Line of Duty's Ted Hastings is known for two things: catching bent coppers and Ted-isms. The latter have gone on to appear on T-shirts, mugs, and even feature in a BBC song.


And now, actor Adrian Dunbar has revealed the most famous of his catchphrases was actually improvised.

Speaking to Radio Times, the actor, whose "Mother of God!" exclamations punctuate the tense corruption drama, revealed how adding "the wee donkey" came about in what has become perhaps the most iconic moment of season 6.

He explained: "What happened was that Jed [Mercurio] had written in the script 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph'. But in Ireland I’d heard a woman, in frustration, go one Nativity character further, as it were. Brilliant! So I didn’t say anything to anyone. We shot the scene a few times and I said the line as written but then, on one take, I dropped in 'and the wee donkey' and out of the corner of my eye I could see Jed, knowing he’d got TV gold. It went nuts on social media, then T-shirts and mugs.”

Dunbar, who, like his character, was born in Northern Ireland, said that all the invocations of the Bethlehem stable are a genuine part of Irish Catholicism. "All the 'Mother of God' stuff is completely from my father," he said, before adding: "One of the things people don’t get is that Ireland is the only English-speaking Catholic country in the world so, underneath this Shakespearean, mercantile Germanic language, we have this Latin underbelly and bits of Celtic all wrapped together.

More like this

"And at some point madre de dios has been translated and you end up with 'Mother of God!' becoming a catchphrase in a British TV series!"

The actor also revealed he didn't think 'H' was Buckells, but rather a distraction. Does that mean there could be more Line of Duty in store? We'll have to wait and see.

You can read the full interview in this week's issue of Radio Times.

Read more:

Line of Duty is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Take a look at more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is released on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.