Police drama Line of Duty’s cast and crew on the new season
Hard-hitting crime drama Line of Duty is back on the beat for what its cast describe as the best season yet. Michael Pickard reports.
It’s been away from screens for almost two years, but British crime drama Line of Duty is set to return for its third season this week.
Continuing the show’s part-anthology format, the new run opens on March 24 with a brand new story that begins with the fatal shooting of a criminal suspect by an armed response unit led by sergeant Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays).
Danny and his team claim they acted in self-defence, but anti-corruption squad AC-12, led by superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), gathers evidence that suggests the killing was deliberate. DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) is then sent undercover into Danny’s team to find out more.
Ingratiating herself to her new colleagues, Kate is quick to identify tensions and conflict among Danny and his team. But when Kate’s own conduct comes under scrutiny, she finds herself sidelined from an armed drugs raid that goes very badly wrong.
Produced by World Productions for UK pubcaster BBC2, Line of Duty is executive produced by series creator Jed Mercurio (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Critical), Simon Heath (The Great Train Robbery, The Bletchley Circle) and Stephen Wright. It’s distributed by Content Media.
With more than three million people tuning in to the season two finale, the BBC took the unusual step of ordering two more seasons back to back.
Mercurio says this “incredibly exciting” opportunity was made possible by the fervent support from the show’s fans, adding that he never entertained tinkering with the single-story-arc format, ensuring season three will stand alone from the fourth instalment in the series.
He does, however, promise more of the twists and turns that have so far made Line of Duty stand out from other crime dramas on television. “What makes Line of Duty distinctive is that it’s cops versus cops,” he explains. “Most police shows are about hunting and chasing criminals, whereas we have police officers in a quest to bring other police officers to justice.
“Also, we’re a serial, so we can do six hours of one story. That means we can get deeper into the story and have time to establish its direction, which allows us to produce some big surprises.”
Mercurio reveals that the level of jeopardy in the latest run is taken to new heights, with Mays’ Sgt Waldron showing his violent side in the first episode.
But why has the series been so successful? “I’m excited and flattered by the success of it,” Mercurio admits. “It’s always hard to diagnose what makes something successful but all you can hope is that if you stay true to the characters and stay true to the style of the show, people will keep coming back.”
As a fan of Line of Duty’s first two outings, Mays was keen to sign up for season three, which he believes will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. But he was under no illusion about the amount of dedication Mercurio’s writing demands from his actors, having watched Lenny James and Keeley Hawes in seasons one and two respectively.
“Then when they showed me the actual scripts I was blown away,” he reveals. “The quality of Jed’s writing is so brilliantly detailed and has its grounding in absolute social reality, which is a great combination. I recognised it was a great opportunity to be part of the long-running success of Line of Duty, and it’s certainly one the most complex and exciting characters I’ve taken on in a long time.”
In particular, Mays describes an interrogation scene in episode one as the hardest passage of dialogue he’s ever had to learn – but says it also made for one of his most thrilling days on set.
“Running and chasing suspects wearing all that gear was also a challenge,” he adds. “We went on weapons training for a couple of days, which was really beneficial and also allowed the actors to bond. It’s a great credit to the opening episode that we all look comfortable in the gear and believable as an armed response unit. Another challenge was trying to get into the mindset of a character so damaged, twisted and unpredictable.”
While Mays has joined the cast for the first time, McClure has been ever present alongside Dunbar and Martin Compston (who plays Steve Arnott).
“At the start of the series she’s back undercover with a brand new team,” This is England star McClure says of her character. “Filming that was really different, as it felt like a completely different show at first, with a brand new cast and new firearms.”
Compared with other police dramas, Line of Duty “feels very real” in every way, she says – from the characters’ relationships and the way they dress to the language they use.
“We don’t brush over anything,” she adds. “It is a drama and is dramatised but ultimately it is played as real as possible, which is why it’s so gripping.”
And with season four around the corner, it will have to go some way to beat what McClure says is the best season yet.
“It’s action-packed and has a lot of amazing new characters with great storylines,” she adds. “Also, with the cast and crew, we have such a good relationship that it’s nice to come to work every day. We have such a laugh, which is important when a lot of the show is so intense.”