As dishy vicar, Sidney Chambers, James Norton helped make Grantchester a hit with viewers. But he's proved popular in other TV roles, too — as homicidal psychopath Tommy Lee Royce in gritty drama Happy Valley, as dashing Russian Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in epic period drama adaptation War & Peace and as Alex Godman — the son of a mobster in McMafia. It's an eclectic mix of roles that James Norton has handled with ease. He's also been tipped (along with many actors) as one to watch to be the next James Bond replacing Daniel Craig.
Here's our guide to the actor behind the Sidney Chambers dog collar...
A STAR IS BORN James Norton was born in London on 18 July 1985. His middle names are Geoffrey and Ian, and he’s the son of two teachers, Lavinia and Hugh (pictured above. His parents often appear in his TV series). The family then moved to Malton in rural North Yorkshire, which James describes as "idyllic".
HOLY ORDERS James went to Ampleforth College, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, and then studied theology at Fitzwilliam College at the University of Cambridge, graduating with First Class Honours.
He was taught by Benedictine monks at school and studied various religions while doing his theology degree, so playing vicar Sidney Chambers in Grantchester, alongside co-star Robson Green, was something that appealed. “Part of the reason I love Grantchester is that it’s a show in which the hero is a man of faith. He’s just a very normal young man.”
The actor has type 1 diabetes, diagnosed in 2010 and manages his condition by checking his blood glucose levels regularly and injecting insulin. "Managing the condition is a challenge, but I haven't let it get in my way," he said.
TREADING THE BOARDS James has wanted to act ever since he played Joseph in a school nativity play at the age of four. He did work experience at a theater in Scarborough, joined the Marlowe Society Theatre Club while he was at Cambridge University and then studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.
BREAKTHROUGH ROLE James wowed audiences playing Tommy Lee Royce (above) in Sally Wainwright's crime drama Happy Valley. Royce was a violent psychopath who raped Becky — the daughter of police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) — which led to her suicide.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Growing up in the countryside, James doesn't like to be indoors too much and he's always out and about riding his bike, swimming outdoors or heading off into the country to go rambling.
THE FULL MONTY
James has no problem taking his clothes off for a role and even stripped down to his (skimpy) shorts for a swimming scene in Grantchester. He said “I’m not an idiot. I know how it all works and I know why the producers want me to take my top off occasionally. It’s about time male actors experience the objectification actresses have been putting up with for years.”
THESPIAN ROMANCE James met his partner, fellow actor Imogen Poots, while starring in the Amy Herzog play Belleville, back in 2017. They got engaged in 2022. Poots got her start in long-running UK hospital drama, Casualty before breaking into the movies in horror film 28 Weeks Later. She's currently starring in the sci-fi Western Outer Range, alongside Josh Brolin.
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Joanne Lowles has been writing about TV since 2002. After graduating from Cardiff University with a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism, she worked for All About Soap magazine covering the ups and downs of life on the cobbles, the square and the Dales.
Next came nearly 10 years at TV Times magazine as a writer and then deputy features editor. Here she spent many happy days interviewing the biggest names in entertainment and visiting the sets of some of our most popular shows including Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing.
With a love of nature and wildlife she’s also interviewed the leading experts in this area including David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Steve Backshall. She’s also travelled the world visiting Mongolia, Canada and South Africa to see how the best in the business make the most brilliant natural history documentaries.
Freelance since 2013, she is now is a digital writer and editor for What to Watch, previews the best on the box for TV Times mag each week and loves being constantly surprised, entertained and informed by the amazing TV that she is lucky enough to watch.