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Definately THE REAL DEAL

He’s the beating heart of the show that brought the UK together like no other before or since. Martin Compston talks to Hamish MacBain about Scottish independence, choosing between football and an acting career, and that finale

Much like DI Steve Arnott, the character with whom he will in all likelihood forever be most closely associated, Martin Compston does not, it seems, do much other than work. Our conversation takes place the morning after a night shoot for a new Amazon Prime production, The Rig, and he will be making his way back to its Edinburgh set as soon as we finish. There is the submarine-set BBC show Vigil, featuring the natural Scottish accent in which he talks to me today, already filmed and set to appear in the coming weeks. And of course there is that other series he was in, the concluding episode of which aired just over 48 hours before we speak.

‘Obviously finales are always hard,’ he begins, barely a minute in to our conversation, recognising that the climax of the sixth series of Line Of Duty — and the reaction it has received — is the chase that needs to be cut to right now. ‘You’ve got to respect people have invested so much in this thing and everybody has a different version of their ending, but yes… it’s been a pretty wild few days.’

Compston, like principal castmates Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar, along with series writer and creator Jed Mercurio, is not someone who pretends that he doesn’t read reviews or look at what people are saying online. So they’ve all seen that, yes, a not-insignificant percentage of the 12.8 million people — twelve point eight million! — who tuned in were dissatisfied with the subdued-
rather-than-bombastic conclusion.

They all knew that, as he puts it, ‘there were going to be riots in the streets if we didn’t reveal who H was’, and that, when you are dealing with an audience of that size, and with that level of hype, said reveal was never going to please everyone.

But Compston also stands by the ending and what Mercurio was going for. ‘I think he felt it would have been a bit of a cop-out to have — and he’s right — some sort of cat-stroking mastermind and then a crazy gun shoot-out. I think he felt that would have been the easy option.’ Plus, he says, he’s ‘seen a lot of people reach out and say, “Look, after a second viewing and walking away from it, and coming back to it later, I really enjoyed it.”’