Anna Friel on why she felt a huge responsibility when she took on new transgender drama Butterfly

ITV’s moving new drama Butterfly sees Marcella star Anna Friel play devoted mum Vicky Duffy, whose 11-year-old son Max (Callum Booth-Ford) identifies as female.

Max has tried to suppress his feelings, particularly to please his father Stephen (Emmett J Scanlan), who believes it’s just a “phase”. But the pain he feels at having to conform becomes hard to bear and he announces that he wants to live as a girl, Maxine.

Here, Anna Friel tells TV Times about her transgender drama Butterfly…

TV Times: What was the appeal for you?

Anna Friel: “I fell in love with the Duffys. I found Vicky relatable and I loved Max/Maxine’s bravery and strength but the script also made me laugh. It’s a very important story that needs to be told and needs to educate people. I feel a great responsibility.”

TVT: What impact does Max/Maxine’s situation have on the Duffys?

AF: “It’s looking at it from every person’s perspective. It’s about what’d happen to a regular family who are thrown into disarray because they don’t know what to do. It’s about whether we can bring this family together with all these different opinions. You watch them on a journey of discovery.”

Butterfly group

Anna Friel in new ITV drama Butterfly

TVT: How do Vicky and Stephen disagree?

AF: “They’ve already separated because of their difference in opinion. While Vicky’s not encouraging it, she’s listening to Max/Maxine and has understanding. But Stephen can’t cope and says that it’s ridiculous. Vicky just sees her child is in agony and depressed. She’s no angel, but she has a mother’s instinct.”

TVT: What research did you do?

AF: “Emmett and I visited Mermaids, a wonderful charity. When I learned about the bullying these children received, even from the parents of other children, I was flabbergasted. I met so many wonderful families and came away with empathy, compassion and respect for their bravery.”

TVT: What has it been like working with Callum who plays Max/Maxine?

AF: “Wonderful. He has something special. His concentration, focus and level of understanding’s way better than mine at that age.”

Butterfly Anna and Callum

TVT: And what’s it like having Alison Steadman play Vicky’s formidable mum, Barbara?

AF: “Barbara couldn’t be more anti Max/Maxine’s decision and she and Vicky have a horrific relationship but I was thrilled and honoured to work with Alison – she’s amazing. I learnt tricks of the trade from her. It was freezing filming one scene and she said, ‘You’ve not learnt the art of sticking a hot water bottle up your top.’ We had them shoved everywhere!”

Butterfly airs on ITV on Sunday 14th October at 9pm