Line Of Duty: Vicky McClure & Martin Compston Discuss The New Series

Line Of Duty

by Boyd Hilton |
Published on

it's the biggest drama series on British television and, as of last weekend, Jed Mercurio's Line Of Duty is back on the Beeb! While we caught up on the latest developments at AC-12, stars Martin Compston and Vicky McClure, stopped by the Pilot TV podcast to talk about the new series.

For the full interview and to keep upto date on all the latest must-see shows, subscribe to the Pilot TV podcast here.

It feels like the big change this year is that this isn't just a simple case of police corruption. Did it feel very different this time around?

Vicky McClure: Yeah. We're always going to be policing the police as that's what AC-12 does. There's always going to be that element of it but with Stephen Graham's character and that side of the story — they're criminals, so it's a very different feel to what we usually do where we're straight in with an officer.

Martin Compston: The danger levels are definitely upped, there's definitely a fear that something bad can happen to one of us this year, just because of the places we're going. It feels like we're going full throttle this year. Three was my favourite series to film. I'm proud of them all, but three had the Caddy storyline and I feel like we're back to that with five. We've got this new case and this amazing new character. It feels like we're coming to the climax of this 'balaclava' thing that's been going on.

And the question of who is 'H'?

Compston: That's the big question!

Given how meticulously put together the series is, it's amazing that Jed's process is still to do an episode at a time and not to map the whole thing out in advance.

McClure: I think he's always been aware of the bigger picture. But things change on set, which is probably not something you'd assume with Line Of Duty because it is so regimented and feels like it's set in stone. But things will happen with the characters or with a scene that will completely change the balance. When you see Hastings and Kate at the end of series four there's this look that wasn't really in the script. Jed just went, "Can you look at her and can you look at him and can you seem a bit skeptical?"

Compston: There was one moment I had, where he asked me to do something which wasn't anything to do with a storyline, it was just a moment in a scene. I went, "Wow, that could have massive impact in another series. If you're going to go that way, then we're committing to something." And he just went for it. There was just a feel in the room that he liked at the time.

And this is a show where the slightest reaction shot or expression is scrutinised and can have massive ramifications.

Vicky: Everybody's a detective; we've all got our own theories. In the interrogation scenes when there's very little to hide, you could be watching it and listening to us explaining code numbers and evidence and all that stuff. But then that person drinks at a certain point and you'll go, "Guilty!" Or they've touched their ear — you're looking for the tiniest details. Sometimes they mean nothing and sometimes they do mean something.

Martin: [Jed is] the absolute master at playing the audience. That [look with Adrian] wasn't in the script. That was, "So, we're going to finish this series but we want to leave them hanging. Adrian, why don't you give Vicky a look to make it look at bit dodgy." It might mean absolutely nothing when we get there but I think it's safe to say that we enter Hastings' personal life a fair bit and this one. I don't think it was a big deal to us [at the time] but it became a massive, massive thing that he might be bent just off that look.

We asked Jed what type of actor he likes to cast and he simply said: "Not posh". Particularly in respect to you both.

Martin: Well there you go! I think with that's because we both had to fight to where we are — nobody gave us a head start. We bring a really strong work ethic and I think Jed responds to that. You need to be on your game on this because the dialogue is so challenging. It can be an unforgiving set in terms of you need to be on your stuff. It moves quick and we can't be hanging about with people trying to work out lines. So I think he'd responds to the fact that we come prepared every day.

The interrogation scenes are very dense. Do you have a technique for learning that kind of jargon-heavy dialogue?

Vicky: Me and Martin actually have an app called Line Learner, which is really helpful. Because we all live next door to each other and we run dialogue constantly. But if Martin's off, and Ade is off or if they're at work or whatever, I still need to run my dialogue.

Martin: You can record the script and just say your lines in the accent. And then it will take you out and leave spaces so you can see your line and the other person's line will come back to you in a different voice. You're basically doing the scene with the machine. If you're doing auditions, it's brilliant for that.

Vicky: You know, Martin doesn't give himself enough credit for it, but his accent is flawless and he stays in it for the entire time.

Martin: [The accent] can help me learn [dialogue] because I'm trying to perfect every line. I say it so much to get the accent before I start to act it, that I get ahead of the game.

The show's had a fascinating trajectory, starting out as a fairly unheralded BBC2 show that has grown and grown. It's so exciting to watch weekly and shows what's still possible with linear television.

Martin: People love a binge these days but it's that kind of water cooler mentality — people love watching on Sunday night and coming in on Monday morning [to discuss it] — everybody's a detective. One of my favourite things is the theories people send you. Some of them are way off, but then there's some that are that are really bang on. The level of involvement has been brilliant.

It's a huge show, but it's also very British. It has an unflashy quality that makes it stand out.

Martin: Jed's really good with the casting. There's a lot of regional accents, so it's got a very wide British flavour. It's not something like The Crown, where it feels like something that's not in our everyday lives. You can relate to [these] characters, you believe thety would be cops.

Has the way you make the series changed from series one to now?

Vicky: It's the same in lots of ways, but the characters have developed so much. [In the earlier series] Martin, you look about five!

Martin: I was about five!

Vicky: It's mad. We were so young back then; we were in our early twenties. We've changed and we've also got more experience on set. It's evolved and it's now a collaboration — we've got a much tighter relationship with Jed over the years. And it's become a bigger show as well.

Martin: A huge part of the success of the show is these amazing guest leads we've had. I think it was Adrian that said they're not guests, they become the lead. You immediately delve into their backstory or where they're at because you need to learn their motivations for what they're doing and why these coppers are going into criminality. From then you can feel empathy for them. Whereas we are just the ones chasing them down. I mean, I'm the arrogant wee so-and-so, Kate can be a bit on the bitchy side — so we weren't maybe the most popular [at first]. But the joy of a returning show is you're getting into our our personal lives and We're all a mess.

There's a little moment in the first episode of this series where we see Steve at home on Tinder.

Martin: That's my wife! That was nice, and I didn't hit deny on the app so I'm allowed back home.

Vicky: And my son [in the series] is my nephew in real life.

Martin: I think it's safe to say that all of us are having a tough time in this series. There was one particular moment where Steve's a probably at his most vulnerable, uh, at home, a bit of a mess. And then the next day he's back with a waistcoat on at work and trying to be supercop. Whereas in the first couple of series you'd have just seen him trying to be supercop. You know who you think this guy is, but now when you see it you go, "What's going through his head from the night before?" You're rooting for him a lot more.

There have been some extraordinary jaw-dropping moments in the show. Do they come as a shock to you too?

Vicky: When I read the episode where Martin gets chucked up over the bannister, I thought, "Oh my God, he's..." I don't even know if I'd had the next script, so I genuinely didn't know if he did die. I rang him going, "Have you read it?" and he said no and I was like," Oooh!"

Martin: I had to go, "Am I dead?" I thought at first she was just winding me up and then she was saying, "No, really...". So I texted Jed and then he just texted me back "Don't panic!" What he didn't tell me was how am I going to come back from that. I'm going, "Am I in a wheelchair?" It was such a surreal jump. He loves torturing me for some reason.

You're back on your feet in this series though.

Martin: I'm up and about. But with Jed, as ever, nothing's quite as it seems.

Line Of Duty airs on BBC1 every Sunday at 9pm.

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