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‘Line of Duty’ takes a new tack: Creator wanted series to be ‘examination of policing’

“Line of Duty” stars, from left, Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure. (Courtesy of BBC One)

Jed Mercurio challenged himself to develop a series that didn’t rely on the drama of reassurance that viewers are accustomed to.

For months, he wrote.

What came out of the process is BBC One’s “Line of Duty.”

The fifth season of the show is streaming on Acorn TV, and the series has become one of the most watched in the U.K.

For the fifth season, he wanted to take a different approach.

“I wanted to do something that was an examination of policing,” he says. “It takes on anti-corruption. It’s cops versus cops. And finding the right characters to propel the story forward. Each season introduced a new guest star.”

Mercurio is the mastermind behind the series, as well as the series, “Bodyguard,” which airs on Netflix.

In the fifth season, when three police officers are shot dead during the hijacking of a transport of seized drugs, police anti-corruption unit AC-12 moves in to investigate possible police collusion.

Stephen Graham and Rochenda Sandall are the guest leads, starring alongside Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar.

In the fourth season, Thandie Newton was the guest lead.

“Each of the actors are playing character who are complex,” he says. “This season, they get involved in corruption and draw the audience into the story. To be able to look at the situation through different sides is the goal. We see that investigations are flawed, and there are all kinds of ethical complexities.”

Simon Heath, left, and Jed Mercurio arrive at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in January in Beverly Hills, California. (Courtesy of Jordan Strauss/Invision)

Mercurio says the biggest challenge of writing for “Line of Duty” is keeping the format fresh.

“We went into territory with Stephen Graham’s character being part of organized crime,” he says. “We developed the series in an unusual way. We go episode by episode, and I develop the arch, but I don’t share that with the editorial team. They have to write, and then we get together and put the story together.”

Mercurio was born in Nelson, Lancashire, U.K., in 1966 but grew up in Cannock, Staffordshire.

He graduated from the University of Birmingham Medical School in 1991 and practiced as a hospital doctor for three years.

While still a medical student, he joined the Royal Air Force and received flying training with the intention of specializing in aviation medicine.

Instead, after replying to an advertisement placed in the British Medical Journal, Mercurio ventured into writing the BBC medical drama “Cardiac Arrest” under the pseudonym John MacUre.

Mercurio has his hands in a few projects and devotes the time needed for each one.

“In general, I think it’s about the inspiration to deliver fully formed ideas,” he says. “You have to shape your ideas and have to identify things that are interesting and find ways to combine them that carry the story forward. In ‘Line of Duty,’ there are sometimes real-world events that are thought-provoking and would work in the show.”


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