A staple of British soap operas before she was even out of her teens, Anna Friel experienced the type of fame encouraged by tabloids and Internet shrines before getting a chance to prove her talents on the stage and screen. Born in Rochdale, Lancashire on July 12, 1976, Friel began acting as a teenager, performing with theatres across Britain. In 1990, she made her television debut with a role on the BBC series In Their Shoes, and was soon appearing in a number of popular TV series, including Coronation Street and Emmerdale. She received her greatest amount of notice to date when she was cast on the soap opera Brookside in 1993; the resulting popularity of her role on the show made the waifish, saucer-eyed actress something of a celebrity in her native country.
In 1997--two years after leaving Brookside--Friel made her film debut in The Land Girls. A World War II drama, it featured Friel, Rachel Weisz and Catherine McCormack as its titular heroines. Although the film was virtually unheard of outside the UK, it received generally favorable reviews. The following year, Friel appeared in two more films, The Stringer and Rogue Trader, the latter of which had her starring opposite Ewan McGregor. That same year, she won great acclaim on the London stage for her performance in Patrick Marber's Closer. A trenchant commentary on love and sex, it featured the young actress as an enigmatic stripper, and allowed her to work alongside such performers as Natasha Richardson, Ciaran Hinds and Rupert Graves. The play proved to be so successful that it moved to Broadway the next year, where it continued to win accolade after accolade. Friel herself won a Drama Desk award for Best Supporting Actress for her work. That same year, she continued to broaden her resume and fan base with starring roles in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Sunset Strip, the former of which featured her as Hermia, and the latter of which saw her experiencing the ups and downs of life in 1972 Los Angeles. Following roles in The War Bride and Me Without You (both 2001) Friel continued to develop her onscreen persona, and with Richard Donner's time travel adventure Timeline (2003) the actress remained poised for the role that would provide her with her widest exposure to date.
In 2005, Friel appeared in the sports drama Goal!, about a Los Angeles teenager with dreams of becoming a professional soccer player. She also appeared alongside Kevin Pollak in the drama Niagra Motel, which found a group of seemingly disparate strangers connecting when they pass through the same motel. Then in 2007, Friel joined the cast of the new series Pushing Daisies, about a man who falls in love with a deceased woman after he discovers he can communicate with the dead. Over the next several years, the actress would remain active ons creen, appearing memorably in films like Limitless and London Boulevard.