Adrian Dunbar Has Acorn TV’s Blood On His Hands (In a Good Way)

By Cathy Applefeld Olson

Psychological crime thriller Blood returns Monday, March 9 for season 2 on Acorn TV. Star Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty, The Crying Game) sat down with Cynopsis to tease the show’s latest familial twists and turns, and why he thinks audiences are more than ready for “more intelligent” TV.

Blood is all about familial secrets and betrayal. Is this a universal theme?

Adrian Dunbar: One of the great things about family dramas and secrets is that we’re all experts. We come to the program already knowing quite a bit about how families work and what the dynamics are like. Why people get upset about things and the buttons that can get pushed. Normally logical people can within two or three sentences be screaming at each other, because it’s family. And you remember things from the past.

The dynamic certainly escalated in season 1.

AD: [Season] 1 hinges on the idea there is a daughter who doesn’t believe her father, and thinks he killed her mother because she remembers something vaguely from when she was a child, where she believes her father has a darker side, and that’s what’s driving her. And it was hard for her to imagine her mother would make the decision to end her life and ask her father to do it. And of course the father can’t say anything because that’s going to implicate him in something illegal and as a doctor he could lose his job. Stylistically, the show is being shot from his daughter’s perspective, so she sees things that he’s doing that on one hand could seem quite innocuous but because you’re seeing it through her eyes you’re putting a lot more onus on it.  

You’re one of seven siblings. Do you think you were drawn to this storyline in part because of that?

AD: Certainly I don’t read anything on the page that I think is too bizarre. A lot of the time I think, Yeah, that could happen. Things could fall apart. People harbor things for years and years and years, and with siblings everybody thinks everyone else is doing better than they are, or that someone else has it easier. In Line of Duty one of the interesting things is there is a family dynamic in that as well.

What else drew you to Blood when you read the script?

AD: When I read it I said, This is good writing, and it had some wonderful twists and turns. I thought audiences are going to be looking at it and going, “Oh I know where this is going,” and then, boom, something else happens and yet it’s not so far-fetched you don’t believe that couldn’t happen. It’s right on the edge. It’s like a Breaking Bad effect where you get an ordinary kind of guy who suddenly gets drawn into something and before you know it everything starts to unravel and you get deeper and deeper involved. That’s what’s happening with Jim as a character. He starts off being the local family doctor in the village, very well-respected,, and suddenly circumstances change and he ends up a couple years later not having a job. He comes back and wants to help his daughter who’s ill, his natural instinct is to help, and you see in the first episode in series 2. He wants to help out and they just slap him down. I think that’s a button that gets pushed with him—his integrity has been called into question and he’s trying to do the right thing.

Can we expect things to continue down that road this season?

AD: Yes, things start to unravel further and further. Extraordinary things start to happen because people are placed in situations where they have to make a decision and sometimes they don’t make the right one.

You are a triplet-threat creative—you act, write and direct. How is being on the other side of the camera?

AD: It’s a completely different ballgame. I’ve just written the first episode of a series, and writing is tough, especially if you’re writing on your own. I really find it tough and really don’t want to do too much of it because its just a head-wreck. I generally write things that are suggestive. I am trying to suggest things all the time to the audience. And then you send it into the editors and stuff and all the things you’re suggesting, they say, “What about putting this and that in?” And I say, That’s what I’m suggesting. I don’t want to put it in. I’m leading you there. Now you’re actually asking me to put them in and that demystifies everything.

Is it a matter of trusting your audience will figure it out?

AD: You’ve got to treat your audience with a little respect. Audiences are bright now. They know the language of TV and they can predict. You’ve got to trust them to be sharp. I do think there’s a gap in the market for more intelligent TV. Asking the audience to think about it more, and work things out, and not be so explicit. I think that’s the buzz people get from watching Line of Duty. It asks you to do all that, but then it pays you back in the end. 

Can you share details about the project you’re writing?

AD: It’s about a retired cop who’s been divorced many years and hasn’t seen daughter for maybe 15 years. And his ex-wife calls him to say the police have called to say they have a body in the morgue and they think it’s her and she has to go identify it and she just can’t do it on her own. That’s how the story starts. It’s not his daughter as it turns out, but he decides then to stay. It’s set in Soho in the ‘60s in London. It’s a six-part series sadly based on a true story about six girls who were murdered. They never found the killer and they pinned the conviction on a guy who they really knew it wasn’t him, who then goes and commits a very strange suicide and the police say he’s the one who did it when it seems they were actually protecting someone else. The ‘60s were good in London, it’s an interesting period—the music is good, the fashion is good. It’s got a lot of things going for it in that respect. It was commissioned by the BBC; we’ll have to wait and see if someone bites.

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