Next week sees the return of BBC Two’s Line of Duty, the hit series which across its five episode first season ranked as the channel’s highest rated drama since 2005 (a crown it subsequently lost to fellow sleeper hit The Fall). The show’s second season, which runs an extended length of six episodes, see AC-12 investigating a new case and is (largely) populated by a wealth of new characters.
One such new character is played by Steve Toussaint. The veteran actor has worked across both stage and screen, amassing an impressive list of credits which includes feature films Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Shooting Dogs and I.D.; while his previous TV credits include stints on CSI: Miami, Spooks and Silent Witness. More recently, Steve has been appearing as Doctor Rank in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Young Vic Theatre and will be reprising the role when the production moves to New York this month.
Steve was kind enough to spare some time from his hectic schedule to speak to TVWise about Line of Duty season two, his recent role on Silent Witness, if he’d ever consider moving to Hollywood and more.
TVWise: You joined the cast of the BBC Two series Line of Duty for its second series, for those people who have been living under a rock, how would you describe the series?
Steve Toussaint: The series follows the Anti-corruption Unit of a city police force as they investigate police officers they suspect of being “bent”. Being members of such a unit (AC-12), means they are, generally, reviled by their colleagues in blue, and to some extent we look at how this affects both their personal and professional lives.
TVWise: What can you tell us about the character you play on Line of Duty?
Steve Toussaint: OK, I play “Chief Superintendent Ray Mallick”; in this new series, AC-12 are investigating “D.I. Lindsey Denton” – played by the lovely Keeley Hawes – after a routine transportation of a witness goes disastrously and fatally wrong. Mallick is her boss, and from his first appearance, you can tell they dislike each other intensely! He believes that she is ambitious but inept, and, equally important, in a profession that relies heavily on team work, he knows he can’t trust her. Some of this leads him to sanction certain actions against her, which I like to think he’s later ashamed of.
TVWise: Let me ask this – when the series was recommissioned a lot of people were surprised as the character played by Lennie James was so key to the series and he obviously met a very grizzly end. The BBC said that the focus of the series was always the anti-corruption unit rather than James’ character, making a second series possible. Is that something that comes off convincingly? Do you feel the series is able to live up to that “case of the year” promise?
Steve Toussaint: Actually, yes I do; I had watched the first series and like most people, thought it was a great, stand-alone six-parter! Part of the reason for that, I think, was because Lennie is such a terrific actor and created a wonderfully compelling character. When you read the scripts (or, just watch the show), I think you’ll see that the other reason, is Jed’s fantastic writing. Here again, in this new series, are fabulously complex, flawed central characters that I think draw the viewer in. It’s very exciting.
TVWise: What was it like working on the series? Obviously, there was some drama behind the cameras with the abrupt departure of Robert Lindsay and the arrival of Mark Bonnar, how much of an impact did that have?
Steve Toussaint: Well that was a rather odd episode; Robert and I had flown home for the weekend and he had mentioned that there were a couple of things he needed to talk to Jed [Mercurio, series creator] and Doug [Mackinnon, series director] about, but nothing more. We said our goodbyes and looked forward to returning to set on the following Monday. Then, on the Monday, Mark introduces himself to me on set and tells me he is now playing the role as there had been creative differences between Bob and the Production! That, literally, was that. Though, apart from having to re-shoot one or two scenes, the impact for us actors was minimal. It helps of course, that Mark is brilliant.
Overall I really enjoyed working on the series and spending time in Belfast (staying in the “most bombed hotel in Europe”, as the locals never tired of telling me). I was also introduced to the “Ulster Fry” which I became a fan of! The rule always seems to apply that the more dark the material, the more fun you have on set!
TVWise: One of the other dramas you recently joined was Silent Witness, which you previously appeared in several years ago, are you reprising that role or is this a new character?
Steve Toussaint: No, this was a totally different character. Last time, I was an arrogant pastor; this time, I was a very high-ranking civil servant in the Home Office, sent in to oversee the activities of the forensics lab. Very smooth and nicer suits!
TVWise: A lot of British actors have – to use the phrase prevalent in Hollywood – been “invading Los Angeles”. Now, you’ve had roles in CSI: Miami and Prince of Persia, could a move to Hollywood be on the cards?
Steve Toussaint: There’s a topic that’s been in the news recently. Truthfully, I have no idea; I try to remain flexible. Like most actors I try to go where the work is. Working in the States is lovely, and of course, the weather in LA…! But I love London, so it would take something pretty special to get me leave for a long period of time. Besides, most of my mates who are doing extremely well over there, can’t wait to get back! Watch this space!
TVWise: I also understand that you’re a very active theatre actor and you recently played Doctor Rank in A Doll’s House. What can you tell us about the production?
Steve Toussaint: Well, when I first met our director Carrie, she told me she wanted the production to be a lot of Ibsen and a little bit “Mad Men”; I was hooked! The play is essentially about the different roles a woman is forced to play in her marriage and personal relationships, and the conflict this causes within herself; also, I guess we have to ask ourselves about the roles we play. In this instance, the marriage of Nora and Torveld (Hattie Morahan & Dominic Rowan), though seeming idyllic at first, under close examination proves to be hollow and in need of help. The production has had three separate successful runs: twice at the Young Vic, and then just recently in the West End. Now we are about to prepare to take the production to New York in February: an exciting, frightening prospect!
TVWise: A lot of actors I’ve spoken to have insisted, while they are very active in film and television, that they still do Theatre. Is that something that’s important to you as well?
Steve Toussaint: Yes it is; I think it’s very important not to stay away from theatre for too long. I suppose it’s what we do in its purest sense. That’s how it all started, a performer or storyteller, and an audience. Performing in front of a live audience night after night is a great learning experience in terms of timing and what works, why it works etc. One more thing, it’s good to scare yourself sometimes, and there’s no more frightening place than backstage in a theatre just before curtain up! It stops complacency creeping in.
Steve Toussaint stars in Line Of Duty season two, which premieres on BBC Two on Wednesday February 12th at 9pm.