Anna Friel, 44, has been on our TV screens since the age of 13, rising to fame on Channel 4 soap Brookside. She never saw a therapist during her entire acting life – but the second UK lockdown sent her into a spiral of despair.
I think I was scared to stop and I wasn’t really dealing with things
In a new interview with David Morrissey on his Who Am I This Time? Podcast, she explained how she began to question her work life balance and decided to see someone because she was “overthinking too much”.
She said: “You’re so driven by your work and you realise, particularly with this lockdown for me, it’s the first time I’ve ever stopped for this long and really resetting and re-evaluating what’s been my driving force.
“Have I given as much to my relationship as I have my work. I know I have (given as much) with my child, because she’s always been there.
“They do need work and time, just as much as your job does.”
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She admitted that during the second lockdown, like many of us, she began to get “itchy feet” and thought, “‘Oh God, it’s groundhog day, it’s the same, it’s the same,’” – but you know people are suffering so much more” she said.
“I started to meditate, and I’d never had therapy in my life until about eight weeks ago – for the very first time.”
Anna chuckled as she remembered the therapist’s reaction to finding out it was her first time trying out the treatment, despite being a child star.
“She couldn’t believe it!” Anna exclaimed.
“She said, ‘You’re a child actress and it’s the first time you’ve had therapy at 44 years old?’ ‘Yep, I think I’m thinking too much. I’m overthinking everything.’
“I think I was scared to stop and I wasn’t really dealing with things. I’d be subconsciously pushing them somewhere and letting them come up ready for the next character and thinking, ‘You have to be in a certain mindset, otherwise I won’t be able to do it.’”
She worried that her 30 years in the field would be a waste if she still hadn’t learned her craft, adding that “there [must be] something quite wrong.”
The actress has been eager to get back on set and revealed she’s currently in training for her latest role.
Having developed a playlist of heavy metal in order to get in the zone, she detailed one of her unusual on-set habits – pointed out by an ex-partner.
“I also exhaust my arms,” she giggled.
“It was pointed out to me by two ex-boyfriends, who both happen to be actors, but particularly David (Thewlis, long term ex partner).
“He said, ‘What is it with you and your arms?’ No one had ever pointed that out to me. It’s so simple. If I go back, which none of us ever want to do, I just go, ‘Oh my God, it’s so bad.’ My arms look like they’re flying!”
Her solution? Do as many press-ups as possible on-set to tire herself out.
She said: “The only way around that was to do so many press ups, as many as my little body could carry, so they were so tired they would limp.
“That would do something different as it would change the place of where the voice comes from and how the shoulders sound and I started to work out how all of those things worked hand-in-hand beautifully, symbiotically.”
Anna said: “I’m really physical on set. It’d be bugbear of mine, sometimes I’m a little bit OCD and I can see a director has just said ‘and action’ and you know their [her character’s] heart rate isn’t right, or they might not be flushed enough.
“I always say, ‘Give me two or three minutes,’ and I’m doing press ups or I’m jumping up and down, I’m really, really physical!”
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