It is morning in Los Angeles when Martin Compston calls. The sun is out. He has taken the dog for a walk. The previous night, Irvine Welsh came round for a steak dinner and to deliver an advance copy of his new book. With a June wedding back in his native Scotland around the corner, life is looking peachy.
Then there is the return of Line of Duty on BBC Two, to fill the Happy Valley-shaped hole in our lives for top-class crime drama. Compston plays DS Steve Arnott, softly spoken lothario and committed police officer for the AC12 anti-corruption unit. The first series featured Lennie James as a charismatic officer whose impressive stats masked his dodgy methods. Then Keeley Hawes delivered a career-changing performance as DI Lindsay Denton in a second series that gripped the nation. How do they top that?
“Last year was Jed’s [Mercurio, Line of Duty creator] masterpiece,” says Compston. “And I know it is annoying when bands come out and say their new album is the best one yet but I think Jed has surpassed himself. Again.”
In the third series, Daniel Mays plays the aggressive brute leading an armed response unit, whose itchy trigger finger brings him into AC12’s crosshairs. “Danny is incredible. We rely on him to set up the show, give us something to investigate. The audience has to be intrigued
by this guy.
Danny is incredible. We rely on him to set up the show, give us something to investigate
“Other shows, like Luther, have maverick cops who don’t pay attention to the rules. Our thing is that everything we do has to be by the book. So last year’s ending wasn’t all grenades and car chases. It was us catching Keeley with good police work.”
Compston, 31, could have been coming to the end of a professional football career. But, after playing for Morton in the Scottish First Division as a teenager, he scored the lead role in Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen back in 2002 – unknown, untrained but perfect as troubled teen Liam.