In Spotlight: Martin Compston’s best shows – from Monarch of the Glen to Line of Duty

Scottish actor Martin Compston, best known for playing Line of Duty's Steve Arnott, has many more heavyweight TV roles under his belt. We take a look at his finest performances.

By Katie Archer Published: 26 April 2021 - 2.19pm
Drama Line of Duty

Martin Compston

BBC Line of Duty Vicky McClure, Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar

Martin Compston is enjoying his time in the spotlight as one of Line of Duty’s star trio, along with Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar.

He’s so popular with viewers that his name is even being touted as a potential future James Bond.

But while he might be best known as AC-12’s Steve Arnott, the cop drama isn’t the only role in which he shines – take a look at some of his high points on the small screen to date.

Monarch of the Glen

Martin Compston in Monarch of the Glen BBC

Compston landed his first major TV role as Ewan Brodie in hit cosy Scottish drama Monarch of the Glen.

While he featured occasionally from 2003's fifth series, Compston was promoted to the main cast for the revamped final two series, which saw a new laird in town after original protagonist Archie MacDonald (Alastair Mackenzie) had emigrated to New Zealand.

Ewan was the estate’s new cook, but most of his storylines centred on the pirate radio station he set up in Glenbogle.

Compston featured in 20 episodes of the BBC show until it ended in 2005.

In Plain Sight

Compston was on the other side of the law for his starring role in 2016 ITV drama In Plain Sight, based on the true crimes of Peter Manuel.

He played Lanarkshire serial killer Manuel who murdered at least eight people between 1956 and 1958, earning himself the nickname The Beast of Birkenshaw.

In Plain Sight followed detective William Muncie’s pursuit of Manuel, who taunted him to the extent of even sending him Christmas and birthday cards before he was finally caught.

Compston starred alongside Douglas Henshall and James Harkness, offering an unsettling performance as the notorious killer.

Watch In Plain Sight on BritBox

The Nest

The Nest Sophie Rundle Martin Compston BBC

More recently, Compston was back north of the border for psychological thriller The Nest.

He and Sophie Rundle played a couple desperate for a baby who embark on an ill-advised plan to use a troubled teenager as their surrogate.

The mini-series also saw Compston back on screen with Harkness again, as his character delved into the murky past of the surrogate who was carrying the couple's baby.

It involved some completely outlandish plot twists, but was an entertaining emotional drama that saw Compston take on a completely different role to the police procedural he’s best known for.

The Nest is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Line of Duty

Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Teaser (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DS Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), DC Chloe Bishop (SHALOM BRUNE-FRANKLIN), Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Aidan Monaghan/Steffan Hill BBC

If you’re not familiar with Steve Arnott by now, you mustn’t have turned on your TV since 2012 when Line of Duty began.

The action thriller about a police anti-corruption team has become one of the most popular shows around and is currently keeping viewers on the edge of their seats for a sixth series.

Arnott is the troubled cop transferred to AC-12 after he refused to cover up an unlawful shooting by his previous team, and battles demons including prescription painkiller addiction and personal loneliness.

He, Kate Fleming and Ted Hastings (Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar) are set on weeding out bent coppers from the force, but the organised crime group which has been blackmailing many of their officers goes right to the top of their organisation, resulting in cover-ups, killings and thrown cases galore.

The Jed Mercurio drama is best known for its tense, twisty police interview scenes, often headed up by Compston’s Arnott, as they strive to bring down corruption and find out the identity of the mysterious crime orchestrator 'H'.

Compston has shrugged off his Scottish roots for the role to perform as a Londoner – quite a feat, given the amount of fast-paced dialogue littered with acronyms that he races through in each scene.

Line of Duty is currently airing on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm, with series 1-5 available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Traces

Traces Martin Compston BBC

In Compston’s most recent role, he played what he described as the opposite of Arnott in Scottish police drama Traces.

The series centred on a Scottish forensics team, but Compston’s character Daniel MacAfee wasn’t actually part of the force this time – he was the director of a construction company in a relationship with one of the lab technicians who ended up in a spot of trouble with the law.

Talking to the Radio Times about his character, he said: “He’s just a flip from Steve (Arnott). Whereas Steve’s completely driven by ambition and his own ego, Dan just seems a likeable guy who’s trying to do right by people, so there’s definitely that contrast, which is appealing to play.”

Traces is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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