IT is the crime drama that has gripped the nation and turned Sunday nights into edge-of-the-sofa stuff. Writer Jed Mercurio’s BBC1 hit Line Of Duty – starring Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston as anti-corruption officers – is the biggest programme of 2019 so far.
As the fifth series hots up, we can’t tell you who crime boss “H” is or whether John Corbett, played by Stephen Graham, is really as “straight as an arrow”. But we can share all that even the geekiest fans need to know from behind the scenes of the telly hit.
Lennie James, who played bent cop DCI Tony Gates set the bar high for filming the gruelling interrogation scenes by insisting on doing them in one take.
Interview scenes can take up 20-25 pages of script. Vicky says: “It’s like theatre but for film.”
Interrogation scenes are filmed in glass boxes which become piping hot under studio lights. By the end of the day, everyone is dripping with sweat.
When Keeley Hawes joined the cast, she chose to live away from Vicky, Martin and Adrian – who have flats near each other during filming – so her family could join her. However, the isolation helps her into character as loner Lindsay Denton.
Despite nine Bafta nominations, the series has not won one. Yet.
Originally, Sgt Danny Waldron, played by Daniel Mays was not going to be killed off in series three. But thanks to jet lag, Jed rewrote a more grisly plot while in LA, at 4am.
Actors are only given one or two scripts at a time so they do not know their fate.
There is little chance of plot leaks as editing is unfinished until shortly before each episode.
The idea for DCI Roz Huntley, played by Thandie Newton to swap evidence in the forensics department was suggested by police advisers, who told Jed: “This is how you’d tamper with evidence.”
A serving police officer checks through all the scripts for accuracy and a retired officer is on set to make sure no one puts a foot out of line where policing is concerned.
Stephen, who joined this year as John Corbett has been friends with Vicky since they filmed This Is England together in 2006 – but he revealed the pair will not share any scenes together.
Stephen has also been mates with Martin since they appeared together in The Damned United in 2009.
Other interesting facts
Part of Belfast’s famous BT Tower was converted into a police station for filming during the third series.
Last series, one scene was shot at a Clements, one of Northern Ireland’s largest chains of independent coffee shops.
Kai is Vicky’s nephew in real life. Vicky revealed: “When it was written originally I had a daughter, and I said to Jed it would be great if I could have a son instead because I could use my nephew.
The first series was BBC2’s best-performer in a decade, reaching 4.1million viewers.
Some violent scenes have been toned down after actors’ portrayals proved too harrowing.
Attention to detail is such that extras in the office scenes are given piles of witness statements and evidence files to hold.
Along with shows Game Of Thrones and The Fall – which are also shot in Northern Ireland – Line Of Duty has helped see the country’s man extras agency undergo a big expansion.
In the first episode of this series, Supt Ted Hastings, played by Ulster actor Adrian Dunbar, slotted in a Belfastism when he said: “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble.” Writer Jed said he was challenged by BBC NI Talkback presenter William Crawley to use a colloquialism in the series. And Jed said the Lagan bubble was “so insane it was irresistible”.
AC-12 is a fictional anti-corruption unit. Nicknames for this area of policing have included Ghost Squad and The Untouchables. In real life, the Met Police’s anti-corruption department has changed names from A10 to CIB1 and CIB2 and is now the less catchy Directorate of Professional Standards.
In interview scenes, officers always say: “For the DIR, so-and-so has entered the room.” DIR stands for digital instrumentation recorder.
Do not expect to get all the answers at the end of this year’s six-episode run. Series six has already been commissioned – and thank goodness for that, fella.
The cast might well worry if they get a call from Jed. The writer has no qualms about killing off main characters, but says he would always call the actor up first to explain before sending them their script.
There is never a reference to what city the show is set in, but it is generally thought to be somewhere in the Midlands. The first series was filmed in Birmingham, where Jed spent years training as a doctor. Subsequent series have been made in Belfast, where shoots last up to four months a time.
It was Martin’s idea for his character, DS Steve Arnott, to wear waistcoats. He said: “I want to make him annoying.” After each series he takes his favourites home to keep.
In the first episode of the current series, a message from what looks like a Tinder-style dating app appeared on Martin’s phone, showing a woman called Tina Watts. The picture was in fact Martin’s real-life wife Tianna Flynn . . . along with their pet pooch.
Although the weapons on set are, of course, fake, the cast did have real-life firearms training using real guns.
Scotsman Martin based DS Arnott’s southern, Estuary accent on rogue trader Nick Leeson, who caused the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995. Martin keeps his character’s southern accent throughout his time on shoot, even when popping out for curry and drinks with the cast. He only switches back to his native accent when talking to his wife and his mum.
- Line Of Duty, BBC1, 9pm tomorrow
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