Traces: Jennifer Spence interview

Canadian actress Jennifer Spence is well known to science fiction fans for her roles in Stargate Universe, Continuum and Travelers but she's also a stand-out in hit US rom-com, You Me Her.

Jennifer Spence plays Kathy Torrance

Jennifer Spence plays Kathy Torrance

Kathy is the Professor of Forensic Anthropology at the Scottish Institute of Forensic Science and Anatomy, who’s more comfortable with human remains than human relationships.

What attracted you to Traces?

The writing. The first time I read the scripts, I was like 'oh my God, this writing is so good'. It's subtle, it doesn't beat the viewer or the reader over the head, but you still get a sense of who these characters are. I was immediately drawn to that world, right away.

Can you tell us a bit about your character, Kathy Torrance?

Kathy is quite a piece of work. She is a Professor of Forensic Anthropology at SIFA and she loves working with bones and science and facts, but human relationships, that's a bit of a tricky one for her.

When you were sent the scripts, what grabbed your attention the most?

Just immediately knowing who these characters are. Just in reading a few lines, I got the sense immediately of who everyone was and I was immediately invested in them and wanting to know what happens to them. Everyone is so different from each other and I was immediately drawn into that world.

When getting into character, what sort of research do you like to do?

I read autobiographies of forensic anthropologists and listened to podcast interviews with them and did some online research. I also read Val McDermid's book Forensics, that was really helpful. We also got to go on a field trip, just before we shot. We went to the University of Lancashire and a lovely, lovely forensic anthropologist by the name of Allie was there. She showed us around and answered lots of questions for us, so that was hugely helpful. She later came back to consult as well. Super helpful.

What makes Traces different to other crime dramas?

A lot of things, actually. One of them is it's female-led. I know that is gaining in popularity now, as it should be, but there are also the elements of science, education, it takes place at a university. There's the idea of different educations of characters too, it's not just one standard age, one standard look, we're all different. There's a bit of diversity thrown in, which was such a breath of fresh air.

Why are people so enthusiastic about crime drama?

I think it's the same reason people can't help but look at car accidents when they walk by. It's that morbid fascination with stuff that doesn't happen every day and it also requires the viewer to use their intelligence to be entertained, so it's not just a straight-up brain candy kind of thing - you have to be engaged.

How did you get to grips with understanding the world of forensic science?

Google and asking lots of questions! Again, God bless Allie for helping us with any sort of questions we had on the day, or even just the thing about 'how do I scrape this and make it look like I know what I'm doing?'

Traces has an amazing female line-up and is written by and produced by women too. Do you think this is a turning point in the future of women in crime drama?

Yes, it's one of those things where it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. It's definitely been moving more in that direction over the years and I feel like the UK has always been at the helm of that, they haven't been afraid of putting women at the centre of stories, so I think it's just going to continue that way. Like I say, it shouldn't be a big deal. It shouldn't even be noteworthy, but it is.

Can you describe Traces in one sentence?

Traces is a crime drama about women in forensic science who use the rigours of science to uncover the truth about a murder.