Actor Nathaniel Parker portrayed Thomas Lynley in the beloved series Inspector Lynley based on the books of Elizabeth George. He recently returned to MASTERPIECE for the first time in nearly a decade to portray Will Davenport’s father in Grantchester.
MASTERPIECE chatted with the jovial and ever-charming Parker to discuss coming into this intense character, what superhero role would most suit Brittney, Parker’s longtime friendship with Robson Green, and of course, lots of Inspector Lynley nostalgia. (NOTE: This interview contains an Episode 4 spoiler.)
MASTERPIECE: You’ve had a long and successful history on MASTERPIECE. What message would you have for MASETRPIECE fans who are delighted to see you back again?
PARKER: It’s lovely to be back and I couldn’t be in better company for this show! I think it’s a different kind of thing than they will have ever seen me do. They probably think I look a lot older, which is possibly true. It tends to happen [laughs]. But it’s lovely to be back.
MASTERPIECE: It must have been such an intense experience coming into the show and playing this particular character in this short arc.
PARKER: I would have loved to have done more. It was kind of strange, I’ve known Robson [Green] for many, many years. I’ve never worked with him. And then of course James [Norton] isn’t in it anymore, so in comes Tom [Brittney].
I’ve watched a few of the previous ones, but I didn’t know Tom at all. It’s rather a privilege to be his father really, such a good-looking lad, built like a tank [laughs]. I think he could be the next Superman if my old mate Henry Cavill (who was in Inspector Lynley of course) were giving it up. I think Tom could be in the mix for the next one! He’s such a wonderful character like that. Just right.
“As I get older, I realize the world is all about love.”–Nathaniel Parker
MASTERPIECE: You obviously have such emotional scenes with Tom in this particular episode that are so moving. What was it like working with him and filming those scenes?
PARKER: Well he gives a lot. The lovely thing about working with someone like Tom is he really just stands and gives you everything he possibly can. It was episode four and he had got into the character by now. He knew what he was doing, but it was still quite new to him, in terms of he hadn’t done anything quite this big before.
He was very eager and incredibly helpful … He gave me an enormous amount of energy to work with, which was a lovely feeling, a really lovely feeling. And, the scene just before I kill myself, when we’re in the study, it was very moving. He’s no pushover, Tom, either. He does say what he wants to do and that’s always an exciting thing to work with.
MASTERPIECE: What was it like connecting with Robson on set after knowing him for so long?
PARKER: Okay, well I have a slight problem here because I’ve almost run out of superlatives [laughs]. The guy is just so lovely. He really is almost the loveliest person I’ve ever worked with – helpful, creative and funny. I remember when I used to do Inspector Lynley, I made people laugh and it was great on set. I would tell jokes that people would love. Then I realized afterwards, they were probably only being nice to me. My kids would say, “Dad, try not to do too many dad jokes on set.” Robson, on the other hand, is genuinely funny and everybody adores him. He’s got this charisma about him, which is very seductive, and easy to watch, and easy to be a part of.
MASTERPIECE: For fans used to seeing you as a detective, what did you learn being in the role of suspect? What was that like?
PARKER: Yeah, very good question. I’ve done this once before. I did an episode of Inspector Lewis, and I remember sitting down at the table read before rehearsals, and thinking, “Where’s Sharon? This doesn’t feel right!” I’m a suspect here and I never felt in my boots quite.
With this one, it wasn’t about being a suspect really, it was about playing an interesting character. I think that’s what I really like about the show. It reminded me quite a bit of Lynley in that it’s quite character driven. It has a proper backstory with good arcs for the actors to play. I’ve been a few baddies since I played Lynley. It wasn’t a huge leap, it was just quite exciting.
MASTERPIECE: Looking back on Inspector Lynley, what makes it stand the test of time and why does it still appeal to people?
PARKER: I’m really flattered that it does because I watched an episode the other day and I tore shreds into myself. I was going, “No! What? No, no!” The funny thing is, I do remember every shot. I remember every scene we did and, and who was around and how it worked. I think possibly the key to it, and I think Sharon would agree with me, is that we poured a lot of love into it. We really did. As I get older, I realize the world is all about love.
I think we poured a lot of love into that show, and we had some amazing names in it, James McAvoy, Henry Cavill, who I’ve already mentioned… there’s two superheroes to begin with and, there was quite a lot of fabulous support there.
I think the dynamic of me, a boss, and an underling who is sergeant, who were different sexes and yet not being overly flirty, not playing on that, has also stood the test of time. I think the character is slightly arrogant and sexist in his moments. I don’t think he means to be, but I think if we looked at it through the prism of 2019, you’d say, “He can’t do that! You can’t say that!” But because it [the series] was based in honesty and respect, I think it does still stand the test of time…I’m really proud of having done it, even if I look at it and go,”Oh my God, no, what was I thinking?! I should have concentrated more!”
MASTERPIECE: Your fans are going to wonder – are you still in touch with your Inspector Lynley co-star Sharon Small?
PARKER: Yes, actually yes! We bumped into each other by chance recently and as a result, we’ve reconnected. She’s a wonderful lady. I love her, and a terrific actor. God, she’s good. She doesn’t have to do a Cockney accent anymore. She can just be herself, which I think is a relief for one and all [laughs].
MASTERPIECE: Now, a decade after the end of Inspector Lynley, do you ever imagine where those characters would be now if they were still around?
PARKER: Well, I will be completely honest. I have thought about redoing it and I’ve had talks with people, but I think the world of television seems to have moved on… If the right production company came along and said they wanted to do it, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for me, I must say. It would be lovely to do it, just because I don’t think it finished quite properly. It was a surprise when it finished, so it’d be one of those things that I’d love to tie the bow as it were. You know, do the last few episodes, do her last few books and then put it to bed.