Silent Witness star Emilia Fox: “I’d like to do a crossover with a Scandi drama”

The actress discusses whether the BBC1 crime hit is the unsung hero of the schedules - and how she feels at turning 40

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If Emilia Fox had her way, the cast of Silent Witness would share screen time with the stars of Scandinavian dramas. 

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“I’m obsessed with those shows. We could be in The Bridge or The Killing. Maybe Borgen could use a pathologist,” the actress jokes. “The other drama I like is the HBO series True Detective. I’d like to get Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson onto Silent Witness. We could be the True Pathologists.”

Fox is speaking ahead of the latest series of Silent Witness (tonight, BBC1, 9pm), which sees her character Nikki Alexander investigating a spate of sniper attacks. It’s the 18th series of the hit crime drama, which has been a staple of the schedules since 1996. Silent Witness still nets ratings in excess of seven million, but does the actress feel that the show is now taken for granted, with newer hits like Happy Valley and Broadchurch receiving all the attention?

“Silent Witness is done with so much ambition. However, people are always scrutinising the novelty of drama and looking for the next thing,” she continues. “Maybe there’s a fear over here of celebrating something that’s been going on for so long. Because if we were in America, they’d be saying, ‘Wow, 18 years! Let’s throw money at this show’. But I like it the way it is. We’re not being put up against those new dramas. And that allows us to carry on. It’s so focused on the show. And I’m really proud of it.”

One criticism often levelled at Silent Witness is that the pathologists spend too much time getting caught up in police matters. Indeed, in the opening two-parter, forensic scientist Jack Hodgson (David Caves) is ticked off by an investigating officer for sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. But Fox feels that they’re in the business of telling a good story rather than following the rulebook to the letter.

“The pathologists we have advising on the show accept that this is the case,” she explains. “To give a simple example, you could not get toxicology results as quickly in real life as we get them. We get them in, like, five minutes! But it wouldn’t make for good TV if the characters had to wait any longer. People have to understand that we’re in a drama. We try and stick to the truth but of course there is dramatic licence.”

Fox has now starred on Silent Witness for a decade (she took over from original star Amanda Burton) and says that she still gets “excited” about coming into work for each series. She has no plans to quit (“I’ve never stopped enjoying it. If I did stop enjoying it, I wouldn’t do it”), and admits that she’s perfectly relaxed about having hit 40 last year.

“I do feel genuinely happy. It gets asked as a big question: ‘what’s going to happen when you reach 40?’ But it’s fine. It’s good. You know where you are a bit more in life. One may as well just embrace it because you’re not going to be able to reverse.”

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Silent Witness returns at 9pm tonight on BBC1