When you think of Summer 2012 you probably think of the little sporting event that happened. Being the complete telly obsessive that I am, my memories of Summer 2012 are of the superb BBC2 drama Line of Duty. This fantastic drama series about the world of police corruption which starred Lennie James, Vicky McClure, Neil Morrissey, Adrian Dunbar, Craig Parkinson and Martin Compston is now available on DVD
To commemorate the DVD release I chatted to actor Martin Compston about his key role as DS Steve Arnott.
Firstly if you can go back to the very start of Line of Duty, what attracted you to the role of Steve Arnott begin with?
The scripts were fantastic. I was very aware with it being BBC and more mainstream that it would be a big change of direction for me. I liked the idea of playing an English smart arse detective. I thought it was important for me to do something nobody would be expecting of me. I knew Vicky McClure was on board, I’ve always admired Vicky as an actress so the chance to work with her was very appealing.
You never really knew, as a viewer, whose side Steve was on and who Tony Gates was, so you were sort of playing a character within a character a lot.
I think Steve’s very black and white. Right from the off when his first big operation goes wrong. You see he’s got a lot of integrity and he won’t cover up the truth. So I think right from the off Steve’s the moral compass of it. He’ll always try to the do the right thing.
What sort of policeman do you think Steve is?
He’s a smartarse. He thinks he knows better than everybody else. I like him. He’s fun to play. He’s very arrogant but he’s passionate about his job and he’s passionate about trying to do the right thing and helping people but he’s definitely got an edge to him and he’s not for everyone but I don’t think he cares. He’s that type of guy. He’s a bit of a bloodhound and if he sees someone he’s going to go after them regardless of their rank or reputation. If he sees someone doing wrong he’s going to try to take them down. He’s a lot of fun to play.
Can you describe his relationship with Fleming and his boss Hastings?
Well with Hastings as the series goes on and into the second series there’s a definite father son thing going on. There’s a lot of respect there but there are a lot of times when he has to rein him in and show him the ropes. Definitely a father and son thing.
With Vicky’s character it’s interesting. Work-wise they’re both a little bit lost. I think Vicky’s character they sort of find each other and they find someone who cares as much about the job as they do. They kind of lead into becoming best friends.
There was a part of me that thought for a while he quite respected Gates. Did you feel that or did you feel he was always out to get him?
I think there’s a grudging respect, and I think at the start actually before things sort of escalate he probably feels himself working close to the Gates. I think you’re right, he definitely had respect for him but things get out of control.
What was the response you had from viewers who spotted you out and about, it seemed to go down really well didn’t it?
It was great. People seemed really riveted by it. They wanted to know what happened next and by the end of the fourth episode people were stopping me in the street to check my fingers after “that incident.”
Yes! That was awful. How did you feel about the level of violence? Some people said at the time it was too violent for them. Did you feel the level of violence went too far?
I was happy with it. I think people understand it’s TV and you’ve got to heighten things with drama. I think the issue was that we tried to make the actual violence we use as real as possibly as opposed to kung-fu kicks. Everything that we used was just down-and dirty and I don’t know whether that hit home more that these things could actually happen. I think people understand that it’s after the watershed and it’s a cop show so if you didn’t like it you could turn over really.
What was it like filming in Birmingham as opposed to London and some of the bigger places you may have filmed? Did that add anything to it for you?
Yeah I really enjoyed it. We’ve just finished the second series and we’ve moved to Belfast and I think moving there we realised how spoilt we were in Birmingham. Our hotel , where we were based was so close to your unit base you could virtually wake up, walk out of the door and you were in work in the morning. There was great food, we had some lovely curry houses We had a blast in Birmingham. I’d happily go back there and do another series.
Why do you think the series did so well? We are fascinated by police dramas. Is it the sort of thing you might have watched if you’ve not been involved in it?
Yes definitely. I think the reason it’s been a success is because we stand out from the other shows that have a maverick cop with no regard for the law. Where as our whole shows were based around procedures. We have these long interview scenes and everything revolves around the minutest details. There’s no dumbing down for the audience, you have to stick with it and unravel every little piece of evidence with us and I think that makes it stand out from the rest and makes for a very interesting show.
You’ve just filmed Series 2, what can you tell us about the new series?
With any show coming into the second series you’re delving more into the character’s personal lives and we all become a bit more rounded and we see what they’re alike away from work and with that I suppose the other problems we have outside work and how it can affect them. We’re trying to go a little bit bigger and a little bit bolder. If anything the scripts are stronger than they were last year which is great. So I hope they live up to the expectations of the first one.
What do you enjoy on television specifically?
Generally I don’t have a lot of time to watch but I try to catch things on Netflix Mainly I try to watch the football and get to the cinema as much as I can. I’ve not had time to sit down and watch anything. I’m never in one place long enough.
Do you think there’s life in Line of Duty past series two?
I think the idea has always been to try to have three. As always with these things, the idea is there but it all depends on the success of the second one. If it’s anything like the first they’ll be clambering to do a third one.
Speaking as an actor do you think the sate of British TV is in a good place at the moment?
Yes it seems so but it’s hard to comment on the individual quality as I’ve not seen it. Luther and Broadchurch were all massive successes so it seems in an incredibly healthy place. The quality of TV in America in recent years has been so ramped up we’ve had to raise our game. The writing has to be stronger and the acting had to be better. I hope now we’re getting to a place where we’re staring to compete again.
Line of Duty is available on DVD and includes a great behind the scenes extra.
Behind the Scenes
Line of Duty Series 2 is available on DVD from Monday 3rd February
Line of Duty Series 2 has wrapped filming but has no official return date as of yet.