Sarah the Magnificent

Lancashire as Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax
I have a new favorite actress. Or actor, for that matter. I am so in love with Sarah Lancashire's singular style of acting, I can hardly stop watching her in everything I can find. I first discovered her for myself in the BBC miniseries "Last Tango in Halifax" where she plays Caroline, the PHD-in-chemistry-holding headmistress of a distinguished school who has separated from her husband of 18 years because he'd had an affair, and who, once her marriage was over, realizes that she is gay. Despite the fact that there are two other acting greats in the series, namely the amazing Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi, it was Sarah who grabbed my attention and held it.

Since then I found Sarah again in the INCREDIBLE netflix series "Happy Valley". Seriously, one of the best shows I've seen in years. A few years older now she plays 47 year-old Sargent Catherine Cawood, one of the best female roles I've EVER seen. (And hope to see a lot more of in the future, people! I mean, women make the best characters! Written well they have so much more to say than men, usually. Much more dimensional, nuanced, and more powerfully restrained emotion! This is a direct challenge to all writers, everywhere! Give women their due! They'll take the story to a whole other level of brilliance, believe me!) Sarah Lancashire does all that, and more. She is brutally honest in her portrayal of Sergant Cawood and does a beautifully fleshed-out-kind-of-justice to Cawood's strengths and personal conflicts. You'll never see a better cop than her, one that is more dedicated and fearless and just totally capable. An interesting side note: her sister is played by Siobhan Finneran, aka O'BRIEN! From Downtown Abbey! She was wonderful in the role. Sarah Lancashire is also absolutely hilarious. A very funny actress. In most of her roles she finds a way to be sharply witty without being overbearing or crude. She is wry, she is coy, and whatever she says, she is usually right.

 Because of my love affair with these two roles, I searched her out on youtube and found a never-before-heard-about-by-americans gem. A series called "Rose and Maloney". Produced from 2002 - 2005 she plays a younger character but still a cop (of sorts). Rose works for the fictitious CJRA or the Criminal Justice Review Agency, an organization that seeks out miscarriages of justice. Rose is an energetic, chaotic, diabetic smoker that doesn't work well with groups. When a coworker asks her to describe herself Rose puts it this way: "A single woman, 39 years old, multiple failed relationships, no man, no savings, no place of her own to live, and good at her job. Correction: very good at her job."

Her partner Maloney is played by Phil Davis, and it's the best thing I've ever seen him do (most lately he played the cabby assassin in Sherlock). Maloney is the perfect foil for Rose, being an organized by the book kind of guy, with a heart of gold. His more passive bearing sets off her own sailing wit and intelligence to a "T". The performances are great and the writing is very good. The only thing you might have to tolerate is the rather late-90's production level, suits, and hairstyles. But beyond that, it's a surprisingly great show!

Also during my youtube explorations I found out that Lancashire is also a musical theater actress! She sings! She dances! There is nothing she can't do!

I recently found this wonderful article written by June Thomas on about the phenomenon that is Sarah Lancashire. Thomas ends her article referencing a line spoken by Lancashire's character Caroline's partner, Kate in Last Tango in Halifax. "She is magnificent."

And I couldn't agree more.


Anonymous said…
Welcome to the club.
The Brits have loved her for long........ for us in America she is a breath of fresh air. An actor allowed to act and look her age. Beautiful and amazing
Diane said…
So glad to be in the club, Anonymous! Hopefully her success will spur on American writers to create characters that reflect all women in our society, and not to just box them up into categories that appeal specifically to men. It's exciting to think how other actresses might follow in her footsteps and get great roles that inspire and empower and make ridiculous the stereotypes now portrayed in most movies. Fingers crossed!
Yolanda D. said…
A fan from Belgium , greetings
Diane said…
Greetings, Yolanda! Thanks for visiting my blog, it's amazing to connect with people around the world. Belgium is a beautiful country, would love to see it someday. Peace! :)
While you're at it catching up with "Lancs" (that's the nickname her mates have for her because she probably is right about things) back up & watch her in "Seeing Red." Seeing Red.jpg
You can see the picture above on my home page.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing such a lovely blog! I'm another Yank who is "late to the Sarah Lancashire party!" I couldn't agree with you more. Sarah caught my attention in "Last Tango" as well and I've tried to find and watch everything I can that she has done...starting with a really lovely compilation of her work on "Coronation Street" that is available on YouTube. Because of the differences in how actors are paid in the UK, most have to work non-stop on much shorter contracts and so we often see the same actors working together in many different television shows/movies. Check out Sarah in "Clocking Off: Yvonne's Story" on YouTube which played from 2000. She stars with Siobhan Finneran...again!
Diane said…
Wow everyone! She should know about us, we're some of her biggest fans! Thank goodness netflix has been showing these amazing british shows, but I heard a rumor they might stop! Just another reason to want to move to England, I swear I'm English deep down. Anyway, just in case you can still google things in thirty years and Sarah is bored somewhere and happens to google her name and she happens to see this blog post, HI SARAH! THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL WORK! YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION AND YOU ARE INDEED MAGNIFICENT! love, women everywhere
It so lovely to read of other American fans of the Magnificent Sarah! I'm addicted to her tv shows once I saw her in Last Tango. She's so genuine--becoming the character she plays--sometimes I can't recognize her in the role--i.e. Miss Audrey. Loved Happy Valley, Rose and Maloney, Yvonne in Clocking Off, Seeing Red, Coronation Street, My Fragile Heart, The Glass, All the Small Things, Angel Cake, The Dresser--and a few others. I found them after much searching. Sarah's in a play on the West End now, but surely she'll be back on tv when it's done. Loved the lead article. Couldn't have said it better.
Sharon B.