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Emilia Fox on Hats, Horse Riding & the British Social Season

This June sees Emilia Fox star as the lead ambassador for the Investec Epsom Derby, Britain’s prestigious flat racing event. The Silent Witness actress talks hats, horse riding & the British Social Season

There is no mistaking Emilia Fox as she bundles in to the Milestone Hotel in Kensington. The Silent Witness actress is dressed in skinny black jeans and a pink faux-fur coat by Miranda Dunn, with ‘Fox’ emblazoned on the back (her daughter Rose has a matching one). She has a mobile phone glued to her ear and mouths an apologetic ‘sorry’ as we greet each other. Her blonde hair is tied back and she is burdened with several shopping bags.

“Am I late? I’m sorry it’s been a busy day,” she explains as we wait for the lift. Fox apparently lives on her mobile phone – but don’t send her an email as she confesses that she has more than 19,000 waiting to be answered. “It’s terrible, I know,” she says with a guilty smile. “They go back years and I really should have a clear-out. Then something else happens and I never get around to it. I’m sure if it was something important, they would call.”

With anyone else, this sort of behaviour might be considered a tad standoffish, but when it’s coming from Emilia Fox, it is impossible to feel aggrieved. Like the rest of her family – a rich acting dynasty that began with her parents Edward Fox and Joanna David (who, like the actress, live in west London) and now also includes her brother Freddie and cousin Laurence – Fox possesses an old-school British charm that is rarely seen in society today. This – along with her English-rose beauty, slim physique (making her the ideal clothes horse) and poise – is what made her the perfect choice as one of the ambassadors for this June’s Investec Derby Festival, Britain’s historic flat-racing event which celebrates its 238th running this year.

Looking relaxed and happy after a break from filming the last season of Silent Witness, which will air on BBC1 early in 2018, Fox, 42, sits down with me to discuss the new series, her childhood love of horse riding, and the key to a great hat.   

What are your favourite events on the British social calendar?
I don’t have time for the social season. Since 2004 I’ve filmed Silent Witness for seven months of every year. Production runs from April to November, so all the lovely festivals take place when I’m learning scripts. A treat might be going to the theatre. I’ve just been to see my brother Freddie in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties at the Haymarket. I hope to see my father in his one-man show about Sir John Betjeman, too. It’s called Sand in the Sandwiches and goes on tour in May and June. [My daughter] Rose and I will have a holiday in August, but I’ve no idea where.

Are you looking forward to your next lead role as an ambassador for the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom?
I’ve never been to the Derby before, so it’s very exciting for me. Any excuse to get dressed up is an absolute treat when you’re a working mum. I also love horses – I rode as a child and Rose is now having lessons. She’s already much better than me.

What are you planning to wear?
Well, that’s the lovely thing about the Derby – everybody makes an effort. It’s quintessentially British and I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’ll wear. I’ve chosen a dress by my favourite designer, Luisa Beccaria. I’ve known her family for years and we are good friends. Luisa draws her inspiration from nature, which is perfect for a summery look.

And the hat?
I wear a lot of hats, but there’s nothing in my collection that would work for Epsom. The theme this year is ‘butterflies and flowers’, so I’m working on something with Rachel Trevor-Morgan.

What are your beauty secrets?
I do try to take care of my skin. I spend an hour a day in makeup for Silent Witness, so you learn a thing or two from some brilliant makeup artists. I also colour my hair – Errol Douglas in Knightsbridge has been looking after me for 20 years.

When filming is done, how do you relax?
My six-year-old daughter takes up the rest of my day. I’m lucky because the Silent Witness studio is only five minutes from where I live in west London. If I’m not in a scene and Rose is on school holidays, I can nip home to be with her. We live in a cottage-style house with a garden. That’s where I like to relax – it’s my oasis of calm. Being a single mum, there isn’t much time for anything else, although we do like to swim, or walk our two dachshunds, Dolly and Clive, in the park.

From whom have you inherited the gardening gene?
I grew up living in both London and Dorset, where my parents have a house close to the Jurassic Coast. My childhood was all about playing on the beach, making scrapbooks and learning about nature. The house down there is idyllic and unspoilt. Both my parents love to be in the garden. Mum is brilliant with pot plants and dad is an expert pruner. They have helped fill my garden with lavender, tulips and lots of roses.

Your character was buried alive in a wooden coffin in Mexico and almost died in the last episode of Silent Witness. How difficult was that to film?
We spent a week on that shoot and it was really tough. The film crew was always there, but because I had no other actors to interact with, I felt very lonely. You start to think about all sorts of things and the days dragged on. All I had for company was a scorpion.

Silent Witness characters have been killed off in the past – will you survive season 21?
We discussed this a lot after the Mexico drama. There will be some fall-out from what happened but I don’t get to see the scripts, so I have no idea what the future holds. 

Emilia Fox is an ambassador for the Investec Derby Festival, 2-3 June, investec.com/derbyfestival