Gracepoint - Josh Hamilton, Jack Irvine, Anna Gunn, David Tennant, Kendrick Sampson
Gracepoint - Josh Hamilton, Jack Irvine, Anna Gunn, David Tennant and Kendrick Sampson ©2014 Fox, photo by Mathieu Young

If you’ve seen the UK drama Broadchurch, Fox’s new thriller Gracepoint will seem like a case of deja vu. Based on the critically acclaimed British series, it tells the story of Danny Solano, a young boy who has been found murdered on an idyllic beach in a northern California seaside town.

Leading the investigation is Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant, who played the same role in Broadchurch), who has just arrived in Gracepoint, taking a job that was promised to Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad), whose son was best friends with the dead boy.

The new 10-part drama expands on Broadchurch, introducing new characters, identifying new suspects and threading new storylines throughout.

David Tennant, best known in the US for his role as the 10th Doctor in Doctor Who, came to the TV Critics tour to talk about the series, which premieres on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014.

In Gracepoint you’re playing the same role you played in Broadchurch, and now you’re doing Season 2 of Broadchurch. Is this a character that you can’t get enough of?

Gracepoint, 101 - David Tennant
Gracepoint, 101 – Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) ©2014 Fox, photo by Mathieu Young

What I can’t get enough of is good writing. And when it’s this good, you think, ‘Well, if they want me to be part of it, I’m not going to say no.’

It’s always a gamble on any new project, but if you can start with a good script, then ‘Why not?’ You can mess up a good script, but you can’t make a bad script much better.

So I’m just happy to go where the good writing is, which has been Broadchurch and Gracepoint and now Broadchurch again.

Just to follow on that, you’re playing the same character and yet not really playing the same character. Can you draw a distinction between the character you’re playing on Broadchurch and the character you’re playing here? Are there real differences other than they have different accents?

Gracepoint, 101 - David Tennant
Gracepoint, 101 – Detectives Miller (Anna Gunn) and Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) arrive at the scene of a crime ©2014 Fox, photo by Mathieu Young

They feel very different to me. Obviously, they both look quite like me.

And they’re similar heights. But they feel different for all sorts of reasons, because of the circumstances of everyone around me.

You’re playing opposite this extraordinary kind of Rolls-Royce of a cast. I was also very fortunate to play with a Rolls-Royce of a cast back home, but it’s a very different one on that and it creates a different set of circumstances to be within. It’s such an unusual situation.

It’s quite hard to be entirely objective about it myself because it’s the same character and yet it’s not. It’s probably easier for objective observers to point out how they differ. But they feel very different to me.

I read a report online that says that you were contractually obligated to do Gracepoint when you agreed to do Broadchurch. Is that true?

Broadchurch - David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles and James D’Arcy
Broadchurch – The cast of multi award winning drama attended the read-through for the second series of the ITV drama in London back on Thursday 22 May 2014. Pictured are returning cast David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill and some of the actors who are joining the drama for series two including Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles and James D’Arcy ©2014 Kudo, photo by Nicky Johnston

No, it’s not true. Broadchurch was conceived as a one-off show. None of us were contracted for anything beyond the eight episodes of Broadchurch.

The fact that it’s now gone on to a second season was new, and Gracepoint was never in the cards. I mean, Gracepoint wouldn’t have happened if Broadchurch didn’t work, but the idea that there was some master plan that I signed up for, [the answer is] no. It’s all just opportunities that I would have been foolhardy to turn down.

I heard that they put you in a different hotel than the other actors until you shot the first scene where you talk with victim’s parents. Is that true?

Gracepoint, 101 - David Tennant
Gracepoint, 102 – Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) questions Mark Solano (Michael Peña) ©2014 Fox, photo by Mathieu Young

[Yes]. There were a couple of moments when I went to meet someone somewhere, and there was a whole kind of keystone culture, ‘Don’t go there!  Come around this corner! You might look Virginia (Kull, who plays Danny’s mother, Beth) in the eye!’

Often when you’re investing in that kind of emotional territory, that’s quite raw and dark, the first take is the one that’s real, and after that, the danger is you’re chasing a reproduction. So to be able to get some of those moments actually happening for the first time, not even rehearsed, live and raw I think that’s exciting.

Besides being isolated for that early scene, did you stay somewhat isolated throughout it? The character always feels like an outsider, not a part of the community.

That’s how I like to work anyway. I ask that nobody looks me in the eye, and address me as ‘Admiral’. (he laughs) No!

Gracepoint - Cast and executive producers
Gracepoint – Cast members and executive producers arrive at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, Sept 30 ©2014 Fox

David TennantSound Bytes

We have Sound Bytes to the answers to some of the other questions David was posed about Broadchurch, Gracepoint and Doctor Who.
  • During the panel someone asked David what he thinks of Americans redoing British shows?
  • After the panel I asked David if it felt surreal to him to replay the character?
  • He was also asked about doing an American accent.
  • And, of course, someone wondered if he was going to watch the new Doctor Who.

Check out what is said in our Sound Bytes ‘Duke Box’ below!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.