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Small town, big drama: David Tennant on Bridport and Broadchurch
You would think that with the spate of recent cliff falls and atrocious weather, the West Dorset coastline has seen enough drama over the past year.
But starting in Monday, the dramatic cliffs play a central role in a new television drama series focusing how ‘dreadful things happen in beautiful places’.
Broadchurch is ITV’s big spring series, written by West Dorset writer Chris Chibnall and filmed largely in and around an Bridport and West Bay, as well as Bristol.
David Tennant and Olivia Colman lead the cast as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, mismatched cops working to solve the suspicious death of an 11-year-old boy.
Hardy is a by-the-book cop, new to the area, while Miller lives in the community and her son was best friends with the dead boy.
The stellar cast also includes Jodie Whittaker, Vicky McClure, Andrew Buchan, Will Mellor and Arthur Darvill.
Chris Chibnall, who has also written for Dr Who and Torchwood, said: “I live in Bridport and when I am having problems writing I walk along the coast to West Bay or Eype or Freshwater.
“It is an extraordinary landscape and I thought it would be a fantastic thing to capture it on film and showcase it. Then I started to think about a story and I thought about a small community and what it’s like living in one.
“We see a lot of dramas set in cities but very few in small towns, and I wanted to explore that.”
Chris had already worked with David Tennant on Dr Who and his name on the writing credits helped prompt the actor to sign up.
“I have worked with Chris before and am a big fan of him both personally and professionally,” said the former Dr Who. “Olivia was already signed up to it, which was another great appeal for me.”
His initial read-through of the script also convinced David that this project was for him.
“The fact that I read it from cover to cover and was left at the end of the first episode desperately wanting to know what happens was telling.
“If it grabs you and you want to know more and if you’re intrigued by the characters in that first moment, that’s always something to be pursued.”
Once the cast was in place, Chris worked with producer Richard Stokes, director James Strong and editor Mike Jones to bring the series to life.
Richard said: “I honestly believe this is the finest cast assembled for a British television series and also one of the nicest. It was a real bonus that they were all such lovely people.
“There is some stuff in the series that’s quite hard viewing, which can’t but help affect the people that are acting it. We had to make sure it wasn’t too traumatic for the cast.”
Chris said: “The cast is great, a really good team of actors and I am delighted they are all on board.
“Olivia Colman is the best actress in the country, I can’t say enough good things about her, and Jodie is just wonderful too.
“The same with David, he is so versatile and it is great to see him doing something different.”
He added: “They all loved it down here. We had a week of beautiful, sunny filming in September and they all fell in love with the place. It was a bit different in November though when they were on a cliff at 2am in the pouring rain and a howling gale!”
As it happened, Olivia wasn’t too keen on working in adverse elements either.
“I had a bit of a sense of humour failure one day when I thought ‘I don’t want to be outside anymore!’ There was horizontal rain going into our eyes and it was freezing. That’s when I started to wish I had a different job!” joked the Rev and Twentytwelve actress.
“From the off, I really liked the idea of the story and the idea of a whole community being affected by something and I liked the character of Ellie. I find it hard to play a character if I can’t feel any of me in them.”
But no matter how good the cast or high-calibre the writers and production team, the final success lies with the public – a fact not lost on Richard.
“Our job is to make sure we feed enough to engage the audience so that by episode eight they are still hooked and haven’t guessed who’s done what,” he said.
“You also have to balance the ‘cry count’ with the thriller aspects so that people can still watch it even though it’s hard at times. Have we done that? We won’t know until the series goes out.”
This interview is from our new Seven Days magazine. See more at bournemouthecho.co.uk/sevendays!