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Vicky McClure — 'Trigger Point' has far more action than 'Line of Duty'

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

Vicky McClure has barely dusted herself down after last year's Line of Duty finale, but she'll be heading back into the firing line in explosive new ITV drama Trigger Point this month. 

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.

We caught up with Vicky, to find out more about a drama that saw her reunited with Line of Duty creator, Jed Mercurio, who was executive producer on the series... 

Vicky McClure on when she first heard about 'Trigger Point'?

"I got a text from Jed, who is obviously a good friend now after many years of working together. He also sent the script through the official channels and I was fascinated by it, because bomb disposal is an area that I don't know very much about and something I don't think we've seen an awful lot of on screen, apart from if people have seen The Hurt Locker, which is a great film.

"I’ll take any opportunity to work with Jed, not only because he's a friend, but also because he's incredible at what he does, and I love the fact that he’s supporting new writers like Daniel. So I didn't need any convincing to say yes - I knew it was going to be a really fun, interesting, and intriguing job. It's dynamic, it's action-packed, it's full of brilliant characters and it will put you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next explosive situation. I’m really excited for people to see it."

Did Lana immediately appeal to you as a character?

"Yeah, she's a great character and when it comes to bravery, you're talking about Lana. She’s carrying trauma and her life is pretty messed up, which is really appealing as an actor because you want to play real, layered characters. It feels like we're dealing with somebody going through a lot of life's tough times and it's nice to be able to find strength in flawed characters.

"As we go through the series, she becomes more lost as she tries to work out who is planting these bombs and why it's getting closer to home. The way in which the story unfolds is quite surreal. And then in the middle of that, she's got her own personal issues to deal with, and she’s scared because she’s losing her instinct. This show is fascinating because it takes place in a very short space of time, and it’s very fast-paced. She’s trying to keep people safe and she’s losing her head a little bit."

Did you get involved with many stunts?

"I was really keen to do the action scenes that come with the show, and I knew that playing an expo would be quite a challenge physically. I didn't actually expect it to be quite as challenging as it was, but I got through it and I did most of it myself. The few things that I didn't do are mainly scenes with erratic driving because of Covid restrictions, even though I always say, “Didn't you see me in Top Gear? I know what I'm doing!” It was very impressive what the guys could do with some of the explosions too."

Were the action scenes tough-going at times?

"Physically, it was a challenging job - when you see me running from a bomb I haven't just done it once, there have been many takes! People will tell you that I'm not a gym fanatic by any stretch of the imagination, so when I’m out of puff on screen that’s genuine. In some ways, it's nice to see that on telly, because what I did learn is as even though expos are heavily trained and Lana is fit, there's not a lot of activity every day — a lot of time is spent sitting around and waiting for that call.

"It was a bit of a funny process because we were meant to film in 2020 and the pandemic delayed us, so I did wonder if it would ever happen. We were there waiting in the wings, thinking, “I really hope Trigger Point happens!”. I genuinely had the best time making it. It was tricky and hard, but I like it when things don't come easy because it means you care about them. I feel a real sense of pride in what we achieved."

How useful was it to speak to real expos?

"We had a lot of support from people that are the real deal, real expos. There's some artistic license in there to create the drama, but I was always speaking to them, they were on set every day. I found it fascinating. There were things that felt like absolute madness, like taking my helmet off as I approach the bomb, but then they explained to me that it could impair your vision, or it could knock the device if it slipped, all these logical things, so you need to take it off to actually work properly around the device. I was learning a lot all the time and I just loved being able to access all their knowledge. We put it into the show as much as we could."

There aren’t many female expos are there?

"No, I remember speaking to the guys who said it’s a different ballgame in the army, but there's only a very small number of expos working with the Met, and none of them are women as far as I’m aware. But there would be a lot of female expos in the army.

"I’ve read scripts over the years where I’ve thought, “I really like this script... I'd really like his part though.” So I like that this is a story about a female expo, and it's completely possible because there are female expos in the army.

"We were talking about the big bomb suit that I wear in Trigger Point. It’s the real thing and it weighs more than I do, but we made a choice not to take the weight out of it — it's insane, but I wanted to feel it, and I’m making a TV show, I have the option to take it off when we're not shooting. But I remember our expo saying that his female colleague wore it for way longer than he did, and I had a bit of a wry smile on my face, thinking, “Well that's how we roll!” Women are strong and I was proud to be able to play a strong woman, physically and in many different ways."

How would you describe Lana’s relationship with Joel?

"They served together, they go way back and have a longstanding friendship. I remember us talking about whether anything romantic ever happened between them, but we came to the conclusion that it didn't, and that’s the beauty of it. When they were away from home in the army they only had each other, and they were like family, that’s how much they meant to each other. I can’t say I have any kind of understanding of that extreme pressure, I don't, but I think I understand what that relationship is like, just from working away as much as I do as an actor. I'm such a homebody and I hate that part of the job, that's always been the bit I struggle with the most. Me, Adrian Dunbar, and Martin Compston are good examples of colleagues becoming family on Line of Duty, and Nut and Lana are very much that to each other, they have that shorthand."

Were you mindful of some of the sensitive subject matter in 'Trigger Point'?

"It’s that fine line — the series is made for entertainment, but some of it is really harrowing. We’re really aware that expos are real people and they’re not commonly spoken about. We hear about the other emergency departments when there are terror attacks, but when it comes to expos, I was very unaware of their work. They are so brave and the respect I have for the armed forces is incredible."

'Trigger Point' clearly has a special place in your heart?

"It was an incredible job and I'm really proud of it. It was a brilliant cast of people and the crew really did look after each other. It was a tough shoot and there were a lot of elements to get right, building a whole new world.

"I have never been on a job quite that big, which I suppose would shock people because you think Line of Duty is the same. But I can lean on Martin and Adrian a little bit on that series, where they'll have an interview scene without me and that means I’ve got four days off. Trigger Point was the first time I've felt like a crew member when I'm there every day all day. I was massively invested in the show and I gave it my everything."

This is a mini 'Line of Duty' reunion, with you and Jed working together again. Do you think Adrian and Martin felt they were missing out?

"I don't think there was any FOMO, not that they've told me about! The thing is, when we do Line of Duty, Jed is on set every day — it's his baby, he writes it, he sometimes directs it, he produces it, the whole shebang. That's not the case for Trigger Point. He was there a lot of the time, but it was a very different sort of relationship. But I'd be lying if I said we didn't send Martin and Adrian a few selfies on set together, saying hi! On my very last day, Jed was there with his Line of Duty coat on, which I thought was very fitting.

"It’s a very different show though, it's incomparable. There’s a lot more action in Trigger Point, it’s an explosive show. And I don't really feel anything like Kate when I’m in Trigger Point, we certainly don't look the same. I'm always really up for reinventing a look. I wear absolutely no make-up in this, my hair is in a scrappy little ponytail and it was important for me to feel like a real person."

You had a punishing schedule on this job, did you have down time at the weekends?

"It was amazing because I really felt like a crew member. I organized a big Greggs delivery at the end of the shoot for everyone, that's how much I loved them! I had such a special time with everyone. I was really nervous about Covid though, and I was determined not to shut the show down or disrupt filming. It’s impossible to avoid coronavirus as we all know, so basically, my weekends were spent indoors. I really missed that time in the industry when we’d go out for drinks after a big week — that's all gone now because you just can’t take that Covid risk."

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.