After becoming a nationwide fixation in 2013, Broadchurch is finally back for another series. Susan Griffin discovers what’s in store
Given the endless list of TV channels on offer these days, it takes a lot for a programme to cause a real commotion. But Broadchurch managed that when it became a national obsession in 2013.
Almost 10 million people tuned in to the final episode when the killer of 11-year-old Danny Latimer was revealed - but the drama hadn’t debuted to such a huge fanfare.
“We started life as a little show that nobody had heard of. Then, after a few Monday nights, we started being talked about all over the place. It’s been a whirlwind,” says the writer and creator Chris Chibnall, who adds that he and the team’s focus has always been on “what happens next”.
“In the time we’ve been off air, we’ve never stopped working on the show’s return,” says the playwright and TV writer, known for his work on the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.“I knew from the start there was another story to tell in the world of Broadchurch: so much so that I’d pitched it to Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV, in our first meeting when he green-lit the first series.”
And that, he says, is the story viewers will see when the second series begins on January 5. Production has been shrouded in secrecy, and all Chibnall will say is that series two is a “different journey”.
“It has a different shape and energy. It’s a new story. Some characters from series one return, others don’t. And there’s a set of new characters to get to know,” he continues, referring to the likes of Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles, Meera Syal and James D’Arcy.
Among the cast members returning (including Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan as Danny’s parents, Arthur Darvill as vicar Paul Coates and Carolyn Pickles as newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe), is David Tennant.
He reprises his role as DI Alec Hardy, who arrived in Broadchurch still haunted by the collapse of a previous murder case and, despite the Latimer murder mystery being resolved, hasn’t left the Dorset seaside town.
“It’s a very different type of story,” notes the former Doctor Who actor, who recently appeared in the American version of Broadchurch, titled Gracepoint.
“We all found it hard to predict where Chris was going to go, and how he was going to tell a story faithful to season one, without underselling the veracity of it. It would have been ludicrous and a bit disappointing to discover another body on the beach and begin another eight episodes of whodunnit... He absolutely doesn’t do that. Tonally, it’s the same show, but structurally, it’s completely different.”
The father-of-two says he “loved” being back in Dorset, where the familiar beach scenes are shot.
“West Bay is the location everyone recognises, and the Jurassic cliffs still feature prominently in season two,” he says. “We always enjoy coming back here - this is where Chris lives, so he writes to his locale.”
As the investigation into Danny’s murder escalated, many townspeople came under suspicion, and it was only after numerous twists and turns that the killer was identified as Joe Miller, husband of DS Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman.
Fortunately for Tennant, he has no problem keeping a secret. “I am well practised at not giving anything away,” says the 43-year-old. “I quite like being the holder of secrets. I get frustrated if I’m the one that doesn’t know them, but happy to be in the position of knowing what comes next...”
His co-star Colman, who resumes her role as DS Ellie Miller, also enjoyed keeping schtum. “We had each other if we needed to talk about it,” remarks the 40-year-old. “I did get a lot of texts and emails from close friends and family, asking me who did it, and I quite enjoyed the power of saying no to them all!”
Broadchurch returns to ITV on Monday, January 5