Line Of Duty creator writes from female point of view 'without conscious effort'

Graham Norton Show - London
Graham Norton Show - London

Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has said working in gender-balanced environments in his younger days helps him write from a female perspective.

The TV director, producer and novelist said he does not feel his fictional portrayal of women, such as those played by Keeley Hawes, Vicky McClure and Thandie Newton in his BBC crime drama series, is ever a conscious effort.

Ex-doctor Mercurio told Kirsty Young on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs: "It's not something that I feel that I'm consciously doing because all my primary experience of working in real workplaces were very gender-balanced.

"When I was working in the NHS, the blokes and the women did exactly the same work, and so it didn't feel to me like there was a way that a female doctor would behave in comparison to a male doctor."

Referring to his days as a pilot in the RAF, he added: "That was the time when women were first being accepted as pilots, so I've always been surrounded by women who've been doing the same job as the men.

"Because I write a lot about workplace drama, it always felt to me that I would be quite naturally creating a gender-balanced world."

Known for his TV productions, including 1990s medical drama Cardiac Arrest and early 2000s production Bodies, based on his novel of the same name, Mercurio is a rare example of an American-style showrunner in the British TV industry.

Often writing and producing, he said doing both is not about having control, but being in a "position of influence" over an entire production.

He said he is not a megalomaniac "but I do believe in the principle of collaboration and the way in which I work with cast and directors and my fellow producers is to always be part of a conversation rather than to impose a particular view on anyone."

Mercurio's creative career began when he responded to an advertisement in the British Medical Journal for a writer for Cardiac Arrest while working as a junior doctor.

But he had not always wanted to pursue a career in the media, and when younger wanted a job in science because of the values his Italian-immigrant parents had instilled in him, and also because he felt he would not fit in.

Mercurio said: "To a certain extent, I just couldn't see how an ability to be creative could possibly lead to any kind of career.

"It felt that people who worked in the media, in the arts, came from such a different background to me that I didn't think there was any way I'd be able to fit in and get on in that world."

Line Of Duty's fourth series concluded in April, with the police drama pulling in its largest audience yet as its central killer was identified to be several people rather than just one.

Two further series of the show, based on anti-corruption unit AC-12, have been commissioned, although the fifth series will not air until 2019.

:: Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11.15am.