Anna Friel on finally returning to Liverpool, dressing down, making more Marcella and why she turned down a movie role to make Broken

It’s over two decades since Anna Friel became a household name when she burst onto our screens as troubled Beth Jordache in Brookside.

Now, after carving out a career on the big screen and appearing in US series such as Pushing Daisies and in ITV crime thriller Marcella, the 40-year-old is delighted to be back in Liverpool filming BBC1’s powerful drama Broken.

“I’ve not been in Liverpool for 23 years!” said Anna Friel, as TV Times chatted with her in her trailer on set. “I was only here for 16 months when I did Brookside and I didn’t get to know the city because I was filming the entire time so coming back is an odd turn of events.

“I recently turned 40 and things have come full circle and I’m back where I was at 16. Liverpool now is great though, in some of the supposedly hardest places, I’ve not felt intimidated, the people are kind and lovely and the place is pristine.”

Here, Anna talks about her role as struggling mum-of-three Christina Fitzsimmons in Broken, working with Sean Bean and whether her own daughter might follow in her footsteps.

Are you enjoy playing a character who’s not very glam?
“It’s great not having to put your eyelashes on, you can come in and look really rubbish. I only packed trainers and jogging bottoms too for when I’m not filming, but the other night I went to a posh restaurant so I had to go shopping quickly!”

Broken - episode 1

Tell us more about Christina…
“Like the name of the series, she is incredibly broken. She has worked hard and has just fallen on desperate times. We’ve seen how far she will go and what she’ll do to protect her children and now we see what that costs her.”

At least she has help from Father Michael (Sean Bean?)
“Michael can feel that she is in pain and he reaches out to her and he is just never judgemental.”

Were you thrilled to work with Sean?
“I’m a big fan of his and everyone had told me he was lovely to work with. He’s just warm, gentle, empathetic and compassionate and so peaceful and calm. He has played this part so beautifully.”

Were you pleased to reunite again with the drama’s creator, Jimmy McGovern, after playing another desperate mum in his series The Street in 2009?
“I was offered a Fox movie at the same time as Broken and I couldn’t do both so I had to make decision and it was a no-brainer to do this. Jimmy is my favourite writer; I love him because he is so open and has this lovely Northernness and his work always shines a light on how things really are for people.”

You’re about to start filming a second series of Marcella, so does working on that and Broken mean that Britain has won you back from Hollywood?
“I just go with whoever is the best writer and who will stretch me, but doing Marcella was a nice introduction back into the world of British television and it’s worked out really well. And doing Broken here has been great because I’ve been able to see my baby [daughter Gracie, 11, with former partner, actor David Thewlis] at weekends.”

Having been on our screens since you were just 13 how would you feel about Gracie following in your footsteps?
“Gracie has been offered so much work but for David and me it’s about whether the right thing arises, but it has to be her decision and it has to be the right environment. I’m so protective of children working in this industry because I know all the pitfalls.”

The Broken premiere was postponed from Tuesday and the series will now start on Tuesday, May 30.