The actor has earned a whole new legion of fans after her character made a surprise (and somewhat unwelcome – for AC-12, at least) return to the hit BBC cop show during the current series.
Smug, smarmy and deliciously cutting, Carmichael has served up some of the best – and most meme-able – moments of the series, which would not have been the same without Anna’s incredible facial expressions and razor-sharp delivery.
But while Anna is a master of playing it straight (or indeed, bent, if one theory about her character turns out to be true), she’s one of the country’s finest comedy actors too.
Her BBC Two sitcom, Motherland, has become a cult hit since debuting in 2016.
It follows frazzled mum Julia, played by Anna, who is struggling to juggle the trials and tribulations of parenthood with a fast-paced job, and whose poor organisational skills means she’s at odds with the “Alpha Mums” from school.
Add into the mix a rarely-seen husband who is more likely to be found down the pub than on the school run, and a mother who has been so put upon, she’ll now do anything to avoid helping her daughter, and you’ve got a recipe for a ridiculous, yet oh-so-familiar situational comedy.
So if you’re looking for something to fill the time after Line Of Duty reaches its climax this weekend, here’s why this hidden gem is an absolute must-watch...
Anna’s character is as equally brilliant, but completely different to Carmichael
To say that Julia – who Anna plays in Motherland – is the complete opposite of Carmichael would be a bit of an understatement.
While Anna’s Line Of Duty character is calm, collected and no-nonsense, Julia is in a permanent state of chaos and exasperation. However, they both share one thing in common – some hilarious one-liners (“I thought we all agreed now, as feminists, that it’s unfeminist to have it all”; “I’ve made a Minion cake. You wouldn’t know it’s a Minion, but I really think it will pass as a cake”).
In fact, Anna is so good in it that she got nominated for a Bafta
Anna picked up a nod for Best Female Comedy Performance at the TV Baftas in 2018, but was pipped to the post by Daisy May Cooper for This Country.
We’d have given Anna the Bafta for the swimming pool episode alone.
The supporting cast are also an absolute treat
Diane Morgan – otherwise known as Philomena Cunk – stars as Liz, a no-bullshit, straight-talking single mum who refuses to try and fit in with the Alpha Mums, while Paul Ready plays Kevin – a stay at home dad who wants nothing more than to fit in with the Alpha Mums, but doesn’t.
Both of them form an unlikely clique with Julia, and become a foursome from series two when they are joined by new arrival Meg (Tanya Moodie) – a woman who seemingly has it all, but refuses to join the Alpha Mums.
Then there’s Ellie Haddington as Julia’s put-upon mother, Marion, who has decided she’s no longer going to serve as a rent-a-babysitter, much to Julia’s frustration.
But really, it’s all about Alpha Mum Amanda
Queen of the Alpha Mums Amanda is the nearest thing Motherland has to Line Of Duty’s Patricia Carmichael, being the show’s main antagonist.
She’s self-absorbed, superficial, largely insufferable and annoyingly popular and put-together, but you can’t help but enjoy her brand of unlikeable fabulousness.
Actor Lucy Punch is also given some of the best dialogue to work with, including some withering put-downs that have such a sickeningly sweet level of passive aggressiveness, it’s hard not to enjoy her (“I really admire how you can just switch off your family and focus on your job because I would just hate myself too much”; “Please stop trying to be something you are not. It’s horrible to watch”).
Joanna Lumley is also joining the cast for the new series
In an absolutely fabulous piece of casting news, Joanna will appear in the upcoming third series as Amanda’s mother.
Describing her character as a “fairly poisonous parent”, she said: “Although I was only in for a day it was the greatest fun to be with that dangerously talented cast.”
Despite being a show about parenting, the kids don’t get much screen time
If you love situation comedy, but are less keen on watching small people throwing tantrums or running around the place screaming their heads off, the good news is that they’re not in it much. Sure, Motherland still captures a very certain type of stress and chaos that will be familiar to many parents, but unlike say for example, Outnumbered, this is a show that’s very much about the adults.
Anna told the Guardian in 2017: “It wasn’t about children or about how adults talk to children. It was about adults and didn’t sentimentalise the parent-child relationship. A lot of parenting is really funny and really brutal and really practical. It’s like ‘Quick get in the car for fuck’s sake I’ve got to get to work!’
“Child-rearing is quite boring and talking about child-rearing is quite boring. I don’t feel the series is about that,” she added.
The story about how Anna got the role is even more iconic than Patricia Carmichael
Anna admitted she had hit her limit of auditioning for roles she didn’t get, and when she went in to read for Motherland, she saw the list of people up for the role of Julia and admitted she “couldn’t be fucking arsed”.
She told the Guardian: “I was in the worst mood ever. I was so, so rude. I went into the room and was like, ‘Hiya.’ Stony stare. ‘Do you want me to sit here, or what?’ Honestly, I think that’s what got me the job.”
Somehow, we now love her even more.
Series one of Motherland is available to stream on Netflix, with series three beginning on BBC Two in May.