Olivia Colman on ‘Broadchurch’ coming stateside, ‘Doctor Who’ rumors

British actress Olivia Colman knows a thing or two about being glued to a TV.

“’Dallas!’ ‘Dallas!’ ‘Dallas!’” she said during a recent trip to Beverly Hills. “That was my show … and ‘The Colbys.’ But, oh, ‘Dallas,’ and that feeling of being so excited to get home in front of the telly. I remember staying up because I just had to know who shot J.R.”

Folks across the pond developed a similar such yearning for the bleak murder-mystery drama starring Colman, “Broadchurch.” Colman appeared opposite David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) as two detectives on the hunt for the killer of an 11-year-old boy. The taut crime fiction hooked viewers from the start — its first episode brought in 9 million viewers with its airing on ITV — and spurred much killer theories over the course of its season. Now the show is headed stateside, making its debut Aug. 7 on BBC America. (In case AMC’s “The Killing” hasn’t yet totally sullied your soul.)

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Everyone seems to have taken notice. Fox, during its Thursday portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour, announced that it was adapting the British drama as an event series.


Show Tracker caught up with the BAFTA-winning actress to talk about being reeled into such a morose story, high heel problems and those “Doctor Who” rumors.

You say “Dallas” was a show that gripped you from week to week. “Broadchurch” has had that same effect abroad with a little more eeriness.

Yeah, I think anyone who auditioned for it only saw the first script. I know people talk about projects being a page-turner, but this really is. You’re hooked -- you become transplanted into this world, into this small town. You’re one of them and you want to know who did it. It’s beautifully written. It has multi-faceted, full characters — that’s everything you want in a script, so every actor is going to go “Yes, please!” I’m so excited to see what people think of it out here. I hope they tune in.

It seems that when a child goes missing or is killed — either in fiction or real life — the case mostly only draws attention when it involves a young girl. In “Broadchurch,” a young boy’s death is the focus. Had that element stuck out at you?

Wow, I never have made that connection. But that is true. For me, it was just a child. A child that has been taken, which is the worst possible, nightmarish scenario. Children, ideally, should all be loved, should all be safe. They should grow up and have a full life. So when a child’s life ends too early, it’s horrific. I never thought about the boy or girl aspect. But it is peculiar, isn’t it? If the mom’s pretty, or if the kid is pretty — that’s somehow more interesting to society — it’s a strange thing.

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This show is unusual because it spent so much time looking at the fallout of the family. Often on procedural dramas, you forget about that. The case is always the focus. To go back and see — they still have to breathe, they still have to look after their other children, they have to eat, when all they want to do is probably curl up and die from their grief.

Your character Ellie is someone who’s eager to please when we first meet her — she’s not a new detective, but she’s naive to a lot of things still. And we’ll see how this case, maybe not hardens her, but makes her more aware and yet, still not too aware.

It was a great arc to follow. I loved her for the person she is. She’s warm-hearted and sees the good in everybody. She’s a nice mum — a working mother, which I liked. It’s interesting that her big influence is [Tennant’s character], a guy she starts off hating. Yes, at the beginning, she’s really pissed off that he got her job. But she starts to realize “I can’t do this. It’s too much” and thank God he’s there. She learns from him. It’s in every cop drama, but the fact that these two disparate people end up needing each other and becoming very close is a stroke of genius.

Ellie and I aren’t that dissimilar. She’s known these townspeople for so long, has so much trust in them. And she’s starting to see the chinks in the armor, starting to gradually suspect everyone — and that must be awful. It’s like when everyone around you tells you after you’ve broken up with a boyfriend that they knew he was awful. It’s like, “uh, why didn’t you tell me?’ I didn’t know that!” You see what you want to see. Love is blind; you spent your time with these people, you don’t want to imagine, could he or she really be this person? That’s why I think it’s appealing to people. It’s a fascinating human thing. And it’s beautifully written.

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The case does get solved at the end of the eight-episode season. At what point did you guys, the actors, find out who it was? Had you known since the beginning?

None of us knew until Episode 8 was delivered. We all had little bets on it.

A second season has been commission because British viewers couldn’t get enough. Do you know where things will pick up?

They are still writing it — which is quite right, should take as long as possible. I do know what premise it will take but I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you. The first one was shrouded in secrecy, I’m paranoid I’ll be the one to destroy it.

There were all those “Doctor Who” rumors that you’d be taking over the role when Matt Smith exits — which you’ve shot down. But do you think a female Doctor is long overdue?

I don’t know where those “Doctor Who” rumors started! I would assume they would have called me if it was true! I have never spoken to anybody on the phone and they’re not going to have a woman. I do think it’s time for a female to take on the role, but I suppose there’s a big fear that boys won’t tune in. I’d like Julia Davis (“Nighty Night”). I think she’d be a fab Doctor. But I am excited to see who will be named soon.

Would you and Tennant trade “Doctor Who” war stories while on set?

Nah, he was too busy telling fart jokes. Golly, that man loves fart jokes.


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