Fans of acclaimed British murder mystery “Broadchurch” may question the need for a U.S. remake, but the producers of Fox’s “Gracepoint” are fairly confident their adaptation will stand on its own — mostly because they believe that many American viewers aren’t even aware of the original.
“[BBC America's] viewing audience for ‘Broadchurch’ represents really, truly less than one percent of the American television viewing population. We’re not particularly worried about the overlap,” said executive producer Carolyn Bernstein at the Television Critics Assn. press tour Sunday. “We think those people who do overlap will be really into it and really enjoy the show.”
“My mom is right down the alley of the BBC America audience, and she started watching it, and she’s like, ‘I can’t understand a word they’re saying,’” agreed EP Dan Futterman. “And I think that was a common experience… There are some devoted viewers and cultured viewers who watched that whole show and loved it. We watched the whole show and loved it.”
A critic who has seen the first two episodes of “Gracepoint” noted that the show replicates “Broadchurch’s” first two installments almost beat for beat, without offering much in the way of originality.
“We did consider different starting places, different ideas for the first episode,” Bernstein conceded. “I think 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?”
The producer did promise that “as the series progresses, it really diverges in pretty big large ways from the original. But particularly in that first episode, it felt like the smartest, best launching pad. We didn’t want to try to fix something that we all thought was excellent.”
“It’s going to start to change very, very rapidly. I think by the third and fourth episodes, you see very, very great detours, and it also reverts to form as well, because the genetics of the show are powerful, and they’re successfully powerful,” Futterman added. “But 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.”
While the EPs wouldn’t definitively confirm that “Gracepoint” features a different killer than the perpetrator in “Broadchurch,” Futterman told critics that his chief desire was, “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 the season and potentially exciting for what could be a great second season as well.”
The show also employed a legal adviser and a police adviser on set to keep the show accurate to its new Northern California setting, but Futterman admitted that the differences in police procedure weren’t as marked as one might think: “There is an ability of a suspect to either waive their rights or not waive their rights, and you see that in the interview rooms. And so the investigations of the various suspects can have a similar flavor, although the suspects become more different in the show.”
“What I can’t get enough of is good writing, you see,” Tennant reasoned. “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 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 [for season two]. If the writing keeps being as good as it’s been so far, then I’ll keep turning up.”
As for whether there are any real differences between “Broadchurch’s” Alec Hardy and “Gracepoint’s” Emmett Carver, Tennant offered, “They feel very different to me. Obviously, they both look quite like me, and they’re similar heights. But they feel different for all sorts of reasons, because of the circumstances of everyone around me. You’re 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 and that 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.”
He continued, “The relationship between Carver and Ellie Miller is 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. And I think that’s true right through, working with all these extraordinary people as well. And 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.”
In the case of adaptations done well, Tennant pointed to “The Office,” noting, “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… There’s a lot of traffic back and forth culturally, and I think 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.”
“Gracepoint” will premiere on Oct. 2 on Fox.