Bridport is a picturesque town in Dorset with a population of about 14,000.
“I can’t say.”
It’s about a three hour train ride from London’s Waterloo Station.
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
Behind the town hall you’ll find a squat statue dedicated to Bridport’s residents. Next to that is a second hand bookshop. It’s worth a visit if you’re nearby. Their collection is strong on histories and maps of the local area, but RadioTimes.com picked up a nice copy of Ezra Pound’s translations while waiting for the ride home.
“I do feel like I continually disappoint people like yourselves. There’s so little I can tell you, and we’re being watched like hawks to make sure we don’t tell anything.”
Bridport is most famous for its beach (RadioTimes.com never saw the beach, but the photos look lovely) and for standing in as the fictional town of Broadchurch on television. That’s why David Tennant is hiding out in the back room of a local hotel; he’s almost finished shooting on the murder mystery’s second series. David Tennant is smiling and wearing a hoodie. David Tennant is exceptionally good at not answering questions.
“I quite like being the holder of secrets,” he tells a small group of frustrated journalists, including RadioTimes.com. It’s a skill he honed over Broadchurch’s first series, when millions were desperate to know who killed Danny Latimer and left his body at the foot of those magnificent cliffs. “I didn’t tell my wife, because I found that quite fun,” he admits with a smirk. “Who wants to have their Christmas presents ruined? That’s the nature of a thriller isn’t it? It’s more thrilling if you don’t know what’s coming next.”
Tennant has had to keep more schtum than usual. Unlike in the first series (“we had the advantage that no-one really cared”) Broadchurch is now a phenomenon, with fans, journalists and paparazzi trying to find out any details they can about the upcoming storyline.
“There’s certain things that we are desperate to try and conceal, certain plot points that we are working very hard to keep under wraps,” he explains. “I think we’re holding the line pretty well. We’ve announced everything we had to announce, in terms of returning characters who would be seen out in the open, and held everything else back.”
The vow of silence even extends to the basic structure of the series. While season one was a crisp whodunit that had everyone guessing until the end, this is a different animal. Apparently.
“It’s tricky to say anything, but it’s a very different type of story,” the former Doctor volunteers. “Chris [Chibnail] has done an incredible job. When it was mooted that there might be a second series, I think none of us quite understood what that would be.”
But we know there will be another murder to investigate, right?
“It would have felt wrong to go: ‘series two, another body on another beach.’ That wouldn’t have felt like the same world, it would have felt too oddly coincidental. Plus, it wouldn’t have serviced the magnitude of the events in the first series to do that.”
The second series of a murder mystery might not have a murder at the centre of it? Confused? So were the cast, who never even expected a second run.
“It was never the intention,” Tennant explains. “It was commissioned as a one off, we were all contracted as a one off.”
Yet writer Chris Chibnail wasn’t making it up as he went along, and had ideas for the second series even as they were making the first episodes. “While we were filming Chris would drop the occasional hint that he had a…masterplan might be overstating it, but he clearly had a notion that this was a story that could go on. But all of us were a bit at a loss as to what series two could be.”
It was only once the scripts arrived that things became clearer. “I couldn’t quite picture it until I saw the script for episode one, then it suddenly makes sense. The story is structurally very different but is still absolutely in the world, tonally and emotionally. It’s still a thriller and although it’s a slightly different flavour thriller, it will still force you to come back every week. From the end of act one, the first 15 minutes, I was hooked.”
That sounds great, if a bit vague. Can he be any more specific? “We pick up from where series one left off, in many ways, so it was just very exciting to be back in that world, re-meeting all these characters.” That’ll be a no then.
What about Tennant’s own character: Alec Hardy, the world’s glummest detective? Has his health improved, is he now cracking jokes and raring for series three? “Alec’s story picks up pretty much where it left off, which wasn’t in a particularly good place.”
That’s putting it lightly. He was at death’s door from a heart condition. “I think it’s fair to say he’s not a well man at the start of the series when we find him, which might have implications for any further life for the series.”
Does this season delve into Hardy’s backstory, including the mysterious Sandbrook case?
ITV publicist: “We’re not saying! We’re not saying!”
“We’re not saying! We’re not saying!”
All right then, how about the new cast, how are they fitting into the Broadchurch team? “Extremely well, mercifully. This production team have a ‘no arseholes’ policy, which they’ve been very scrupulous about. I don’t know what kind of vetting process that entails, but Charlotte, Marianne, James, Eve and…who else has been announced?”
ITV publicist: “Phoebe.”
“… and Phoebe have all slipped right into the family.”
Does he find himself suspecting the newcomers more than the old guard?
“Well that would indicate that there was something to suspect.”
ITV publicist: “Oh he’s good, he’s good!”
At this point, David Tennant starts talking like an evasive politician crossed with a doddering professor: “The structure of the series being very different from the structure of the first series, it may not work in that way. In fact it’s true to say that some of the new cast are playing roles which occupy very different areas of the story.”
“Oh come on man!” RadioTimes.com blurts out in exasperation. “At some point we’ve got to put this in black and white!”
“I know!” David Tennant is laughing. David Tennant is enjoying this too much.
Right, new tack. He once said he was the only Scottish actor never to appear in long running crime drama Taggart.
“Yup, that’s still true.”
Does he get to say the immortal Taggart catchphrase, ‘there’s been another murder’ in this series?
More sodding laughter. “Nice way of trying to get something out of me…I don’t get to say that.”
ITV publicist: “That’s fine.”
After some more of this (ITV publicist: “That’s good, that’s a good answer, you’ve not given anything away, I don’t think anyone’s going to get anything from that”) we admit defeat. Clearly, you don’t spend hours interrogating suspects without picking up a few tricks.
But trust us on that bookshop.
Broadchurch returns Monday 5th January, 9pm, ITV