Family & Companions
This strikingly attractive black English performer made a memorable feature debut playing an enigmatic high-class call girl with a secret or two in Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" (1986). As the mysterious love-object of her driver, a short, dull-witted but good-hearted ex-con (Bob Hoskins), Tyson projected what the NEW YORK TIMES hailed as "a magical screen personality . . . beautiful, intelligent and hard as nails." The press hype of the day selected her for future film stardom--but something subsequently went awry with her movie career.
Raised in Liverpool as the only daughter of a black Trinidadian barrister father and white Irish-descended social worker mother, Tyson boasted an intriguing biracial beauty. She was also serious about acting as she demonstrated in a stint on the London stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tyson worked her way up the theatrical ranks before landing her high-profile role in Jordan's breakthrough dark romance. Perhaps her type was deemed too exotic but, whatever the reason, the promising actress never really followed up on her early film success.
Tyson resurfaced in the ensemble for "Business As Usual" (1987), an earnest drama of the British working class, playing a sexually harassed dress shop worker. The following year, she made an inauspicious American screen debut playing a progressive Haitian psychiatrist trying to battle the effects of "superstition" on her people in Wes Craven's voodoo thriller "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (1988). Tyson received some positive notices but the uneven film was generally dismissed as exploitation fare. Her next feature appearance in "Turbulence" (1991), a drama about child sexual abuse, never emerged from the Canadian festival circuit. American film audiences did not see Tyson again until she played a small but powerful part in the Brit import "Priest" (1994, released in US in 1995) as a proud housekeeper having an affair with a corrupted priest.
Tyson largely retreated to British TV in the early 90s, only to be utterly wasted playing a friend of the young gay protagonist of "The Lost Language of Cranes" (BBC, then PBS, 1992). Tyson had more to do later that year in the fantasy drama "Angels," but a return to American TV found her mired in the melodramatic miniseries "Barbara Taylor Bradford's 'Remember'" (NBC, 1993). Tyson fared far better once again playing a prostitute--this time a working mother--in "Band of Gold" (HBO, 1995), a well-received six-part UK miniseries that aired on US cable. DAILY VARIETY commended her "masterful performance."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Professional stage debut, performed in "The Blitz Show" in Liverpool's Everyman Theatre
Feature acting debut, Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa"
US feature debut, Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow"
Returned to US screens after a seven-year hiatus in a supporting role in the British feature "Priest"
Portayed Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra" and Audrey in "As You Like It" with the English Shakespeare Company