Nothing But TV Interview: James Norton on his final series of Grantchester.
Grantchester starring Robson Green and James Norton, and new cast member Tom Brittney, returns to ITV for a fourth series in a co-production from Kudos and MASTERPIECE on PBS. James Norton, who plays the charismatic, jazz-loving clergyman, Sidney Chambers, will make his final appearance during the series. Clergyman Will Davenport, played by Tom Brittney, becomes DI Geordie Keating’s new crime-solving partner in 1950s Grantchester.
Interview with James Norton – Sidney Chambers
Having filmed your final episodes, how do you look back on Grantchester?
“A lot has happened since we filmed the first series of Grantchester in 2014. It has been a fast few years. I definitely owe a lot to the show. No-one anticipated it would do as well as it has. I was fresh and green and like a bouncy labrador, hoping it was going to catch the public’s attention. But I could see that people like Robson Green and executive producer Diederick Santer, who had more
experience, also sensed we were on to something quite special. “It was the general feel on set and the affection people had towards the show and the characters. We also knew we had a gift with Daisy Coulam’s writing. It’s been a very pleasant and exciting journey.”
Why did you decide to leave in this fourth series?
“It was a combination of things; the Amanda storyline tying up as it did with her and Sidney breaking up and him choosing the church in the third series felt like a natural conclusion to Sidney’s story. Then when the possibility of a fourth series came along, the decision was whether or not to start a whole new journey for Sidney. Rather than do that it felt like it would be better to hand over the baton to someone else and give Grantchester a fresh injection of energy.
“A lot of Grantchester has been seen through Sidney’s eyes and his conflicted soul, so you have reallygot to know him which is a wonderful blessing for me, but there is only so much you can delve into his soul.
“It’s been a privilege to play such a wonderful character, but I feel like there are other vicars, other conflicted souls to explore. So it’s time to introduce Tom Brittney as Reverend Will Davenport.”
Did you have any say about how Sidney would eventually exit?
“I had a couple of light-hearted conversations with some of the producers offering my dramatic, absurd, far-fetched versions of his exit. Inevitably they weren’t picked up. I wanted Sidney to be the victim of a gruesome murder and then the new vicar would have to investigate the crime.
What’s Sidney’s state of mind at the start of this new series?
“Sidney is still feeling the shock and heartbreak of Amanda’s departure. In typical Sidney fashion he is distracting himself, deferring the pain and confusion by diving head first into other activities, including his detective work with Geordie. Sidney is pretty reckless when we meet him again, looking for ways to keep himself occupied, entertained, excited and distracted. And most of that time is spent drunk. Not paying particular attention to his responsibilities as a vicar.
“Sidney has certainly turned quite fatalist and has slightly given up caring for himself. He still has incredible empathy and compassion and will always care for the people around him and his parishioners, but his self-respect and his self-love is definitely waning. There is a bit of a death wish. He has lost control and people around him are starting to recognise that.”
Do you attract a lot of attention when filming on location?
“Inevitably we do now draw a few more eyes during filming - the public and photographers. Especially when you’re doing these action scenes outside on location, but it’s lovely because it’s always really affectionate and warm. Grantchester attracts a certain type of fan, including those who identify with this warm and affectionate world. It’s testament to the success of the show and the love people have for it that many more now gather round to watch us film.”
Was it emotional filming your final scene as Sidney?
“Obviously things are shot out of sequence so it’s not the last scene you will see on screen. It was a very lovely scene and I’m pleased they scheduled it the way they did. Sidney is talking to the new vicar Will Davenport about Geordie. It seemed apt.
“The final scene I did with Robson was really very sad. We didn’t need to do any acting because Daisy (Coulam) wrote it so beautifully. My personal investment in Grantchester and in the character is so strong that, actually, you don’t need to do any work in a scene like that. The lines between the reality and the story are so blurred.
“It’s no secret that Robson and I are very good friends. I have so much love and respect for that man. The relationship Sidney and Geordie had was largely informed by that. And so when you have two very good friends having a version of a goodbye, both Robson and James and Geordie and Sidney were all in this big emotional self-indulgent mess. It was very sad, but very easy to act because it felt very true to the reality of the situation.”
What can viewers look forward to with Tom Brittney as new vicar Will Davenport?
“I couldn’t be happier to be handing the dog collar on to Tom who is going to be great. I know Tom is going to have a great time. He is oozing with charisma, horribly attractive with the best teeth in the industry. And, of course, I will continue to watch Grantchester as a viewer. It’s been a real joy to play Sidney. I’ve loved every minute of Grantchester and owe a lot to the show, to Robson and the rest of the cast and crew. I envy Tom because I know he’s going to have a really fun time. Good luck to him.”
Grantchester returns Friday 11 January 2019 at 9pm on itv.