Les médias et la presse se sont focalisés sur cette scène du premier épisode communément connue comme un "Poldark" et ont publié de multiples articles (The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Mail, The Huffington Post... )
Il y a 20 ans, Robson Green et Jerome Flynn ont formé un duo complice et couronné de succès dans Soldier Soldier, et aujourd'hui Robson retrouve ce partenariat fructueux, d'un genre différent, avec James Norton dans Grantchester. Il existe une véritable amitié entre eux dans la vraie vie, qui fait que l'alchimie fonctionne merveilleusement bien à l'écran.
Robson en témoigne : "It's strange, the characters and the relationship develop out of us being confident and friends with each other off screen now. James is a great mate."
Heureusement, en dépit de leurs désaccords qui compromettent temporairement leur amitié, le duo semble toujours réussir à mettre de côté leurs différences.
"But in terms of the endearing offbeat relationship that is in the series, the only way forward is to fracture that, to jeopardise it. So the relationship you care about is fractured, and what you need to do throughout the story is work out how we're going to get them back together again: that's just the basic arc."
SMALL SCREEN: VICAR-COP BUDDY SERIES EXPLORES MALE FRIENDSHIP
PASADENA, California — The young vicar is eye candy. His crime-fighting partner, a police detective, is middle-age sexy.
As played by James Norton and Robson Green, the characters make PBS’s Masterpiece series Grantchester a far cry from Father Brown, another British TV show about a man of the cloth with a taste for sleuthing.
Brown is solidly avuncular. Norton’s Sidney Chambers is handsome, moody and passionate about God, jazz, whiskey and women — especially his ex, now well if not happily married — and cracking cases in his English village of Grantchester.
Green’s Detective Geordie Keating, a tough lawman and dedicated family man, is adjusting to his unorthodox partnership with Chambers but can’t wrap his head around the vicar’s bachelorhood. Keating recommends marriage, although the vicar’s life is well-tended by brisk housekeeper Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones), and the detective’s own fidelity is tested in season two.
Norton is popping up regularly on TV these days, in projects including War & Peace and Netflix’s new Happy Valley. Green is a veteran leading man whose extensive credits include the series Touching Evil and Wire in the Blood.
The pair click on screen as the hard-charging cop and sensitive vicar. In an interview, Norton and Green bantered and traded compliments as they discussed their characters.
Q: This is your first project together and you’re both leads. Was there an adjustment period ?
James Norton: I remember the first scene we shot. I knew he was a good guy. You work in the industry and hear things.
Q: You heard rumours about him ?
James Norton (smiling): Oh, awful. No, he comes with a great reputation. But it was very apparent early on. You turned to me after a couple takes and said: ‘Oh, you’re good.’ And similarly it was immediately apparent he’s a master.
Q: Chemistry is key in romance. Also true with a buddy pairing ?
Robson Green: Yes. In series two, it’s all about fracturing the relationship, jeopardizing it. But the conflict all has to come out of, ‘I don’t want to lose you as a friend.’ It comes out of a genuine affection and caring for one another.
James Norton: But they never talk about it: ‘I love you, man.’ It’s so fun to play with, two men who have such affection for one another, in the 1950s, but aren’t able to tell one another. … It’s done through backgammon or beer or little gestures.
Q: Does Sidney find love or does his former girlfriend still have his attention ?
James Norton: She will always have his attention. It’s a Ross and Rachel thing. Awful reference, but we just saw the Friends cast reunited. Everyone around them knows they [Sidney and Amanda] should be together, they know they should, but they can’t.
"Grantchester is a love story between two friends", says star Robson Green
If you haven't seen the period detective series then make sure you catch up, because it's a heartwarming and picturesque series that is spearheaded by one of TV's greatest current bromances - James Norton and Robson Green's Sidney and Geordie.
War and Peace and Happy Valley star Norton plays crime-fighting priest Sidney Chambers, opposite his best pal DI Geordie Keating, played by Green.
Digital Spy chatted to Robson about the series, and he reckons it's this pair's chemistry that sets the show apart from its rivals.
"This fondness of each other is the engine of the show, " he told us. "I'm not afraid to say that it is a love story between two friends, who care for one another and depend on one another, which is kind of the definition of community.
"It's something that has sadly disappeared. In my village, that sense of community has certainly gone. Once the mines were closed, the community dissolved into nothing. I think people are fond of looking at that and wishing they had something like that."
He continued: "There's a loyalty and a kindness and a friendship that I've not seen on TV for a while, in any kind of storytelling. It's unique and offbeat and endearing.
"Me and James are friends, and that manifests itself in front of the lens. And you can take risks as an actor once you have that trust. You can fall out and agree and disagree on certain scenes and how to play them, but it's as strong as ever.
"So the one thing you can play on in drama, is to jeopardise that friendship, so we deal with that in season two."
Robson has also tipped James Norton to become the next James Bond, as long as he gets to be Q.
GRANTCHESTER’S ROBSON GREEN : ‘GEORDIE AND SIDNEY ARE A LOVE STORY !’
In this video interview Robson reckons the 'love story' between Grantchester's two main characters is what made the first series such a hit.
The Fifties period drama, which centres on crime-fighting vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) and his detective sidekick DI Geordie Keating (Robson), returns to ITV next week for its second series next week.
"Who'd have thought a very calm, compelling, charismatic member of the clergy could team up with a detective and make that relationship incredibly popular,” Robson told whatsontv.co.uk.
“People cared about Sidney and Geordie and wanted to follow them.
Irrespective of whether they were a vicar or a detective – they could have been doctors or lawyers – it’s the way they relate to one another. It’s a love story."
He added: "I think the reason why they’re this endearing couple is because they’re this unlikely partnership but they just get on; there’s a real fondness there. But I think a lot of that is to do with the fact that I love James as a friend - we get on off-set and I think that manifests itself in front of the camera."
Neil Morrissey (Waterloo Road) joins the cast this series as Harding Redmond, a desperate father, who sends shockwaves through the community of Grantchester when he accuses vicar Sidney of sexually assaulting his 15-year-old daughter. “Geordie and Sidney are inseparable and they trust one another implicitly,” said Robson.
“So when Sidney is accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl, Geordie doesn’t believe it for one second."
But, as the story progresses, Harding starts causing problems for these once firm friends…
“The endearing and unique friendship that Geordie and Sidney have is starting to fracture and Neil Morrissey’s character helps that," revealed Robson. “Geordie and Sidney have opposing views about something quite serious because we’ve got to remind ourselves that, in 1955, the consequence of wilful murder was to be hung.
Geordie and Sidney are poles apart in terms of what their view of justice is – but both arguments are valid and viewers might be torn."
Strike Back star Robson has travelled all over the world as an actor and as host of his Extreme Fishing documentaries – but could he live in a place like Grantchester?
"The characters in Grantchester are real and there's a definite sense of community,” said Robson. “If it wasn’t for the bodycount, I’d move to Grantchester tomorrow !"
Grantchester begins on Wednesday March 2 at 9pm on ITV.
Can we discuss the Poldark moment in Grantchester ?
Aiden Turner hates me ! He hates my guts ! [Laughs] It’s not really a Poldark moment.
When you read the script, did you have to step up the gym routine?
Have you seen James Norton ? Of course I had to step it up ! We’d look like Laurel and Hardy otherwise ! There was many a gym war – James won the battle. I work out anyway, but James looks amazing.
I got a lovely trainer up in the North-East, I went “look, this is the deal, I’m going to be standing next to James Norton with my top off” and so we just went through this regime and the results were okay. I still look after myself. Poldark moment, you reckon ? Have you seen it ?
There’s a great moment [in the new series]. Basically one of my missions in Grantchester is to get Sydney a woman and he asks how we’re going to go about that. I’m saying, “look, those looks of yours are going to fade – hair will stop growing on your head and will start growing out of your ears, and you’ll get a paunch.” He was like, “you can talk.”
What else can you tell us about Geordie helping Sidney find a woman ?
It’s great. In the opening of series two, these women are auditioning – but it’s not successful because they’re all women Geordie would pick for himself! He goes, “she’s great.” Sidney says, “yeah, for you.” It’s very funny. They just want each other’s lives. I want his freedom. He wants my security and family.
Can you tell us a bit about the guest stars you’ve got coming onto this series ?
Neil Morrisey? He’s great. He’s such a talent. He’s such a triple threat, he can act, he can sing, his accents are amazing… [I’m a] huge fan. I’d met him once before. He just came on and was a great energy to have on set and worked really well.
Catch Robson in a new series of Grantchester on Wednesday, March 2 at 9pm and in Further Tales from Northumberland with Robson Green on Monday, February 29 at 8pm on ITV.
But there will be ups and downs, and that’s when it can be good to talk to someone who has survived in the industry long-term.”
Green’s longevity is partly down to his willingness to diversify. “I love the balance between acting and presenting,” he says.
“I’ve just completed a show on the Flying Scotsman, and I’m about to take off to the Philippines for a documentary on Robinson Crusoe.
Tales from Northumberland has been a monster hit for ITV, and now I’m doing Tales from the Coast, travelling round Britain’s islands and talking with people about how they thrive in these unforgiving conditions.”
Then there’s Extreme Fishing with Robson Green, in which our hero goes mano-a-mano with monsters from the deep.
“I’ve just been offered the lead in a BBC drama and they wanted me to film in Manchester – but Extreme Fishing want me to go to Nicaragua and Cuba and Alaska and Senegal. Kind of a no-brainer.”
Could some unspeakable deep-sea horror lure Green away from a third series of Grantchester ?
“I’d do it like a shot,” he says. “Grantchester is my happy place. If it wasn’t for the body count, I’d move there tomorrow.”
ROBSON GREEN: JAMES NORTON AND I GOT MOBBED FILMING GRANTCHESTER
Robson Green: James Norton and I got mobbed filming Grantchester
Grantchester star Robson Green has revealed how he and War and Peace heart-throb James Norton attracted more than a little attention while filming the new series of the Cambridgeshire-set 1950s ITV detective drama.
"James and I got mobbed when we popped into town after filming,”
“I’m used to going out in the sticks where I never see anyone, but it was full on. It shocked James. Women of a certain age were all over him, it was hysterical."
Robson, who plays plain-speaking Inspector Geordie Keating in the series, added that while he “hated” James in a way, “because he’s so talented and handsome”, he himself didn’t have that “hunger” any more.
“I don’t want to go to LA or anything. I love working, but also cherish the time I get to spend at home with my son,” he explained.
He had no doubt, however, that James, who can also currently be seen as Tommy Lee Royce in BBC1’s Happy Valley, “has an amazing career ahead”.
Robson, 51, also has another outing this week as Further Tales from Northumberland returns for a third instalment.
In this week’s opening episode the former Soldier Soldier star takes to the skies to get a bird's-eye view of the region when he’s given a lesson in flying a glider at a former RAF training base at Milfield.
Robson says he feel lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful landscape. “It’s why I’m rubbish in cities now. In areas where there’s no greenery, I feel very repressed."
Further Tales from Northumberland begins on Monday 29 February at 8pm on ITV
Grantchester begins on Wednesday March 2 at 9pm on ITV
ROBSON GREEN ON THE NEW SERIES OF GRANTCHESTER : "I DEFY ANYONE NOT TO CRY"
The actor is enjoying a fine bromance with James Norton – but on screen it'll all end in tears
The scene is set for a bromance. A picnic on the meadows. Sunlight on the shoulders of Rev Sidney Chambers and Detective Inspector Geordie Keating as they plunge into the river Cam for a swimming race.
All good, back-slapping, pec-rippling fun. But this is Grantchester, where every idyll has its serpent. Fans of the ecclesiastical crime drama, now in its second series, are in for a shock.
The unlikely pairing of a clergyman (James Norton) and a cop (Robson Green) is the bedrock of this drama. But later in the series when a murder suspect faces hanging (legal in Britain until 1965), the friendship between Sidney and Geordie is thrown into jeopardy.
For Robson Green, this development demands a step up from both actors and audience.
“I defy anybody not to cry as the relationship really starts to fracture,” he says. “In the first series, we basically wanted to say to the audience, ‘Do you like this?’, ‘Do you like these characters ?’
It set out to charm, and it worked. I think the likeability is still there, but what we’re doing with the characters in the second series is quite unsettling. Sidney and Geordie are poles apart on capital punishment — Sidney is against the death penalty, Geordie sees it as justice.
Arguments for and against are put forward, and each is equally valid. But it’s never a dry, political argument. The whole beauty of Grantchester is that the politics are implicit in the characters.”
Interlocking storylines, adapted by Daisy Coulam from James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries, subvert viewers’ prejudices at every turn. Sidney is a vicar who has seen active service in the Second World War; Geordie sees beyond villains and victims to the ripple effect of crime on society.
“Geordie wants to know why Sidney always sides with the bad ones,” explains Green. “Is it because Sidney has himself taken lives in the past ?
And Sidney asks Geordie, ‘Where is our compassion in all this?’ But Geordie’s compassion is not only for the victims, but for the destruction caused to the victims’ families and the people who loved them.
“On the other hand, murderers have families, too. It’s a moral minefield, and it forces uncomfortable choices on the viewer. You understand why the crime was committed – murder in Grantchester is always an act of passion – and then you have to start dealing with it.”
Green’s own views on capital punishment are equally ambivalent.
“Is it justice, or is simply revenge ? Does it really solve anything? Personally I don’t think it does. It’s not a religious thing for me, the way it is for Sidney. I don’t believe in the Almighty at all – I certainly don’t think we can solve problems by confiding in an invisible friend.
And I don’t think people are born bad, I think they’re made bad–or come to do bad things–by circumstance. But can we make a killer a better person? Is there evidence that rehabilitation works in cases of sexual assault? That debate is still open.
“I know that if someone I loved and cared about was hurt,” he goes on, “I’d want some kind of revenge. But I guess that’s where the justice system comes in, to stop us acting on our basic impulses. Because we all have an objective and a subjective view, and neither can be ignored.”
While the series has been something of an ethical work-out, the Northumberland-born star has scant patience with actors who assume their characters’ ideas and dilemmas.
“I’m not a Method actor, and if I find myself surrounded by actors who take their work home with them, I’ve got a sign I put out – I got myself one of those triangular ones like a roadworks sign – which says ‘Danger : Actors at Work’.
Sometimes my fellow actors don’t like it, but it’s my little thing. I’ll go on set and say, ‘OK, everyone, we’re telling a story here. It’s pretend. I’m not a detective and you’re not a victim of crime. So let’s just all enjoy ourselves, OK ?’”
He is also the actor least likely to bang on about the “bravery” required for a given role.
“My dad was down a mine for most of his working life, in an industry that just wasn’t designed for human beings. My mum worked in a shop and then cleaned houses in the evening to make sure that her children didn’t go without.
I work hard out of respect for my parents, respect for what they sacrificed in order for me to have a better life. But Grantchester isn’t work to me.
Dad always said, ‘Work’s not meant to be enjoyed, that’s why they call it work. Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work again.’ And it’s true. I genuinely love playing Geordie.
Grantchester’s one of those series where you look at the characters and think, ‘I wish I could have been there, at that time, with those people’.”
Green is 50. It’s a curious thing, he admits, this nostalgia for a world before his time. What qualities does he see in Grantchester that have disappeared from modern life ?
“Charm,” he says unhesitatingly.
“We’ve lost that ability to connect to each other face to face. Maybe it’s because we’re all so hyper-connected. People are starting and finishing relationships with a text. They’re dating on the internet. Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I mean! Talk to the woman !”
There is, he says, an element of mentoring in his off-screen relationship with James Norton.
“Can’t stand the man !” he roars, fondly. “James is the engine of the programme and he’s an absolute joy. He’s on such a wave at the moment, and he deserves every bit of it, because he’s a really creative talent.
ROBSON GREEN IS INSPIRED BY THE GHOST OF HIS FATHER
"I channel the spirit of my dead dad to play Geordie."
Robson Green has admitted to using an interesting technique to get into character for his role in Grantchester.
He gets his inspiration from a spooky source : the ghost of his late father.
The 51-year-old actor plays detective Geordie Keating in the drama set post-second world war, the era his dead dad grew up in and he uses his upbringing to help him get under the skin of his alter-ego Geordie.
The actor’s beloved dad, a coal miner also called Robson, died in 2009, aged 73.
But Robson brings him back to life on screen whenever he plays Geordie.
“There are times when loved ones pass away and you wonder if they’ve really gone."
“But I see my father so clearly in some of the things I do because I think, ‘My father used to do that, the mannerisms !’
“The rhythm that our scriptwriter Daisy Coulam has created and the rhythm that James Runcie has in his books kind of hark back to my father’s ilk and his father’s ilk and I know those rhythms.”
The show is full of nostalgia but it doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the post-war era.
Robson said: “When I read for the part, they said, ‘What are you going to bring to it ?’
“I said, ‘Well, the only atavistic thing I can bring [to the role] is my father’s upbringing and how he was with the men of the Fifities and the views and the taboos then — the undercurrent of something deeply uncomfortable because homophobia, racism and sexism was rife in the Fifties, absolutely rife.’
“This quintessentially English backdrop is in front of you, but it’s what is behind that is the interesting stuff."
“But there is lovely light and shade in Grantchester — it’s charming, with a serious amount of edge.”
Robson also told how he started going to the gym four times a week to keep up with his co-star Norton when he learned they had to strip off and jump in a lake, Mr Darcy style.
And it was all worthwhile when pictures of them filming in their underpants emerged with headlines including “Phwoarchester”.
Robson said: “I’m not the new Darcy, I think James is. I’m twice his age!”
But Robson doesn’t just work out to look good — it helps him cope with gruelling filming schedules, too.
He said: “You have to be not only mentally prepared but physically prepared.
“I look after myself. I work out four times a week and because of my fitness, I’m getting a few jobs.
“I got Strike Back on Sky 1 because I walked into the room and they said, ‘Bam, he looks military.’”
Meanwhile, Robson and co-star James Norton, who plays his crime fighting partner vicar Sidney Chambers, will return to screens for the second series and, although they don't yet know whether it will be a hit with viewers, they're already thinking ahead to the third series of Grantchester next year.
Robson has high hopes for a third installment especially as the on-screen bromance between Geordie and Sidney has spilled over into real life.
He said: “The greatest examples of love come from groups of men, be they miners, steel workers, or working on the docks.
“They call it camaraderie, they call it togetherness but it’s love, you know, it’s love.
“Love between men was always taboo but we deal with that on the show.”
" I'D WANT REVENGE FOR CRIME AGAINST A LOVED ONE. "
Grantchester's Robson Green has said he would want “some kind of revenge” if someone he knew and loved was the victim of a crime.
The Northumberland-born actor co-stars in ITV drama Grantchester as Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, alongside Happy Valley’s James Norton as vicar Sidney Chambers.
Set in the 1950s, it centres around an unlikely partnership between the no-nonsense copper and the clergyman’s more intuitive techniques of obtaining information from witnesses and suspects.
The forthcoming second series will tackle the death penalty when a murder suspect faces paying the ultimate price.
MPs voted for the permanent abolition of the penalty for murder in 1969.
“Sidney and Geordie are poles apart on capital punishment: Sidney is against the death penalty, Geordie sees it as justice,” Robson told The Radio Times
“The whole beauty of Grantchester is that the politics are implicit in the characters.”
The storyline revolving around this issue creates a convincing conflict between the two men, testing their friendship in ways neither imagined.
Robson shared his personal view on the subject of capital punishment. “I know that if someone I loved and cared about was hurt, I’d want some kind of revenge,” he said.
“But I guess that’s where the justice system comes in, to stop us acting on our basic impulses.”
Adapted from the novel Sidney Chambers And The Shadow Of Death by James Runcie, Grantchester’s first series was a success for ITV in 2014.
The series average consolidated at 6.6 million viewers, which is a strong debut in these days of video streaming services and multi channel TV.
On screen, Chambers and Keating have forged a friendship in spite of their differing approaches and beliefs.
Series one established the premise and the characters, but now the second has the freedom to further develop the duo and take them to places the audience may not expect.
In some respects, Robson appears to be as down to earth as the detective he plays. “I’m not a method actor,” he admitted.
“And if I find myself surrounded by actors who take their work home with them, I’ve got a sign I put out – I got myself one of those triangular ones like a roadworks sign – which says Danger: Actors at Work.”
The themes in the ITV series are universal, which may explain its popularity with viewers.
“Grantchester is my happy place,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the body count, I’d move there tomorrow.”
INTERVIEW: ROBSON GREEN TALKS GRANTCHESTER AND HIS POLDARK MOMENT
Grantchester, the drama about a country vicar turned detective and his ever-exasperated policeman companion finally returns to our screens this Wednesday at 9pm.
We left Sidney (James Norton) and Geordie (Robson Green) in a precarious situation after the pair investigated the shooting of a policeman. They solved the mystery, but Geordie was shot in the process, while Sidney’s lies caused disarray in his personal life.
We spoke to Robson Green about what to expect in the newest series, exciting new guest stars and his “Poldark moment” in the upcoming series.
How do we find Geordie at the start of series two after being shot at the end of series one ?
You find him wearing swimming trunks with James Norton wearing swimming trunks, with the headline Phwoarchester: James and Robson still have pecs appeal! That’s how you find him: physically in good shape.
Mentally, he’s all over the place. In the 50s men didn’t really talk about feelings – still today they don’t, but especially then – a lot of things were taboo, and imparting how you felt to your partner or your children or your loved ones was quite difficult.
He’s never really spoke about the shooting and how he feels about it, it’s scary for him, and he can’t really admit that, being a man in the 50s in a very prominent position.
What can you tell us about the new series ?
It knows what it is now, Grantchester, and it’s head and shoulders better than the last series. I’ve seen the first two episodes. The first one’s a beauty, it’s really dealing with the main arc of consequences and actions. If you committed wilful murder in the 50s and you were found guilty, you would hang.
How do these two characters [Geordie and Sidney] who are fond of one another, care about one another, love one another, react when they have a fundamental differing of opinion? It is deeply rooted what Geordie sees justice as, and what Sidney sees justice as.
Geordie seeks justice for the victim’s families and loved ones, and Sydney wants compassion, understanding. Geordie’s saying well, “I’ve got compassion for these people. Look at the destruction, look what you’ve caused, it’s not just one death, everybody died inside here.”
Sidney’s going, “look at this individual, he wasn’t born like this, shouldn’t we ask the question why ?” Both arguments are valid and great to play.
ROBSON GREEN IS INSPECTOR GEORDIE KEATING
What response have you had from viewers since series one of Grantchester ?
The response I’ve had from the first series : ‘Quality written all over it’, and, ‘Class’.
There’s an incredibly charismatic lead in James Norton who’s compelling to watch, and relationships that mean something. Within the Grantchester community everybody cares about each other, they’re loyal to each other, they’re kind to one another. But there’s this terrible undercurrent of something uncomfortable -‐ It’s charming with an edge.
A word that keeps coming up with people who have talked to me about the series is that it’s charming and the relationships are likeable. If it weren’t for the body count people would want to move to Grantchester because they’re characters with great values and who have something to say.
It’s an intelligent drama and it looks beautiful. They audience all go, ‘Oh, I’d like to be with those people; be around those people, and be part of their story.’
How did you feel about returning for a second series ?
I was with my mum at the garden centre when I got the call from the producer, Emma Kingsman-‐Lloyd. My mum bought me a fig tree for my birthday and it died, so we went to get another one. Emma called and said, ‘what are you doing ?’ and I said, ‘I’m choosing a fig tree in the garden centre with my mum !’ She went, ‘I’ve got some good news for you.’ And I went, ‘Oh, tell my mum!’ and handed over the phone. So my mum was the first one to find out, before I did, because I kind of knew what Emma was going to say.
I was overjoyed that Grantchester was re-commissioned for many reasons - my career, the fact I’m overjoyed that people still want to employ me, the fact that I was going to be working with James Norton again, with Al Weaver, with Tessa Peake-‐Jones, as well as the talented crew. It’s a real team effort and, hand on heart, in thirty years, it’s the happiest working environment - it’s not even a working environment.
It’s just the happiest environment in which I’ve done my job. It’s just so enjoyable, and there was never a morning I woke up and thought, ‘I don’t want to go in today,’ which I’ve done on many dramas. Diederick (Santer), the Exec, and Emma, the producer, and everyone else says that it’s such an enjoyable show, and we’re not just saying it, it really is.
Everyone’s happy. It’s fun every day. But also the opportunity has come along for us to do this drama and everybody’s prepped. Still today I don’t know how James Norton is actually doing it you know, because of the workload he has. But he does his prep, and he’s a great captain of a very, very steady and happy ship.
You and James clearly get on very well. Do you tease and play tricks on each other ?
Yes ! It’s both of us! I fluff more than James, I don’t know if it’s an age thing. Sometimes when I fluff -I don’t do it often, but when I do – it’s kind of strange, the effect it has on James. Something will happen, and there’ll just be a glint in his eye or my eye and we just go. And it’s unbearable because we start laughing and it’s very infectious.
Then we get told off by the director because we have to be responsible and serious and focussed, and that makes us worse. We do tease each other. Imagine what it was like when we filmed the opening sequence, which involved taking our tops off and the swimming in the river ! I’m trying to outdo this guy who’s half my age, and he’s basically an athlete in the gym, so that was quite comical.
Did you prep for the swimming scenes ?
Yeah, of course. I keep fit anyway, but aesthetically it’s got to be pleasing to the eye for that opening scene. This idyllic backdrop, ‘welcome back to Grantchester’, the two leads are having a swim in the Cam. But yeah, there was many a battle in the gym.
You and James have great chemistry off and on screen. Do their characters develop this series ? How does the relationship progress ?
It’s strange, the characters and the relationship develop out of us being confident and friends with each other (off screen] now. James is a great mate. I was out with him last night and he said, ‘will you take me fishing?’ and I said, ‘of course! I don’t think you’ll catch anything, but you know….’ I’ll take him to some lovely rivers up North. I think the relationship develops because the shorthand is in place and we both understand what the relationship is.
But in terms of the endearing off beat relationship that is in the series, the only way forward is to fracture that, ito jeopardise it. So the relationship you care about is fractured, and what you need to do throughout the story is work out how we’re going to get them back together again: that’s just the basic arc.
What fractures the relationship is that they both hold very strong, deeply held beliefs, and the main one is how they deal with justice. Geordie is for capital punishment and Sidney sees through understanding and reasoning and he believes killing someone never solved anything because in the end it’s not closure, it’s revenge.
Geordie’s view is that it is justice because you have to be compassionate not only about the victim but the loved ones of that victim. Sidney thinks about the carnage and the fallout from a destructive act. So those different views make them poles apart and it affects how they interact with each other, to the point where they fall out massively.
Would you say this series is a little darker than the previous series ?
Yeah, you wouldn’t expect that from a member of the clergy, or from two best friends. But that’s what happens when you love a person, there’s the flip side, and it can manifest itself in quite destructive ways. There’s nothing demonstrative about their arguments. It’s like, ‘I don’t want to fall out with you, but I’m going to if you carry on like this.
I love you as a friend, I love you as a person, I need you in my life, but if you carry on saying the things you’re saying it’s never going to work out.’ It’s that kind of debate.
I don’t mind saying it’s an absolute love story between two men who care for one another. Of two guys from different parts of the world like me and James are, really! And in the end we are but men and care for each other. I find him an incredible individual behind the lens and in front of it. It’s amazing because there were other names in the hat for the role of Sidney, with other names maybe it wouldn’t have worked. It’s worked out an absolute treat; it’s just one of those things.
The friendship works in front of the lens and you can take risks and you can argue as well. We’ve had differences of opinion and it’s been quite heated at some points, but in a good way. I love the man and he’s an incredible actor and he’s a star in the real sense. You care about the relationship because that’s real life; those characters are real life.
Neil Morrissey joins the cast of this series as well. Had you worked with Neil before ?
No, never before, but he’s such a talent -‐ a great actor. He’s the ultimate professional and a naturally very funny man. He has great timing and all those attributes of a fine actor. He can sing, he can dance, he can act and he’s a joy on set and he just fitted in beautifully.
Had you met him before ?
Yes I had, but only briefly. I met him in a dressing room in a theatre when he was up in Newcastle. His partner at the time was in a show. So I didn’t know him well but I instantly liked him. I’ve worked with Martin Clunes on Strikeback before, so we talked about Clunesy a lot, obviously, they’re good mates.
Tell us a bit about Neil’s character and the relationship with your character.
Well basically, the common ground he and Geordie have is that they’re both parents. There’s a murder and he’s the father of the victim and therefore he, throughout the series, is seeking justice. In a way Geordie sides with him. He suspects him at first then realises that he’s got to take Harding (Neil’s character) out of the equation. Geordie puts himself in Harding’s shoes. He thinks ‘if it was my daughter I’d want to string someone up too’.
So Geordie and Sidney have common ground and common feelings, whereas Sidney can forgive people. He truly believes there is good in everyone. This difference of opinion starts to drive Geordie from Sidney.
In series one Geordie was shot on duty. How has that affected him ?
He thinks he’s recovered, but in most PTSD individuals the past will come and manifest itself in strange ways. A gun is pulled on him in series two and he starts having flashbacks. He’s not sleeping and he starts to question his role in life. But also he’s never really talked about a massive part of his life, which was the forgotten war when he was in Burma, and all the carnage he saw there, and the destruction and the loss of loved ones. Combine that with the traumatic effect of being shot… he’s trying to seek help but he’s suffering in silence. It only comes in little spats.
His role is never filtered with angst, it just comes out in beats and I think that’s good writing. Just suddenly a camera flash will go off and it sparks something in Geordie’s mind. He has a crisis of self, and Sidney recognises that, saying, ‘you’re not you anymore.’
It’s not this depressive thing though and there’s also a lot of comedy in the series -‐ there are some very, very funny moments, especially when he’s trying to get Sidney a girl.
How does is go when Geordie sets about finding Sidney a girlfriend ?
He’s playing matchmaker, but he’s getting women Geordie thinks are right for Geordie, not for Sidney! There’s a lovely opening montage where he’s kind of speed dating for Sidney and telling these women the pros and cons of being with this man: ‘there’s many pros you know, but if you don’t like jazz then forget being with this guy. But knock the jazz aside he’s a keeper!’ These women are auditioning for him, it’s just hilarious.
Do you think there’s part of Geordie that wishes he were the single guy ?
Of course, that’s another beautiful part of the relationship -‐ they live vicariously through each other. Sidney wants what Geordie’s got: a family, security and cohesion. But Geordie looks at Sidney and sees this free spirit who’s out partying. A member of the clergy with women falling at his feet and he thinks, ‘well maybe if I were single, that would happen to me too.’
But it doesn’t. They’re both looking at glitter balls that don’t exist, but it’s lovely to play.
How’s Geordie’s relationship with his wife Cathy ?
It’s fractured. It’s strained because of what he’s feeling about his place in the environment, in life, and having this crisis. He’s unable to talk to Cathy about it but he’s able to talk to Sidney, which is really interesting. I’ve always found that -‐ the people you should really be telling your deepest, darkest feelings to, about life and everything, don’t generally tend to be family, it’s your friends. So in a way, Geordie uses Sidney as confession and tells him what he’s really feeling about everything.
What was it like being back in Grantchester village and Cambridge ?
There are very few parts of the country that are so quintessentially English, and it is. The meadows are beautiful. It’s timeless really. It’s picture postcard. The backdrop of Cambridge and what it represents – the university and everything that is going on there or has gone on there.
Grantchester itself is this place that I don’t think exists anywhere else in Great Britain. It’s just this type of idyllic, English village that should never change. It’s a place that makes me think I could live there, easily. The sounds and the smells and there’s no need to be staring at mobile phones. I’m reading a book called The Mark And The Void by Paul Murray, and so many times we’re walking round in places and we want to be somewhere else, because we’re on our phones.
We want to be somewhere else whereas the important thing in life is when you go walking around Grantchester meadows, birdsong makes you feel good, the vegetation is alive, the colour makes you feel good, and just the sounds and the smells and the peace, it just makes you feel good. And that manifests itself.
In the opening scene, we’re swimming in the Cam and the dog’s swimming along, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and you think, ‘wow, does it get any better than this?’ That was a lovely day’s filming. We were blessed because it pi**ed down the day before and the day after !
GRANTCHESTER IS SO PEACEFUL AND QUINTESSENTIALLY ENGLISH
Robson Green looks forward to a second series of rural crime drama Grantchester.
I can’t survive here,” says Robson Green, as he gestures out of the window at London’s rain-spattered Southbank. “I can’t survive with that backdrop, because that backdrop to me is not alive, it’s soulless.”
Robson, 51, has travelled to London from his native Northumberland, to talk about the second series of 1950s-set drama Grantchester, which sees him fighting crime as Detective Geordie Keating alongside James Norton’s vicar, Sidney Chambers.
The show starts a six-part run this week, and he says that filming on location in Cambridgeshire is similar to being at home in the countryside.
“I love Hexham, where I live” he says. “And Grantchester reminds me of Hexham a lot. Everything is alive; the birdsong, the flowers, the vegetation. I really connect with that, and I get it from Grantchester. I love it; it is so peaceful and quintessentially English.”
Robson certainly had the opportunity to get close to nature for the opening scene of the series, which sees him and James stripped down to their swimming trunks for a dip in the River Cam.
He laughs as he recalls the bawdy online headlines generated by photos from filming. “Phwoarchester!” he chuckles. “James and Robson have pecs appeal! I was told about it. My mum went, ‘Oh you’ve got pecs appeal! That’s clever, isn’t it?”
Getting in shape for those scenes brought out the competitive spirit in both himself and James, says Robson.
“There were a few gym battles leading up to that scene,” he laughs “James is an athlete and, annoyingly, he is so good at everything he does. We were really looking forward to the swim, but we were praying for sunshine!”
When we last saw Geordie, he’d been shot on duty. When we find him a year later he’s still struggling to come to terms with it, and his wartime past.
“The one thing Geordie has not dealt with are the consequences of being shot,” says Robson. “He is not speaking to anyone about it, so the opening scene is the two of them swimming. Physically, he looks OK but mentally you can tell there’s something deeper going on.
“It has brought back memories of his time during the Second World War, where he saw many of his friends being shot. You think it was in the trenches or on the battlefield, but actually he was a prisoner of war in Burma and he has never admitted that to anyone.”
Geordie’s hidden past continues to haunt him throughout the series, and Robson says it will move viewers to tears.
“The guys who came back from Burma had no cheering crowds,” he says. “I read an article about an officer who was a prisoner of war in Burma and it was just shocking. But he wouldn’t dare admit it.
“I have no idea what it must have been like during that time. But the way the story unfolds, I defy you not to cry at the end of the series when he admits to Sidney his deepest feelings.”
Robson says the closeness between himself and James continues after the cameras have stopped rolling. “That unspoken shorthand we have as friends manifests itself in front of the lens, and it’s a very rare thing.”
Grantchester star James Norton on stripping for river swim scene: "Poldark made me feel inadequate."
Co-star Robson Green adds, "There were a few gym wars going on between me and James."
Fans of James Norton will need little persuading when it comes to watching the second series of Grantchester. But just in case they were in two minds, the ITV drama has handily included a scene of shirtless swimming in its opening minutes featuring the in-demand leading man and his co-star Robson Green.
It seems that current period dramas are replete with stripped-off stars, from the willy waving in War and Peace to Poldark’s bare-chested scything. So do such scenes intimidate the likes of Norton ?
“That Poldark shot made me feel incredibly inadequate and emasculated,” he laughs.
“There’s always been a body beautiful thing with television, but the focus has been more on women over the last however many decades. So it’s probably right that the tables should turn, but I don’t know if it’s a healthy pressure. There is now a sort of expectation on men.”
And the danger with having pecs and sculpted abs behind the dog collar of sleuthing cleric Sidney Chambers is that they might end up looking anachronistic.
Grantchester is, of course, set in a 1950s inching its way out of post-war austerity and Chambers – like every good TV detective – is a man with vices. So surely the torso has to match both the time period and Sidney’s lifestyle ?
“Yes, it can’t run counter to the story. We all know that Sidney drinks whisky, smokes and lives a good life. But he’s also fit and healthy – he cycles and maintains the garden at the church. So it is about treading a fine line.
“You have to acknowledge the expectation. And I can’t deny that Robson and I were in the gym doing press-ups the night before we shot that scene. Of course we were !
We were freaking out thinking, ‘oh god, ten million people are going to be watching us in our swimming trunks’. But when vanity supersedes the story, that’s when it comes really distasteful and tacky, if I’m honest.”
At 30-years-old, Norton is a relative newcomer when it comes to winning the hearts of viewers, especially when compared to that veteran smoothie Robson Green, who returns as career copper Geordie Keating.
So how did Green feel about taking a dip in the River Cam alongside his partner in crimesolving ?
“You get to my age and, you know, it’s all too obvious if you’ve put on a few pounds because everything’s in HD.
So there were a few gym wars going on between me and James. A few press-ups on the riverbank! But I do like to keep fit, both physically and mentally. I keep my side of the street clean and live a healthy life.”
So is there a lot of competition between himself and Norton? “Well, you see him running around like a young buck and you just think, ‘calm down man, it’s a marathon not a sprint,” says Green with a twinkle.
“There’s a cricket match in one of the episodes this series and, at one point, I dropped a ball in front of everybody and James was like, ‘yes!’ He was so thrilled.”
And yet despite the one-upmanship, the pair appear to enjoy an easy rapport, with Green citing Norton as a “very good friend”, before adding: “You get to a certain stage in your career and you just want to have a good time.
I’ve been in this industry for 30 years and I want some fun. I don’t want to be alongside negative energy anymore. If you’re not enjoying it, then what’s the point ?”
That three-decade TV CV has seen 51-year-old Green feature in a string of hits from Soldier Soldier and Wire in the Blood to Waterloo Road and Mount Pleasant. So has he offered any advice to Norton, an actor whose star is most definitely in the ascendant ?
“I can’t give James any advice. Look at him – he’s amazing! Crikey, he’s six foot tall, he’s charismatic, he’s a superstar. I thought he was the best thing in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, fantastic in War and Peace and amazing in Happy Valley.
The man’s flying. But he’s not in any way let all this success get to him. He’s a really rooted individual. And the stuff we have together on screen is a joy.”