French actress Corinne Touzet’s star turn as a femme law enforcer in the long-running series “A Woman of Honor” has made her a household name at home and abroad.
But after 11 years of playing chief warrant officer Isabelle Florent, Touzet, 47, did the unthinkable this summer: She hung up her gendarme’s uniform so she could produce her own dramas full time.
“They offered me a lot of money to stay, but this is something I’ve wanted to do a long time,” Touzet says.
The thesp had already produced a handful of her own one-part dramas since 2000, and achieved ratings success with shows including the risky-for-primetime “Et demain, Paula?,” about a homeless woman, and “Valentine,” a modern-day Pygmalion tale set in Provence.
It’s hardly surprising that TF1 did its best to hang onto the leading lady of one of its top-rated shows. Over the course of 35 episodes — TF1 still has another two left to air — “A Woman of Honor” has averaged 9 million viewers, placing it among the top shows in all of France for the year.
Rare for a French drama, it is also an international hit, airing in Italy (where it is a primetime hit for Rete 4), the Czech Republic, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Russia. It will bow in Iran this winter.
“I always know when it starts airing somewhere because I suddenly start receiving fan mail via my website from that part of the world,” Touzet says.
Thesp recently hosted a party for the production to watch a recording of the Russian version of the show, sent by a fan. “It was a riot, seeing ourselves speak Russian!” she recalls.
In France, the contractual ties between French thesps and series producers are very different from those in the U.S. At a recent Monte Carlo TV fest, the stars of “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” bemoaned having to sign their lives away for seven years, while they could be out of a job from one day to the next if their character was killed off.
In France, thesps tend to be tied to a show for no more than one season at a time, and the production must pay them for the whole season even if their characters are written out of the show before the end.
“It is fairer to actors in France,” Touzet says.
Saying goodbye to “A Woman of Honor” wasn’t easy, she confides.
“When we shot the last episode in June, I cried my eyes out — everyone on the set did. After all, I’ve lived with Isabelle Florent for the past 11 years.”
But the actress will probably be too busy for regrets.
Yes Prods., a company she created last year, has a follow-up to “Valentine” in the works plus “Mouloud au couer” an adaptation of a novel about a little Algerian boy brought to France for life-saving heart surgery.
Touzet will also tread the boards in a new play, “Mobile Home,” which Touzet describes as “Beckettian, with lots of dark humor.”
“I could have carried on ‘Woman of Honor,’ I could have done what most actors do and sat home waiting for the phone to ring, said my lines and gone home at the end of the day,” the actress notes. “But that’s not me.”