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.

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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.

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