TV - Silent Witness

BBC One’s hugely popular drama Silent Witness celebrates its 25th series later this month with the dramatic return of Amanda Burton as Sam Ryan. To celebrate her return, the BBC has released a short interview ...

Press Release

The longest-running crime drama currently airing on TV returns with six thrilling new episodes, opening in Liverpool with an assassination attempt and Sam Ryan calling on the Lyell team with a plea for help seventeen years after leaving the Lyell.

Sam seeks to usher in democratic health care, but the shooting of the Health Secretary and Sam’s husband pulls Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), Jack Hodgson (David Caves) and Simone Tyler (Genesis Lynea) into a world of duplicity, intrigue and betrayal.

When the credibility of DNA testing is challenged, the bedrock of forensic science is called into question. Now uncertain of who or what they can trust, the Lyell team’s investigation draws them into confrontations with echoes of their personal histories, which threaten to unravel their present.

What appealed to you about returning to Silent Witness as Sam Ryan?

The shock! It's wonderful to be very surprised sometimes. Genuinely, these things don't often come one's way. I just thought, "What a great idea! How brilliant that they're thinking of doing that!" I thought the storyline was quite bold and I really liked that. After meeting the producers, I just loved what they were thinking for Sam, I was very much on their wavelength. It was such an attractive idea and I would have been absolutely mad not to do it!

Did it feel like coming home in a way?

Yes, it did. It was genuinely a really, lovely thing to step into Sam's shoes again and to catch up with who she is now and where she is in her life. I loved the fact that she was still very much pioneering and busy and connected – that meant a lot to me. I was very, very happy that she wasn't being tracked down to some sort of remote corner of a British village where she was judging hen competitions!

What trait did you focus on when returning to the character of Sam Ryan?

Her fingerprint in the show is really this blinkered focused energy. She is a very independent thinker. And so that's what I brought to her again. But there are also lots of lovely add-ons in her life. For instance, she's very happy with her partner Jomo Mashaba played by the lovely Hugh Quarshie, and they have grown a business together.

Where do we find Sam at the start of the series?

There is a catastrophic event which suddenly puts her life in jeopardy and has a direct impact on her partner's life. And so, you're thrown into this great big washing machine and are wondering what is going to come out of it. Why has Sam chosen to go to the Lyell? Why has she brought this case to them when she could have access to so many different people? So, this lovely mystery, thriller aspect comes into it. I really love the fact that you're left slightly wondering whether she's gone over to the other side. Is she going to take the devil's shilling or is she as self-righteous as she used to be? I just hope audiences really get a kick out of watching her again.

How did you find it working with Emilia?

It was wonderful. Coming together with Emilia, who's held this show together so brilliantly for so many years, was lovely. It was extraordinarily special. To see these two powerful characters working together was amazing. In the script, they call them the two titans of the medical world.

Emilia is just an incredibly generous actress. There was a really nice sense of trust between us. We fed off each other a lot, and there were just genuinely lovely, warm, empathetic responses from both of us. And you don't get that every day.

Do you still have a lot of fans coming up to you in the street asking when Sam is coming back?

That often happens when I'm doing my weekly shop in the supermarket, and I am a bit of a captive audience. 20 bunches of bananas later! We always have a bit of a cackle about that. The fans, of course, are fantastic and keep the show on the road. I hope they're going to really enjoy seeing this because I don't know of any other character or any other show where this has happened before. Equally, we’re celebrating 25 series of Silent Witness, it’s the longest running crime show in the world, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Why does Sam Ryan remain so popular as a character?

At the time, it was quite unusual to see a woman playing that depth of seriousness, that depth of soulfulness. Her edges were never really rounded off. She was always quite spicy, quite like a terrier. But Sam was a very truthful character, she upheld a lot of things that were very, very important. There was no double dealing with her, she was just incredibly straightforward.

Tell us more.

Sam was this one woman charged with finding the truth in so many of those awful crimes, and at a huge cost to her life. I wouldn't say that she was an unhappy character. I wouldn't like to label her like that at all. It's just that her devotion to her career was like a calling. I suppose that was quite unusual 25 years ago, it wasn't exactly the norm. Also, Sam managed to offset any gore, in Silent Witness, you had this character who led you through the darkness, and you felt safe with her.

Why do you think Silent Witness has lasted so long?

It always has to come from the top, and Emilia is very dedicated. When you have an actor who really cares about a show, that enthusiasm creates an environment where everyone is very focused on producing brilliant drama.

How would you sum up the experience of coming back to Silent Witness?

It proved to be everything that I hoped it would be. It was very, very joyful. I loved Sam's journey, and I loved working with Emilia, David and Genesis and all the guest actors who are in it as well. It was just gorgeous. I mean, it's ridiculous – I get paid for this!

Is there any chance that Sam could come back in another quarter of a century?

You'll just have to ask me in another 25 years. By then Sam really would be judging hen competitions!

Silent Witness begins its 6 episode run on BBC One in May 2022

Images & info - BBC
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