When Anna Maxwell Martin is in a role, you know its going to be good, whether its Bleak House or Motherland. Here, she talks about her love of acting, industry bullies and why spoilt luvvies need to get over themselves
Anna Maxwell Martin walks into the room, in the heatwave, sits down in a stripy blue dress that crumples all around her, and says shes going to do this photoshoot in the nude. Tits out, full frontal this is it guys, she says. First time, this is it. Oh look, she adds, brightening, as someone brings over a whirring fan, I can have this for my sexy lady photoshoot, too.
Shes joking, of course, because shes not that sort of famous. But then, what sort of famous is she? Shes an actor whose name you might not know, but whose face you surely do, from many period dramas (she won the best actress Bafta for Bleak House in 2006) and, most recently, the starring role in the edgy, hysterical BBC2 comedy Motherland, in which she plays a reluctant mother who is always trying to get in with the comically awful parents of her childrens peers. The cult show has slipped into the vernacular: Its pure Motherland, a certain kind of middle-class parent will now mutter as another micro-drama unfolds at the school gates. In casting, Sharon Horgan, the shows writer, hoped for an actor who made you laugh but also made you panic inside, she says. And Anna does that. Shes one of those actors whos so naturally gifted she can just switch it on and off. Shes also a little bit nuts, which always helps.
There will be a second and third series of Motherland, but Maxwell Martin doesnt know when and is breezy about dates as she seems to be about parenting itself, having grown up near Hull and not been too exposed to the precious yummy-mummy ideals of north London, where she now lives, and which the show lampoons. Rather like her character, she isnt too bothered about the minutiae of education. She has two young daughters herself. My nine-year-old didnt do Sats because shes dyslexic, she says, so they were really sweet about it, but she still seems to be tested all the time, which makes her feel shit shes nine! Dyslexic kids are often the loveliest kids shes adorable. As long as kids can make eye contact, chat, sit round a table and have a meal with adults I dont care about anything else. She says she wants to be a potter and travel around in a VW van with other artists and I say fine. Youre fine.
I mention my own daughter, something that came up in her school report. Shes six, darling! she says, in a Yorkshire accent that seems to get stronger the longer we talk. Who gives a shit? She shouldnt even be at school!