Anna Friel: Why I’m only getting better with age

Anna Friel.
Anna Friel.
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A firm fixture on our TV screens since ‘that kiss’ in Brookside, Anna Friel is now approaching 40. Grace Hammond reports.

Anna Friel doesn’t mind turning 40, in fact she’s looking forward to it.

“As you get older, you think, ‘I’m not fading, I’m getting better – I’m getting wiser and stronger and much more interesting, because I’ve seen and know so much more’,” she says.

It’s a subject close to the Rochdale-born actress’s heart, after spending five months working as the lead in ITV’s new thriller Marcella.

Written by Swedish writer Hans Rosenfeldt of The Bridge fame – and marking his first series exclusively penned for the UK – the eight-part thriller sees Friel playing Marcella, a heartbroken mother whose husband, played by Nicholas Pinnock, recently seen in hit TV drama Fortitude, unexpectedly leaves her for his mistress. After a long absence from work to take care of their children, she is lured back to her role as a detective to investigate the case of a serial killer, whose crimes bare a striking resemblance to an unsolved spate of killings from a decade ago.

Despite initially “convincing” herself she couldn’t play such a character, Friel relished the challenge the role presented.

“Anything that scares me – that I think I can’t do – I want to do,” she adds with a smile.

The daughter of two teachers, Friel has been in steady work since her famous role as Brookside’s Beth Jordache and TV’s first lesbian kiss.

She has moved on from the Brookside days, tackling UK dramas like The Street, West End hits in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and spreading her wings to star in US series Pushing Daisies and geo-political thriller Odyssey.

She now lives in Windsor but still has a home in Los Angeles, and is on good terms with her ex-David Thewlis, with whom she has a 10-year-old daughter Gracie, named after another Rochdale lass, Gracie Fields. Balancing work and family commitments – with Gracie “growing up on the set of Harry Potter” when Thewlis starred as Professor Lupin – is something “we all have to do now”, she adds.

“I reside much more here than in America, but Gracie’s schooling is of the most importance. She’s in an international school doing the International Baccalaureate, so it means if we do go to America, she can take that same syllabus she’s doing.” Friel explains how she makes her career and parenting work. “I could never bear the idea of putting my child through boarding school. I understand why lots of people do, but it would break my heart.”

As much Friel loves her home town she’ll be heading further afield when she and Gracie enjoy a holiday together soon – though mother and daughter initially had different ideas. “I’m really in need of a break,” says Friel, adding that her last holiday was more than two years ago.

“I want to plant my garden, use my Aga and see friends I haven’t seen in ages. Gracie’s like, ‘Mummy, please can we have turquoise sea and white sand’, and that’s the thing I’m trying to make come true for her.”

Marcella begins on ITV on Monday, April 4.

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Is this the rudest word to ever appear on Countdown?