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Franks says that he first fell in love with theatre at age six, when his parents took him along to see a production of The Tempest. The following year, when he learned that his parents were going to a production of Hamlet, he insisted on going with them again, and says that at age seven, he was hooked for life.
Franks is perhaps best known for his roles as tax inspector Cedric "Charley" Charlton in the British sitcom The Darling Buds of May, and Sgt. Raymond Craddock on Heartbeat. He has also made guest appearances in Absolutely Fabulous, Pie in the Sky, Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War. Other appearances include the TV miniseries Bleak House, Martin Chuzzlewit, The Buddha of Suburbia, The Green Man and To Serve Them All My Days. He also makes regular appearances alongside Susie Dent in the 'Dictionary Corner' on the British quiz show Countdown (having applied to be a contestant on the show before becoming better known). From December 2012 Franks will play The Narrator in the 40th anniversary UK touring production of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show.
Franks is also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In addition, he has directed many plays including "Kafka's Dick" and "The Kiss of the Spiderwoman" (Nottingham Playhouse); "The Cocktail Party" (Edinburgh Festival); "Rebecca" (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh); "Hamlet" (Greenwich and tour); "Macbeth" (Sheffield Crucible) and "The Duchess of Malfi" (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Greenwich and West End); "Private Lives" and "The Heiress" (Royal National Theatre); "The White Devil" (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith); "Nicholas Nickleby" (Chichester Festival Theatre); and "The Tempest" (Liverpool Playhouse).
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