WCW: Anna Maxwell Martin

18

Anna Maxwell Martin is a British actress who brings massive talent and intelligence to her historical roles. She’s also not afraid to presented as plain, which is impressive in this day and age of unrealistic beauty expectations — and she can do gorgeous and glam just as well! Let’s take a look at her body of work, and cross our fingers for much more:

North & South (2004)

It’s been too long since I watched this Elizabeth Gaskell novel adaptation to remember her minor performance in this — I’m guessing she’s a factory worker?

2004 North & South

Bleak House (2005)

As Esther Summerson, the central character in this Charles Dickens adaptation. She’s a mid-19th century housekeeper/companion who learns she has a complicated past.

2005 Bleak House

The Wind in the Willows (2006)

As the minor character of the “gaoler’s daughter” in this live action version of the famous novel.

2006 The Wind in the Willows

Becoming Jane (2007)

As Cassandra Austen, younger sister to writer Jane Austen, in this loose biopic. She captures Cassandra’s intelligence and pain beautifully.

Becoming Jane 2007 Becoming Jane

South Riding (2011)

I was surprised to enjoy this as much as I did! She’s a teacher who returns to the small Yorkshire town she grew up in to become a school headmistress in the 1930s.

2011 South Riding 2011 South Riding 2011 South Riding

The Night Watch (2011)

An adaptation of a Sarah Waters novel that I somehow missed! Lesbians in London during World War II.

2011 The Night Watch

The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014)

As Susan, the central character among four women who during World War II were codebreakers. Now the war is past, and they set themselves to solving a serial killer mystery.

The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014) 2012-14 The Bletchley Circle

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

As Elizabeth Bennett in this modern-author-written continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) 2013 Death Comes to Pemberley1

And Then There Were None (2015)

As the taciturn housekeeper in this Agatha Christie adaptation.

2015 And Then There Were None 2015 And Then There Were None

The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

Martin plays author Mary Shelley in this fictionalized murder mystery set in 1827.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015) 2015 The Frankenstein Chronicles

Urban Myths: Agatha Christie (2018)

A British TV series in which a popular urban myth is fictionalized; Maxwell plays novelist Agatha Christie during her famous mysterious disappearance.

2018 Urban Myths- Agatha Christie

Which is your favorite Anna Maxwell Martin role?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

18 Responses

    • Melanie

      Yes, she may not have a ton of screentime, but her character is important. When Bleak House first came out I was excited to see ‘Bessie Higgins’ again! Been a fan ever since.

      Reply
  1. Sharon In Scotland

    I have a “worship and adore” list. You don’t have to be famous, (although Emma Thompson is on it), you have to be fabulous in EVERYTHING you do, be it telly, film or radio. It does help if you are slightly bonkers, (Selina Cadell, Sophie Thompson), it can be for one performance in particular, (Sarah Lancashire for “Happy Valley”), you don’t have to be a household name, (Adrian Scarborough anybody?)……………..long comment short, Anna Maxwell Martin is on my list.

    Reply
  2. Frannie Germeshausen

    I love love love Bletchly Circle. Stumbled on South Riding and loved that, too.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth Mahon

    I’ve seen almost all of these except for The Night Watch and The Frankenstein Chronicles. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing her in the West End in Cabaret. I think she’s a fantastic actress. Just one tiny quibble, Cassandra Austen is Jane’s older sister, not younger.

    Reply
  4. Susan Pola Staples

    Bletchley Circle is my favourite but I’ve enjoyed North and South, Becoming Jane and will hope to find Night Watch. But she’s brilliant in all her work.

    Reply
  5. Sarah Faltesek

    I will watch a film or tv show just because she’s in it. Her performance in Bleak House was my favorite, although North and South holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. I’d never heard of South Riding somehow, so that just jumped to the top of my list!

    Reply
  6. gamma

    Cassandra Austen was Jane’s older sister. But I would still love to see Anna play her.

    Reply
  7. Charity

    The Frankenstein Chronicles basically wasted her (and the character of Mary Shelley), unfortunately. I’ve seen most everything on this list simply because I watch almost every costume drama that comes out! ;)

    Reply
  8. Nzie

    I find Anna Maxwell Martin extremely likable and thoughtful actress and I get the impression it’s a common theme (a British friend said he totally agreed with me when I mentioned her in conversation). I’ve seen her in Bleak House, Bletchley Circle, and Death Comes to Pemberley, which was my favorite. I saw one episode of Frankenstein Chronicles but as much as a like her (and Sean Bean) I’m not sure I can handle the creepies…. but I’d like to see her as Mary Shelley… She seems to fit well in these historical things—like, not out of place, maybe because she just comes off as a bit quieter, like someone who doesn’t feel like expressing everything all the time, which is something a lot of contemporary-set characters seem to do.

    Reply
  9. themodernmantuamaker

    I love AMM! She always comes off as so smart and grounded. I think Bletchley Circle is probably my fave, although I’ve seen most of these and mostly loved her in all of the them. Don’t hate me, but I actually think she was kinda mis-cast in Death Comes to Pemberly (which I was really surprised to like since the book is utter trash). Either that or they didn’t style her correctly. I thought she looked not quite as pretty as Elizabeth should and not as refined as the mistress of Pemberly should be. Maybe they wanted to make her seem more down-to-earth and harken back to her less affluent upbringing or something (which was still pretty affluent, thankyouverymuch!). Yeah, maybe it was the styling and directing – she also didn’t seem as light and playful as Elizabeth should be, even after the maturing of years, motherhood and marriage.

    Anyway, I’ve spent too much time on the one role I wasn’t so enthusiastic about!

    She was marvellous in both North & South and Bleak House. Her role in N&S was much more than minor, she was a very important supporting character. And she really showed her chops by (at least partially) carrying Bleak House as one of the principals. She so impresses me!

    Reply
  10. shellieeyre

    She is also a first rate comedic actor. Try to see BBC’s “Motherland” – it’s hilarious. As an added bonus Diane ‘Philomena Cunk’ Moorgan is in the cast.

    Reply

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