Anna Louise Friel (born 12 July 1976) is an English actress. She rose to fame in the UK on Channel 4 soap Brookside. Her most recent role had been starring as Charlotte "Chuck" Charles, the female lead in the American television series Pushing Daisies. In the film Land of the Lost, she played a research assistant opposite Will Ferrell.
Friel was born in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, the daughter of Julie, a special needs teacher, and Des Friel, a former teacher of French and owner of a Web Design Company. Friel's Irish Catholic father, a former folk guitarist, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and grew up in Donegal, Republic of Ireland. Her brother Michael starred in the Hovis television adverts. She attended Crompton House Church of England High School, in High Crompton, Shaw and Crompton. She then attended Holy Cross VI Form College in Bury. Friel became interested in acting at an early age and received frequent praise for her work at local talent shows.
At the age of 13, she was hired for her first professional acting job in the Channel 4 drama serial G.B.H., as the daughter of Michael Palin's character. Her performance led to a series of appearances on various British television shows, including Emmerdale. In 1992, she was added to the cast on the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, where she gained greater exposure in the role of Beth Jordache. Though she only stayed on the programme for two years, Friel's lesbian kiss remains one of the most talked-about moments in British soap history. In 1995, Friel won the National Television Award for Most Popular Actress for her work on Brookside.
In 1996, Friel courted further controversy when she appeared in the television film The Tribe by Stephen Poliakoff, which included nudity and a much discussed ménage à trois sex scene between characters played by Friel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Jeremy Northam.
In 1998 she appeared in the original Broadway run of Closer by Patrick Marber at the Music Box Theatre in Manhattan, United States winning a Drama Desk Award and a Theatre World award for her performance as Alice. In 2001, she made her West End stage debut in London in a fringe production of Lulu which also transferred to Broadway.
Friel's film credits include playing Nick Leeson's wife Lisa in Rogue Trader opposite Ewan McGregor; David Leland's The Land Girls, which also starred Rachel Weisz and Catherine McCormack; All for Love with Richard E. Grant; A Midsummer Night's Dream as Hermia, opposite Christian Bale, Dominic West and Calista Flockhart; Timeline as Gerard Butler's object of affection; Me Without You opposite Michelle Williams; and Goal! and Goal! 2: Living the Dream....
Her television work includes the short lived The Jury for the Fox and ITV1's Watermelon which was based on the novel by Marian Keyes. In 2007 she started playing Charlotte "Chuck" Charles in Pushing Daisies, a new television series from the creator of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, on the American network ABC. In November 2008, creator Bryan Fuller stated that it had been cancelled due to poor ratings. The show ran for two seasons.
In the pilot season following the cancellation of Pushing Daisies, Friel was offered six pilots but declined all six roles in favour of focusing on her movie career.
In November 2006, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Bolton for contributions to the performing arts.
She has also been seen as the face of Pantene Pro-V Ice shine in the United Kingdom, appearing in both television advertisements and print advertising. She has also appeared in adverts on television for 3 Mobile and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
In May 2009, Friel confirmed that she will star in a West End adaptation of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. The show is due to start in September 2009 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Friel is due to star in a film London Boulevard alongside Ray Winstone and Keira Knightley which is expected to be released in 2010. It also stars her real life partner David Thewlis.