What do you do when the person you’re investigating is not just a police officer, but one of the most celebrated in the force?
It’s a challenge for Steve Arnott and his team in ‘Line of Duty’, BBC2’s highest-ever rated drama, returning to our screens next week.
Actors Martin Compston ('Monarch of the Glen', 'Sweet Sixteen') and Vicky McClure are back in their unpopular roles of policing the police, but viewers will notice a big gap where Lennie James stood in the first series.
“You’re going to miss him,” Compston tells me, on the phone from a hotel room in California, where he’s taking a post-production holiday.
“He’s a force of nature, a lovely guy and phenomenal actor. Everybody ups their game to match him.”
Compston is too smart to be drawn on the sudden departure of actor Robert Lindsay from the new cast, preferring instead to give me a rundown of what’s different…
“Vicky and I play partners now under Adrian. This series starts with a big ambush, in which people of organised crime elements are trying to kill someone in witness protection, and it all kicks off from there, with twists and turns,” he reminds me.
“I genuinely did not see some of the things coming, but they’re integral to the story, not hand grenades thrown in for the sake of it.
“And the story delves a bit more into our personal lives, we show more of the problems, it’s more well-rounded. There was a lot of pressure on us, because the first series was so strong, but I hope we’ve done it.”
Keeley Hawes is the focus of Series 2, and impressively unrecognisable with her flat hair, makeup-free face and unreadable expression. She’s an impressive follow-up to Lennie James, but marks have to go, too, to Compston, whose thick Scottish accent is indecipherable in this show, and other roles he’s taken.
Compston, discovered originally in his native Glasgow by Ken Loach and brought up on a diet of indie film, makes it sound effortless.
“It is hard work, and it messes with your head, but it’s necessary. It’s not about gaining extra brownie points for the effort, because it has to be seamless, so it’s not in the way of what else I’m doing.
“Also, it can be a bit jarring if I drop in and out, the crew haven’t got a clue what’s going on then, so it’s easier just to carry on pretending.”
'Line of Duty' Series 1 is available now on DVD. Series 2 will be on BBC2 next week on Wednesday 12 February at 9pm. Pictures below...