her performance in the ITV drama Without You. [26] [27] Friel then returned to the West End to play the role of Yelena in an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya , for which she received strong reviews. [28] [29] Next, she starred in the BBC series Public Enemies (2012); played Steve Coogan's wife in The Look of Love (2013), a biopic based on the life of Paul Raymond; and starred in the British film Having You (2013), opposite Andrew Buchan.

In September 2013, Friel was cast alongside Kyle Chandler in the Showtime pilot The Vatican, directed by Ridley Scott. [30] It was announced later in the year that Showtime had decided not to proceed with a full series, as previously planned. [31]

In 2015, Friel was cast in the lead role of Sergeant Odelle Ballard in American Odyssey , which ran for a single season on the NBC network. She also starred in the acclaimed Norwegian miniseries The Heavy Water War (UK title: The Saboteurs), [32] a drama set during World War II. Next, she had leading roles in four films: Urban and the Shed Crew (2015), based on the non-fiction book of the same name; The Cleanse (2016), in which she co-starred with Anjelica Huston; I.T. (2016), a thriller directed by John Moore and starring Pierce Brosnan; and the Irish-Canadian crime drama Tomato Red (2017).

In 2017, Friel starred on the second season of The Girlfriend Experience , a drama series produced by Steven Soderbergh for the Starz network. Friel's portrayal of Erica Myles, a Republican engaged in relationships with two women, was described as "fantastic" [33] and "outstanding". [34] Referring to the series' intense work schedule and the explicit nature of its sex scenes, Friel said that the role was her "most challenging job to date". [35] That same year, she was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for her performance in the six-part BBC drama Broken . [36]

Since 2016, Friel has played the title role in the British "Nordic" noir detective series Marcella . She won the International Emmy Award for Best Actress (2017) for her performance. Speaking about the series and her character, she said, "I nearly pulled out of it after I'd accepted it ... because I just thought, 'Oh God, how can I do this? There are so many amazing female detectives that have done it so well, I don't know what I can offer differently' ... so when it was received as well as it was, I thought maybe I had done something that is different and I've put my own ownership and my own stamp on it". [37] In 2018, it was announced that the series would return for a third season. [38]

In October 2018, Friel starred as the parent of a transgender child in Butterfly . Lucy Mangan of The Guardian described the miniseries as "important, truthful ... a wonderfully delicate drama that covers new ground carefully and features fully realised characters", [39] while the New Statesman felt that Friel's portrayal of a mother "racked by guilt" was "sterling". [40] Friel said she and the show's creators felt a great responsibility to make it as realistic as possible; "We met all these wonderful families, who were saying, 'please tell our story and tell it properly'. I said, 'do you not feel represented?' And they said 'no'. People have so many comments and opinions, but they actually can be somewhat ill-informed". [41]

Other work

Friel has featured in television and print advertising campaigns for brands such as Reebok, [42] Virgin Atlantic, [43] Mulberry, [44] Three, [45] Pantene, [46] and Marks & Spencer. [47] She has appeared as a cover girl for numerous magazines.

In 2010, she starred as a chess player in the music video for the Manic Street Preachers' single "(It's Not War) Just the End of Love", alongside actor Michael Sheen.

Friel works as an ambassador for the WWF wildlife charity. [48] [49]

Personal life

In 2001, Friel began a relationship with actor David Thewlis, after the pair met on a flight to Cannes. [50] Later that year, Friel collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, needing emergency surgery and two blood transfusions for a ruptured ovarian cyst. [51] It was discovered that she suffers from endometriosis and would have difficulty conceiving. [52] Despite this, she later became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Gracie Ellen Mary Friel, on 9 July 2005 at Portland Hospital, London. [53] Gracie was named after Gracie Fields, and her mother's grandmothers, Ellen and Mary.

In December 2010, Friel and Thewlis separated after almost ten years together. [54]

Awards and nominations

1995 National Television Awards Most Popular Actress Brookside Won [9]
1995 TVTimes Best ActressBrooksideWon [55]
1999 Drama Desk Awards Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Closer Won [15]
2001 Genie Awards Genie Award for Best Actress The War Bride Nominated [56]
2007 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Pushing Daisies Nominated [57]
2008 Saturn Awards Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television Pushing DaisiesNominated [58]
2008 Golden Globe Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Pushing DaisiesNominated [18]
Online Film & Television AssociationBest Actress in a Comedy SeriesPushing DaisiesNominated [57]
2009 RTS North West Awards Best Performance in a Single Drama or Drama Series The Street Won [24]
2009 Czech Lion Awards Czech Lion Award for Best Actress Bathory Nominated [57]
2010 Sun in a Net Awards Best Actress in a Leading RoleBathoryWon [59]
2010 SFX Best ActressPushing DaisiesNominated [60]
2017Séries Mania FestivalBest Actress Broken Won [61]
2017 International Emmy Awards International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress Marcella Won [62]
2018 British Academy Television Awards British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress BrokenNominated [36]



1998The StringerHelen
The Land Girls Prue (Prudence)
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hermia
Rogue Trader Lisa Leeson
Mad CowsMaddy
2000 Sunset Strip Tammy Franklin
An Everlasting Piece Bronagh
2001 The War Bride Lily
Me Without You Marina
2003Last Rumba in RochdaleBodney (voice)Short film
Timeline Lady Claire
2005 Goal! Roz Harmison
2006 Irish Jam Maureen Duffy
Niagara Motel Denise
2007 Goal II: Living the Dream Roz Harmison
RubbishIsobelShort film
2008 Bathory Countess Erzsébet Báthory
2009 Land of the Lost Holly Cantrell
2010 London Boulevard Briony
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Iris
2011 Limitless Melissa
2012Metamorphosis: Titian 2012DianaShort film
2013 The Look of Love Jean Raymond
Having You Anna
2014 Good People Sarah
AdventHelenShort film
2015Urban & the Shed CrewGreta
2016 The Cleanse Maggie
I.T. Rose Regan
2017 Tomato Red Bev Merridew
2018The Sea JennyShort film
2019Sulphur and WhiteJoanne Tait


1991 G.B.H. Susan NelsonMiniseries; main cast
Coronation Street Belinda Johnson2 episodes
1992 Emmerdale Poppy Bruce4 episodes
1993MedicsHolly JarrettEpisode #3.3
1993–1995 Brookside Beth JordacheMain cast
1995 The Imaginatively Titled Punt & Dennis Show Episode #2.1
1996 Tales from the Crypt Angelica, LeahEpisode: "About Face"
Cadfael SionedEpisode: "A Morbid Taste for Bones"
1998 Our Mutual Friend Bella WilferMiniseries; main cast
The Tribe LizzieTelevision film
St. Ives Flora GilchristTelevision film
2001The FearStorytellerEpisode: "Horror: A True Tale"
2002Fields of GoldLucia MerrittTelevision film
2003 Watermelon Claire RyanTelevision film
2004 The Jury Megan DelaneyMain cast
Perfect Strangers Susie WildingTelevision film
2007–2009 Pushing Daisies Charlotte "Chuck" Charles Main cast
2009 The Street Dee Purnell2 episodes
2011 Neverland Elizabeth BonnyTelevision film
Treasure GuardsVictoria EckhartTelevision film
Come Fly with Me HerselfEpisode #1.5
Without YouEllieMiniseries; main cast
2012 Public Enemies Paula RadnorMiniseries; main cast
2013 Playhouse Presents JennyEpisode: "The Pavement Psychologist"
The VaticanKayla DuffyUnaired pilot
2014The Psychopath Next DoorDr Eve WrightTelevision film
2015 American Odyssey Sgt. Odelle BallardMain cast
The Heavy Water War Julie SmithMiniseries; main cast (UK title: The Saboteurs)
2016–present Marcella Det Sgt Marcella BacklandMain cast
2017 The Keith and Paddy Picture Show AdrianEpisode: Rocky
Broken Christina FitzsimmonsMiniseries; main cast
The Girlfriend Experience Erica MylesMain cast (season 2)
2018 Butterfly Vicky DuffyMiniseries; main cast
2019Deep WaterLisa KallistoMiniseries; main cast

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