Martin Compston says his Traces character is a “contrast” to Line of Duty’s Steve Arnott

"He's just a flip from Steve... which is appealing to play."

Martin Compston - Traces

Martin Compston returns to our screens next week, but in a role quite different to Line of Duty’s Steve Arnott – something that Compston says was part of the appeal.


Traces – an original crime drama from Alibi, now airing on BBC One – follows three female leads, Emma Hedges (Three Girls’ Molly Windsor), Prof. Sarah Gordon (Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser) and Prof. Kathy Torrance (Continuum’s Jennifer Spence), who together use the rigours of forensics to uncover the truth about an unsolved murder case.

Compston plays Daniel, a troubled soul who forms a connection with Windsor’s character. “He’s just a flip from Steve,” the actor told “The thing with Daniel is, he just seems like a nice guy in a bad situation, and things are getting out of control for him.

“Whereas Steve’s completely driven by ambition and his own ego, Dan just seems a likeable guy who’s trying to do right by people, so there’s definitely that contrast, which is appealing to play.”

Based on an original idea by best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, Traces has been written by Amelia Bullmore (Scott & Bailey) – also an actress, Bullimore’s dual career means that she is very much an ‘actor’s writer’, according to Compston.

“It’s nice when you read something and you think, ‘That’s actually how people speak!’ – because believe me, there are times when you’re reading some scripts and you think, ‘These are not words you would actually string together in a sentence’,” he admitted.

As for McDermid’s involvement, he added, “She’s a legend in the writing game – a bit of a Scottish titan.”

Playing Daniel wasn’t without its challenges, though – Compston admitted it was “nerve-wracking” trying to bring the stormy relationship between his character and Windsor’s Emma to life.

“But that was one of the challenges I really fancied taking on,” he said.

Martin Compston and Molly Windsor - Traces
Martin Compston and Molly Windsor – Traces

“Molly’s a wee firecracker – the girl’s got all the talent in the world. She’s already got a BAFTA – what is she, 22 now?! I was just blown away by her. She’s very wise beyond her years, very professional, very considered in her work, so she was a joy to work with. We became very good pals pretty quickly.”

Daniel and Emma are “both just a bit lost, and looking for something”, he explained, “so they do fall pretty hard, pretty fast.”

Complicating their relationship is Emma’s quest to discover the truth about exactly what happened to her late mother. “Her determination to find out what happened to her mother, that’s her priority,” Compston said. “And anybody who stands in the way of that, she’s going to bulldoze!” 

Traces begins airing weekly on BBC One on Monday 4th January at 9pm, with the whole series also available to stream on BBC iPlayer after the first episode has aired.


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