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Anna Maxwell Martin

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Basic Information

Anna Maxwell Martin

Date of Birth: 1978
Place of Birth: Beverley, East Yorkshire, England, UK
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)


Anna Maxwell Martin (born May 1978), sometimes credited as Anna Maxwell-Martin, is a two-time BAFTA award-winning English actress who has won acclaim for her performances as Lyra in His Dark Materials at the Royal National Theatre, as Esther Summerson in the BBC's 2005 adaptation of Bleak House, and as N in Channel 4's 2008 adaptation of Poppy Shakespeare.


Personal life

Martin was born in Beverley, near Hull, England in May 1978 and attended Beverley High School where she appeared in school plays. She adopted the middle name Maxwell (her grandfather's name) to distinguish her from another member with the same name when she joined Equity. Her father was the managing director of a pharmaceutical company and her mother was a research scientist. Her mother gave up her job to bring up Anna and her elder brother Adam. After she left school Martin studied history at Liverpool University, specialising in the First World War. She joined the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) after completing her studies at Liverpool. In her final year at LAMDA her father was diagnosed with cancer, although he lived long enough to see her stage performance as Alexandra in The Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse (he died when she was 24).

Martin's partner is director Roger Michell; she gave birth to their first child, Maggie, in April 2009.


Martin first came to prominence on the London West End stage playing the leading role of Lyra in the National Theatre's production of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. She was then cast in the part of Bessie Higgins in the BBC television adaptation of the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, North and South, in 2004, and made a guest appearance in the 2005 series of Doctor Who. She played Esther Summerson, the central character in the 2005 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, for which she won the Best Actress BAFTA Television Award in 2006.

In January 2006 she took part in a reading of The Entertainer at the Royal Court Theatre, and in February and March she appeared in Laura Wade's Other Hands, directed by Bijan Sheibani at the Soho Theatre. She is the narrator of the CD version of The Foreshadowing, a children's book about the First World War by Marcus Sedgwick, which was published in May 2006.

In the same year she worked on I Really Hate My Job, directed by Oliver Parker and, from October 2006 to April 2007, played Sally Bowles in Bill Kenwright and Rufus Norris's West End production of Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre.

She played Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane, a 2007 film about the early life of the novelist Jane Austen starring American actress Anne Hathaway in the title role. At the end of the year she played the gaoler's daughter in Lee Hall's adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, a multi-million pound production by Box TV for BBC One, and was the joint narrator (with Anton Lesser) of the CD version of Tamar, a children's book about the Second World War by Mal Peet, which was published in December 2007.

In 2008 she starred in the BBC Two drama White Girl and with Naomie Harris in Channel 4's adaptation of Poppy Shakespeare, for which she won her second Best Actress BAFTA Television Award in 2009. From July to October of that year, she appeared with Dame Eileen Atkins in the The Female of the Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. She also appeared in a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel Crooked House.

In July 2009 she appeared in the BBC Two drama, Freefall, and played Neil Armstrong's wife, Janet, in Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, an ITV1 drama documentary to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

In February 2010 she played freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke in On Expenses, a BBC Four satirical drama and also played Isabella in Shakespeare's Measure For Measure at the Almeida Theatre.

In December 2010 she will play Sarah Burton in a three-part BBC adaptation of Winifred Holtby's novel, South Riding.

List of credits


  • Midsomer Murders as Arabella Heywood in "Murder on St Malley's Day" (ITV1, 22 September 2002)
  • North and South as Bessie Higgins (BBC One, 14 November 2004 to 5 December 2004)
  • Doctor Who as Eva Saint Julienne (also known as Suki Macrae Cantrell) in "The Long Game" (BBC One, 7 May 2005)
  • Bleak House as Esther Summerson (BBC One, 27 October to 16 December 2005)
  • The Wind in the Willows as the gaoler's daughter (BBC One, 1 January 2007)
  • White Girl as Debbie (BBC Two, 10 March 2008)
  • Poppy Shakespeare as N (Channel 4, 31 March 2008)
  • Free Agents as Sophie (Pete's Sister) (Channel 4) episode 1.3 (27 Feb 2009), 1.4 (6 March 2009) and 1.5 (13 March 2009)
  • Freefall as Mandy Potter (BBC Two, 14 July 2009)
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 as Janet Armstrong (ITV1, 20 July 2009)
  • On Expenses as Heather Brooke (BBC Four, 23 February 2010)


  • The Hours (2002)
  • Eddie Loves Mary as girl being interviewed (2002) (short film)
  • Enduring Love as Penny (2004)
  • The Other Man as Christine (2006) (short film)
  • Becoming Jane as Cassandra Austen (2007)
  • I Really Hate My Job as Madonna (2007)


  • The Tall One as Samantha (BBC Radio 4, 1 to 5 September 2003)
  • The Raj Quartet as Daphne Manners (BBC Radio 4, 10 April to 5 June 2005)
  • The Ante Natal Clinic as Ros (BBC Radio 4, 19 January 2006)
  • The Sea as Rose (BBC Radio 4, 15 April 2006)
  • Great Expectations as Estella (BBC Radio 4, 6 and 13 August 2006)
  • The Invention of Childhood as one of several readers (BBC Radio 4, 25 September to 3 November 2006)
  • Berlin - Soundz Decadent as herself (BBC Radio 2, 2 January 2007)
  • Crooked House as Sophia Leonides (BBC Radio 4, 8 to 29 February 2008)
  • Words and Music: The Soft Machine as one of two poetry readers (BBC Radio 3, 1 June 2008)
  • The Portrait of a Lady as Isabel Archer (BBC Radio 4, 13 to 27 July 2008)
  • Villette as Lucy Snowe (BBC Radio 4, 3 to 7 and 10 to 14 August 2009)
  • Au Pairs as Dorika (BBC Radio 4, 7 to 11 September 2009)
  • Chekhov's Seven And A Half Years as Olga in Three Sisters (BBC Radio 3, 24 January 2010)
  • Words and Music: Malady as one of two readers (BBC Radio 3, 11 April 2010)
  • The Wings of the Dove as Milly Theale (BBC Radio 4, 1, 8 and 15 August 2010)


  • The Little Foxes as Alexandra at the Donmar (4 October 2001 to 24 November 2001)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as Lucy for the RSC at the Sadler's Wells Theatre (6 December 2001 to 26 January 2002)
  • The Coast of Utopia as Alexandra, Maria and Tata at the Royal National Theatre (27 June 2002 to 23 November 2002)
  • The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (rehearsed reading) as Mrs Hardwicke-Moore at the National Theatre (21 October 2002)
  • Hello from Bertha (rehearsed reading) as Goldie at the National Theatre (22 October 2002)
  • Collateral Damage II (poetry) at the National Theatre (14 March 2003)
  • Honour as Sophie at the Royal National Theatre (21 February 2003 to 13 May 2003)
  • Three Sisters as Irina at the Royal National Theatre (2 August 2003 to 18 October 2003)
  • His Dark Materials as Lyra at the Royal National Theatre (8 December 2003 to 27 March 2004)
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience (poetry) at the National Theatre (18 February 2004)
  • The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (poetry) at the National Theatre (25 February 2004)
  • Will and Lyra as herself (interview) at the National Theatre (26 March 2004)
  • Dumb Show as Liz at the Royal Court Theatre (2 September to 16 October 2004)
  • After the Fire (rehearsed reading) at the National Theatre (7 March 2005)
  • The Black Glove (rehearsed reading) at the National Theatre (15 March 2005)
  • Snowbound (showcase) at the Royal National Theatre Studio (October 2005)
  • The Entertainer (rehearsed reading) as Jean at the Royal Court Theatre (16 January 2006)
  • Other Hands as Hayley at the Soho Theatre (15 February to 11 March 2006)
  • Cabaret as Sally Bowles at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue (23 September 2006 to 31 March 2007)
  • The Female of the Species as Molly Rivers at the Vaudeville Theatre (10 July 2008 to 4 October 2008)
  • Top Girls (reading) as Pope Joan at the Royal Court Theatre (19 September 2008)
  • Pencil (10 minute play in the 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Gala) at the Old Vic (1 November 2009)
  • Measure for Measure as Isabella at the Almeida Theatre (12 February to 10 April 2010)


  • The Foreshadowing (Author: Marcus Sedgwick - Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited - Published: May 2006) Narrator: Anna Maxwell Martin
  • Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal (Author: Mal Peet - Publisher: Walker Books Ltd - Published: December 2007) Narrators: Anton Lesser, Anna Maxwell Martin


  • Nominated for Olivier Award for Best Actress in 2005 for role of Lyra in His Dark Materials (Clare Higgins won)
  • Third in BBC Drama Poll for Best Actress in 2006 for role of Esther Summerson in Bleak House (Billy Piper won, Gillian Anderson second)
  • Nominated for Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress in 2006 for role of Esther Summerson in Bleak House (Gillian Anderson won)
  • Won British Academy Television Award for Best Actress in 2006 for role of Esther Summerson in Bleak House
  • Nominated for Royal Television Society Programme Award for Best Actor (Female) in 2009 for role of N in Poppy Shakespeare (Andrea Riseborough won)
  • Won British Academy Television Award for Best Actress in 2009 for role of N in Poppy Shakespeare


  • Trained at LAMDA
  • Has a daughter, born 2009, with her partner Roger Michell.