Traces: Martin Compston interview

Martin got his big break in Ken Loach's film Sweet Sixteen as a teenager and went on to become a regular in TV drama Monarch of the Glen. More recently he’s received rave reviews for his leading role in acclaimed police thriller, Line of Duty.

Martin Compston plays Daniel MacAfee

Martin Compston plays Daniel MacAfee

Living in the shadow of his domineering father Phil, whose building firm he works for, Daniel is a gentle but troubled soul who falls for Molly Windsor’s Emma Hedges.

What attracted you to Traces?

I think with any job it all starts with the script, you just need to see if you respond to the material. They're really, really, strong scripts from Amelia and I think for me as well it's such a strong ensemble, there's so many different threads to the story. I just really enjoyed it, it's a page turner and you just want to know what's happening.

I think with all good crime dramas everybody starts off formulating their different theories, but I really, really, liked the character, it's something I hadn't played in a while. And I think with the amount of crime drama that's out there at the minute you need to be that little bit cleverer because people become sort of amateur detectives and they want to try and figure out who it is from the start, so yeah, it needs to be an intelligent script and Amelia's certainly delivered that.

Can you tell us a bit about your character Daniel?

Daniel's just a really nice guy. When we first meet him he's a bit lost - there's been the fire at the nightclub Secrets where a couple of people have died, there's been a murder but also he was the foreman on a building job refurbishing the club before. But he was given the job far too young and he wasn't qualified at the time. He kind of lives in the shadow of his dad who he idolises. Yeah, so he's just a bit mixed up, got a lot of guilt and then he meets Emma, this sort of firecracker played by the lovely Molly Windsor and they go on this really intense relationship, so it's all just unfolding, he's just in a lot of turmoil.

When getting into character, what sort of research do you like to do?

It really depends on the character, I mean obviously if you're playing a real person then it will be a lot more intense finding out about their life and stuff. I think a big thing for me is the voice. Although it's Scottish set, I'm a west coast boy. This is set in Dundee, which is east coast, and it was quite funny actually because the producers were intent that it would be Dundee accents, but I live with a guy from Dundee and I can't even understand a word he's saying half the time.

Having that east coast lilt is such a lovely accent, Dundee's an amazing accent but they can get through an entire conversation just by saying the word, 'ken,' so I'm going to try and sneak a few ken's in there for the Dundee massive. But I think finding the voice kind of helps me get it and, yeah, I think it's really a lot easier to find a character when it's well written and this is certainly that.

What have you enjoyed most about filming?

The people, for sure, it's been a lovely job for that. Working with Molly's been great, I mean she's already won a BAFTA but she's got a big, big future ahead of her you know. She's got all the talent in the world, a lovely girl but really fierce about her job you know, and so watching her do her stuff has been great. And Rebecca, the director, has been great fun, so again, it's been a great atmosphere on set every day.

What makes Traces different to other crime dramas?

For me, at the minute, it's more of a love story from my point of view as a character. The big thing for Daniel is falling in love with this sort of weirdly kind of intense, vulnerable young lady who's really mixed up. And I think it's the attraction between them that makes it different.

Why are people so enthusiastic about crime drama?

I do love a true crime podcast myself, and true crime documentaries, and obviously crime dramas. They're just hugely popular, but I think there is that thing of people being amateur sleuths, people like trying to figure stuff out. That's one of the things I love you're on a crime show, people come up with their different theories of whodunnit, so I always think people really enjoy that.

What is it like to be truly Scottish in this Dundee-set series?

Yeah, it's nice to go back, it's just nice to do something which is Scottish based you know. We're filming a lot in Manchester, I'd hadn't been to Manchester before but I love this city, we're going up to Dundee next week to do our location stuff which I'm really excited about. It's a beautiful place, a lively wee city and that's the real soul of the job so it's nice to get up there and work with some phenomenal Scottish actors. Like, Laura Fraser is a giant of Scottish cinema there, you know, she's been going for so long, I mean I saw Small Faces when I was 12 or 13, and just to work with her all these years later is a real treat.

Can you describe Traces in one sentence?

Traces is a dark, twisty, crime drama