The Silent Witness star reveals the crime drama’s grisly backstage goings-on
TV MAGAZINE is feeling nauseous as we tiptoe around a dank, dingy basement in West London at Silent Witness HQ.
In the low light, we watch Emilia Fox and David Caves pull back the plastic sheeting covering two alarmingly lifelike corpses sprawled on the floor.
Right on cue, a trail of maggots scuttle out of a rotting gunshot wound, bringing with them a sickening stench.
“Maggot scenes aren’t my favourite,” Emilia – who plays Dr Nikki Alexander – shudders. “All I can think of is how much they smell, while keeping an eye on where they’re wriggling to!”
The actors burst into giggles as David, who recently trod the boards in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Taming Of The Shrew, threatens to drop a maggot down the front of Emilia’s bodysuit.
The playful scene is evidence – an appropriate word, given the setting – that the new boy has quickly settled into the void left by Nikki’s soulmate, Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward).
And it’s clear David is loving every minute of working alongside Emilia and William Gaminara (Professor Leo Dalton).
“These guys have made it so difficult,” jokes David, aka the Lyell Centre’s newest addition, forensic scientist Jack Hodgson.
“No, it’s been amazing. My mum was so excited when I got the part, as she’s the biggest Silent Witness fan in the world. It’s my first TV role and I was walking around the set in a daze for the first few weeks – I couldn’t believe I was here. I did a little dance.”
“He’s a great dancer – I try to persuade him to get a dance into every episode,” laughs Emilia, 38. “I was worried that Harry’s departure would mean they’d take away Nikki’s fun side, so I thank God that David’s playing this part because we have a brotherly-sisterly relationship. He’s a fantastic guy to work with, but I’m always trying to sabotage him…”
“She plies me with sweets,” grins David.
“I offer him Tooty Frooties before a close-up and then watch him chew his way through the scene,” laughs Emilia.
In case we failed to notice in last week’s opening story that David’s in rather impressive shape, the blue onesie he’s wearing today shows off the results of his efforts to research his character’s unusual pastime – cage fighting.
“We filmed in a real MMA [mixed martial arts] gym and I learnt a few moves. It’s absolutely brutal,” says the actor who, to the amusement of his co-stars, has been given his own personal gym backstage (“I don’t know how I got away with that,” he blushes).
As we make our way into the Lyell Centre lab, we’re greeted by more gore – a toxin-infested corpse lying on a steel slab.
“The bodies feel amazing, don’t they?
Like they’re real,” enthuses Emilia, before excitedly urging us to have a feel.
Given that she’s spent the past nine years working with ‘dead’ bodies, it’s not surprising that Emilia is unfazed by the grim set we’re in.
“But I do still feel queasy doing post-mortems,” she admits. “Especially when they use disgusting soup as the stomach contents.”
“It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it, though,” says David. “You just constantly want to prod and touch the bodies.”
“If the deaths have been really horrific, I can’t help being emotional because I can imagine the reality of it,” reveals Emilia.
Does that mean the gruesome subject matter is something she ends up taking home with her?
“No. When my family and I are together it’s more fun to just discuss things other than work,” admits Emilia, whose famous acting-dynasty family includes parents Joanna and Edward, cousin Laurence and brother Freddie. “But if I needed advice I would turn to Fred and Laurence for sure.”
In fact, it’s clear home life is a very sacred place for the star, who’s mum to two-year-old Rose.
“We film close to my house, which allows me to see my daughter all the time,” she says. “We’re always in the garden or at the Natural History Museum, and we’re rarely recognised.”
“Recognised? I haven’t even thought about that yet,” chips in new boy David.
“In London it’s much easier for actors, as the public are used to seeing people off the telly,” advises William.
“Mind you, I once played the part of 11 different doctors in a row and if I was at a party and someone got ill, they’d ask me to help and I’d say: ‘Yeah, OK.’ Then I’d get there and think: ‘I don’t know anything!’”
“If they were dead, then you’d know something about them,” quips Emilia.
And with that, everyone – except the corpse, of course – falls about laughing.
With make-up designer Carolyn Groves
“It takes us about two hours to do the make-up on an actor playing a corpse and I find burns the most gruesome.
“You can gauge from the crew’s reaction how good a job you’ve done – one nearly passed out when we made a girl look like she’d been burnt to a crisp. We mainly use silicone to form a ‘second skin’, which can be cut into.
“The prosthetics supervisor creates a silicone replica of an actor’s body – having a cast of your face is not nice if you’re claustrophobic!
“The camera then switches between the real and fake bodies, so no actor is harmed in the post-mortem.”
Just received this amazing picture of #emiliafox a supporter of our #cleanmyteethcampign Glad our books could help!
Thanks to Kathryn Morris UK for helping with the latest appearances!
Appearances > 2013 > 09th Jan | Leaving ITV Studios in London
Appearances > 2013 > 10th Jan | Leaving ITV Studios in London
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Jack comes face to face with his past working with DI Reed. Meanwhile Leo is approached by a father desperate for a second post-mortem on his son.
David Caves reveals the two dramatic investigations that unfold side by side in Trust.
Emilia Fox and David Caves chat about the new series of Silent Witness.
You can watch the episode here: link (expires in 5 days)!
You can pre-order the novel here! It’ll be released as paperback on Jan 31st, 2013.
I think that’s fantastic news, isn’t it?
Emilia will be on ITV 1′s ‘Lorraine’ tomorrow to promote the series 16 premiere of ‘Silent Witness’! The episode airs at 08:30.
Thanks to Kathryn Morris UK for alerting me on our Twitter page @EmiliaFoxOnline
Actress Isabelle Allen joins Lorraine Kelly to discuss her role as Cosette in the film adaptation of successful musical Les Miserables, in which she stars alongside Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter among others. Plus, Emilia Fox and David Caves also visit the studio to talk about the new series of Silent Witness