With the world premiere of Lifetime’s Liz & Dick tonight at 9/8c, the media is abuzz with chatter about Lindsay Lohan’s turn as Elizabeth Taylor. However, it is the troubled celeb’s talented co-star, British actress Tanya Franks, who steals our attention. We caught up with Franks to get the scoop on starring alongside Lohan and more.
SheKnows: You’ve been acting since the ’80s, but your role in Liz & Dick is your first role filmed in America. What drew you to the script?
Tanya: The story of Burton and Taylor is such a high-profile love affair that it’s great to be offered the role of the wife that we never hear anything about. Sybil was an interesting exploration for me, and [it was] lovely to play a character who has so much decency and pride, unlike some of the other characters I have played.
SheKnows: How did you prepare to play Richard Burton’s jilted wife, Sybil?
Tanya: I did as much research as I could through the Internet and books. I also managed to track down an audio of Under Milk Wood, recorded in the ’50s, that they were both in. Sybil only had a very small role, and that was the only vocal I found.
SheKnows: Here in the United States, headlines about Lindsay Lohan are a dime a dozen. Did you have any trepidation about taking a role alongside her?
Tanya: No, I didn’t at all because, to be honest, I don’t read much of the gossip in media. So I knew very little about her. I was looking forward to meeting and working with her and interested to see the difference between Hollywood actors and British actors.
SheKnows: Your Liz & Dick producer recently said working with Lindsay was “not for the faint of heart,” but the director has praised you in interviews for your “emotionally charged” performance. How do you avoid on-set drama?
Tanya: I try not to cause a drama on set, so therefore it’s pretty easy to avoid.
SheKnows: So how was it, actually working with Lindsay?
Tanya: I only had a very small amount of screen time with her; most of my scenes are with Grant [Bowler, as Richard Burton]. We had a few chuckles and chats, and I found her generous to work opposite within a scene.
SheKnows: We suspect you aren’t all business all the time, since you refer to yourself on Twitter as a closet mischief maker. Pull any good pranks lately?
Tanya: Uh oh, I’ve been caught. I am a bit too scared to pull too many pranks. I haven’t been brave enough to come out of the closet with my mischief just yet.
SheKnows: Speaking of Twitter, at the risk of sounding slightly creepy, I came across your feed and became a bit enamored with your wit. Any chance you might write a book anytime soon?
Tanya: If someone wants to give me an advance, I would be happy too. I am already in the process of raising finance for my first feature film that I have written.
SheKnows: Do you favor comedy, for which you’ve been nominated and won several awards?
Tanya: Not favor it particularly. I love it as much as I do drama. It’s the characters I favor, whether they be serious or funny.
SheKnows: How do you switch gears from a funny part to something grittier, such as the role of drug addict Rainie Cross in EastEnders?
Tanya: I always go for the truth of the character — the most important thing is to find the truth. So whether it is comedy or drama, the core approach is the same.
SheKnows: You seem to stay pretty busy outside of work with charitable causes. In 2011, you teamed up with entrepreneur/Secret Millionaire Caroline Marsh to form Share-Love. Can you tell us more about that?
Tanya: Share-Love is something I want to continue. Unfortunately, it has come to a bit of a standstill, due to our work commitments and being out of the country, but it is not dead in the water. It just needs a bit more time. I’m an ambassador for the Thomas Cook Children’s Charities, which I am proud to be part of, and I support the SOS Villages Children’s charity.
SheKnows: All right, you’ve got two U.K.-based projects slated for release in 2013 — when do we get to steal you away again for our screens?
Tanya: As soon as another decent job is offered to me in the States that I would like to be a part of!
SheKnows: Are there any current American shows you watch and would kill for a cameo on?
Tanya: HBO’s Girls — tell Lena Dunham I want to play the mum or the aunt of Jessa. I’m hoping she’ll know me from Pulling, so do your best to put a word in for me.