Ridley arrived on our screens to rave reviews last week, and now lead actor Adrian Dunbar tells us what we can expect as the series continues on ITV this weekend.
He’s best known as Ted Hastings, Line of Duty’s anti-corruption detective who loves ‘catching bent coppers’. Now Adrian Dunbar is taking the title role in Lancashire-set crime drama Ridley, which is all about a troubled ex-cop who runs a jazz club and is drawn back into police work by a former colleague.
Last week the first of four 90-minute investigations saw retired Ridley, still traumatized by the deaths of his wife and daughter, team up with his former protege, newly promoted Carol Farmer (The Fall’s Bronagh Waugh), when a murder case she was working on appeared to be linked to an unsolved missing child investigation that still haunts her ex-boss.
We caught up with Adrian to find out more about what we can expect from the rest of the series...
Adrian, how did you feel about playing a singing detective?
"I've been interested in music all my life, and I’ve played in bands and even with an Elvis Presley impersonator! I thought it would be really nice if there was a musical element to this character, so the idea was that, in his retirement, Ridley was going to run a jazz club."
He’s quite a traumatized character, isn’t he?
"Yes, we now know that is because of a tragedy that happened towards the end of his policing days, when his wife and daughter were tragically killed in a house fire."
Carol Farman (Bronagh Waugh) has got him back into police work. What’s their relationship like?
"It's very difficult for someone who's as long in the tooth as Ridley is to accept the fact that this younger woman is his boss. But they respect each other and she knows how to handle him."
What sets this apart from other crime dramas?
"We've got a wonderful writer in Paul Matthew Thompson, who writes for [Brenda Bleythn crime drama] Vera. This show’s slightly darker than some of the other things that are out there, and a bit grittier. I think it being set in the north of England helps in that respect.
Who is more like you – Ted Hastings or Ridley?
"I suppose I'm getting to play a lot more of me in Ridley, because he's out of the office, whereas most of the time you saw Ted in the world of policing. Ridley does a lot of introspection, and I'm having to bring a bit more of myself to those moments of emotion."
Ridley retired — do you see yourself following suit?
" think most of us who quite like our jobs are happy enough to keep going. I like keeping on the move, but I am also very happy wasting a day, and I'm not a workaholic. I don't think I'll retire as such, at least not for a while, and certainly not as I've just got my first title role!"
What did it feel like stepping up to play the title role in a series?
"I felt a huge sense of responsibility. When you come off the back of creating a really interesting character like Ted Hastings, you don't think you're going to reach those heights again. But you want a character that the audience can engage with and feel for, because programmes like this rely on the heart at the middle of it all."
Like Hastings, Ridley hates bent coppers! Would he make a good recruit for Line of Duty’s anti-corruption unit, AC-12?
"Ridley? No, he’s too old. And I don’t think he’d pass the medical!"
Ted Hastings became a bit of a sex symbol. Are you hoping for the same for Ridley?
"What I'd really like is bags of empathy from our female viewers. For all his strengths, moral core, bluster and honesty, where women were concerned Ted was quite hapless, and his personal life was in bits. I think people responded to that aspect of his character, and certainly Ridley is in a pretty sad place."
Do you have a favourite TV detective?
"My favorite was the original [Italian TV cop] Inspector Montalbano, but Robbie Coltrane was brilliant in Cracker, and John Thaw was fabulous in Morse. I also love Columbo, The Rockford Files and Kojak. These characters were huge in the 1970s and 80s, and they are the ones I really identify with."
What else have you got in the pipeline?
I might be doing something with [Line of Duty actor] Neil Morrissey, who's an old friend of mine. It’s one of those DNA journey shows, and that will be a bit of a laugh.
Where can I watch Ridley?
Ridley continues on ITV on Sunday evenings at 8pm. Episodes are also available on the ITV Hub.
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Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.