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From the moment forensic pathologist Dr Sam Ryan made her debut in 1996, TV audiences were hooked, and Silent Witness – which marks its 25th anniversary series this year – is now among the world’s longest-running crime dramas.
To mark the occasion, Amanda Burton revisits her iconic role, uniting on screen for the first time with her successor, Emilia Fox, who has played Dr Nikki Alexander for the last 17 years.
‘I was seriously surprised to be invited back,’ admits Amanda. ‘I was aware it was coming up to a big milestone, so it was all very joyful from the get-go.’
Series 24 ended with Nikki taking a call from Sam, asking for the team’s help, and viewers find out why in episode one of the new run – her husband has been gunned down, along with the Health Secretary. He was also her business partner in a ground-breaking company which was recently awarded a key government contract, and Sam needs people she can trust to carry out the investigation.
A fan of crime writer Patricia Cornwell, Amanda made TV history as the forensics queen, but felt daunted at the time.
‘It was an extraordinary step in my career, and I was probably quite terrified. There was enormous pressure on me to get it right, and it was very rare for a woman to be leading a show. It really took over my life massively, but it was amazing.’
Eight years later, it was Emilia Fox’s turn. ‘I remember thinking there was no way I could take over, Amanda was irreplaceable. But luckily, the team said, “Don’t worry, Nikki’s her own character.” In a very precarious industry, having her in my life has been a total joy – and what a way to celebrate, with the person who began it all.’