It’s exactly a decade since Emilia Fox last trod the boards. After an unhappy experience in a savagely reviewed West End revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Silent Witness actress swore not to endure the baptism of fire of the London critics again.
“Why would you do that to yourself?” she asks reasonably.
“Although I didn’t come off too badly, I’d always said I’d only do theatre if the equation was right and when I read this play, and met (director) Peter DuBois, and heard the cast they’d put together, I thought, ‘Damn! The equation is right.’”
Although it’s fair to say she’s not looking forward to press night, Fox has thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsal process and passionately engaged with the arguments in Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, which she finds “heartbreaking and penetrating”.
The writer of hit Almeida play Becky Shaw, and the Kevin Spacey House of Cards, has penned a smart, funny piece about feminist theory and how women’s lives have changed – or not – since the 70s libbers marched for equality.
“Gina has cleverly put across the ideas of these great feminists to see whether they integrate into real life situations,” says Fox, who plays high-flying academic Catherine, newly returned home to tend her ailing mother Alice.
“Hopefully people will come, see bits of their life and it will produce a discussion – that’s what I felt when I read the play, I wanted to talk about it and find out where I fitted in with these theories.”
One discussion it prompted was with her actor dad Edward.
“Horror films and torture movies aren’t dad’s sphere,” she smiles.
“But I was talking to him about how roles have changed during his lifetime and he engaged with the discussions even though he’s an unlikely person to do so.”
Past 40 and single, Catherine is fearfully contemplating an impending lonely old age and regretting not having children.
Meanwhile her former best friend Gwen, who sacrificed career for an unsatisfactory marriage and motherhood is feeling unfulfilled.
“In Catherine, you see the vulnerability of a woman in her 40s without a family about to lose her mother who is the person who has loved her throughout her life.
“Gina is saying, there are great theories but the reality is maybe quite simple. You get to a certain point in life where the most extraordinary thing is the most ordinary thing – the thing you have to go beyond by searching for a career and your own independence.
“Whilst that’s fantastic, perhaps we are creatures who ultimately like to share our lives – for me personally sharing life is the ultimate happiness.”
Fox gave birth to daughter Rose three years ago and says motherhood utterly shifted her perspective.
“Our views and priorities change over our lives and certainly when you have children. I see things now I couldn’t have hoped to understand before. I have never known a greater love – who knew that love was inside you? – you love your family, I have found my way back to my family and they have been my greatest love, but the love you feel for your child – it’s like a lioness.”
Although there are “obvious comparisons” between Fox’s life and Catherine’s, they differ in the fictional character’s single-minded ambition.
Fox, who has split from both ex-husband Jared Harris and from Rose’s father Jeremy Gilley, delivered stand-out performances in Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, Merlin and The Pianist and possesses the kind of luminous beauty the camera loves.
But she says “I slightly fell into my working life. Rather than setting about pursuing a career, I let things happen and I have enjoyed it so much.
“Now I have to juggle both a domestic and working life, and feel very fortunate in having both – but my primary focus and emotion is Rose. Family for me is way more important than anything else in my life.”
One of the play’s arguments is that feminism rightly encouraged women to have careers but was left them floundering with the impact on their home lives.
“It’s fantastic what feminism has done. We are striving for everything, but managing it all is complicated, and as Alice says, things were easier when there were clear boundaries.
“Catherine admits she wanted a family but didn’t do the stuff she had to do to get it. I have seen friends leave it much later to start a family and, for women, it can be too late. That’s heartbreaking. I so love being a mum. I would love to have had a brood of children but I didn’t start until much later because I was convinced I had to stand on my own two feet and make sure I paid my own way.”
She adds that the argument she finds “most heart-breaking and penetrating” is Catherine’s realisation that her choices might leave her alone.
“Intimacy is very hard to find and hard to hold on to and it is beautiful sharing your life with someone knowing that they love you. Maybe that’s a discovery to me, you get totally caught up on a treadmill of work and all the other stuff in life and sometimes don’t protect the relationship between two people.”
“How we negotiate all this fantastic equality is the question. Of course it can work, hundreds of couples do it, but it is a negotiation and you have to both make sacrifices.”
She saw it with her mother, the actress Joanna David.
“She made lots of career sacrifices to bring us children up. Family life was the most important thing to her and dad. But she’s having her time again – her career has come back in full force now we’ve grown up.
“Before I had children I would say, ‘If you want to go to work why don’t you just go?’ Now I have Rose I understand you don’t want to miss out on them growing up – the process of them separating from you is totally heart-breaking.”
Fox’s latest series as pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander is currently on air and she still enjoys the plots and challenge of Silent Witness which she films just minutes from home.
“I always said I would do it until I didn’t love doing it, and I still really enjoy it.
“They’ve been so amazing working around my pregnancy and post Rose, when I found it really hard going back to work and not being with her. I still find it difficult, hanging around the school asking, ‘Can I stay for the morning?’”
The only thing that annoys her is the oft-lobbed critical jibe that Nikki is ‘cold’.
“She’s not so dissimilar to Cathy. They’re both focused on their careers and have left their personal lives in the wings. But I have never played her cold – she’s totally led by her heart!
“I think it’s because she deals with a serious subject and is a strong woman and they think if you are strong you don’t have emotions, which is a lot of bollocks.
“I hope I am a strong woman and I am permanently overflowing with emotions.”
Rapture, Blister, Burn runs from January 16 to February 22 at Hampstead Theatre.
Last night in London Emilia Fox suffered a similar set malfunction in the opening night of Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Hampstead Theatre after the hydraulics responsible for the revolving set ground to a halt.
During the five minute interruption the 39-year-old actress — best known for her role as Dr Nikki Alexander in the BBC series Silent Witness — joked with the audience that she was glad to be wearing more than her underwear when the set jammed. In the previous scene she was in just a black bra and knickers.
She then shared a high-five with co-star Shannon Tarbet as the stage whirred back into motion, prompting a round of applause from the audience.
As I’ve mentioned a few times *ahem* the Silent Witness episodes were shown last week. The reserve was featured heavily as a crime scene during the episodes. If you missed out you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer.
Emilia Fox was lovely – she was very nice and chatted to fans…
Terry R even got a picture!
All the actors were lovely and chatted to visitors.
I caught up with part 2 last night – I really enjoyed it! I had great fun spotting the bits of the reserve I knew… and enjoyed the shot of Terry’s Toilets (our name for the half way toilets on site – Terry was the chap that did an amazing job planning and organising it ! Fame a last…
Did you watch it? What did you think of the episode?
Kathryn Morris UK provides us one again with wonderful HD captures, check them out in our gallery (links below)! I’ve also added a new trailer for the next episode, 17×05, which is called ‘In a Lonely Place’. Watch it here:
TELEVISION SERIES > SILENT WITNESS (2004-2014) > SERIES 17 > SCREEN CAPTURES > COUP DE GRACE: PART 1
TELEVISION SERIES > SILENT WITNESS (2004-2014) > SERIES 17 > SCREEN CAPTURES > COUP DE GRACE: PART 2
EDIT: Posted the whole interview.
Good morning ya’ll! The Sunday Times features a new interview today which you can read below:
She’s part of a thespian dynasty and a television regular, but Emilia Fox really had a problem with the stage. A singular new play has lured her back, she tells Jasper Rees
Is there such a thing as a thespian gene? Three years ago, the question came up on Who Do You Think You Are? To look into the matter, the genealogy show’s makers commissioned a Fox. They could have picked any one of the male line — Edward, James, Laurence, even young Freddie — but the scion of the acting dynasty chosen to sniff around the family tree, ahead of her father or uncle or cousin or brother, was Emilia, star for the past 10 years of the long-running BBC1 crime drama Silent Witness. In the same series, they had JK Rowling and Sebastian Coe, which is a measure of just how famous a Fox she is.
“I’d always gone, ‘It’s bollocks that acting’s in the blood,’” she says. “It’s a language you’re used to and feel comfortable around. I didn’t want to be an actor, and my brother really wanted to be an actor from when he was teeny-weeny. But it was funny that there were generations and generations in the same industry.”
She was two weeks from full term when she made the documentary. Her daughter, Rose, is now three, and busy pretending to be a princess at home. So would Fox encourage her to go about her mother’s business, or put her off? “You can’t do either, really. I’d seen the whole business without the rose-tinted spectacles on. It’s a precarious profession to choose. I don’t think any parent is going to go, ‘Woo-hoo, my child wants to be an actor!’ Because what happens if it doesn’t work?”
Fox has a concrete example she wishes to share of why thespian blood doesn’t always work in your favour. She was performing in Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 2003. A West End revival of Christopher Hampton’s sinful hit seemed a sound commercial proposition, but, unfortunately, critics were not enamoured of a second coming that also starred Jared Harris (son of Richard) and Sarah Woodward (daughter of Edward).
“We were picked on for being the children of actors. Well, that has nothing to do with whether a production does well or not, has it? It was a destructive attack that was slightly unnecessary.” The show closed after four weeks, 10 years ago this month. Fox hasn’t acted on the stage since. “I can’t remember whether it was as bad as it was made out to be. It was not a pleasant experience. If I really told the truth about it, I think it made me lose confidence in doing theatre for a long time, and I found a million excuses not to do it.”
That same year, she joined the cast of Silent Witness as the forensic pathologist Nikki Alexander, in place of the departing Amanda Burton, and millions of viewers are currently enjoying her 10th series. Yet Fox seems to have run out of excuses, because we are meeting in a small office at the Hampstead Theatre during a lunch break from rehearsals for a new play. What changed her mind?
“A darn good play,” she says. In her mind, she had always set the bar sufficiently high for the right opportunity never to arise again. But her agent kept sending plays through until, finally, in one of them, a character called Catherine spoke to her unanswerably. “I was faced with reading it and thinking, ‘Uh-oh, this is an irresistible part to play, because I think I know her.’ I haven’t really identified with a character quite so strongly in a long time.”
The play is Rapture, Blister, Burn, a witty dramatised debate about having it all, featuring three generations of East Coast women. It’s by Gina Gionfriddo, whose social comedy Becky Shaw played at the Almeida in 2011. It tells of two college friends who reunite after a decade: one is married with a child and no career, the other is a feminist academic with an elderly mother, but no partner or child. Fox plays the latter. So what was the overlap? “The bit I identified with is that you find yourself in a job you love doing, then you go, ‘Oh my goodness, actually, what I’d really love is a family. She’s incapable of having a relationship, yet it’s something she has wanted, and she says herself that she didn’t consciously opt out of marriage or a family — she just didn’t do the stuff you’ve got to do to get it.”
Anyone with half an ear to the ground will know that Fox’s romantic narrative has kept certain columnists busy. She was briefly engaged to her Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) co-star Vic Reeves before marrying Jared Harris, her character’s seducer in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, then had her daughter with the actor Jeremy Gilley; and, since that relationship ended, the chef Marco Pierre White has been mentioned in dispatches. All of this is, of course, nobody’s business but hers — and she makes it clear she is eager not to invade her own privacy. But, she says: “There are lots of things in my personal life I’ve turned into positives. This part is quite an obvious mining of my own personal experience. There is a bed of emotions I can tap into quite easily.”
She has played everything from mouse (the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca, Jane Seymour in ITV’s Henry VIII) to minx (sorceress in Merlin, superbitch in The Wrong Mans), but she has never had a role that fully captures the complex mesh of vulnerability and assertion you meet in person. The mixed message is underpinned by black PVC trousers v cream chiffon blouse, by the thick black kohl encircling brown startled-fawn eyes.
The director Peter DuBois was presented with a similar two-tone Fox when the actress rushed to a hastily convened meeting about Gionfriddo’s play. “I’d literally jumped out of the shower, but I was wearing evening clothes because I had to go out after filming. So I was really, like, a mess. Which is sort of a bit Catherine. Then we started talking about pornography within about five minutes. It was quite bizarre at nine o’clock in the morning.”
Even before the Dangereuses debacle, Fox had been unpersuaded that theatre was the place for her. She enjoyed playing the mistress of a Nazi sympathiser in Cecil Philip Taylor’s play Good at the Donmar in 1999 — “That is my one very good memory of being on stage.” The following year she joined the Almeida’s adventurous double bill of Richard II and Coriolanus at the converted Gainsborough Studios. A vehicle for Ralph Fiennes found her cast as two of Shakespeare’s least talkative wives. She now says: “I don’t want to be in a Shakespeare play ever, ever again.” The same, it seems, goes for other classics. Wouldn’t she want a crack at Hedda? “No, I really wouldn’t. There are hundreds of people who would be better at it than me, and that’s something I have come to realise. I don’t want to be that exposed. People haven’t seen Catherine before, so maybe there won’t be that comparison.”
Comparisons being odious, it’s perhaps less of a surprise that Fox grew up without any desire to follow her parents and uncle into the profession, for all the temptations. She randomly recalls Jeremy Brett, who starred with her mother, Joanna David, in Rebecca, giving her a red-spotted handkerchief (“which I’ve still got”). Fred Zinnemann, who directed her father in The Day of the Jackal, would stay every Christmas. Then she went to Oxford to read English and started acting in plays. In her first long vacation, she was cast as Colin Firth’s little sister in Pride and Prejudice. “They needed someone who looked young, but who wasn’t at school and who could play the piano. It meant I didn’t have to waitress that holiday. It was as simple as that. I didn’t know what the f*** I was doing. It came out, and I didn’t even realise that it had been a big hit.”
She acquired an agent, but was persuaded by her parents to carry on studying. For a while, she flirted with journalism as a career: “I wanted to be a theatre critic, but I rather naively thought you could be a constructive critic rather than a destructive critic.” Failing that, she also fancied exercising her curiosity as an interviewer. “I’m not particularly interested in other people’s private lives,” she says. “I’m interested in what you’re doing now. But I don’t think you’re trying to find out what colour my knickers are. I’d be a journalist who tries to work things out about people. And that is the joy of acting. You get to taste different people’s lives.”
In her final summer she was cast as the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca, in the audition keeping secret her identity as the daughter of a previous actress in the role. She treated the job of acting opposite Charles Dance, Diana Rigg and Faye Dunaway as another essay until the director told her to “stop thinking and feel it more. I had not a f****** clue. And it was intriguing and exciting, and it sort of carried on.”
Even as a big birthday looms — Fox will be 40 in July — an aura of the ingénue somehow lingers on. She presumably has much more of a clue these days, but remains upfront about her insecurities. It’s why, in the rehearsal room, she is happy to take not so much direction as instruction. “I’m not going to lie, it’s nerve-racking. I approach it going, ‘Please help me, what do I do now? How do I make that funny?’”
It partly explains why she’s been on Silent Witness longer than Amanda Burton, and is happy to carry on looking for clues in corpses as long as the job is there. “On a new project, you’re thinking, ‘Shit, do they think that I’m really awful, and have I got completely the wrong end of the stick with it?’ There is nothing worse than going, ‘This job is finishing, am I ever going to work again?’ I still have that feeling. You’d think you’d grow out of it.” It’s probably not hereditary.
Interview appeared in The Sunday Times Culture magazine 12 January 2014
RadioTimes posted a great new interview with Millie. You can read it below!
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.
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
Silent Witness is back tonight (9pm on BBC One!). Watch the introduction of ‘Coup de Grace’ below:
Emilia Fox explains the conflict between Nikki Alexander and DI Rachel Klein.
Many thanks to Kathryn Morris UK for this one.
As the daughter of actors Edward Fox and Joanna David she grew up in a distinguished theatrical household.
But Emilia Fox has been bemoaning that it was without creature comforts, which she is now determined to provide for her own daughter Rose, three.
Silent Witness star Emilia recalls: ‘The house in Dorset never had carpets or curtains; sometimes it didn’t even have hot water or electricity!
‘It seems romantic now, but I’ve reacted to it by ensuring I have the most cosy, comfy home I can.
‘People love coming over just to relax in front of my wood-burning stove.’
Not that she doesn’t have a warm relationship with her parents.
‘My family live close by and they’re continually popping in and out,’ she says.
‘It was great to have their company when Rose was a baby, as her dad [actor Jeremy Gilley] and I aren’t together, and I love that it’s made Rose such a chatty little thing.
‘I never had that kind of easy confidence when I was young.
‘My dad and I are very watchful and quiet, whereas she’s more lively like my brother Freddie and my mum.’
Emilia, who was expected at last night’s premiere of Cirque du Soleil at the Albert Hall, says that, at 39, she hasn’t given up on having a bigger family of her own.
‘One day, I’ll have a huge brood of children,’ she adds.