Alongside Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood, James Norton’s Tommy Lee Royce formed a internecine relationship – both intent on destroying each other for differing reasons. Royce also signified Norton’s break-out role, and since then he’s gone on to become a familiar face on our screens, thanks to Grantchester and, more recently, War And Peace. As he prepares to step into Royce’s shoes again, we managed to get hold of an interview with him, which is after the jump.
The Killing Times: Welcome back for series two James. Was it easy to get back into the character?
James Norton: Yes it was. Tommy is such a realised character; Sally did such a good job of writing him. It wasn’t the most pleasant place to return to but it wasn’t too tricky. What was tricky was making sure we established the fact that he is a changed man with what he has been through, so I was slipping into a different version of Tommy.
TKT: Has Tommy changed in this series then?
JN: No, he is still a psychopath, he is still Tommy Lee Royce. It’s not like he has reformed but the images you see of him in prison may lead you to believe he has changed. The damage was done when he was abused and neglected and I don’t think he will ever change. Anytime there seems to be any hope for Tommy something is always taken away from him. He does allow himself glimmers of hope with Ryan so there are moments but as soon as they arrive they go back to this dark, hostile, nasty place.
TKT: You have a new look for series two of Happy Valley, how does that feel?
JN: We talked about how we wanted Tommy presented 18 months on from the first series and I think someone like Tommy going into prison has the choice to either collapse and be destroyed by it all or he can take control. We decided that it was going to be the latter – including the shaving of the head and getting fit so that we could tell the story that Tommy went to prison and basically took charge. It has been really interesting jumping in 18 months on and seeing where he is at because he has been through series one and his whole life, he has always taken control and never let anyone else in. Obviously in series one you see his mind begin to fall apart and now he is sort of left with that. It is really interesting.
TKT: Where do we first meet Tommy in series two?
JN: We join Tommy when he is in the middle of being visited by a woman. There are a number of people who find the lives of these men and women in prison fascinating and they want to reach out to them in some way. It can start with a letter or two, then a few visits, and then it starts to become a friendship. This woman is someone who has reached out to Tommy and what is beautiful about Sally’s writing is that you’re never quite sure how much of it is purely manipulation and grooming and how much of it isn’t. It has been a wonderful relationship to explore for me. I have watched a few documentaries about these relationships and I am always surprised at how intense and deeply in love these people seem to be. You only have half an hour with that person every two weeks so every single second is incredibly valuable.
TKT: Do Tommy and Catherine meet in series two?
JN: Obviously being a murderous psychopath there aren’t many opportunities to get out for a day release trip. However, the one opportunity I do get is for a funeral. Early on, we filmed a scene when Tommy goes to the warden’s office and he learns that he is leaving the prison in half an hour with high security and then immediately after the funeral he is coming back. He has been incarcerated for 18 months and apparently leaving terrifies prisoners after being away for so long. He is terrified of hope, terrified of people and everyone around him so you may think of it as this great opportunity to get out for half an hour but it is horrible. I only got to film with Sarah Lancashire who plays Catherine for an hour which was really quite exciting because both of us spend so much time thinking and talking about each other in the script.
TKT: Last time it was about Catherine getting revenge on Tommy, is it reversed this time? Is he out to get her?
JN: What has been established through series one is the relationship between Ryan and his dad. Tommy genuinely believes that the world is such a horrible place to live that he doesn’t want his son to live in it. He has never loved anyone before, Ryan is the only one. He wanted to take Ryan away from this horrible, hostile place which was a gesture of love. So it is always about Catherine because in his head she is the one who has put him in prison. It is all her fault that he can’t see his son. It is a mixture of wanting to get back at Catherine but a lot of it has to do with Ryan.
TKT: How does series two of Happy Valley compare to series two?
JN: I think Sally Wainwright is always improving. Sally Wainwright is also so so good as a director now. As a writer she has obviously proved her worth but as director, you could tell she was nervous during the early stages of the last series and then she suddenly blossomed and has been brilliant.
Happy Valley, series 2: Tuesday 9th February, 9pm, BBC1
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