Line Of Duty star Adrian Dunbar shows off his singing talent in the new Eden crime drama Ridley.
He plays Alex Ridley, a former detective inspector who withdrew from the police force for mental health reasons after his wife and daughter were killed in a fire started by an arsonist.
But he is once again recruited as a police adviser by his former protégé, DI Carol Farman (Bronagh Waugh), when a sheep farmer is murdered.
Dunbar, who won an army of fans worldwide as Line Of Duty’s Superintendent Ted Hastings, describes his character as the shell of a man trying to rebuild his life and find purpose by singing jazz at a nightclub he co-hosts with the best of his late wife. friend, Annie (Julie Graham).
Though he’s played a police officer before, Dunbar says Ridley is quite a distance from anything he’s done.
“There are obviously echoes of Ted Hastings because he’s a cop. But there are so many interesting layers in his personality, so many things in his background,” Dunbar says.
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“The man’s complications, I think, was the main thing that drew me to it.”
Ridley feels guilty about the deaths of his wife and daughter, Dunbar says.
“He feels guilty. It’s a very complicated scenario as to why and how all this happened.
“He has to be alone because he can’t really interact with people. But at the same time he has to be active, he has to do something, and you have the feeling that the complications surrounding the death of his wife and daughter are the things that drive him, and the need to find the truth.”
While Irish-born Dunbar is best known for his Bafta-winning Line Of Duty role – he appeared in 36 episodes over six seasons – his credits include roles in films such as My Left Foot, The Crying Game and many major TV shows about the past 30 years.
He is also an accomplished stage actor and director, and referring to his role as Alex Ridley, he can actually sing.
“When I was quite young, as a teenager, I had a three-piece country band, and then I played as an Elvis Presley impersonator for a while,” he says. “Yeah, I go around there to do that and play bass guitar.
“In addition, about 10 or 15 years ago I started a band that did country and jazz. So all my life I’ve been interested in music and interested in all kinds of music – folk music, jazz, rock music – so I really love the music.”
In 1991, he co-wrote and co-starred in the Bafta-nominated Hear My Song, in which he played a nightclub owner. So when it came to Ridley, Dunbar said he wanted to include music in the show somehow.
“I wanted there to be something interesting about Ridley outside of police work, so I suggested he have a jazz club,” he says.
“And then I did some research on jazz and the north of England and so on. I ran into Richard Hawley (an English singer/songwriter) whom I didn’t know, and started listening to his songs. We then got in touch with Richard and found three of his songs that we really liked, as I thought they really suited my character.
“And so we went on to record them and fit them into the show. And I think that element really works.
“I also wanted a spot on the show every week that you went to that was a little warmer and a little more glamorous.
“We filmed in the winter, so it was cold and gloomy. But all those things will add to the atmosphere of the piece.”
On why the public can’t seem to get enough of crime dramas, he says, “Yeah, I get it, they get addictive because you get involved. It’s not just the research, everything that goes on around them is also interesting, which I like. There are all kinds of other things around the edges that make them work, that make them different. And that’s what I was really looking for.”
But when asked if he himself would be a good detective, he says: ‘I don’t know. If someone were to say to me after all these years of being a cop, “Okay, do a real case,” I’d probably know all the right questions to ask, and I’d probably be a lot sharper than most people would be if I was. really had something to do with it.
“But that’s only because I’ve been doing all those shows for years. I don’t know if I’m such a person myself.”
Ridley, Eden, Thursday 20 October