TBB Talks … The Confessions Of Frannie Langton With Star Karla-Simone Spence

Karla-Simone Spence takes the lead role in new ITVX series The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The four-part period drama series is set in the Georgian era and has been adapted from Sara Collin’s award-winning novel.

The series narrates Frannie’s journey from a Jamaican plantation to the grand Mayfair mansion of celebrated scientist George Benham and his exquisitely beautiful wife, Madame Marguerite Benham. Frannie is gifted to Benham by her master John Langton, to be employed as a maid. After the Benhams are found murdered in their beds, with Frannie lying next to Marguerite. Frannie is accused of murder …

Karla-Simone tells us more about the role …

Can you tell me what your life is like at this moment in a word or a sentence?

Surprising, this is surprising; life is surprising.

I like that, ‘surprising‘ so you’re on a bit of a rollercoaster of a journey at this moment?

Yeah. I don’t know what could happen tomorrow or the next day, I think that’s to do with being an actor.

Tell us about the project, a brief overview of Frannie Langton and what it’s been like for you …

A dream to be honest. We finished filming about a year ago although which for me feels like a long time but sometimes projects can take much longer to come. We finished filming in October, I was in Leeds for about 3 months consistently so it was really intense but in a good way. I was very happy to be playing a character that had so much depth.

Image Credit: ITV

How did you get the role?

I auditioned like everyone else I think they were looking for her [Frannie] for quite some time. I don’t want to give the wrong date but let’s say roughly 8 months before I got a self-tape for it which is like doing an audition at home, you record it and then you send it off. I did that for the first audition, and they seemed to like it then I had a zoom with the director Andrea. They redirected me on what they were looking for, I did another self-tape, and they were happy with that then I had a third audition in person, usually, called a chemistry test but because I think she was the first role that they were looking for, there was no one to chemistry test with. I had a reader who was really great and we ran a bunch of scenes across all episodes. I just remember when I left that room I was like “I have to get this” it was one of the first times I’ve ever commanded my time.

As actors you audition and you leave hoping it was okay. But I remember doing one scene and being told it was great but it didn’t feel right to me so I asked to go again, I remember sitting there, and to me, it felt like forever but it was probably 30 seconds; I was just sitting there thinking I needed to dig deep for this because I really wanted it. So, I gave it another go. I was happy with it and left with my fingers crossed and of course, I got the part.

What was your process for actually getting into character?

There are so many different processes and I think it all depends on the character you’re playing and how close you are to that character. Because I’m Jamaican I already had that connection with her [Frannie]. I already knew the history so I already felt the similarities. She really loves reading books, I used to love reading books all the time when I was younger. It was just finding the similarities and then finding the differences and then building a human from that. But, I had the book as well and it is so in-depth with her character that I was able to just flesh her out from that and the scripts.

But in terms of methods and processes, I try a bunch of different things. I like naturalism and finding the truth which I think everyone should do anyway, but I never have a plan for what I’m gonna do. The night before going on set I learn the lines so that when I get on set I’m in the now and just going off what the other actor gives me; feeding off of that. There are times in the script where it doesn’t say “Frannie is crying” but I’m crying because it’s just how I feel and obviously with the guidance of the director. I had the character for quite a bit before filming so I knew whatever instinct I was having was truthful.

I was going through your bio and all of the other projects that you’ve worked on. What are your hopes for where it takes you?

My hope is that it opens more doors for sure, to make it easier to get bigger roles in every aspect. I’d love to do everything. I like to sing so I’d love to do a film musical, I’d also love to do action so just a wide range of roles where people can trust me to lead the show or to carry a film. I hope that now it shows that I can do that.

Getting the lead on Frannie Langton did you feel pressured at all?

I was hungry for it. I wanted it so bad. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and since doing my last job which was in 2019 and I booked this in 2021. Even up to the point of doing my last film the amount of rejections you get and the amount of times you get knockbacks by the time I got to this big thing I was ready. I didn’t feel pressure to play her at all. I was just really excited. The pressure is in the aftermath of it all. It coming out and knowing everyone’s response to it because it’s your baby and you know they can pick it apart if they want.

Image Credit: ITV

Do you have a plan B?

No. I don’t believe in Plan b’s. I feel like I’m on this earth for a short amount of time and I’m only gonna get one life so I’m gonna try and do what I want to do. I don’t want to have any regrets.

So if there’s no plan B is it part of the plan to create your own work?

Yeah absolutely. A lot of actors now are creating their own work and it’s incredible. I haven’t done so yet but I’d love to do it all. But not just yet I want to get a few things under my belt first.

What’s made you sad, mad or glad this week?

Sad. My brain’s very good at blocking out sadness so I’m struggling here. I’m very glad the show’s coming out I wasn’t sure when but now that it’s here I’m really excited. I don’t really get mad very often if I’m perfectly honest, maybe irritated. I sound really chill right now that’s not true but I’m not mad about anything.

What are you listening to right now?

Oh, I am in love with the new Stormzy song Hide and Seek it’s so lovely. But in terms of an album, I’ve been playing Renaissance on a loop.

What’s the last book that you read?

I’m really struggling to read books I’m like juggling two books at once but the last one to complete like from beginning to finish is called Children of Virtue and Vengeance. The first one is called Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I love Nigerian culture and I like magic and books surrounding that theme.

What’s on your bucket list?

Doing my own stunts. After watching The Women King I thought “it has to happen“, they all did all of their stunts and it was just so amazing.

In The Woman King who is that one person that really stood out for you, celebrate somebody …

I mean I have to celebrate THE Queen Mother Viola Davis. I love her so much I look up to her so much and admire her so much she was one of the first people that I saw that just really gave a raw truthful portrayal of a character. And the first time I saw that was in How to Get Away With Murder and she just lets it all out she doesn’t care about looking pretty and the snot and the tears, it’s not clean it’s very truthful to how a black woman is. She was wearing the silk cap and backing off the wig and it was really nice to see someone so three-dimensional. She’s a Queen man, she’s the Queen.

What was the last thing you saw on stage?

Blues For An Alabama Sky. I loved it. I even really liked the musical elements of it although it wasn’t a musical and I wish there were more songs. It was really lovely everyone was really vibrant and they were really giving their all.

Would you like to do stage?

I’ve done my first stage debut at Bush Theatre this summer and that was really good I really enjoyed it, it was really intense. It’s very different to being on set it demands a different part of you. I was playing a really troubled character which I enjoyed, but doing that every night at that high intensity every night, sometimes twice a day was a lot. I would do theatre again but I think my next job, I want to be on set before I go back to theatre.

So really it’s being on set that’s what you like most …

I think that’s my domain.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is available to watch on ITVX now


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