Frances Tomelty is a veteran stage and screen actor from Northern Ireland, recognized for her remarkable performances on British TV since the late 1960s. She is also famous for being the first wife of music legend Sting. Tomelty has delivered numerous big and small theater performances over the years, on stages across the UK and Ireland. She has performed in cities such as London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Dublin. Her small-screen credits include ‘Coronation Street,’ ‘Vanity Fair,’ ‘Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married,’ ‘Midsomer Murders,’ and ‘The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.’ She has also co-starred in films such as the classic ‘Bullshot Crummond’ and the romantic comedy ‘Chéri.’ Lately, she has made appearances on popular cross-platform shows such as the two-time ‘Primetime Emmy’-nominated ‘Amazon Prime’ series ‘Catastrophe’ and the ‘BBC’ crime drama ‘Peaky Blinders.’
Childhood & Early Life
Frances Eleanor Tomelty was born on October 6, 1948, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her father, Joseph Tomelty, was a novelist, playwright, and character actor. She grew up alongside her sister, writer and actor Roma Tomelty.
Her father had a decisive impact in shaping the interests of both her and her sister. He had first made his mark on stage at ‘St. Peter's Players’ in 1937. He was also the co-founder of the ‘Belfast Group Theatre.’ He wrote two novels and 12 plays, including ‘All Souls' Night,’ which is considered a classic of Irish literature. He has also performed in films such as ‘Odd Man Out,’ ‘Hobson's Choice,’ ‘Moby Dick,’ and ‘A Night to Remember.’
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In 1973, she earned a major part in David Storey's play ‘Cromwell’ at the ‘Royal Court Theatre’ in London, under director Anthony Page. In 1975, she appeared in ‘The Voysey Inheritance,’ staged at the ‘Royal Lyceum Theatre’ in Edinburgh, Scotland.
She played the role of ‘Elaine Navazio’ in ‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’ (1979). Its British premiere at the ‘Royal Exchange’ in Manchester, England, was directed by Eric Thompson.
On September 3, 1980, she became part of the ‘Old Vic Company’s production of Shakespeare's ‘Macbeth’ at their famed theater in London, playing ‘Lady Macbeth,’ opposite Peter O'Toole in the title role. The production turned out to be an idiosyncratic absurdity on account of its experimental set design and execution. It became a subject of ridicule for patrons and critics alike. “Peter O'Toole's Macbeth had audiences rolling in the aisles,” ‘The Guardian’ reported in 2001.
Tomelty did Shakespeare's ‘Richard III’ at the ‘Royal Shakespeare Theatre’ in Stratford, England, in 1984. It was directed by Bill Alexander. The same year, she also acted in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for the same production and at the same venue.
She returned to the ‘Royal Exchange Theatre’ in Manchester in 1989, for the Dolores Walshe play ‘In the Talking Dark,’ playing the character of ‘Mia Schuurman’ under Braham Murray’s direction. She reunited with Murray for the British premiere of ‘Doctor Heart’ (1991), after working with Patrick Mason in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ (1990) at the ‘Abbey Theatre Dublin.’ It was one of the biggest stage performances of her life.
In 1995, she appeared in Rona Munro's play ‘The Maiden Stone’ at the ‘Hampstead Theatre,’ London. Between January 1998 and February 1999, she undertook a ‘Royal National Theatre’ repertoire season at the ‘Cottesloe Theatre,’ Lyttelton, and the ‘Laurence Olivier Theatre’ in London, appearing in a large number of plays, opposite many famous stage and film actors, such as David Burke, John Carlisle, Alan Cox, Catherine Cusack, Hugh Jackman, Anton Lesser, Ian McKellen, Stephen Moore, Paul Rhys, Mark Strong, and John Woodvine.
She returned to director Braham Murray and the ‘Royal Exchange’ almost a decade later, in 2000, to take up the role of ‘Mrs. Alving’ in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts.’ The following year, she appeared in Noel Coward's play ‘Semi-Monde’ at the ‘Lyric Theatre,’ London.
In 2004, she was seen in a production of Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet’ at the ‘Barbican Theatre’ in London, for Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa.
Tomelty has over 80 screen-acting credits over the span of her 40-year career, the majority of which consist of guest appearances or recurring roles on British TV.
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She started her film & TV career with single-episode appearances in series such as ‘Ukridge’ (1968) and ‘Callan’ (1970). She even played different characters in the same series, such as in ‘Play for Today’ between 1971 and 1982.
In 1972, she made an appearance in the UK's longest-running soap opera, ‘Coronation Street,’ as ‘Christine Peters.’ She also appeared in recurring roles in ‘Harriet's Back in Town’ (1973), ‘A Place to Hide’ (1976), and ‘Strangers’ (1978–1979).
In 1979, she played ‘Sister Hope Milroy’ in BBC’s critically acclaimed war romance ‘Testament of Youth.’ She continued doing guest roles in series such as ‘The Enigma Files’ (1980), ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1982), ‘Storyboard’ (1983), and ‘American Playhouse’ (1983). She also appeared in telefilms such as ‘Gloo Joo’ (1979), ‘Juno and the Paycock’ (1980), and ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ (1983).
After co-starring as ‘Fräulein Lenya von Bruno’ in ‘Bullshot Crummond,’ Tomelty did several full-blown motion pictures between 1983 and 1990, including ‘Lamb’ (1985), alongside a very young Liam Neeson. She was also seen in ‘A State of Emergency’ (1986), opposite Martin Sheen, and the ‘Academy Award’-nominated ‘The Field’ (1990), with John Hurt and Sean Bean.
The 1980s and the 1990s were full of one-episode guest spots, but she started getting recurring roles again in the late 1990s, with shows such as ‘Vanity Fair’ (1998) and ‘Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married’ (1999).
The early 2000s were not too busy for Tomelty on screen, with the exception of 2004. However, that changed with ‘The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard’ (2006), ‘Bonekickers’ (2008), and ‘Chéri’ (2009). She also made appearances in ‘Silent Witness’ (2010), ‘Waking the Dead’ (2011), ‘Law & Order: UK’ (2011), and ‘Merlin’ (2012).
She has since acted in several new series and miniseries, such as ‘The White Queen’ (2013), ‘Charlie’ (2015), ‘Catastrophe’ (2015-2019), ‘Unforgotten’ (2015), ‘Peaky Blinders’ (2016), ‘Apple Tree Yard’ (2017) and ‘Black Earth Rising’ (2018). She has a few assignments lined up for 2019.
She lent her voice to the character ‘Calphurnia’ in the series ‘Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.’
Family & Personal Life
Tomelty met music legend Gordon Sumner, better known as “Sting,” lead singer and bassist of the rock band ‘The Police,’ in 1974, on the sets of a Christmas musical called ‘Rock Nativity,’ in Newcastle, UK. Back then, Tomelty was playing the role of the ‘Virgin Mary,’ and Sting was in the pit orchestra.
The couple got married after 2 years of courtship, on May 1, 1976, and had two children: Joseph, born on November 23, 1976, and Fuchsia Katherine, born on April 17, 1982.
Sting, however, had an affair with actor Trudie Styler, who happened to be Tomelty’s best friend and their long-time next-door neighbor in West London. Tomelty and Sting divorced in 1984.
Tomelty is associated with London-based Lucia Pallaris of ‘United Agents,’ who manages her acting assignments. Agents Kate Davie and Rebecca Haigh manage her voice assignments.
Tomelty's father’s career as a writer came to an abrupt end after he was severely injured in a car crash while filming ‘Bhowani Junction’ (1956) in England.
Her sister, Roma Tomelty, appeared in an episode of the eighth and the final season of ‘HBO’s long-running TV phenomenon ‘Game of Thrones,’ titled ‘The Long Night.’