Actor Maxine Peake talks to Annie and Louise about her life as an actor, love of cycling and passion for life and people

Maxine has appeared as Twinkle in Dinnerladies and Veronica Ball in Shameless, barrister Martha Costello in the BBC legal drama Silk, and Grace Middleton in the BBC drama series The Village, and starred in the Black Mirror episode “Metalhead“. She has also played the title role in Hamlet.

Maxine went to college in Salford when she was 16 and it was all-singing, all-dancing, and everyone had their sweatpants on and their jazz shoes and I was like, ‘What? I’ve got to change into my what gear? Dance gear?’. I knew I wanted to act but I didn’t want to be your typical actor, I suppose.” said Peake.

Sport was something Peake always enjoyed and played Rugby League for Wigan for several years, before she left and spent more time in the acting world and eventually being accepted at RADA.

Her teachers at Rada told Maxine to go on a diet, but it was Victoria Wood, creator and co-star on her first major TV series, the BBC sitcom Dinnerladies, who finally persuaded her to shift an impressive five stone. “Victoria did it in a better way than they did at drama school,” she says. “I was told by one teacher, ‘If you don’t lay off the chips you’ll never play Juliet’ and I was kind of, ‘Juliet? She’s a wimp anyway’. Victoria said, ‘Look, you’re big, you’re northern, it’s going to be funny roles… it’s going to be really difficult for you’.

Beryl Burton was one of Britain’s greatest cyclists, but did not get the recognition she deserved. Maxine Peake has tried to rectify that by writing a stage play about Burton while juggling TV shows, films and preparations for playing Hamlet on stage.

In 1967, Beryl Burton was competing in a 12-hour time trial when she came to overtake the leading men’s cyclist Mike McNamara.

McNamara was on his way to setting a new men’s record of 276 miles in 12 hours. On her way past him, Burton took pity and offered him a liquorice allsort.

“Poor Mac,” she later wrote. “His glory, richly deserved, was going to be overshadowed by a woman.”

Burton covered 277 miles that day. It would be two years before a man beat that distance. Despite advances in design and fitness, no woman has done so yet.

Maxine also loves two wheels and is an avid cyclist and loves the freedom and friendship it brings. Lockdown has also got Peake running and am sure will go on to do a triathlon in 2021 with Annie and Louise.

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