When you think of crime dramas set in Scotland, the obvious couple of answers that spring to mind are Taggart and Rebus.
But there’s a new kid on the block, as digital channel Alibi is currently showing a new series set on Scotland’s waters, Annika.
The show stars Nicola Walker – no stranger to crime dramas through series such as Unforgotten and River – as DI Annika Strandhed, who has returned to Glasgow to head up the marine homicide unite, where she has to solve puzzling crimes and murders, that wash up on the Scottish shoreline.
The series has a unique twist as she regularly breaks the fourth wall, turning to the camera and addressing the viewers at home, who become Annika’s confidante.
The first episode aired last Tuesday, with the second to air at 9pm tonight, August 24, when a body is found on a boat drifting in the Clyde. The case takes the team to the Isle of Bute, where a dark secret is uncovered.
Annika co-stars Jamie Sives (Guilt), Ukweli Roach and Katie Leung (Cho Chang in the Harry Potter movie series).
Annika began life as a radio series, which Nicola starred in for six series, and she explains: ‘Nick Walker, the writer, is brilliant. I love the way his brain works. He has a very unusual take on drama. I’d worked with him before in 2010 on the Radio 4 drama Lifecoach with Stephen Tomkinson.
‘So, when he told me he had come up with another radio drama called Annika, it was one of those moments where it was a yes before he’d even sent the script!
‘I love the radio series. It was set in a world of crime, which we all understand, but Annika’s angle on it was very different. It took place in Norway and was very idiosyncratic.
‘She was living in her head with a dozen different characters. You only ever heard her speaking. I’ve been in Annika’s head for seven years now, and it’s a very unusual place to live!’
Nicola was keen to stay on board when Nick said he was adapting the series for television: ‘A: Absolutely. As everyone knows, I’ve played a lot of detectives over the years. But I’ve been Annika a long time now, and if there was a chance of getting her fully fleshed out in a real-world environment, I wanted to be part of it. I was very keen to see how she worked transposed to life in Scotland.
‘When he started talking about a television series, my first question was, how would you populate the world which has previously only been in Annika’s head. Nick said immediately, “we’re going to break the fourth wall!” So, she still has Norwegian heritage, she is still an outsider, and she still has a different way of coping with life and work, but the hook is the fact that this is the only detective series where the audience is the silent sidekick. We are in cahoots with her.
‘With most characters there is so much subtext. But there is no subtext with Annika because the subtext is her talking directly to you and telling you what she feels. By the end, we are going to know her as well as she knows herself.’
Shooting Annika took place during the pandemic, which Nicola admits was a stress.
She admitted: ‘Yes. It felt like the biggest leap to make it during Covid. Scotland went into lockdown while I was on the train up there from England. I thought, “can life get any more surreal?” I was terrified of the
logistics of filming it during lockdown, but it very quickly became apparent that we could make it work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
‘The main challenges were the collective concerns of making sure everybody felt safe. That was done really well. There was continual testing. The pandemic also meant that we couldn’t shoot certain scenes in the way we wanted, so we just had to find ways around that.
‘The strangest thing was being in lockdown in Scotland without any of my family. Not seeing my family for three months was strange. It was a solitary experience on a job that is normally incredibly sociable. But the main thing was, I knew we were all safe. At the end of every day, I thought, “okay, that’s another day done, and everyone is safe”.’
Annika is on Alibi at 9pm each Tuesday.