This week, we caught up with British actress Tanya Franks, known to U.K. audiences for her TV roles as Rainie Cross in “EastEnders” and Karen in “Pulling.” But in the U.S., Tanya has been very busy working alongside Lindsay Lohan.
It’s true. Tanya stars as Sybil, the estranged wife of the legendary Welsh actor, Richard Burton, in the upcoming biopic Liz and Dick (on Lifetime). And she has already filmed some explosive scenes as the first Mrs. Burton.
Burton (played by True Blood’s Grant Bowler) met Sybil Williams, a young actress, on a film set in February of 1949. They married, had two daughters, and divorced in 1963. That’s after Sybil was unceremoniously dumped the moment Liz Taylor (Lindsay Lohan) crossed Richard Burton’s eyeline.
Tanya was cast as Sybil in England and travelled to LA to shoot the film. Her previous credits include playing the popular, drug addicted Rainie Cross in “EastEnders,” a drunk primary school-teacher Karen in the BBCaward winning comedy series “Pulling,” and guest leads in hit shows “Skins” and “Ashes To Ashes.“
Lifetime’s TV production “Liz and Dick” began shooting early June in Los Angeles and is based on Taylor’s romance with Richard Burton. Tanya seems to be a great addition to the production, which has so far dominated the media with reports of Lindsay Lohan’s car crash, long hours on set, and exhaustion. The producers and the director of the film have praised Tanya’s superb and emotionally charged performance.
Here is our Exclusive Brave New Hollywood chat with the British star.
BNH: You were cast for this film, an American production, in the U.K. How did it happen?
TF: I was asked to look at the script and decide if I wanted to go for it. I was put on tape and recorded two casting auditions for them. I was offered the role straight from the tape and didn’t actually get to meet the producer and director until the first day of filming.
BNH: How is Grant Bowler as Burton? What makes him Burton?
TF: He has a charm and sex appeal that suits the role well. Grant also encapsulates the masculinity that Burton had.
BNH: In playing Sybil Burton, what did you find out about her?
TF: It was lovely to tap into her dignity. It was also a time wives and women stood by their men no matter what, when they married, it was for life. Burton had affairs before Liz Taylor, but because this one was shot out into the public eye, she couldn’t handle it. She could perhaps handle the affairs in private, but not so publicly. That is something as modern women, we don’t understand and it was really interesting to tap into. She was happy, a family women and the marriage between her and Burton by all accounts was a good marriage. As far as I can understand, she was dedicated to him and her family. She has so many core strengths and made a dignified exit.
BNH: Are you and Sybil similar at all, or two very different women?
TF: I would say we are very different in many different ways. We both have a similar inner strength, but our attitudes towards relationships and marriage are very different. Probably because of the different generation we were brought up in.
BNH: Is it nerve wracking or flattering to portray a real-life person?
TF: To me it is both flattering and nerve wracking. You want to do that person justice. In this case, it wasn’t about doing a personation of her; it was about representing her in the story. Also very flattering from the point of view that it is a story that people will find interesting. It is also my duty to portray her in the right light for the story, so it is a flattering challenge.
BNH: Is Lindsay a good fit as Liz Taylor?
TF: I think Lindsay is a great fit. She carries the glamour of Liz Taylor and did a fine job of characterizing her. Lindsay Lohan is also a fantastic young actress, so she can bring that to it too.
Liz And Dick is set to premiere in November 2012 on Lifetime Network.
CLICK HERE for Lifetime networks official site.
CLICK HERE to see Tanya Franks in a clip from ‘Pulling’ on BBC