By Lauren Edwards
Maxine Peake appearing in a film, television drama or play is usually a good indicator that it will be top notch entertainment. Peake is an accomplished actor and picks roles that represent women in all walks of life.
Born in 1974 in Bolton to lorry driver Dad Brian and care worker Mum Glenys, Peake is the youngest of their two daughters, with older sister Lisa choosing a career as a Police Officer. At the age of fifteen, Peake moved in with her Grandad and after completing her A-Levels, studied a two-year performing arts course at the Salford College of Technology.
Following this, Peake struggled to continue her drama studies and was rejected by Manchester Polytechnic Theatre School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before receiving a scholarship at the age of twenty-one to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.
“At Rada I was told I would never play Juliet if I didn’t lay off the chips. “I went, ‘What would I want to play Juliet for? She’s well boring. I mean, killing yourself at 14 for love? Ridiculous!’”
Her big break came courtesy of Victoria Wood who cast Peake as Twinkle in the BBC sitcom Dinnerladies. Wood mentored Peake and told her, ‘You’re big, you’re blonde – take it from me, you’ll get typecast as the funny northern lass.’ After losing five stone with Weight Watchers, Peake went on to star in the gritty black comedy Shameless playing the no-nonsense next door neighbour Veronica.
Peake is unafraid to take on roles as real-life women and was mesmerising as Moors murderer Myra Hindley in See No Evil and gave a heart-breaking performance of Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams in ITV drama Anne.
I recently watched the BBC drama Three Girls about the devastating story of the Rochdale grooming scandal, which resulted in the conviction of nine Asian men who sexually abused a group of white teenage girls. Peake gave a stellar performance as Sara Rowbotham, the sexual health worker who consoled the victims and repeatedly barraged the police to investigate the abuse and was repeatedly ignored. Peake described the experience as haunting but empowering.
“We still have an underclass in this country who are constantly ignored and vilified. These were young vulnerable children who were passed over again and again based on their class and place in society.“
Growing up in Bolton, Peake described herself as ‘a rough and ready girl.’ As a teenager, she played rugby for Wigan Ladies and joined the communist party under the guidance of her beloved grandad Jim, who she describes as her political mentor and the reason she pursued a career in acting.
“Look, this is what I’ve got, I don’t particularly like myself, and I don’t hate myself, I just get on with it.”
Passionate in her political views, Peake campaigned for the Labour party in the last General Election. She is also proud to use her celebrity status to help the homeless charity Lifeshare, who are based in Manchester and offer practical assistance to homeless people living on the streets and providing them with the support to secure a better future.
Peake lives in Salford with her long-term partner, art director, Pawlo Wintoniuk, whom she describes as her ‘soulmate.’ You can catch her most recent drama Rules of the Game on the BBC iPlayer, written during the Harvey Weinstein trial at the height of the #Metoo movement, Peake plays the cold and tenacious manager of a family run business in this tense thriller about sexual politics in the workplace.
“I watch ‘Take Me Out’ mainly for Paddy McGuinness. When we were younger, we worked together as lifeguards at the Bolton Leisure Centre.”