BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Sometimes actors in a crime series don’t know which character will turn out to be the bad guy, or girl, when all is revealed.
Often they don’t want to know. But the competitive ones turn it into a game.
“We had bets going on all the way through,” said Olivia Colman, one of the stars of the eight-episode British series Broadchurch. It makes its North American debut Sunday, Aug. 4 on Showcase.
“In our makeup van, we had everybody’s photograph up, and you put a sticker onto the person you thought it was,” Colman explained. “I only got one (sticker), and I was really disappointed.
“We were all obsessed with it, desperate to find out. But even if you (figure out) who it is, it’s more of the ‘how-done-it’ and ‘why-done-it’ that becomes the massive question at the end.”
The sticker game aside, Broadchurch actually is a dark tale, focusing on the murder of a kid and the subsequent police investigation that tears a small seaside community apart. It stars David Tennant – otherwise known as the 10th Doctor Who – as a new-to-town and newly promoted police detective named Alec Hardy, and Colman as a local sergeant named Ellie Miller.
Alec and Ellie – who perhaps feels she should have been considered for Alec’s job – are forced to work together when an 11-year-old boy is found dead on a beach. While Ellie has valuable insider knowledge of the community, Alec’s detached and clinical methods force her to see the town in a new light.
“There were lots of scenes where it said, ‘Ellie doesn’t cry,’ and I was kind of, ‘Good luck with that because I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop,’ ” Colman said. “You just have to know what love feels like in order to experience that pain, I think.
“Everyone has some children in their lives, that they are related to, or their friends’ children, that you love. And this is the worst possible thing you can imagine. Personally, I’ve always been a fairly emotional person anyway. And now, with children, I have no armor at all.”
Broadchurch takes that raw pain and puts it under a magnifying glass. Every resident is a suspect as the tiny title town becomes the centre of a national media frenzy.
“But this could be done even if you live in a big city, because you have your own little community, it’s your neighbours in the apartment block or the person in the shop,” Colman said. “If (something like this happens) that close to where you come from, I don’t think it matters if it’s set in an urban environment or a beautiful beach setting.
“But because this place was so beautiful, it just seemed so wrong that something so bleak can happen in a holiday destination place, and it did.”
Actors are experts at not allowing the darkness of the material to get to them. And one way to keep it light in the off-screen moments is to bet on who the villain ultimately will be.
True, Olivia Colman had only one sticker on her photo. But given the huge ratings and critical acclaim the series achieved in its native Britain, it’s a good thing Colman stuck with Broadchurch.