‘I was hooked again before the first ad break!’ David Tennant on new Broadchurch

David Tennant will be returning as detective Alec Hardy in the second series of ITV’s hit drama Broadchurch this month. We caught up with him to talk about filming the new series, a possible Broadchurch prequel and how he considered sneaking into a bookies to bet on who the killer was last time…

How tough has it been keeping the plot of the new series a secret?
It’s very difficult. But that is the nature of a thriller really, that no one knows what’s coming next. We had the advantage in the first series that before it aired no one really cared, because no one knew what was coming. But this time there’s expectation to manage!

Were you surprised when you were told there would be a second series?
“Series creator Chris Chibnall has done an incredible job and when it was mooted that there might be a second series none of us quite understood what that might be. It would have felt wrong for the second series to have just been another body on another beach, that wouldn’t have felt like the same world, it would have felt like two oddly coincidental occurrences and it also wouldn’t have serviced the magnitude of the events in the first series…

So all of us were a bit at a loss as to what series two could be and even after Chris explained what his ideas were – which were surprising and thrilling in themselves – I still couldn’t picture it until I read the script for episode one. Then it suddenly makes sense, he’s created a story that is structurally very different but is still absolutely in the world both tonally and emotionally – it’s the same show, and yet it has a completely different momentum to the first series.

Tell us about the moment when you got the first script for the second series..
“At the end of act one – the first advert break – I was absolutely hooked again. He’s structured that first 15 minutes just beautifully, it’s great.

When did you find out who the killer was in the first series?
I didn’t know who it was until the script for episode eight arrived in a brown envelope to my dressing room, which was probably about two thirds into filming. Not knowing the identity of the murderer is quite handy when you’re playing a detective. If in each interrogation scene you genuinely don’t know who’s lying to you and who’s not it’s good from an acting point of view. I think something similar has happened with this series. The final chapters of episode eight have been distributed on a need-to-know basis.

What reaction were you getting from the public during that first series?
It was insane! Especially when people realised you could bet on the identity of the murderer and there was money to be made. But I didn’t tell anyone – even my wife! I began thinking ‘Could I get into William Hill’s in some heavy latex disguise?’

You must have heard some pretty crazy theories about who the killer was?
Yes and we had them in the cast as well. We were only getting one script at a time, so we were doing it amongst ourselves – although obviously three months earlier! There were all sorts of extraordinary theories that came and went quite quickly. Every time a new script arrived everyone was like ‘Oh it wasn’t him!’ and then you had to go back to the drawing board.

Did you watch the final episode when it went out?
I couldn’t because I was on a night shoot of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who at the time.  I was in a studio in Cardiff, which was a bit of a shame because I thought it would have been nice to watch and experience it, but I was following its progress through the text messages I was receiving in between takes. It was exciting because it really felt like an event.

This might not be a whodunnit, but are we building to a similar level of climax?
Amongst the cast – which I’m now using as my barometer – there’s a similar hunger and desperation to get the script for episode eight and find out where it all winds up and hopefully the audience will feel the same way. As I say it’s a different structure and a different pace, but I think it’s still a thriller, a different flavoured thriller but hopefully one that will force you to come back every week!

Whether or not there is a third series of Broadchurch, what about a possible prequel exploring the Sandbrook case which preceded the events in the first series? 
I think we’ll need to have that conversation once you’ve seen the new series – I’ll get back to you on that!

Have you been watching the new series of Doctor Who?
It’s illegal not to watch Doctor Who in this country isn’t it? I think Peter Capaldi has been brilliant though, he’s such a fine actor he couldn’t not be!”

Broadchurch, ITV, Monday 5 January, 9.00pm.