Who is Butterfly’s Anna Friel? Find out more about the former Brookside star

ITV drama Butterfly is bringing transgender issues to Sunday nightd with Anna Friel playing the role of mother Vicky Duffy. Who is the show’s leading lady and where might you recognise her from?

Anna Friel has been a frequent figure in British television since landing her first acting role in the early 1990s. Aged just 13, Friel was cast alongside Michael Palin in the Channel 4 television drama GBH. The following year, in 1992, she joined the cast of Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, where she played the role of Beth Jordache for two years.

Her work in Brookside raised Friel’s profile considerably and she attracted the attention of the national press when her character, Beth, came out as gay: one of the first openly lesbian characters in a major British soap opera. The storyline gained even more attention when the kiss her character shared with Margaret (played by Nicola Stephenson) made history as the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss to be broadcast on British television.


After leaving Brookside in 1995, Friel focused mostly on work in film. She starred in Rogue Trader (1999) alongside Ewen McGregor, Sunset Strip (2000) with Jared Leto and Me Without You (2001) with Michelle Williams. She also made her West End stage debut in 2001, starring in a small production of the Frank Wedekind play Lulu.

In 2007, Friel starred in Pushing Daisies for the American network ABCTwo series of the show were made but, whilst a success with critics, low ratings meant that it was cancelled in 2008.

Friel decided to re-focus on her film career in the years that followed, but she made a return to British television in 2009 when starring in two episodes of BBC drama The Street: joining a cast of other well-respected British actors including Jim Broadbent, Jane Horrocks and her then-partner David Thewlis. (The couple separated in 2010 after 10 years together).


In the 2010s, Friel increasingly balanced film work with a variety of roles in British and American television. In 2017 she took a lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience and in 2016 she began starring in the hugely popular drama series Marcella for ITV. Friel plays the title character, detective Marcella Backland, and it has so far been commissioned for three series.