Series 2 opens with the violent ambush of a police convoy in which three officers are killed and a protected witness seriously injured. When evidence suggests that a police source may have leaked the convoy’s whereabouts, the Force’s Deputy Chief Constable, Mike Dryden, takes personal charge, assigning anti-corruption unit AC-12 to the case.
With Detective Constable Kate Fleming excluding herself from the investigation as she trained with one of the ambush victims, AC-12 commanding officer Superintendent Ted Hastings assigns new recruit Detective Constable Georgia Trotman to work alongside Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott.
Initially AC-12’s most valuable witness, the suspicion soon arises that the sole surviving police officer, Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, could be their prime suspect. Did she lead the convoy straight into the fatal ambush?
CultBox recently caught up with Steve Toussaint to find out more…
Line of Duty has been a hugely successful show for BBC Two, what attracted you to the programme?
“I really enjoyed the first series. Lennie James was great in it, and he’s a friend of mine so I knew a little bit about the writer Jed [Mercurio] and that his writing is gritty and real. So when I heard they were doing another series I thought it would be a really good idea to get involved, which it proved to be.”
Did Lennie James give you any tips?
“No. I haven’t seen him for a while. Until recently he was mainly in the States and going back and forth. So I didn’t get any tips from him, but I’d seen the show and thought it was terrific really. It has really good people involved, I’ve admired Adrian Dunbar for ages so yes, it was a great opportunity to work with people like that.”
There’s a chilling scene in a ladies’ toilet involving Keeley Hawes’ character Lindsay while her colleagues, including Mallick, look on – was that difficult for you to be involved in?
“Yes. It’s weird thing, but whenever any kind of violence is being done to anybody, but particularly to a woman, it’s always difficult because we’re brought up, or hopefully brought up, not to do stuff like that. You have to put yourself in that mindset, and I think Mallick is somewhat conflicted by it.
“It’s clear they don’t like her, they don’t think she’s a very good officer; but I don’t think his first thought would be ‘let’s shove her head down a toilet’, but for me I like to think that what he thinks he’s doing is allowing the rest of his colleagues to do this for the good of the department.
“They’re really p’d off with her because they blame her for the death of their colleagues. They blame her and think she’s inept, and he reasoning might be that if she wasn’t in the force in the first place then those two officers might still be alive. It was a hard scene to be around but that’s where I was at after talking to the director.”
What would you say Mallick’s motivation was? Is he just someone who wants to get the job done? Is he self-serving?
“I think he just wants to get the job done. He wants to run a happy ship. When he brings Lindsay up on her performance scores compared to the rest of the department, I think that’s him saying ‘if you weren’t here, we’ve got a good ship’. He’s interfering, but in his mind he’s just getting on with the job.”
Without giving too much away, what can we expect from Mallick in this series?
“That’s a difficult one! How shall I put it? (laughs) I think he redeems himself. What you’ve seen him allow to happen – I don’t think he redeems himself over that. The great thing about this show is that there are no real heroes or villains, just people –and that’s what he is. I like him!”
From the first episode, Mallick does some pretty reprehensible stuff things that you wouldn’t do personally – what was your process of getting into that character? Could you draw on personal experience?
“My process was pretty much the same as with any character: what is his motivation? Why is he the way he is? If you’re playing someone who is a murderer, for example, well I’m not a murderer thankfully, but you think ‘okay, I do this so I can live the way that I live’. So with Mallick it’s the same thing. He’s about the greater good.
“I used to come across soldiers when I was growing up and you’d say ‘It must have been awful’ and they would say ‘you’re not out there. You’re not facing it’. When you’re in the line of fire, there are things you do to survive. I think that’s where Mallick is.”
Given recent events in the news, for example “plebgate” involving the MP Andrew Mitchell, or even Mark Duggan, do you think it’s important for a show like Line of Duty to raise the issue of police corruption to throw a spotlight on it almost?
“Absolutely. Not everyone – and I speak as someone who has relatives in the police in the West Midlands – not every policeman who has done something against the rules is an evil person. I can’t excuse plebgate really because it appears that they’ve just made that up, but the Mark Duggan situation for example and what happened in Tottenham – I’m not in agreement with the jury’s findings, but on the other hand if you’re going out chasing a suspect who you think has got a gun and you think is dangerous then you’re going to be that much more wary.
“It’s important that we have programmes like Line of Duty because we need reminding that the police are people too. We hold the police to a higher standard – as we should – but at the end of the day they are people. They do make mistakes.
“In this series and the last series, the people who are being investigated are not whiter than white. They have their reasons, even though you and I might make different choices. That’s the importance of dramas like this.”
Robert Lindsay was originally set to star as Mike Dryden but later departed the project as reported creative differences. Can you shed any light on what happened there? And was it easy to integrate a new actor so late in the game?
“I don’t know much about it. It’s funny because Robert and I were speaking one night in the aftermath of the big accident that happens in the first episode and we were on a flight back home and I said to him ‘See you on Tuesday’ or whenever it was after the weekend.
“I got back the following week, I’m in a van from the hotel, Mark Bonnar gets in and he says he’s playing Dryden! I say “’No you’re not, Robert Lindsay is’ and he says ‘No, I am’. So Robert had given me no clue other than I think one night we were talking and there were a couple of things he was unsure about what his character had to say or do, but nothing that I considered to be a major issue. Then the next thing he wasn’t there. That was a bit of a shock.
“Having said that, I don’t think it was that difficult to integrate Mark into the part because he’s a terrific actor anyway. I think they had to reshoot some scenes but everything bounced back. It was fine. They picked a very good actor in Mark and he just hit the ground running. In terms of details of why Robert decided not to continue – I don’t know.”
You’ve had quite a few Hollywood roles, have you got any more parts on the horizon?
“Not on the horizon. In about two weeks I’m off to New York as a play I’ve been doing is going over there, which is exciting. My agent is over there now, so we’re going to have some meetings while I’m there so we’ll see.”
Series 2 is currently airing at 9pm on Wednesday nights on BBC Two.