New crime drama Traces follows three female leads who together use forensic science to uncover the truth about an unsolved murder case.
Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser, Three Girls’ Molly Windsor and Continuum’s Jennifer Spence head up the six-part series, written by Amelia Bullmore (Scott & Bailey) and based on an original story idea by best-selling crime writer Val McDermid.
Traces was also helmed by two women directors, Rebecca Gatward and Mary Nighy. Speaking to RadioTimes.com, though, star Laura Fraser – who plays Professor Sarah Gordon – said that a “predominantly female” project like this is “still really rare”.
“I’ve been doing this job for about 25 years and in the last five years I’ve noticed a few more women on set, in the crew – a sprinkling more. But in general it’s mostly [still] guys,” Fraser said.
“Molly, who plays Emma, has only had female-heavy crews, so that’s encouraging. But this wasn’t even 50/50 – it was actually predominantly female and I really appreciated it, it felt so comfortable.”
She added: “I would love to see more of that. It’d be great if the pendulums swings, and then balances out so it’s 50/50 – that would be incredible.”
Besides the talent in front of and behind the camera, Fraser said it was the “everydayness” of the show’s approach to forensic science that appealed to her – a far cry from the glossy fantasy of shows like CSI, Traces is a far more grounded approach to the subject.
“It’s not glossy or fancy,” she explained. “It’s just the everyday nitty gritty that fascinates them.”
There was also a strong personal slant to Bullmore’s scripts that helped Traces stand out, according to Fraser. “The way the script was written, you could see there was a really full, thought-through understanding of each character’s motivation – all the questions that had an actor would have, she kind of anticipated. The script was so meticulous.”
The series sees 23-year-old Emma (Windsor) returns to Scotland to take up a new position as a lab assistant at SIFA, where she signs up to a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – which teaches the principles of forensic science. But she soon discovers that the fictitious case study has a strikingly similar and shocking link to her past.
As Emma’s sleuthing takes her into darker corners and unpicks more and more secrets, it becomes clear that she should trust no-one. It will be Sarah (Fraser) and Kathy’s (Spence) exacting minds that reward Emma’s faith in the science that has fuelled her imagination and who will ultimately bring a killer to justice.
“My character, she feels a sense of responsibility and duty towards her students, but she tries to maintain quite a strong boundary between them… it’s a professional boundary that can’t be crossed,” Fraser said.
“But at the same time she feels such maternal urges towards Molly’s character because she’s so vulnerable and so bright. She kind of can’t help but love her a little bit, but she has to do it from a distance… but they do end up quite close towards the end of the series!”