Chris Chibnall loves a whiteboard. When he started writing Broadchurch, which is set in Dorset, where he lives, he wanted it to last for three series, involve multiple storylines and have myriad plot-twists and surprising character developments. And that required a lot of planning.
“I have four giant whiteboards and a brilliant script editor,” says Chibnall. “We storyline everything and then start with the characters... When you plot an hour-long episode, you have to do it very tightly in four acts around the ad breaks.”
Why did he focus on a violent sexual assault?
“Because often it’s not treated with the time or delicacy it deserves,” he says. “What I did was to deliberately slow the pace down because I wanted to go into detail of how you report an attack.”
Chris Chibnall and Olivia Colman at the Radio Times Covers Party
Did he find it hard to shake off the subject matter?
“Once I step away from the computer, I hope I’ve given everything to it — like a footballer leaving everything on the pitch. The emotion goes into the show.” Did he expect Broadchurch to be such a success? “No! No idea. Any success is not in our hands, it’s in the hands of the audience — they decide what they want to talk about.” And how does he feel on the eve of the final series? “Very emotional. It’s hard to say goodbye. I’ve asked myself, ‘Why am I walking away from the two best actors in the country?’”
Does Chibnall have a favourite scene?
“Yeah, but I can’t tell you what it is,” he laughs. “It’s late in this series, it’s very moving and it’s the biggest scene we’ve ever done.” So we’ll know it when we see it? “Yes,” he says. Until then, like so much else around Broadchurch, it remains a closely guarded secret.
Broadchurch begins at 9pm tonight on ITV