Bloodlands is Northern Ireland’s most popular television series, according to Jed Mercurio

Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has said Belfast crime show Bloodlands is Northern Ireland’s most popular television series in recent memory.

The second series of Bloodlands starts tonight on BBC One Northern Ireland and executive producer Mercurio says the show’s first season has achieved an unprecedented number of views.

Speaking on set of Bloodlands, he told Sunday Life: “The baseline audience data we obtained was incredibly rewarding, this is the most successful drama in terms of ratings in Northern Ireland since the beginning of recent recordings.

“It showed us a very important thing which is the representation of Northern Ireland, the legacy, these fictional characters versus the factual legacy, was something we did well.

“Obviously you can’t please everyone, but if something is watched by so many and they keep watching it, that clearly makes the right kind of connection.”

He added: ‘In terms of performance elsewhere, what we saw was that knowledge of historical context and legacy issues was not as strong outside of Northern Ireland, but the show has always worked well in other parts of the world.

“There is a curiosity in the audience and they want to be informed and entertained by the program.

“I think we feel responsible as a production to make sure we get it right in terms of Northern Ireland’s heritage.

“I’m not qualified to make those judgments because I’m not as knowledgeable as writer Chris Brandon who grew up here and obviously our cast and many people who work on the show.

“It’s something that’s a constant discussion because we want to be sensitive in our portrayal of controversial events.”

“We don’t want to offend, basically we want to tell a mind-blowing suspenseful story,” Mercurio said.

James Nesbitt returns tonight as Chief Detective Inspector Tom Brannick in the new Bloodlands series alongside his former Cold Feet co-star and Victoria Smurfit.

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Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio after receiving his OBE medal during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle

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Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio after receiving his OBE medal during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle

Mercurio says Nesbitt was the perfect fit for the lead role, adding, “It’s a fantastic thriller with a great character at the center, I could absolutely see James Nesbitt in the role, we approached him and he responded well.

“I could just see it as a thriller with something to say and a different take on the genre that was very specific to the political and historical context of the region.

“It wasn’t so much that James Nesbitt was a big star, although that helps, it’s the fact of his ability as an actor to portray the different sides of the character.

“It was necessary to tell the story that had been written, so that was the goal of his casting, to find someone who was a perfect fit for the role.”

When asked about a potential new Line of Duty series, Mercurio joked that he could “neither confirm nor deny” if the AC12 gang will return to our screens in the future.