‘THIS IS an exciting and inspiring time to be working in television. I feel very privileged... It’s overtaken cinema in the range of stories and depth you can get into,’ says ‘Broadchurch’ creator Chris Chibnall (far left).
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Since the third and final season of the wildly popular series Broadchurch aired its final episode in Britain in mid-April, creator Chris Chibnall says he has been “in an afterglow.”
Chibnall and his cast and crew celebrated the end of the series – which brought great depth to a police procedural with memorable, well-developed characters – with a festive screening of the suspenseful finale in a movie theater in Bridport, a seaside town where much of the series was filmed.
Asked what it’s like to bask in the afterglow of the success of this beloved series, Chibnall questions the use of the word, “bask.”
“When it’s over and it went well, it’s mostly a feeling of relief more than anything else.”
He laughs when I suggest that there’s a fine line between relief and basking, saying, “Can I put that on a T-shirt?” Of course, saying it went well is an understatement. Viewers around the world, and particularly in Britain, were glued to their screens as this season unfolded and the detectives – the blunt, angry but caring Alec Hardy (David Tennant, formerly the lead in Doctor Who) and the compassionate but businesslike Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman, who recently played an intelligence agent in The Night Manager) – investigated a sexual assault that took place in a village adjacent to Broadchurch.
This was a departure for the show, the first season of which was about an investigation into the murder of a child, a horrific crime that rocked the quiet community. Season Two focused on the attempts to bring the murderer to justice, and Hardy’s stubborn quest to catch another murderer who went free in a failed investigation in another town.
For Chibnall, there was no reason to stick to the murder investigation plot.
“Broadchurch is not a tidily formatted procedural,” he says. “It’s like a television novel... I wanted to follow a community and characters through these stories.”
Chibnall says he was concerned about getting things right when dramatizing a sexual assault, a subject that is often sensationalized on the screen.
“What I did with this season was to go to the support organizations [for victims of sexual assault] and listen to the people who work there. We asked how the crime of sexual assault is portrayed in the media, and what things dramas get wrong... I also talked to police who specialize in investigating these crimes... I asked whether it’s appropriate to use a mystery to tell the story of a sexual assault. And their response was, ‘Not only should you, you must.’ “We asked what myths they would want to bust and they said that a sexual assault victim is not usually a woman in her early in her early 20s in a short skirt and high heels on a dark street.”
They felt that Broadchurch could show “best practice” for how police would handle such an assault. In the opening episode of season three, when Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh, the actress who played fan favorite Hayley on Coronation Street), a woman in her late forties who is raped outside a party, reports the assault, she is treated with compassion, understanding and intelligence by police, technicians and support staff, and is assigned a counselor.
“This was the heart of the story,” he says, noting that nearly a third of that first episode is a three-character piece with the detectives and the mostly silent Trish as she comes forward.
He was “inspired by the extraordinary women we met who work with crime victims,” while acknowledging that “not everywhere is perfect” and not all victims receive appropriate treatment when they go to the police.
The sexual assault became a way of exploring and deepening the characters, both the familiar ones and the new ones, he says, crediting his actors with bringing the characters to life.
“Julie brings such integrity and truth to the role, the season is anchored around her.”
Tennant and Colman have refined the characters they play into one of the great fictional detective teams.
“Hardy has become more human and warmer. David understood who that character was intuitively, he understands the terseness and the drive... Colman brings steel to Ellie, she’s become much tougher and more careworn, and less capable of putting up with all the bullshit. But they both always have a glint in their eye, looking for the humor in any situation... They have a great personal respect for each other but drive each other mad.”
Chibnall is “thrilled” about his next gig, as the new showrunner for Doctor Who, a series he has written for and that he grew up on.
But whether his professional focus is on a small town or the entire universe, he loves his work.
“This is an exciting and inspiring time to be working in television,” he says. “I feel very privileged... It’s absolutely the greatest dramatic form. It’s overtaken cinema in the range of stories and depth you can get into.”
The third season of Broadchurch is now available in Israel on HOT Xtra VOD.