Actress EMILIA FOX, who stars in her 13th series of Silent Witness returning to our screens next week, grew up in Dorset in a house in Kimmeridge. Emilia tells THE GUIDE about her character finally finding love, plus her reasons for returning to the crime show year after year.

DORSET is in Emilia Fox's blood after many years in the county living what she describes as an 'idyllic childhood'.

She said: "I’d spend my days putting together scrapbook diaries, pressing flowers and making up stories. I see now that it was an idyllic childhood. There’s a big age gap between me and my siblings, Lucy and Freddie, so I had to entertain myself. We had a wild, rambling garden and no television; when it was raining I’d read, play the piano or cello, or look after my canaries, Samson and Delilah."

Emilia, who has also appeared in The Pianist, Merlin, Pride and Prejudice and Dorian Gray, attended Bryanston School in Blandford.

Emilia plays forensic pathologist Nikki Alexander in this, the 13th series of Silent Witness. She said the pull of the show is so strong she wishes to stay with it as long as she continues to love it and as long as the producers still want her to do it.

She said: "I still feel the same as the day that I started. As an actor, it is a lovely opportunity to get to make five two-hour films each year. I love the science side of it, the character side of it - I feel Nikki Alexander is very much part of my life."

The last series ended with a dramatic moment for Nikki - she survived being buried alive in Mexico. The new series explores how Nikki and the team were affected by the experience.

Emilia said: "Whereas before, the episodes have been slightly independent of each other, we couldn't ignore that it was such a massive way to end the last series.

"The after-effect on Nikki and on the relationships between the characters, importantly between Jack [played by David Caves] and Nikki, runs alongside the story which opens the series. I think there has been - with the new reign of Richard [Stokes] who is producing it this year - an acknowledgement of an interest in the regular characters."

There's some happiness in store for Nikki this series when she finds love.

Emilia explains: "Nikki has not had a relationship for many, many years, which is often commented upon. And there is a sense of after what happened in Mexico...I wanted her to find a way to love life and appreciate life. We couldn't ignore that there was trauma to begin with, but then she meets someone and you actually see Nikki smiling!"

Emilia says her character deserves to find love after a lot of them haven't worked out.

"Yes, I do think she deserves to find love! Every new series I say, 'Does Nikki find anyone this year?' Normally Nikki's relationships end up with them dying or turning out to be 'wrong-uns' and then, here we are."

The silent witness team has been described as a 'dysfunctional family'. Emilia says she sees the characters and their relationships in that way.

"I definitely see it that way. Thomas [played by Richard Lintern] doesn't have anyone apart from his daughter. Nikki hasn't had anyone for a very long time.

"We are united in our loneliness, I suppose, and so the work becomes very much the family life. And that has worked for the show. It's a crime show. It's not about their personal lives, but it can colour episodes in a good way."

Emilia thinks the show has lasted so long because of the 'intrigue' of a crime.

"I always say that when you read about a crime that happens in a newspaper you want to know why it happened, who did it and how that crime is going to be solved. Silent Witness deals with that. That's interesting to play because I don't think it is just a detective show like, 'Where were you last night and who were you with?' It is about finding out the last ten minutes of someone's life and what happened there, and that is what we are trying to piece together."

As research for the role of Nikki Emilia has seen many post-mortems in the past.

She said: "It was very thought-provoking for me - but it was also very, very helpful for the character to see what the dynamic is during a post-mortem and the different atmospheres and tensions in the room.

"The clues are within the body. It is a detective process to find the cause of death, so the tension in the room was all about finding evidence in the body, to try to find out what gun was fired.

"And then as soon as they got the result they wanted, the whole atmosphere changed and it was back to normal conversation again. So it was fascinating."

The show reflects and comments on real life, Emilia said.

"Silent Witness is not afraid to tackle [topical] subjects. When we were filming the episode about immigration last year, Brexit was happening at exactly that moment, and it creates a conversation."

Viewers can look forward to plenty of action sequences, Emilia said.

"They are always trying to keep a good mix. I love that there is a whodunit and then action and a topical story. This series there is quite a lot of action, and that might be because there has been a big focus on a different look to the show and so that has lent itself to bigger things."

*Silent Witness will air on BBC One on Mondays and Tuesdays, starting Monday, January 8.