Tom Brittney: 'Playing Reverend Will For 6 Years Is A Joy I’ll Never Forget' – Interview
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Tom Brittney: ‘Playing Reverend Will For 6 Years Is A Joy I’ll Never Forget’ – Interview

Grantchester is on Thursday evenings on ITV

Grantchester fan? The wait is over: series eight is finally here, having kicked off on 11 January on ITV. We checked in with Tom Brittney who plays the beloved Reverend Will Davenport to talk all about it.

Tom Brittney On Grantchester Series 8

Tom Brittney in a striped rugby shirt

Photographer: Michael Shelford
Styling: Sarah Harrison
Grooming: Nadia Altinbas

You’re about to return to our screens for the eighth series of Grantchester. What can viewers expect from this season?

In this series, Will, for the first time ever, is happy. He’s married, with a baby on the way and seems to have quelled most of his inner demons. But when he has a motorbike accident and ends up killing a man, he is thrown into turmoil and it threatens to derail everything he’s tried so hard to fix in his life.

You tried your hand at directing the seventh season – what was that like?

I LOVE directing. One of my biggest passions in life. I’m so thankful that the producers took the punt and let me helm an episode in series seven. Quite a step up from directing short films in college film class. But it was so much fun! All the cast and crew were so supportive of me throughout filming.

Have you directed any of the eighth season?

I did occasionally do some second unit directing for scenes I wasn’t in – because, as much as I loved doing it before, I despise directing myself. I find it incredibly hard watching myself back, so I thought I’d just concentrate on the acting this series.

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

Oh, every day we end up ruining a take from laughing during a scene. Robson and I become like absolute children when we’re together. And he won’t mind me telling you that he’s quite partial to a badly timed and very loud fart during a scene. But the worst time was when Tessa Peake-Jones (who plays Mrs C in the show) was doing a really intense speech, and Robson had a fart machine in his pocket to play at a specific and inappropriate moment. As I knew he had it, I could not stop laughing and ruined every single take, to the point where the director asked me to leave the room. Poor Tessa, she didn’t deserve that.

Any quirky ways you get into character?

Putting a dog collar on snaps me straight into character. And I never fail to find it less quirky every time I put it around my neck!

What is the cast dynamic? Who was your fave person to work with?

Oh, I can’t choose! Everyone is an absolute joy to work with. We’re just one big happy family, and have been since the first day I joined the show. We just have such a laugh and it rarely ever feels like work.

What has been your favourite plot to film to date on Grantchester?

I think it was the serial killer one in series seven. It was the first time Grantchester had a continuing crime story, and I loved how dark they went with it. My character is going completely off the rails, ends up being stabbed by the killer but then survives and marries the love of his life. What a rollercoaster!

What is a standout memory for you from the show?

I’ll never forget my first chemistry test with Robson during the audition process. We just clicked instantly. We had this audition scene where he’s arresting me, I stood up from my chair – I’m about a foot taller than him – and he looked up at me and said ‘bloody hell’ and continued to try and handcuff me. We just found this natural humour within that, which ultimately became the basis of our characters’ dynamic.

You must spend a lot of time in Grantchester and Cambridge during filming – what are your favourite spots?

THE CAMBRIDGE CHOP HOUSE! Every time we go there, we have a ritual of getting the cast together for a big meal at the Chop House. Heaven. I love Cambridge so much. It’s such a beautiful city with so much culture and history. I can happily spend the whole day walking around and dipping in and out of cosy little pubs.

Tom looking up to the camera in a striped sweater

Photographer: Michael Shelford
Styling: Sarah Harrison
Grooming: Nadia Altinbas

You co-founded the production company Wild Nest Pictures – can you tell us a bit about that?

I started it with my best mate, Oliver Powell, during the first Covid lockdown. I was going a bit mad, as we all were, and thought to myself ‘how can I carry on making stuff while the world is shut down – and stop going mad?’ So…we started a company together and really quickly developed a slate of TV shows and films.

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

Where to start! We have a few TV series and films we’re producing at different stages. The big ones are a feature film about the life and death of a hero of mine, the late war photographer Tim Hetherington. It’s being directed by Greg Barker (Sergio) and written by Joelle Touma, and I’m hopefully going to be playing Tim. That one’s really close to my heart. Then a film written by Deborah Moggagh (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) about the real-life case of Mavis Eccleston, an 80 year old woman who was arrested for murdering her husband in a suicide pact because he had terminal cancer. It’s a heartbreaking story that I’m really passionate about. As you can see, I bloody love a comedy, ha!

Across the years you’ve starred in the likes of Call The Midwife, Outlander, The Syndicate… What has been your favourite role to date?

I think playing Billy in Make Me Famous was probably the role I’m most proud of because of the subject matter. It was so important. Even though it was fictional, it was also based on so many real people. I felt very honoured to be part of that story. Apart from that, playing Rev. Will for six years has been an absolute joy and one I’ll never forget.

Beady eyed viewers might also recognise you from Sam Fender’s ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’ music video – so random and chaotic! What was that like to film? Are you friends with Sam?

Ha, yes! It was just as random and chaotic to film! So, I’d messaged Sam on Insta years ago, when ‘Play God’ came out, to tell him I was a huge fan. We then became Insta friends and I’d go to a lot of his gigs. Sam and Robson (Green) also became good friends and we all ended up going out fishing up north where Sam asked us to be in his music video. We said yes, obviously, and ended up filming until around 4am in a supermarket in Howden. Then had to go back to Grantchester the next day. Very surreal!

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

Nothing at the moment! I just filmed my last ever episodes of Grantchester in series 9 (where I make a little appearance before handing over to the new fella, Rishi Nair), so I’m just seeing what’s out there!

Which character that you have played in the past do you relate to the most in your own life?

In a way, I think it would be Will. I relate to his passion, drive and his fire. He’s trying to become a better person in his life as he feels he let himself and others down in the past. This sometimes makes him so hard on himself that he loses perspective and struggles. I feel I understand that a lot.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

Robson Green, without a doubt. He’s not only one of the most talented and technically gifted actors but the funniest to be around. Aside from him, Tom Hanks. Come on! If you’ve worked with Hanks, you gotta put him up there.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

Not to bang on about him constantly but… Robson! He taught me the most about how to work on camera. He really understands the medium so well. Without everything he taught me about lens sizes, how to block on camera, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to direct.

What’s a role you’d cut your right arm off to get? Or what kind of role are you looking to do next?

I’d happily cut my right arm off for Bond. Ah, but then I’m not sure I’d be able to do the fight scenes as well… But seriously, I’d love to next do something with action in it. Anytime I’ve done a fight scene, I just want to do more. You feel the most like a big kid when filming those.

Tom in a white polo neck with a plaid jacket

Photographer: Michael Shelford
Styling: Sarah Harrison
Grooming: Nadia Altinbas

What demands do you have during rehearsals?

NO EYE CONTACT. And chocolate nearby at all times. That last one is serious.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

I do, luckily. In my 20s, I was lucky enough to be working a fair amount and filming all over the world. It was great, and long may it continue! We filmed Grantchester just outside London, most of the time, so I got to go home every night rather than stay in hotels for long stints which can be fun but also tough.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

I live in the town at the moment, in North London. I do love it. We have a flat that feels like you’re above and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a lovely quiet neighbourhood. I do prefer the country, without a doubt. I grew up in the countryside, in Kent and Devon and all I wanted to do was get out and be in the city. Now all I want to do is be back there!

How do you decorate your living space to make it more homely?

My fiancé is in the art department, so I have happily allowed her to decorate and design the entire flat. She’s made it look incredible and like our perfect home. I’ve never had the skill to interior design so my places have always looked like a standard bachelor pad. Now we’re going for Japandi sort of style (that’s Japanese/Scandi fusion design for those who don’t know. I didn’t.) I love it!

Your Instagram is so wholesome! What’s your relationship with social media like?

Thank you! I’d tend to use it as a mix of business and personal. Press for shows and stuff I’m in, but also photography I’ve done and some things I care about aside from my work. I don’t particularly like social media most of the time. I find it can really get me in my head and snap me out of the present, so I try and limit it the best I can.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

It’s a struggle sometimes, honestly! Not because I’m constantly filming, because I’m not. There’s a lot of downtime. I do tend to use a lot of my headspace on thinking about work. Trying to come up with ideas for films to produce, or direct. Worrying about what part I want to play next. Stuff like that. Which isn’t always that healthy! I’m trying to get better at bringing a nine to five sort of balance to it, so I can have time in which I don’t use my phone and only focus on personal life things.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I definitely always wanted to tell stories in some way. Acting became a serious thing when I was about 16 or 17. Before that, I think being a journalist was pretty high up there. Or a photographer. Or maybe even a… photojournalist!

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Stop worrying so much about what other people think and just enjoy every moment. You’ve got this, Tom! Oh and also cut the dreadlocks off, they’re not as cool on a white guy as you think.

How can we all live a little bit better?

Just trying to be in the present more. Go outside, look around, feel the breeze against your skin. Listen to great music, watch great movies, eat great food, surround yourself with great people. Stop worrying about things you can’t control.

Tom in a sweater

Photographer: Michael Shelford
Styling: Sarah Harrison
Grooming: Nadia Altinbas

Tom Brittney Recommends…

I’m tuning into… The Escaping Twin Flames documentary on Netflix. Love cult stuff!

What I’m reading… Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of ADHD by Gabor Maté

The last thing I watched was… The Killer by David Fincher. Incredible.

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Anatomy of a Fall

Favourite film of all time… Hook

Band/singer I always have on repeat… City and Colour. Or Jeff Buckley.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery

Cultural guilty pleasure… Married at First Sight. Ugh.

What’s next for me is… Directing a short film, then – who knows!

WATCH

Watch Tom Brittney in Grantchester on Thursday evenings on ITV1 and ITVX. Catch up at itv.com