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Having also starred in the hugely popular War and Peace and McMafia since he started on Grantchester (and being hotly tipped as the next Bond), the 33-year-old is now ready to leave the Cambridge village, particularly after Sidney’s emotional storyline with Amanda (Morven Christie) reached a natural conclusion in the last series.
“It was a combination of things [why I chose to leave],” Norton explained. “The Amanda storyline tying up the way it did with her and Sidney breaking up and him choosing the church in the third series felt like a natural conclusion to Sidney’s story.
“Then when the possibility of a fourth series came along, the decision was whether or not to start a whole new journey for Sidney.”
Instead of hashing out a new storyline for the vicar, Norton decided now was the time to hand the dog collar over to new blood, with Tom Brittney set to take the helm of the show as Reverend Will Davenport.
“It felt like it would be better to hand over the baton to someone else and give Grantchester a fresh injection of energy,” he continued.
“It’s been a privilege to play such a wonderful character, but I feel like there are other vicars, other conflicted souls to explore. So it’s time to introduce Tom Brittney as Reverend Will Davenport.”
Viewers will bid farewell to Sidney partway through series four, which is set to hit our screens in early January for what Robson Green (who plays gruff detective Geordie Keating) promises will be a “highly emotional” exit.
But Sidney’s departure from the village is not quite what Norton wanted for the character.
“I had a couple of light-hearted conversations with some of the producers offering my dramatic, absurd, farfetched versions of his exit,” he said. “I wanted Sidney to be the victim of a gruesome murder and then the new vicar would have to investigate the crime.”
While Sidney may leave Grantchester in the back of a taxi as opposed to in a hearse, Norton promises his exit will be tearful.
“The final scene I did with Robson was really very sad,” he said. “It’s no secret Robson and I are very good friends. I have so much love and respect for that man. The relationship Sidney and Geordie had was largely informed by that. And so when you have two very good friends having a version of a goodbye, both Robson and James and Geordie and Sidney were all in this big emotional self-indulgent mess.
“It was very sad, but very easy to act because it felt very true to the reality of the situation.”
Grantchester returns to ITV next year