Biography: The rather striking Anna Maxwell-Martin was born May 10, 1977 in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, and is a rising star on both stage and screen. Anna had dreamed all her life of becoming actress even though her family had no background in the arts whatsoever. She starred in school plays... At the age of 20 she auditioned for the prestigious Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art, the school she had dreamed of attending since childhood but however unfortunately she was declined. Undetered she applied for the London Academy Of Dramatic art, where she was accepted. Sadly, whilst training at L.A.M.D.A., her father passed away. Anna wanted to be strong and complete her training as she was sure her father would have wanted. She used the emotions she felt to breathe life into the more emotional parts she was playing in the plays she performed in while at drama school...
Anna has worked extensively as a stage actress and in television, film and audio voice work.
Her period drama roles include:
North & South (2004) as Bessy Higgins
Although she was an experienced stage actress North & South was one of Anna's first TV film roles. I read the book before watching the miniseries and Bessy Higgins was one of my favorite characters in the book. To my mind Anna was perfectly cast in the role, a wonderful friend for heroine Margaret Hale.
Bleak House (2005) as Esther Summerson
This adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic has an all star cast and Anna as Esther is strong and an amazing heroine! Other people thought so too because Anna was nominated and won a BAFTA TV award for Best Actress for her role as Esther Summerson. This is my favorite of her roles! Check out the BBC Bleak House site.
I found this lovely quote on her role and winning the award:
"I was shocked by the reaction I got for Bleak House. It was very intensive but one of the best jobs of my life. It was a chance to play a character that grows and develops and I was very enmeshed in it. But I didn't realise how stylish it was and how much people would love it." - Anna Maxwell Martin, BBC Wind In The Willows Interview
The Wind In The Willows (2006) as Gaoler's Daughter
While doing research for this post I came across her role in this TV film. I remember my mom reading The Wind In The Willows to me and my siblings when we were little and how much fun the story of Mole and Toad was. This 2006 adaptation stars a human cast (not animated or with silly animal costumes like previous films) in stage like settings. I haven't see the entire film but I enjoyed watching this video clip of Anna in her role as the comedic Gaoler's Daughter. Also you can read the BBC's interview with Anna about this film here.
Becoming Jane (2007) as Cassandra Austen
Although I'm not a huge fan of this biopic on Jane Austen, which is largely made up, the best and brightest point in it's favor is Anna as sweet Cassandra Austen! Because this film related the younger years of Jane Austen it also tells about Cassandra's engagement to army chaplain Robert Fowle and his later death abroad. There are some very charming scenes of Jane teasing the young couple, comforting Cassandra after Mr. Fowle's death and the sisters devoted relationship. A fan of Anna's has put together this video on YouTube with clips of Anna's scenes. She also has some of the prettiest dresses in the film! :)
South Riding (2011) as Sarah Burton
When I heard that Anna was to play opposite David Morrissey (Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility 2008) I was quite intrigued. South Riding is based on a book which tells the story of a determined young teacher, Sarah Burton, who moves back to her home town in 1930's Yorkshire to teach at a school for girls. Her students and their parents live through great hardships (some have slightly inappropriate themes) but Sarah continues to inspire her students to better lives and brighter minds. Anna was perfect as the caring, spunky and slightly stubborn teacher and romance with David Morrissey's character was rocky but sweet. I don't recommend this film for younger viewers but if my older readers are interested you can find the trailer here and the Masterpiece Theatre site here.
Random Facts about Anna:
-Is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.
-Married to Roger Michell, a film director
-Their daughter Maggie was born in 2009, their son was to be born 2011
-Has a quirky sense of humor.
-Nominated for three BAFTA TV awards, won two.
-Born Anna Charlotte Martin but added her grandfather's name, Maxwell, to her surname to distinguish her from another actor when she joined the Equity actors union.
-One of Anna's closest friends is Becoming Jane co-star Lucy Cohu who had some lovely thinks to say about her in a 2009 interview with The Independent.
-Has voiced many characters in BBC radio dramas including: Charles Dickens Great Expectations as Estella (2006), Agatha Christie's Crooked House as Sophia Leonides (2008), Charlotte Bronte's Villette as Lucy Snowe (2009) and Juvenile Jane (2010) reading extracts from Jane Austen's Juvenilia.
"Anna is very rare in this industry. She is without artifice as a person, and that is reflected in her acting. I remember sitting through a screening of Becoming Jane and there is a moment where Anna's character is grieving over the death of her fiancé that was just breathtaking in its simplicity.
She is incredibly beautiful, inside and out – although she'll scream when she reads that. She is a great mate to have, because she will listen to me for hours on end..."
- Fellow actress Lucy Cohu on being friends with Anna
More Anna Links:
Anna Maxwell Martin is a stunning and talented actress. Her portrayals of a variety of period drama characters are simply done yet charming and endearing. I admire her strength and abilities and hope to see her in many other period films (hopefully one day as a Jane Austen character)!
Have you seen Anna Maxwell Martin in any of these films?
Which of Anna's roles are your favorites?