She began her training as an actress at Oldham Theatre Workshop. Her performance led to a series of appearances on various British television shows, including Emmerdale.
At age 13, she was hired for her first professional acting job in the Channel 4 drama serial G. In 1992, she was added to the cast on the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, where she increased her exposure in the role of Beth Jordache. Friel's on-air lesbian kiss with Nicola Stephenson was the first in British soap history, In 1996, Friel gained even greater exposure when she appeared in the television film The Tribe by Stephen Poliakoff, which included nudity and a much discussed ménage à trois sex scene between characters played by Friel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Jeremy Northam.
Cape Swansea and Swansea Point in Arctic Canadaare just two of 26 places around the world which share their name with the Welsh city.
The Arctic Circle is a place few people would want to make their home.
Most of the overseas Swanseas were named after the Welsh sea port, reflecting the city's industrial past.
Unique research undertaken by the South Wales Evening Post has revealed the existence of 12 'Swanseas' in America, 10 in Canada, two in Australia, one in South Africa and one in Jamaica.
Friel made her film debut in 1998 in David Leland's Land Girls and has since made a number of films such as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Timeline (2003), Land of the Lost (2009) and Limitless (2011).
Outside of film, she played the role of Charlotte "Chuck" Charles in the ABC comedy series Pushing Daisies, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2008.
Some of the most interesting finds include two American ghost towns called Swansea, Lac Swansea in French-speaking Quebec, Mount Swansea in British Columbia, Swansea Island in Ontario and Swanzey Beach Park in Hawaii.
Towns called Swansea can be found in Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Tasmania and New South Wales.