Interview: Tanya Franks Talks ‘Liz & Dick’, Working With Grant Bowler, Fox’s ‘Broadchurch’ Remake’ & More

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Late last year, before the BBC had even announced their own Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor biopic, Lifetime’s original television movie Liz & Dick finally made it to air in the United States. Unlike the BBC’s own biopic Burton and Taylor, Liz & Dick takes a more complete look at the troubled love affair of the couple, who were the talk of the industry for so very long.

Now, a little more than a month after Lifetime launched here in Blighty, the TV movie is finally being broadcast on UK television. Liz & Dick, which premieres of Lifetime UK on Thursday December 19th at 9pm, features an all-star cast which includes, amongst others, Lindsay Lohan, Defiance star Grant Bowler and Broadchurch alum Tanya Franks.

Tanya Franks, represented by Curtis Brown, has had a long career in Television; from roles on Pulling to EastEnders and more recently ITV’s hit drama Broadchurch. Tanya has a significant role in Liz & Dick, with producer Larry Thompson commenting that “Tanya was a welcome star to the production”. The actress was kind enough to spare some time to talk to TVWise about Liz & Dick, what it was like working with Defiance star Grant Bowler, her thoughts on the US adaptation of Broadchurch and more.

TVWise: Last year you flew out to Los Angeles to film a role on the Lifetime original movie Liz & Dick, what can you tell us about your character?

Tanya Franks: Sybil Burton was Richard Burton’s first wife, whom he left for Elizabeth Taylor. It was an honour to play a character of such vulnerability and so much pride.

TVWise: You have a number of very powerful scenes with Grant Bowler, who is playing Richard Burton. What was it like working opposite Grant?

Tanya Franks: Grant is a very generous actor and we had fun working together. We both come from the same place in that we want what is best for the scenes and were there to encourage each other to make every moment work.

TVWise: What was it that attracted you to the role?

Tanya Franks: I know the UK would not even consider me for a role like Sybil, because I am seen in a very different light here. In the US I am considered for roles that offer me other interesting challenges. Sybil had pride with a down to Welsh charm, and had a sense of class and style. Her pain and vulnerability to the situation and her love for Richard was full of complex emotions that I wanted to explore.

TVWise: Like a lot of Lifetime movies, this is based on the lives of real people – and legends of the industry in this case – so did you do any research for the role?

Tanya Franks: Of course, that is the only way to portray any real life circumstance justice. In this instance most of it was through reading and finding material from her acting days helped, of which there is very little.

TVWise: It was a little while after the death of Taylor that both Lifetime and the BBC started developing their own Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor biopics. While Lifetime’s actually went out first (in November 2012), it’s only now that it’s about to air in the UK. For those who saw BBC Four’s biopic earlier this year, why should they also sit down to watch Liz & Dick?

Tanya Franks: If the subject matter interests you then I’m sure you’d want to watch another completely different style of production, perhaps for bits and bobs of info that you may not know from elsewhere. This is not a documentary. It shows the Taylor/Burton affair as a movie of gloss and entertainment.

TVWise: One of your more recent TV roles was that of Lucy Stevens on ITV’s Broadchurch. Did you have any idea how big that show would be when you first got the script?

Tanya Franks: When I first read the scripts it was obvious what great story telling Chris Chibnall was achieving with each episode. So it seemed possible that with the right creative team behind it, it was going to have an ideal chance of being a success.

TVWise: Olivia Colman recently confirmed that she would be coming back for the second series, will Lucy be making an appearance in the new series as well?

Tanya Franks: I have no idea I’m afraid.

TVWise: What are your thoughts on the US remake that Fox are doing?

Tanya Franks: America love to remake anything that is a hit in another country so I’m not surprised. I think it’s very unlikely though that the original British version can be bettered.

TVWise: Are they any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

Tanya Franks: There is a good chance that my first feature film that I have written and am producing will soon get the go ahead, it’s very close to a yes anyway, so watch this space.

Tanya Franks plays Sybil Burton in the Lifetime original movie Liz & Dick, which will premiere in the UK on Lifetime on Thursday December 19th at 9pm.