One of the very best characters in ‘Line of Duty’ is -unarguably - AC-12’s tireless boss, Chief Superintendent Ted Hastings.
However, writer Jed Mercurio has revealed that he initially conceived the character as a much more bumbling “Columbo style” detective, “much more disorganised and less sharp than he really was”.
Then Irish actor Adrian Dunbar came along and changed everything. Jed, currently flying high along with the viewing figures for his fourth series of the police corruption drama in its new home on BBC One, tells Radio Times:
“Even though Adrian didn’t fit the character I’d sketched, he did something very vivid and interesting with the lines, and so I re-conceived the character to fit him. I regard that as one of my great pieces of luck, to the extent that I now see auditions as being part of the writing process.”
With his forensic mind, his big heart, his old-fashioned quirks - “fella” and “darling” handed out with abandon to friends and rivals both - Hastings has become one of the most loved characters on the show, even as his own motivations have been questioned for the first time this series.
Adding to his complex character are his unexplored links with the Freemasons, and the fact of his being previously a Catholic officer in the predominantly Protestant RUC.
Jed tells Radio Times: “Line of Duty has a very big story arc across all the series and one of the things that we haven’t done is to delve into Hastings’s past. That will happen in future series.”
Yay - so Hastings at least survives, in a series known for its swift despatch of even some of its most leading figures? Jed’s saying nothing, only: “You’ll need to watch. You can still explore the past of someone who’s dead, as we did in series three.”
In this week’s Radio Times, on sale from Tuesday 25 April 2017. ‘Line of Duty’ Series 4 concludes on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.