Anna Maxwell Martin was born ‘Anna Martin’ in 1978 in Beverley, East Yorkshire, England. Maxwell is her middle name which is also the name of her Grandfather. She has one older brother, Adam, and her mother gave up her job as a research scientist to be at home for her children whilst they were growing up. She always strived to work in the field of acting even though her family background did not match a pursuit of the arts.
Anna attended Liverpool University and studied history, in particular World War I. When asked about this choice in study she said ‘Drama school is a big test, emotionally, mentally, physically and I just wasn't ready for it at 18. Besides, I had done well at school and wanted a degree. And I had to do some growing up’. At the age of 20, she joined the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and developed her talent as an actress. During this time she acted in plays including Romeo and Juliet, Three Birds Alighting On A Field, Much Ado About Nothing, Mother Clap and The Way Of The World.
Upon graduating she starred in The Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse; the director of which, Roger Michell, is now her long-term partner. During this time life was tough for Anna as her father was diagnosed and died of cancer.
Anna played the leading role of the enchanting 12 year old Lyra in Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials at the National Theatre and this role led to national praise of the actress; she was nominated for an Olivier award.
Next, in 2004, Anna was Bessie Higgins in the television production of the novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Also this year she made an appearance as Penny in Enduring Love, also starring Daniel Craig.
In 2005 she amazed critics with her performance as Esther Summerson in the television adaptation of Bleak House by Charles Dickens; this is possibly her most acclaimed performance. Of this character Anna said; ‘I read the book, but Esther, my character, annoyed me - there's something very drippy about her. But Andrew [Davies, who adapted the novel] wrote quite a different character, a much feistier person, much more independent. She doesn't take any rubbish from anyone.’
In 2006 Anna appeared more on stage then behind the camera; one part saw her as Hayley in Other Hands by Laura Wade (Olivier nominee) at the Soho theatre. She played an ambitious management consultant who put her career before any personal happiness; this was a challenge as she was used to playing much younger roles but she embraced the challenge successfully. In one interview when asked of her opinion of acting in plays she stated ‘It's really exciting to do something by a young writer. It's great to discover a play together for the first time. There's no previous imprint on the character - you are creating it afresh.’
She then narrated a children’s book by Marcus Sedgwick about World War I called The Foreshadowing. Later in 2006 she filmed Becoming Jane where she played Cassandra Austen, the older sister of Jane. She was an ideal Cassandra; both kind and tender, and is loved and respected by all Becoming Jane fans.
Recently Anna has been seen as Sally Bowles in the West End production of Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre. An article in the BBC London theatre reviews stated 'And, as fully inhabited with real intelligence by this brilliant ensemble cast, led by Maxwell Martin's rivetingly vulnerable Sally and James Dreyfus' grimly sleazy Emcee, this is a fearless, frank production that magnificently renews a classic musical.'
Pic 1: Anna Maxwell Martin. Taken from google images
Pic 2: Anna Maxwell Martin taken from The official Becoming Jane website
Pic 3: Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally Bowles in Caberet. Taken from google images