Photography by Tia Bannon
Tamara Lawrance finds her voice in the riveting miniseries The Long Song
Origins : For Tamara Lawrance, falling in love with acting was a no-brainer. “When you were doing plays in school, you’d get time off class, you’d play games and sing songs,” the London native recalls. “Why wouldn’t you want to have this much fun? ” The diversion grew into a passion—“I became belligerent about doing extracurricular drama”and Lawrance earned a spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After graduating, she starred in the BBC miniseries Undercover, as well as a steady stream of major plays, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. The early success didn’t go to her head, though. “I had the benefit of ignorance on my side,” she says. “I didn’t grasp how much of a big deal it was.”
Cinematic Foray: This winter, Lawrance starred in the psychological horror film Kindred, playing a pregnant woman being held captive by her sinister in-laws. She watched a lot of videos about pregnancy in preparation for the role, and she decided that having a baby is “not for the faint of heart”—something that could also be said of the movie. “I love psychological thrillers,” she says, “but in general I’m a ‘Let’s watch a scary movie in the daytime with the lights on’ kind of person.” Lawrance also appeared in Steve McQueen’s film anthology Small Axe, playing the elder sister of a boy who is discriminated against for having a learning disability in “Education.” “I’ve been really touched by how it’s resonated with people on a quite personal level,” she says.
Deep Roots: Lawrance can currently be seen in The Long Song, a Masterpiece on PBS miniseries based on a novel by Andrea Levy that tells the story of July, an enslaved woman living on a sugar plantation in 19thcentury Jamaica. “I find it really exciting that American audiences will get to see it,” Lawrance says of the production, which first aired in the U.K. in 2018. While the miniseries tackles a weighty subject, Lawrance notes that it’s filled with “humor and love and camaraderie.” She also felt a personal connection to the story: Her mother was born in Jamaica, and while Lawrance doesn’t know her full ancestry, she says that portraying July was a powerful experience. “It was a real privilege for me to be able to step into an ancestry that is actually my own.”
Future Endeavors: Lawrance just finished shooting Boxing Day, a romantic comedy slated to be released by this coming Christmas. Next up, she’ll tackle The Silent Twins, a drama about real-life twin sisters June and Jennifer Gibbons, who, after experiencing racism and bullying in their small Welsh town, began to communicate only with each other and ended up in an institution for the criminally insane. “It’s a really, really scandalous part of British criminal justice history,” she says. Once COVID is behind us, Lawrance also hopes to return to the stage. One of her dream roles? “Secretly, it’s Nancy in Oliver!,” she admits. “We did Oliver! in Year 6, and I played Mr. Bumble’s wife or something. She’s got a cool song, but Nancy’s got the bangers!”
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