EastEnders Interview: Tanya Franks talks to TV.com

Rainie Cross returned to Albert Square this month, dragging Phil Mitchell back into the underworld with her. It's the third and arguably most important time she's appeared in EastEnders, but it's not easy stepping into her shoes. We caught up with actress Tanya Franks--also known for her portrayal of Karen in Pulling--to discuss how she prepared for this part and what she's up to now...

TV.com: What is it you're filming at the moment?
Tanya Franks: I’m doing a BBC children's comedy show, called Hotel Trubble.

That's quite a contrast from your role on EastEnders
Completely; it couldn’t be more different if it tried.

You've done a range of acting now. Is there a particular genre you prefer working on?
Not really - I enjoy it all for different reasons. I get such an eclectic mix of roles that it's always very satisfying for me. Quite often I get roles from the darker side of life so something like Hotel Trubble is completely different. I like the variety, let's put it that way.

I think that it was good that I didn’t have to cross over too much between Hotel Trubble and EastEnders because going from kid's comedy to crack addict is a bit of a leap. It was quite good to get the crack addiction out of the way before I came back to Hotel Trubble for the third series.

Rainie must be a particularly dark character to play, considering her drug problems?
Yes, that's been a really interesting storyline to go through, and it's lovely working with Steve [McFadden] as well. He's a smashing actor to work with and we got on very well.

This is the first time that drugs have played such a major role in an EastEnders storyline, how does it feel to be a part of it?
When they phoned and asked me about going back to do that, I was quite excited at the thought of it. The first time I was on [EastEnders] Rainie was dealing with heroin addiction, but that was very much about Rainie wanting to get the heroin rather than actually taking it. This time it's been more of an exploration of actually going on a massive drugs binge. That's been very interesting, but very painful to play, because it's not an easy subject to have to tackle and you want to do it the justice that it deserves and give it the weight it should be given. It's not a light-hearted approach at all.

How did you go about preparing for that?
I did lots of research: I spoke to lots of different people and looked a lot up. I also talked to an organisation called DrugScope, that EastEnders put me in touch with, that were very helpful. That gave me a good insight into what it's like to perhaps be a crack addict – it's difficult.

What kind of restrictions have there been on the storyline and subsequent filming, considering EastEnders is essentially a family soap?
They certainly filmed as much as they possibly could and we certainly went as near to the bone as we possibly could with it. Obviously, because of it airing before the watershed they had to be careful with how much they can actually show of the drug taking itself. But we didn't shy away from that--I haven't seen the episode so it remains to be seen how much they show.

What kind of reaction do you expect from viewers?
My ambition for it was to make it as truthful and believable as possible. And I think that was the same with Steve McFadden. We were just both very intent on being allowed to explore this and keep it as true as we can. If there's a couple of people that watch it and think of someone they know, or something they've been through--perhaps see a problem there that somebody they know needs to deal with--and if it triggers a response it'll be worth it.

Yes, you're touching on a subject that's quite prevalent in today's society…
I think so, and there's a lot of sigma attached to it. People make very sweeping judgements about it and I hope that by having a storyline like this in such a prominent programme it will help people to think twice about how they judge people in that situation.

So will Rainie be sticking around in EastEnders?
I've no idea.

Would you like her to?
If they called me back and said to me that it was going to be an interesting time for Rainie then I’d be happy to think about it, absolutely. I enjoyed it there and I enjoy when I go back.

You've guest-starred three times now…
Yes, I’ve done three stints. I wasn’t expecting this one to suddenly come up two years on, so I was quite surprised.

Is it difficult to throw yourself into a previous character like that?
Essentially, you know how you've developed that character and, of course, you know the history, so you're working from the same basis. I don't actually find it difficult; I just want to deal with what the situation that she's going through at that time. Somewhere in your psyche you've still got that character rattling around.

So tell us a bit more about Hotel Trubble.
There is already one series out that they filmed a couple of years ago, but they've changed the format of it quite a lot. I’m a new regular in series two and series three, and it's totally crazy and surreal. I spend most of my days just trying not to laugh in a take.

Kid's TV shows look like such fun to film, is it as fun as it looks?
Well, there are no children involved in the filming of Hotel Trubble. It is very much about adults playing these silly characters. We have a lot of silly times doing it, if the truth be known. You just can't help yourself but laugh.

Have you an idea in mind in what of show you'd like to do next?
If it was going to be a regular role in something I'd quite like to do a good thriller, because that's something I haven't done yet.

You're well-known for playing Karen in Pulling. What do you think the reason was for its cancellation?
I have no idea, it's such a shame. The BBC in their wisdom thought that they should pull that show. It seemed like an odd choice when it was really building a momentum and people were loving it. People come up to me quite often, saying "Are they going to do more Pulling?" And when I say no, they respond: "Well I can’t believe it, it was my favourite comedy show."

So is there anything else that you’re working on at the moment?
There's a feature film called Island that I shot nearly two years ago actually. I think it's due to come out next year, 2011 I think.

Feature films can take a long time, especially when they’re low budget, because the producers have to go through a lot of hurdles to get to the final stage of either getting a release or getting a festival. So it's a long journey with film making.

You’ve got your own production company haven’t you?
Yes, and I’m embarking upon a feature script that I’ve developed and now have a couple of producers for, so you know that’s a long journey ahead of me as well.

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