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Gracepoint's David Tennant talks guns, accents and affection for Victoria

Any similarities David Tennant’s character in Gracepoint may have to Det. Alec Hardy, the prickly detective he played in Broadchurch, are strictly coincidental, jokes the Scottish actor.
David Tennant as Det. Emmett Carver, his character in Gracepoint.

Any similarities David Tennant’s character in Gracepoint may have to Det. Alec Hardy, the prickly detective he played in Broadchurch, are strictly coincidental, jokes the Scottish actor.

“The look is very similar and the story’s very similar but he feels different in my head,” explained Tennant.

He is looking remarkably refreshed and upbeat after a gruelling five-month shoot here for the Fox network’s U.S. remake of a British crime series focusing on a murder investigation that rocks a seaside community.

“He sounds different and he wears a gun, which, of course, they don’t do back home,” said Tennant, who showed up for our interview on Island View Beach wearing his Americanized character Det. Emmett Carver’s signature trenchcoat. “I don’t have to do much sharpshooting. He gets it out of his holster a couple of times, but I think I can handle myself.”

Tennant and his co-stars, including Anna Gunn as his new partner Det. Ellie Miller, Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver and Michael Pena, were hard to miss as they toggled between Oak Bay, Sidney, Brentwood Bay and other locations that collectively pose as the title’s coastal northern California town while shooting Shine America’s 10-part series. It premières Oct. 2 on Fox and Global at 9 p.m.

Before returning to England to reprise his Broadchurch role for its second season, the Bathgate, West Lothian-born actor expressed his affection for Victoria, which marked his first trip to Canada.

“If the rest of Canada is as welcoming as Victoria and Vancouver Island, then this is clearly the place to be,” Tennant said in his natural Scottish brogue, which is conspicuously absent in Gracepoint.

The affable actor said “it’s not really for me to judge” the calibre of his American accent in Gracepoint, but he correctly anticipated that some critics would inevitably take issue with it.

The British tabloid Daily Mirror has already taken the former Doctor Who star to task, declaring “fans reckon the Scottish star is guilty of murdering the American accent” based on a trailer.

The British press has also widely referred to Tennant’s lighthearted comments made in this space in May about his dialect coach giving him notes “saying I’m starting to sound too Canadian.”

The hardworking actor, who began shooting Gracepoint fresh from playing Richard II in London’s West End, said he enjoys adopting different accents.

Sporting an American accent “makes you wear your clothes differently, walk differently,” he said, adding that it “infects your being” the same way as when he uses a Welsh or English accent.

“I’ve clearly crossed the rubicon and have a new set of issues,” he said.

“It’s a very keen point of concentration. You want to get it right because you’re having to fool the natives, I suppose.”

Beyond the suggestion that his mysterious character, originally written as a New York cop, is from the east coast, the show’s creators avoided “specificity” that can raise expectations, Tennant said.

“He’s a big-city cop parachuted into a sleepy town, potentially to see out his days without anyone noticing,” Tennant said.

“But, of course, circumstances contrive to make that not possible.”

London-based Tennant said doing Gracepoint was a no-brainer, largely because it was such an unusual opportunity and creatively helmed by his pal and producer Chris Chibnall and collaborators he knows and trusts.

“It was also unprecedented,” he said, referring to playing both roles. “I dare say it could have gone different ways. Alec and Emmet didn’t have to look the same, but it turns out they do.”

One of the most fascinating experiences for Tennant was discovering how reacting to a different partner [Gunn, in the role originated by Olivia Colman] can take an actor in different directions.

“They are very different yet equally persuasive readings of the character,” he said. “I wondered how much of that is cultural and how much it has to do with the actresses themselves.”

Apart from Gracepoint’s different outcome, Tennant said viewers should expect that some of the Broadchurch-based characters “have a very different life” and potentially a higher profile.

While Chibnall, who wrote Gracepoint’s pilot, emailed notes from England while prepping Broadchurch’s second season, Tennant said he appreciated the creative space he gave his cast.

What Chibnall wouldn’t do, however, was let cast and crew in on Gracepoint’s ending before shooting its final two episodes.

“I genuinely am in the dark as I sit here today,” Tennant insisted, noting final script pages were being time-released.

“I’m in the same position now as I was on Broadchurch.”