Julie Graham plays Dr Gillian Magwilde
Julie Graham, one of the most in-demand actresses on British TV, plays Gillian Magwilde, the feisty, inspirational Celt who is heading up the team of archaeologists working out of Bath University.
Gillian is a very instinctive archaeologist; she is unconventional and slightly awkward sometimes, but she always comes up trumps in her investigations.
In addition, she has a history with Ben (played by Adrian Lester), and there is a sense of unfinished business between them...
Julie, who has starred in William And Mary, Walk Away And I Stumble, Dalziel And Pascoe, Rebus, The History Of Mr Polly, Mobile, The Kindess Of Strangers, Afterlife, Miss Marple and At Home With The Braithwaites, says she connected with Gillian from the moment she first read the part.
She says: "The script is so original – it's like nothing I've ever read before! Gillian is a completely different character from the ones I'm used to playing, who have been normal and domestic.
"But Matthew wrote the part with me in mind, so when I read it, I completely loved it. He really nails me in the part!
"I love the story and I love Gillian - she's a complete maverick and is great at what she does. But she is quite stroppy - that's the bit Matthew wrote with me in mind!"
Beyond her own character, Julie finds the dynamic of the team really exciting. "I adored that sense of working with the team and bringing the past to life," says the actress, who hails from Irvine in Scotland.
"In Bonekickers, nobody has a relationship as we're all married to the job. All the same, there is a definite frisson between Ben and Gillian. They had a relationship at university, and he dumped her, but now they are friends."
All the same, there are very clear indications of unresolved sexual tension…
The other element of the drama that appeals to Julie is its strong sense of history.
"Britain is such a small place, but so rich in history," she says. "That's why people
always come to visit this country. Bonekickers plays on that. It's a historical drama with a powerful modern impact.
"It examines how the past impacts on the present and, indeed, on the future. The flashback elements in the series are important because they help to extract the human, emotional story from the relic in question. It's not just an object – it means something."
Julie thinks that the setting of the drama – in the historical treasure-trove of the West Country – endows Bonekickers with extra richness.
"Very little has changed over the centuries in this area of Bath and Bristol. There is simply so much to see around here," she says. "It is so weird not to be doing a costume drama with all this amazing history as a backdrop, but that's exactly what makes this such a unique and exciting project."
The actress relished playing an archaeologist. In bringing Gillian to life, she was helped no end by the series consultant and real-life archaeologist, Professor Mark Horton.
"It's such a riveting job," she beams. "Archaeologists get a terrific buzz from sorting out a big puzzle – that provides endless fascination. Matthew invented the term 'Bonekickers' to describe bones being moved around. It's another way to describe archaeologists and sums up the basics of their job.
"Mark has been a tremendous help on set – he's eccentric and constantly stimulating. He advises us about what would and would not happen from an archaeological point of view."
Julie feels passionately that this is highly fertile ground for drama. "There are loads of new places to take Bonekickers," she concludes. "There are endless stories still to tell. We're so lucky in this country – we've got such a wealth
history on our doorstep."