Emmett Carver of Fox's Gracepoint looks and acts a lot like Alec Hardy of the original British production of Broadchurch for good reason. David Tennant plays both men.
Tennant, whose Gracepoint begins Thursday (9 p.m. ET/PT), is the on-screen holdover in Fox's 10-part event series, which is based on British murder mystery Broadchurch. Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall wrote the first episode and is an executive producer.
Gracepoint, which is two episodes longer than Broadchurch and has a different ending, also stars Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn, Silver Linings Playbook's Jacki Weaver and Nick Nolte.
Tennant feels some variation between the two characters, each a detective investigating a boy's murder in a small seaside town.
REVIEW: Robert Bianco gives 'Gracepoint' ** out of fourhttp://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2014/10/02/gracepoint-review/16542685…
"Many of their circumstances are similar. They look quite similar, obviously. I have a scruffy beard" in both, he says. "But they come from different places, have different backgrounds and the circumstances of their lives are different, as becomes apparent as the series goes on."
The Scottish-born Tennant says he wanted to be part of the American production, which is set on the northern California coast rather than in southwestern England. "You know it's a good script. You know it's an interesting character, so it's sort of a no-brainer to be involved in retelling a story that works and has been a bit of a phenomenon back home," he says.
It also provides an opportunity to reach a large audience in the United States, where only a relatively small portion of viewers watched Broadchurch on BBC America.
Tennant's character has a new name, partly because Alec Hardy may have sounded a bit too British. In both productions, however, the detective is a gruff outsider with secrets from his own past.
"But he feels different, which may have something to do with the alchemy of working with different people, having a different accent and slight differences of story beats," says Tennant, who began working on a second season of Broadchurch in England shortly after finishing Gracepoint, which filmed in British Columbia.
Tennant's often tactless character has a conflicting relationship with his investigative partner, local detective Ellie Miller (Emmy winner Gunn in Gracepoint and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch).
"Olivia is someone I loved working with and she has such a strong take on the character," Tennant says. "I think what Anna did was extraordinary. It was a lot of the same source material and yet she has such a different take on it. Carver and Ellie are much more combative. (Gracepoint's) Ellie is much more sure of herself. Hardy and Ellie is a slightly more patronizing, withering thing" in Broadchurch.
One other major change for Tennant was the American accent. He says he only slightly broadened his native accent for Broadchurch, because Hardy is not from the area. For Gracepoint, he worked with dialect coaches to achieve Carver's American sound. He says the detective has roots on the East Coast.
An accent can help distinguish a characterization, he says. "When you take on an accent, it makes you feel different. It alters who you are. It makes you think at a different pace, so it takes you to a slightly different place."