Q&A: Line Of Duty featuring Jed Mercurio at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival

WHERE? BFI IMAX

WHEN? 13/4/19, series 5 concludes on BBC1 5/5/19

monstagigz guarantee: There are no spoilers in the Q&A that follows if you’re up to date with the show

‘Do I know who ‘H’ is? Oh yes,’ says Line Of Duty creator and writer Jed Mercurio who is speaking at the 2nd annual BFI & Radio Times Television Festival at the BFI IMAX in London.

  • Read on for reasons including which character suggested her own demise in series 5

‘If I had a better idea of course I would change it. You want it to be as good as possible,’ explains the show runner who was also behind the Golden Globe-winning and BAFTA-nominated Bodyguard to journalist Mark Lawson (pictured far left below).

‘1 of our philosophies is to always make the best possible episode that we can,’ says Mercurio who is accompanied by 3 stars of the 5th series (see left to right below): Polly Walker (who plays returning Police and Crime Commissioner legal counsel Gill Biggeloe), Maya Sondhi whose PC Maneet Bindra is murdered in the series currently airing and Rochenda Sandall who plays criminal Lisa McQueen.

Sondhi, whose character is murdered early in series 5, suggested her own demise to Mercurio over lunch.

She says: ”I’m never drinking red wine in the day again.’ Mercurio even rang her to warn her before the scripts were issued. ‘But what a way to go! Much better that than hanging around being dodgy in a storyline that is never resolved and then disappearing.’

She reminisces about the on-set camaraderie explaining that she felt part of a family where she has made some friends for life, not necessarily what you would expect from what appears to be a dark procedural drama.

People on Twitter thought she might even come back. Surely author Mercurio, a former hospital doctor, would know if anyone did how to treat someone who’d had their throat slit?

Mercurio seems despairing: ‘I don’t think leaving her down by the harbour overnight was going to help.’

Walker mentions the ‘unresolved sexual tension’ between her character and Supt Ted Hastings played by Adrian Dunbar, a feature of the 3rd episode (which aired Sunday 14 April) in the 6-episode series.

Sandall describes her success in 2 auditions for the show as leading to the ‘job of a lifetime’.

Mercurio explains how he casts: ‘As a writer who is going to be across casting, I’m part of decision making process about which actors to bring into the show and it’s different depending on the part. But the piece demands social realism and so I’m looking for naturalism, generally actors who have a natural ability to give smaller, less theatrical performances.’

This naturalism explains the lengthy interrogation scenes which have become a trademark of the show. Mercurio explains he is trying to make a drama which emphasises the real language that police officers would use.

They can be tricky for Dunbar who wears reading glasses although his character doesn’t, which can make reading prompts difficult during these scenes which can last up to 20 minutes.

Mercurio also explains the series’ enthusiasm for bumping off characters who the audience thinks are there to stay. ‘It was definitely a reaction to watching drama and feeling there were regular characters with no sense of jeopardy who were saved at the 11th hour.

‘You only have to do it (lose an apparently major character) a couple of times in a series and the audience perceives the jeopardy as real.’

Asked who is his favourite ‘baddie’ and Mercurio is defensive: ‘I don’t really consider them in that way. They’re like a lot of people doing challenging jobs, they sometimes do bad things.’

Each series of Line Of Duty takes 4 months to shoot in Belfast. The BBC has already commissioned a 6th series and a decision on a 7th is likely before this series finishes showing in May.

Mercurio explains: ‘The only reason we do that is that there are a lot of ideas to tie up. Broadcasters sometimes make decisions that run counter to serving audiences. Things are sometimes cancelled for spurious reasons.’

He adds that the relationship with the BBC is good and that dialogue is ongoing. The position is similar for the mooted Bodyguard 2.

Mercurio says: ‘I haven’t written the 6th series yet. Although there are certain things we know we have to pick up.’

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy BFI. Tickets for other BFI events like these
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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