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Grace Series Two: Interview with John Simm

ITV Press Centre

15 Apr 2022

Photo: ITV

John Simm returns as Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace alongside Richie Campbell who plays DS Glenn Branson, for a second series of ITV crime drama, Grace

How did you feel about the response to episode one?
I was thrilled! It was exactly as we hoped and prayed it would be, and hopefully the audience is ready for more now. Of course, I was nervous because we’re adapting a really popular series of books – I’m a huge reader and sometimes I don’t watch TV adaptations because I love the book so much and I just want a certain image to stay in my head. But we are working so closely with Peter James to bring the books to life, and hopefully fans will continue to be happy with what we’ve done.

There’s romance on the cards for Grace this series – what can you tell us about his new relationship with Cleo?
It’s a weird one for him because he’s still haunted by the disappearance of his wife. Many years have gone by since she went missing and he’s not even considered romance with anybody, so it’s quite sweet to see him slowly falling for Cleo. Obviously, he’s conflicted and feels guilty, as you would, but it’s a lovely thing. When he meets Cleo he just completely falls for her and it takes him by surprise. But it’s difficult for her to be with somebody who is still obsessed with his wife’s disappearance, it causes problems between them.

Photo: ITV

In one episode, the police find the skeletal remains of a woman in a storm drain and for a while Roy thinks it’s his wife. So that completely consumes him and puts his fledgling relationship in a bit of jeopardy. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s completely obsessed with his job, his job is his life. So Cleo’s got a lot to take on! But essentially, he’s a good guy and he really does fall in love with her. It was a lovely part to play actually, because he’s so professional and he doesn’t get riled very often, so to be able to play those emotions on top of the police officer was great for me.

It’s rare to see a TV cop with a happy home life…
Yes, absolutely. Grace hasn’t got a drink problem and he doesn’t tick all those cliches of the TV or literary cop. Of course, he’s dealing with his wife being missing, but it’s great to be able to play something else too. He’s a good guy and it’s nice to see him away from work, having a little bit of happiness.

Had you worked with Zoe Tapper before?
No, I’d never met her, but I’d seen her in other dramas and I’m a fan of her work. When they mentioned her name to play Cleo I was really pleased, I knew she’d be fabulous and it’s great to have her on board.

Craig Parkinson also joins the cast as Norman and he’s brilliant too. We’ve had to change Norman a little bit from the novels because the world has changed quite a lot – the Norman of the novels wouldn’t go down too well in this day and age. We couldn’t have anyone better than Craig, he’s a fantastic actor and just brings something unique, I’m looking forward to seeing how the character develops.

Photo: ITV

How does Grace and Branson’s relationship develop this series?
The lovely thing with Grace and Branson is that they are genuinely best friends and it really comes across. Their relationship is tested simply because Grace cares for him – something happens that Roy feels guilty about, even though it’s not his fault. He’s worried about Glenn’s mental health because he changes as a result of this event. His wife is quite worried about it, so she asks Grace to keep an eye on him. But fundamentally, they’re just a great partnership and I’ve got great relationship with Richie too, the cards landed right in the casting. And the more we do, the better it will get.

Photo: ITV

Grace is still in the bad books with his bosses after the events of episode one and Vosper suggests a transfer – how does he react?
Well, if he needs to bend the rules then he will, that’s just the way it is for Grace. He’s constantly fighting against his bosses, hauled up against the coals, but he only cares about getting the job done. He loves Brighton and doesn’t want to move – when Vosper suggests going somewhere else, he’s horrified.

Were you hesitant about taking on a role that you could be playing for many years?
No, not at all, quite the opposite. In this day and age, we should be thankful to be working, and when this role came to me straight after the pandemic, I was just so keen to work. Maybe if I was younger, it might have been a thing – back then, I didn’t want to hang around projects for too long because I wanted to do different stuff, but I’ve been doing this job for 30 odd years. I’ve played loads of different characters, and I’m sure there’ll be loads more coming up, I’ll do other things as well. But Roy Grace is such an intriguing part and to have the whole world of the novels to immerse myself in has been invaluable. I’m more than happy to keep playing him if people want to keep watching the show.

Photo: ITV

Is it challenging to play a detective?
Well, I’ve played quite a few coppers weirdly – looking back on it I’ve played more than I thought I had. Sam Tyler obviously in Life on Mars, Marcus Farrow in Prey, I played an ex LAPD cop in a show called ‘Intruders’, and I’ve also played one onstage, (in the play Speaking in Tongues) and strangely enough he was a Brighton detective! So Grace is actually my second Brighton Detective. So obviously I’ve done quite a bit of research and training over the years, and my father in law was in the Met so I’ve heard plenty of stories.

Photo: ITV

What is your father in law’s verdict on the show?
My in-laws are reading the novels, I sent Peter (James) a picture of their bookshelf the other day, it’s just covered in his novels now! They’ve really got into the books and they loved the first episode, they really enjoyed it.

You’re also a keen reader of Peter’s books – does it help to have a sneak preview?
I have to stop reading the books when I’m filming because it’s just too confusing with two different cases flying around my head at the same time. Then as soon as we stop, I’ll read another book as a palate cleanser and dive back in. I think by the time we start filming again, I’ll have completely caught up with the books. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s quite strange that Peter thinks of me while writing now, because I obviously haven’t got me in my head when I’m reading – Roy Grace is a somewhat faceless figure to me.

Photo: ITV

Do you enjoy filming in Brighton?
Brighton is great. We live here now, and it’s just a brilliant place to be. We’d decided to move to Brighton before I got offered this job, so it’s the very meaning of the word serendipity really. I’d lived in London since I was 18, and we thought maybe it was time to get out, so we decided on Brighton, where a lot of our friends had already moved. We’d started looking for a house and then while I was doing Macbeth in Chichester, I got the call asking if I wanted to play this Brighton detective and I couldn’t believe it, I rang my wife and said, “You’re not going to believe what I’ve just been offered!”. So, it just all fell into place, it was obviously meant to be.

How did you find the experience of sharing a scene with Peter James for his cameo?
It was quite weird, I couldn’t quite look him in the face because I thought I would break character, it was quite a moment! I had to walk over to him in the scene and he sort of saluted me as I arrived, that was quite surreal. I’m not sure people will spot his cameo unless you’re really eagle-eyed, but he is definitely there.

Photo: ITV

Do you ever make script suggestions?
I do make suggestions about the odd line of dialogue here and there, but Russell is such a fantastic writer it’s quite rare. Everyone works together to make the show as realistic and natural as we possibly can. We have a brilliant producer – Kiaran Murray Smith – who is a good friend now and I can chat to him about things to do with plot etc, and I have a great relationship with Peter and the other execs so I do feel very much included in discussions.”

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