Ever since starring as waistcoat-wearing DI Steve Arnott in cop thriller Line of Duty, Martin Compston has become a household name. It was 2012 when Martin signed up to play Arnott, a detective working as part of an anti-corruption squad, AC-12, and he instantly became a hit with viewers.
Over six series fans have obsessed over his tireless commitment to the job, his penchant for covert meetings in graffiti-covered underpasses and the fact that he calls DS Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) "mate" in his southern lilt — even though Compston is actually Scottish!
His co-stars include Adrian Dunbar, who’s previously appeared in Ashes to Ashes, as Superintendant Ted "mother of God" Hastings. Meanwhile, Vicky McClure has previously starred in the acclaimed film This Is England and the following TV series sequels This is England ’86, This is England ’88 and This is England ’90.
But before joining the Line of Duty cast, Martin appeared in various roles, and he’s since starred in other films and TV projects alongside his work on Line of Duty. He’s also set to star in Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming supernatural series The Rig, about a group of North Sea oil workers, where he’ll be back in his ordinary Greenock accent!
Here’s our guide to where else you may have seen the Scottish star and his upcoming role in The Rig…
Line of Duty's Martin Compston: Starting out...
Although he’d never acted before, Martin Compston was plucked from obscurity when he successfully auditioned for Ken Loach’s 2002 film Sweet Sixteen, which was being filmed near his Scottish home.
He won the lead role of troubled teenager Liam, who dreams of starting afresh with his mum as soon as she’s out of prison and tries to raise money for their future.
Sweet Sixteen had success at the Cannes Film Festival and catapulted Martin to fame in Scotland. He also won Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards for his role.
"Very early on one of my teachers said, ‘I think you’ll get this’, even though it was a part that was very competitive to get and there were thousands of kids all over Scotland going for it," says Martin.
"Looking back, the amount of trust Ken Loach put in me was unbelievable. There’s no doubt that the man changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful to him."
Line of Duty's Martin Compston — learning on the job!
Following on from Sweet Sixteen, Martin landed a regular role in hit BBC TV drama Monarch of the Glen, playing happy-go-lucky "cheeky chappie" Ewan.
Martin admits he cut his acting teeth on Monarch of the Glen, and learnt much from his co-star Tom Baker.
"I didn't have any acting training so Monarch has been my drama school. No doubt about it," he said at the time. "[Tom Baker] is the old grand dramatic actor and I'm just the little Glasgow kid nipping about in the background!"
Martin also appeared and a variety of films before landing the job of playing DS Steve Arnott in Line of Duty. He was in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints with Robert Downey Jr, Red Road with Kate Dickie and Tony Curran, True North with Peter Mullan and Gary Lewis, and Soulboy alongside later Line of Duty cast member Craig Parkinson.
He also appeared in the horror film The 4th Reich and had a bit part 2009’s The Damned United as Leeds and Derby player John O’Hare.
"It was great to be part of that film for one reason – you had 14 actors in a hotel for three months," says Martin. "We all got keys cut for each others room so if anyone didn’t want to go on a night out we could go and get them out!"
Line of Duty's Martin Compston — a life of TV crime...
In 2013 Martin played real life Scottish criminal Paul Ferris in the British gangster film The Wee Man, which told the story of Ferris’s life in Glasgow’s violent underworld.
Then in 2016, Martin played another real life criminal, Peter Manuel, in the three-part Scottish television series In Plain Sight. The drama follows serial killer Manuel, as he’s pursued by detective William Muncie, until he’s tried, convicted and eventually executed in 1958.
"I’d heard of Peter Manuel before playing him — he’s a sort of the bogeyman in Scotland — but I wasn’t aware of the depth and the severity of his crimes," says Martin. "He was an absolute psychopath and that was one of the reasons they couldn’t catch him for so long because there was no pattern to these murders. It was a challenge playing him!"
* You can currently watch In Plain Sight on the streaming service BritBox.
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Line of Duty's Martin Compston, music star!
The Scot made an appearance in The View’s music videos for 2011’s Grace and 2012’s How Long. The Scottish Indie band, who are from Dundee, are best known for their 2007 hit Same Jeans, which reached no 3 in the UK charts.
The bit part came about after the actor lived with The View’s Kyle Falconer when he was in his 20s.
"When I moved to London properly I was 24 or 25 and I shared a flat with Kyle Falconer — that took a few years off my life!" he says. "It was great living with Kyle and there were bands and artists coming round and it was an amazing time."
Line of Duty's Martin Compston — TV regular!
Although still a series regular in Line of Duty, Martin Compston has appeared in other roles while filming the show, including the Ice Cream Girls and Victoria on ITV, and BBC1’s Great Train Robbery.
In 2020 he joined the cast of the BBC1 thriller The Nest as Dan Docherty, alongside Peaky Blinders star Sophie Rundle as Dan’s wife Emily. The tense plot follows the couple, who end up turning to an 18-year-old girl to be their surrogate when they fail to conceive… with dangerous results.
"To all intents and purposes they’ve got this perfect life apart from this one thing they can’t have. It all goes wrong after that," says Martin. "It’s about class, money and the lengths people will go to when they’re desperate."
More recently he was seen on screen in Traces on BBC1, as the romantic interest of Molly Windsor’s lab technician Emma Hedges, who’s desperately trying unpick the unsolved murder of her mother.
"Both of them are lost at the time they meet and they’re in this crazy situation — he’s been investigated for culpable homicide and she’s looking for her mum’s killer," says Martin. "They kind of need each other but it’s the maddest thing for them to be together."
* The Nest, The Great Train Robbery and Victoria can currently be watched on streaming service BritBox.
Where can you see Line of Duty's Martin Compston next?
Martin’s next project is The Rig, an Amazon Prime thriller about a group of North Sea oil workers due to return to the mainland when they’re cut off after mysterious and all-enveloping fog descends. He’ll play communications officer Fulmer Hamilton and will star alongside Mark Bonnar, Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek), Iain Glen and his former Line of Duty co-star Rochenda Sandall in the six-part series.
Martin’s also about to bee seen alongside Suranne Jones, Shaun Evans and Paterson Joseph to star in BBC1’s suspenseful thriller series Vigil, from the makers of Line of Duty.
Set in Scotland, the six-part drama follows Suranne as DCI Amy Silva, who’s called to investigate the death of a sailor on board the submarine HMS Vigil, as well as the strange disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler. But the mysterious case brings her into conflict with both the Navy and the heart of the British Security Service.
The trailer (see below) sees DCI Silva entering the sub, while Martin Compston’s character warns, ‘There’s 20 different ways you could kill Vigil’s crew single handedly,’ although so far no details about his character have been revealed.
Line of Duty is currently available in the UK on BBCiPlayer and is coming soon to BritBox in the US.
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