Lennie James talks Line of Duty
Lennie James talks Line of Duty
By Wilson Morales
August 30, 2012
Currently playing on Hulu and Hulu Plus is “Line of Duty” a new series starring Lennie James (Snatch, “The Walking Dead”).
One of the BBC2′s most popular dramas in eight years, “Line of Duty” also stars Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen), Vicky McClure (This Is England), Adrian Dunbar (Ashes to Ashes), Neil Morrissey (“Men Behaving Badly”) and Gina McKee (Notting Hill).
Hulu’s newest exclusive series explores the seedy underbelly of modern police work and corruption. When the city’s top detective (James) is under investigation for being too “successful,” his career, his life along with the lives of those he loves, are put at risk. Will he survive? And more importantly, whom can he trust?
If you ever watched and were a fan of “The Shield,” “Southland,” “The Wire,” or “Homicide: Life On The Street,” then you will want to start viewing “Line of Duty.”
For James, who’s was in CBS’s “Jericho” and who appeared as Morgan Jones, a father protecting his son from the zombie apocalypse, in the AMC series “The Walking Dead,” this series puts him is leading role, which is something he hasn’t been used to before. The English native recently appeared in the 2011 action film “Colombiana” with Zoe Saldana and the 2012 sci-fi film “Lockout” with Guy Pearce.
Blackfilm.com recently spoke with James about his role in “Line of Duty” and his upcoming projects.
Did you ever watch ‘The Shield?’
Lennie James: Yes, I did. I did see some of the episodes. I didn’t see all of them. It’s a comparison that I have heard before.
How would you describe Tony Gates?
LJ: Tony Gates is, as we find out in the first episode, the police officer of the year. He’s a man, who for all intent purposes and certainly from the outside, has reached the top of the tree. He’s a popular officer. He’s a respected officer. He’s an officer that gets results and he’s an officer that commands unquestionable loyalty from his team. He may also be corrupt and that is the story of ‘Line of Duty.’ He’s an office that is under investigation from the AC-12, which is the corruption unit. It’s also the story of the officers investigating him, the officers defending him, and Tony hates himself.
What was the attraction to doing the series?
LJ: My attraction to doing the series was that it was a gift that landed in my lap. I didn’t have any hope of getting the part when the scripts arrived. It was the first series script that I read and it was so tight and so well written. All of the character parts were well written that it attracted some good actors like Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure, Gina McKee, Neil Morrissey, and Craig Parkinson. They are all actors at the top of their game.
From the films that I have seen you in, you have a knack for playing a lot of authority figures. Do you get a lot of those types of character parts offered to you?
LJ: Sometimes and I don’t know why. If you ever came to my house, you would see that I have no authority whatsoever. I guess I speak clear enough and have a way at looking at people, but as much as I play authority figures, I’ve also played guys with no power and guys on the edge, buffoons, and wastrels. I guess, when you at the films I’ve been in, I’m the guy in a suit from the FBI or playing a cop. There are so many parts that I have played in that arena that it’s pretty hard to avoid.
Why you do you think the series has been a hit with audiences?
LJ: I don’t know. From what I know, the show is the most successful show on BBC2 in nearly a decade. I don’t spend the time to know why that is and I’m sure there are focus groups, but I would guess that the show has a good story, and it’s well told. It’s a really good thriller. People want to know what’s going to happen next. It’s like a roller coaster in that once people watch one episode, they want to watch the next one and the next one. They want to see how it’s going to play out. From what I read, the audience stayed glued once word got out about the show and people who were watched it stayed, and folks who heard about it, tuned in. Either they were tuning in to see if my character was going to get away with it or whether Martin’s character was going to catch him.
You seem to have other projects lined up as well. Can you talk about ‘Low Winter Sun’ and ‘Run?’
LJ: ‘Low Winter Sun’ is a reworking of a British television series. It is about two police officers that commit a murder and they think they committed the perfect crime but it’s about the fallout of that single action. It’s two men who don’t necessarily like each other and don’t necessarily trust each other but in involved in a very dangerous and problematic action together. It’s what happens to their jobs, careers, and relationships, and lives ultimately. It’s set in Detroit. I haven’t started filming that yet. ‘Run’ is something that I just got back from England shooting. It’s a four-part miniseries. It’s about four different characters. Each character takes up the bulk of each episode. The lives of each character crossed over and it’s set in London where I grew up. It’s written and directed by two first time writers. It’s a labor of love for them. It became a labor of love for me as well. It was a character that I was keen to play. Unlike characters of authority, the character I play is a recovering homeless heroine addict who’s trying to get clean and stay clean so that he can build a relationship with his daughter. It’s a bit like ‘The Bicycle Thief,’ that classic Italian film. It’s a very small story. It’s about a man trying to give his daughter a birthday present and he has nothing, but he manages to scrounge up some pennies to what he believes is an important gift, but not to everyone else.
Any plans to come back on ‘The Walking Dead?’
LJ: Plans for ‘The Walking Dead’ are not up to me, so along with everyone else, I’m waiting to see if my character may or may not be back.
When you’re not working, how do you stay grounded?
LJ: I have kids. I have a wife. I have a football team and when I go out to work, I go out to work, but when I’m at home, I’m home. I’m private and I have some good and close friends. I keep busy and try to be involved in my kids’ lives as I can and as much as they will allow me. Actors are asked to be to be “on” all the time and so much of their lives are asked to be either “sold” or “shown” to the world, and I do the opposite. I think fame is a byproduct of what acting brings and it shouldn’t be the goal. I think actors, as much as possible, should try to be anonymous as possible, so they can be believed in the different roles they play. If people see me on the streets or make comments on me, it’s based on what I do for work and not on the person they think they know me to be. That’s the way I like it.