For “Masterpiece” fans, waiting for the new vicar is like waiting for Halley’s Comet or a Cubs pennant.
It takes patience … but yes, it’s worth it.
On July 28 – in the season’s third week and fourth episode – Tom Brittney finally takes over as Will Davenport, the crimesolving vicar in a little English village. He replaces James Norton, who had finished his three-year contract and stayed for some transition episodes.
In some ways, it might not seem like a big change. Both stars are tall, handsome and young; Norton is 34, Brittney is 28. But this is set at a time when a few years seemed like a new generation.
“I represent this sort of youth coming in at the end of the ’50s – the rock ‘n’ roll, leather-jacket-wearing, motorbike-riding, Elvis-listening people,” Brittney said.
Sidney (Norton) listened to jazz and rode a bicycle; Will listens to rock and rides a BSA motorcycle.
At first, Brittney says, it was “terrifying. I never, never ever thought I’d be on one …. When you are going 70 miles per hour down a motorway, that does not feel natural. (But) I did start getting the bug for it, and I did start probably going a lot faster than I should have.”
There’s one other key difference. “James was the sexy vicar,” Brittney said. By comparison, Will is – for now, at least — celibate.
That’s not a Church of England requirement. “It’s a personal thing that happened in his life,” he said.
Love is elusive for Will … and, until recently, for Sidney … and also for Morse in the “Endeavour” mysteries. That’s wise, said “Masterpiece” chief Rebecca Eaton. “It allows the female viewers to daydream about being the one who would finally win their hearts and make them happy.”
Besides, vicars have plenty of other things to worry about. “Especially in the 1950s, they were an integral part of life in a village or town,” Brittney said.
And these Grantchester men also keep helping the local cop (Robson Green, shown here with Brittney, left, and Norton) solve crimes … something Brittney seems to enjoy. “I grew up watching ‘CSI,’” he said.
He also grew up watching his co-star. Green, 55, had his first regular TV role two years before Brittney was born. In 1995 (when Brittney was 5), Green was coaxed by young producer Simon Cowell to record some songs; three singles reached No. 1 on the British charts.
“He sang them to me all the time on the set,” Brittney said.
Their first meeting was imposing, Brittney said. “We grew up watching him in the ’90s all the time and he was a massive singer …. He just came up to me and just gave me a big handshake, ‘I’m Robson.’
And I’m, like, ‘Yeah, I know. You’re TV’s Robson Green!’”
— “Masterpiece: Grantchester,” 9 p.m. Sundays, PBS, for a five-week, six-episode season
— In the first two episodes (July 14), Sidney (James Norton) solved two crimes, fell in love with an American woman and resigned as vicar.
— The third (July 21) has the assistant vicar helping solve a crime.
— Those three episodes focus more on the personal stories than the crimesolving. In the fourth episode (July 28), Will (Tom Brittney) — who appeared only briefly in those three — takes over as vicar. He promptly helps solve a fully developed mystery, after a silent boy walks into the police station, covered with blood.