Traces star Michael Nardone says Dundee is “a very different town” from the one he remembers 25 years ago as he gears up to appear in the new crime drama set in the City of Discovery.
The 52-year-old Scots actor, known for Rome, River City and numerous roles on stage, appears in the new UKTV series as a detective seeking to crack an unsolved murder case with a difference.
He appears alongside breakout Cheat star Molly Windsor and Line of Duty mainstay Martin Compston in the show, which airs on Alibi from next week – and says he would return if a second series was signed off.
Michael said: “This isn’t your average cop drama. It’s something we haven’t quite seen before and that’s the most interesting thing about it – that and it’s set in Dundee.
“I’m from Fife so it’s always been close to me so to be involved in something with the city at its heart is great.
“If UKTV does more I’d be happy to come along – the fact it’s set somewhere unexpected like Dundee adds to the attraction.
“When I was filming I was sitting next to a couple from Chile on the train who came to Scotland because they had been watching Outlander. I think Scotland has that power, to bring people in.”
Traces is unique among crime dramas: based on an idea by celebrated crime writer Val McDermid, it focuses on the detailed and intricate work of the forensic scientists who dig out vital clues in crime investigations.
Three Girls actress Molly plays Emma, a graduate returning to her hometown of Dundee to begin work as a lab technician.
But when she is asked to complete an online learning course teaching her the principles of forensic science, she becomes convinced the fictional murder case has been inspired by her mum, who was found dead on the Law when Emma was seven and whose killer was never found.
Seeking answers, Emma is pointed towards Michael’s character, DI Neil McKinven, in a bid to find answers – while also working with her bosses, played by Laura Fraser and Jennifer Spence, to pick apart the forensic clues left behind as she seeks to catch the killer.
While largely shot in Bolton, Traces’ Dundee setting shines through. In the first episode alone viewers are treated to landmarks such as the Tay Road Bridge and Chandlers Lane, while both the Hilltown and Lochee Road are namechecked in the dialogue.
Michael, who was able to shoot some of his scenes on location, says the setting is a bold endorsement for the city and its real-life academic credentials.
“I came up to Dundee and shot a scene on the Law holding a press conference with journalists.
“My son lives in Dundee so I get to visit quite a lot – he works for Scottish Youth Theatre based in the Rep.
“I last worked in Dundee about 20-25 years ago when I was at the Rep and it’s a very different town now, awash with history. ”
Michael also reckons the door has been opened for more crime dramas which go beyond brooding detectives and fantastical plot twists.
He said: “This is exactly how crime dramas should be – it gives the audience an idea of what happens behind the scenes, the stuff you don’t usually get to see in an investigation that can crack it open.”
Traces airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 9pm from December 9 on Alibi.
‘It’s really important to try to show the science’
While UKTV drama Traces is fictional, the inspirations behind the series are anything but.
The show sees experts pick apart evidence at the fictional Scottish Institute of Forensic Science as they seek to crack a historical murder case.
SIFA – and its host, Tayside University – are the thinnest of veneers to disguise the real-life work carried out at the University of Dundee and its Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science.
The Leverhulme Centre’s director, Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, served as an advisor on the show – and says its depiction of real-life investigation work is unrivalled.
Professor Nic Daeid worked closely with scriptwriter Amelia Bullmore to ensure that when the actors are discussing the science they are using the language of real forensic experts.
She was even able to spend a day on set when Traces stars Molly Windsor and Martin Compston came to Dundee to film on location.
She sums up: “Having seen the show myself, I think what has emerged is a really good expose of the world that forensic practitioners live in. It’s as accurate as it can be while still being entertaining.
“It shows there is a place for expertise in shows like this – and it is a great showcase for Dundee and the university.”