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Exclusive: Emilia Fox opens up about her future on Silent Witness and reveals the very different career path she could have taken 

The actress spoke to HELLO! in an exclusive interview

emilia fox spotlight
Nicky Morris
Nicky MorrisTV and film writer
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Emilia Fox is one of the most recognisable faces on British television. While she's enjoyed a stellar career both on the small and silver screen, she is perhaps best known for her brilliant portrayal of Dr Nikki Alexander on the BBC's popular crime drama, Silent Witness.

MORE: Silent Witness star Emilia Fox confirms series 26

For the last 18 years, the actress has played the fan-favourite forensic pathologist, whose dedication to her work has often proved to be to the detriment of her love life.  

WATCH: Have you seen the latest series of Silent Witness?

We sat down with Emilia for a special HELLO! Spotlight feature to talk about whether she'd ever consider leaving the show, what career path she might have taken if she wasn't an actress and all about her gripping new documentary series, Murdertown

Hi Emilia, thanks for sitting down with us. You've played Nikki for a long time now. What's it been like playing a character so loved by fans of the show? 

Emilia: I have loved being alongside Nikki through my late 20s, early 30s and into my 40s, I feel like she's a great friend and ally

We know each other very well and have seen each other through all sorts of different bits of life. Even though there are things which crossover, they're also very different.

emilia spotlight cover

As an actress you know, it's such a funny business. I've seen the precariousness of it up close and personal with my parents being actors and having the luxury of getting to know a character for this many years and to go back to again and again and again, I really have appreciated that. I love the loyalty of the fans that really seem to care about her as much as I do and so we share that together.

MORE: Silent Witness: this Bridgerton star once starred on show - and she looks so different!

MORE: Silent Witness: why did these former stars leave the show?

Are there many similarities between yourself and Nikki? 

I think we're both very passionate about our work, but Nikki hasn't had a sort of a home life or family life. It's only recently that she's had a few forays with romance and the relationship between Jack and Nikki has started to be explored and obviously, I have a very different kind of home life.

silent witness 25 nikki jack

"I feel like Nikki's a great friend and ally" 

You come from a big acting family. Did you always want to go down the same career path? 

Emilia: Well, I realise slightly to my shame now, that having worked on Silent Witness for 18 years, I probably could have trained to be a pathologist and done it for real but I'm not sure that I was ever clever enough to do that so it probably wouldn't have been a possibility in the end anyway. 

I think certainly because lots of my family are in acting or have some connection to the same profession, it's exactly the reason why I didn't want to do it. But then going to university I tried to take a different path in life. And then while I was there, I developed a passion for acting and then once I started I didn't look back.

The show welcomed Amanda Burton back to play the iconic Sam Ryan for the 25th-anniversary series, what was it like reuniting with her? 

Emilia: The show was left such an incredible legacy by her and her creation of the Sam Ryan character.

No one ever knew that it would continue after she left but then the show evolved with these different regular casts and always keeping the heart and DNA of Silent Witness the same.

I didn't meet Amanda until series 20 and a journalist asked us about whether she would ever think about coming back to the show and she wasn't sure at that point. I thought it would be so amazing if she did come back, both personally but also professionally.

Then with series 25, [her return] seemed like the best and most fitting celebration of a show which has gone on for a quarter of a century. We all really felt what an amazing thing that was that she had agreed to come back and certainly playing out post-mortem scenes in front of her was nerve-racking because she is clearly the very, very best at it. 

nikki sam new

"We laughed a lot about the difficult things"

We laughed a lot about, you know, the difficult things that you have to do, the juggling of real life and work life that she was experiencing when she was doing Silent Witness and so it was like seeing a sort of reflection of each other. But it was a real joy to work with her again. I absolutely loved it. She's great fun and absolutely brilliant and stepped into Sam Ryan shoes again straight away.

Is filming for the show quite a big undertaking then? 

Emilia: It takes up seven months of the year. But the joy of it is that I live very close to the studio. So I'm very quickly home and as soon as I'm through the front door, I'm back into mum life. [she said, laughing]

Since appearing on the show, Amanda has said that she's not going to return. Has there ever been a time when you have considered leaving?  

Emilia: No, I love it. I love it as much as I loved it from the first day I started on it. And I've never stopped loving it and really caring about it and so I haven't really considered that. But you never know what will happen. 

It's up to people who watch the show and whether they want to see the show or whether people want to make the show. But I will always think that I've had the best time on it and how very, very lucky I am to have been part of it for so long.

silent witness series 25

"I probably could have trained to be a pathologist"

Like Amanda, a few cast members have come and gone over the years. Is there anyone else who you'd like to see make a comeback at any point? 

Emilia: Oh, yes, absolutely. Everyone who has remained alive I would love to come back. When it was Harry, Leo and Nikki together, that was an amazing evolution, but Leo can't come back. So it would be amazing if Harry did. 

Richard Linton can't come back as Thomas Chamberlain but Liz Carr could, so I could work on persuading her to return. I'll never stop working on Amanda. 

Maybe Genesis [Lynea] could be tempted back but I don't know it's not really in my hands. But I would love to invite all of them back who can.

Now on to your new project, Crime + Investigation's true crime series Murdertown. What exactly was it that drew you to the show? 

Emilia: My 18 years of work on Silent Witness and fictional crime solving, I think that has given me an interest in how crimes are solved and because of the people that I have been lucky enough to work with, the real experts in pathology or forensics or detectives, I have a genuine interest in it which then crossed over into documentary work and working with criminologist David Wilson. 

That then crossed over into documentary work, and working with David and then I was given this opportunity to work on Murdertown and when I watched the first three series of the show, I was very impressed with the ethos of it. 

emilia murdertown 1© Crime+Investigation

Murdertown is available to stream on Crime+Investigation Play

It is a show which is victim-led. Each episode we are taken to a different town or city and we find out who the victim was, what happened to them and it's always told in a sensitive, respectful way. 

It bears in mind the families and friends who've been left behind but also it brings together a variety of voices, obviously the people who've been affected by the crimes but also the people who've worked on them - the police, the detectives, and experts who give an insight into the minds and behaviours of the perpetrators and also the journalists who've reported on the cases. By being taken to the towns and the cities themselves, you see the impact that these brutal crimes have had on the communities themselves

Has working on the show changed the way you go about your own life? Are you more cautious? 

Emilia: Well, it certainly explores the darker sides of Britain and Silent Witness explores the darker sides of life and even when I'm working on fictional crime solving, you can't help but think about the crimes that happen in reality

Yes, by going to the towns themselves, and seeing these places in Murdertown, you're in places which feel so familiar to you, where people you know, live and love. And these ordinary people like us are affected by appalling brutal, extraordinary crimes. 

I think we've become immune to crime in some ways in large towns and cities. There's a sort of anonymity to it and a quantity to it, which when you see you know, crimes happening in say Swanley or Mabelthorpe, very often these small towns are defined by the murders that happened in them. So, yes, I can't help feeling affected by them and I think the communities are affected by them. 



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