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'Broadchurch': Arthur Darvill on Working With David Tennant and 'Heartbreaking' End (Q&A)

THR debuts a scene between Darvill, Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan from the penultimate episode, airing Sept. 18 on BBC America.

Broadchurch Arthur Darvill - H 2013
ITV Plc
Arthur Darvill in "Broadchurch"

With time slipping away and the murder of Danny Latimer still unsolved, Broadchurch is feeling the pressure.

In last week's episode, Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) was the latest person in town to be questioned by Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant), who collapsed while in pursuit of another suspect. The ongoing case has caused a firestorm around the small coastal English town.

VIDEO: 'Broadchurch' Sneak Peek: Hardy Targets Reverend Paul Coates

The Hollywood Reporter debuts a sneak peek from the penultimate episode, airing Sept. 18 on BBC America, with Paul counseling Danny's grieving parents Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan). (Watch the clip below.)

THR caught up with Darvill, who was in New York during his run on Broadway's Once the Musical to discuss his character, the final two episodes of the season and going toe to toe with fellow Doctor Who alum David Tennant.

How are things at Once the Musical?

It’s great. I’ve just been, like, singing a lot. (Laughs.) And playing guitar. I feel like I’m actually in a band. I feel much cooler than I actually am.

Did you ever think that you’d be doing something like that at this point in your career?

No. I mean it’s really silly, where people go, “What do you do?” “I’m in the lead in a Broadway musical …” It’s a really, really silly thing that I still can’t get used to coming out of my mouth. I think it’ll hit me when I’ve left, but I’m having the time of my life. It’s brilliant.

How different have Broadchurch and Once been for you?

I tell you what, the whole reason why I love doing this is the whole variety of roles. I’ve got a chance to play a real variety of different people. I haven’t gotten stuck in any one thing. That’s the real worry with actors, that you’ll just be seen as one thing. The stuff I’ve got to do the past couple years have been so wildly different from each other. It keeps you interested and it’s just really good fun.

VIDEO: 'Broadchurch' Sneak Peek: Tabloids Descend on Murder Case

You’ve said previously that you took the Broadchurch job before you even saw a script, so when you found out who Paul Coates was, what was your initial reaction to who this guy was going to be?

[Executive producer] Chris [Chibnall] was great at keeping us all in the loop as to what was going on. Most of us signed up because we liked him as a person and as a writer. (Laughs.) He said, “Look, I want to write you a part. This is what it is.” When he described it, it sounded amazing and was very close to him and where he’s from and what he’s always wanted to write about. That in itself made me go, “Well, of course I’ll do it!” While he was writing, he’d check in and go, “Hey, look, I’m thinking of doing this …” We talked a lot about the role of a vicar in a community like that and what are the implications of the circumstances that the town is put in and what that means for someone in that position and certainly the responsibility of having to be a spiritual guide, a point of comfort, a figurehead, especially being quite young. I found that fascinating.

Did you get a sense of how Chris operated as a writer when he was on Doctor Who?

Chris is a really good writer, and he’s really good at writing for Doctor Who. He knows what it is. He’s a fan and his scripts were always up there with the best. I enjoyed filming his episodes and I’ve seen a lot of the stuff he’s written. It’s all very different. I don’t think he has a style, necessarily. Maybe he does, I haven’t thought about it enough. He’s good at knowing who people are. For this, he knew who he was writing for. Each character has such an individual voice, which is something I imagine -- I don’t know, I’m not a writer -- is quite difficult.

You mentioned the check-ins that he would have with you over the course of his script-building. What was the most interesting aspect of Paul that you and Chris discussed during those conversations?

One was the responsibility of always being on show and having to be moral and to be someone who’s trusted and what that means. And obviously that’s led by faith, which is fascinating. I’m not particularly religious, so I found that really interesting, and I have respect for people who are, especially people in that position. But then also, there’s the whole media element, having to give interviews and be the spokesperson and how that affects you as a person. If that means you’re in the limelight ... the ego thing that takes over naturally, it depends on the type of person you are as to how much that affects you. That wasn’t the story we were telling, but that’s in there, and I found that interesting how he deals with it. And also, how he deals with being scrutinized, going from being a figurehead to being questioned by police.

Last week’s episode had an intense confrontation between you and David Tennant, wherein Hardy is interrogating Paul. What was your take on that moment?

It was a well-written scene. Paul Coates has never been in a police station in that way before. He has to remain impartial but I don’t think he likes Alec. They have a personality clash to start with. I love that line, “Don’t question my faith because you have none.” It’s an emotional response from him and it really shows that he does have quite a strong faith and it guides him and it’s important to him. It revealed a lot about Paul in that he can step up and go, “Actually you’re in the wrong.” It comes from an emotional place, and I think as someone who can’t always respond emotionally, it’s a good insight into how he is as a person. I’m sure I just waffled my way through that answer.

It must be odd to still be talking about a show that has already aired in the U.K. and that you shot so long ago.

(Laughs.) It was filmed a year ago. I’ve watched it once ages ago, so I can’t remember what happens in it. It was funny, when I was watching it, I obviously knew what happens but because it was such a big ensemble piece, we all got quite close; we’ve got lots of friends who are in it and people who I admire doing some great work. We didn’t get to see everyone do their scenes, so I got completely hooked watching it -- to the point where I forgot I was in it, and then I’d pop up and go, “I know what happens in this bit, let’s get on to the next bit.” I just think it’s such a brilliant piece of TV. I came over to New York before the last two episodes [aired in the U.K. in April] and I was going mad. I had to have my agent send me copies of the DVD because I needed to see the [end] and she was like, “You know what happens.” “I know, but I need to see it!” It’s a testament to it being a good piece of telly.

Have you noticed any differences in terms of what U.S. audiences are responding to compared to how it was received in the U.K.?

It's translated so well over here. We knew it was good because of the people involved and the writing was so good, as long as we didn't mess it up, do you know what I mean? But you never know if something's successful or not; that's a completely different thing. It was huge in the U.K.; it was what everyone was talking about. It was written because [Chris] wanted to write it and he wrote it the way that he wanted to write it. It's a real testament to people having ideas and people not interfering with those ideas. You can see it hasn't been meddled with by people who are pulling purse strings, if that makes sense. I think a lot of TV you see is made in a way that's quite cynical because it's made to make money or made to be a hit, and this wasn't.

How important is the journey in a murder mystery like this?

Each character goes on a specific journey and everyone is changed by the end of the series. No one is in the same place from where they started. You care about everyone.

Was there one character moment that you responded to emotionally?

When I read [Jack Marshall's death], I could not believe it. It was heartbreaking. What an amazing performance by David Bradley as well. Jodie Whittaker just gets me every time. She's, in real life, hilarious and has never made me cry but when she comes onscreen, I'm in tears.

You've said that you might be back in the second season. How likely is that?

We all know it's happening. We've all been asked, but no one's told us what it is. Whether I'm in five minutes of it ... I don't even know if it's set in the same [place]. I don't know what's happening with it, and I haven't signed on for a specific time. There is a second series but I don't know what is going on in that, or whether I'm really in it or not, or if any of us are in it or not. So we'll find out soon.

Do you have a favorite moment?

There is some more stuff with me and David coming up. I got to work more with Jodi and Andy [Buchan]. They come to [Paul] for counsel. Those last two episodes are absolutely heartbreaking. It's gripping. It's one of those ones when episode seven finishes, and you're like, "I need to see what happens."

Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube