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?
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.
The Wind in the Willows (2006)
As the minor character of the “gaoler’s daughter” in this live action version of the famous novel.
Becoming Jane (2007)
As Cassandra Austen, younger sister to writer Jane Austen, in this loose biopic. She captures Cassandra’s intelligence and pain beautifully.
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.
The Night Watch (2011)
An adaptation of a Sarah Waters novel that I somehow missed! Lesbians in London during World War II.
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.
Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
As Elizabeth Bennet in this modern-author-written continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
And Then There Were None (2015)
As the taciturn housekeeper in this Agatha Christie adaptation.
The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)
Martin plays author Mary Shelley in this fictionalized murder mystery set in 1827.
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.
Which is your favorite Anna Maxwell Martin role?
North and South is one of my all time favorites! Maxwell-Martin is a former factory worker who is befriended by Margaret Hale as she is dying.
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.
I love her in Bleak House. It’s one of my favorite adaptations.
The Night Watch is fun- pretty close to the book which gladdens my withered heart
Me too! ❤️❤️❤️
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.
I love love love Bletchly Circle. Stumbled on South Riding and loved that, too.
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.
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.
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!
Cassandra Austen was Jane’s older sister. But I would still love to see Anna play her.
Whoops, good catch!
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! ;)
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.
Agreed on the quieter, but also thoughtful — you can tell there’s stuff going on in that brain!
LOVE her, but being a huge Phil Rickman fan (no relation to Alan sadly) and Merrily Watkins in particular I think she plays a fantastic Merrily in Midwinter of the Spirit. They’ve messed about with the story as usual but AMM is bang on! https://youtu.be/4RYhf0B41BA
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!
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.