When the crime drama Broadchurch was screened on the U.K.’s ITV network this spring, it swiftly became a bona fide national obsession as viewers tried to figure out who killed an 11-year-old boy named Danny Latimer in the titular seaside town. Needless to say, Broadchurch creator-writer Chris Chibnall was thrilled by this development — even if it did make getting home more difficult during the show’s eight-episode run. “One night I went out to a screening of The Shining at an old hotel,” says Chibnall, who lives in Bridport, where many of the show’s coastal exteriors were filmed. “I was walking back in the dark and I rang a taxi firm and said, ‘Could you come and pick me and my wife up?’ The guy on the other end went, ‘No problem at all, Chris. Just tell me one thing: Who did it?’”
Chibnall says he was greatly influenced by the old shows Twin Peaks and Murder One when he was writing Broadchurch, which premieres on BBC America tonight at 10pm ET. But he sought inspiration from a more recent drama while choosing the show’s actors, including David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Tyrannosaur) as the investigating officers as well as Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who), and David Bradley (Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter films). “I said, ‘We have to have cast as good as Downton,’” he recalls. “That was absolutely my shameless aim, to go, ‘Okay, you have to look at our poster and feel that’s going to give Downton a run for its money.’ What the U.S. audience won’t necessarily get is that pretty much the top ten lead actors in our show could be the lead in their own show in the U.K.”
David Tennant explains the production made every effort to ensure the identity of the killer was known by as few people as possible. Even he was kept in the dark until he received the script for the final episode, shortly before filming it, and when the shoot was over the actor had to loop dialog without seeing the accompanying footage to prevent anyone in the post-production house leaking crucial information. “It was all very top secret and at times rather ludicrously protected,” says the actor. “But it worked.” No kidding. The show was a critically acclaimed ratings smash and last week Fox announced that it is developing an American remake.
Chibnall is currently writing the second season of Broadchurch, but declines to say whether the next batch of shows will involve another murder or which cast members will return. Over to you, Mr Tennant. “I’m giving nothing away,” says the actor. “Even if I did know if I was returning it would be above my pay grade to admit it.”
You can read more about Broadchurch in the new Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly and you can check out the show’s trailer below.