Jace: In this episode, James Norton and Robson Green return to the podcast. We’ll look back on this season’s most dramatic moments -- from Sidney and Geordie’s fight to Sidney and Amanda’s kiss -- and we’ll look ahead to Grantchester’s future.
Robson Green (Robson): Hello. How are you?
James Norton (James): Thank you.
Jace: Okay so now I want to talk about the fifth episode, the big fight. What did you think when you read the script and got to this scene ?
James:Do you know, actually, where that scene came from? It came from the season one, at the end-- towards the end of season one, and we were all on cloud nine, loving this job, having the best time, and I remember, you start to fantasize about what may come in the next series, you know. I don't know if it was me or you ...
Robson: It was you, wasn't it?
James: Said, "Why doesn't Geordie and Sidney have a massive fight in the church? That would be brilliant. It would be brilliant." And I think everyone went like, "Yeah...” Rolled their eyes and went, “Yeah. Come on. That’s never going to happen."
Then, I think I remember Daisy saying later on that it became this sort of center of the story, because how do you get from where you left them in series one, they’re the closest friend's loyal, and...to that in five episodes? I think wonderful Daisy just said, "That's it, that's a brilliant, brilliant challenge, and what great drama.”
He, Sidney's almost about to kill Geordie. One more punch, he sees red. It's all tied up in guilt, and what's happened with Gary, and just basic shock, and...
Robson: I've seen the scene, and a) it's beautifully written, but again, the way the argument unravels, and it's not an angst-ridden argument, it's not a screaming match. It comes out a genuine emotional belief for what they represent and who they are, and defines who they are. And just Geordie pushes just that little bit too far.
Geordie: Why do you always side with the bad ones, eh ? Why do you always do that, Sidney ? Is it because you see yourself in them? Is that it ? Yeah, is it because you've killed, too ? That soldier you put out of his misery. What was his name ?
Robson: It's just beautifully set, beautifully directed. It's one of my favorite moments.
And certainly, I know my mum will just go, "Oh no, don't hit him," not because I'm her son, because she cares enough about the two of them. You don't want them to fall out, you don't want that to happen, but it does, and it saddens you even more, which makes, hopefully, the reconciliation even more powerful. Yeah...
Jace: What was it like filming that sequence, and were you guys actually hitting one another ?
James: Did I hit you at all?
Robson: Not at all. You're a very good stage fighter.
James: Thanks, mate.
Yeah it was fun, actually. It's one of those weird scenes where the drama is so high and the stakes are so high that kind of costs you. It's exhausting, it's emotional, it's not particularly pleasant, but at the same time you can't deny that it's exciting. And you've got the stunt coordinators there, and we've been building up to this point for so long, and because it means so much to the characters, it was yeah…
Robson: We were swinging, yeah. We were swinging hard. Any closer, and we would have hurt each other.
James:I mean I think that there was the point where they went over the edge in the fight, happened, and then there was another point they could have gone, Sidney could have taken it to the next level, thrown that another two or three punches, and then…
I think the point about the fight is that what they both realize is that it's about justice for both of them. And they both believe in justice, and they both share that, and that's what brings them together, but they just have two versions of it, and that's life.
People always have different views. People's ethical, moral compasses are always slightly different, and so this is the brilliant moment where two men devoted to each other and love each other, but their views of what is just -- in this particular instance -- is very different. And their views of justice actually transcend their relationship. That's testament to them as men, and why they're such essentially good souls, is because they will put their principles and their version of justice above their friendship, which not many people would do.
Robson: But you also try and apologize, after the fight, in episode six, but there comes a point I go, "It's all right."
James: Whoah, whoah, whoah.
Robson: I know...But, I'm saying ... There is a point.
Don't tell me to shut up. Do you see what he does? Look at him tapping me. I'm old enough to be your father ... Which is one of the lines.
Jace: We'll talk about episode six, now. These two men seem lost without each other; they provide that compass that each one of them needs. Is that true?
Robson: Yeah, he is the moral compass not only for the village, but for Geordie as well, for everybody. If he's not doing well, the village isn't doing well.
James: And vice versa.
Robson: Yeah. But, I use the same thing. It's so true.
I support Newcastle United -- bear with me here with this analogy. I support Newcastle United. They're our temple. That's our church; that's where every Saturday to support this team. When they are not doing well, bad things happen in Newcastle. I kid you not.
But I use it because he stands for something that keeps everyone together. We all go to you. You are my Malcolm MacDonald; you're my Supermac. When Sidney's not in a good place, Geordie isn't in a good place, and neither is Mrs. McGuire or Al Weaver's character, Leonard, or Dickens, for that matter. The whole village, he's there, and without him and that kind of engine of the peace, it doesn't work. It simply doesn't work.
James: Similarly, vice-versa. Geordie says to Sidney, as I said earlier, they're both without their anchors, and I think it's quite a nice thought that before they met ... We didn't actually see them really, before they met in series one, but they were probably a little bit lost, and that's why this friendship is so important to them. I think …
Robson: But I just...
Jace: It culminates in a beautiful embrace, finally, between the two of them, that is sort of a long time coming, that they are finally able to sort of reconcile.
James: That was a funny thing to shoot, because we were thinking how ... Again, we do not want to make this cheesy, we don't want to make this saccharine or, I don't know, we don't want to patronize the audience and tell them what to feel, and we need to respect period. And we were trying to work it out with the director, how do we make this both emotional and a big reconciliation, but also these are men. They wouldn't burst into tears on each other's shoulder and... All it took actually, we realized, was just a little glance over to the house to see if anyone was watching, which meant that, “Okay. I think the coast is clear. We can hug.”
Robson: That was it, that was your idea. That was a great idea. I went for the obvious stage direction: "They hug." Let's hug. That was me being obvious, but there was a seed sown, there was a lovely scene when you tried to apologize, and I remember putting a question mark at the end of one of the lines. The line went, "You and me, we were never going to work, were we." But I changed it:
Robson: And therefore, I'm offering an olive branch to, “Please don't let this friendship end. Please don't let it end.” The seed was sown for that, again, in the writing and the instruction, but James has got some wonderful ideas. Keeping with the footballing analogy, he crosses them over and I head them in.
Jace: There's a very passionate kiss, finally, between Sidney and a very heavily pregnant Amanda, who announces her intention to leave Guy.
Jace: What does this kiss mean for the two of them, and what might a 1950s village make of the vicar snogging a married, pregnant woman?
James: Well yeah. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see if that happens then how will it pan out, but...
I think it was funny for Morven and I because we've been playing these characters for two years now, and talking, and we've become really close friends, as well. She's a great, great actress, and a lovely person. And yet we've never actually -- as Sidney and Amanda -- we've never been able to demonstrate that. It's all been in just looks, and the unspoken, and just general kind of brushes of hands or whatever. So it was kind of great to finally be able to kiss her, weirdly. It's funny, as Sidney, there has been this buildup of years and years, and so…
Their situation does not allow them to be together. By her choosing Sidney, she turns her back on her family. And similarly Sidney, you know, he loves Amanda, but my gosh, does he love the church, and God, and he's dedicated to that, and of course he can't be with a married woman and live under the same roof as her.
So it sets up a brilliant, dramatic thing: What's going to happen? It’s love versus God for Sidney. Who will he choose?
James: Tune in.
Jace: The other big surprise, of course, is 1948 hair on Sidney. What was it like playing a younger, more happy version of Sidney chambers?
James: It was lovely, actually. Again, it's sort of that energy, that sort of slightly -- that more innocent and naïve, unpolluted Sidney. I think over time, what with his relationship with Amanda, what happened at war...So in his relatively short life he's collected a lot of baggage, and so to sort of go back before all the baggage, really, and find this man who is essentially happy... And you can see it...He's sort of giggling with his mate, just before they get ordained.
James: It's a lovely moment to kind of punctuate so that you can see the difference.
And I love the cut they’ve done in the edit where suddenly you see him and he's sort of drawn and...
Jace: Sad Sidney.
James: Sad Sidney. Sad and old Sidney.
Jace: There is an underlying sense here about the fragility of life, between the aftermath of Geordie's shooting and the deaths of old Abigail and Gary. How does that shape the decisions that these men make in the finale?
Robson: I think, certainly from Geordie's point of view, he talks and advocates justice that not only for the parents of the victim, but also what he stands for. So a life for a life, he believes in, but when it actually happens, was it a conclusion or was it just revenge?
The actual death of Gary just affects the whole village, and especially Sidney, but...What Geordie represents, and what is justice? What is the death penalty? Are we solving anything by killing anyone?
James: I think also, in a more... in a slightly more macro way, certainly I think it's all those things: from the darkness comes light, and that relief, and maybe that's what Gary's death brought everyone, a bit of a more impulsive "go out and get it" attitude.
You've got that moment on the bank with Amanda. I wonder if Sidney would have just opened his arms in a similar way if Gary hadn't died, and Mrs. McGuire suddenly opened her arms, so who knew?
Jace: I'm wondering if there are any humorous behind the scenes stories that you can share for making Grantchester.
Robson: James, you want to say ... We nearly lost James Norton, a prank that went bad. It was the first sunny day, I think. The water was freezing cold, and it's a swimming scene. It was battle of the gym. I was in the gym, like I think, three times a day ... James is going once a week, but he won the war, I have to say.
Anyway, I don't know if it was out of jealousy, or bitterness, or just I'm getting old...I thought, "Oh this’ll be good. I'll get a bucket of cold water from the river and just throw it over James."
He's got his back turned, I fill a bucket with water, he turns around just at the minute I'm throwing it, and as I throw the water, James runs backwards, trips, and falls down the bank of the river. And from my view I thought, "Oh he's broken his leg. He's not going to be able to get up. He's going to drown. Oh my god, he's dead." That all went on in a nanosecond. And the horror, the horror of just watching him fall, everything went into slow-mo or went black and white, and it was...
James: You could hear the producers and the whole crew just going (gasps). The amount of insurance, and early on in the shoot it was ... Because I just disappeared into the water.
Robson: It was a shock, horrendous.
James: Really horrendous. Yeah but that was quite a funny day.
Robson: And then he came up laughing, which is good, and then he poured water over me.
James: No, I pulled you in.
Robson: Yes, you did.
James: That day was quite funny because there was a Daily Mail journalist who turned up on set, and Robson and I... You take your clothes off, you want to keep warm, and you want to ... We're doing the odd bit-- a little press-up, and they had to hold these big pieces of polystyrene to stop the ... It was awful.
Robson: Let's be honest, we that’s not keeping warm; that's just being vain.
James: It was a bit of a ... I was given the ... Yeah.
Robson: But I think the Daily Mail headline was, "These two boys still have pecs appeal?” What are you laughing at?
James: Did anything else happen? We had a few close shaves. One guy had a knock on the head, but he was fine.
Robson: Yeah, but the pranks... James and I laugh.
I think it was the final day, and it's quite a sensitive scene going on, and you went, "Robson", and as I turned round, he had his finger next to my eye, so as I turned round, my eye poked into his finger. But it didn't hurt, but I just thought it was funny, and he just cracked up. We had to walk into this sensitive scene, and all I think I had was one line of dialogue, tears rolling down my face. And as I walked in, I just delivered the line, back turned to them, didn't even look at them, at the back of the room. And the director thought, "That's an interesting way to deliver that line.”
James: It's become so stupid our corpsing. This makes us out to sound like we're really unprofessional, which we sometimes are, but no… Generally we're professional.
It's become that -- because we're spending so much time with each other -- it's come to the point where you don't even have to do anything. It's just a look in a slightly mischievous way… And it's fantastically fun, but it's really dangerous because it's… When time is running out, and there's a few minutes to go, and the director's getting stressed, and then someone gives you the little mischievous look, and the other one is like, "No!" That's it. You might as well go home. Those three minutes are dead. The more pressure, the more the laughter. It's awful.
Jace: Now obviously you both are very busy, and this is sort of in the hands of ITV, obviously, but is there any sense that there will be a third season of Grantchester?
James: It all depends really on the ratings. I think by the time this is broadcast we'll know, but we certainly all love it.
Diederick, the executive producer, said at the very beginning of the read through, he said, "Guys, without being too cheesy, I think we all agree that Grantchester is our sort of shared happy place," and it's true. We film in the summer, the locations are amazing, the crew and the cast are wonderful. We've got this little black Labrador bouncing around our feet, everyone's swooning over him. It's a really, really, really fun and very special job for us to film, so if they will give us a third series, I'm sure it wouldn't take much to persuade us.
Jace: Besides for James and Robson, other Grantchester fans will be happy to hear that ITV has since announced that Sidney, Geordie, Amanda and -- perhaps most importantly -- Dickens, will be appearing on screen for a third season next year.
Meanwhile, British crime drama Wallander returns to Masterpiece next week promising even more mystery...and murder.
Beginning May 8th, brooding Swedish detective Kurt Wallander will wind down his investigations in Wallander’s final season.
Then the morning after, esteemed Northern Irish actor Sir Kenneth Branagh -- who plays Kurt Wallander -- will join us here on Masterpiece Studio to contemplate the show’s less-sinister mysteries:
Jace: Tune into Masterpiece, Sundays at 9 pm ET to catch the final, three episodes of Wallander.
And look out for new episodes of the Masterpiece Studio podcast at pbs.org/Masterpiece, on Stitcher and on iTunes.
Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob. Kathy Tu is our editor. Rachel Aronoff is our production coordinator. Special thanks to Nathan Tobey and Barrett Brountas. The executive producer of Masterpiece is Rebecca Eaton.
Masterpiece Studio is brought to you by Audible.
Sponsors for Masterpiece on PBS are Viking River Cruises, Audible, and The Masterpiece Trust.
In the aftermath of Gary's hanging and Sidney and Geordie's big fight, the once and (hopefully) future dream team—James Norton (Sidney Chambers) and Robson Green (Geordie Keating) - get together on the podcast to remember the past as it truly was.
Jace Lacob (Jace): Masterpiece Studio is brought to you by Audible. For a free trial, go to Audible.com/Masterpiece.
Jace: Grantchester might seem like another cozy, mystery series, but after two seasons, we’ve learned that it’s about more than just “whodunnit.”
Grantchester reminds us that under the idyllic, 1950s sheen of small-town life lurked a hatred and intolerance that was anything but cozy...
Last season, we saw Johnny -- the only black man at the party -- being unfairly accused of theft...
Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and in this special bonus episode of Masterpiece Studio, James Norton and Robson Green reflect on Grantchester’s sinister side.
Now Grantchester seems to be a very lovely little village, but the public reaction to the Redmond case shows quite plainly some of the intolerance of the 1950s. Is this a darker side of English village life?
James Norton (James): Yes. I think the writers, Daisy and the producers, have been very good at showing ... They don't want to paint this picturesque, saccharine, wedding cake-type world where this sort of token crime happens. They wanted to create the 1950s as it was, and the truth was there was an enormous amount of prejudice and hostility towards gay people and people of certain races. Post-war, there was a lot of anger and confusion. There wasn't total, wonderful harmony in these sort of idyllic villages.
Robson Green (Robson): It was really interesting doing episode two of the new series, where there's a crime scene, there's a suspected suicide, the body's lying down there, and the victim's wife turns up...
Robson: ...and she's out of control, and she's thrashing out, and Geordie's trying to pacify her…
Jace: And he slaps her, and I ...
Robson: He slaps her. Here's the thing, slaps her really hard, and..."We've got to go again," I said. "Just check out the background action. Very few of them are reacting to it." And a lot of them were of a certain age that would have been around adults in the 1950s, and I remember talking to the lady, and I was going, "Just need to be ... React a bit more." She went "Oh no, it was like that in our village. It was allowed. We expected that. We saw that all the time, women being hit by the fellas. Yeah, nothing wrong with that." I was just like, "Really?"
And when I think about it, I grew up ... Kind of remembered things from the late 60s and early 70s, and knowing what went on in the mining village that I certainly lived in, which was a very happy place on the surface, but there was an air of something dark and uncomfortable, and I witnessed quite a few incidents where there was men being very unpleasant to women, and, yeah... But it was like ... No one called the police.
So it was just...It was allowed, it was expected, and it was swept under the carpet.
I think that's the beauty of the era. A lot of it is unspoken: the homophobia, the racism, the sexism, the reinforcing of every stereotype. It was quite prevalent in the 50s.
James: Well yeah. It's also kind of positive, because it shows us how far we've come in the last 50 years, or 60 years, but also there's a warning sign that we aren't that far away from these times, and we must value how far we've come.
Jace: Next Monday on Masterpiece Studio... James Norton and Robson Green return to the podcast to talk about the aftermath of Sidney and Geordie’s fist fight and the gripping season finale, airing May 1st on Masterpiece.
James Norton: What's going to happen? It’s love versus God for Sidney. Who will he choose? Tune in!
Jace: Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob. Kathy Tu is our editor. Rachel Aronoff is our production coordinator. Special thanks to Nathan Tobey and Barrett Brountas. The executive producer of Masterpiece is Rebecca Eaton.
You can find this podcast at pbs.org/masterpiece, on Stitcher, and on iTunes.
Masterpiece Studio is brought to you by Audible.
Sponsors for Masterpiece on PBS are Viking River Cruises, Audible, and The Masterpiece Trust.
The Dark Side of Grantchester
Handsome vicar Sidney Chambers and gruff detective Geordie Keating are back on the beat, solving mysteries in the idyllic town of Grantchester all while battling demons of their own.
We'll sit down with Sidney and Geordie -- James Norton and Robson Green -- for an in-depth look at what's in store for Grantchester’s second season.
Picnics & Murders... Grantchester is Back!
Jace Lacob (Jace): Masterpiece Studio is brought to you by Audible. For a free trial, go to audible.com/masterpiece.
Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to Masterpiece Studio.
1950s crime-drama Grantchester returns this week, promising more country picnics, pints in the pub, bicycle rides...and murders.
At the heart of it all is an unlikely, crime-solving duo -- jazz-loving, Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers and gruff, police detective Geordie Keating:
Jace: What's next for this unlikely pair? And will Sidney finally find love?
We sat down with Sidney and Geordie themselves -- James Norton and Robson Green -- to look ahead to Grantchester’s second season.
Robson Green (Robson): Hello. How are you?
James Norton (James): Thank you.
Jace: You two have the same hair cut. Is that true?
Robson: Mine's not cut, it's falling out. I'm 51, you know. I know I don't look a day over 35 ...
Jace: You don't.
Robson: James had his cut for a part, because he does lots of work.
James: I'm trying to style myself like my guru, Robson. I try and do some inlets.
Jace: So on the surface, a hard-drinking, jazz-loving vicar and a gruff, methodical detective-inspector seem like a chalk and cheese pairing. What is it that keeps these two together, and what do they have in common?
Robson: I agree, it is an incredibly unlikely pairing. Imagine pitching that idea in front of a panel of commissioners. You've got a charismatic member of the clergy, and this no-nonsense, plain-speaking detective, and together they solve crimes in the idyllic village that is Grantchester.
Jace: Murder capital of England.
James: In the words of James Runcie, Grantchester is this idyllic, quintessentially English place that is perfect for picnics and murder.
Robson: I think what keeps them together is this shorthand they have. There was a need for each other's company.
James: I think so. I think it starts off from series one, when you first meet them, you realize that they can use one another to provide what's missing in their life: Geordie can provide the excitement which Sidney is craving in the slightly monotonous and calm existence of the village priest. Similarly, I think Sidney's entanglements with women, and things like that also gives Geordie a boost.
But then what starts to emerge in the first series, and which we then continue to explore in the second is this much deeper bond and union, and it's just a very traditional, strong friendship.
Robson: They're both men of ... Were both men of strong faith, where I think Geordie lost his during World War II and what he went through. He was a prisoner of war in Burma-- Well, that's the brief, anyway. Therefore, when he came out of there, he really doesn't think you can solve any problem or crime, for that matter, by confiding in an invisible friend, but when it comes to the crunch in any desperate situation, I think he does call to the Almighty, or second best, Sidney.
Robson: He has great respect for what Sidney stands for and everything he is, and I think the whole community stands around the moral compass that is Sidney. If Sidney's in any kind of capitulation or fall, I think the village and its occupants fall with him.
Jace: Do you think the central conflict within the series, perhaps then is sort of that between the law of man and the law of God?
James: Yeah. I think that's a really good way of putting it. I think Sidney spends a lot of time wrangling with these big existential, moral questions, and I think Sidney's this man of faith. He has this code of being a vicar, and he's committed his life to that, but at the same time he's a normal young guy, and the law of man dictates that he is attracted to these women, and often he breaks confidences and he makes big errors and hurts people along the way
James: They both are setting out to lead the right life, the life to which will lead them to happiness and bring the people around them happiness and safety, and it's the question of how to do that. As you say, is it through the church, is it through your instinctive moral compass I think.
Jace: Where do we find the two of them as we pick up again in season two?
Robson: I think it knows what it is now, Grantchester, and when that happens you can start taking risks with the relationships.
I think one of the things in TV you have to have in any relationship is likability, and these two are very likable, and you care enough for them. That's great for our producer, I think. If you care enough about a relationship, okay, what's the next thing we're going to do? We're going to jeopardize it. How are we going to jeopardize it? We've got this amazing overriding arc in series two, a very powerful overriding arc: They're fractured. Are we going to repair it, are they going to get back together? That's the main strand in series two.
Jace: Now most shows would have had Amanda, now that she's married, out of the picture entirely, but season two, Grantchester keeps her in play even as Sidney finds romance elsewhere. What's in the cards for Sidney and Amanda, and how does their dynamic continue to play out this year?
James: It continues the star-crossed lover ... She's very much in the picture. I'm not sure how much I should give away. She's there. The damage is there, they're both hurting, and of course who does she turn to in times of need? Well it's Sidney.
James: Similarly, Sidney has moments of ... Incredibly vulnerable, both in his romantic life and also his relationship with Geordie and things, and so who does he turn to? Well, it's Amanda. They are there in each other's lives. What happens at the end, I'll let you find out.
Jace: We'll have to find out. For Robson, obviously Geordie was massively affected by the shooting in season one. Do we continue to see the damage play out?
Robson: Yeah. I guess it reminds him of traumatic events that he had during his time in prisoner-of-war camp. But there is a lot of darkness and a lot of things uncomfortable, but the light and shade happens with this: Geordie living vicariously through Sidney.
Geordie kind of envies him, and that life, and I think vice-versa with the Sidney character. I may be wrong, and James might correct me, but I think he likes Geordie's security in relationships, but he has a penchant for married women.
James: Woah, woah. Can I just say -- sorry, Geordie … Robson. We find it somewhat difficult-- We interchange between the two.
Sidney doesn't have a penchant for married women.
Robson: I'm sorry, you've asked me the question and you've just rudely interrupted me on my flow, I have to say, which is quite articulate and windswept and interesting, and yeah there's three...three married women you've been with.
James: No, and you're giving stuff away which we shouldn't give away, but no that's--
Robson: I love it. You're telling me what I should and shouldn't do. This is the yin and the yang, you see. This is why people love us. We argue.
And that's another thing about the relationship which I'm very fond of: The conflict with Sidney and Geordie comes out of a genuine care and need and love for one another, and that's a lovely thing to play, a lovely thing to play, and it's endearing and unusual.
James: So fun.
There's a great affection and friendship, but there's also this kind of exasperated rolling the eyes, going, "Oh my word.” You could easily just extract the names "James" and "Robson" and put in "Sidney" and "Geordie", and they'd-- It's great. We've had a lot of fun playing the relationship.
Robson: That's it in a nutshell, because it, because of the way the shorthand works within the relationship. Be they lawyers, be they doctors, be they firemen, I don't know, you'd still care in the way they operate with one another and interact with one another, and it's quite rare to see, I have to say.
Jace: There's a care. There's also, I think, a very sympathetic streak to Geordie, and I think that he's humanized a lot by his relationship with Cathy. How do we see his relationship with his wife change this season?
Robson: It changes insomuch that he doesn't talk enough about Burma. He attempts it with Sidney, and he doesn't talk enough ... I think most men didn't in the 50s, and I think still don't today, about what he's seen and what he's gone through. The events are so traumatic, but if you harbor that stuff, if you bottle it up, it will manifest itself in other ways.
The brief I got from Daisy Coulam, the wonderful writer, Daisy Coulam, that adapted most of the novels, was, you know, “He's not sleeping. He's having flashbacks,” so when they're at a crime scene and a camera flash goes off, he's startled by it because he's not just admitting that the pain and trauma that he's gone through, you know.
Jace: James, you're very knowledgeable about fashion, particularly vintage fashion. I heard that you used to curate the men's section at Charity Wakefield's store, Charlie Foxtrot Vintage in London.
James: Yeah, good knowledge.
Jace: Are you ever frustrated that everyone around you is in 1950s style and you're often wearing a vicar's collar?
James: I am, you know. That's a really good question, because you have slightly hit a nail on the head. I do love my clothes. Sadly, Charity's shop, Charlie Foxtrot, closed last week, so that's sad, and I've now ... What's even sadder is I've got huge bags of vintage clothing and nowhere to put them, so if anyone needs a blazer, it's cool.
Particularly last series, there was a couple of-- Episode one, actually, has a lot of 16 to 18-year-olds in it, and they're all looking fantastic in their 1950s garbs and I do look, in comparison, very drab in my black suit.
I get two suits, both exactly the same, just in case I get one muddy, and that's ... Occasionally, they let me put on a shirt and some nice high-waisted cords, but generally I'm stuck in my dog collar. But actually--
It's kind of comfortable, and it does ... We did fight, at the beginning, in the first series, about whether we can afford to take him out of the dog collar, and actually we realized that we just can't; we have to embrace it. He would have worn this suit all the time. So once that decision was made, it actually works. It's such an important part of him. It doesn't define him by any means, but when people-- There's a crime scene, or there's a nursing home, and a vicar walks in with that very iconic uniform, people react, particularly in those days, in a certain way.
So although I did rail at the beginning, and I asked for my really...sort of 1950s sports bomber jacket, I wasn't allowed it, sadly.
Jace: You studied Buddhism and Hinduism as part of your coursework at Cambridge. Does that give you some insight into religious life?
James: Yes. I definitely think that my degree, and also my schooling-- I went to a very religious Benedictine school, and it was attached to a monastery in the north of England, and so the world of the church -- even though I'm not really practicing anymore-- it was a very familiar world, and I think for some people particularly, and sort of secular UK at the moment, some people just haven't really-- For them, it's very archaic and antiquated to go to church, and they find it a bit awkward, and almost sometimes a bit taboo.
If you say "I'm a Christian, I’m a born-again Christian," a lot of people, particularly in my circles in London, would raise their eyebrows and go, "Wow." I think it was a great benefit for me, having been very immersed in the church from an early age. It's a familiar world, it's not a taboo, or daunting, and so I think that has helped.
Jace: Do you ever feel any sense of cognitive whiplash going from playing Sidney Chambers to Tommy Lee Royce?
I will admit, when I first saw the first episode of Grantchester I had just seen Happy Valley, and I thought, "How is this psychotic guy going to play this very likable priest?" But you do both so fantastically.
James: Thank you. There was a moment when the two jobs were almost filmed back to back, and I remember saying many times, “I was filming a psychopath by day, and then researching the vicar by night,” and that was a very strange month and a half, because they are so polar opposite.
In a way, it was kind of wonderful to extract myself from the dark, psychotic head of Tommy Lee Royce and into the light and essentially optimistic head of Sidney, because they both, they are totally opposite in the way they view the world: Tommy sees the world as inherently hostile, as a psychopath would, and Sidney, although he has his moments of depression, he generally sees the best in people, and sees the world as an inherently benign place.
To play these two extremes was wonderful. As far as whiplash, I don't know. Maybe ... Did Sidney have sort of psychotic moments in the first series? I'm not sure. Maybe there were moments when I suddenly let a little bit of Tommy out, and vice-versa. Maybe Tommy has some moments of divine understanding.
Jace: I'm slightly frightened just sitting right here, I'll tell you that much.
Jace: There's a sense that, with a warrant card, a copper can sort of go anywhere, but there are places that a priest can go that a cop cannot. While that might have been the initial appeal of this partnership with Sidney, what do you think Geordie now feels about their relationship?
Robson: Firstly, thank goodness you didn't ask me about studying at Cambridge, because I didn't study Hinduism at all.
Jace: Did you study Hinduism at University of Cambridge?
Robson: No, I studied engineering drawing and design technology, and became a naval architect, but there you go.
Isn't that great that James can go into an audition, “So what you can bring to this charismatic part?” I'll have to remember the clergyman who goes, "I got a first in theology from Cambridge." Swine. Anyway, no...
It's great, in terms of narrative, in terms of the writing. What a great device to have, as a detective. People confess their darkest feelings, their sins, so to speak, to this member of the clergy who breaches confidentiality and tells me everything.
Robson: That's a real appeal, to get the job done, but it's just the shorthand, it's the unspoken stuff, and the writing is very economic, as well. I keep saying it, but I didn't change a word of the writing, and that's the appeal. As James said, all we do as actors is help to tell the story, and this is a story so well-written, so well-structured, and everybody's top-drawer, and that's a joy to be part of.
I think that helps you as an actor. It relaxes you a bit. You've got this wonderful safety net of a script--
James: I also ... What's lovely, as an actor, is to play the unspoken. Obviously, it's much, much more interesting to play the subtext, and what's not said. And that's why a lot of period drama is so exciting to play, because these periods, the 50s, as a man, you were able to be...emote and be emotional, but generally everything is penned in. For both Sidney and Geordie, both coming back from the war, both having these shortcomings in their life, and they find, suddenly, that there is someone who understands the other person in each other, but they don't really talk about it.
As Robson says, there's all this shorthand, and there's these moments where we sort of almost allude to why we're friends and what we gain from each other, but we never really say it explicitly, and that's so exciting to play because there's such an understanding between us, and both -- as we say -- both on and off the camera.
Jace: You mentioned eye-rolling before, that you ... What is one thing that the other does that makes you roll your eyes at each other?
Robson: Well just going outside the show, we were in the Gardens yesterday, and I went ... There was a big cactus area, massive cactus plants, and it said, "Do not enter". “Do not enter,” to Robson Green, is red rag to a bull. So I just went, “I'll stand there. Take a picture of me. Don't tell anyone James, just take a picture of me."
James: At which point the eye-rolling starts.
Robson: Then the eye-rolling starts, and then the cactus plant went in the back of my leg, to which then he goes, "Seriously, has it gone in the back of your leg?" I went, "Yeah, it has." He went, "They're poisonous." I went, "What?" He went, "They're poisonous. I saw a sign back there. They're really, really poisonous." I'm going, "Are you..." For like four seconds, he does that, he lies to me.
James: No, I didn't lie to you. I have a ... I think I like the odd prank at Robson's expense. It's quite fun. It's very fun, basically.
Jace: Sort of like brothers.
Robson: It is like brothers, and I think when it ... I think James has hit it on the head: it's fun, and we're kind of secretly ... As an actor, certainly me, I get a lot of cabin fever in a long-running series, and when you get to “Series 21 of Grantchester,” "Think we can do it again, James?" No, that's not a good way to fly, but when it ... What would attract you to one more series? James. It would be. That's it.
James: And for me, it's Dickens, obviously.
Robson: The dog, the lab dog.
James: OhWell. “Robson Rolls his eyes.”
Jace: Grantchester premieres on Masterpiece on Sunday, March 27th at 9 pm ET.
And join us here on Masterpiece Studio every-other week for in-depth interviews with the Grantchester cast and crew.
Jace: Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nathan Tobey. Kathy Tu is our editor. Rachel Aronoff is our production coordinator. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas. The executive producer of Masterpiece is Rebecca Eaton.
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