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Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio reveals if this is the last season

It's finally back. But what's next for the biggest TV show in the country?
Jed Mercurio, Line of Duty's creator.

Line of Duty is one of the biggest, most talked-about shows on British TV. And now, the nation’s most-loved police drama is back.

The show’s creator, Jed Mercurio, sat down with The Big Issue to give us a peek into the future of the series.

Fans will flock to watch the eagerly awaited sixth season, but what plans does he have for a seventh?

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The Big Issue: [muted]

Jed Mercurio: The first journalist that comes on to a Zoom calls and isn’t on mute, I’m going to tell them the identity of H. 

Damnit. There goes our scoop. But we don’t want to know too much, do we?

We release a bit of information – we know the new guest character is Kelly Macdonald playing DCI Joanne Davidson and she is leading a murder investigation. The first episode opens with AC-12 suspicious that there may be a sinister reason why the investigation isn’t progressing.

It’s a show that draws huge audiences and gives us something to talk about that isn’t the thing we’re all talking about the moment.

It’s brilliant that the series has become so popular over the years. We started as a pretty small drama on BBC Two, a summer schedule filler in 2012 when it was crammed with the Olympics, the Euros and Wimbledon.

What do Vicky McClure and Martin Compston bring to the series?

We were looking for actors who could come in as Arnott and Fleming and be unknown quantities – and if it was successful, those were the two who were going to return. It was all built around them. They came over as very credible in their auditions. It’s only in retrospect that factors relating to background have come into it and it’s something I’ve considered more and more.

Both came from working-class homes, neither went to drama school – Vicky won a place but couldn’t afford to go. Both are driven by a work ethic which is different from young people who come from privileged backgrounds, whose parents can pay for drama school then accommodation in London where they can do auditions without the pressures on people from ordinary backgrounds. That’s a microcosm of the problems we have with diminishing social mobility.

They said filming the second half of this season under lockdown felt strange and it would be an odd way to go out.

I sensed it was difficult for the actors who are away from home for long periods. Martin’s family are in the US so he had to contend with the quarantining requirements. And we love a night out with a curry and a couple of drinks and that was something we weren’t able to do. So I understand it took away some of the fun. And you also have to add in the fact that we had to follow the rigorous Covid protocols during the working day.

With your background, were you very hot on that?

I am fortunate that, having a medical background, the reasons for the protocols were apparent to me. So I was able to help explain things to people. My responsibility was keeping the production running and I pay tribute to the cast and crew. It can’t work unless everybody pulls together and follows the same procedures. That’s something we see in wider society – if you have a fracturing of compliance, it’s very hard to get it back.

You’ve always said you will only keep Line of Duty going if the audience wants it. I imagine 13 million people will want more.

You’re right that we have to look at how the show performs. By the end of season six, we’ll know how many people watched it live and how many watched on catch up, and it will be about the numbers. We love working on the series. There are no immediate plans to do a season seven but if it performs well enough that the BBC agrees we should do more, then it would be great to have that conversation.

Martin and Vicky requested the next series – if there is one – covers their shared birthday. Can you make that happen?

There are all kinds of reasons why I would need to think about that quite carefully!

Intriguing. Is there something you’d like to ask them that you never have before?

The one question I’ve never asked them is how would you like your character’s story to end. Actually, it would be better to ask Martin how he’d like Vicky’s story to end and vice versa.