Martin Compston on living in LA, Line of Duty and starring in new ITV drama In Plain Sight

Martin Compston stars in In Plain Sight (PA Photo/ITV)

IT’S the world’s movie capital with wall-to-wall sunshine, the biggest stars and all the glitz and glamour you can handle.

And, with a gorgeous American wife and a red-hot career, Los Angeles is now the base for Martin Compston.

But the Scots actor, who came to prominence in Sweet Sixteen and Monarch of the Glen, is adamant his head isn’t being turned by Hollywood hoopla.

“I used to hate LA because you’d go over there and either be auditioning or drinking with your UK pals,” confides Martin, 32, as he speaks to iN10 on the set of big new drama In Plain Sight.

“That’s great for a month, but then it becomes really depressing and it’s such a cut-throat place I didn’t feel like there was any soul.

“Then I did a bit of volunteering working in soup kitchens, just to see another side to it and meet some of the real faces.

“And that made me feel more of a connection with the place.”


Martin admits his soup kitchen stint had a profound effect.

“I was in charge of toys for the Christmas drive where everyone gets a table.

“Kids were coming back with different disguises to get more toys.

“The guy was giving me grief and saying if you give them another toy, someone at the back isn’t going to get one.

“But how do you turn back a wee kid who is coming back with a moustache on?

“It was an eye-opener. I was three blocks from the Kodak Theatre where they hold the Oscars and there were people scraping to get food to get by. I’m glad I did it and it’s shown me another side to LA.”

Martin says he’s now more comfortable in California, walking his dog, popping down to the local coffee shop – even though he only drinks tea – and feeling a greater sense of community.

He’s happy, too, of course with actress wife Tianna Chanel Flynn, 26, whom he wed in his native Greenock in June.

Martin Compston and wife Tianna Chanel Flynn (Jane Barlow / PA Wire)
Martin Compston and wife Tianna Chanel Flynn (Jane Barlow / PA Wire)

And the Line of Duty star says that, despite having decided to move to the States, he’s actually spent more of this year over here, something he’s plenty happy about.

That’s continued with the filming around Glasgow of In Plain Sight, in which he plays Scots serial killer Peter Manuel. Shetland star Douglas Henshall is the copper who tracks him down.

And Martin’s commitment to the drama, which starts next week, was such that nothing would get in his way, not even his honeymoon.

“We finished rehearsals on the Friday and I got married on the Sunday,” he explains.

“When I came back to start on the Wednesday I felt a bit lost.

“With my missus being a Yank, all the Americans were still over and you are still in entertaining mode.

“But my missus has been very, very forgiving. She left at the same time as her family because it was time to get to work. I said I needed to commit to this fully.

“If we were going to miss the honeymoon and do it, then I needed to do it properly.”

Manuel was an America-born serial killer who brought a reign of terror to Scotland between 1956 and ’58 when he was finally captured and put to death.

Although his name is writ large in the nation’s past criminal infamy, Martin admits he had much to learn.

“I was aware that he was one of the last people to be hanged in Scotland but I had no idea about the depth of the violence of his crimes,” he confesses.

“It was unbelievable. The insanity of the man, he was pure and utter evil.”

Martin in Line of Duty (Steffan Hill / BBC)
Martin in Line of Duty (Steffan Hill / BBC)

Although he got his small-screen break in soft and warming Sunday night favourite Monarch, Martin has played plenty heavy characters along the way, including former criminal Paul Ferris in The Wee Man. He’s had a variety of nice and nasty parts but this was on another level altogether.

“I’ve been lucky the last couple of years that I’ve got a good mix of both.

“I thought I was due a nasty one but I didn’t know it was going to be this nasty. This will probably be the darkest thing I’ll ever play.

“A lot of it is trying to gauge when not to go too far with it. He was so evil he could be a bad Bond villain, so you hold back in trying to make it believable. But some of the things were so outlandish and so crazy, like dropping letters to the police and contacting victims’ families.

“The guy was a psychopath.

“You have got to be respectful that these were real people, not just names on a page. They were victims and families, some will still be alive.

“You are mindful of that when you are filming but in acting terms it was a gift to play the part.”

Having been acting for half his life Martin says it’s easier to leave things behind when he walks off set these days.

And he’s affable and charming, full of smiles and happy to talk of professional and personal matters.

His star has risen even faster thanks to Line of Duty, in which he plays a copper who hunts down corrupt officers.

It started on BBC Two but by the recent third series it had become the station’s biggest drama success, pulling in six million viewers for the finale.

That ensured that, like the Great British Bake Off before it, it was deemed just too big to stay there.

Two new series have been commissioned and they’ll go out with huge fanfare on BBC One.

Ever-appreciative, Martin is aware of the part creator Jed Mercurio and trusting BBC bosses have played in his success. “I’ll be forever grateful to them for trusting me to lead their prime-time show. I like doing my wee dark films and I never thought that would translate to Middle England.

“Moving to BBC One means it’s more about ratings and the pressure is on. But knowing Jed it’ll stay true to the show.”

Martin Compston in Sweet Sixteen, 2002 (Lions Gate)
Martin Compston in Sweet Sixteen, 2002 (Lions Gate)

Despite Britain and America calling and a home on the other side of the Atlantic, Martin is keeping a level head.

“I’ve got series four and five of Line of Duty but after that technically I am unemployed,” he adds.

“There are no guarantees. The last couple of years the jobs have been kind to me.

“It’s left me financially sound for a wee while where I don’t need to panic or take jobs.

“I am in a very lucky position. I love my job, so if I can keep doing it to any extent I will be happy.

“I started in films but the gap between the quality of TV and films has been dramatically reduced.

“I never really saw myself in a lot of TV, but now this feels like a little film. There’s a bit of me that has a bit of an itch to get back into movies.”

In Plain Sight, ITV, Wednesday, December 7 at 9pm.


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