Neil Morrissey is back in ITV’s Grantchester on Wednesday, playing grieving father Harding Redmond. Here, he talks about playing an emotional role, running over Martin Clunes and equalling Robson Green’s chart success…
We first saw your character at the beginning of this series of Grantchester, when he discovered his 15-year-old daughter, Abigail, had been murdered. How’s he been coping?
“For Harding and his wife, Abigail was their whole life. Abigail’s murder turned their world upside down and, since then, Harding’s been desperately searching for justice.”
This week, Abigail’s killer Gary Bell is on trial for her murder. And Harding’s furious to learn that Grantchester vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) plans to defend the boy in court…
“Harding’s a man who’s really on the edge; he’s full of anger and disbelief, and he’s not very trusting. As a religious man, he’s very disappointed with those running the church.”
Is that a real moustache that you have to play Harding?
“Yes! It was the ‘tache that got the job and I happened to be attached to it! I’d just finished a job where I had a full-on beard, so when I came onto set for Grantchester, I sat in front of the make-up mirror and we started taking bits off and we ended up with this. It’s 1950s and it’s all mine.”
Neil as Harding Redmond with James as vicar Sidney Chambers
Having seen James Norton playing psychopath Tommy Lee Royce on Happy Valley, was it odd playing opposite him as a vicar?
“The murdering skinhead! Yeah, it was quite different. He’s such a terrific actor isn’t he? Apart from being short, ugly and untalented. It’s terrible isn’t it? Filming with James and Robson (Green, who plays DI Geordie Keating), we’re usually on the edge of laughter at the end of every scene. They’re both very naughty, but I know they’ll blame me.”
How well did you know Robson before this? You’ve both been in so many TV shows…
“Yeah we have. It’s strange because we kind of know each other vicariously – after 30 years in the game there’s a lot of overlap. I know his work, obviously, and I know he loves fish – I like to eat fish, but I’m not as into it as he is. I was having a glass of wine and a fag on the balcony one night, I glanced down, and there was Robson in the gym and I thought: ‘Well, there’s two completely different attitudes to this job. But then he did have to get his kit off for a scene the next morning!'”
Harding is clearly not happy with DI Geordie Keating
We know you have your own pub. Have you been able to enjoy any of the pubs in Grantchester?
“Yes. I’ve got a pub in The Midlands, which is going very well, so now pubs and drinking, it’s all research – as a matter of duty, I have to visit every pub in the village. Honestly, I think you could spit from one end of this village to the other and there’s four pubs!”
Do you give your mates free drinks when they come to your pub?
“Martin (Clunes, Neil’s former Men Behaving Badly co-star) hasn’t popped up yet, but I’ve had a few people visit. Nobody though, not even me, has anything free. It’s a business, so it’s taking money out of your own pocket, which is stupid. But I would buy my friends a couple of pints and hopefully they’d stick their hand in their pocket as well!”
Martin said he upset you recently because Caroline Quentin’s got a role in his drama, Doc Martin…
“Yeah, what a s***! Martin’s still one of my closest friends and I said to him ages ago: ‘So, when am I gonna be in it?’ And he said: ‘Oh, you’re too expensive!’ and I thought: ‘Am I really?!’ I hope there will be a nemesis character in maybe the final series and Martin gets run over or something and it’s ME that does it! I’d have to reverse over him in that bloody great Lexus that he drives in the series, that would be quite good.”
What are you mostly recognised for?
“It can be anything now from Bob the Builder, who I did the voice for, to Waterloo Road or Line of Duty. Parents will come over with their three-year-old, whose frightened little face is looking at me, while they’re saying: ‘That’s Bob the Builder!’ And the kid’s going: ‘Er, where’s his hat?'”
Could you ever have predicted Bob the Builder was going to be such a success?
“No. It was one of those X Factor moments, no one really knew.”
And you had a No 1 in the charts?
“I had two – which is actually more than Morrissey the singer! And if you count the Children in Need one, that was three! Which actually equals Robson Green’s record of three No 1s!”
Do you have a preference for doing comedy or straight drama?
“I like them both, but I do think doing drama’s a bit easier, it’s harder to keep ‘funny’ all day. It’s all about timing… there’s a hare’s breath between comedy and tragedy. I don’t smile once in Grantchester and, at times, I’ve had to do some full-on sobbing. But then I know it’s the criers that always win the BAFTAs!”
Grantchester continues Wednesdays at 9pm on ITV