“As excited as I am to be filming a new series of Grantchester, it’s also heartbreaking to be saying goodbye to Sidney Chambers,” Norton said in 2018. “I’ve loved this experience, and particularly working with such an extraordinary cast and crew.”
Watch a trailer for the new series of Grantchester
Norton’s exit from the small Cambridge village promises to be an emotional one, with his co-star Robson Green admitting he cried “real tears” at bidding his friend goodbye.
“There wasn’t acting required,” he told RadioTimes.com. “James is an intelligent, charismatic, joyous person to be alongside, and it’s hard to say goodbye to someone you’ve shared your deepest feelings and thoughts with.
“It was so beautifully written and so powerful on so many levels. It was very poignant.”
Norton did show up in the series’ opening episode which saw him come into contact with the Todd family hailing from Alabama. But Sidney is dissatisfied with life in the village and fed up with the pettiness of the church congregation – and his eye is caught by the engaging Violet Todd.
Actor Tom Brittney is set to replace James Norton in future series and will join the cast of series four as new vicar the Reverend Will Davenport. The 28-year-old actor has previously starred in UnREAL, Outlander and Call the Midwife.
Will Davenport is an energetic man of the people according to ITV, “who channels his boundless energy into a quest for social justice. He is a man of God, but with the devil inside of him.”
The new character will also bring a sense of generational change, according to creator Daisy Coulam.
“He’s much younger than Sidney, which instantly gives him a new characteristic because our new guy didn’t go through the war,” she said in a recent PBS podcast interview. “He’s the face of modern Britain.”
Norton gave his blessing to actor Brittney, saying, “All the best to the fantastic Tom Brittney in his role as the new vicar. He is a wonderful addition to the Grantchester family.”
“All the auditions were brilliant, but Tom had the thing we wanted,” Green added. “He’s so hardworking. He cares so much and just wants to get it right.”
The returning cast includes Al Weaver as Leonard Finch; Tessa Peake-Jones as Mrs Maguire; and Kacey Ainsworth as Cathy Keating.
What happens in the new series of Grantchester?
In a PBS podcast the Grantchester creator Daisy Coulam said that the new series would bring some changes.
The series is set in 1956, a world after rationing, where Elvis has his first number one, Teddyboys are bringing new fashions to the streets, and life beyond the small hamlet is moving quickly.
“The world is changing, people are changing, and we decided to make that a theme of the series” Coulam said.
“Our theme is evolve or die. You have to move with the times or you kind of fade away. Our characters are all sort of struggling with that, really. Geordie Keating will be facing a world without his best friend, but in good crime tradition, he will still have a new best friend to fight crime alongside,” she added.
The new series will also see characters tackling themes such as homosexuality, racism and female equality.
However, not every character is happy to embrace change, with Green admitting the gruff Geordie struggling – particularly with his wife Cathy getting her own jobs and finding her own feet.
“Geordie really struggles,” Green said. “He feels stuck in a different time and wants things to go back to the way they were.
“In this situation in the 50s, suddenly the wife can become the breadwinner. Cathy’s broadening her horizons, but Geordie’s feeling his wages should be good enough.
“Deep down, the main risk for him is that she’s going to be meeting other men. Then he’s getting peer pressure from work as Cathy can buy her own things and his colleagues are seeing that. That theme of her becoming liberated gets more prominent.”
Grantchester series four airs from Friday 11th January 2019 at 9pm on ITV
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news