As she prepares to play an MI5 interrogator in a thrilling new cold war drama, the Bafta winner talks about coping with death, lacking confidence – and how she’s always wanted to be Kate Winslet
The only thing Anna Maxwell Martin did not enjoy about her role in a new cold war spy drama was the tights. Luckily, her character Lily Taylor, an MI5 debriefer, spends a lot of time behind a desk. “Every scene where you see a table, the tights are off, they’re round the ankles,” says Maxwell Martin. “Damian’s like … ” She mimics Damian Lewis, playing MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott, rolling his eyes. “They were so itchy!” Who knows if the maddening woollens were deliberate, but they must have enhanced the uncomfortable atmosphere of her claustrophobic interrogations.
In A Spy Among Friends, based on the book by Ben Macintyre, Taylor is trying to get to the truth of what happened in Beirut where, under Elliott’s watch, the British double agent Kim Philby (played by Guy Pearce) escaped to Moscow. It’s enthralling and classy, and Maxwell Martin is rightly proud of it. “It’s not an easy watch. You have to concentrate. It’s not like watching Married at First Sight.” A laugh and a hammy aside: “My regular viewing.”