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Though many of us will forever think of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, Tennant has, in the years since he left Doctor Who, proven there’s more to him than sideburns and sonic screwdrivers. Most notably with his performance as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy in creator Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch. The UK crime drama won praise from viewers and critics on both sides of the Atlantic last year, but how will its many fans respond to Chibnall’s US-produced remake Gracepoint when the first of its ten episodes debuts on Fox tonight? This time Tennant stars as Detective Emmett Carver, who, like Hardy, is a big-city sleuth investigating a small-town murder, with the help of his co-star Anna Gunn. We chatted with the actor and Gracepoint‘s executive producers Carolyn Bernstein and Daniel Futterman at this year’s TCA Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles. And because we love you folks so much we managed to slip in a few questions about TV’s most beloved Time Lord, and Tennant’s thoughts on Peter Capaldi in the role.

On the possibility that the killer in Gracepoint could differ from that of Broadchurch

Daniel Futterman: I don’t want you to rule anybody out. That’s not to be coy, but I don’t think you should rule anybody out as a suspect. We end in a very different place, which is both exciting for, first, the season, and potentially exciting for what could be a great second season as well.

On the decision to faithfully follow the early parts of Broadchurch‘s story in Gracepoint

Carolyn Bernstein: We did consider different starting places, different ideas for the first episode, and we kept coming back to the first episode of Broadchurch. Not shot for shot, but the way that the story was told was so well done that why would we contort ourselves to figure out a different way to tell the story when that was the smartest, most compelling way to launch this particular story? I promise that as the series progresses, it really diverges in pretty big ways from the original. But in that first episode, it felt like the smartest, best launching pad.

On doing season two of Broadchurch

David Tennant: What I can’t get enough of is good writing, you see. 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 you’re on to “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 then Gracepoint and now Broadchurch again.

If the writing keeps being as good as it’s been so far, then I’ll keep turning up — if I make it to the end of even Gracepoint season one. Who knows?

On the difference between Tennant’s characters in Broadchurch and Gracepoint

DT: They feel very different to me. Obviously, they both look quite like me. And they’re similar heights. [Laughs] But, yeah, they feel different because, well, 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’m also very fortunate to play with a Rolls-Royce of a cast back home, but it’s a very different one in that and 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 same but different, and it’s probably easier for objective observers to point out how they differ. But they feel very different to me. The relationship between Carver and Ellie Miller, it’s very different to the relationship between Hardy and Ellie Miller because they are very different actresses playing those parts, even though they have similar starting points. That’s true right through working with all these extraordinary people as well. The spine of the story is the same, and the spine of the two characters is the same, but there’s very different flesh on the bones.

On whether Tennant was also contractually obligated to do Gracepoint

DT: No, it’s not true. Broadchurch was conceived as a one-off show. It was never going to have… Chris Chibnall, he changes history. But none of us were contracted for anything beyond the eight episodes of Broadchurch. It was a one-off deal. The fact that it’s now gone on to a second season was new, and Gracepoint was never in the cards. Gracepoint wouldn’t have happened if Broadchurch didn’t work, so the idea that there was some master plan that I signed up for a length for…no. It’s a nice idea, but no. It’s all just opportunities that I would have been foolhardy to turn down.

DF: You know you’re contractually obligated to do the Somali version.

DT: That’s what I’m doing. I’m just touring the world. [Laughs]

On the practice of remaking British TV shows in America…

DT: I think every individual case has its own merits and demerits, doesn’t it? And it works both ways, I guess, and that’s down to the talents of the production crew on each. I’m too close to this to really be able to be objective about it other than I’m thrilled to be part of this cast telling this story, as I was in Britain. It’s probably for others to dissect. I don’t know. Something like The Office, which is a good example, isn’t it, which was sort of brilliant, which was such a fantastic show to start with. It was brilliantly reimagined over here and started very similar and ultimately became a very different show, which was equally successful in a very different direction. We’re two nations divided by a common language, I would say. There’s a lot of traffic back and forth culturally, and there’s huge advantages to that. Sometimes it backfires, but I think we can bring contrasting sensibilities to the same piece of work and get something exciting and new from it. I’m confident that’s what happened here.


On whether it feels surreal to perform his role in an American remake…

DT: It doesn’t really. It perhaps seems like an odder notion than it ultimately is. Acting is always about repeating at least parts of a story. In theater you tell the same story eight times a week, and that’s the same thing — with the same actors around [you]… There were enough variables to make it fresh and challenging. Beyond that, the notion that you know this is a story that already works, and that any differences are going to be curated by executive produces whom you know and trust. There’s not going to be a pilot, there’s not the torture of all that. It’s not twenty million episodes. There are too many things that are right about this to let this opportunity go by. Then you think, “I can’t tune in next year and see some other person doing it. I’m not gonna let this go by. This is something I want to do.”

On switching to an American accent this time around…

DT: In a way that was quite useful, because it gave me a new point of concentration to work from. Having a different voice makes you a different person. It makes you move differently, it makes you think at a different rate. It makes you approach things differently. It’s slightly difficult and nebulous to analyze why that should be, but I think it’s useful to have a fundamental element that was different. I like working with different accents. I like my own accent too, but I like the sense of transformation and the very challenge of it. I like it when the character doesn’t feel like me, so anything that helps me to get there I enjoy.

CB: I can say, having seen all ten episodes, that we have not had to loop a single word of David’s American accent. His American accent is absolutely impeccable.

On whether Tennant’s disappointed other members of the Broadchurch cast won’t appear in Gracepoint

DT: I love deeply everyone from that original cast, I’m back working with them now in Broadchurch 2, but equally so I now love everyone from here. So it would feel wrong to not want all of these people to be playing all of these parts.

On whether he can say anything about Broadchurch 2

DT: No, I can’t! I’d be shot! [Laughs]

On whether he’ll watch the new season of Doctor Who

DT: No, I never watch it. I’ve never watched it since I left. I can’t bear any of them… Of course I will! [Laughs] How could I not? It’s compulsory in Britain anyway. You have to now.

On Peter Capaldi keeping his Scottish accent in Doctor Who

DT: I haven’t seen any of it yet, but everything about Peter Capaldi gets me terribly excited. So I’m very much looking forward to it.

On the casting of an older actor as the Doctor…

DT: I think if you’ve got the chance of signing Peter Capaldi then you do it.

On whether he kept his sonic screwdriver from his reign as the Doctor…

DT: I got given one in a special presentation box. It’s locked in a high-security vault.

Gracepoint premieres tonight, October 2, 2014 at 9/8c on FOX.

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  1. Patricia Walls says:

    I started to watch broad church when I was in Canada caring for my dad and I was hooked. I never could get it back in MI, so I never knew what happened . Then I found out there  was this american revision with Grace point, and I was excited. Just watched my DVR’s first episode tonight. This is going to be good!! Please give it a chance , more character development and less frantic action than you might be used to in Amercian mystery drama.

  2. Tessa says:

    Umm guys – check the ratings. Big time flop. David Tennant bashing is a sport in the UK newspapers so expect lots of nasty headlines about the poor showing for Gracepoint and how fans hate his bad American accent. Poor guy is going to have to lay low in the UK for quite a while to get over this flop.

    • Jennifer Heckert says:

      With all due respect, I think you might need to lay low for speaking that way about such an excellent, versatile, and much loved actor as David Tennant.  When I add having been the Doctor to the mix, I really think you are TOTALLY off the mark. 

  3. Kristen says:

    Ummm….. David Tennant has a HUGE following over here with Doctor Who fans. Not only that, they have only aired one episode and it was last night! Tell me how you already know it was a flop!?!

  4. bb says:

    Also…. It’s a 10 episode arch. It’s not getting cancelled. They’ll play all 10 episodes.  I won’t hurt FOX to play them. 

  5. Nich Hustler says:

    @KarenBee what are you talking about? The show just came out, no one has the information you apparently do yet. 

  6. KarenBee says:

    What a pity the show turned out to be such a flop and ratings disaster. David Tennant seems like a nice guy, just guess he is fated to never make a name for himself over here.

    • Nari says:

      really? David Tennant has already made a name for  himself – DOCTOR. Britain loves him, as well as every whovian from any other country, including many Americans.

      • June6 says:

        I LOVED DT in The Escape Artist. I willwatch Fox’s Gracepoint until the very end because David is versatile , confident , and focused . I hope the British critics will be dumbfounded.

    • David Tennant already has great popularity with Dr.Who fans in both Canada and the USA, plus lots of other places in the world!   If this series is a flop (which hasn’t been proved yet)it is not the fault of his acting – although why get a british actor and make him have an american accent!!!!!)   What will make it a flop, for a lot of us, is the fact that it is almost a complete copy of Broadchurch, and not as good!