Blur­ring the lines

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TUESDAY EXTRA -

HOW far over the line can a good cop step be­fore go­ing too far? And who has the right to make that de­ci­sion? The five-part UK po­lice drama Line of Duty asks such ques­tions and many more in weav­ing its com­plex and com­pelling yarn of po­lice cor­rup­tion among the best and bright­est of Lon­don’s lawen­force­ment au­thor­i­ties.

The pri­mary tar­get of an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion is De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor Tony Gates, a dec­o­rated and hon­oured po­lice of­fi­cer. But is the ar­rest record of his team the re­sult of clever ma­nip­u­la­tion and de­cep­tion?

Un­known to ev­ery­one is a darker se­cret in­volv­ing Gates: one that could take him over the line from cop to crim­i­nal.

Len­nie James, whose ex­ten­sive list of cred­its in the UK and US in­cludes Spooks, Jeri­cho, The Walk­ing Dead and Hung, gives a riv­et­ing per­for­mance as Gates. Len­nie, how did you come to be in­volved in and what at­tracted you to it?

I did not au­di­tion for it. It was a straight of­fer. I had been out in the States for a while, work­ing out here, and I was look­ing for a project back in Bri­tain to re­mind peo­ple I was still around, and that was some­thing that would bring me home. At the same time Jed Mer­cu­rio, who wrote it and pro­duced it, had me in mind for this part. They sent me the first three scripts and I was sold by the time I’d read the first episode. By the time I got to the third episode, all I wanted to do was read the next two, not just to find out about the char­ac­ter I was go­ing to be play­ing but how the story re­solved it­self. They were some of the tight­est scripts I’ve ever read at that stage of the pro­ceed­ings, so I said yes al­most im­me­di­ately. Did you em­pathise with Tony Gates when play­ing him? Or un­der­stand where he was com­ing from?

I try as much as pos­si­ble to not have any kind of ex­ter­nal eye on the char­ac­ter. You can look any­where around the world and see peo­ple jus­ti­fy­ing all man­ner of things within them­selves in ways we like to think we couldn’t and wouldn’t. I don’t al­ways think peo­ple, when they’re do­ing what­ever they’re do­ing, whether it’s some­thing good or bad or mun­dane, feel any means to jus­tify what they’re do­ing. One of the things I liked about play­ing Tony Gates was I don’t think he gave much thought to jus­ti­fy­ing his ac­tions un­til he was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Cer­tainly at the be­gin­ning of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion, his over­rid­ing re­sponse to it is: ‘‘Why would you be in­ves­ti­gat­ing me? That doesn’t make any sense. Why are you go­ing af­ter me and not some­body who’s do­ing some­thing wrong? You’re wast­ing my time, you’re wast­ing your time and you’re get­ting in the way of the work I’m try­ing to do.’’ He moves on from that po­si­tion but that’s where we meet him. He’s some­body who has no need to jus­tify who he is or what he’s done be­cause he’s a very, very suc­cess­ful man. While the fo­cus is on Tony Gates, it seems like each char­ac­ter could be

Tuesdays, 7.30pm, 13th Street. Len­nie James the fo­cus of their own show. We don’t have the same kind of pres­sures Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion has with sus­tain­ing char­ac­ters over long pe­ri­ods of time. You can make brazen, bold and sur­pris­ing de­ci­sions about the char­ac­ters, and also blur the lines. In Line of Duty that’s what they set out to do. It sets it­self up as be­ing a pro­gram about po­lice cor­rup­tion, the or­gan­i­sa­tion that pur­sues that and one par­tic­u­lar tar­get they go af­ter, but that doesn’t be­gin to tell the story. That was one thing I found ex­cit­ing about it. It’s not just a who­dunit . . . it’s a thriller, it’s a catand-mouse game, it’s a who­dunit, and it’s ‘‘Is he or isn’t he?’’ but it’s also a fas­ci­nat­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of right and wrong.

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