Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A hobble up the cobbles

Photo credit: Sorted magazine

I had a strange day last week. One minute I was getting off the train in central Manchester and the next I was walking past the Rovers Return with Corrie's newest bad boy Frank Foster, real name Andrew Lancel.

Andrew comes to find me in the green room, surrounded by stars of the show who take turns making tea and toast, all the while exchanging friendly banter.

He is the perfect gentleman, dressed in a smart suit that is matched with a welcoming smile. He shakes my hand and whisks me off up the most famous cobbled street in the world.

But then when he suggests retreating to his dressing room for the interview I wonder if playing flirty Frank has finally got to him. Luckily I’d packed my chastity belt so off to the dressing room we went.

Andrew appears a little riled from the moment we meet and it’s only when we sit down that I get to the bottom of it. He’s been misquoted by the trashiest of tabloids and is visibly annoyed.

He explains the irony: give an interview mentioning you’re a Christian and that part never goes in. Say something totally innocuous and it is twisted to make you sound like a religious bigot. Luckily people who have met him know he would never have made the comments that were attributed to him.

With that out the way, we get down to business. He tells me about joining the Corrie crew and becoming the show’s new Mr Nasty.

“It’s the most welcoming place I’ve ever worked, right from day one. There’s never been a day I’ve not enjoyed,” he says. Having always been a big fan of the show and appearing several times as an extra in younger years, he instantly felt at home on the Street.

Having said that, becoming Frank took a bit of work. Andrew is clearly a gentle guy who loves people. His dressing room is plastered with pictures of his wife Louise and son Isaac, and he mentions them throughout the interview. So how does he become Frank the predatory ladies’ man, I wonder.

Well that’s testament to his skill as an actor. Before joining the show he convincingly played gay heroin addict Harvey Black in Queer as Folk, arrogant bully Barry Pearce in Bad Girls and tight-lipped DI Neil Manson in The Bill. So he is used to embodying something he is not.

He has no choice but to dive right in (if that’s the right choice of words!) The first time he meets co-star Samia Smith, his character is expected to force himself on her, trying to kiss her and stick his hand up her skirt. Clever editing leaves the audience unsure just where the sexual assault ends.

Christians often ask him how he can play parts like these as a believer, and this obviously gets his goat. “It’s my work,” he says emphatically.

In fact, Andrew believes playing such a controversial character has given him a better platform to speak about the things that matter to him – his family, his beloved Everton and his God. “If I can make a living and embolden and encourage people in their faith that’s great,” he says.

So what can we expect in the next few months? Well the Liverpool-based actor assures me Mr Foster is just getting started. Things are hotting up and it won’t be long before his actions make headlines again.

Read the full story in Sorted September-October.

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