Given the endless list of TV channels on offer these days, it takes a lot for a programme to cause a real commotion. But Broadchurch managed that - and more - when it became a national obsession in 2013.
Almost 10 million people tuned in to the final episode when the killer of 11-year-old Danny Latimer was revealed - but the drama hadn’t debuted to such a huge fanfare.
“We started life as a little show that nobody had heard of. Then, after a few Monday nights, we started being talked about all over the place. It’s been a whirlwind,” says the writer and creator Chris Chibnall, who adds that he and the team’s focus has always been on “what happens next”.
“In the time we’ve been off air, we’ve never stopped working on the show’s return,” says the playwright and TV writer, known for his work on the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.
“I knew from the start there was another story to tell in the world of Broadchurch: so much so that I’d pitched it to Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV, in our very first meeting when he green-lit the first series of the show.”
And that, he says, is the story viewers will see when the second series begins on January 5. Production has been shrouded in secrecy, and all Chibnall will say is that series two is a “different journey”.
“It has a different shape and energy, a different rhythm. It’s a new story, and there’s a different engine under the bonnet this year. Some characters from series one return, others don’t. And there’s a set of new characters for you to get to know,” he continues, referring to the likes of Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles, Meera Syal and James D’Arcy.
Among the original cast members returning ar Skelamnthorpe actress Jodie Whittaker, who is thrilled that there is a second series of the drama.
She and Andrew Buchan star as Danny’s parents, and are joined by Arthur Darvill as the vicar Paul Coates and Carolyn Pickles as newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe).
David Tennant reprises his role as DI Alec Hardy, who arrived in Broadchurch still haunted by the collapse of a previous murder case and, despite the Latimer murder mystery being resolved, hasn’t left the Dorset seaside town when series two opens.
“It’s a very different type of story,” notes the former Doctor Who actor, who recently appeared (to lesser success) in the American version of Broadchurch, titled Gracepoint.
“We all found it hard to predict where Chris was going to go, and how he was going to tell a story faithful to season one, without underselling the veracity of it. It would have been ludicrous and a bit disappointing to discover another body on the beach and begin another eight episodes of whodunnit... He absolutely doesn’t do that. Tonally, it’s the same show, but structurally, it’s completely different.”
The father of two says he “loved” being back in Dorset, where the familiar beach scenes are shot.
“West Bay is the location everyone recognises, and the Jurassic cliffs [where Danny was found in series one] still feature prominently in season two,” he says. “We always enjoy coming back here - this is where Chris lives, so he writes to his locale.”
As the investigation into Danny’s murder escalated, many townspeople came under suspicion, and it was only after numerous twists and turns that the killer was identified as Joe Miller, the husband of DS Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman.
Fortunately for Tennant, he has no problem keeping a secret. “I think it frustrates those around you, but I am well practised at not giving anything away; withholding everything,” says the 43-year-old. “I quite like being the holder of secrets. I get frustrated if I’m the one that doesn’t know them, but happy to be in the slightly superior position of knowing what comes next...”
His co-star Colman, who resumes her role as DS Ellie Miller, also enjoyed keeping schtum. “We had each other if we needed to talk about it,” remarks the 40-year-old. “I did get a lot of texts and emails from close friends and family, asking me who did it, and I quite enjoyed the power of saying no to them all!”
She might have been in on the secret, but the mother-of-two was as keen to tune in as anyone else. “I was gripped! I hadn’t seen everybody else’s scenes and it was the way the cast and crew really kept the secret - it made it special,” she reveals.
“We all loved it when we were filming and the scripts were brilliant, so you hope people are going to get that, but as the audience built, it was incredibly flattering that people loved it as much as we did. It’s great if people enjoy what you do.”
Despite her huge success (aside from her win for Broadchurch, Colman’s received two Baftas for Twenty Twelve and Accused), the actress confesses she was nervous about meeting Charlotte Rampling on set.
“She’s a proper legend but she’s so sweet, and brought everybody a box of chocolates on her last day.” And as for Myles: “She’s told me some of the worst jokes I have ever heard, yet still, I think about them in the middle of the night and laugh.”
A third series has yet to be commissioned, but it’d be surprising if Tennant and Colman didn’t sign up to another.
“Broadchurch is the best job; an absolute treat,” says Colman. “It was a long job, but there wasn’t one day when I wasn’t excited about getting up and going to work.”
EXTRA TIME - THE BROADCHURCH EFFECT
The show was ITV’s most tweeted-about drama series since records began with 470,000 tweets. Over the final episode, a reported 260,000 tweets were sent, peaking at 8,942 per minute.
Less than 30 people were in on the secret of who’d murdered schoolboy Danny, and thankfully for the team, nothing was leaked before Joe Miller’s confession was aired.
The series has won three Baftas for Best Leading Actress, Best Drama and Best Supporting Actor.
To date, the series has been sold to over 135 territories, including the US, Canada, Australia, Africa, Russia, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands and China.
Despite their town being the focus of the story, the residents of West Bay in Dorset welcomed the Broadchurch team back. “It’s like going back to a childhood holiday, when you go to the same place each year. And the people are incredibly nice, considering we must turn it upside down for them,” Colman’s remarked.
Broadchurch returns to ITV on Monday, January 5