The Street: Anna Friel plays Dee

Anna Friel plays Dee in the second episode of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street.

She is a mother who would do anything for her two young sons. One of them is being so badly bullied at his rough school that he wets the bed at night. So Dee decides to move into the catchment area of a better school. But the move increases her mortgage to such an extent that she is forced to subsidise her earnings from her day job in a DIY store. What does she do to raise extra cash? She works weekends in a sauna in Bolton.

She meets Mark, a really nice plumber and single dad who comes to mend her boiler, and they soon start dating. Can Dee keep her double life under wraps and hold onto this lovely man? Or will her secret slip out and destroy everything?

For Anna, joining the illustrious cast of The Street was the fulfilment of a long-held dream.

“I’d always wanted to work with Jimmy,” says the actress, who first broke through as Beth Jordache in Brookside some 16 years ago.

“Jimmy and I never worked on Brookside at the same time, but I’ve loved all his work. I adored Cracker and The Lakes,” continues the Rochdale-born actress, who is now a major-league name in the States after her starring role in the hit US TV series, Pushing Daisies.

“Jimmy writes the best gritty Northern drama. It was lovely to go back to where I started. If you can, it’s always best to keep working on great scripts, and this is one of the best scripts I’ve ever been involved with.”

Anna, who is headlining this summer in the Hollywood dinosaur blockbuster, Land Of The Lost, with Will Ferrell, expands on her character in The Street: “Dee is a very hard-up mother with two boys. She works at a DIY store, but at weekends she turns into ‘Ruby’ at a nearby sauna. She has to become Ruby because she has absolutely no money – she’s up to her eyes in debt.”

The actress, who has also starred in Our Mutual Friend, The Tribe, Rogue Trader, Me Without You and Land Girls, goes on to explain to explain what motivates Dee: “One of her children is being badly bullied, and she is desperate for him to move schools. She’s a single mother, and all she cares about is the welfare of her children.”

Anna, whose partner David Thewlis starred in the first episode of the last series of The Street, says that she absolutely identifies with Dee’s drastic actions.

“I prize our own daughter, Gracie, above everything else in the world. Having a child completely changes your perspective on everything. The drama demonstrates what a woman will do to protect her children, and I quite understand that feeling.”

In researching the role, Anna met a real-life prostitute: “She taught me that when she’s at work she puts her mind into a different place. She absents herself. I didn’t have a sex scene as Dee – you didn’t need to see that. But I got the sense from the woman I met of the prostitute’s disregard for men.

“In a sense, the woman has power over the man, she manipulates the situation and is in charge of how it goes. The strange thing for Dee is, after a night as Ruby, she has to come back to being a mum again. She has to go home and do the school run. It makes you realise just how lucky you are.”

Anna concludes that Jimmy’s depiction of Dee shows characteristic humanity: “The piece is saying that, while prostitution is never the answer, people should not get too judgemental about women who have to go down that path. We always have to look at why people do things. We judge people too easily.

“I hope this drama will make people empathetic of those in Dee’s situation. It’s all about the forces that drive you when you’re a mother – and that’s something many of us can relate to.”

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