Life got complicated at Christmas for conflicted vicar, Sidney Chambers, in ITV’s Grantchester when his married love, Amanda, gave birth to baby Grace, making him a proxy dad overnight. At the start of season three, they’re conducting a clandestine romance which both of them know is doomed unless Sidney quits the Church. And to make matters worse, his sleuthing buddy, copper Geordie Keating, is having a personal crisis of his own. So the stage is set for a humdinger as TV Choice catches up with James Norton and Robson Green, who play the engaging double act…
Set the scene for us in episode on…
James Norton Sidney is very involved in Amanda’s life and the life of baby Grace. Housekeeper Mrs Maguire has suddenly softened and become the best babysitter in the world, which gives them occasional nights out. He’s exploring this ‘thing’ with her but no one’s quite sure what it is and it’s quite fun. As the series goes on more problems surface.
So he’s confused?
James What’s great is we’re going into depth about what is a religious vocation. It’s quite an odd concept for a modern audience because people don’t go to church nowadays but in the 1950s a lot would have done, and many who watch this show enjoy Sidney’s faith, so it’s been really interesting to explore that. I won’t say which way the final choice goes but it gets to the heart of things.
Is Sidney a good father figure?
James Yeah, I think he is. You’ve seen him in previous series and he’s good with kids, happy to make a bit of a fool of himself and that’s what you need. His age and being a religious man, it definitely triggers a broody side to him. He enjoys it and Amanda notices which adds another confusion.
You’ve been very busy with work – Happy Valley, War & Peace, and you’re also filming new BBC drama McMafia. Is that a bit much sometimes?
James I wouldn’t like to do less but sometimes you need to take responsibility, to take a bit of breathing space. You’ve got to live a normal life in order to fuel your acting. Sidney is not a TV actor, he’s a guy who lives in a village and cycles around. I asked production if I could cycle in but they won’t let me because of insurance! Also, you can spread yourself too thinly. I’ve been quick to criticise other actors who do too much but it’s difficult to say no.
Sidney’s not the only one at a crossroads, Geordie has a personal problem of his own…
Robson Green There’s a frisson between Geordie and Margaret the office secretary and he confides in Sidney that he has feelings for another woman. But he’s got his own dilemmas and they’re trying to give each other advice, but it’s no good. But the joy and the humour’s still there.
Dark times ahead, then, for Geordie and wife Cathy?
Robson It’s devastating and it’s beautifully played by Kacey Ainsworth, who plays Cathy. Geordie’s living in his car for two episodes but making out that everything’s fine, which is true to life. So many people, their public face tells one story, their private face something else.
What will viewers make of his fling with Margaret?
Robson They’ll understand it. In those days it was taboo but people won’t be surprised, it does happen, but in the 1950s, you’re treading a fine line. Geordie seeks forgiveness but Sidney tells him that’s the easy way out, he’s got to address what he’s done.
Do they fall out?
Robson Yes massively but only for a couple of minutes!
Do you feel fate brought you to this drama?
Robson I was doing Strike Back in Thailand and one of the actors had a terrible accident so we had to stop filming. It was my first big American series and my agent sent me the Grantchester script – I thought vicar and detective, really? I Skyped from southeast Asia, flew home, got off the plane, went to set and there’s James Norton, an Adonis standing there! As soon as I met him I realised he was going to fly, he deserves it, he’s so hard working.