James Norton is back as crime-fighting clergyman Sidney Chambers as period drama Grantchester returns to ITV for its second series this week. And, as he reveals, it seems there are dark times ahead for Sidney…
Are you happy to be back playing vicar Sidney Chambers for a second series of Grantchester?
“Yes, I am. We all loved it first time round. I think we were all a bit apprehensive at first, wondering: ‘Was the last time a bit of a dream?’. Particularly, Robson Green and I were thinking: ‘Did I really get on with him that well or did I fabricate it? But we got back on the first day of filming and got straight back into it.”
So have you enjoying reuniting with Robson, who plays DI Geordie Keating, in the drama?
“Oh yes. He’s so charming and is such a good example of someone who just does it. He has endless people all the time coming up and asking for his time and I’ve never seen him give up his time begrudgingly.”
As the series begins, Geordie and Sidney are enjoying a family picnic. Are we right in thinking you end up in a lake?
“That’s right. Robson and I have got this scene where we have to go swimming; we’re fiercely competitive. We’re wearing these period, very skimpy swimming trunks, so we’ve been to the gym a few times!”
After Sidney’s love Amanda Kendall (Morven Christie) got married last series, it’s revealed that Geordie’s trying to find Sidney a new woman. So is there love on the cards for Sidney this series?
“The wonderful thing about Sidney is that, although he’s a vicar, he’s still in pursuit of a fairytale. He’s one of those people who I think has ideas in his head of how he would love his life to pan out. So he has this fairytale but he’s constantly missing the mark, which means his love life is in constant turmoil. This series there are moments when Sidney’s heart is pulled in certain directions… and Amanda is still very much present.”
Events take a dramatic turn in the opening episode, however, when Sidney is accused of committing a sexual assault on a young girl. How does Sidney deal with that?
“The moment Sidney’s accused of sexual assault, it creates a butterfly effect and sets the tone for the whole series. Having spent the first series establishing all the characters and the relationships, now that viewers are invested in them, hopefully we’ve earned the right to threaten and jeopardise those relationships and test these characters more.”
As the series progresses, is Sidney and Geordie’s friendship challenged?
“It is. Geordie and Sidney have a different moral standing on the death penalty and their friendship turns very sour. Geordie and Sidney find themselves on different sides of the fence and they can’t reconcile their views.”
Aside from Grantchester, you recently appeared in TV’s War & Peace, and you’re also currently on our screens playing psychopath Tommy Lee Royce in BBC1’s Happy Valley. Do you get recognised all the time when you’re out and about?
“No, not really. Fortunately, with the parts I’ve played, my hair always changes. I keep having red heads coming up and accepting me into this ‘ginger’ thing. I’m like: ‘Oh, thank you’ but I don’t know quite how to take it because I don’t class myself as ginger-haired, although of course I have nothing against anyone who’s ginger, but they go: ‘Hey man, you’re part of the brotherhood’. It’s so funny.”
Does it feel at all weird to you playing a vicar on one channel, while playing a psychopath on another?
“A little. I actually finished filming this second series of Grantchester then went straight back into psychopath mode for Happy Valley, which was completely bonkers! But I was excited to go back to Happy Valley to see how Tommy had evolved.”
It seems like the world’s your oyster at the moment. What other roles would you like to play?
“I’ve done quite a few years now of television, so I’d love to do a play or maybe a film. The wonderful privilege about being an actor is that you get to embark on different journeys and explore all these different worlds and different minds – so I’ll just keep trying to do that!”
Grantchester begins on Wednesday 2 March at 9.00pm on ITV.