Emilia Fox: I wanted to be a dead body in Inspector Morse

The Silent Witness star reveals her ardour for John Thaw and how starring in a medical drama might influence her future career

Do you remember seeing your parents on TV and thinking, “I’d like to do that”?


No, the reverse: I remember hiding behind my sofa because my dad [Edward Fox] had a sex scene in The Day of the Jackal. When I was 12, I much preferred the safe havens of Dynasty or Dallas.

What do you watch with your daughter?

We run the full gamut: Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom,

I could probably recite most of Charlie and Lola. I’m hoping to get parental Brownie points because I’m appearing in the next series of Grandpa in My Pocket. My mum [Joanna David] is in it as well, so Rose will see her mum and grandmother.

What was your childhood favourite?

Jackanory because I was a great reader when I was a girl. I was brought up as an only child because my sister was 15 years older and my brother was 15 years younger – and I turned to books for company. I vividly recall The Ordinary Princess being read on it, which remains my favourite children’s book to this day.

Who was your first crush?

I had weird crushes. I loved Columbo, and Basil Rathbone in Sherlock Holmes. I absolutely adored John Thaw in Inspector Morse.

Did you ever get a chance to confess your ardour?

No, although I was always saying when I started out, “Please, please can I be a dead body in Inspector Morse?” In the event it would have been a disaster; I would have been so bright red and tongue-tied.

What can’t you miss?

Like many, many grief-stricken television-watchers I am mourning the end of Borgen! Watching Sidse Babett Knudsen is like watching a masterclass in acting; I dream of being able to do that.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Makeover shows. I love seeing people’s faces at the end. Most recently I became transfixed by Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover.

What brings a tear to your eye?

Anything like Long Lost Family or One Born Every Minute – I was inconsolably relieved and happy every time a baby was born. I cry very, very easily.

After a decade of starring in Silent Witness, how confident are you with a scalpel?

I’m really squeamish in real life – I’m not good at all when accidents happen at home – but oddly I can deal with it at work. I have been to see two autopsies, which I thought I would be squeamish about but wasn’t. But I do remember saying, “I’d better go and put on scrubs and pretend I’m Nikki Alexander.”

What happened to Nikki’s long locks?

I had my hair cut very short for The Wrong Mans. Silent Witness dealt with the aftermath. My new look is for my new play, Rapture, Blister, Burn [at London’s Hampstead Theatre]. It had to be something manageable; and I wanted my character to be blonde and wear lipstick because I don’t wear lipstick in real life.

Do you hope your daughter will continue the Fox dynasty?

I hope Rose will try out lots of things before she settles. I didn’t want to act at all; I fell into it. Maybe it’s the medical influence of Silent Witness but I now think I’d love to retrain and be a midwife.

Quickfire Q&A

Sherlock or Call the Midwife? That’s an impossible questions; they’re both brilliant shows

EastEnders or Corrie? EastEnders

Miranda or Girls? Girls

Radio 4 or Radio 2? Radio 4

Jamie Oliver or Gardeners’ World? I’m passionate about gardening and hopeless at cooking, so I should probably say Jamie 

Silent Witness continues tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1