The new Happy Valley? Get ready for cop thriller BetterFeb 8 | 6 min read
Annika: Nicola Walker takes to the water for Scottish murder mystery drama
Unforgotten star swaps cold cases for waterborne wrongdoings in this fourth-wall-breaking adaptation of her long-running Radio 4 drama, Annika Stranded.
She’s solved decades-old murders as Cassie Stuart in Unforgotten, hacked international spy rings as Ruth Evershed in Spooks and even helped solve the riddle of her own murder in River.
Now Nicola Walker is taking to the water as the head of Glasgow’s Marine Homicide Unit to unlock more mysteries as the eponymous lead in new crime drama, Annika.
An adaptation of a long-running radio drama also starring Walker, Annika juxtaposes Scotland’s stunning landscapes and urban beauty with the horrific and brutal crimes her team must crack.
What's the story of Annika?
Annika follows the life of DI Annika Strandhed (Walker), who has returned to Glasgow to head up a new Marine Homicide Unit which has been tasked with solving the crimes that wash up in Scotland’s waters.
As well as managing a new team in a new home, single mum Annika is also raising a teenage daughter who is struggling to adapt to her new school and new surroundings.
While Annika’s personal and professional tribulations span the course of the series, each episode sees her and her team attempt to solve a new murder case. And while her colleagues prefer to use modern investigative methods, well-read Annika often finds inspiration in classic literature to unlock the case.
The drama is based on Nick Walker’s Radio 4 series, Annika Stranded, which Nicola Walker has narrated since 2013. The radio series was set in Oslo rather than Glasgow, but an element of the actress’s narrative has transferred to TV as her character frequently breaks the fourth wall to address the viewer with asides and acerbic commentary.
Who stars in Annika?
Nicola Walker – DI Annika Strandhed
DI Annika Strandhed 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 has to balance solving cases and managing a new team with raising a brilliant yet complex teenage daughter.
Intuitive and instinctive, Annika has a weakness for using literary and historical references to help solve her crimes, an enthusiasm that her team definitely doesn't share.
Annika allows viewers to be her confidante by speaking directly to camera to share her wry observations on the case and her life. Walker sees this as a unique selling point of the show.
“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,” she explains.
“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.”
Where have you seen Nicola Walker before?
Nicola Walker is one of British televisions best-known actresses, starring as Cassie Stuart in four seasons of Unforgotten, as Ruth Evershed in Spooks, as Gillian Greenwood in Last Tango in Halifax and as Hannah Stern in BBC divorce lawyer drama The Split.
Walker came to prominence playing another police officer, Susan Taylor, in 1997 drama series Touching Evil, and has also appeared in A Mother’s Son, Prisoners’ Wives and an episode of BBC anthology series Inside No.9.
Jamie Sives - DS Michael McAndrews
Michael McAndrews is an old friend of Annika’s – they went to police college together – but their reunion isn’t a smooth one as the experienced diver assumed he was in line to be head of the new Marine Homicide Unit until Annika gets the job.
But as time goes on, he rekindles his friendship with her.
“He's quite louche, laconic, acerbic, and humorous,” says Sives of his character.
“He doesn't take things too seriously, but when the stuff hits the fan, he instantly jumps into action. One case involves a family member and he's on it immediately. He's a good, likeable guy.”
Where have you seen Jamie Sives before?
Edinburgh-born Sives starred as Jake alongside Mark Bonnar in BBC Two's award-winning 2019 thriller Guilt, Karl in ITV’s dark psychological drama Too Close and also appeared in BBC One’s The Victim.
Katie Leung - DC Blair Ferguson
The most intelligent member of the team, Blair Ferguson is smart, gets the job done, and she really cares about her co-workers. Like her boss, she's quite quirky and has a strange sense of humour that no one gets, but that doesn't bother her.
Blair and Annika form a firm relationship over the course of the series.
“Annika is the only one in the team who would make Blair feel that she has to up her game,” Leung explains of her character.
“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.”
Where have you seen Katie Leung before?
Leung, born in Motherwell, is best known for playing the lead character’s love interest Cho Chang in four of the Harry Potter films from 2005 to 2011.
Since leaving the Wizarding World she has appeared on stage at the RSC and at the National Theatre and has also appeared on television in the dramas One Child, Chimerica and The Nest.
Ukweli Roach - DS Tyrone Clarke
Tyrone Clarke is the action man of the MHU, ready to leap into action as soon as he smells blood – but he would sometimes do better to take a step back and assess the situation for the good of his team.
“Tyrone is seriously dedicated and loyal, but he's not a very good team player,” Roach says of his character.
“But he learns a lot from Annika. She forgives him rather than shouts at him, she teaches him perspective. Tyrone learns from Annika that there is more than one way to achieve results.
“He also learns not to be so hard on himself. He thinks he should get it right all the time. That's one of his faults – he is too unforgiving of himself.”
Where have you seen Ukweli Roach before?
Roach is best known for playing the role of FBI psychiatrist D. Robert Borden in the American TV series Blindspot. He has also appeared in comedy-drama Starlings, Liz Hurley’s US soap The Royals and Channel 4’s sci-fi series Humans.
Also appearing in Annika...
The cast also features Kate Dickie (Tinsel Town) as DCI Diane Oban, Silvie Furneaux (Limbo) as Annika’s daughter Morgan and Paul McGann (Withnail and I, Doctor Who) as child therapist Jake Strathearn.
Where is Annika filmed?
The drama is set on the rivers, firths and lochs around Glasgow. While the Clyde which flows through the city is Annika’s team’s primary patch, the mysteries carry them further afield, into the Firth of Clyde and over to the Isle of Bute or further north to Loch Katrine, Glasgow’s primary water reservoir.
Annika’s lochside house is on the banks of Loch Lomond, the Beacon Arts Centre, in the Inverclyde town of Greenock, stood in for the investigation unit’s base, while the Argyll towns of Helensburgh and Rhu have also been used as filming locations.
“We filmed at Ben Lomond, which was amazing. There is no better place to be,” said Jamie Sives, who plays Michael.
“Nuclear submarines were going past, which was very exciting. The scenery is completely scene stealing. It doesn't matter what you're doing, if Ben Lomond is in the background, no one is looking at you. You can say anything you like!”