Tanya Franks is mostly known for her starring roles in television including Rainie Cross in EastEnders and Karen in the BBC award-winning comedy series Pulling.
Tanya first rose to prominence in 2000, after being cast in the Channel Five soap opera Family Affairs as Karen Ellis; she remained there for the next three years. In 2004 she was cast as DI Morell in The Bill. Tanya stayed with the serial for over a year.
In 2005 and 2006 she went on to star opposite Sharon Horgan and Rebekah Staton in the BBC Three award-winning comedy series Pulling. Franks played Karen, the promiscuous, drunk primary school teacher. The sitcom ran for two series and a special feature episode. Tanya was nominated for a British Comedy Award, the series won a South Bank Show award and a British Comedy Award, and gained a BAFTA nomination for best comedy series.
In July 2007, it was announced that Franks would play the role of Tanya Branning’s sister, Rainie Cross in EastEnders for a week-long stint from 2 August 2007. Franks returned in January 2008 and again in August 2010. She returned again in April 2011 for a 9 month regular stint.
In 2010, she was the guest-lead in an episode one of FTN’s favourite time-travelling shows Ashes to Ashes. Since September 2010, Tanya has been starring as the new series regular “Dolly” in the CBBC comedy serial Hotel Trubble.
Tanya has always been a prominent theatre actress including leading roles at London’s National Theatre in Really Old, Like Forty Five in 2010, The Black Album in 2009, and Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads in 2004. She also co-starred in Steven Berkoff’s West End 25th anniversary production of East in 1999. Her theatre credits date back to 1986 and are too numerous to mention here.
FTN: You have been on British television screens for a number of years appearing in such British comedies as The Cup, Pulling and the drama Broadchurch. However, Liz and Dick is your first foray into American television movies and dramas. What was it like to film this drama?
TF: Fab. The Americans just seem to do it all with a little more glamour, even though it was still a rushed schedule.
FTN: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were both as famous off-screen as they were on and their story is dramatised in the television movie Liz and Dick. Prior to filming this drama, what were your impressions of these two celebrities and were you familiar with their films and theatrical performances?
TF: Absolutely, I grew up watching their movies. They were both hugely dynamic actors oozing charisma, which was so enticing as an audience member and appealing. As a child I used to love wearing lots of sparkly toy rings and our neighbour used to say I was like Elizabeth Taylor with all the bling on my fingers, which I took as a compliment.
FTN: Were there any challenges in bringing to life not only these two screen icons, but the many real-life characters that played a part in their lives?
TF: The challenge is bringing respect and truth to each of the characters. I don’t know how Lindsay and Grant chose to work on their roles
FTN: You portray the part of Sybil Burton, Richard Burton’s ex-wife. How did you come by this part and did you have to attend multiple-casting auditions?
TF: I had been in and had a general meet with the casting director Matthew Lessall before flying back to the UK the next day. Just a few days later, on a Sunday morning, I received an email from Matthew asking if I’d like to put myself on tape for Sybil in Liz And Dick. I read the script and agreed to. A Welsh director friend of mine helped me with the taping and I sent it off. A little while after, I was in a taxi on my way to the airport to fly to the Cannes film festival, when I had a message from Matthew saying the director loves me, however the producer would just like me to make a few changes in delivery. So I asked the taxi driver to turn around, I missed my flight and I got a second tape off. Within a few days the offer came through.
FTN: What was it like playing this part and did you have to do much research prior to filming?
TF: It was an absolute pleasure playing Sybil. Most of my scenes were with Grant Bowler who played Richard Burton. We enjoyed working together and he is a very generous actor. Most of my research was through reading and finding material from her acting days helped, of which there is very little. She had a few lines in the 1950s recording of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, which Richard Burton narrated. This helped to get a sense of Sybil’s vocal quality.
FTN: There was a recent drama on British television that focused on their re-union on the stage in which both Elizabeth and Richard expressed regret, sorrow and anger. Did you find that, during the fiming of Liz and Dick these themes were there right from the beginning of their relationship?
TF: Yes the production I am in starts from when Taylor and Burton first got together on the set of filming the epic movie Cleopatra.
FTN: You have worked as both an actress and a writer. Did you enjoy being behind the camera so to speak, and is this something that we may see you do more of in the future?
TF: Everything I have worked on as a writer I have also acted in. My short film One Day, starring Tim McInnerny, can be downloaded from iTunes, which I also produced. My previous two shorts were rather experimental. However, I have no plans to be solely behind the camera at this time.
FTN: Liz and Dick will be screened just prior to Christmas. Do you perfer a quiet relaxing Christmas or something more frantic and hectic?
TF: There are too many days off over the Christmas/New Year break for my liking. I see friends and family, and usually also spend time writing while I wait for the rest of the world to come back into action.
FTN: Are there any projects that you are currently working on for future release that you can tell us about?
TF: I am very close to my first feature film happening which I have written, I will be in, and will be producing. I also have Stock-pot Films LLC in the States with my co-producer Todd Shill through which we are developing a couple of American features too.
FTN: And finally, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
TF: Both, I’ve no reason to take sides.