Anna Friel and Amanda Burton on their dangerous roles in Marcella season 3

Anna Friel in Marcella season 3.
Anna Friel in Marcella season 3. (Image credit: ITV)

Nearly three years on from series two of Marcella which saw Anna Friel’s Marcella Backland alone, homeless and presumed dead, the troubled detective is back on our screens with a new identity and a dangerous new mission.

Here Anna Friel and Amanda Burton talk about what’s in store in Marcella season 3, playing adversaries and how they found filming in Northern Ireland.

The third season kicks off with a double bill which sees Marcella sporting a completely different look. The brunette ponytail, minimal make up and green parka of the previous two series have been replaced with a choppy peroxide-blonde bob, rock chick clothes and glam make-complete with scarlet lipstick. 

"Marcella is now working deep undercover in Northern Ireland and going by the name of Keira Devlin," explains Anna Friel who won an Emmy for her portrayal of the character in 2017. "She has a whole new life and look."

Marcella’s been tasked with infiltrating a notorious criminal family, the Maguires who have amassed a huge fortune from extortion, drugs and human trafficking.

Anna Friel in Marcella season three.

Anna Friel sports a brand new look in the latest series. (Image credit: ITV)

Who does Amanda Burton play in series three of Marcella?

Amanda Burton (Silent Witness, Peak Practice) joins the cast as glacial matriarch Katherine Maguire, who rules her clan with a rod of iron. Katherine is not pleased when events lead to Marcella/Keira living at the Maguire’s lavish family mansion outside Belfast.

Burton says: “Katherine was brought up around violence and doesn’t really know any other way. She has clawed her way up the ladder to where she is today and her main drive and focus is her family, she wants to keep them wealthy and retain the Maguire name and status in the community at all costs. 

"Katherine is suspicious of Keira when they first meet but as time goes on and Keira makes herself indispensable, she softens and starts to feel quite fond of her which is saying something for a woman with a heart of stone."

Friel says: “Katherine is 100 per cent Marcella’s most formidable adversary. They meet their match in each other."

Are any of the original Marcella cast in series three?

Ray Panthaki, (Colette, One Crazy Thing) who developed a close friendship with his colleague Marcella, returns as DCI Rav Sangha and Hugo Speer (The Musketeers, Britannia) returns as Frank Young who appeared for the first time at the end of series two as Marcella’s undercover handler. The rest of the cast is new.

Is the new series of Marcella still set in London?

No there’s a brand new cast and a brand new location in Northern Ireland. Friel says: “My dad is from Northern Ireland and I spent a lot of time growing up there. I took my daughter (15-year-old Gracie) with me to Belfast during filming and she went to school there which she loved. 

"Everyone was so kind and friendly and we were welcomed with open arms. It was really nice to be able to catch up with family members living in Ireland and invite them on set.”

Burton, who was born in Northern Ireland, says “Filming there evoked a lot of emotional memories for me and I truly love Belfast. Whenever I had a day off, I’d walk around the city, chatting to people and soaking up the vibes of the place. It was wonderful to have this big family of Irish actors to work with. Being able to immerse myself there with my fellow Irishmen was incredibly special.”

How is Marcella coping with being undercover?

Friel says: “She’s actually enjoying it a little too much! It has helped her run away from her old life and she’s found herself really enjoying who Keira is, the lifestyle, the cars. We just hope that she stays on the right side of the law! As far as her mental health is concerned, we dig much deeper into that this time. She’s still suffering from extreme post-traumatic stress after the revelation of what happened to her baby in series two and how she was responsible for her baby’s death."

What research did Friel and Burton do for their roles in series three of Marcella ?

Friel says: “For Marcella’s PTSD storyline over the loss of her baby I did a lot of research. There was a family tragedy in our own family that was very close to me, the loss of a baby full term. Post-traumatic stress is something many people suffer from but previously didn’t even realise because it wasn’t diagnosed. There’s so much more awareness about mental health now which should have happened a long time ago but better later than never.

Burton says: “I find real crime stories really fascinating and am always interested in how people express themselves in trials once they’ve been caught. My other reference points are films and TV series. 

"When I found out I was going to be playing Katherine I touched base with The Godfather again because I wanted to look at family structures and The Godfather is an extraordinary blueprint. More recently you’ve got the amazing (Sky Atlantic series) Succession and watching how that family business was run."

What hard-hitting subjects does series three of Marcella tackle?

The gritty drama created by Hans Rosenfeldt explores human trafficking, drug dealing and extortion which leads to some shocking cold-blooded murders.

Friel says: “You definitely think that Hans Rosenfeldt had a crystal ball. He wrote this series two years ago but the human trafficking storyline is similar to the real-life human trafficking court case that just ended a few months ago here. And Rory Maguire is obsessed with germs and hand sanitizer. He won’t let anybody near him and communicates via Zoom. I mean, what did Hans know back then that we didn't?"

Burton says: “There’s a shocking parallel with a couple of our storylines that are quite horrific and unfortunately also happen in real life. The very sober side of being in a drama like Marcella is knowing that some of these things actually do take place.”

Who plays the Maguire family members in Marcella series three?

Finn Maguire is played by Aaron McCusker (Bohemian Rhapsody). Middle child Finn is CEO of the family’s business operations but has so far failed to provide an heir which is an ongoing source of contention with his mother Katherine. Marcella/ Keira embarks on a relationship with Finn in order to infiltrate the Maguire’s and life under the same roof of the family’s country mansion.

Rory Maguire is played by Michael Colgan (My Mother And Other Strangers ). Rory has an OCD condition that makes him a reclusive germaphobe and is nicknamed "Raw Hands" because of his constant hand-washing. He has a great mind, a photographic memory and acts as the family’s lawyer.

Stacey Maguire is played by Kelly Gough (The Fall ). She is the youngest Maguire sibling and heavily pregnant. Prompted by Marcella she begins to make bigger waves in the family. She’s married to violent drug dealer, Bobby Barrett (Martin McCann) who is impetuous, arrogant and very dangerous.

Marcella begins on Tuesday 16th January on ITV with a double bill showing episode one and two. All eight episodes will be available on ITV Hub and BritBox after the second episode airs.

Tess Lamacraft
Senior Writer for What's On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite week,

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.