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Follow the script

David Tennant reprises his British cop role from Broadchurch in U.S. Gracepoint, then takes it home again

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HOLLYWOOD -- If there's a one thing all TV actors have in common, it's probably the desire for a rich and diverse career.

They talk constantly about wanting to expand creative horizons, about wanting to try new things and to play a wide variety of characters.

David Tennant is no exception. The beloved Brit actor's recent catalogue of credits -- from Doctor Who to Hamlet to the brooding BBC cop drama Broadchurch -- proves it.

But what Tennant is doing these days in the pursuit of the new and different is, well, different.

After starring as Det. Insp. Alec Hardy in Broadchurch, which aired on Showcase in Canada and has been renewed for a second across-the-pond season on the BBC, Tennant signed on to play roughly the same character -- but with an American accent -- in a U.S. remake called Gracepoint, which will air this fall on Fox (and, in Canada, on Global).

Broadchurch to Gracepoint to Broadchurch (Season 2) doesn't exactly sound like an aggressive expansion of creative boundaries, but Tennant says there's a simple explanation for the game plan.

"Well, the thing is, what I can't get enough of is good writing, you see," Tennant said last week during Fox's portion of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles. "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 now Gracepoint and now Broadchurch again. If the writing keeps being as good as it's been so far, then I'll keep turning up."

Like the award-winning BBC import on which it's based, Gracepoint is a limited-run (in this case, 10 episodes) drama that begins with the murder of a young boy in a small seaside resort town and follows the police investigation while exploring the emotional impact of the crime on the town's residents and the increasingly uneasy relationship between law enforcement and the media.

The first two episodes of Gracepoint, which were provided for preview, are essentially beat-for-beat reproductions of Broadchurch's openers, but the Fox series' producers said the U.S. remake will eventually veer into territory that the eight-part British original did not explore.

"There's a DNA here that is exactly the same, but it's set in a different place, and it's going to start to change very, very rapidly," said executive producer Dan Futterman. "I think by the third and fourth episodes, you see very, very great detours, but it also reverts to (Broadchurch's) form as well, because the genetics of the show are powerful, and they're successfully powerful.

"We deviated as much as we wanted to and as much as we could while still trying to tell this beautiful story that has a beginning and, now, a different ending."

Futterman and fellow executive producer Carolyn Bernstein pointed out that there really isn't much concern about offending Broadchurch fans by changing the storyline in the remake because less than one per cent of the U.S. viewing public has actually seen the BBC import.

"We're not particularly worried about the overlap (of viewership)," said Bernstein. "We think those (few) people who do overlap will be really into it and really enjoy the show."

When Tennant was asked to compare and contrast the Brit detective he plays in Broadchurch and the American cop he'll portray in Gracepoint, he couldn't resist going for the obvious answer.

"They feel very different to me; obviously, they both look quite like me," he offered. "And they're similar heights."

Tennant elaborated: "But, yeah, they feel different, for all sorts of reasons, because of the circumstances of everyone around me. (In Gracepoint), I'm playing opposite this extraordinary 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 on that and creates a different set of circumstances to be within....

"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, I think." Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2014 C6

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