Scots actress Katie Leung was delighted to shoot TV series Annika close to home as it meant she could be close to her family during the pandemic.
Katie, who grew up in Motherwell and is known the world over for her role as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter film series, plays DC Blair Ferguson in Annika, the new crime drama being shown on the Alibi channel.
Annika follows the life of DI Annika Strandhed (Nicola Walker), who has returned to Glasgow to head up the Marine Homicide Unit, where she is tasked with solving the puzzling crimes and unexplained murders that wash up in Scotland’s waters. Annika balances solving cases, managing a new team, and raising a brilliant yet complex teenage daughter Morgan (Silvie Furneaux).
The August 31 episode, the third in this run, sees the body of scientist Murdo Sterling found in Loch Katrine – Glasgow’s main water source. And as the team start to uncover Murdo’s debauched lifestyle of infidelity, fraud and corporate lies, it’s clear there really was something nasty in the water. But with so many people wanting him dead, which one did he push over the edge? Annika uses her sharp eye and empathy to understand which of Murdo’s bad acts made someone ferociously drown this victim.
Meanwhile, Morgan’s first session with psychiatrist Jake (Paul McGann) is complicated by Annika’s attraction to him. And when Annika finds out that Morgan has been texting Blair, she struggles with how to discuss it with her daughter without crossing the lines of trust in their relationship.
Speaking of what appealed to her about the series, which was shot during the pandemic last winter, Katie said: ‘Being in Scotland for starters being Scottish, working with Nicola and having the chance to play a combination of drama and comedy – all that really appealed. It’s also very different from any police dramas I’ve ever seen.
‘I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty tough. I hate the cold. Filming in those conditions was not ideal, but the Scottish locations were so beautiful that you soon forgot all about the chilly weather!’
Katie also enjoyed the chance to shoot in Scotland: ‘Absolutely. If I’d have been stuck in London during the pandemic, I wouldn’t have been able to see anyone. But shooting in Scotland, I was able to spend time with my family, which was a real bonus.’
Talking of her character, Katie says: ‘Blair’s brilliant, easily the most intelligent person on the team. She’s smart, she gets the job done, and she really cares about her co-workers. She’s quite quirky and has a strange sense of humour that no one gets, but that doesn’t bother her. She’s really cool!
‘Annika is the only one in the team who would make Blair feel that she has to up her game. Annika is someone she would aspire to become. It is not so much a maternal relationship – Annika is more like a mentor and a friend to Blair, someone Blair can have banter with whilst also knowing she can rely on her for support.’
Katie particularly enjoyed working with Nicola Walker: ‘Oh my goodness, I only have amazing things to say about Nicola. She’s an awesome human being. I don’t know where to start. She made me feel very safe, and that’s really important on a production. Sometimes, I would get anxious, but it always felt reassuring to be around her.
‘She is incredible, always in the present. She is able to take me out of myself so I can focus on the work. I love my scenes with her. Everything looks improvised because she’s so effortless and brilliant at what she does.’
Katie also concedes that working on Annika change her view of the police: ‘Yes. Before this, I had a very limited idea of what a police officer’s job entailed. But playing Blair has increased my interest in the work that detectives do and their attention to detail.’
Annika will be shown on Alibi at 9pm on Tuesday.