Created by Chris Chibnall, BROADCHURCH shows how the murder of an eleven-year-old boy devastates the whole community of a small English coastal town. The crime takes a personal toll on its two primary investigators, out-of-town transfer Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, played by David Tennant, and local police detective Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman.
Olivia is livid when she finds that Alec has been handed the job she was promised, but this is nothing compared to her shock when she realizes the victim is a good friend of her son and that the dead child’s parents are her good friends.
Colman, a native of Norfolk, England, appeared on international theatre screens last year in HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, for which she won a British Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, and as Margaret Thatcher’s daughter Carol in 2011’s THE IRON LADY. Colman has also received numerous awards for her performance in the film TYRANNOSAUR and will be familiar to DOCTOR WHO fans as Mother in the “Eleventh Hour” episode.
Appearing at the Television Critics Association press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Colman discusses her work in BROADCHURCH.
AX: How did you get involved in BROADCHURCH?
OLIVIA COLMAN: It was very simple – I got sent the script and I said, “Yes, please.”
AX: Do you like murder mysteries as a genre?
COLMAN: I like anything that’s good. If a murder mystery is terrible, then no, I don’t like it, but if it’s not patronizing, if it’s an intelligent script and it’s gripping, then, yes, of course, like everyone else.
AX: How does Ellie Miller differ from other people you’ve played?
COLMAN: I’ve never played a police detective before, so there’s that obvious one [laughs]. I think she’s kind of like a female Everyman. There’s a lot of her which has been in a lot of other characters I’ve played as well.
AX: Without giving away the context, you have one scene of extreme rage in BROADCHURCH. Was that difficult or cathartic?
COLMAN: Again, it was so well-written and you’re so involved in the story all the way through, it was easy to do, really, easy to imagine. I don’t think you need to be a mother to imagine [what the characters are going through]. Everyone has some children in their lives that they are related to, or friends’ children that you love. And this is the worst possible thing you can imagine. So it’s very easy to access how awful that is. Personally, I’ve always been a fairly emotional person anyway. Now, with children, I have no armor at all. So there were lots of scenes where it said [in the script], “Ellie doesn’t cry,” and I was kind of, “Good luck with that, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop. So I don’t think you have to be a parent to be an actor to perform that upset. And clearly Jodie [Whittaker, who plays the mother of the murdered boy] – I can’t watch those clips where Jodie sees her boy on the beach. I can’t look at her. You just have to know what love feels like in order to experience that pain, I think.
AX: What would you most like people to know about BROADCHURCH?
COLMAN: That it’s gripping and it’s moving and you can’t help but get slightly addicted to it, you can’t help but keep watching.