TV Interview: Martin Compston on the return of smash hit drama Line of Duty.

Written and created by Jed Mercurio and made by World Productions for BBC One, Line of Duty returned to a massive audience of 8 million last night.

When three police officers are shot dead during the hijack of a seized drugs transport, AC-12 move in to investigate possible police collusion.

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Stephen Graham joins the series as John Corbett, the ruthless leader of an Organised Crime Group (OCG), who hijack a seized drugs transport.

AC-12 investigators Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) suspect corrupt police officers of leaking information.

As the body count rises, AC-12 realise they’re facing their most vicious adversary yet.

Martin Compston tells us more about the show’s triumphant return….

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What excited you about a project like Line of Duty? Why does it stand out from other dramas on television?

We’re on our fifth series now and every year it’s the scripts. It was the best drama I’d ever read when I auditioned for it the first time and every year I think "this is the year that Jed maybe doesn’t pull it out of the bag", but he does every time. With the move to BBC One last year and as the show goes on and on, it has to get bigger and a bit more flashy at times, but it’s the gritty realism he keeps in it all the time that makes it stand out. The scenarios are getting more elaborate but the way the police deal with it is still grounded in reality and I think that’s what makes it such compulsive viewing. It’s just nice to be back with Vicky and Adrian and back over here in Belfast - I’m having a blast!

How would you describe Steve’s character?

I really enjoy playing him and that’s one of the beauties of Jed’s writing. It’s a grey area because although Steve is sort of the hero, he’s not instantly likeable and usually the person we’re chasing (especially people like Lennie James in the first series), as a viewer, you find yourself rooting for the bad guy at times. Steve is just a lot of fun to play, he thinks a lot of himself which is why he’s always in a waistcoat, he’s a bit of a smart-arse and thinks he knows better all the time. He’s probably the most in line with Hastings out of all the characters as he’s always after the truth. And he’ll go after anybody, regardless of rank, but maybe he rubs people up the wrong way with the way he goes about it.

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Where is Steve emotionally and psychologically at the beginning of the series?

As ever with Jed, everything is not quite as it seems. Steve has had the dramatic experience at the end of series four when he was in the wheelchair after being tossed down the stairs by balaclava man. At the start of the series by all intents and purposes he looks like he’s made a full recovery but as we go through the episodes you start to realise it’s not quite right, there’s stuff wrong with him physically and that’s starting to affect him mentally and this will bleed into the current series. He’s a bit broken at times and the great thing about knowing that we’ve been commissioned for another series is that Jed can delve into character’s backstories more and in this case I think we see that Steve’s just a bit lonely.

Were there any challenges you encountered during production?

I’m not sure how much we can give away, but this series there is a certain problem that Steve has physically, which was a bit of an eye opener when Jed told me about it. When you get down to the seriousness of it and how it affects him and his mental health, it turns out to be a very emotional scene.

What’s been your favourite scene to shoot?

We’ve been very lucky with the guest stars we’ve had over the years and I think that’s been a huge part of the success of the show; from Lennie James to Danny Mays, Keeley Hawes, Thandie Newton and Jason Watkins, but this is probably the most excited I’ve ever been. I’m lucky to call Stephen Graham an old friend of mine but he’s also an inspiration. Vicky’s character has a promotion this series which means Steve gets to be out and about a bit more. He’s doing the dirty work so to speak and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. There are some really intense scenes between Stephen and I and it was great just to be beside him. I think as an actor you always pick up your game around better actors, you always have to be on your toes!


Catch up via BBC iPlayer. Line of Duty continues Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.