The beautiful but haunting shores of Loch Ness are the backdrop for a major new ITV murder mystery.
Laura Fraser plays a policewoman who is hunting a serial killer in an idyllic Highland town but for the actress, it gave her the chance to investigate Scotland’s stunning scenery.
Filming in Fort Augustus, which doubled for the fictional Lochnefoy, and the surrounding area was an education for the Glaswegian.
The 40-year-old admitted said: “I’d never been to Loch Ness before. And I’d never been to a lot of the places we went to. Which is disgraceful. Or if I did, I didn’t remember because I was probably just a young child.
The Great Glen was impressive. And I really loved Glen Coe. It was where they shot Skyfall.
“It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this has been here all along. It’s ridiculous I haven’t been here before.’”
But there was no sign of the fabled Nessie.
Laura said: “It’s a bit like a tooth fairy, isn’t it? I don’t think anyone really believes it’s real, do they?
“A hundred years ago I would definitely have believed. But today? Sadly no.”
Laura also got the chance to hit the ice and try her hand at the sport of curling.
She said: “I thought it was going to a bit dull.
“But I actually got really into it and thought, ‘I’d want to do this’. It involves setting up a whole team, hiring a lane and making it a very regular thing. So then I thought, ‘Och, that’s never going to happen.’
“But I did love it. There’s something so clean and satisfying about gliding on the ice.”
Working on The Loch was also a dramatic challenge and it had to be. Laura, who first shot to fame in cult 1996 Glasgow gang film Small Faces, has high standards.
Having enjoyed eclectic roles in shows such as Lip Service and Single Father, as well as films A Knight’s Tale, Vanilla Sky and The Man in the Iron Mask, her career stepped up a gear when she moved to America and won a part in Breaking Bad.
Since playing methylamine supplier Lydia Rodarte-Quayle in the critically acclaimed US drama, she’s not looked back, starring in TV dramas including Peter and Wendy, One of Us and The Missing.
In The Loch, she plays local detective Annie Redford who is trying to cope with her first murder case.
The part made her sit up and take notice, as did the chance to work in Scotland. Laura, who is married with a daughter, Lila, 10, moved back home from America in 2015.
She said: “I’d had four years of working away so the fact it was set and filmed in Scotland was a huge draw.
“Then when I read the scripts I was fascinated by all the animal symbolism. There’s the Loch Ness monster, wolves, crows and the odd mutilated sheep. It was quite unusual.
“I also liked the character of Annie, the village cop working on her first murder case.
“She is full to the brim of pent-up potential she has never got to use before. She’s on the edge and could go either way.
If this case hadn’t come up that potential might have turned to bitterness. So although no one wants to see a murder, for her as a police officer, it enables her to focus her energies and start learning how to become a proper detective.
“It was also interesting the way she makes mistakes and is overwhelmed by it a little bit.”
She is joined by an all-star cast, which includes former River City and Coronation Street star Gray O’Brien as her husband, John Sessions, Don Gilet and William Ash.
Happy Valley, Benidorm and Downton Abbey star Siobhan Finneran also stars as the police boss, English DCI Lauren Quigley, who comes up from Glasgow to handle the case.
Laura said: “At first Annie is desperate to impress Quigley.
“She admires and respects Quigley’s work ethic and wants to both prove herself to her and learn from her.
“But at the same time she is wrong-footed and compromised. Annie feels misunderstood and misrepresented. Then later on Quigley grows to like and respect Annie.
“Every scene I had with Siobhan, I couldn’t stop laughing. She’s hilarious. I couldn’t keep it together.”
The brooding landscape also has a starring role.
The six-part drama begins when the body of local man is found at the foot of a mountain and a human heart on the loch shore. As the story goes on, the Highland scenery and the creatures which inhabit it add to the dark side of the tale about how the monster is not in the Loch but walking among us.
She said: “The wolf, in particular, represents wild, brutal violence and the beast within.
“Everybody has their own shadow. I find all of that really interesting. Maybe it explains why we all like to read or watch dark stories.
“Sometimes people want to look at monsters and hold the darkness up in the light. Then put it away safely.
“We’re all human beings and some are capable of truly hideous acts as well as beautiful acts. It’s quite scary when you look at what people are capable of.
“I like that idea of a paper-thin veneer of civilisation. And when that is suddenly ripped apart by these murders, it’s shocking.
“There are little ruptures occurring already in Annie’s life. Repressed resentment at her husband and devastation about her daughter who wants to move to Australia.
“Where they live in the Great Glen in Loch Ness is actually an active fault line.
“At one point there was an earthquake there. All of that makes it really interesting.
“All of these little ripples and then the loch as a character in itself. It affects everyone.”
For all its dark heart, The Loch is just make-believe. And Laura reckons she would never make it as a real-life detective as her ability to spot a killer, even in a TV whodunit, is verging on criminal.
She said: “I am absolutely hopeless and can watch something for a second time and still not know.
“I forget we had already seen it a year before, then get to the last part and still can’t remember who did it.”