Meet the cast of Broadchurch

ITV's new drama series stars Doctor Who's David Tennant and Arthur Darvill alongside Olivia Colman, Vicky McClure and Pauline Quirke


David Tennant plays DI Alec Hardy – a difficult but newly-promoted police detective who is drafted in over his colleague, DS Ellie Miller, to investigate the murder of 11-year-old schoolboy, Danny Latimer.


 So David, tell us about your character…

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 ended up in this little Dorset town. 

We’ve heard he’s rather difficult to work with?

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.

Tell us about Hardy’s working relationship with local DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman)…

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 was it about the script that attracted you to the role?

I had two scripts to look at with the knowledge that the 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 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. 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 you didn’t know how the mystery unravelled while you were filming, did you?

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.

Olivia Colman plays DS Ellie Miller – a local policewoman who has known the murder victim all his life and must find the patience and toughness to work alongside the difficult DI Hardy.

Olivia, what can you tell us about your character, Ellie?

I see Ellie as a jolly good egg and in it for all the right reasons. It feels like the best way to serve her community is to be part of the police force and she has worked her way up. She is from Broadchurch, knows everybody, loves her community and then is probably out of her depth when this terrible thing happens. But thankfully Hardy (Tennant) joins the team and although they’re not keen on each other she learns from him.

They don’t exactly hit it off, though…

There is definitely a personality clash between the two; they start off with a lot of animosity between them. She doesn’t like him because he’s taken the DI job she was promised. That’s a stumbling block Ellie finds hard to get over. But as the case goes on she realises he really knows what he is doing even though his methods are socially difficult for Ellie to watch. I think they have a grudging respect. 

What was it about Broadchurch that made you want to be a part of it?

From the off I really liked the idea of the story, a hard story and an upsetting one, but I liked the idea of a whole community being affected by something and I liked the character of Ellie. Then you hear David Tennant is going to do it and Vicky McClure and all these extraordinary people who you think are wonderful. 

Did filming have its ups and downs?

It turns out I really don’t like being cold! I had a bit of a sense of humour failure one particular day when I thought “I don’t want to be outside anymore”. There was horizontal rain going into our eyes and it was freezing. Dorset is quite a rainy county but being on the cliff at Bridport in the sunshine during the first week of filming was just amazing. Idyllic.

Were there any other challenging aspects of filming?

I found it really hard doing the emotional scenes with Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan, who play the parents of the dead boy, talking about their tragedy just because they are such beautiful actors and I had a hard time keeping it together. My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing but I couldn’t help myself; it was so sad.

Andrew Buchan plays Mark Latimer – the father of the dead boy who, along with his wife Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and teenage daughter Chloe is struggling to cope with his son’s murder. 

What can you tell us about your character, Mark?

Mark is quite an angry individual on the inside. He does like to box things up and shelve them away inside himself. His first instinct is always to fly off the handle and maybe think about it later. The other key thing with Mark and his wife Beth is that they are in a broken relationship. There’s a distance between them, a coldness and great deal of regret. They married young and nowadays barely communicate. 

Has it been hard to portray your character’s grief?

I had a slight fear of each scene, it’s not the kind of material you can relax into or make predictions about how it might play. A part like this is so rare and challenging. You have to treat it with the utmost respect for people who have been through this in real life. You can research it 24 hours a day but still never really know the truth of what people have gone through. Jodie (Whittaker) and I did research a lot and certainly tried to be as close and as accurate as we could.

What was it like stepping off set after an emotional day of filming?

It leaves you feeling pretty raw and exhausted, but nothing that a big tea and a hot shower couldn’t sort. Some days you’d feel dry from crying so much the day before, and some days you wouldn’t be able to stop yourself. We were all walking wrecks. Thankfully though, outside filming, Jodie is one of the funniest girls on the planet. So there was never a danger of spirits getting too low!

Jodie Whittaker plays Beth Latimer – the victim’s distraught mother whose strained marriage with her husband, Mark (Andrew Buchan), is put to the test when they suffer the repercussions of their son’s death.

Your character Beth lives every parent’s worst nightmare of losing a child…

It is a huge emotional journey because of the shock and the upset. That never goes away because it’s a murder case and family are just left in limbo waiting for answers. It’s a weird grieving process then and it’s as if the family have been halted in what they might want to be going through because they don’t actually know what or why it has happened. Apart from the very first two scenes in the whole thing, it is just completely grief ridden and devastating for Beth. But within that come different stages; anger, numbness and being completely broken.

It sounds like an emotional role to film…

Sustaining the real heightened sense of emotion without it being the same in every scene has definitely been a challenge. It is keeping that real anger, the numbness, the raw emotion all together and making sure it is there, but that every scene doesn’t become the same sequence or the same mood. It was difficult for everyone the day we filmed finding Danny’s body, but good stuff should be hard, I think. 

Did working with Andy make the process any easier?

I have known Andy for ages as we were in different drama schools but graduated the same year. As the dad in the Latimer family he is so emotional. One minute he has to be the rock and the next he is so angry and just to watch the process he goes through makes it really easy for me in a scene as I never know how he is going to do it, which is life; it’s real. 

You grew up in a close-knit community similar to Broadchurch – were there elements of the setting that you recognised from your home town?

There is an opening scene where Mark is walking down the street saying “hello” to everyone and that is exactly like my dad and if something like this happened in that community, you would see immediately how it affects people. It’s like a piece of glass shattering and all the cracks start appearing in this seemingly safe and family-orientated community. 

What was it like filming without knowing who the murderer was?

I found that quite nerve-wracking not knowing where it was going. In fact none of us knew who had done it, even the person who did it didn’t know, which is a really great thing to do because it keeps you anxious the whole way through. It keeps you guessing and makes you not trust any of the other characters; which you wouldn’t do in that environment.

Arthur Darvill plays Reverend Paul Coates – a young vicar who has to console his local community following Danny’s shocking murder

What was it like playing a vicar?

It was my first time playing a man of cloth, and walking around in a dog collar and robes felt kind of weird. I felt a responsibility when in costume; my language certainly cleaned up a bit. Walking around on set near the church where we were filming, people totally unconnected with the production would nod to me. It struck me it is a strange thing being a vicar because you are always on show. It is something I think my character Paul must have felt. It singles you out for people to trust and come to talk to; you are never not on call. 

What research did you do for the role? What did you learn about their profession?

I went to meet a young vicar before I started filming. He told me that even in the supermarket he is still working, still a representative of God and the community and as such is always there to help people, to listen. You have a responsibility to live your life in a certain way to keep that respect. Especially someone of my age, I can imagine you want to stay clean as a whistle, really. At first it was hard to get in the mindset of a vicar but the research I did made it more comfortable in my own head and the words easier in my mouth. It’s been a rewarding role and I have learnt a lot working with such great actors. 

What can you tell us about your character, Paul?

He is very young to be in that position – someone who has completely dedicated his life to his calling. Broadchurch is his first parish on his own, a very nice and picturesque town with a small, loyal congregation. It’s an early step in his career but somewhere he enjoys being. There are also a few demons in his past that he has run away from… 

That sounds ominous. Isn’t he a bit young to be in a role of such responsibility?

When we meet Paul in the first episode he is still learning and wanting to make an impact. He is a good reverend for someone so young and he feels he has a place within the community where people respect him, which is probably something he was quite worried about. Broadchurch has an elderly congregation with a history but they accept him and he fits in well – he has made himself a figurehead in the community. 

The role was created especially for you by writer Chris Chibnall – that must have felt pretty great?

Chris came up to me on set during my last week on Dr Who and said he had written a part for me. I was so excited about it I just wanted to do it no matter what, so once the logistics were worked out I didn’t think twice. I feel very privileged. It was Chris’s passion for the project that struck me. I had only read one script but trusted in him as someone who knows how to write a good script so I knew it would be brilliant. 

How did you juggle Broadchurch with performing on the West End stage in Old Boys every night during filming?

I thought it would be exhausting doing both at the same time but I enjoyed doing them so I didn’t tire myself out too much even with the travelling. What really helped was that the characters were not at all close to each other. Maybe if there had been elements of similar character traits I might have slipped. And the techniques I was using on stage every night came in handy with the many sermons I had to take in Broadchurch. It is quite a theatrical experience being in front of a congregation; quite stagey.

Are there any moments from filming that stand out in your memory?

On one particular day we had been waiting around all day to do one beach scene. We were meant to be standing in the water but the sea was so rough we could have been swept away so we were asked to stand near the water. There was me, Joe Sims, Will Mellor and Andy Buchan at the side of the sea completely still looking at David (Tennant) when suddenly this massive wave came up and soaked us all to the skin. Three of us stood still in shock and Joe ran up the beach screaming!

Vicky McClure plays national news reporter Karen White who bases herself in Broadchurch as Danny’s murder case unfolds. 

Fill us in on Karen’s story…

I think Karen probably started off on her local paper in the Midlands and made her way up to the Herald. She is a determined woman, who really enjoys her job but she is also very human. She’s definitely one that needs to get the story out there but she is very aware of how families are affected by the death of a child in the long run and she is cautious with that. She can be ruthless but I wanted to show she felt real sympathy for the family too. 

What part does Karen play in the overall story?

She is an outsider. Karen’s role in Broadchurch is to highlight the journalistic side of cases like this and how the media do completely dominate certain areas. I have a lot of scenes with Jonathan Bailey and Caroline Pickles (who play Broadchurch Echo junior reporter Olly Stevens and editor Maggie Radcliffe) and we end up connecting. It’s a really interesting group, and there have been lighter moments with us three because we are not connected to the families in such a direct way.

What was it like getting stuck into the world of journalism?

It was never something I thought about doing nor would it be something I’d want to get involved in. I think it takes a specific person to be a journalist and I’m just not that person. But I’ve met journalists before and got on really well with them, we’ve built up good relationships and they have written exactly what I’ve said. It is just frustrating how things are twisted sometimes so I can appreciate the frustration and there are certain moments in the show when what is put in the headlines dominates the actions that next occur. So the portrayal is a mixture of what’s on the page and what I know.

Pauline Quirke plays Susan White

Your character Susan is a pretty sinister figure in the drama, isn’t she?

Susan is very mysterious and there’s something not right, some secret she has got or something she is hiding which you do discover later on. She is very dark and has rather a sinister presence. The only thing she shows any emotion for is her dog. She seems to be totally cold. She just seems to always be there, watching and lurking and listening. 

And it was your dog, Bailey, who played your pet on set…

When I got the role they said to me, your character always has her dog with her and I thought it would be so much easier for them really to have my dog, Bailey. He is so obedient and will do whatever is asked of him. They still wanted to ‘audition’ him to make sure. He can’t do tricks and that sort of thing, but that’s not what they wanted. They wanted Susan to have a dog to devotedly follow her around which is what he has done. He has lots of close ups and excelled himself. I think it has worked out perfectly for everyone. He’s been terrific; even scenes without me when he wasn’t sure, he has still been brilliant!

Did you enjoy filming in the West Country?

I have absolutely fallen in love with the place. I loved being at West Bay and when I got the chance I’d go off exploring. I have been to Lyme Regis and lots of other places just having a wander round with Bailey. I have really got to see parts of Dorset that I have never seen before. Even when the weather turned cold, it was still beautiful. Even doing night shoots in the pouring rain on the beach, I have still really enjoyed it.


The first episode of Broadchurch starts on Monday 4 March at 9:00pm