James Norton has spoken out in defence of Eton-educated Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne.

The star, who is currently on screen as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in the BBC’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace, offered his take on ‘well-spoken’ actors.

“If there’s a higher amount of period drama, there’s a higher amount of ‘well-spoken’ actors,” he told the Radio Times.

James Norton in War And Peace

James Norton in War And Peace (Mitch Jenkins/BBC)


The London-born actor added: “It’s a real shame, though, when you get somebody like Eddie Redmayne, who is such a great ambassador for British drama – two Oscar nominations in two years, it’s extraordinary – and at least half the press coverage on him is about the fact he went to Eton.”

James called the focus on the Oscar-winner’s education ‘ridiculous’.

The upcoming second series of Happy Valley, written by Last Tango In Halifax’s Sally Wainwright, will see the 30-year-old reprise his role as psychotic Tommy Lee Royce.


Set in the Yorkshire Valleys, BBC1’s award-winning crime drama stars Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood.

Dedication to her job masks Cawood’s personal family tragedies: she believes Tommy is responsible for her daughter’s rape and eventual suicide.

Grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) was conceived as a result of the assault on her daughter.

Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley (Ben Blackall/BBC/Red Productions)


The policewoman’s marriage to Richard Cawood (portrayed by Derek Riddell) broke down, she is estranged from her son Daniel (Karl Davies) and Catherine’s sister Clare (Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran) is in recovery from heroin addiction.

The acclaimed 2014 portrayal of unhinged Tommy turned out to be the breakthrough role for James.

He received a Bafta nomination for best supporting actor in 2015, losing out to Stephen Rea who won for The Honourable Woman.

Robson Green and James Norton in Grantchester

Robson Green and James Norton in Grantchester (ITV)


ITV’s Grantchester followed, with James heading the cast of the 1950s-set series as sleuthing vicar Sidney Chambers.

The Yorkshire-raised actor also impressed as Sir Clifford Chatterley in BBC One’s 2015 version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

As the second much-anticipated series of Happy Valley gets under way, Tommy is in jail.


With little to do other than work-out, the imprisoned man’s focus is on his nemesis.

“He’s spent hours and hours just lying on his bed, filling himself with hate for Catherine,” James said. To depict Tommy’s increased muscle bulk, the Rada-trained actor avoided alcohol and went to the gym for a month.

The relationship between Catherine and Tommy was a highlight of the first run, but series two will see a change.

James Norton

James Norton (Ollie Upton/BBC/Ecosse Film)


“It wasn’t hard for me to get back into the on-screen relationship with Sarah, even though I don’t, in this series, have the privilege of acting so much with her.”

But James promised aficionados ‘an even stranger dynamic between them this time’.

Happy Valley premieres on Tuesday, February 9 at 9pm on BBC One.