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Line of Duty: How Martin Compston went from Aberdeen FC to AC-12

Martin Compston stars as DS Steve Arnott in the new series of Line Of Duty.
Martin Compston stars as DS Steve Arnott in the new series of Line Of Duty.

Line Of Duty is back, with Martin Compston very much part of the AC-12 team … but once he was very much part of the AFC team, on the Dons’ books with the youth squad.

The Scots actor, who is a household name thanks to his role as anti-corruption cop DS Steve Arnott, pulled on his Aberdeen shirt in the Roy Aitken era of the 90s.

He trained alongside the likes of Michael Hart, Darren Young and Derek Young.

Martin first spoke about his time with the Dons at the start of his career, when he was playing cheeky chef Ewan Brodie in the popular BBC series, Monarch of the Glen, starring alongside Tom Baker. 

Martin Compston, first row, fourth from left, with Dons teammates in 1995.

“I used to play with Aberdeen when I was about 14 or 15. Roy Aitken was the manager and I really enjoyed it,” he said at the time.

“I used to come up and stay at a place in Great Western Road. They had a cracking youth system and brought through boys who were good mates of mine, like Derek Young, Darren Young and Michael Hart.”

Fond memories of Aberdeen

Even though he has risen to acting stardom, Martin still likes to speak fondly of his time with the Dons – including some of the wind-ups.

Back in the waistcoat… Martin Compston as DS Steve Arnott.

He once told how Dean Windass pranked the entire youth squad…

“We’d go out and we had our minibus, and the first team had their bus,” he said, speaking in a podcast interview with Open Goal.

“We were warned: ‘Nobody mess with the motor, if you mess with the motor then you’re going home. You’re out the club’. So we’re all sitting on the bus and Dean Windass came down one day, and he’s like, ‘alright boys?’, and turned the handbrake off!

“It’s going down a hill but we’re all like, we can’t touch the motor, so we’re all rolling down this hill!  We’re rolling towards this car so I jumped out to (grab the handbrake).”

After the Dons, Martin signed for Morton, but a family friend suggested he audition for the Ken Loach film, Sweet Sixteen, set in Greenock. He got the part and hung up his football boots for a hugely successful acting career.

Martin in his first acting role in Ken Loach’s gritty Sweet Sixteen.

Now he’s looking forward to pulling on DS Arnott’s waistcoat again as series six of the compelling Line Of Duty returns.

Sherlock Holmes with a waistcoat

Martin said: “He definitely sees himself as a bit of a Sherlock Holmes with a waistcoat. Every year with Line Of Duty, these scripts are a gift and we get more into the back stories of each character through Jed’s writing. If we deliver what’s on the page we are onto a winner.”

He added it was a challenge shooting the news series in the middle of pandemic, with the looming threat of the production being shut down looming over the cast and crew.

Martin starred in the gripping BBC drama, The Nest.

Another issues was eating and drinking too much on his lockdown diet posed some problems when it came to DS Arnott’s suits.

“I was bursting out of everything! I didn’t realise how the suits were quite so tailored to my original shape! It was water, soup and an exercise bike for two weeks!”

He doubts DC Arnott would have fared too well in lockdown either.

“He would have probably been looking for someone to arrest. He thrives being out and about. The job is really all he has. Steve is a joy to play but he has no one.”

Success down to incredible guest stars

The new series of Line Of Duty, which starts on Sunday March 21 on BBC One, reunites Martin with fellow stars Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar. Scots actress Kelly Macdonald makes her debut as guest lead Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson, the senior investigating officer on an unsolved murder case whose suspicious conduct attracts the attention of Anti-Corruption.

Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure are joined by Kelly Macdonald in Line Of Duty.

Martin said: “A huge part of this show and its success is down to its incredible guest stars. Kicking off with Lennie James, then Keeley Hawes, Danny Mays popping in, Thandie Newton and Stephen Graham, all these legends!

“As a fellow Scot, Kelly Macdonald was one of the ones I was most excited about. She’s had the perfect career. She was in Trainspotting, Boardwalk Empire and she’s got her own Scottish Pixar film, Brave. She’s got it all! She’s a wonderfully talented actor and is such a joy.”

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