For the purpose of the tape, the interviewee is at home in his back garden in Dundee.
He’s playing it cool, puffing on a cigarette and drinking from a mug having been tracked down by the Sunday Mail’s undercover interview team.
OK, it’s a Zoom call, arranged through a series of polite email exchanges.
And as much as Brian McCardie might think he has the right to be questioned by, er, a journalist one rank senior, the editor’s busy, so he’ll need to make do with me, Paul English.
The Glasgow-born actor’s work was the subject of heated debate around the country last week, as Line of Duty fans try to work
out if his character, organised crime boss Tommy Hunter, is connected to Kelly Macdonald’s Jo Davidson in the smash series.
Last week’s nerve-shredding episode ended with the revelation that DNA found in the home Davidson once shared with her
partner was a match for someone already on the police database.
McCardie’s character, paedophile and crime boss Hunter, hasn’t featured on-screen since 2014.
Yet bookies have been offering short odds on the character being the name at the other end of the cliffhanger. Talk about making an impact, fella?
“It was two weeks’ work nine years ago,” said McCardie, casting back to the days when Line of Duty was just another job for an actor, in just another new cop drama.
It has since become the most popular cop show in the history of British TV, breaking viewing records and running for almost a decade, with Greenock’s Martin Compston leading the charge in the pursuit of bent coppers.
When McCardie auditioned for the part in 2012, the script was so malleable that he was able to
influence a major thread with a throwaway comment.
“I didn’t know Jed Mercurio from a hole in the wall when I went in for my audition,” said McCardie. “And I didn’t know how clever he was and how unique his plotting and storytelling was. I just went in with my scenes and did my best.
“After the audition, he asked me how I saw the character, how he might look. Everyone’s thinking, ‘Three-quarter length leather coat,
skinhead, driving a 4×4 with blacked-out windows.’”
He added: “I said, ‘These guys have families, nice houses. They are members of the golf club in v-neck jumpers. These guys are in every town. They don’t drive cars with blacked-out windows or have leather coats and skinheads. The people who work for them do.’
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“So I told him I imagined Tommy looked like Eddie Large from Little and Large.” It was the suggestion of the late comic’s image, a regular on the 80s celeb pro-am golf scene with the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Terry Wogan which, McCardie said, led to the creation of a mysterious character from the early series.
“Jed liked the idea and ran with that. So the whole thing about ‘The Caddy’ came from Eddie Large. Jed can do that – create a whole world from a germ of an idea.”
Hunter’s final days came in series 2. He was sprung from a safehouse and bundled into a cop car with DS Jane Akers, played by fellow Scot Allison McKenzie. The car was ambushed and Tommy wound up on life support before he was finished off as he lay in a hospital bed. Or was he?
For the record, Mr McCardie, we didn’t see your face in the car or in the hospital bed, did we? “Nope,” he said. “I was working on another film. So they had to throw a blanket over a stuntman’s head. And you don’t see his face in the hospital bed either because it wasn’t me.”
What? So does this mean there’s a chance Hunter is not dead? Mother of God. We will come back to that, Mr McCardie. The actor puts the success of Line of Duty down to two factors.
“There are two basic elements which are the quality of the writing and the casting,” he said. “When you’re gripped just reading the script, then when you’re at the read-through and see the casting and the fact Douglas Mackinnon (the director, from Skye) was directing it… you’re thinking, ‘This thing has a very good chance.’”
The series has made stars of lead cast Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicki McClure.
But if someone had tapped him on the shoulder in that read-through nine years ago and told him folk would be placing bets on his character almost a decade on, McCardie wouldn’t have believed it. Similarly, he perhaps wouldn’t have thought it would play a part in him deciding to leave Scotland to live in Ireland for three years.
“Someone confronted me in ASDA in Johnstone and called me a paedo,” he said. “And three teenagers on a train back to Glasgow from Loch Lomond started shouting it at me. You can’t stand up on the train and say, ‘Excuse me, everyone, I’m an actor who played a character that Jed Mercurio decided four years later was a paedophile.’
“When the BBC reran the series, that’s when I grew long hair, a beard and a moustache. It happened a few times. And it was a factor in my move to Ireland.”
But now he’s back and favourite to be revealed as the DNA match for DCI Davidson tonight.
Time for two straight questions, Mr McCardie, and may I remind you that you are here voluntarily.
“Sure,” he said, lighting another tab.
Are you related to Davidson? Even through a silent puff of smoke, and at the safe distance of a Zoom call, the dead eyes he fixes me with are the stuff of Steve Arnott’s nightmares.
“And what’s the second one?”
I mutter something about who H might be and am met with frozen air that has nothing to do with mute function.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Regardless of whether we’ve heard the last of his character in Line of Duty, we’ll soon be seeing a lot more of the actor.
McCardie will appear next month as Cisero in Sky Atlantic’s Roman drama Domina.
He hopes to restage his one-man show about Scots-born Irish rebel James Connolly when theatres reopen. It was set for the Edinburgh Fringe before the pandemic.
And there’s a new BBC drama from master screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, called Time, about the life of lags inside and outside of jail. He said: “I play a character called Jackson Jones. He’s a bit like Jack Nicholson in The Departed.”
From Mercurio to McGovern, that’s some good company, fella.
“Well, I work with people who have impeccable taste.”
And a nation holds its breath to find out the truth.
Line of Duty continues tonight at 9pm on BBC One.