Marin Independent Journal

British actress Anna Martin is the real deal

- By Luaine Lee

Actress Anna Maxwell Martin obliterate­s the stereotype of the ever-so-proper British matron sipping tea from a porcelain cup. Leaning back in her straightba­cked chair and plopping her arm on the table in front of her, Martin admits that one of her failings is her penchant for telling the unvarnishe­d truth. It's a quality that rarely abuses actors.

“More recently I'm trying to learn not to say everything that comes into my mouth,” she laughs. “I'm really known in the U.K. as having no filters. When there's something live or I get asked a lot to be on these celebrity (talk) shows, sometimes I just want to hear my agent have kittens on the phone because she's so worried about what will come out of my mouth the first 15 minutes of the show. I'm trying to install some filters into mouth and brain. I'm only semi-successful,” she giggles.

Her candid attitude has gotten her into hot water before. Like the time she admitted she'd shoplifted to a local publicatio­n, a tale that found its way to the infamous British tabloids.

While she's a truth-teller in real life, the same applies to her work, says Martin, who's dressed in a black sleeveless turtleneck and black pants. “In that moment of acting it's about real relationsh­ips and not faking it,” she says. “If it's emotional, it has to feel real. It has to come from a real place.”

Finding that “real place” has been Martin's life work. She's costarred in shows like “The Bletchley Circle,” “Line of Duty,” “The Frankenste­in Chronicles” and her latest, “A Spy Among Friends,” streaming on MGM+. Martin plays an MI5 agent who's trying to get to the bottom of the notorious defection of double agent Kim Philby to the Soviet Union. Philby (played by Guy Pearce) has not only betrayed his country he's deceived his best friend, Nicholas Elliott, (Damian Lewis) a fellow agent.

Martin says it was their relationsh­ip that attracted her. “For me it's not about the spying nature, it was about the brilliant relationsh­ips. It's really simply about a male friendship, and for myself and Damian, it's a relationsh­ip where two people completely underestim­ate each other, and they get to a place of complete compatibil­ity and understand­ing.”

The 45-year-old performer says she never thought of doing anything else but acting. “I don't remember making a choice,” she shrugs. “I just thought that's what I was going to do. And I sang when I was young, and then I started acting; just never wanted to do anything else. I don't think I'm capable of doing anything else that's practical. When you go to school you're sat down and given career advice. `I want to be an actor.' They said, `Can we think of a more sensible occupation?' So I found myself choosing to do a week on an archaeolog­y dig, scrabbling about in the mud. Very, very cold and I thought, `This ain't for me. I'm going to go back to the original plan. It's way, way easier.'”

Once she made the decision, she had no reservatio­ns about performing. “I never doubted I could do it. Why would I? I mean, this is what

I want to do, I'm not going to sit around fretting about not being able to do it. I'm not that kind of person. I'm not very introspect­ive. I'm not hugely negative. I'm a bit of a fish swimming around the goldfish bowl. I just forget and think about the next thing. I just thought, `This is what I'm going to do.' And I think I'm good at it.”

For a long time that was her major aim — until she became a mother 13 years ago. Now the parent of two daughters, 13 and 11, she says that's her full-time job. “I love my job. But I'm a mum before anything else. Now being a mum is much more important than anything else.”

Her husband, director Roger Michell, died two years ago. And though they'd been separated, it's still a blow, Martin admits. “I had a big cry the other day going through Roger's stuff. You find things that the children have made with him, and I had a big cry. And my first thought was, `Oh, I must get a grip.'

“And then it was, `Have a big cry now. You're allowed.' You get hoodwinked by it all the time. Grief, it swoops in like a black shadow and you don't see it coming, do you? And I think you have to allow yourself. It's been hard to say to my children it's not going away. Because time isn't a healer.”

Actor Bob Odenkirk has finally gotten lucky. Odenkirk has replaced Saul from “Better Call Saul,” with Hank in “Lucky Hank,” which premieres on AMC and AMC+ Sunday. Here he plays an English department chairman whose life is beginning to unravel.

And while the role of Saul remains a high point of memorable character performanc­es, Odenkirk, 60, tells me that he never intended to be a serious actor. In truth, he was a struggling writer.

“I started as a writer. And I did that for so long. And I had a lot of fun doing it. And it was a struggle, though. And I had, certainly, even years where I was in `developmen­t-heck,' where I was just developing shows and they weren't going anywhere. I always did act, I always performed. I guess I would say I performed, not acted, until I got `Breaking Bad,'” he says.

“And then I had to learn how to act. Quick! Right now! `Bryan Cranston is sitting opposite you, learn to act.' I really had to. And it was very hard. It was really, really tough.”

He says that though he'd been performing in front of a camera, it wasn't really acting. “If I thought about it a long time I could try to describe it, but losing yourself inside a character, that's richer than the kind of comic presentati­ons you do as a sketch (artist) — which I came from sketch — those are very simple characters, and fun to play, and quick to jump into and out of.

“And the kind of acting that they were doing on `Breaking Bad' when I joined them, and the kind of writing that I got to work with, asks a lot more of you to lose yourself and discover a person with multiple dimensions and sides to them. And you have to kind of always keep those things alive and be in touch with them as you're playing any moment. So it was hard,” he nods.

 ?? ROB YOUNGSON — SONY PICTURES TELEVISION ?? Anna Martin portrays an agent trying to get to the bottom of the double agent's defection in “A Spy Among Friends.”
ROB YOUNGSON — SONY PICTURES TELEVISION Anna Martin portrays an agent trying to get to the bottom of the double agent's defection in “A Spy Among Friends.”

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