A U.S. broadcast network remaking a foreign hit drama series? Happens all the time. But casting the original version’s star? That’s extremely unusual. For fans of the UK’s acclaimed crime thriller Broadchurch, however, it’s difficult to imagine any actor other than David Tennant (Doctor Who) in the co-starring role as an acerbic investigator (now named Det. Emmett Carver) trying to solve the horrifying small-town murder of a young boy. Below, Tennant talks about crossing the pond to star for Fox’s remake Gracepoint, co-starring Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), which debuts next season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve played this character in this story once. Why do it again?
David Tennant: The fact I knew how good it was. I knew what an exciting story it was and a lot of the same people are involved so I knew it wasn’t going to be turned into something … less good.
For your performance, it’s a very rare opportunity to have a total do-over. Are there things about the way you played the character the first time that you look at and go, “Okay, I’m going to do it this way instead.”
Tennant: I’m sure there will be a bit of that going on. I’m not going to encourage people to compare to original performance. But since I’m playing scenes in a different location with different people it’s going to be different; you just have to be open to where that goes. There is no precedent for this. It’s so familiar, yet completely new. It’s a very peculiar experience.
Your character’s name has changed, but your stubble is back. Were there discussions about your look for the Fox version?
Tennant: I think there’s something about the character that has a certain unattended quality to him. His personal vanity is low on his list of priorities. So I think there’s something about being slightly unkempt that tells a story about that character that’s quite useful. So it’s a similar look. I also think there was also a notion that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t think we’re trying to change anything about him that worked the first time.
This time your partner is played by Anna Gunn. What’s unique about working with her?
Tennant: It’s been lovely. We’ve only done two days on set so we’re still at the beginning of our working relationship. But she’s very sparky and a fine actress and fun so far, which is a relief. We’re spending quite a bit of time together over the next few week. She can take work very seriously but can also have a laugh which I think is important when working on something so intense. There’s not a lot of humor because it’s a pretty awful situation [in the story].
What was toughest part about doing an American accent?
Tennant: I don’t know. I’ve done accents over the years. You just kind of hack away at it until it sets in your mind. We grew up surrounded by American culture. It’s something we’re very familiar with. It’s not for me to say whether I’ve cracked it or not.
The show’s title and the ending have changed for the Fox version. How do you feel about that?
Tennant: In terms of the ending, I’m just as in the dark as everybody else. I’m following the rumors in the press. Which is the same as the experience as filming Broadchurch. I’m told there will be a change, whether that’s a fundamental change or a tweak I have no idea. Certainly the pilot episode sticks very closely to the original as the story goes on it eases out a bit, there’s extra twists and turns, some characters are more developed. I think the story will go in directions that fans wouldn’t necessarily recognize.
Gracepoint is billed as a limited series. But would you be open to doing a second season?
Tennant: I’m still waiting to find out whether he comes back [in the second season of the UK’s Broadchurch]. I suppose that might impact Gracepoint. I’m in the dark on that. I’d be thrilled to be involved, but it’s in the hands of others.
What else has struck you as different about this version?
Tennant: I wouldn’t want to compare. But it’s been a fantastic first couple weeks.