After becoming a successful stage actress, performing in the UK and abroad, she was cast for Channel 5 soap opera Family Affairs in 2000. She appeared as DCI Morell in The Bill in 2005 and other credits include Doctors, Holby City, The Cup, Pulling, Hotel Trubble and the successful ITV drama Broadchurch, in which she played the role of Lucy Stevens in 2013. For the last seven years, she has had various stints in BBC EastEnders as Ranie Cross - her most notable role yet. As well as being a successful actress, with her partner James, she kindly dedicates her time to SOS Children's Villages Charity, a charity helping protect the interests and rights of children worldwide. I got to discuss her brilliant charity work with her, as well as speaking about her career and whether we'll see Rainie back in Walford. Here are 13 Questions with...Tanya Franks!
1. Hi Tanya, please tell us a bit about SOS Children's Villages Charity and its aims?
Tanya: SOS Children's Villages has been set up since 1949 and there is 132 different countries around the world and basically they build up villages and they train women to be a mother over a two-year period - she's the mother of up to ten children at one time. It's amazing. It's an amazing set up, they have schools, general facilities, everything's there on site for the children. It's like their living environment. And 100% of donations goes to the villages.
2. It's a brilliant charity and you have gotten involved by sponsoring a child - how was this like for you?
Tanya: It's lovely! We have contact with the village she's in, we receive regular updates about her, it's good to hear that she's doing well and the children are doing well. So it's lovely. We're hoping that we'll be able to get over and see her at some point, in Ethiopia.
3. What influenced you to get involved with this charity in the first place?
Tanya: Well I think it's because they do such an amazing job. You know, literally the fact that they don't just deal with emergency relief, they actually provide homes that are appealing to the culture of each country. I think it makes a big difference to me to know that 100% of the money that I send over goes directly to those children. To me that's a massive bonus. I think it's a great way for it to work.
4. There is an opportunity to read more about fundraising on the SOS Children's Villages website, but do you have any top tips or advice on how people can fund raise?
Tanya: For example, one of the ways I got involved was that I held a birthday party. I said to everybody that I invited "please don't bring me any gifts at all, but if you want to do something then I would really appreciate you looking at SOS Children's Villages and perhaps considering donating to them instead. It meant that I had a party and we also had a laptop there with the donations page open so people could donate if they wanted to, We had a bucket that they could put cash into if they wanted to. There was no obligation but it did mean that I could bring an awareness to the people that I know about the charity. Because they don't just spend the money on marketing and advertising, it's very much about they money going to the villages. They really rely on us getting out there and speaking to people about them. Obviously, there's technology these days that could be used to spread the word. So that was my way of getting more involved with them. Apart from the sponsoring I was doing anyway, it was a way for me to hold an event that was specifically to celebrate something else and to celebrate SOS. I think as much as anything, it's just about spreading the word. There are friends of mine who walked away, looked into SOS further and are now supporting them as well. Me: I think it's nice that you got involved because you have a high profile and can help promote as well.
Tanya: Yeah, exactly, you know, social media and there's also videos and things like that. We like to help where we can.
5. We recently saw you reprise your role as Ranie Cross in BBC EastEnders and she is currently not on screen, but can we expect to see her back on Albert Square any time soon?
Tanya: I can't say exactly when but I think there's a good chance that she can pop up in Albert Square again at some point, yeah.
Me: I'm excited to see her back then, hopefully!
Tanya: (Laughs) I think there's a big possibility.
6. You have been lucky enough to do theatre for many years before you went into working on television, do you hope to be back on stage any time soon?
Tanya: Quite possibly. I haven't got anything planned at the moment, theatre-wise, but last year I spent doing theatre, I didn't do television at all. I spent the whole of 2013 on stage and this year I've been back in television again. As I say, I haven't got anything planned for theatre at the moment, but it's always something nice. If the project is with a company that I want to work with, or a director I want to work with then yeah, it's always in consideration for sure.
7. Of all the characters you've played, which has been your favourite?
Tanya: Er, I think, overall I would say Karen in Pulling, which was a BBC comedy show that I did. Rainie, as well, is such a remarkable character and they're so far from who I really am but they're a great challenge to meet. I think the scripts on Pulling were so funny, I think everything about that series was right, if that makes sense, from where I was in my career at that time.
8. What has been the highlight of your whole career?
Tanya: I think there are a number of highlights. I think I've been very fortunate in that way, I think I've had some theatre highlights, working with Steven Berkoff - he's an iconic playwright and director of theatre. Working with him was a real high point, for me. I think doing a show like Pulling, EastEnders, working in the National Theatre - I've done three shows at the National Theatre and that's always a high point being there. So, I'm lucky to have been able to have experienced that three times. Yeah, down to the smaller shows that I've done, like a beautiful play that I did on the London Fringe, about ten or eleven years ago called 'All Fall Away' and it was, again, a beautiful piece of writing, gorgeous character, working with that company. I would call that one of my high points as well, and I was a co-producer on that.
9. That's good, because you do produce some of your own projects too, don't you?
Tanya: Yeah! I produced a short film which was special to me, a short film called 'One Day', which was starring Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, myself...it was directed by James Barriscale. It was such a great team! You know, it was great to be able to make that and to see the script come alive, which was something that I'd written. So that's another high point, I guess!
10, Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Tanya: If you're starting out in the profession, it's very easy to just hope that you're going to get an audition...but the easiest way to do it is just to do it yourself! You can put on plays, you can make films now, yourself, I mean we have cameras on our phones now (how technology is at our fingertips!), you can make web series, you can do sketches...there are so many opportunities now for us to be able to promote ourselves. And so I think that that's a really easy way to get started. It also helps to start building your confidence, and it also helps the way people are going to see you.
11. Which actors inspire you?
Tanya: My biggest inspiration, proabably when growing up, is Peter Sellers. His characters I just found so intriguing and I loved the fact that he played characters that were so different and diverted himself. So I guess that he was a big inspiration when I was growing up.
12. If you could invite three celebrity/famous guests to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Tanya: Well I would like Peter Sellers. I would probably end up being speechless and proably not say very much (laughs) erm, I would invite...Mahatma Gandhi, just because...how can you not have somebody who's made such a difference to this world? I would probably...I'm trying to think somebody I would invite now...
Me: It's quite difficult, isn't it?!
Tanya: Yeah! I'm trying to think of somebody alive, otherwise I've just got dead people around the table which is not very good! Oh yeah, that's the one...it would probably be Allison Janney. She was in West Wing. And I think she's fabulous. So I'd probably have to invite her as well.
13. Finally, do you have a message for all of your fans and anyone reading this interview?
Tanya: Yeah, my message is...if you really have a dream or an aspiration, don't just let it go. Keep going for it. And if you can incorporate, at some point in your lives, an organisation such as SOS Children;s Villages, that will also be able to enjoy the journey with you, then I think that's what life's all about.
Read more about SOS Children's Villages and find out how you can get involved. If you would like to fund raise, maybe you could take a leaf out of Tanya's book and ask guests who attend an event to kindly make a donation, or you could even host your own fundraising event! Whatever you can do would be amazing. SOS Children's Villages are a very deserving charity and they count on our donations. You can donate online by clicking here. Don't forget to follow Tanya on Twitter to keep up to date and to be the first to hear about any upcoming projects she has in store. Please spread the word about SOS Children's Villages and the amazing work they do.
Thanks for reading!