MONDAY nights are now the highlight of seven million people’s lives when Broadchurch airs.

And with West Dorset playing as much of a starring role as any of the cast residents here feel especially close to the hit drama.

In this series it’s Matthew Gravelle’s character, Joe Miller, who has taken centre stage so far.

He spoke to us about the British phenomenon that is Broadchurch.

Matthew, a Welsh actor with a long career in TV, didn’t expect Broadchurch to explode in such an extraordinary way.

He said: “Not at all. Everybody on board knew that it was a brilliant script and they definitely wanted to be involved in it, but nobody had any idea how successful this was going to be,” he says.

Matthew, AKA Joe Miller, only found out he was the killer himself with three weeks left to shoot.

He said: “I was really tense all the way through. I’d like to think that I would have been able to carry on with a good poker face even if I had known from the start…” And if that had been the case? “I would have been even keener to play him – with a certain amount of trepidation!”

So can Gravelle, a man on the inside, pin down exactly why this tense Dorset whodunit has caught the public’s imagination?

He said: “I think it’s excellent writing, I think it’s actors being brilliant – me excepted obviously – and just everybody being on top of their game.

“But that’s true of a lot of TV shows and a lot of it is that Broadchurch caught the people’s emotions and the audience related to the horrible prospect of a child going missing.

“The fact that it was community-based maybe meant that people saw some reflection of where they lived, too. It just seemed plausible.”

With series one such a success and series two trending, both actor and producer are excited – if apprehensive – for what is to come.

  • Jane Featherstone, writer Chris Chibnall’s right-hand woman, said Broadchurch was always going to be a winner.

She said: “We worked on Life on Mars and we did Law and Order together.

“I’ve always loved Chris’s brilliant combination of character, wit, humour and drama, he has a great craft; I love his writing and I love working with him. He sent me the script and I just saw this incredible ambition to tell one story across eight hours. I love that sort of television; I love immersing myself in something for that length of time and I loved the characters he had drawn.”

It’s down to her that iconic actress Olivia Colman joined David Tennant in their leading roles as detective duo Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy.

She said: “I’m very pleased with myself for having that idea.

“I developed the script with Chris and we were sitting around thinking about it and quite honestly I’d had my eye on Olivia to play something for years and was waiting for the right role.

I said, ‘Olivia Colman?’ And Chris was like ‘Oh my God!’ He said that he’d had her in mind too, so we asked her and David simultaneously, as they’re so wonderful.

“So we fixed that very early and filled the ensemble around them.”

Watch Broadchurch on ITV Mondays at 9pm.