Maxine Peake is not your generic pinup – and that is something she would never aspire to be. She turned up on set for her shoot with her hair scraped back, no make-up on and wearing a rainbow-striped jumper under dungarees – and still looked fabulous.
Peake’s subversion of the conventional is exactly why she’s great. She had a turbulent start at the acting fray: early attempts at securing a place at numerous colleges proved fruitless, until she was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, aged 21. Her granddad, “a massive influence”, told her: “You’ll never make it as an actress, why do you want to go into that profession?” But she recalls this lightheartedly as, she says, “He was the instigator, really, that was what made me interested in doing something creative for a living.”
Bolton-born Peake has since played characters as diverse as rough-as-your-armpits Veronica in Channel 4 drama Shameless and, more recently, barrister Martha Costello QC in BBC legal drama Silk.
We caught up with Maxine post-shoot, when she was back in dungarees, having scrubbed off her make- up, before she rushed off to “see a friend in theatre”.
WE SHOT DANIEL MAYS THIS MORNING, HE ASKED WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER?
It depends when he can get me a job – come on Danny!
WERE YOU PLEASED TO PLAY THE SERIOUS ROLE OF A QC AFTER PLAYING CHARACTERS LIKE VERONICA IN SHAMELESS?
I was really pleased to get the role of a QC because even before Shameless, I had played check-out girls and ladies of the night. I think it was the first time I actually played anyone who had been to university, so I felt I had moved up the ladder. It was great.
YOU’VE PLAYED SOME BIG ROLES. DO YOU GET RECOGNISED MUCH ON THE STREET?
I finally got recognised a bit after Shameless. People didn’t really know my name, they would just go, “It’s that girl from Shameless!” or a few people knew my name was Veronica. That was mainly between filming, because I still had the bleach blonde hair; (I was afraid I was going to go bald because there was that much peroxide on it.) But Silk was more the one where people would go, “Oh, it’s Maxine Peake!”
DO YOU FIND IT HARD TO LOSE THOSE TYPECASTS?
I think I found it hard after Veronica to drop those roles, as people then just want to offer you the quite sub-standard Veronica-type roles. There are very few writers as prolific as Paul Abbott so there was an element of sitting it tight and thinking, “I’m maybe not going to work for a while.”
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE FUCK YEAH MAXINE PEAKE TUMBLR?
I’ve met the young girl who does it. She came to see a show I did in Hampstead and also a theatre show I did at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I was quite surprised when I met her because of the expletive in the title – she doesn’t look the type. But I’m very flattered that someone’s that interested and does daily checks of what I’m doing.
Read the rest of the interview in The Hunger Issue 3, out now.