Detective Geordie Keating’s put-upon wife, Cathy, has faced marital betrayal, a growing family and a murder-obsessed husband with quiet grace, but this season in Grantchester, Cathy has her own career to worry about. Actor Kacey Ainsworth talks about working with Robson Green, the pleasures of a lived-in fictional marriage and how Cathy will deal with her ongoing workplace harassment in the upcoming season four finale.
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
For years, Geordie Keating’s wife, Cathy, has played the role of quiet, supportive homemaker. She tends to the kids, cooks the meals, and cleans house while Geordie solves murders and plays backgammon in the pub.
Cathy: Fish and chips alright?
Geordie Do we talk, Cathy?
Cathy We’re talking now, aren’t we?
Geordie Really talk I mean?
Jace On the last season of Grantchester, Geordie’s affair with Margaret nearly cost him his marriage. The couple eventually reconciled, but now, Cathy is coming into her own as a modern career woman.
Cathy: ‘For any occasion, or just everyday, we can help you in every way! Find toys for baby, dresses for mum, cigars for daddy, all at Swinnertons!
Jace Cathy’s expanded plot arc reflects Grantchester creator Daisy Coulam’s thematic concept of “change” in the village and the United Kingdom in 1956. It gave actor Kacey Ainsworth room to play with her character’s identity, inside and outside her marriage to Geordie, as she struggles with issues both domestic and professional.
Kacey Ainsworth: It’s not chocolate-box, nice, lovely 1950s Doris Day kind of relationship. There is a little bit of spark there.
Jace We spoke to Ainsworth about her career-minded Cath, playing against Robson Green, and the benefits of settling into a role after four seasons on the job.
Jace And this week we are joined by Grantchester star Kacey Ainsworth. Welcome.
Kacey Hello, hello!
Jace You’ve now played Cathy Keating for four seasons on Grantchester. What did you make of Cathy initially, and how has your character changed since then?
Kacey My character has changed hugely since the first episode. She was very pregnant in the first episode, having a very late baby, and was dealing with all of that whilst Geordie was running about the Cambridgeshire countryside solving crimes. So they had a very kind of static relationship, really, where she was doing all the childcare at home, as was indicative of the time, and he was going out to work and it was really very wrapped up in work. And this kind of continued forward into the next series. And Cathy became increasingly frustrated about his lack of involvement at home, and it caused a bit of tension between them. And then we get to series three and we find out that Geordie’s had an affair, and that’s mainly because he’s just not been spending time at home, and there was a beautiful line in one of the episodes in series three, where he says to her after she’s found out he’s been having an affair, you know, “We just got lost somewhere between the laundry and the nappies.” And series three ends up with them kind of finding each other again, and him realizing that they’ve come to this together and he wants to continue with it together. So she’s come a long way from those first episodes and I think that in any good series that’s what happens, that you start off with two very strong characters, with the boys, with James Norton and Robson Green, their characters, and then the series will naturally expand out to include all of the other characters that are part of their lives. And that’s absolutely what’s happened with Cathy, because we see her in this series and she’s got a job. She’s realized that she needs to have a bit more outside influence and also like a lot of women in the 50s, they had gone through the war and they’d done jobs that were traditionally male jobs, and they didn’t necessarily want to go back to that whole world where they were just doing the domesticity and the, you know, and those roles, they wanted a bit more out of life, I think when you get to this stage in the 1950s.
Jace Now to go back, sort of last season and the affair — she’s definitely been through the emotional wringer over these last two seasons. One of the most heartbreaking moments for me was when Cathy realized that he was having the affair with Margaret.
Cathy: You bought me a food mixer. You bought her a necklace. Do you love her?
Jace What was it like to film that scene with Robson, and to get to that emotional place?
Kacey It’s always really interesting when you read a script, and I love the way that they write these scripts because they’re very spare. That line says it all. I don’t need to do anything. I just need to react like Cathy would. It sums up how she feels about how he’s treated her for a long time, for years, and it’s just letting it all out, really. And I think they needed to come to that point. So it’s all in the writing. And if you’re in a readthrough or if you are home reading your script and you well up whilst you’re doing it, you know that there’s going to be no issue with it when you’re on set because it’s already touched your heart.
Jace Cath finds out about the affair not from Geordie or Margaret but from innuendo dropped by Geordie’s colleague Phil Wilkinson at the police charity ball. Does the way that Cath’s discovered the affair make the betrayal that much worse? That it doesn’t come from him?
Kacey Yes, I think it’s definitely that she hasn’t kind of found it out, or someone hasn’t sat down and told her about it. It’s just this horrible situation and especially where that night, you know, this is the first time that we’ve seen Cathy out. She knows there’s something wrong in their relationship. She can’t quite put a finger on it but she’s really gone to town with her dress and the way she’s looking, and she’s borrowed a dress from Amanda, and she’s bought into all that excitement of, you know, “We’re going out, we’re going up together, we’re on a double date with Amanda,” and it makes it doubly worse when especially it’s a slimy git giving her the news that that’s what’s actually going on. And he doesn’t actually say it he just kind of looks across, and there’s been a few little things during the night, where his wife has said things about that Geordie’s looking tired and I wonder what’s, you know, been keeping him up, and those kinds of things. And so it’s all of those whammies that hit her all at once, you know, it’s like going out for your best birthday party, and you feel like you’re the nines, and then falling into the gutter, it’s raining, your cake doesn’t turn up, and all your friends go to the wrong venue. So it’s it’s literally everything that you wouldn’t want to happen on an evening, and it’s all happened all at once.
Jace You mentioned Cath and Geordie deciding to make their marriage work and coming back together. There’s a beautiful moment at the end of season three where they do just that. What do you make of Cath’s decision not to leave Geordie, both within the social constraints of the 1950s and our own modern day vantage point?
Kacey I guess I really think about it from the 50s, I don’t really think about it from our point of view. I always think about what it would have been like then, and divorce was still very taboo I suppose. And you know there was a feeling of you know in sickness and in health and these things happen and we just get through it. I think she’s a very stoic character. Like I said she’s been through a World War, and rationing and all of those things. So I think they believe that life is short and some if something’s worth fighting for they might as well do it. So yes so I think about it always from her point of view and from the time period that I’m working in.
Jace I love the scenes that you share with Robson Green. They manage to be sort of both flinty and lived-in, in a very realistic way.
Cathy Dotty, you know Dotty…
Cathy Oh yes you do. From Haberdashery. She says to me, there’s a shoplifter doing the rounds. So I say to Pauline from Undies —
Geordie I don’t know who Pauline is!
Cathy Let’s set a trap!
Jace What does Robson bring to Geordie and Cath’s dynamic, and what is it like to have him as a scene partner?
Kacey Oh it’s lovely you say that because that’s exactly what we’re aiming for, we’re aiming for it to be real. I’ve watched Robson for years, and years, and years on television. I’ve worked with him in a very tiny part in a series that he did years and years ago called Soldier Soldier, and he is, I mean, he’s a consummate film actor. Every scene you do with him, it’s a very special scene. he never throws anything away. He’s always very generous to work with. So I get on with him incredibly well. Always have done. We hit it off as soon as we met, and we knew what we were playing, and we were playing something that we both understood. My parents were… I suppose they were they were married in the 60s, but they were of that generation and I’m sure that Robson’s were as well. And so we knew what we were playing, and we knew what people would like to see. And so, I’m glad that you’ve said that you like that they’re… it’s not chocolate box nice lovely 1950s Doris Day kind of relationship. There is a little bit of spark there, and I think that comes from the fact that they met later in life and they they kind of grew on each other. And so it makes it it makes it very easy. Robson and I, I know that everybody says this about people that they work with, but the generosity that he shows to everybody on set. Not just me. And I think that it’s a responsibility when you a lead actor, to kind of lead everyone through the show. And he definitely does that and he does that, like I say, to everybody. He’s a very generous, spirited man. And also to the people who live in the village of Grantchester, he always arranges something. Him and James, and now him and Tom, always arrange something for the for the villagers, so be it a fireworks display or, you know, an ice cream truck to bring ice cream to the children at school, or we’ve had street food, or a barbecue. He always does something to say thank you to the people of the village for allowing us to use their beautiful village, and stop their traffic, and hold their horses from coming on the road and all of that kind of stuff, and the church, and everything else. Oh, we’ve had cricket matches, we’ve had everything, it’s been really lovely. And he’s he’s the kind of lead of that. He does that in conjunction with the production team, and I think it shows exactly the kind of man he is.
Jace It’s funny you mentioned Soldier, Soldier. I wanted to ask how the Robson Green of 2019 is different or similar to the Robson Green you worked with on Soldier, Soldier.
Kacey He’s still as twinkly and still as naughty as he was then, it just makes it fun. He makes it fun to work, and I think that that twinkle always kind of comes across the camera.
Jace When we pick up with Cathy at the start of this season, she’s begun a new job at Swinnerton’s department store, though her career is causing friction at home.
Geordie Since when were my wages not enough, Cathy?
Cathy I’m not having this conversation again, Geordie.
Jace: Why does her newfound role as a working woman rub Geordie the wrong way?
Kacey I suppose it’s just because of his character he thinks everything should be traditionally done. So you know he goes out to work and I stay at home. It’s difficult for him to see anything new, and change is bad for him, so he likes everything not to rock the boat, because I think that’s because he has so much chaos in his own working life. You know it’ll always be a murder or a crime that he’s got to solve and it’s… and so his home life he wants to be easy. He wants that part to be no issue, he wants to come through the door and the kids fling themselves at him, and you know he sits down and he eats his dinner and then he falls asleep in front of the fire. And he wants that simplicity because his working life is so complex.
Jace Cath’s job at the department store comes at the perfect time. It’s 1956, consumerism is a significant cultural force, How does the department store capture the essence of ease, comfort, and freedom that these purchases were meant to signify for women?
Kacey I think in the kind of way it’s set up. I mean that’s why department stores — people loved them, because they could float around inside the building, and look all these beautiful things that they hadn’t seen for years. You know, we have to remember that three years previously, rationing had stopped. So it only stopped in ’53. And also it was the time: we had a new Queen in ’53, she had a very glamorous younger sister. There was trans-Atlantic travel so suddenly we were getting lots of influences from America that we hadn’t seen and we hadn’t had. And there was an ability to to fly across to the States. So there was a lot of an influx of new culture and and and just a newfound sense that we, you know, we’d done with the war, it was over, it’s not happening anymore. And so therefore, you know we could actually go out and live a little bit. There were also lots of wonderful things about Swinnerton’s, in the fact that you know it had all these labor saving devices that women didn’t have in in those times, like you know you know washing machines, or ‘twin tops’ as they were, and you know, vacuum cleaners. Those kinds of things liberated women and just to be able to see that you could you know get rid of your carpet cleaner and your dustpan and brush and get a Hoover that you know plugged into the wall and did it all for you was incredible. So I think I think Swinnerton’s created, you know, a fantasy land, a way out of the kind of domestic drudgery that they had all been in for years and years and years. It was it’s almost like an Aladdin’s Cave, really.
Jace I mean, it definitely brings in sort of a ‘fashion’ element to this world, one that shows off a very different side of Cath’s own personality and wardrobe. She gets to put away her decidedly more sensible clothes this season for costumes that I think are far more stylish and contemporary. Has her work opened up a new world of possibility for Cath or broadened her viewpoint in some way?
Kacey Definitely, definitely. The Swinnerton’s job has definitely opened her eyes to what’s possible, and also and to female friendships that are outside of her home life. So, it’s not just people that she knows from school or through wives of people who’re working with Geordie, she’s getting friendships of her own and it’s all stuff that he’s not involved in and she… normally when he would come home, it would be here’s the dinner, this is what’s happened with the kids at school today. But she’s got something else to talk about. And in some ways that excites him, but also in other ways, he feels like she’s moving a little bit away from him, which he finds again change difficult. And also he’s not having what he would normally have, which is a you know a very smooth transition into his evening. He’s got her kind of running in with fish and chips or something that she’s grabbed on the way home, and sometimes being very animated and up, and if he’s had a hard day he’s kind of like, you know, “Okay. Just give me five minutes to chill out a bit.” And I think that’s kind of how he feels, but she’s got this new lease of life. So he wants it for her, but he doesn’t want things to change and that’s always his problem.
Jace When we first meet Christian McKay’s Anthony Hobbs, Cath is quite taken with him. He seems unthreatening even charming. He’s a modern man of the world. He’s knowledgeable about fashion and cocktails.
Hobbs: You see the hourglass look narrows your waist, and makes the most of everything else.
Cathy You think?
Hobbs They’ll be putting you in the window dressed like that.
Jace: Does he seem at first glance to be everything Geordie is not?
Kacey I don’t think it’s that that Cathy kind of hooks on to. I think it’s the fact that he’s talking about things which feel so glamorous after the years that she’s spent at home, so he’s talking about cocktails, and he talks to her about you know having a Tom Collins and everyone’s drinking them Stateside, and of course she’s seeing all of this now because she’s in a department store so she’s seeing Vogue magazine come in, she’s seeing dresses come in, and colors and materials and shapes that she’s not even thought about for years and years and years. So he’s the epitome of her newfound freedom and move into a glamorous new world. And so that’s I think what is attractive about him, and that he’s funny and that he’s always challenging her to get out of the kind of rut she’s in, and he’s very charming towards her. Very complimentary.
Jace: Before this next question, a quick word from our sponsors…
Jace How surprised were you to see where the Hobbs storyline was going with Cath when you read the scripts for this season?
Kacey Well we talked a lot about things that were happening now, and in the world now. And the #MeToo movement, and we had a conversation, the production company and myself when we were talking about Cathy, and saying, “Well what happened in those days? What did you do?” You know, who did you go and speak to, what could you say, if someone was being out of order or inappropriate at work. Where could you go, what could you do about that? And so that’s the kind of thing we wanted to explore because then there was a tie up with what was happening in the world at the moment. So, it seemed to be really relevant and something that we needed to think about for, you know, “What did you do in the 50s?”
Jace I mean the scene where Hobbs assaults Cathy in the alley is is difficult to watch. For the viewer, like Cath, it seems to come out of nowhere. How challenging was it to shoot this sequence, and what sort of conversations did you have with the producers before that moment?
Kacey So I had lots of conversations with the producers about this particular moment in the episode. And that for me was very interesting, because I’ve been working for 40 years, I’ve been working since I was 10, and I have never had that kind of conversation with anyone when I’ve been doing a scene like that. I’ve filmed things that’ve been really difficult in the past, and there hasn’t been any conversation, and what I liked about, and what I do like about the producers of this show in particular, is the fact that they talked to both myself and Christian. So it wasn’t just because he was doing that to me that I had the conversation. It was how he felt about having to do that to someone else, too. So it was really important that we had that discussion, and how far we could go with it, and what we wanted to see and what we didn’t want to see. And so for for us, I felt very comfortable when I was doing it, as in I knew what was going to happen. And I also felt like I was able to say, “Hey that’s too much,” or, “I think we should go further.”
Jace Hobbs is a sexual predator. Clearly he had designs on Cathy before he invited her for a Tom Collins. Geordie thinks Hobbs is gay, and his scenes with Cath and Geordie could certainly be read that way.
Hobbs Left it is… You are going to love Renata’s for your anniversary dinner – the Peach Melba is divine.
Hobbs And you are going to look just as delicious when we’re finished with you. I’ll fetch some fabric.
Geordie He’s a bit…
Cathy D’you think? That’s what Dotty says, but Sandra swears he isn’t. He’s lovely though, isn’t he? He knows all the latest trends, all the places to go.
Jace Do you believe his mannerisms were a ruse to get Cathy to put to her guard down around him and enable him to prey on her?
Kacey I think pretty much they were. I think he’s been doing it for a long time. He’s been doing it for a long long time, and so therefore I think this has happened through Swinnerton’s and through lots of young girls or even, you know, my age. I think he just preys on people who he feels like he can get one over on, I suppose, or he might be a little bit naive. I think Cathy is, or was, naive at that particular point in time. So yeah I think he’s been doing it for a long time and I think he’s found ways of masking, and unfortunately as we know you know predators often operate in plain sight.
Jace Hobbs’ attack ruins what is meant to be a lovely anniversary dinner at Renata’s, as including a period appropriate dessert of peach melba. Cath’s mind is elsewhere. Why doesn’t she tell Geordie what happened at this point, and is it a secret that’s kept out of shame?
Kacey I think it’s all of those things. I think she doesn’t tell him because Geordie is Geordie, and he would just go bonkers and want to, you know, go to Swinnerton’s and clock him one. She knows that that would end in her not being able to work there anymore. She doesn’t want to lose her job, but equally she feels ashamed that she went out for a drink with him. And she questions her that her decision making at that particular point in time, as do lots of people who are taken advantage of in situations. They question their role and their involvement in it. So I think that it’s tied up in all of those things. So she doesn’t want… she doesn’t want Geordie to say “I told you so,” she doesn’t want him to say “Right, that’s it, you’re leaving this job,” because she loves it, and it takes Mrs. McGuire to say to her, you know, “You love this job,” and her daughter to say “You love this job, don’t give it up for him. Find a way.”
Jace I mean when we pick up with Cath again she’s clearly in a state of PTSD which her doctor has categorized as “nerves.” Is that the period stand-in for what men of the time might have deemed “female hysteria”?
Kacey Exactly. That’s exactly it. Yeah that was, I mean there was obviously nowhere you could go to talk about having been assaulted. I mean how can you go to the police when your husband’s the policeman. It was wrapped up in so much difficult emotional stuff for her that she couldn’t. So she went to the doctor, and that’s the best she could have hoped for of help, and of course yeah he was just going to prescribe her anything, or say that it was nerves, or say it was the change in life or any of those kinds of things. So yes. So the help was not forthcoming.
Jace And he’s such an oily, gross character, Hobbs. What was it like working with Christian McKay and shooting these scenes, where he is relentless despite Cathy’s pleas to just leave her alone?
Kacey He’s a great actor and obviously I’ve watched him in loads of stuff and he always laughs, because he said, “Why do we always get these parts when I am playing, you know, some greasy cardinal or something like that?” He said, “What is it about me, I’m a lovely man!” And he is indeed a lovely man. He was just perfectly cast. I couldn’t think of anyone else who I’d have wanted to play that kind of storyline with. And he was just brilliant at placing it so well, because you would not have known. It was a definite twist, and for lots of people who watched it at that time they, in England, they were like “Well I didn’t see that coming.”
Jace I mean the scene at the Keatings where Geordie brings Cath flowers and she pretends everything is okay is to me absolutely heartbreaking. She flinches from his touch but then suddenly tries to sublimate her anguish and pretends that she’s fine. Why does she take this tack with him?
Kacey Well because again she doesn’t want to bring it up. She doesn’t want to say, because if she begins, who knows what’s happened it’s like Pandora’s box. She doesn’t want to open that box but she does in the end realize that she has to. But at that particular point she’s not capable of doing it. She’s just trying to lock it all away and pretend it didn’t happen. And I think lots of people do do that.
Jace This week’s episode, the truth finally does come out.
Geordie What did he do?
Cathy: I was stupid to go!
Geordie Cathy. Love.
Cathy He kissed me. And then his hands were all over me and now he’s always watching me, he’s always there! Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare! This didn’t happen to you. This happened to me. This is not your fight, Geordie. This is my fight. No don’t you dare. Don’t you dare!
Jace What was this scene like to shoot to get to the place of absolute vulnerability. As an actor, as a character, with the actor who plays your husband?
Kacey It’s a weird one when you play stuff like this. Because I never try and think too much about it before I do it, because I like to kind of play in real time, and I find that if you try and plan when you are going to be upset in the scene, or when it’s going to happen you know, I don’t about the moment when when you’re going to be upset. I just kind of let it happen, and I have always found over the years that the more you relax about it and just play the scene the more the real emotion will come out. And like I’ve said before, if it’s written well that just automatically happens. You don’t need to to do that. I’ve played over the years some really harrowing roles. And everybody always says to me, “Oh my gosh, you can cry on spec!” You know, “You can do that!” But I can’t, because I don’t I don’t think about it like that. It just happens. I think I’m probably quite an emotional person and I do cry at, you know, adverts and things like that so I’ve probably got a little bit more of a watery disposition than most people, and I am quite an emotional person. So I do find that it comes easily to me but. But it certainly isn’t something that I think, “Oh, I must cry on this on this particular line.” And with working with Robson is so easy that it does just happen. And if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t mind, because that would be playing the real emotion of the scene.
Jace I mean one of the elements that makes this such a gut-wrenching sequence is Cath’s efforts to remind Geordie that this happened to her and not to him. How tough a moment was this to play for Cath as a woman in 1956 to try and assert her sense of agency over her husband?
Kacey You know, I found that quite difficult to do, because she would normally acquiesce, you know, she would normally say, “Well, okay, you know, you go and sort it out,” because that’s the kind of default position that you had in the ’50s it was like, you know, like we’ve said they deal with home and the men go out and deal with the stuff and the problems and all of those kinds of things. And I think it was part of her development that she said, “No, I have to do this, and don’t make this about you. Make this about me.” And I think it was really important for her to say just that. That’s all she needed to say. And I think that’s what stopped him from doing his, you know, his natural position of going round and sorting it out for her was the fact that she wanted to say that this was about her and it wasn’t about him. And I think if she hadn’t said that, I’m sure he would have just kind of shoved her out the way and said, “Right, no, I’m not listening to you I’m going off to do that.” But it struck a chord with him because I think he realized how much this job meant to her, and how much she was enjoying it, that she was prepared to say, “I’ve got to sort this out not you.”
Jace We don’t know what will happen now that Geordie knows what Hobbs did to Cath. What can you tease in the broadest sense of where this storyline is headed in the final episode?
Kacey I think the lovely thing is about this series is that you don’t actually know where where it’s going to go. I think you could probably have quite a few different scenarios, but you would never guess the one that happens.
Jace So it’s entirely possible that Cath might murder Hobbs herself.
Kacey She may well, you never know.
Jace Your breakout role was as timid Little Mo on EastEnders, who endured quite a lot of horror in her six years in Albert Square. Why do you think viewers were so taken with Little Mo?
Kacey She was a great character, and I think they liked her because she wasn’t loud and she wasn’t brash and she wasn’t like the rest of the family. She was timid but she was happy to be timid. She didn’t want to change her personality she didn’t want to put lipstick on and have hair and short skirts. She was happy being her, and so I think a lot of people really latched on to someone who said, “It’s okay to be me.” So at that point she was like, ‘It’s okay to be quiet. I don’t have to be loud and brash in and throwing my bra in the air and getting drunk and all of that. I don’t have to be that because that isn’t me. This is me.” So she was kind of quite a pioneer in the kind of early-2000s kind of nerdy world, she was just, “It’s okay to be who you are.” And so I think that’s why a lot of people latched onto her and liked her.
Jace: The fact that Mo was abused at the hands of of her husband Trevor Morgan and then subsequently prosecuted for his attempted murder, it did raise a new level of attention towards domestic violence in a very meaningful way. I mean, were you personally proud of the response and influence that Mo had on this issue in the real world?
Kacey Yes, I am personally very proud of that and looking back on it it did open a lot of floodgates for people to address this issue. And like I say for laws to be changed and and for people to talk about domestic violence within their own lives, or situations that where they’d felt like they were being bullied, because it also had lots of letters from people, friends from school, who felt again similar situations. They felt like they were being that they were being bullied and they didn’t know how to change that situation because they felt so down on themselves and didn’t know where to go for help. And I think it did raise the awareness of where you could go and what you can do what you could do. And actually the agencies that there are out there to help you if you are in this situation.
Jace: Kacey Ainsworth, thank you so much.
Kacey Thank you it was lovely to talk to you. Thank you.
Jace For all the rampant murdering and crime-solving in Grantchester, one of the highlights of the series for many viewers is the two sharply contrasting personalities in the vicarage: Mrs. C and Leonard.
Mrs. C Mr. Davenport said things are falling apart.
Leonard It’s a lot less tidy, that’s for certain.
Mrs. C He said you couldn’t arrange a you know what in a you know what…
Leonard Is that right?
Mrs. C He said you lack rigor.
Leonard I’m managing very well, thank you. Single-handedly, some might say.
Mrs. C He seemed to think otherwise. Shall we go through?
Leonard Actually, I don’t think we will.
Jace We’ll speak to actors Al Weaver and Tessa Peake-Jones about their characters’ emotionally fraught journey after the season finale next Sunday, August 11.
MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
Sign up to get the latest news on your favorite dramas and mysteries, as well as exclusive content, video, sweepstakes and more.