Olivia Colman (‘Broadchurch’) interview

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Olivia Colman (Peep Show) plays DS Ellie Miller in ITV’s new drama series, Broadchurch.

Written and created by Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who, Law and Order: UK), the eight-part series explores what happens to a small community in Dorset when it suddenly becomes the focus of a police investigation, following the tragic and mysterious death of an eleven year old boy under the glare of the media spotlight.

Broadchurch‘s star-studded cast also includes David Tennant, Vicky McClure, Andrew Buchan, Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvill and Pauline Quirke.

> Order Broadchurch on DVD on Amazon.

How did you find being on location in the West Country for four months?

“It turns out I really don’t like being cold! I had a bit of a sense of humour failure one particular day when I thought ‘I don’t want to be outside anymore’. There was horizontal rain going into our eyes and it was freezing. Dorset is quite a rainy county but being on the cliff at Bridport in the sunshine during the first week of filming was just amazing. Idyllic. Then we went back in the winter and the sea was really dark and angry grey, it was freezing cold doing night shoots and that’s when I started to wish I had a different job!”

So what drew you to the role?

“From the off I really liked the idea of the story, a hard story and an upsetting one, but I liked the idea of a whole community being affected by something and I liked the character of Ellie. Then you hear David Tennant is going to do it and Vicky McClure and all these extraordinary people who you think are wonderful.

“And I liked Ellie. I find it hard to play a character if I can’t feel any of me in them. Especially if you are going to be playing that person through the whole series you need to feel that connection.”

Tell us more about your character…

“I see Ellie as a jolly good egg and in it for all the right reasons. It feels like the best way to serve her community is to be part of the police force and she has worked her way up. She is from Broadchurch, knows everybody, loves her community and then is probably out of her depth when this terrible thing happens. But thankfully Hardy (David Tennant) joins the team and although they’re not keen on each other she learns from him.

“There is definitely a personality clash between the two; they start off with a lot of animosity between them. She doesn’t like him because he’s taken the DI job she was promised. That’s a stumbling block Ellie finds hard to get over. But as the case goes on she realises he really knows what he is doing even though his methods are socially difficult for Ellie to watch. I think they have a grudging respect.

“Everything about her is trust; giving people the benefit of the doubt and trusting yourself. So when he says trust no one it is hard to swallow.”

“I grew up in north Norfolk, which certainly used to have an enormous sense of community. There are more and more second homes there now so I’m not sure how that has damaged it. But where I live in South London there is a beautiful community; it’s the friendliest place I have ever lived which comes as a surprise to non Londoners. Once you find your community it is awesome. I know all the parents at the school gate, all our neighbours, everyone in the local shops. I love it there.”

You had to adopt a West Country accent for the role of the Dorset detective…

“It’s only a very mild accent anyway; I didn’t want people to spend their time going ‘what the hell accent is she trying to do?’, I just wanted it to be unobtrusive really.

“I didn’t do any police-based research; I felt there was enough in the script. My character is a very different type of detective to Hardy. I didn’t want to get too into the usual police speak, because Miller isn’t like that. Hardy is a proper big city, done-loads-of-murders detective. He has no life outside work, so we had to have different speech patterns.”

What were the most challenging aspects of filming?

“I found it really hard doing the emotional scenes with Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan, who play the parents of the dead boy, talking about their tragedy just because they are such beautiful actors and I had a hard time keeping it together. My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing but I couldn’t stop myself; it was so sad.

“But the worse thing was being away from home and my family on location for so long. I don’t think I will ever be away for this long again. Stupidly when I took the job I didn’t realise it was all going to be filmed away from London. I thought we’d pop off and do the cliff scenes somewhere in the West Country but do all the internal stuff in London so it came as a bit of a shock!

“But David (Tennant) and I got on really well and he feels the same as me so on Friday nights after filming finished we’d leg it to get in the car and head home to our families. He totally understands and we’d be looking at videos of our kids on our phones keeping each other buoyant.”

Did you enjoy watching the story unfold from inside the production?

“This was my first time playing a plain clothed detective and we had no idea who committed the murder. I hadn’t worked like that before. Normally you do have a whole set of scripts before you start. But it was quite exciting, everyone looking at each other wondering who is the killer(s) – which is sort of what you would feel being in that community. We were all taking punts on who we thought it was as the whole cast and crew were in the dark!”

> Order Broadchurch on DVD on Amazon.

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