Family & Companions
British actress Anna Friel first became a household name in her native country as a teenager on the serial "Brookside" (Channel 4, 1982-2003), where she enjoyed a revolutionary role playing British television's first lesbian character. She went on to appear in supporting roles in British and American film productions, including the star-studded "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999) and "Rogue Trader" (1999) opposite Ewan McGregor, before making the leap to American series television in the courtroom drama "The Jury" (2004). But it was her performance in ABC's quirky dramedy "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 2007-09) in the fall of 2007 that truly brought Friel international renown, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for her leading role. From there, she made the successful jump to high-profile movies like "Land of the Lost" (2009) and "Limitless" (2011), though she had yet to find that one breakthrough movie that would launch her to international superstardom. Nonetheless, she continued working steadily in both the U.K. and the U.S., starring in TV series like "American Odyssey" (NBC 2015), "The Saboteurs" (More4, 2015) and police drama "Marcella" (ITV 2016- ).
Born on July 12, 1976 in Rochdale, Lancashire, England, actress Anna Friel shot to fame at age 16 playing Beth Jordache, British television's first lesbian character, on the serial "Brookside." Between 1993-95, her character was controversial, yet proved to be extremely popular in the UK, inspiring many "Free Beth Jordache" campaigns when the character was on trial for patricide. Despite her status as a household name, however, Friel was dropped from the show in 1995 when writers forced Beth to commit suicide offscreen. The petite beauty remained visible in more ways than one, frequently appearing in semi-nude or nude shots in British magazines, while continuing to act in such ventures as an episode of HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" in 1996 and portraying Bella Wilfer in the 1998 BBC adaptation of "Our Mutual Friend."
Friel continued to develop a sex symbol persona with her role in the BBC-2 movie "The Tribe" (1998), playing a seductive member of a cult-like Goth group in a role that required full frontal nudity. She segued to the big screen as the brazen flirt Prue in David Leland's World War II drama, "The Land Girls" (1998). A sprightly blonde, with mischievous eyes and a knowing smile, Friel brought a combination of innocence and vivacious charm to her portrayal of a working-class girl, amplifying the character to something more than a simple tart. She continued to establish herself as a film actress as Ewan McGregor's wife in "Rogue Trader" (1998), the biopic of Nick Leeson, whose financial dealings brought about the collapse of Barings Bank. She joined a stellar cast that included Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale and Rupert Everett for another telling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999), playing Hermia, the love-torn daughter of an overly controlling father (Bernard Hill) who wants her to marry another man (Bale).
Friel began making more of a name for herself in the United States, first by appearing in small independent films, followed by regular series work on television. She headlined the British-made "Mad Cows" (1999), playing a newly single mother who shoplifts and stages a prison break scheme with her best friend (Joanna Lumley) so she can find the couple who adopted her son. In "Sunset Strip" (2000), an affective and well-meaning film set in 1972 Los Angeles, Friel was a struggling fashion designer catering to the Strip's myriad rock musicians. After playing the sultry nurse girlfriend of a barber (Barry McEvoy) who gets a job at an Irish insane asylum in "An Everlasting Piece" (2000), she traveled back to Napoleonic France to play a local woman in love with an army officer (Jean Marc Barr) in the swashbuckling romance, "St. Ives" (2001). Friel then gave a strong performance as the troubled and unpredictable Marina, lifelong best friend to the steady and bookish Holly, in "Me Without You" (2002).
After the failure of "Timeline" (2003), a sci-fi action flick about a group of modern day scientists trapped in 14th century France which starred Paul Walker and Frances O'Connor, Friel decided to try her hand at American television. She landed a regular gig on the short-lived legal drama, "The Jury" (Fox, 2004-05), Tom Fontana's look at the deliberation process, as seen through the eyes of a different New York jury every week. In the CBS movie "Perfect Strangers" (2004), Friel played a junior ad rep in London who switches jobs with a New York executive and learns how much she has in common with her counterpart.
She finally scored a television hit with "Pushing Daises," an oddball, stylized tale of a man (Lee Pace) with the power to bring the dead back to life unless he touches them again, sending them back to a permanent death. Friel played his childhood sweetheart Chuck, whom he revives after she is murdered on a cruise ship, only to fall hopelessly in love and never be able to touch her again. In 2008, Friel earned her first Golden Globe nomination for her role in the highly-acclaimed series. Friel earned a Golden Globe nomination in 2008 for her role in the highly acclaimed series. However, declining ratings led to its cancellation the following year. Not long after the final episode aired, Friel hit movie screens in "Land of the Lost" (2009), adapted from the 1970s Saturday morning series about a family who find themselves transported to prehistoric times. Despite the star power of leading man Will Ferrell, the film had tough competition at the summer box office and negative reviews aided in keeping moviegoers away.
Friel returned to Great Britain for her next pair of features, beginning with "Angel Makers" (2010), in which she starred as one of a farming community of World War I wives who task German POWs with replacing their husbands during wartime. In "London Boulevard" (2010), Friel appeared alongside Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley in the story of an ex-con struggling to distance himself from a violent past. She next starred opposite Bradley Copper and Robert De Niro in the action thriller "Limitless" (2011), which focused on an unpublished writer who takes a top-secret drug that allows him to use all of his brain power, only to suffer unintended consequences. Friel returned to her native country to star on the limited series, "Public Enemies" (BBC, 2012), in which she played a probation officer who helps a convicted murderer (Daniel Mays) adjust to the outside after serving his time. After costarring opposite Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's "The Look of Love" (2013) and James Franco in action thriller "Good People" (2014), Friel starred in the U.K. miniseries "The Saboteurs" (called "The Heavy Water War" outside the U.K.) and the mercenary drama "American Odyssey" (NBC 2015) before taking the title role in police procedural drama "Marcella" (ITV, 2016- ), a homicide detective returning to the field after a seven-year maternity leave.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made TV acting debut as Michael Palin's daughter in an episode of the British series "G.B.H."
Played Beth Jordache, the first openly lesbian character on British TV, in "Brookside"
Appeared in an episode of HBO's "Tales From the Crypt"
Appeared in the second and third installments of "Cadfael" (shown in the US on PBS' "Mystery!")
Feature acting debut, "The Land Girls"
Had featured role of Bella Wilfer in the BBC adaptation of "Our Mutual Friend"
Engendered controversy for her nude scenes in the BBC-2 movie "The Tribe"
Made Broadway debut playing Alice in Patrick Marber's "Closer"
Played Hermia in the all-star remake of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Cast opposite Ewen McGregor in the Nick Leeson biopic, "Rogue Trader" (premiered in the US on HBO)
Made West End stage debut in Frank Wedekind's production of "Lulu"
Appeared in the independent feature "Me Without You" alongside Michelle Williams
Cast in Richard Donner's "Timeline"
Played the love interest of a professional soccer player in Danny Cannon's "Goal! The Dream Begins"
Cast as Chuck in the ABC series, "Pushing Daisies"; earned a Best Actress Golden Globe (2008) nomination
Reprised role for "Goal! 2: Living the Dream"
Co-starred with Will Ferrell in the big-budget feature adaptation of the 1970s series, "Land of the Lost"
Starred in a West End adaptation of the novel "Breakfast at Tiffany's" at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
Appeared in the thriller "Limitless," opposite Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro