Broadchurch actress Sarah Parish talks about keeping schtum about the show's plot, reuniting with old friends and her fears about approaching the big 5-0...

Actress Sarah Parish reveals the challenges of starring in the latest series of Broadchurch

She’s played it for laughs in W1A and Trollied recently but when TV Times catches up with Sarah Parish to chat about the third and final series of Broadchurch, the former Cutting and Mistresses star is clearly loving her return to drama, even if it means keeping schtum about the show’s infamous twists and turns.

The actress, 48, plays Cath Atwood, the best friend of rape victim Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh) in the crime thriller. As the men of Broadchurch continue to be questioned by cops Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman) in next week’s episode, Cath has concerns about her garage owner husband Jim (Mark Bazeley). Here, Sarah tells us more…

How would you describe Cath’s friendship with rape victim, Trish?
“Trish and Cath have been best mates for years. That said, Cath is quite a selfish person, who always makes everything about her. So her main concern following Trish’s attack was always: ‘Oh my God, it happened at my party, what are people going to think?'”

Broadchurch Cath Atwood and Trish Winterman

Sarah as Cath Atwood alongside Julie Hesmondhalgh’s Trish Winterman

Is Cath suspicious that husband Jim was involved in the rape?
“We’re not allowed to say much! Cath’s always suspicious of him; there’s not much trust in that relationship. Jim and Cath have an ostrich marriage; they both have their heads firmly stuck in the sand. Their marriage isn’t great, and what happens with Trish probably brings up quite a lot of ghosts for Cath. But that’s all I can say! People were asking me what happens before the first episode went out so I’ll have to get my poker face on but I’m the worst liar so I just won’t go out.”

Broadchurch Cath and Jim Atwood

Doesn’t sound like Cath trusts husband Jim (Mark Bazeley) all that much…

Was everyone on set trying to guess who had done it during filming?
“Yes. We weren’t given the scripts until the last minute and even the person who did it wasn’t told. Every morning in make-up Julie and I would say, ‘I know who it is’. But Chris Chibnall, the writer, takes you down a path but then he’ll whip you round and you realise it can’t possibly be that person. It’s so clever.”

Were you a fan of the show already?
“I’d never seen it before so I binge-watched the first series and it was absolutely brilliant. I just really wanted to work with Colly [Olivia Colman] because she’s our best actress. Being in the final series feels special too because it ties up loose ends for fans who’ve been watching from the beginning.”

You’ve worked with David Tennant on Blackpool, Doctor Who and Recovery. What it was like to reunite?
“Ace! I hadn’t seen him since his wedding [to Georgia Moffat] so it was lovely to see him and, after Broadchurch finished, we worked together on a film You, Me and Him, which Georgia produced. David is a special actor because he has constant enthusiasm and energy.”

Broadchurch

Olivia Colman and David Tennant as detectives Miller and Hardy

You’re from the West Country [Sarah grew up in Yeovil, Somerset], was it nice to film Broadchurch in Somerset and Dorset?
“It was great to use my own accent and it was lovely to film there but it was also nostalgic and sad. There were bittersweet memories of being in West Bay in Dorset because that’s where my dad and I went a lot and the last time I saw him alive was in Burton Bradstock, next door to West Bay. But I also remember when my mates and I would drive to West Bay and get hammered on cider and sleep on the beach!”

You’re filming W1A again now, what’s in store?
“My character Anna is the Head of Better but they’re shrinking jobs so Ian [Hugh Bonneville], Simon [Jason Watkins] and Anna’s jobs might become one. W1A is one of my favourite ever jobs. I’d done years of drama before that and hadn’t cracked a smile for about six years on screen – although Anna never smiles either!”

And what will you be up to after that?
“Now my daughter Nell [with actor husband James Murray] is six, I can take on other jobs. So I’m playing a cop in an ITV drama called Bancroft. It’ll be great having another heavy drama to sink my teeth into. I’ve also got my charity work [Sarah raises funds to create an emergency department at Southampton Children’s Hospital, which treated her first daughter Ella-Jayne, who died aged eight months in 2008]. I’m very proud of what we’ve done but because I have to sit in an office, acting becomes a lovely holiday.”

Sarah Parish and husband James Murray

Sarah with her actor husband James Murray

What do people in the street come up to you most about?
“Mistresses. It was like our Sex and the City. Now that Cold Feet’s back I wonder if they’ll bring us back to see what the girls are up to, that’d be great. People like Cutting It too but I don’t think they’d bring that back and I’m dead in it anyway!”

Sarah Parish stars in Broadchurch

We reckon Sarah looks fab at (nearly) 50!

Is there anything else you would still love to do?
“I am still waiting for my action lead role! I know I am nearly 50. But Bancroft will probably tick that box because there is a lot of running around and guns in that. I also love playing lawyers. I did a job years ago called Trust and really enjoyed playing one in that, I like those sort of parts, so maybe another lawyer would be good.”

Are you looking forward to turning 50 next June?
“Not really! Actually I am a bit worried about it, I don’t know why, but I was always really looking forward to turning 40, but 50 seems to have just crept up on me really quickly. I feel like I have been cheated out of my 40s because they have gone so fast. But I am sure when 50 comes, it will just be another day, it will be fine!”

All the residents of Broadchurch

Broadchurch continues on Mondays at 9pm on ITV  

Interview by Caren Clark