Nigel Boyle was just as surprised by that finale as we were—but who is the Line of Duty actor?

Line of Duty actor Nigel Boyle reveals how he discovered the truth about his character—*warning, major spoilers ahead!*

Nigel Boyle as Ian Buckells in BBC's Line of Duty
(Image credit: BBC)

Nigel Boyle might have slipped under the radar for many Line of Duty fans until *that* explosive season 6 finale—but who is he and why is his character Ian Buckells so important?

Line of Duty fans might have expected a twist ending going into season 6's final episode, but despite record-high viewing figures, many were left underwhelmed. For years now the question of who H is has been plaguing not only AC-12 but viewers everywhere. And whilst everything from the superb acting to Ted Hastings’ sayings never fails to entertain, few people saw the unmasking of DSU Ian Buckells as H coming. 

Yet that hasn't stopped Buckells' actor Nigel Boyle from being inundated with messages since the reveal was made. Speaking in an interview with The Telegraph, Nigel revealed that since his character's sinister secret identity became known, his phone has not stopped. 

“Twitter, Instagram, texts, WhatsApp, Messenger, everything; I’ve had to put it on silent”, he told the publication. 

The reason for this intense attention is no doubt the genuine shock that Ian Buckells turned out to be the super criminal we've all been waiting to see brought to justice.

Though as Nigel also disclosed, he was just as surprised as everyone else when show creator Jed Mercurio told him who Buckells really was...

Who played H in Line of Duty? 

We may be more familiar with Nigel Boyle as Ian Buckells, but to the astonishment of many fans, it turns out he was simultaneously playing H in Line of Duty, as the DSU was revealed to be the corrupt officer AC-12 had been pursuing for years. This twist has left many underwhelmed, as Ian Buckells has been constantly overlooked in Line of Duty and was often criticized by his fellow police officers for being inept, messing up paperwork, allowing criminals to get away with things and generally getting things wrong. 

It was only in the closing stages of the season 6 final episode that this was shown to be a cover for corruption. And whilst Nigel acknowledged in his interview with The Telegraph that, “Everyone’s got their own expectations and everyone’s got their own ideal way for it to end”, he seems happy with the twist and the fact that he was playing H. 

“I think it’s really clever, the way it’s ended: you don’t have to be a mastermind to be corrupt”, he shared. “You can’t have a big shootout and a big car chase every time.”

When did Nigel Boyle know Ian Buckells was H in Line of Duty? 

While the reveal that Ian Buckells was H the whole time has not been universally celebrated, it was nonetheless a huge surprise. And it seems it was just as much of a surprise for Nigel Boyle.

During his interview with The Telegraph, Nigel shared that Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio had a quiet word with him when filming was paused due to Covid-19. This took place between the fourth and fifth episode of season 6 and Nigel said he’s grateful he didn’t know any sooner, stating, “that’s pressure”.  

Nigel Boyle in Line of Duty

(Image credit: BBC)

Asked whether he suspected Ian Buckells was H in Line of Duty back in season one, he responded, “Oh God, no, it didn’t even cross my mind. I don’t think it crossed my mind in series four [when Buckells returned as a character]. I never thought I’d be corrupt, it was a complete surprise.” 

Nigel is also reportedly doubtful that Jed knew at the start, adding: “We hadn’t been commissioned for a second series, so I think he kept a lot of characters open. But even back then Buckells was clearly not someone full of integrity and competence, was he?”

He certainly wasn’t—and who knows if he would’ve been caught at all if he had spelt 'definitely' right...

 What else has Nigel Boyle been in? 

Nigel Boyle might now be best known for playing Ian Buckells/H in Line of Duty, but he’s also appeared in everything from Peaky Blinders to Home Fires and The Inbetweeners.

And he’s more than comfortable on the stage, starring in productions such as Twelfth Night, Henry V, No Exit and Aston Hall By Candlelight.

Whether or not we’ll see him return to Line of Duty as Ian Buckells/H remains to be seen as Line of Duty season 7 has not yet been confirmed. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed...

How can you watch Line of Duty from anywhere in the world?

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Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.