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‘Give me intravenous wine!’ … Anna Maxwell Martin on playing a frazzled ‘alpha mum’ in Motherland

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The queen of period drama is casting off her bonnet and venturing into sitcom with Motherland. She talks about brutal parenting, competing with Cate Blanchett – and misbehaving on set

When Anna Maxwell Martin was shooting the pilot for the new sitcom Motherland, she took the role of a stressed-out mum a little too far. “I’d got so …” She starts moving her arms up and down in a frantic motion. “… that I threw myself into a bush.” Graham Linehan, who co-wrote and directed, couldn’t believe it. “He went, ‘No, no, no – why did you throw yourself into the bush?’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’” she howls, her long, loud laugh filling the air.

The Anna Maxwell Martin familiar to viewers tends to be a signal of quality British television. She’s done period dramas and literary adaptations. She’s won the best leading actress Bafta twice, once for the BBC’s starry Bleak House in 2004, and again in 2009 for Channel 4’s Poppy Shakespeare. Most of the time, her work is very classy, very serious. Until now.

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