Adrian Dunbar on being "very keen" for new Line of Duty and his new Channel 5 travel show
The Line of Duty star chats to Lauren Morris for The Big RT Interview about his hopes for the show's seventh season, singing in Ridley and his new Channel 5 travel show.
For most people, the festive season is the perfect time for some respite from work, but it's not so easy for Adrian Dunbar – mainly thanks to the extremely quotable nature of his Line of Duty character Ted Hastings.
"Everybody's on '[Jesus, Mary, Joseph and] the wee donkey.' Everybody loves that," the Irish actor says, referring to Hastings's catchphrase. "Coming up to Christmas, I think there'll be even more wee donkeys about."
It's completely understandable that fans immediately associate Dunbar with detectives. He stars in a hit Jed Mercurio police procedural that, despite airing its somewhat anti-climatic finale last year, people can't stop asking after (including me – but more on that later). Meanwhile, over on ITV, Dunbar is crime-solving as the titular DI in Ridley, a drama that aired earlier this summer.
However, the Irish actor's next project is a lot more personal, with Dunbar settling into presenting mode for his brand new Channel 5 travel show. "I think having variety as an actor takes the pressure off things," he tells me over the phone on a Friday morning. "I can take my focus away from acting and put it in different areas and I think that if you are able to do other things, you shouldn't die wondering. You should have a go."
That's exactly what he does in Adrian Dunbar: My Ireland, a follow-up to his previous series Adrian Dunbar's Coastal Ireland. Taking viewers to some of his favourite places in his homeland, the actor visits some of the country's highly recommended haunts whilst giving the public an insight into his own life.
"I get to visit some friends who I know so that makes the whole thing very easy to do and very kind of casual," he explains. "It's a very relaxed style of presenting and it's got a bit of space for the audience to get a feel for what it might be like travelling around."
When it came to deciding where to go, the producers came up with a list of "big ticket" places that luckily Dunbar wanted "to go most of the time", whether it was spending time with chefs like Neven Maguire and Richard Corrigan, or looking around the historical site of Newgrange in County Meath.
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"I think by and large, it's a good breadth of things and also something little quirky things that I like to see myself, like dropping by the Planetarium," he says. "It was really enjoyable seeing [the crew] witness the likes of Newgrange and Powerscourt Gardens, which are stunningly beautiful. It's a very, very pleasant thing to do."
Aside from the country's typical hotspots, My Ireland sees Dunbar visit places that are extremely significant – such as Slieve League, a County Donegal cliff that he visited with his late friend John Keegan, a fellow actor who died from terminal illness in 1998. However, the Line of Duty star reveals that he didn't share the meaning of the location before the camera began rolling.
"When we decided that we were starting in Slieve League, nobody else but me knew what connection I had to Slieve League. It's a very spectacular place, but nobody really knew that I had other connections to it with my friend, John Keegan.
"And I thought, if I'm here, by way of kind of marking the significance of this place to me, I will tell the story of John – how he came when he was young to that spot, he travelled as far west as he could and then many years later, on his final journey, he decided to go there as well and we accompanied him, which is a real privilege," he says. "So I just thought, it's a good way of marking the fact that this is a lot of the time a very personal journey for me as well."
Dunbar's overall aim for the show was to make the audience feel as though they're "on the road" with him. "It's under-produced, its not kind of too flashy and the chats we have are nice and casual. It's not necessarily me opening up, it's other people opening up and letting us into their lives for a little bit, which is of interest I think."
While Channel 5 is yet to announce more from the travelogue, the actor is certainly up for more. "Ireland itself is endlessly fascinating. There are lots of place still yet to go and visit across the island that we haven't been to yet. It would be something I think that could be ongoing."
As for Dunbar's other projects that are still (hopefully) ongoing, fans of ITV's Ridley are waiting for official word about season 2 – and so is its star. "I can't say for certain but the noises are very positive," he says.
"I'm sure they'll make some kind of announcement soon as to whether it's going or not. We all want to do it. We had a great time in Manchester, they're fantastic actors and a brilliant crew. It'd be wonderful to get that particular team back together again. Hopefully, we might hear an announcement in the next month or so, so keep your fingers crossed."
Alex Ridley, an officer brought out of retirement by a dark and complex case, isn't dissimilar to other detectives Dunbar has played. He's no-nonsense, harnesses unorthodox policing methods and can find himself becoming too attached to the matter at hand – however, what does separate Ridley from other coppers is that he sings, as viewers were surprised to learn in season 1.
"That's something I brought to it myself and I've always like the idea of the Singing Detective," Dunbar says. "I also thought that as we're going to be up in the north west, it's going to be cold and everything, wouldn't it be great if there was somewhere else, a location that we can go to, that would be a bit warmer and a bit more glamorous."
Solving crimes by day and singing jazz by night is Ridley's forte thanks to the songs of Richard Hawley, which feature in the show. "These songs kind of suit the character really well because it's kind of masculine, but he's grieving and that's where his character is at. He's still mourning the loss of his wife and his daughter, and that's never going to leave him.
"I'm really hoping that we will have some more songs for the next season, if we go," he adds. "If it does materialise, I'd like us to just keep the standard up, get some very interesting twisty-turny page-turning sort of stories that keep the audience guessing over the two hours that we do it and just develop the character more."
While Ridley can hold a tune, I doubt Ted Hastings is melodically talented – but will we ever get the chance to find out? Unfortunately, Dunbar doesn't have anything new to add to his answer in previous interviews.
"There's no update yet on whether we can expect a seventh season," he says. "I think generally there's a willingness amongst everybody to do something but I think we're just gonna have to wait a little bit longer."
"We might hear something at some point in the near future, but I really don't know. It's hard to predict these things and it's hard to make people think, 'Oh, it's going to happen,' and then it doesn't because we hate making false promises."
However, Dunbar assures me that the whole gang – Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Jed Mercurio – are "very keen" to return to set, particularly after the last season was filmed over lockdown. "It wasn't quite as fun. We couldn't hangout, we couldn't go out. We were all in a kind of bubble so it just didn't have the same feel – which is one of the reasons we'd like to do another one."
The highly-anticipated and ultimately divisive revelation in the last season's finale was over the identity of H, with AC-12 discovering that it was Ian Buckells, an unassuming Detective Superintendent within the force. Some fans weren't too happy with the ending and even Dunbar said himself in interviews earlier this year that Buckells wasn't actually the culprit behind the iconic letter, telling Radio Times magazine that he's just "the patsy".
As for the actor's opinions on H now, he says: "Well, that's the big question. I think the ending, whether someone's H or not, is interesting.
"The ending was a good ending because what Jed was saying I think was that it doesn't take a Mr Big, a mastermind who organised a lot of these things. It just needs one cop who's willing to not go into work that day on the advice of a criminal, to turn a blind eye to a piece of information that's going to upset a plan that they have."
"It's small things, small indiscretions by policemen, by bent coppers, if you like that really make the difference to the criminal organisations – not big bits of information," he continued.
To that extent, Buckells was the perfect person to pin H on. "Even though it was kind of frustrating for the audience who probably thought we were going to have a big reveal, you can't really introduce a big reveal character within one episode to go over a 10 year series. It just doesn't work like that."
He adds that it's "an interesting place" for creator Jed Mercurio to pick up from, if he chooses to do so. "It's an interesting place where we're at."
In the meantime, Dunbar is happy to take Ted Hastings on a solo adventure for a Line of Duty spin-off. "You'll always be in the market for considering whatever people throw at you. So I mean, that would be interesting. Yes is the answer to that, I suppose."
Returning to My Ireland, the show is yet to visit Belfast – which hardcore LoD fans will know is the filming location for the hit BBC drama. Can we expect the show to take us on a Line of Duty tour? "We haven't really done any of the cities yet. That's also of interest. That could be a whole series."
Adrian Dunbar's My Ireland airs on 23rd November at Channel 5 at 8pm.