WCW: Maxine Peake


Perhaps not a household name or face, Maxine Peake takes on challenging projects and unglamorous roles, both in historical costume and out. As a strong feminist with an outspoken socialist attitude, she’s more likely to take roles that reflect her views on society and the perils of capitalism than just fancy-pants aristocratic dramas. That makes me love her all the more!



Ruby Ruggles in The Way We Live Now (2001)

Maxine Peake, The Way We Live Now (2001)

A farm girl who’s sort of a secondary love interest to the main character.


Elizabeth Lilburne in The Devil’s Whore (2008)

Maxine Peake, The Devil's Whore (2008)

Based on a real historical person who was part of a political faction during the English Civil War.


Miss Wade in Little Dorrit (2008)

Maxine Peake, Little Dorrit (2008)

An aloof character with her own dark sideplot in this Dickens adaption.


Jolly Bellever in Agatha Christie’s Marple, “They Do It With Mirrors” (2009)

Maxine Peake, Agatha Christie's Marple (2009)

I can never tell if these Marple murder-mysteries are historical or not, so I’m including it just in case. Maybe it’s ’30s?


Anne Lister in The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010)

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010)

Before Gentleman Jack, this was the first adaption of Anne Lister’s diaries & it’s well-worth watching because it covers different parts of her life.


Doll Tearsheet in The Hollow Crown, “Henry IV, Part 1 & 2” (2012)

Maxine Peake, The Hollow Crown, "Henry IV, Part 1 & 2" (2012)

A prostitute who consorts with Falstaff, and she has some choice dialoge!


Alice Aisgill in Room at the Top (2012)

Maxine Peake, Room at the Top (2012)

Set post-WWII, a charged sexual relationship is key to the storyline.


Hazel Peaceful in Private Peaceful (2012)

Maxine Peake, Private Peaceful (2012)

Playing the mom in this WWI TV movie.


Elaine Mason in The Theory of Everything (2014)

Maxine Peake, The Theory of Everything (2014)

A bit out of our period, since Elaine Mason met and then married Stephen Hawking in the 1980s, but I’m being super completionist here.


Grace Middleton in The Village (2013-2014)

Maxine Peake, The Village (2013-2014)

Set from 1914 to 1920, telling the story of life in a Derbyshire village.


Eileen Lamont in The Falling (2014)

Maxine Peake, The Falling (2014)

The mom in a 1960s horror flick.


Nellie in Peterloo (2018)

Maxine Peake, Peterloo (2018)

Maxine Peake wrote to director Mike Leigh asking to be in this movie, and afterwards wrote a whole column about Peterloo’s radical legacy & why this part of history is important to her.


Elen in Gwen (2018)

Maxine Peake, Gwen (2018)

This Welsh folk horror flick is also “tells the story of a family crushed by the evils of capitalism; of working class women being fucked over by men.”


Fanny Lye in Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)

Fanny Lye Deliver'd (2019)

I saw this at the 2019 London Film Festival, but it’s still not widely available. Worth looking out for!



What’s your favorite historical role of Maxine Peake’s?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

5 Responses

  1. Alexander

    She is amazing in everything she does! She was also wonderful as child murderer Myra Hindley in the film ‘See No Evil’ which was set in the early to mid 60’s. I found her performance in this really quite effective – yet highly disturbing. I can’t wait to see Fanny Lye Deliver’d!!!

  2. Lily Lotus Rose

    She is an amazing actress. I first learned of her from the contemporary British legal drama, Silk, co-starring oh-so yummy Rupert Penry-Jones (among other British hotties). Of these historical shows, I’ve only seen two, and I’ll go with The Hollow Crown as my favorite. The only other one I’ve seen–The Devil’s Whore–was good but weird (from my really foggy memory). For some reason, Maxine Peake always makes me call to mind Anna Maxwell Martin–not because they look alike–but because they both are so very talented and seem to be in the same caliber of productions. Whenever either of them are on screen, I’m always drawn into their performances. Thanks for this WCW post, I definitely want to check out Gwen!

  3. MrsC (Maryanne)

    SUCH a fan. Not old enough but definitely a piece of social history, her role as Twinkle in Dinner Ladies. And I spotted her only last night in an episode of Pie in the Sky, as a hotel receptionist I think.