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Jed Mercurio: 'we'd love to do more Trigger Point''

Trigger Point
Vicky McClure stars in 'Trigger Point'. (Image credit: ITV)

Line of Duty fans won't want to miss Trigger Point, which sees Vicky McClure and Jed Mercurio join forces once again to produce more exhilarating television. 

The six-part ITV drama follows Metropolitan Police Bomb Disposal Expert - or 'expo' - Lana Washington and her partner Joel Nutkins (Adrian Lester) as they battle to stop a deadly terrorist campaign as it sweeps across London.

The show was written by debut screenwriter Daniel Brierley, under the watchful eye of Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, who also acts as executive producer on the series, so we caught up with Jed to find out more about the project.

How did you get involved with 'Trigger Point'? 

"The project started when I mentored the writer, Daniel Brierley through UK ScreenSkills. They asked if I would mentor a writer through their bursary scheme, and so I suggested that candidates could pitch their ideas and we would help to develop one. Daniel's idea just stood out as the most commercial and it feels like such fertile territory for TV drama."

How much research goes into a drama like this?

"Bomb disposal feels like it's a very closed world, so straight away we wondered how you would access information about it. Obviously, there are lots of security considerations, so you can't just look up this stuff online without getting a knock on the door! We had a bomb disposal advisor on Bodyguard, a working expo who was excellent and incredibly helpful to us on that series, so I just put Daniel in touch with him. He went to their headquarters and training facilities and got a crash course in the things that bomb disposal officers do, and the kinds of operations they might be called out to in London."

How would you describe your role on this series?

"When I first set up the production company, HTM Television with Jimmy Mulville, we wanted to develop untapped talent and new voices. Daniel has done quite a lot of writing, but he'd never created his own TV show before, so it was really about being a facilitator, putting him in touch with the right advisors and talking to him about his plan. We talked about how the first episode needs to introduce the main characters while being a really dynamic piece of storytelling.

"He's bright, receptive and hard-working, so it was mainly just talking. Daniel did all the writing - he would generate all the storylines and write the drafts of the script, then I would give my feedback, but I wouldn't interfere too much. I might suggest specific ways to approach a scene, but generally, I shared notes with him in the same way that I would like to receive them as a writer, giving my reaction. We talked about the challenges of getting through the story and dealing with the basics of what people expect from a thriller, which is jeopardy, mystery and twists and turns. The art is in making the twists as unexpected as possible..."

Has it been hard to take a step back? 

"I've really enjoyed it actually. Having the opportunity to work with great new talent and established leading actors has been great, and I just enjoy making television. I still have shows that are my own, things that I write and run personally, but being part of the team and collaborating has been enjoyable."

Trigger Point's Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester

'Trigger Point' stars Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester. (Image credit: Matt Frost / ITV)

Was it important to spotlight a female character in this male world?

"In terms of the gender balance within the world of explosives officers, it is absolutely a very male-dominated environment. But we all know professions should be more gender-balanced and there should be a much more level playing field for entry to these roles. So it feels like a good statement to have a female lead — there are women who do occupy these roles and as we go forward there will be more. There's no real gender specificity to Lana, she doesn't carry out her role in a feminine way, she’s just a professional. I think it's really important in terms of representation. If we showed the world as male-dominated it might be sending the wrong message to people who might be considering that career."

What makes Vicky so perfect for the role of Lana?

"We talked about Vicky straight away. We needed someone who was just totally authentic, someone you would completely believe in everything that the character does and her name came up in the very first conversation about casting. Everybody said, “Vicky McClure would be great” and then they all just looked at me! So I just asked her and she said she'd love to read the script. We were incredibly fortunate that she responded to Daniel's writing and the ambitions for the series. Obviously, she's at the top of every casting wish list in British TV, so the fact that she said yes is a real coup for the series."

Did you miss Vicky's fellow 'Line of Duty' stars, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar, on this project?

"There’s still plenty of contact with them, they’re never far away and there's always something going on in the WhatsApp group! Every now and then Vicky sends them a picture to make them jealous. They're really supportive of each other's careers anyway, and they give each other so much banter, love and support."

Are you worried that people will try to compare 'Trigger Point' to 'Line of Duty'?

"We went into the series with our eyes open, because both me and Vicky are involved and we take that on board. It’s obviously clear that I haven't written it, and Vicky is playing Lana Washington an explosives officer, not DI Kate Fleming. It's much more of an explosives drama than a police series, so I think there are plenty of distinctions. I just hope that fans of Line of Duty give Trigger Point the opportunity to see if it’s their kind of thing."

What were the biggest challenges involved in making the series?

"Shooting on location in London was challenging, as were the special effects required. Getting access to film in London is always hard because it's a big bustling city, and then on top of that, when we say we want to blow things up there’s an incredible amount of paperwork!"

Were you mindful of how you handled the more sensitive storylines in 'Trigger Point'? 

"Yes, we don't want people to become nervous about terrorist threats or to feed into anxiety, but we do recognize that in big cities these threats to national security do exist. So the way that we approached it was to try to imagine a credible real-world threat and a credible way in which that would be investigated. That's really the mystery side of the story.

"So we have the danger, the excitement and all the tension from the fact that in every episode our main characters are dealing with devices that might blow them up. But on the other hand, the big hook of the series that drives you is the mystery of who is behind this, because it's not immediately clear what the purpose of the terrorist campaign is. And that is something that’s very different from the real world because usually, it becomes clear fairly quickly. So dealing with a situation in which the terrorists don't want people to know who's behind an attack felt like a really interesting area for drama."

Do you see 'Trigger Point' as a returning drama? 

"Yes, we would love the opportunity to do more because we just feel it’s one of those areas that hasn't really been explored, particularly in terms of the world we live in now, it feels topical. If we're fortunate enough to be successful, and the audience likes it in sufficient numbers, then we'd relish the opportunity for another series. You just never know what the audience is going to say, but I hope people appreciate the quality of the storytelling, connect to the characters and want to know what happens next. If you can give them an hour of entertainment and they want more at the end, then that's the absolute high point of your job."

Sean Marland
Sean Marland

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.