A BODY on the beach, a former Doctor Who and one of the Birds of a Feather actresses are helping give West Bay a starring role a major TV drama.
Actors David Tennant and Pauline Quirke arrived in Bridport this week to film a new ITV1 series, Broadchurch, written by Torchwood and Doctor Who writer Chris Chibnall.
The 60-strong production team took over the Station Car Park in the Bay and East Beach, with its dramatic scenery the backdrop for scenes.
Pre-production teams have been in and around the Bridport area in the months before filming started, spying suitable locations and getting ideas for sets from local buildings – including the Bridport News office.
Crowds watched as a large part of the beach was cordoned off and fake police officers and a squad of emergency services vehicles moved in for the discovery of a body below the cliffs scene.
The crew remained tightlipped about the plot for the eight-part series, but it is known that David Tennant stars as out-of-town Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, who is set to clash with a local officer played by Olivia Colman.
Writer Chibnall called it a story of ‘scale and intimacy’ in which the characters’ lives are ‘laid bare’.
He said:“Broadchurch focuses on a small British community which finds itself at the eye of a storm.
“In the wake of one boy’s death, the residents come under scrutiny and suspicion.”
Said not to be a run-of the-mill police drama, Broadchurch will show a small seaside community suddenly put under the glare of the media spotlight.
Excited locals and visitors mingled with the group of extras, many from Dorset, brought in to be the public on the beach when the tragic discovery is made.
Some people thought the incident was real and were relieved to discover that the police activity – and the body on the shingle – were all make-believe.
Pauline Quirke took the opportunity between her scenes to walk on the beach with her chocolate Labrador Bailey, but said she couldn’t discuss the plot or her role.
Megan Hewlett, sous-chef at the West Bay Hotel, said a friend had said she had seen David Tennant, dressed in a suit, getting out of a black Audi in nearby Station car park.
“That’s not something you see in West Bay very often,” she said. “It’s really exciting!”
Broadchurch is also being filmed in Portishead near Bristol.
The ensemble cast also features Rev star Olivia Colman and Will Mellor.
Arthur Darvill, who plays current Doctor Who Matt Smith’s sidekick Rory, will appear as the town priest.
Vicky McClure, who played Lol in This is England and recently starred with Tennant in BBC1’s mainly improvised drama True Love, also features.
Many people in West Bay are accustomed to the influx of TV crews, remembering the filming of Harbour Lights, starring Nick Berry, 13 years ago.