Silent Witness: Why did Tom Ward leave as Harry Cunningham?
23rd May 2022

Amanda Burton stars in Silent Witness in 1996

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BBC series Silent Witness turns 25 this year after first debuting back in 1996. The show was initially fronted by Amanda Burton as pathologist Sam Ryan before the star departed and Emilia Fox came on board as Dr Nikki Alexander. Over the years, Silent Witness has seen cast members come and go with audiences interested to know about the reason for some of the exits including actor Tom Ward as Harry Cunningham.

Why did Tom Ward leave Silent Witness as Harry Cunningham?

Ward first joined Silent Witness in series six back in 2002 as a forensic pathology student, who was training at the Lyell under Sam Ryan (played by Amanda Burton).

During his time at the Lyell, Harry often flirted with Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), leading viewers to wonder about a romance between the pair.

A potential relationship seemed to be on the cards when Harry’s flat was accidentally destroyed in an explosion and he had to live with Nikki for a while.

Sadly, fans’ hopes were dashed in series 15 when Harry decided to move to New York after accepting a professorship in forensic pathology.

Actor Ward was confirmed to be leaving Silent Witness in 2012 after a decade on the show after feeling it was the right moment.

At the time, BBC executive Kate Harwood said: Silent Witness owes a great debt to the talented Tom Ward who has given us our beloved Harry with wit, style and passion for 10 seasons.

“We’ll miss him so much and wish him all the best,” she added as per the Daily Mail.

Silent Witness writer Tim Prager also spoke in his introduction to series 16 in 2013 about the departure, saying: “When Tom Ward decided it was time for him to leave Silent Witness, he left with the gratitude of everyone involved in the show for the contribution he had made to its success.

“Although, I’m sure there were sighs of relief from some of the writers, me included, that we wouldn’t have to sustain Harry’s “Will they? Won’t they?” relationship with Nikki any longer!”

Prager went on to say: “I kept arguing – and I’m sure I wasn’t alone – that we should just let them get on with it, but of course that would be relationship poison.

“Tom is an exceptionally talented actor and he was excellent in Silent Witness but his departure provided the opportunity to reinvent or perhaps more accurately evolve the programme once more.”

Since exiting Silent Witness, Ward has appeared in many roles including Doctor Who, Death in Paradise, Death Comes to Pemberley, and Harry Price: Ghost Hunter.

He has also appeared in the ITV series The Frankenstein Chronicles as Sir Robert Peel.

After Ward’s departure, actor David Caves was brought in to play Jack Hodgson, with the character now a firm fixture on Silent Witness.

Jack was a world away from Harry as a “plain-speaking” character with “excess testosterone” and “an edge that hadn’t been sanded down by posh education”.

Prager reflected on Caves’ joining Silent Witness at the time: “Casting would be critical. Cast well and the new character will take root quickly – making it hard to think he hadn’t been part of the show for the past 16 years.

“Series producer Sharon Bloom considered over a hundred actors for the role finally arriving at a shortlist of incredibly talented young actors.

“For me, one always stood out: David Caves. There was a gamble involved, however. David was a well regarded theatre actor but he hadn’t done film or television work before.

Along with Caves, Liz Carr was brought in a Clarissa Mullery to star alongside Fox and veteran cast member William Gaminara as Professor Leo Dalton.

Silent Witness saw several other changes as well with the Lyell Centre facing the privatisation of forensic science.

Silent Witness airs on BBC One tonight at 9pm

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