BODY OF EVIDENCE
Once a sidekick, William Gaminara’s Silent Witness character is now the boss. Guy Davis got dead serious with the star of the ABC drama.
Television viewers may have become all too familiar with morgues and mortuaries in recent years, thanks to the popularity of programs like Bones and the CSI franchise, but back in 2002 when William Gaminara fi rst became aware of a new forensics drama called Silent Witness, it was relatively uncharted territory.
“ It’s always interesting to enter a world you know very little about, and this world wasn’t particularly well-known at the time,” said the actor, who plays Dr Leo Dalton on the show. “ We have become quite familiar with it now, though.”
The somewhat disturbing milieu and occasionally grisly subject matter aside, Gaminara knew that Silent Witness could put an interesting spin on a well-worn but much-appreciated genre.
“ The appeal of the program was fairly straightforward,” he said. “ The detective story is a very eff ective TV format – there’s a crime and someone’s investigating it, and as the viewer you try to keep up with them as they try to solve it.
“ And there’s always a solution, which results in a satisfying journey. With Silent Witness, as it follows the pathologist, the clues come from the bodies – that made it diff erent from anything else being made at the time.”
Gaminara admits, however, that it took some time for the character of Leo to be fl eshed-out to his liking. “ I wasn’t immediately drawn by the character of Leo because he wasn’t particularly well-defi ned at the time,” he said. “ We’ve had to work hard at doing that over the years.”
But with the departure of Silent Witness’s original star Amanda Burton in 2004 and the inclusion of Emilia Fox as Dr Nikki Alexander the same year, both the show and the dynamic between the characters – Leo, Nikki and Dr Harry Cunningham, played by Tom Ward – underwent a shift.
“ When Amanda was doing it, Tom and I were very much her sidekicks,” said Gaminara. “ We were there to ease the burden of Amanda having to hold the entire show. It was still very much her show, though, and it had a certain tone – much slower, much more reverential. The mortuary was this kind of church-like environment.
“ Once Amanda left and Emilia came in, a completely diff erent dynamic started up. It became much more of a workplace and the three of us developed an equal relationship as work colleagues. The show gained pace and became more realistic, and once Leo was promoted, the character became a bit of a father fi gure. And I have these two slightly naughty children in Tom and Emilia’s characters.”
The realism Gaminara mentioned has always been a key concern to the actor, who along with co-star Ward attended an actual post-mortem not long after joining the show to get a feel for the process.
“ I had an idea about what it would be like and that idea turned out to be completely wrong,” he recalled. “ Given that kind of thing forms a good 20 per cent of every episode we’ve ever done, it was important to know what that environment was like and what goes on in there. We’re all very against stories that are just television invention and that have no link to the real world at all.”
That extends to Gaminara’s parallel career as a television writer, with episodes of This Life and The Lakes to his credit.
“ I don’t like watching shows that don’t have that link to the real world, and when I’m writing I also make sure to root things in reality,” he said.
With Silent Witness taking up half his year, Gaminara regards himself someone fortunate enough to balance his two jobs. “ For the most part, it’s a very happy balance,” he said.
But penning an episode of Silent Witness is off the table at this stage. “ When you spend six, seven months of your year doing a series and you’re so inside it – you really do live and breathe it – I’m not sure I’d then want to go back to it when I’m having a break.”
Taking charge: William Gaminara ( right) plays boss to Emilia Fox and Tom Ward.