When the cast was first announced for BBC One drama Vigil last year, TV fans were very excited by the impressive list of names assembled for the series: Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Martin Compston…
But unfortunately for Line of Duty fans, the last of those names turned out to be a bit of a red herring – Compston’s character Craig Burke is killed off inside the opening ten minutes of the first episode.
After a row with his superior in the opening scenes, Burke is ordered to end his shift, and next thing we know he’s found dead in his bunk, apparently as the result of a heroin overdose.
Of course, this being a thriller, there’s rather more to his death than meets the eye – but the decision to kill off an actor as accomplished and popular as Compston at the very start is a brave move in itself.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com about the decision to cast Compston in the role, writer Tom Edge explains, “Our production company, World has almost developed a reputation for killing extremely good actors before the final credits have run on the first episode – I’m sure one day the entire announced cast of one of their shows will be killed within 30 seconds!
“But actually, what we really needed from that character is somebody who is good enough to make a really indelible mark with the limited time that they have on the screen,” he says. “And certainly Martin can do that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I also feel like it’s more than that, his ghost sort of hangs over the series as a whole.”
So it looks like Compston’s character will continue to affect the drama from beyond the grave. Edge adds, “I think his voice and his intention and ultimately the reason behind his death… I think they go a long way with it. And hopefully, he is a character who you feel like you have a relationship with right until the final moments. We knew we wanted someone great to take that on and yes, he really was.”
Asked how Compston felt about taking on the role Edge says: “You know what, even though there were limitations to how much we were filming with him because of the nature of what happens to him, his approach was still really exacting. And we had a really good dialogue about the nature of the video messages that he leaves. And he worked really hard and was really precise.
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“And I think that came from knowing not only that he’s a really committed actor who was always going to do a great job, but those scenes had to make an enormous impact compared to the time he would be on screen. So I’m really grateful to him for taking that on.”