Writer Chris Chibnall Introduces His New Drama Broadchurch Starring David Tennant

The new eight-part ITV crime drama Broadchurch is the creation of writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall. Read below as he talks about his reasons for wanting to tell the story of the wider impact of a tragic event and how his amazing cast and crew - including David Tennant - reacted to being kept in the dark about the culprit's identity.

Broadchurch: An Introduction by writer and creator Chris Chibnall

Broadchurch is a hybrid: a cocktail of stories. A drama about a community racked by grief and suspicion. A whodunnit, packed with suspects. A character-driven, emotional thriller, thick with twists and turns. When I was writing Law & Order:UK, I always used to worry for the victim’s relatives we would bring in for one scene: what happened to them when they left the screen. Broadchurch is, in part, an answer to that, a desire to honour those people more fully.

It's also a love letter to the landscape of West Dorset, where I've lived for the best part of a decade. The landscape informs the drama: the cliffs, the sea, the beach are all key elements of the story. I've put dinosaurs on spaceships (on screen, not in life, that would be ridiculous), but nothing has given me the satisfaction of seeing the Jurassic Coast on screen in all weathers, all times of day, and night. Our cast and crew adored Dorset too - especially in the high sun of early September. Oh, they loved me, then. At the end of November, at 2am on a cliff side battered by wind and sea-spray, less so.

For me, the whole project has been a labour of love. I'd been ruminating on a big ensemble drama, exploring the way a death might impact on a community, for the best part of a decade. In 2011, after working with a US network, I was desperate to write an authored, uncompromised story set close to home. I wrote the first episode, on spec, just for myself: no company, no broadcaster. When it was written, I called ITV drama commissioner, Laura Mackie, from a Rome hotel (United, a film I wrote for BBC Two, was screening in the RomaFictionFest and I wanted to appear high class). I told her I had a new script, would she like to read it? Thankfully, she said yes.

An early writing mentor of mine, Barrie Keeffe (exceptional playwright and screenwriter of The Long Good Friday), taught me the most crucial demand on any dramatist: "Write good parts for actors". One story, told throughout the series, gives actors more space to create complex, real people. I feel lucky and proud of these performances: led from the front by David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Vicky McClure, Arthur Darvill, Will Mellor, Pauline Quirke - sorry, couldn't stop typing. And in addition to the people you know, I hope you'll also love newer faces like Jonathan Bailey, Joe Sims, Matthew Gravelle, Charlotte Beaumont and Jacob Anderson.

And none of them knew who the killer was. We made a decision early on: we wouldn't tell the actor(s) or actress(es) playing the person(s) responsible for Danny Latimer's death that they were the killer(s). (I know, the parentheses are annoying. They’re over now. Oh.) It added an extra level of intrigue to the production: the cast and crew started their own sweepstake, the make-up truck kept a rogues’ gallery of photofit pictures on their wall, with comments on the suspected motives for each character. David Tennant merrily harangued me in a location car park, "I'm annoyed you won't tell me and I think you're absolutely right not to!"

We hope part of the joy of Broadchurch is the unfolding of the story. We've deliberately not put "Next Time" trailers at the end of each episode. We'll be keeping as much information to ourselves as we can. And we'd really, properly love it if you -  the advance guard -  would keep the secrets you discover along the way to yourselves, so the audience can experience them, unspoiled.

Because this one is from the heart. And I hope these characters, and their stories, find a place in yours.

Read what series star David Tennant has to say about the drama here

Broadchurch stars David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Arthur Darvill, Vicky McClure, Will Mellor, Andrew Buchan, Jodie Whittaker and Pauline Quirke. It will be shown on ITV from late February / March (actual broadcast date to be confirmed).

Visit our Broadchurch pages for more information

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