As it returns for a third and final series, Broadchurch introduces a brand new case for its detective duo. Crimescene goes behind the scenes with the cast at the seaside shoot for the shocking conclusion to a landmark TV drama.
A special eight-page feature on the final series, including a location report by the beach.
The sun is beating down during a summer heatwave, driving tourists to the artisan ice cream van on West Bay’s seafront. Families stroll along the promenade, turning their faces towards the sunshine and admiring the towering sandstone cliffs that form the backdrop to this stunning stretch of Dorset coast. Close to this tableau of Britons at leisure, however, is a hive of bustling activity. A stone’s throw from the centre of the pretty fishing village is Broadchurch HQ, a collection of trailers in a car park where the makers and stars of the ITV hit drama are busying themselves with filming the third and final series of the twisty crime thriller.
Crime Scene has been invited on set to interview Broadchurch’s actors and to drink in a stretch of World Heritage coastline that illustrates the show’s central paradox of terrible things happening in an idyllic setting. When Broadchurch debuted in 2013, investigating the effect on a rural community of the murder of an 11-year-old boy, Danny Latimer, it was a sensation. Creator Chris Chibnall had woven a dark and complex tale heavily influenced by Scandi Noir dramas like The Killing, featuring compelling cops, characters whose lives overlap in surprising ways, an evocative landscape and haunting music – in this case by an actual Scandinavian, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds.
Today, we spot Broadchurch locations all around us, bathed in summer sun. DI Alec Hardy’s waterside cottage can be glimpsed in the distance; the stretch of shingle beach where Danny Latimer’s body lay in Series 1; the East Pier, where characters meet betwixt sea and cliffs; the modern seafront apartment block called
The Folly, which does duty as the police precinct exterior.
As the third series progresses on air during March, it’s clear that Chibnall has left behind Series 2’s Sandbrook subplot and developments in the Latimer case – criticised by some viewers – and refreshed the series. Three years have passed since the events of the last season, and Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) have been reunited on the Wessex Police Force to investigate the rape of shop worker Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh). At the same time we’re reminded of past horrors by the presence of familiar Broadchurch characters: bereaved parents Beth and Mark Latimer (Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan), vicar Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) and local newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles). Fresh blood has arrived in the form of new locals played by Lenny Henry, Sarah Parish, Mark Bazeley and Charlie Higson.
Tennant says he’s delighted Hardy and Miller are tackling a fresh case because it makes Broadchurch 3 “the same but different” compared to the previous series. “What’s been interesting for Olivia and me is suddenly we’re two coppers doing a job,” muses Tennant. “We’re starting from the outside working into a case, whereas with Series 1 and 2 there was a much more personal connection for the characters.”
Hardy is damaged as a result of poor life choices and Miller because her husband, Joe Miller, turned out to be Danny Latimer’s murderer. But in a more positive development, this pair of flawed coppers have grown closer over the years; their initial antagonism has mellowed into a kind of brusque affection that Tennant and Colman execute beautifully.
“They don’t seem to have many friends apart from each other,” says Tennant of the detective duo. “They become this weird little sort of support group for each other, this cranky old married couple who clearly have a deep affection and need for each other, although they would never express it that way. It was just lovely to return to these characters and find them in a different part of their life.”
Could Hardy and Miller’s relationship spill over into romance, though? “No!” Tennant splutters. “That’s not their bag.” In place of romance, we’ve seen Hardy trying to forge a better relationship with his daughter, Daisy (Hannah Rae).
Today Crime Scene is meeting Julie Hesmondhalgh in the Broadchurch dining trailer. Looking like a trendy urban mum in Doc Martens and turned-up jeans, she is in ebullient mood – in contrast to the traumatised Trish. The Coronation Street veteran admits it was hard to shake off the feeling that landing a part in Broadchurch was like winning the Lottery. “In the first episode I was a little bit overwhelmed by it all, and we did a photo shoot the other day and it was like being in Madame Tussauds, with Lenny and David and Olivia,” confesses Hesmondhalgh with a chuckle. “I felt like: what the hell am I doing here?!”
Having famously played a transgender character in Coronation Street, taken a role in Russell T. Davies’ out-there gay drama Cucumber and played the mother of a real-life murder victim in Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, Hesmondhalgh
has been attracted to issue-led pieces. She sees Trish’s ordeal in a similar vein. As a result, the actor ensured she had a long conversation with Chibnall before accepting the part. “There’s been a lot of discussion about the televising of sexual violence and the way it’s become almost normalised in our culture now, and putting your face to that is something I had to think about,” she says. “I needed to know that it was going to be handled in a sensitive way.”
Hesmondhalgh says that she even had to deal with her own “internalised misogyny” in accepting that Trish would be targeted by a rapist. “Even the fact it’s me that’s been cast as the victim is an interesting thing – as an ordinary-looking middle-aged woman as opposed to the classic young girl being chased through the woods.”
Despite playing such a heavy role dealing with the subject matter of sexual violence, Hesmondhalgh bats away any questions about the personal toll it might be taking on her. “You can’t go, ‘Oh, it’s been so hard for me acting this part and putting myself through this’, when people are actually going through it,” she says. “The hardest thing is the responsibility you feel – you’re representing something that people have gone through for real and you want to show that in the truest way you can.”
Chibnall chose a rape case not only because another murder would be implausible in such a small community, but as a way of highlighting the growth in reported cases of sexual violence against women. Official figures last autumn revealed that the number of reported rapes had increased by 123 percent since 2011-12, but the conviction rate had fallen. The rise has coincided with a shift in the police’s approach to victims towards a more empathic response – illustrated starkly in the first episode of Broadchurch’s third series when new DC Katie Harford
(Georgina Campbell) incurs Hardy and Miller’s disdain by asking whether Trish’s story of rape could be believed. It illustrates that not every cop will necessarily be on the same page when it comes to reports of sexual violence.
Tennant explains that the rape case creates high drama because it puts the cops at loggerheads during the investigation. “There’s a conflict in the very nature of examining a case like this,” he explains. “The interface of all your evidence is also someone who’s been deeply traumatised. You have a responsibility to them as human beings, but as a police officer you have a responsibility to get to the truth of the situation and the clock’s ticking – and that very problem is something Hardy and Ellie react differently to. It’s full of complications.”
Also on set today is Sarah Parish, a familiar face from series such as Cutting It, Mistresses, Atlantis, Trollied and W1A. She’s playing Cath Atwood, Trish’s former schoolmate and fellow till worker at the farm shop. Trish was raped in the grounds of the party venue for Cath’s 50th birthday party, so it’s not out of the question that one of the guests might be the aggressor.
It transpires that Parish knows both West Bay and the local accent well – she grew up just 20 miles up the road in Yeovil, Somerset. “Nobody realises I’m from the West Country, because there’s no demand for the accent,” chuckles Parish. “But I spent a lot of time in West Bay as a child, and we used to walk along the coastline around here a lot.”
Today Parish and Hesmondhalgh are filming a scene in Cath’s back garden in West Bay in which they discuss their fraught friendship. Beyond that, Parish can’t say a word about what happens. She hasn’t even told her husband, Suspects actor James Murray, who did it. Plot details are a well guarded secret: Parish reveals that cast members’ names are printed on every page of their scripts to prevent them being sold; scripts have a fake title and author’s name and have been protected online with individual passwords; alternative endings have been included.
When Crime Scene catches up with producer Dan Winch in West Bay, he promises that this season will deliver plenty of closure for fans. “It would be wrong of us to not address and leave what has happened previously entirely; there will be fitting conclusions and endings, as well as addressing of Series 1 and 2 by nature of the fact that we’re trying to bring all our strands of the series to a final finish,” he says. “We are very definite about the fact it will be the final one.”
As for whether it could perhaps come back in, say, 10 years’ time, creator Chris Chibnall has declined to comment, on the intriguing grounds that it might give too much away about the Series 3 ending. It means that along with finally getting closure on Broadchurch’s various tragedies, viewers are likely to be gratified with a surprising and shocking finale to this benchmark-setting drama.
Broadchurch Series 3 is on ITV.
We’re trying to bring all our strands of the series to a final finish
Jim and Cath Atwood (Sarah Parish) have been married for 30 years.
Mark Bazeley plays Jim Atwood, who runs the local garage.
Miller (Olivia Colman) and Hardy (David Tennant) uncover more secrets in series 3.
There are familiar faces and new ones as Broadchurch returns for a third series.