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CORRIE'S PREDATOR; Monster or misunderstood? In real life I'd knock him out says Street star.

Byline: Sue Crawford

UNDERWORLD is the perfect name for Corrie's knicker factory as it has attracted some of the Street's shadiest bad boys.

It's been run by dodgy dealer Mike Baldwin, psycho killer Tony Gordon and home wrecker Nick Tilsley in the past.

So slimy ladies' man Frank Foster should feel right at home doing business with the knicker stitchers.

He only arrived in Corrie in January but has already showed his predatory side. This week he sexually attacked Carla Connor's new assistant Maria as she tried win an underwear order from him.

After wining and dining the ex-hairdresser at his home he lunged and tried to shove his hand up her black dress.

Although Maria lands the deal, saving Underworld from closure, she must decide whether to report the attack.

He hopes Maria will accept his excuse, that he misread the signals, but Andrew Lancel, 40, who plays Frank, would never forgive him.


"I'd want to knock him out, he's a predator and, as a man, I felt hugely uncomfortable filming it," he admits.

"She was dressed very sexily, drinking at his house and they were getting on really well. Frank thinks she is giving him the come on."

Andrew, who played DI Neil Manson in ITV's The Bill, says: "The scene is controversial and ambiguous as to whether or not he sexually assaulted her.

"Maria says he tried to rape her and it is pretty full on but afterwards he holds up his hands and apologises, saying it was out of character.

"People will be shocked but unsure as to what exactly happened. Is it something Frank does regularly or something he just did that once? Perhaps he's hard done by, perhaps he's a predator, we don't know for sure."

The scene was Andrew's first with Samia Smith, 28, who plays Maria, and he says it felt strange.

"It was a case of: 'Hello, I'm Andrew. Nice to see you, I'm just about to try to assault you'," he recalls. "I'd only known her a day and then I was being filmed trying to kiss her.

"We're on the sofa and Frank tries to force himself on her. It's not an easy scene for a man. I'd never behave like that and don't know anyone who would.

"Samia was wonderful about it but I am slightly worried about the reaction of viewers - Maria is a popular character.

Maybe it will start a debate on whether she led him on but what he does was not nice. Even if there is a reason for it that's still no excuse."

But the disastrous evening does not deter Frank and later in the year both Tracy Barlow and Carla are rumoured to be in his sights.

"There are some beautiful and lovely women on Coronation Street and Frank is very aware of that," Andrew says.

"He's ambitious and successful and very much a ladies' man.

"He's predatory with women and in work. He sees opportunities and wants to get the most out of life. He's charming and fun-loving; he's certainly not an out-and-out evil monster."

In real life Andrew is a big softie who lives in Liverpool with his wife of five years, dance school owner Louise Edge, and their three-year-old son Isaac.

"I'm very much in love with her and always have been. As soon as I say goodbye I miss her," he explains. "When I was a young actor I had a lot of fun. I was a bit of a party man, but since meeting Louise everything has changed. I would never do anything to risk that. When we're not together I miss her all the time. I love her without reserve and we're always phoning each other."

They met in 1998 when Andrew was at a low point. "It was a terrible year. My dad died and I had also lost my grandad and gran and two friends. My head was all over the place."

He was working with a youth theatre in Liverpool and looking for a new choreographer when Louise walked in.

"There was an instant attraction. While I was going through all this stuff I realised there was this calm, beautiful girl by my side. She put up with me and made all the effort, although it's the other way round now and I'm the one who misses her dreadfully when we're apart. I think Louise does too!" he jokes.

Andrew, who spent seven years as buttoned-up DI Manson in The Bill, says playing Frank is a dream come true.

But it is not his first time on the Street.

He was a regular extra as a teenager. "From 15 to 17 I used to sit in the caf with two friends and eat chips. I cocked up a few takes. Once I accidentally won the fruit machine's jackpot in the middle of a row between Alma Baldwin (Amanda Barrie) and Gail Platt (Helen Worth). It was so loud they had to film it again.

"Another time the milk was off in the tea I was drinking and I spat it out.

"But I was a regular and used to film two or three episodes a day. When I was older I was in the Rovers quite a lot.

"I was in it so much I'd actually get recognised in my local pubs. I didn't go to drama school and I thought being an extra on Coronation Street was a great way of learning. I'd chat to the cast and ask their advice - they were lovely. William Roache who plays Ken Barlow said to me: 'Well, you never know, stick with it and you might end up here'.

"And Anne Kirkbride who plays his wife Deirdre was adorable and took the time out to explain stuff to me. When I came in as Frank Foster I said to her: 'You won't remember me but you were always so nice to me when I was an extra'."

Andrew, who has also played bully Barry Pearce in Bad Girls and Harvey Black in Queer as Folk, is expected to be on Corrie for several months at least.

He grew up in Lancashire with his two older brothers. His mum Jean was the local district nurse and his dad Derek worked in salvage.

He left school at 15 and got heavily involved in amateur dramatics, putting on shows and singing at old people's homes and in local hospitals. His big break came in 1993 when he played Julie Walters' son in the British film Wide-Eyed and Legless.

He joined The Bill in 2003 but was philosophical when it finally ended last year. "I can't be disappointed, I had an absolute ball and did five years longer than I'd initially intended to."

As well as acting Andrew works as a cabaret singer when he can and is also a keen member of his local church - away from TV he helps organise various church theatre projects.

He says: "I think people are sometimes surprised I'm a Christian, but it's a part of my life." Perhaps he should try converting wayward Frank.


CORNERED: Corrie ladies' man Frank lunges at Maria after wining and dining her BULLY: As violent terror Barry in Bad Girls SMOOTH OPERATOR Actor Andrew can't excuse Frank's assault on sexy Maria CONTROL: As DI Manson in The Bill (centre)
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 6, 2011
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