Messed up auditions and angry police: The production secrets behind Line of Duty
Steve Arnott’s name was originally different and Martin Compston nearly didn’t get the role
Right now, everyone in the UK is talking about Line of Duty. Group chats go off on a Sunday evening, Twitter is full of memes and spoilers, and you can’t sit in a pub garden without someone bringing it up at least once. So what goes into making a show that gets us all on the edge of our seats and desperate for more? There are a lot of juicy Line of Duty production secrets that most people are blissfully unaware of.
From the cast practically moving in together, to fluffed up auditions, food poisoning on set and constant reruns of interrogation scenes – here are some of the best, and less, well-kept production secrets and behind the scenes facts about Line of Duty.
Vicky McClure messed up her audition to be on the show
You might be shocked to know that the forever slick Vicky McClure, who plays Kate Fleming, actually messed up her Line of Duty audition. She told GQ magazine: “I remember my audition being a shocker. I hadn’t learned my lines. Some people they’re so prepped and I just wasn’t. I missed my mouth when I went to have a drink of water and it all went down my top. I thought, ‘There’s just no chance I’ve got this, to be a cop, I can’t even learn the lines.’ I remember feeling quite underprepared.”
Craig Parkinson auditioned to be Steve Arnott and Martin Compston nearly didn’t audition at all!!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t picture anyone else pulling off the waistcoat and completing the iconic AC-12 trio like Martin Compston does. However, it could have all been very different, as Craig Parkinson, aka The Caddy, has revealed he actually initially auditioned for the part of Steve Arnott.
What’s more, it was actually Craig Parkinson who persuaded Martin Compston to audition to be on the show. The pair are long-term friends, and Martin initially wasn’t too fussed about auditioning, but in a phone call Craig told him the series was “the best thing he’d ever read for TV”.
Steve Arnott’s name was originally different
In the first scripts for the show, DI Steve Arnott was actually called Steve Andrews. Thank god that was changed.
Filming locations have changed throughout the series
The show is set in a fictional area in the Midlands, and at first the series was filmed in Birmingham, with the old Municipal Bank building on Broad Street serving as AC-12’s HQ. However, from series two onwards AC-12 HQ upped sticks and moved to Belfast, with a floor of BT Riverside Tower becoming home. Belfast Central Library also serves in the series, as Police Headquarters.
Neil Morrissey was the first Line of Duty actor to be cast
A lot of actors have come and go throughout the six seasons of Line of Duty, mostly because they get horrifically killed off. But, the very first actor to be given a part in the series was Neil Morrissey, who played the part of DC Nigel Morton in series one to three, revealed creator Jed Mercurio on Twitter.
Tonight 9.00 pm @BBCOne #LineofDuty Series 1 Episode 4: AC-12 put Gates's team under the spotlight, never suspecting how nasty Nigel can get. Neil Morrissey was the first actor we cast for the series and he was a revelation in the role. pic.twitter.com/gXYeUkMqxL
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) August 11, 2020
Hastings only started out as a supporting role in the show
Jed Mercurio’s Twitter account is full of Line of Duty production secrets, as he also revealed that the one and only Ted Hastings was originally only credited as a supporting role. It was only because he had such a big impact, and clearly a huge response from the public, that he was made a lead character.
Some viewers may be surprised that in #LineofDuty Series 1 Superintendent Ted Hastings appears in a supporting role. Adrian Dunbar's performance had such a big impact, the character broke out to become a lead in future series. Like Happy Days, The Gaffer was The Fonz! pic.twitter.com/YE59ityLWK
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) August 10, 2020
One day of filming nearly turned into a disaster when the cast and crew got food poisoning from the food on set
Rochenda Sandall, who played OCG member Lisa McQueen, said in an interview on This Morning that one day on set nearly turned into a “scene from Bridesmaids” when the cast and crew were struck down with food poisoning from a dodgy prawn curry.
She said: “We all started to go a bit pasty and a bit sweaty. I said to Stephen [Graham], ‘Are you alright mate?’ and he was like, ‘No, I feel a bit rough mate.’ And I went, ‘What did you have for dinner?’ and he went, ‘The prawn curry’, and we were like, we’ve all had the prawn curry. It was like a domino effect between all the cast and crew.” Thankfully, they continued to film and nobody noticed in the final shots.
The iconic shootout scene in episode four of series six took three whole days to film
You’re not going to forget Steve Arnott emerging out the side door of that van, despite his horrendous back pain, and shooting the sniper clean in one, in a hurry. It wasn’t exactly an easy scene to shoot – it took an entire day for the interior shots to be filmed, and another two for all the exteriors.
Thanks to everyone who watched Episode 4 of #LineofDuty6 last Sunday. Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of our brilliant cast at work. The prison van shootout required one day in the studio for interiors and two days on location for exteriors. pic.twitter.com/GQNfiqHAYG
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) April 16, 2021
Real life police were not best impressed when asked to help
To make the series as authentic as possible, show creators ask for the assistance of real life police officers and had them watch clips to help out. But, they weren’t having it at all. Executive producer, Simon Heath, told HuffPost: “We sent them the first episode which features the accidental shooting of an innocent man suspected of being a terrorist and it was drawing on a number of real-life incidents, but had a letter back from the police saying we won’t cooperate with you on this show as this would never happen. Jed and I were just bemused as obviously there had been these incidents.
“So we then had to do our own off-the-record research and conduct interviews with officers who were perhaps coming to the end of their careers, or were retired or were happy to talk to us anonymously.”
There’s still a police officer on set now to help out with things. Former Metropolitan Police officer David Zinzan has over 30 years experience in the force, and he makes sure procedures, techniques and language is correct, and is a resource for the actors.
Part of the scene where Ryan Pilkington attempted to drown Terry Boyle was filmed in the same place the Titanic was built
In some shocking scenes in series six, we see ex-OCG turned copper Ryan Pilkington try to drown Terry Boyle, who had been framed for Gail Vella’s murder. Ryan swerved the car carrying Terry, and driven by PC Lisa Patel, into a lake. Part of the scene was filmed in Titanic Studios, one of Europe’s largest film studios and where the Titanic ship was built.
The brilliant @tommyjessop performs part of the action sequence from Episode 3 in the water tank at Titanic Studios. Everyone on #LineofDuty6 loved working with you. You can be immensely proud of your achievements. pic.twitter.com/IXbFi5fn7c
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) April 4, 2021
Jed Mercurio had a cameo appearance in one of the episodes
You definitely didn’t notice, but the show’s creator, Jed Mercurio, made a very brief appearance in series one – he was driving a car for DCI Gates to follow.
My only cameo appearance in #LineofDuty was invisible. I'm driving the grey Golf in front of @RealLennieJames and Gina McKee. No one on set knew the route we'd recce'd so Lennie followed me through the streets of Birmingham while they filmed the scene in the car behind. pic.twitter.com/WeHP19DypN
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) August 4, 2020
Everything is filmed out of order
To most, it would make sense to film a TV series in the chronological order it’s going to be aired in. Line of Duty is filmed in blocks – with the first three episodes first, then the others after. Inside those blocks however, it’s all out of sequence. This is mainly down to the availability and schedule of actors and locations.
This was all changed further to fit with Covid restrictions for series six. In a BBC press conference, Vicky McClure said: “The schedule was probably one of the biggest changes from an actor’s perspective because it just meant we were shooting with different directors on the same day, different episodes on the same day. Chronology just wasn’t possible because we were bound by location and safety.”
Interrogation scenes can be filmed up to 20 times each
The AC-12 interrogation scenes are an iconic part of the show. They are filmed in a continuous take, and are often filmed up to 20 times to change bits, get the right expressions and close ups, and repeat parts.
Adrian Dunbar comes up with most of the famous Ted-isms
He told GQ: “The ‘mother of God’ stuff is something that my dad used to say all the time. It fits the character, you know. ‘Sucking diesel’s’ mine. It’s something I used to say all the time.”
Kelly MacDonald nearly turned down her role
Kelly MacDonald has joined series six as DCI Joanne Davidson, but she nearly didn’t. She told Radio Times that it was Keeley Hawes, who you’ll know as Lindsay Denton, who persuaded her to give it a go. She said she nearly “ran a mile” at the pure amount of words she had to learn for the script and all the police jargon, but “Keeley was brilliant; she talked me down from the ledge”, she said.
The cast live in adjoining apartments when they film!
Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure all live in the same block of flats in Belfast city centre when away from home filming the show. Martin told the Telegraph: “We keep the doors open between our adjoining apartments, so we pretty much live in each other’s pockets for four months.” The learn lines at Vicky’s, eat at Adrian’s and party at Martin’s. My heart is so full.
It was Martin Compston’s own idea for Arnott to wear the waistcoats
Steve Arnott’s dress sense was actually based on someone a friend of Martin Compston’s had told him about. “This guy was a right wee dick and he wore waistcoats to work”, he told Evening Standard. “That’s him – that’s Arnott, the needlessly overdressed guy.”
Related stories recommended by this writer:
Featured image via Instagram @vicky.mcclure