After a recent binge-watching session of Sally Wainwright’s amazing series, Happy Valley, I began to see the inherently evil figure of Tommie Lee Royce on every street corner. Played brilliantly by James Norton, Royce was the stereotypical tormented soul/psychopathic killer (if there is such a thing). Thankfully, to get that image out of my head, all I had to do was quickly fast forward to the premiere of ITV’s Grantchester earlier this month. Norton plays an Anglican priest, Reverend Sidney Chambers, who finds himself involved in solving crimes, assisting the overworked Detective Inspector Keating. Yes, even though Norton’s character in Grantchester chain-smokes, loves women, jazz and booze, it’s still a night and day difference from walking the streets of Happy Valley.
Norton recently revealed that he had some difficulties going from sadistic psychopath by day to clergyman-detective by night. “It was quite a gear change,” said Norton. “The two projects were back to back. I did Happy Valley, then I had just a week’s grace before doing Grantchester. So there was a month where I was playing Tommy in the daytime and going home to prepare to play a vicar. I kept desperately trying not to mix the two up. In fact, when I started Grantchester, I was quite tempted to have a few moments where Sidney turns to the camera in a psycho way.”
“You inevitably got members of the public watching the filming of Grantchester and occasionally I could see people who were looking at me, thinking, ‘Where have I seen him before?’ Then the penny dropped and they would go, ‘you’re the psychopath!’”
While UK viewers have had the good fortune of seeing Norton in both Happy Valley and, now, Grantchester, their American counterparts are a bit late to the James Norton party as of yet. The great news is that American viewers will get a chance to see Norton’s acting range for themselves when Grantchester premieres in early January 2015 on PBS. If you can’t wait until then, Norton can also be seen this coming Sunday in the premiere of Death Comes to Pemberley.