Speaking during a talk entitled Pigeonholed at the Creative Coalition Festival 2022, the celebrated UK showrunner said talented actors, execs and writers who don’t live in London are being shut out, a situation worsened by the cost of living in the capital.
“It’s a double whammy,” he said. “Outside of London there are fewer creative opportunities but then you also need economic muscle to move here. It’s important for our creative industries that there are opportunities in all of the UK and for people who don’t come from money.”
The situation has led to a “polarized creative community,” added the Bodyguard creator and Trigger Point exec, who used to be a Doctor.
Mercurio said he had taken this into account when casting Line of Duty, having opted for stars including Vicky McClure, who “couldn’t afford to go to drama school”, and Martin Compston, who used to be a professional footballer.
Both worked second jobs while they were starting out and McClure had to continue working in an office once she had broken through in Shane Meadows’ This is England.
“For both Vicky and Martin they knew they had to be commercially successful otherwise they would have to leave acting,” added Mercurio.
He was speaking shortly after UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries unveiled a review into the British creative industries at the same event, for which she will examine how the government can “use the creative industries to regenerate left behind towns and communities.”
During a wide-ranging session, Mercurio criticized the way in which TV dramas’ editorial teams interfere with the work of the main writer.
“When I started in British TV I was surprised at how hard I had to work on making sure my script was realized,” he added. “Unfortunately this is still the case. Writers feel marginalized from the process of writing their own scripts.”
Mercurio said there were “practical reasons” why he penned all episodes on the BBC’s Line of Duty, which across six seasons has comfortably been Britain’s most popular TV drama of the past decade.
“We need the flexibility to develop new ideas and change things from the outline and if I’m the only writer I can plan for this,” he explained.