Compared to Broadchurch and The Killing, Blood is an Irish mystery called “a dark, addictive and unmissable crime drama” by The Guardian. Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty) stars as Jim Hogan, a respected doctor in a small Irish town, with three adult children — and with secrets. With series 2 premiering today on Acorn TV, for those of you that may need a quick catch up on series 1….Jim’s wife has died and everyone believed it was an accident, except his daughter (played by Carolina Main, Unforgotten), who mistrusted her father because of a childhood trauma. That’s all you need to know…you’re now caught up!
Ahead of today’s American premiere, Tellyspotting had the great good fortune to be able to sit down for a delightful chat with series star, Adrian Dunbar.
Bill Young: Good afternoon, Adrian. Just so you know, having finished the first season of Blood and then, right before that, I watched the entire series of Broken which you also happen to be in, I need to find a really good comedy somewhere, fast.
Adrian Dunbar: Hey, listen Bill. So do I!
Bill Young: A number of years ago, I was in Boyle when Chris O’Dowd was filming Moone Boy. In talking to people there and then watching Blood and looking at the series being shot completely in Ireland and I would think that being a homegrown Irish series with cast and crew is special. What does it mean to Ireland in general to be able to have a series like this?
Adrian Dunbar: I think it’s important that we made a drama series that’s hit a chord in the UK and also in the US, because a lot of the time you don’t, for whatever reason, you don’t think your own stuff is interesting as things that are happening elsewhere. Then again, recently we saw from this candy noir stuff, that we’re interested in everywhere. The landscape has completely opened up where TV is concerned.
It’s important for Ireland, this particular series. In Belfast, we do do a lot of work like Game of Thrones and Krypton, and Line of Duty which is shot up there but in Dublin, they’ve got things like Vikings and stuff like that. But as you say, a homegrown thing that’s just about Irish people and stuff that is happening to them, that’s kind of significant. And we’re very proud of it, to tell you the truth. It’s kind of taken off and people are interested.
Bill Young: When you prepare for a role like this, for Jim in Blood, or even going quickly back to your role in Line of Duty. Does it help you or do you have the ability to speak with the writer, the creator the series to get more of a backstory to that character than you just get on a script.
Adrian Dunbar: Yes, definitely. I mean, there would be discussions where we would have to talk about a little bit more of the backstory so you can color in the different spaces and make more of a 3D character and bring some of that with you. Those conversations usually come up when you’re about to do a scene or we’re sitting down the day before talking about scenes that are coming up, we sometimes have to go into the background. Sophie was around for that first series all the time which is a tricky series to do for me because it was shot entirely first five episodes from the daughter’s perspective.
In all the things that I was doing. I had to on the one hand, make it look like that I could be the killer and that she was right. And on the other hand there had to be enough in it for you to think, I’m not so sure. So that when we got to the last episode and you see episode six and you find out really what happened, you can write back in your head and think ‘oh yeah okay right’. That’s why that happened like that and, suddenly, it’s ‘Oh, I get it’. So it was a tricky thing for me to do because it was being shot from her perspective. This time, it’s a different story is more linear narrative. We’re looking at Fiona’s story. This is the other daughter. And, you know, it’s an easy it was an easier job for me.
Bill Young: That speaks a bit to the complexity of the role because it’s clear there’s within the character there’s a really internal struggle but you have the ability, and I looked at Hastings (Adrian’s character in Line of Duty) a little bit too because there are points in times, are you “H” are you “not H”. Looking at your ability to really twist the audience in each scene, wondering if you’re the good guy or the bad guy. And I was wondering you know how much of a challenge that is?
Adrian Dunbar: Playing that ambiguity is definitely a challenge, but it has to start with finding something that you absolutely believe in. You put everything through that particular filter. So, in Line of Duty and in Blood, I had to find a place where I believe in both those characters.
I understood that they were flawed and certainly Ted in Line of Duty is a flawed character. But, when push comes to shove, he’s a guy who’s going to do his civic duty. And I think that’s what draws people to him but he is flawed he has a lot of things that he has done that and, in fact, that’s going to come up in the next series as well.
Both characters are very interesting to play. They’re very human. Everybody has their grey areas. I’m asking people to make a kind of moral judgment on these characters. I’m asking them to be generous in their appraisal of these characters because they’re just human beings like everybody else. Jim is a guy who’s made a decision on behalf of his wife has kind of placed him in a very difficult place now he can’t get a job and when you seen the start of episode one of the second series of Blood that he’s back, he’s trying to make things work he’s trying to be helpful, but he ends up doing something that opens a whole can of worms. Everybody’s hiding secrets like the daughter isn’t telling him everything because she’s protecting herself and the thing about family stuff is that we’re all experts. We all know when to push buttons and when the buttons are being pushed. Logical seemingly sane people can get hysterical within a very short space of time.
Bill Young: One of the things I loved about the series, and you spoke to briefly about, is you look at the character of Fiona and Cat and Michael and it has such an incredibly strong ensemble cast. That’s got to be fun to work with and you see the chemistry between you come out on the screen.
Adrian Dunbar: Absolutely. Really wonderful actors. I mean Carolina in the first few years is just fantastic. And you really feel for her. Even though you know she’s running on something of a memory of something that happened in the past where she thinks this fellow has got this kind of dark side to him. And that’s what is pushing her along and she’s genuine in that wonderful performance and now Grainne Kennan is just stunning in the next series, dealing with all the things that she’s dealing with, in particular, her illness as well.
We were so very lucky to have such a good cast and crew, as you say, we have a wonderful DLP, Kate, in the first series and we’ve got equally good technicians and creative people in this second series so we’re very lucky but we’ve got a really big talent base in Ireland to draw from so we are very lucky in that respect.
Bill Young: I know you spent a lot of time both behind the camera in front of the camera. Do each of those experiences help you when you’re doing one or the other. Can you draw on behind the camera experience when you’re in front of the camera and vice versa?
Adrian Dunbar: Yes, I think you definitely can. What you’re doing behind the camera you learn the language of the camera very very quickly. And then when you’re in front of it you can even use that knowledge to kind of help yourself. It’s a technique and you learn it and then you throw it away. And then you just become natural within the situation. And you rely on the fact that the technique is going to just point you in the right direction all the time while you’re being emotionally truthful to the character. So it does help, every everything helps.
Bill Young: Is there something other than the simple answer of it just has to be good, what do you look for in a script, when somebody sends you something?
Adrian Dunbar: I look for something that’s got kind of originality about it. I look at it and think, ‘Oh that’s great I wish I’d written that’. I can I say oh that’s, that’s a really good twist. Oh, there’s no way I could have written that.’ Something that you think whoever wrote this has got a really good angle on things and that there’s a mature understanding of human relationships and how they work. Things that we haven’t seen before. Those are the things I look for. Something that holds together. Something that’s complete, something that doesn’t go off and kind of gets ridiculous. Something that stays within the world that is created.
Creating a world, of course, is an interesting thing, and some of the tropes that Sophie uses in in Blood, they shouldn’t really work. The daytime thing and setting in the countryside and middle class family and, you know, you just think that it’s not urban it’s not night times, it’s not dangerous, but it has a tension about it. And, the fact that is happening to people who we are investing our time with who we kind of like these characters because we understand them. We’re really proud of it and what we’ve done, we really are.
Bill Young: In watching the entire first series, I found myself not liking the characters and then liking them, and then ultimately what you end up is that you you like Michael, you like Fiona, they have their moments just like family members have, but you end are pulling for them.
Adrian Dunbar: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. The actors we have really, you know, as you said, they’re great. They’re wonderful actors and I think Grainne this season is going to come out of it really, really well.
Bill Young: From your perspective, over the years you’ve been a part of Line of Duty and in Blood where you’re one of the starring roles, but then you’ve also been guest stars in this established series. Going back and looking at Death in Paradise, Scott and Bailey and Silent Witness, a lot of series that our audiences are familiar with over here, do you approach something differently when you’re a guest coming into an established series?
Adrian Dunbar: I think you do. You’ve got to come and you’ve got to fit in. You’ve got to find you know where you exist within all that very quickly. Make contact and make relationships and try and get something going with you and the other actors. It’s different coming into something and it can be a little scary as well because you don’t know anybody and sometimes, you know, it can be really cruel like because you come in, you could have six page scene with a two page speech with 300 people in a room and that’s day one, so sometimes it can be quite scary. So you do approach them differently. There’s no doubt about it is different.
Bill Young: Without giving away the farm, series 2 is coming out here in the not too distant future (today, as a matter of fact) and you touched on it briefly but what will fans of the series have to look forward to that you can talk about for series two.
Adrian Dunbar: I think we’re gonna see a lot of twists and turns. Developments that kind of are on the edge. There’s a lot of very interesting places that the show is going to go. Sophie (Sophie Petzal) is one of the great writers of what we call shop TV, you know, every 15 minutes something’s gonna happen and you’re gonna say ‘right okay here’s the ad break let’s go make a cup of tea and I’d get back to this because I just want to know what happens beyond this point.’ So she’s really good at doing that I think this series really delivers that and I think it’s going to be very exciting. And it’s going to be different. It doesn’t follow the same template as the first series. It’s different, but it’s the same people, it’s the same part of the world, so I think it’s logical that heads off in a new direction.
Bill Young: One last question. If you have spare time, what do you enjoy watching in your spare time?
Adrian Dunbar: I’m a huge documentary freak. I love documentaries Nature programs, things like that. And then I can you know I can get into, I mean, you talk about things like Breaking Bad, I’ll watch stuff like that because I like looking at the US the way people in the US like watching the UK like Inspector Morse, watching the boys rattling around onto a different landscape. That sort of thing I think there’s a fascination between the two cultures and that’s why we like looking at other stuff.
Bill Young: It’s, it’s been interesting over the years that anybody you talked to over here says UK does the best television, and everybody over there says the US does the best television but then you realize you’re seeing the best of the best in each in each instance.
Adrian Dunbar: Exactly.
Bill Young: Everyone here is looking forward to series 2 of Blood so thanks for taking a few minutes to give us a bit of behind the scenes and being a part of the series.
Adrian Dunbar: Absolutely. Looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks.
Blood S2 begins streaming today on Acorn TV where you can also play catch up and watch S1.