David Tennant was hooked from the first time he read an episode of Broadchurch and knew he wanted to play DI Alec Hardy, a big fish in a Dorset backwater in the ITV drama.
Talking about his character David says: “He is a cop from a big city – presumably Glasgow –who for reasons that become evident as we go through the story, has been moved to a small out of the way police force where hopefully he can go under the radar. Events conspire fairly early on in the story which mean this isn’t the case and very soon the national spotlight will be shone on him. He is not without some secrets and troubles which is why he has ended up in this little Dorset town.
“Hardy is good at what he does and he’s very motivated and driven to solve this crime, and we come to understand that is more than just a professional drive as the story unfolds. He is not the most sociable chap; he doesn’t have a myriad of social skills so he is someone who expects things to be done a certain way and can’t quite understand why other people don’t always meet his exacting standards. He lacks people skills – that’s his main problem.”
During the investigation Hardy has to work alongside local DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) which isn’t always an easy alliance…
“He and Ellie are not particularly similar as people and I think Hardy initially has a sort of big city disregard for small town police practises and imagines that they really don’t know what they are doing. He thinks he has to whip them into shape single-handed as he continues to be exasperated with the way things are run in Broadchurch.
“They come from very different places, and circumstances have thrust them together and the way the plot develops by default they end up working much more closely than they imagined they would be able to at first.”
What initially drew David to the role?
“I have worked with writer Chris Chibnall before and I am a big fan of him both personally and professionally. And I was always keen to work with director James Strong again so when the scripts arrived with their names attached it was already something I would be inclined to be involved with. Olivia was already signed when I first heard about it which was another great appeal to me. I had two scripts to look at with the knowledge that subsequent scripts would be appearing throughout the process and we wouldn’t get final scripts until months into the shoot – which is a gamble. But the fact I read it from cover to cover in one pass and was left at the end of the first episode desperately wanting to know what happens next was telling. That initial response is always worth noting; the first time you read the script is the closest you will be able to watch it as a viewer. 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.”And the parallel between actors and viewers didn’t stop there as the story unfolded before the cast on set…
“If you are playing someone who is investigating a crime and the crime is actually unfolding as you go from an acting point of view, that’s very helpful as you can’t second guess. When you’re playing those initial interviews with characters and you genuinely don’t know what the truth is you can’t load those scenes with ‘actorly’ tricks; you have to play it for what it is which can only make it more real. You can be as exasperated about the mystery of the characters as the audience will be.”
How do you approach a drama with such sensitive subject matter? How realistic should it be?
“I think you have to be very careful. The truth is it’s a drama of course so for us to compare it to any real life event just looks opportunistic and in rather poor taste. Obviously it reflects the world and human experiences – that’s what drama does – I hope it does that truthfully and effectively. As we are hoping to intrigue and entertain I don’t think we are making an effort to present what it’s really like or to make too many references to what people have seen in the news. That would make us a hostage to fortune.
“But as an actor our job is to always empathise and think yourself into the emotional situation whatever that may be. The script has great humanity and I think Chris Chibnall shows immense understanding of the human condition in all the different characters and
the way it impacts on the community. I think it will have emotional empathy which is what pulls the audience in whatever it is – whether it’s a murder mystery or something set in the future on Mars – it’s always that recognition of the human experience. That’s what makes us enjoy watching other people’s stories. I think the range of characters and the range of their responses to this extraordinary, horribly heightened situation is what will make this compelling as a piece of drama.”
Overall has David enjoyed filming Broadchurch?
“It’s been a very happy time, subject matter aside. What’s been great is working with the varied and talented cast. It’s great to be part of a genuine ensemble; dramas are often described as ensemble dramas, when they are not. It’s great to be part of something where all the characters have equally powerful stories to tell. There’s the whodunnit aspect but there are other stories going on at the same time and such wonderful people portraying those parts and seeing those characters and worlds develop.”