Emilia Fox: The Silent Witness star on snoring corpses, and why her famous family won't be playing charades this Christmas

The 40-year-old actress was born into a renowned acting family and is best known for her role as Dr Nikki Alexander in the BBC drama

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Did you spend much time with dead bodies as research for Silent Witness?

I've been to two autopsies. One before I started and he was an older man, and so in a funny way it was much more natural. Then, later, I saw an autopsy on a man who was in his twenties and that didn't seem natural at all. He was in the prime of his life – it's very thought-provoking.

Are you squeamish?

I'm really squeamish. If you were to cut yourself now I'd be hopeless. But weirdly the autopsies are so riveting – that detective process to find the cause of death – that it stops you thinking about that.

Do you use dummies on set?

On set, you're usually working with a live actor who is pretending to be dead. Everyone's very sensitive around them because you're pulling up their eyelashes or looking up their noses.

Do the live actors ever – excuse the pun – corpse?

More often they sleep. The slabs have hot water bottles on them and because they're lying down with a pillow under their head, you'll often hear them snore!

You come from a famous acting family. Do you all try to out-act each other at gatherings?

No, we don't do charades...

Ah, that was my second question!

In a funny way, when I was growing up, I was so unaware of what my family did. It was just a job.

But I read that your parents had Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston round when you were a kid...

No, that was misreported. The people we had round at my mum and dad's house were Lindsay Anderson and Fred Zinnemann: amazing directors. I think they wanted more famous names and the only thing I could remember from my childhood was being at my uncle's Christmas party and Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston being there. I didn't know who they were at all, but they were a very glamorous couple coming in wearing their sunglasses at night.

So were there other famous people around during your youth?

Not really. I didn't really know about fame and I'm quite glad I didn't. My childhood was totally about family and friends.

Do you think that posh actors get it in the neck unfairly?

I'm confused by the idea of posh. Perhaps you could explain it to me?

I think it's about the way you're educated, the upbringing you have...

Is it the way you sound?

That plays a part in it.

Well if you think about my mum and dad, they learnt a particular way of speaking through drama school. At that point everyone wanted RP, so then the children of the people who were taught at drama school started to speak with RP. My mum's from up North and my great-great grandfather was a Yorkshireman. If my family are described as posh, it's nothing to do with silver spoons or anything like that.

And your daughter Rose – is she showing actorly tendencies?

Rose is a born entertainer, like my brother. He came out all-singing, all-dancing and I was completely the opposite: the shyest girl in the world. Rose may follow another profession but I think my job as a mother is to give her every form of opportunity and let her choose.

Biography

Born into a renowned acting family – including her father Edward Fox and her uncle James Fox – Emilia Fox, aged 40, is best known for her role as Dr Nikki Alexander in BBC drama ‘Silent Witness’. She was educated at Bryanston School and St Catherine’s College, Oxford. Fox is signed up to the cooking class at the new stand-alone Good Housekeeping Institute in London, now open to the public; goodhousekeeping.co.uk/cookeryschool

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