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'Annika' actress Nicola Walker steals the show in crime dramas

Nicola Walker as the title character in ’Annika’. Picture: BritBox

Nicola Walker as the title character in ’Annika’. Picture: BritBox

Published Nov 19, 2021


Comedy and crime are two genres the British do exceptionally well. And, of course, given the industry’s abundance of talent, there are always actors that stand out.

As such, certain actors, while compelling with their performance, only register on the radar of viewers years later.

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All it takes is one brilliant offering to propel them into the spotlight.

This brings me to Nicola Walker. She’s been in the industry for a while, bagging roles in prominent TV offerings as well as big-screen movies.

But she only truly got her just dues in the latter part of her career, more specifically after being cast in theLast Tango in Halifax”, which ran for several seasons since 2012.

She was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for it, twice.

And she proved her adroitness as a veteran in “Unforgotten”, where she starred alongside Sanjeev Bhaskar for four seasons.

That was when I first truly took notice of Walker.

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She owned her role as Detective Cassie Stuart. Her calm demeanour concealed an unbridled tenacity to solve cases. And she was so effortless in her performance.

Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to watch her shows.

A few months back, when SA was still on lockdown as was the UK, I attended the virtual press conference for Walker’s latest show, “Annika”, which is based on the radio series of the same name, on BritBox.

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Going by her comments, her character - DI Annika Strandhed - is stratified. A single mother, she is adapting to her new workplace having transferred to the Glasgow Marine Homicide Unit from the Scottish Police.

When the body of the owner of a whale hunt tourist boat turns up in The Clyde, Annika is brought in to investigate with her team.

Walker had to make a few adjustments for this role, the major one is adjusting to being on the water for most of the shoot.

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And she’s not your average detective either. There’s a lot more depth to the character.

The 51-year-old actress explained, “No she’s not, that was the whole point of ’Annika’ from the beginning. He’s (Nick Walker) written something that is really aware of those character types and giving them a spin.

“And yes, on the radio obviously you have that intimacy and Nick and Black Camel worked very hard on working out how to get that intimacy on-screen and they came up with the idea of breaking the fourth wall which I think works really well so you still have that direct line to Annika.

“The amazing thing about her is that she’s an outsider because she has these Norwegian roots and her parents have given her these Norwegian traits - she’s very direct. That is the key to Annika, she’s direct with her team, she’s direct with her daughter, and she’s very direct with you (pointing to the screen).”

When it comes to authoritative roles, Walker is in her element.

As for her oversight of her team, especially since she’s getting to know them on the case, she shared: “Her managerial skills are very interesting, I don’t think she has them. She skipped all the courses, she lied to her new boss that she went on the managerial course before she took the job - she didn’t.

DS Tyrone Clarke (Ukweli Roach), DC Blaier Ferguson (Katie Cheung), DI Annika Strandhed ( Nicola Walker) and DS Michael McAndrews (Jamie Sives) in a scene from “Annika”. Picture: BritBox

“She doesn’t believe in any of that, she has her own process, it’s a very unique process.

“And the team knows that she has a reputation so they know what they’re getting.

“What I also find incredible about her is that she also has no trouble showing when she adores her team.”

Given that a lot of the scenes are shot on water, she, along with co-star Jamie Sives, were in their element as they had their licence to drive a boat, which she happily waved around during the virtual event.

The media laughed when she pointed out, “I think there should be more of me on the boat. We really did get licences and we can drive them safely but, on television, you never feel it shows that you did it.”

As for braving the elements while shooting in Scotland, she chuckled: “Well mainly in your head you sort of think you’re going to look glamorous and amazing but I did not factor in how freezing it was going to be in Scotland in January. I mean, why didn’t I think of that?

“And normally when you’re filming as an actor your vanity kicks in and you’re like ‘no I won’t take the extra layers’ because you want your costume to look nice.

“Scotland made me go, ‘I want everything! I want every single item of clothing’, and I wanted to wear 72 layers of clothing, so I don’t look glamorous at all.”

Once again, Walker really sinks her teeth into the role. And I think having a brilliant script incentivised her performance, too.

Annika” is currently streaming on BritBox.

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