Nicola Walker is back to the case. After four seasons as London police detective Cassie Stuart on PBS’s dark mystery Unforgottenthe British actress is now hunting killers on Annika a new crime drama that blends wry humor, literary references and a chilly Scandinavian noir sensibility. It’s available to stream through PBS Passport and the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel beginning Sunday, April 17, and will be broadcast as part of masterpiece in the fall.
Set in Scotland, the six-episode series is a lively vehicle for Walker, who stars as newly promoted Detective Inspector Annika Strandhed, head of the Marine Homicide Unit. She has a bunch of crack colleagues who investigate when bodies are found on boats and in the water, as well as a teenage daughter, but her closest relationship is with the viewer. Annika frequently shares her thoughts by talking directly to the camera, House of Cards style.
That’s because she began life as the title character of a BBC Radio series, for which Walker recounted the detective’s adventures in monologue. The actress credits writer Nick Walker (no relation) with the plan to carry some of that over into a TV adaptation that breaks the fourth wall.
“He came up with the idea very early on to maintain that intimacy with the audience that Annika always had on the radio,” Walker says. “I thought it was really brilliant because [the viewer is] her confidant. She’s not just speaking to you for effect. She’s talking to you because that’s how she works her life out.”
And her cases. A man slain by harpoon in the first episode gets Annika thinking about obsession and revenge in Moby Dick — and mischievously quipping, “Death by harpoon suggests someone’s trying to get a point across.” She’ll ponder themes in Ibsen and Shakespeare in future episodes.
She’s also another of the capable, imperfect, relatable women that Walker excels at playing. At work, Annika leads a team that includes Detective Sergeant Michael McAndrews (Jamie Sives), who was passed over for Annika’s job, DS Tyrone Clarke (Ukweli Roach) and Detective Constable Blair Ferguson (Katie Leung). At home, she’s the sole parent to Morgan (Silvie Furneaux), a challenging teenager Annika takes to school in a motorboat, which Walker had a blast learning to pilot for the series.
“They sent me on a course with the most incredible teacher, and I came away with a license, which I am so proud of,” she declares. “It was really, really difficult, and I loved every second of it.”
Walker’s family was equally inspired to follow in her footsteps. “My husband and my son were so jealous that they went out and got licenses as well,” the actress reports, adding that she’s not sure what they’ll do with them: “We live in a completely landlocked area in the south of England .”
filming of Annika, however, brought Walker to Glasgow for the winter of 2020-21, when Britain was in lockdown, the weather was cold, and darkness came early. Still, Walker speaks fondly of her time there.
“The Scottish climate toughened me up,” she says. “I used to be that person that moans about being cold at work, at home. Now they have to be really subzero temperatures for me to even raise an eyebrow. And the Scottish landscape is so incredibly beautiful. Because of lockdown, I was seeing places with nobody there.”
Right now, Walker is seeing hundreds of people nightly as the star of the Emlyn Williams play The Corn Is Green at London’s National Theatre, and she’s completed a couple of other TV projects where she doesn’t carry a badge: the third and final season of The Splitas divorce attorney Hannah Stern, and Marriage, opposite Sean Bean, about a couple dealing with the ups and downs of their 30-year union. But she hopes to return to Scotland for a second season of Annika†
“I have been living in Annika’s head and she’s been living in mine for a number of years,” Walker says. “I think there’s so much more there, and Nick Walker’s a phenomenal writer. He’s very aware of the tropes that we are all used to in crime series. He’s interested in playing with them and I think he’d push it even further the second time out.”
AnnikaSeries Premiere, Sunday, April 17, PBS Passport/PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel