By Rene Gerryts On the last day of filming for Broadchurch 2 last week author Chris Chibnall took time between showers for an exclusive chat over an Eccles cake and tea at The Watch House cafe in West Bay with Bridport News reporter Rene Gerryts
First and foremost, the much sought after author wanted to thank everyone in the area for their help in the last seven or so months of shooting – although he was unapologetic about trying to keep a lid on the next series.
“It’s medicine for your own good,” he said.
“It is always meant with the best intention. We are keeping secrets so we can get the story onto TV in the same way as the first time where people didn’t know what was coming and I think that is what people enjoyed about the first series.
“It really is for your own good!
“I think people don’t really want to know and we have a lot of secrets to keep and we have to work hard at keeping them.
“People have been great, particularly down here, people have been amazing, they have been really supportive, really kind, and we have done a lot more filming down here, there is lots more of this area on screen this time.”
Although before the cameras started rolling no-one connected with the new series would confirm it would be shot here, there was never any other option for Chris.
He said: “There was never any any doubt. I was never tempted to do it anywhere else.
“Number one I’d be lynched in the town but what has been so lovely and surprising is that everyone who lives in the area has really got behind it.
“I didn’t really expect that and what’s lovely is businesses have, all the locals have and all the communities have.
“I will never stop being grateful for that, I don’t take that for granted at all and none of us do on the production team,.
“It is really special and that special atmosphere of being here in Bridport really helps us in the production in every single way. It is quite an undertaking to make this show, it is a very big and ambitious show and we want to showcase the landscape and sometimes it is hard to do that.
“I always wanted to come back here but again it is about giving out information when it is right to give it out “What you never want is to feel is that by the time it gets on TV people feel it is old news.
“I would love to say a big thank you to everyone because everyone has been so tolerant – we have closed roads, and made life difficult and caused log jams of people standing on pavements watching us. Everybody has been so supportive and lovely, not just down here – there has been lots of different landowners, in lots of different places and all the people who have put up our cast and crew – they have been everywhere they have been at Freshwater, they have been in the B&Bs and everyone has been amazing and we couldn’t do it without that brilliant support.
“I feel like everybody down here is part of the production.” FROM SELLING ICE CREAMS TO WRITING A HIT DRAMA
IT has only been in the last 15 years that Chris Chibnall has been earning his living from writing – but despite his career’s advisor suggesting the civil service he’s wanted to be involved in drama since he was 14 years old.
That’s not to say it was a smooth path to superstardom.
He’s sold ice creams in Hyde Park, pot washed in kitchens, tended bars, even erased videos for Sky Sports.
He did a university drama course at St Mary’s College in Twickenham.
“The course was very much everything, you got to write, direct, act, stage manage, that was what I loved about it.
“So you did a really broad range but I always quite fancied being a writer. There was a point where I really wanted to be a journalist.
“I did my A-levels on Merseyside and spent a day at the Liverpool Echo and Post and did all that but then I just got bitten by the drama bug during my A-levels.
“We did a production of Gregory’s Girl and I played Gregory, that was probably it for ever.
“Once you do a bit of theatre it is in your blood, like a virus.
“It was when I was 14 and I realised people did this for a living I thought that would be really cool.
“The realisation that you could work with actors or write stuff for a living – I still wake up every morning and think I can’t believe I get to do this as a job. It is such a privilege. I suppose it was the stubbornness, really, not wanting to get a proper job, which is still the case.”
After college he did a bit of acting in fringe productions but by then he had his sights set on being a writer.
“All through my 20s I wrote, I wrote plays and ended up having a couple on in my late 20s and got very supported by one particular fringe theatre in London who didn’t pay me anything but supported me so I learnt the craft there.
“Then when I was 29 somebody paid me for the first time and I got an agent and it all started from there.
He may have honed his craft in fringe theatre but in common with all other writers he’s never completely satisfied.
“Writing is so inexact, you never look back at something and think ‘that was perfect, that was brilliant’.
“Every time you start a new script you have no idea where it is going to end up or what mistakes you are going to make or whether you are going to get it right.
“Which is why it was such a surprise that Broadchurch hit the way it did.
“You never go into it thinking ‘now I am going to write a hit’.
“I was more surprised than anyone, even at week five or six when it did seem to be a lot of people talking about it, I was still going ‘no, no I think everybody is just being nice and just humouring me’.” THE STARS
ALTHOUGH Chris had an idea for the second series he wouldn’t have gone ahead with it without Olivia Coleman and David Tennant.
“We would not have done it, absolutely.
“Luckily they wanted to come back because they weren’t contracted to.
“We had a really good time making the first series. We all get on very well, we are all very good colleagues and friends now so it was really a question of did we think there was more to do and we had that conversation between all of us.
“You never take it for granted. I hoped I could talk them round.
“In a way there are a few people who are your first litmus test – the head of Kudos which is the production company, the head of ITV drama, and David and Olivia are the first people I go ‘here is what I think is the story’ and that is my first test and that is a pretty stern test to put it through. If they engage with it or respond to it then I think maybe there is something here.”
Being an executive producer Chris is involved in all aspects and his first choice for casting was always Olivia.
And having worked with David Tennant a couple of times – on Dr Who and once in a film called United about the Busby Babes – David was also a top option.
“I almost thought I can’t just ask David, that would be lazy but instantly you go ‘he’s the best man for the job’.
“He’s such a brilliant actor, he is such a fantastic human being, as is Olivia, they are great leaders of a company which is really important when you are together for six or seven months.
“With David and Olivia everybody has a lot of fun, they lead by example, they are very professional, so it is a much more enjoyable process.” THE SECOND SERIES
Chris didn’t just come up with the second series because the first was such a success.
So the pressure didn’t come from thinking up a new idea because he already had one when he was writing the first series.
“I knew the idea and I knew what I wanted to do.
“When ITV green-lit the first series I said to them then ‘if it works then there is another story we could do after it’.
“At which point they were relatively ambivalent and said ‘let’s just do this first one then we’ll talk’.”
Naturally after the success of the first became apparent they were very keen to do that talking.
“We are not going to necessarily repeat ourselves beat for beat, we are not going to open with another body on the beach I can tell you that.” THE US VERSION
AS executive producer and director Chris Chibnall has just been to LA for the premiere of the US version of Broadchurch – Gracepoint.
He said: “We always knew the reviews would be mixed because it depends whether you have seen the British version or not. The intention was to make a version of the show for the American audience who haven’t seen Broadchurch.
“If you have seen Broadchurch you will have a very different approach to Gracepoint. It is not made for the new audience.
“Broadchurch was incredibly well received in America but by a very, very small audience because it went out on BBC America, which is a terrific channel but has a much smaller audience.”
Chris only wrote the first episode but he’s been involved in the series as an executive producer.
“I think they have done a really good job I really do. The cast is great.”
And that includes, of course, David Tennant, who got mixed reviews for his American accent.
Not a view shared by Chris.
“Everybody I have spoken to in America says it’s terrific and I think David is the king of accents.
“I think it is because they are familiar with his Scottish accent they might think that.
“He worked with Meryl Streep’s voice coach. I don’t have a problem with it and I know plenty of Americans who don’t either.
“There are always people to pick holes in things but I do believe there was mention of Dorset accents on Broadchurch when it first came out. "