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Grantchester Season 2 On Masterpiece

Rising Star James Norton Returns for a Second Season of 'Grantchester'

March 23, 2016

Reverend Sidney Chambers, the scotch-drinking, jazz-loving, murder-solving amateur sleuth returns for a second season of Grantchester premiering on MASTERPIECE Mystery on Sunday, March 27, at 9:00 p.m. on KCTS 9. Reprising his role as the complex vicar of the Church of St. Andrew & St. Mary is James Norton, alongside his unlikely partner, local Police Inspector Geordie Keating, played by Robson Green.

Set in an idyllic, post-war village near Cambridge, the television series is based on The Grantchester Mysteries novels by British author James Runcie. Combining the cozy mystery elements made famous in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown series, critics and viewers not only enjoyed the first season’s nostalgic appeal and intriguing plots, but also the vulnerable charm of Sidney Chambers. While most detectives or amateur sleuths are usually “seasoned” by years of life experience, Sidney is 32-years-young, relying on his intuitive skills, balanced by Inspector Keating’s procedural practicality. Together they make a winning team at solving crime.

As a vicar, Sidney is often more in tune with the daily life of his parishioners than anyone else, especially when they share their suspicions, fears and secrets with him. This gives him an unequaled edge when things go wrong, particularly murder — and life in Cambridge and Grantchester can be filled with a startling number of homicides. In the six episodes of Season 1, Sidney and Inspector Keating solved the mysterious suicide of a cheating husband, the suspicious drowning of a school friend, a paranoid mother-in-law who dies after expressing her concern, a husband stabbed to death in a public convenience store and a murder and its cover-up by the London police. Season 2 promises to provide viewers with even more intriguing challenges for the Grantchester team. In the series opener, the community is shocked to hear that Sidney has been arrested on sexual assault charges brought by the parents of a 15-year-old girl who is later found murdered.


In addition to the whodunit plots that are the backbone of Grantchester, the author James Runcie has crafted a very complex and appealing main character in Sidney Chambers. Able to assist in solving murder mysteries, Sidney just can’t resolve his own love life. Red-haired, handsome and honorable, one would think that he was an ideal catch to many co-eds during his Cambridge University days or any of the local ladies whose families would be eager to attach their unmarried daughters to a respectable Anglican priest. There have been romances, notably with dark-haired beauty Amanda (Morven Christie), who, after a prolonged romance, tired of waiting for his proposal and married an aristocrat. They still pine for each other, much to his housekeeper Mrs. Maguire’s (Tessa Peake-Jones) chagrin. She tries to keep him on track by censoring his drinking, brooding and affinity for married women, but without much success. What the Dickens? It appears that only Sidney’s scene-stealing black Labrador retriever puppy Dickens lives an unfettered and cherished life at the vicarage.

Since his break-out role as Sidney Chambers in the U.K. in 2014, Norton’s career has skyrocketed. Equally adept at playing romantic characters or psychopathic murderers, MASTERPIECE Mystery viewers will remember him as the dashing young attorney in Death Comes to Pemberley who falls in love with Mr. Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana, played by Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) and as the twisted killer Tommy Lee Royce in the contemporary crime drama Happy Valley airing on BBC One in the U.K. and Netflix in the U.S.

Norton was born in 1985 in London. His parents were both teachers, and the family moved to Yorkshire where his father taught at the Hull School of Art and Design. Norton’s early education was at Ampleforth College, a Roman Catholic (Benedictine) boarding school in North Yorkshire, where he excelled at tennis and was introduced to the dramatic arts. In 2004 he matriculated into Fitzwilliam College at the University of Cambridge, reading Theology (like his Grantchester character) and participating in the Marlowe Society theatre club. Graduating in 2007 with First Class Honours, Norton chose acting over the church and entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, leaving six months before graduation for an acting role in 2010. Since then, Norton has had several prominent roles on stage and television in the U.K., and minor parts in films such as Belle, Rush and Mr. Turner.

While his performances in Grantchester and Happy Valley reveal the depth of his talent to a wider audience, it was his portrayal of the conflicted aristocrat Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky in the new British-American television adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace that brought Norton critical acclaim and a huge fan base. Written by BAFTA and Emmy award winning screenwriter Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Harper (Peaky Blinders), this new six-hour period drama aired in the U.K. on the BBC and in the U.S. on Lifetime in January. Featuring a large all-star British cast, it included three young, dynamic actors: Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave) as Pierre Bezukhov, Lily James (Downton Abbey) as Natasha Rostova and Norton as Bolkonsky. A co-production of the BBC and the Weinstein Company, it was beautifully crafted but criticized for not including more of the book. If you have read War and Peace, you will remember that it is a sprawling 1,200 page epic!

Set against the backdrop of Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1812 invasion of Russia, Norton’s character in War and Peace is of one of literature’s most conflicted and tormented heroes. Even though Prince Bolkonsky has been given every opportunity as part of the Imperial Russian aristocracy, he is disillusioned with life and cynical from the chaos of war. His romance with Natasha renews his optimism, but sadly it does not save him. Norton’s performance in this monumental role could be the touchstone of his career.

Although Grantchester gives Norton the chance to portray a more upbeat character than War and Peace’s Prince Bolkonsky, Sidney Chambers is also moody and conflicted, something at which Norton excels. The new season of Grantchester promises more brooding in the bucolic English countryside; a romantic prospect for our handsome vicar; and plenty of murder investigations for Team Grantchester.

Here’s a sneak peek.

Photo courtesy of © Des Willie/Lovely Day Productions & ITV for MASTERPIECE

Laurel Ann Nattress

Writer, blogger, and editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann Nattress is a champion of Georgian civility, British culture and Masterpiece PBS. Visit her at and follow her on twitter as @Austenprose

More stories by Laurel Ann Nattress

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