Over the past decade, Adrian Dunbar has carved a place in our hearts as Line Of Duty’s Supt Ted Hastings, the Ulster man dedicated to rooting out warped cops within the police force. Having become so popular thanks to Hastings, it was understandable that Adrian hesitated when offered the chance to play another cop in ITV’s new crime drama Ridley.
But only for a moment, after Adrian made sure ex-DI Alex Ridley wouldn’t be like Ted. First of all, Ted Hastings would never sit at the piano in between and sing smooth jazz tunes to an appreciative audience.
But retired Ridley co-owns a jazz club, which conveniently gives Adrian a chance to show off his musicianship.
“If this were a series of books, it could be what Ted Hastings did next,” jokes Adrian, 64. “However, to me, a character without a uniform is a completely different character.
Adrian Dunbar (pictured) has carved himself a spot as Line Of Duty’s Ted Hastings. The actor was given the opportunity to play a different kind of copper
‘Ted is office-bound and uniform-bound, very dignified and formal, while Ridley is complicated. At first you don’t feel a hint of warmth from him.”
And what set Adrian apart was Ridley starring in a television drama. “I thought, first and foremost, it’s me that comes up as the title character — that’s a pretty big deal, but I had some influence on how he was going to be.”
Adrian insisted Alex Ridley was just as musical as he is – Enniskillen-born Adrian was a teenage musician who once played alongside an Elvis Presley impersonator and performed with a country band before finding fame as an actor.
He’s been a fixture on our screens since landing roles in acclaimed films like My Left Foot (1989) and The Crying Game (1992) and in TV series like A Touch Of Frost and Ashes To Ashes. But when TV roles became harder to come by in his 40s, Adrian reunited with his first love and returned to pub gigs.
Adrian, singing here on Irish TV, was a teenage musician who once played alongside an Elvis Presley impersonator and performed with a country band before finding fame as an actor
“I’ve always been interested in music,” says Adrian. “My mother was a fabulous singer, so when this came out I said to Jonathan Fisher, the producer, ‘There has to be a musical element to it.
“I have to find a way to bring things that I know into this character.” So we agreed that for his retirement, Ridley would have started this club with a friend, played by Julie Graham, and every now and then would have stood up and would have sung a song.’
First and foremost, however, Alex Ridley is a retired detective inspector carrying the heavy burden of a great tragedy. A while back, his wife and daughter died in a house fire that was supposed to kill him.
Ridley is melancholy and in search of redemption, and he expresses his grief through music on a public stage
But just as Ridley is retiring from his police career to nurture his broken heart, he is drawn back to his former protégé DI Carol Farman (Bronagh Waugh from The Fall) as an adviser. In their first case, Ridley and Carol investigate the murder of a local farmer.
Fourteen years ago, Ridley had questioned the same farmer about the disappearance of a three-year-old girl, but he was never charged and the girl was never found. Carol calls Ridley for help, confident that his knowledge of the case can help solve the murder.
In later episodes, Ridley helps investigate the death of a woman found buried on the moor and a case with a connection to the arson attack that killed his wife and daughter.
Adding to the drama are spectacular, windswept backdrops that justify calling Ridley “Northern Noir.” Set in and around a fictional Lancashire town and filmed in winter, the mysterious murders take place in dramatic moors and valleys beneath deep skies.
It might look good on screen, but the actors admit that shooting in inclement weather meant they needed lots of layers – Bronagh Waugh’s DI Carol Farman wears the kind of knitwear last seen in Danish thriller The Killing .
Bronagh Waugh’s DI Carol Farman wears the kind of knitwear last seen in Danish thriller The Killing
“It was very cold, so we urgently needed our thermal underwear,” confirms Adrian. “But it’s great because it creates a lot of atmosphere.
“After the summer heatwave we had, people might be quite happy to see something cooler.”
Ridley is another crime drama, but one with its own distinctive character. Its melancholic protagonist is a man seeking redemption who expresses his grief through music on a public stage.
The drama uses haunting songs by singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, including Hold Back The Night.
“A lot of Richard Hawley’s work deals with male grief, and that’s what drew me when I first started listening to the songs,” says Adrian, who plans to perform at the London’s Soho ‘ Nasty Nick Cotton) and who’s been ‘talking to a few people about an album’. “Maybe I’ll do ‘Ridley at Christmas,'” he jokes.
Ridley’s moody ambience seems worlds away from Ted Hastings, but Adrian understandably feels the double pressure to take the lead and play another cop, especially since he recently said he doesn’t think we’ve seen the end of Ted.
“There’s a huge appetite for more line of duty,” he said. “It could be three or four episodes, I don’t think it will be six.”
But for now, his focus is on Ridley. “There’s a lot of me here,” says Adrian.
“When you’ve created a really interesting character like Ted Hastings, you want the next character you play to be another one that the audience can engage with and feel with.”
- Ridley, Sunday, 8pm, ITV