You'd have to go all the way back to Dynasty's Alexis Colby to find a saucier British TV import than Tanya Turner of BBC America's Footballers' Wives. To mark the fifth and final season premiere of the campy soccer-and-sex sudser (airing tonight at 8 pm/ET), we rang up Tanya's alter ego, Zoe Lucker, to talk about wild women, wacky ensembles and working with the original queen of mean.
TV Guide: Obviously, Tanya is a man-eater. But she's also a romantic.
Zoe Lucker: I felt very strongly about that. If you play the straight bitch, then you're not going to have people on your side. I always maintained that the reason Tanya behaves the way she does is because of the way she's been treated. She basically wants to be loved by the right person.
TV Guide: And has she! How many husbands so far?
Lucker: Well, she's killed two of them. [Laughs] The third one we never met, but we do see Tanya coming back from Brazil with his ashes!
TV Guide: What changed your mind about returning to Wives after leaving last season?
Lucker: I was in New Zealand doing a play when I got a call from [Wives producer] Brian Park saying, "What if I told you we have Joan Collins to play your rival?" I couldn't turn that down. I've always been a huge fan and she is, like, the ultimate, you know?
TV Guide: It's like the Batman and Superman of bad girls.
Lucker: Absolutely! And with a lot of eye movements. [Laughs]
TV Guide: What's Tanya biggest sin?
Lucker: Probably putting a fake tan on a baby she stole. I would put that way above shagging her husband to death! [Laughs]
TV Guide: Now, you went brunette and low-key for your post-Wives show, [the police drama] Holby Blue, right?
Lucker: I was playing a really lovely, selfless character who just got a job on the front desk at the station. She's still in love with her estranged husband. It was a really nice role and I loved playing it. I spent a year after I left Footballers turning down various roles because they were all Tanya-esque.
TV Guide: And Tanya would eat this woman alive.
Lucker: [Laugh] Oh, yeah. Tanya wouldn't even look at her. She would think she was just the most dull, pointless person in the world. What I really wanted to do was play a character who was at the other end of the spectrum. I love being challenged. It's been over a year since I played Tanya, so it's sort of weird to be talking about her.
TV Guide: For us, it's still so culty. Yet America is all over adapting British shows. ABC tried to do Football Wives, CBS has Viva Laughlin, based on Viva Blackpool....
Lucker: Oh, brilliant. So they're doing U.S. versions of them?
TV Guide: Had you heard about the proposed American version of Footballers?
Lucker: Yes, I had. And it's quite strange, sort of imagining people playing characters that we created. The people in England just loved the show and to have that sort of reaction is such a good thing.
TV Guide: So much happens in a single episode, the pacing of Wives is so much faster than a typical U.S. prime-time soap.
Lucker: I think that's what is fascinating. Everyone gets so excited about the show and actually it's only on eight or nine hours a year.
TV Guide: And the costumes are as over-the-top as some of the plots.
Lucker: They're fab!
TV Guide: Did you keep any of them?
Lucker: Let's be honest, I didn't really want to. [Laughs] There were a few little pieces, but generally I used to walk into shops and see things that, if I had never played Tanya, I would say, "Oh my god, I would never be seen in that outfit!" But it was a great thing to be able to go shopping for them and think, "That's perfect." How many times can you say that about a two-piece black-leather getup with flames up and down the sides?
TV Guide: When you go out, are there drag queens impersonating Tanya?
Lucker: Apparently there is quite a big scene in New York at the moment where they're doing that. And I have spent quite a bit of time on Old Compton Street in London, which is like the Village in New York, and they're just crazy about the character there.
TV Guide: When the cast read the scripts, were you shocked by the twists?
Lucker: There are times when you would look at them and think, "Surely not." I would read the scripts as me and find them outrageous and laugh. But this is real life for Tanya, so in her twisted world, it's normal. If you have your tongue in your cheek and you're sort of laughing, the audience is going to go with it.
TV Guide: And what about Desperate Housewives? Did you and your fellow Footballers watch that explode over here and think, "That's just like us, only in sensible shoes"?
Lucker: [Laughs] You could definitely see the similarities, but Housewives has a different feel. It's a lot darker, isn't it? But I think it's brilliant and there are some great actors in there. Long may it continue.
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