In Spotlight: Adrian Dunbar’s best TV and film roles – from The Crying Game to Line of Duty

Before he was Ted Hastings, the Northern Irish actor had made a name for himself in plenty of other roles to be proud of. Here’s our pick of the best.

By Katie Archer Published: 26 April 2021 - 2.21pm
BBC Line of Duty Adrian Dunbar

A whole new generation of fans has discovered Adrian Dunbar through his starring role in Line of Duty, but his screen success goes much further back.

Hitting the big time with a high-profile film role, Dunbar went on to star in some huge hits in both film and on TV.

Get familiar with some of his best work in our round-up of the Northern Irish actor’s best roles to date.

The Crying Game

Dunbar’s acting career began in the 80s, but one of his first high-profile roles was in 1992 film The Crying Game.

Neil Jordan's Oscar- and Bafta-winning film is considered a classic of British cinema. Its plot explores themes of race, sexuality and nationalism as an IRA member kidnaps a British soldier, then goes on to fall in love with the soldier’s lover who he promised to protect.

Starring as IRA kidnap group leader Peter Maguire, Dunbar appeared alongside Forest Whitaker, Stephen Rea and Miranda Richardson in his key role.

My Left Foot

Dunbar had another brush with Oscars success a few years earlier in 1989’s My Left Foot, in which he played a love rival to Daniel Day-Lewis's Christy Brown.

Following Christy as he battled cerebral palsy and nurtured his artistic talent, it saw Dunbar play the fiancé of a woman Christy desperately wanted a relationship with.

Both Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker, who played Christy's mother Bridget, won acting Oscars for their roles. It was overlooked for the Best Picture award but Academy members have since said that given another chance, they would have chosen My Left Foot to win rather than the actual winning film, Driving Miss Daisy.

Ashes to Ashes

Before we all became glued to Line of Duty, the BBC had another must-see police-based drama that got the nation talking – Ashes to Ashes.

The follow-on from Life on Mars saw Keeley Hawes’ police officer character seemingly travel back in time after being shot and falling into a coma.

Dunbar played a corrupt officer who also travelled from 2008 to the early 80s, where he was instrumental in setting up a robbery by other corrupt police.

It was a strange forerunner of the character he’d play in Line of Duty, where he heads up an anti-corruption unit and even investigated a detective played by Hawes herself.

Watch all three seasons of Ashes to Ashes on BritBox and Netflix

Line of Duty

Line of Duty Adrian Dunbar BBC

Hit show Line of Duty would be nothing without Superintendent Ted Hastings, perfectly played by Dunbar.

Hastings’ catchphrases have become legendary, with “Mother of God”, “as you well know” and “bent coppers” all on the fan bingo board.

Dunbar’s character is only just holding together AC-12 as even his own staff become suspicious of his activities and viewers still haven’t been thoroughly convinced that he has no links to mysterious crime boss H.

This is surely the role of Dunbar’s career, as he manages to pour everything into his scenes as Hastings but somehow hold enough back that you’re never quite sure whether he’s hiding the truth.

Line of Duty is currently airing on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm. Series 1-5 are available on BBC iPlayer.


Blood Adrian Dunbar Channel 5

Dunbar’s Line of Duty success has slightly overshadowed his star turn in another recent series, the psychological thriller Blood.

It’s a gripping show about a woman who returns home after her mother is killed, seemingly by falling and hitting her head on a rock.

But she becomes convinced that her father Dr Jim Hogan (Dunbar) actually had something to do with his wife’s death, especially as she becomes haunted by flashbacks to an incident in her childhood.

This is a must-watch for all Dunbar fans as he gives a completely convincing performance as the difficult-to-pin-down Jim.

Blood series 1 and 2 are available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video.

Catch all the shows you love on BT TV

Watch the latest shows and sport from Sky with a NOW Membership, Netflix, and Discovery+ all in one place.