Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux tackle Watergate in White House PlumbersMay 3 | 4 min read
Line of Duty fans will recognise them from their starring roles in the smash hit BBC police drama.
But Stephen Graham and Daniel Mays play very different coppers in their new buddy comedy series, Code 404.
DI John Major (Mays) and DI Roy Carver (Graham) are the top crime fighting duo in the London Metropolitan Police’s Special Investigations Unit. But when Major is killed on the job, his body is fast-tracked into a new Artificial Intelligence project to bring him back from the dead.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the new series on Sky One with NOW TV, the pair discuss working on comedy versus dramatic roles, how they rate themselves with tech - and the mini-Line of Duty reunion with fellow alumna Anna Maxwell Martin on set…
1. Tell us about the set up of the show…
Stephen: Well it all starts off with two detectives, Roy and John, on a stakeout. You get the feeling that they’re best friends but something’s happened between them. And then something horrific happens, one of them gets killed. Six months later, John turns back up as I’m bringing flowers to his grave. As you can imagine, that’s a bit of a surprise.
2. What sort of guy is DI John Major?
Daniel: He’s partners with Roy, Stephen’s character, and in terms of SIU – the Special Investigations Unit – they are at the top of the tree. Major has the best arrest record in the unit. He’s somewhat of a maverick copper. He’s the guy that will bust down doors to get a conviction. And of course they’re involved in a big sting right at the start which goes dramatically wrong, and he’s gunned down in the line of duty.
But because his stats are so good they decide he’s going to be the prototype in a new A.I. scheme to bring him back from the dead. But obviously the wiring’s all gone a bit wrong: he was always a bit of a knob, but this time he’s even more pretentious and up himself.
3. You guys and Anna Maxwell Martin are all Line of Duty alumni. Is that what pulled you into this show?
Stephen: Of course, and personally, I don’t take myself too seriously, you know? But thankfully our careers have been based on real, intense, gritty, true to life drama. That’s what we try to capture in this – to take that essence in – but then also have the quality element.
It’s a ridiculous situation, he’s come back from the dead and he’s a robot. It’s never gonna happen! But hypothetically speaking, ‘what if?’ That’s what attracted me.
We still have this lovely three-way drama between us, and the scenes I got to do with Anna were lovely. There are scenes in here that, in essence, aren’t funny and we really play out the drama in them.
Daniel: I should really have a casting director credit on this! I was also filming with Anna when we were filming the pilot. She was asking about what I was doing next, and before long she was asking if there was a role for her in it.
I really am genuinely close to both Anna and Stephen, and it’s great being able to work with them as it means you can just hit the ground running. You don’t have to take time to get to know anyone and you’ve got this friendly, open, supportive dynamic there from the start.
4. How do you find working on comedy compared to dramatic roles?
Stephen: I love my work. I’m very blessed. I love what I do. And this was something different to what I’ve been doing recently. The show runners approached Danny first and gave him the concept and the idea, and I think it was him that threw my name into the hat, which was really lovely of him.
I’ve known Danny for a long time now, and he’s a fantastic actor. He’s lovely to work with and one of the funniest people I know. To spend six weeks with him just messing about, to me was a no brainer really.
Daniel: I did a comedy for Channel 4 called Plus One years ago, and that’s what turned [the show’s co-creators] Sam and Tom from Code 404 on to me for this. So they approached me about the project, and I just loved Daniel Peak’s script. I thought it was genuinely laugh out loud funny and felt like a bit of a change after taking on mostly dramatic roles.
I asked them who they were thinking about for the other copper, and it was very early on in the process and they hadn’t thought of anyone yet. And because I’d worked with Stephen years back – we’re friends and we’re always looking to do something together – he just popped into my head. He’d just done The Virtues and Line of Duty, so it’s a great departure for the both of us. It’s something to show people we can still play in the comedy world.
5. But there’s still ample opportunity in the series to test your dramatic chops?
Daniel: Yeah, you’ve still got to root the comedy in some truth. The thing that really pleased me when we got to watch it back was how much pathos is in it, and there is also this great conspiracy thriller in there too. And there’s the love triangle story with my character’s wife, you can’t help but get drawn into the drama of that scenario. I think that the show has all these things working together really sets it apart.
6. This series is heavily based on tech and artificial intelligence. How do you rate yourself with tech?
Stephen: Absolutely awful. My children, Grace and Alfie, they’re the ones that help me out with technology. I’m always asking them “How do you do that?”, “What does that do?”, “Can you get that thing on my iPad?” If I’m really honest, and this sounds terrible, I think I’ve only sent three emails in my life.
Daniel: Ah, no. I can do the basics. I tweet and I do Instagram, but in terms of tech I stick to just sending emails. I’m OK, it’s trial and error with me. Mostly error.
7. How do you feel the show comes off from a technical perspective?
Daniel: In a way the show is really ambitious – we made the pilot and then the brilliant director Al Campbell came on board and he just upped the stakes. It is set in the near future, there’s this brilliant set design and great imagination that’s gone into creating this world and realising Daniel Peaks’ brilliant writing. It’s got a lot of class to it. It’s shot like a high-end drama. There are scenes that could be from Line of Duty.
All episodes of Code 404 are streaming on Sky One with NOW TV from Wednesday, April 29.