Al Weaver Interview: Grantchester’s Lovable Leonard Finch
Al Weaver, the actor behind Grantchester‘s Leonard, shares insights about the character he considers both silly and brave, and shares revelations about Dickens; getting in trouble with Tom Brittney and James Norton; and more. Find out in his exclusive interview from June, 2020 with MASTERPIECE.
Leonard is such a fan-favorite—why do you think people like him so much?
He’s always in turmoil, which always gets the viewers feeling sorry for him. He always seems to struggle, whether it’s God or his sexuality or his love life or his relationship with Mrs. C, whatever it is, he’s always got something going on. The writers are really good—we always try and take him on to another level, try to make him grow. And I think by doing that, that gives him more problems, and in doing that, it lets the viewers into his life. Also, I think [viewers may like him] because he’s quite silly, as well. He’ll walk around the house in some marigold gloves, doing whatever, so he’s got a good broad range, which is nice.
What do you like most about him?
I like his honesty and his silliness. He’s one of these people that looks at the world in a different way, and I like the way he looks at it. He’s not shaken by other people’s opinions. He’s very forward-thinking and determined, and I like that about him. He’s very brave. I think he’s such a brave character, and that’s a good thing.
She’s a gossiper, she loves the gossip—she is always in people’s business.
We’ve heard that you’re responsible for making your costars laugh during scenes, and someone has even described you as naughty. Who have you gotten in the most trouble with on set? Would it be Tessa [Peake-Jones], James [Norton], Tom [Brittney] or Robson [Green]?
Tom recently, obviously. But me and James got in a lot of trouble. We’ve been kicked off set a couple of times. It’s usually down to Tessa, because I just find her really funny, I find her face funny and her character funny. Especially when someone’s telling you that you can’t laugh, or lunch is soon, for some reason, you just want to cause a bit of trouble. It’s good for the crew and for the cast—I think we all like to have a giggle. But then we take it past a certain line, sometimes, and it’s a bit…We get shouted at. Me especially.
How’s it different working with Tom Brittney as Will, versus James Norton as Sidney?
As actors, they’re not that much different. They’ve both got a really good positive energy, which is great; they’re very similar like that, actually, as leading men. They bring a real good energy to set, they never moan, they’re always up for a laugh. They’re always up for doing the scenes as best as they can. They are two different characters, as well. With Sidney [James Norton], he was there from the start, so they had this total bond that you couldn’t really break. And with Will [Tom Brittney], obviously, we’re still finding it, and this season sort of explores that. They live together and they’re friends, but we’ve got to see that relationship grow, and I think that’s what we’re witnessing at this minute. And that’s really sweet. So we’ll see where it goes, but they’re both wonderful, wonderful gentlemen to work with.
We understand that you and Tessa Peake-Jones go way back to your drama school years and that you have been riding to set together. So, are you as much of a morning person as she is? How did you pass the time? And do you miss those car rides?
I do, I do miss those car rides. I’ll get more of them this year, when we’re allowed to go back. How do we pass the time? She’s a gossiper, she loves the gossip—she is always in people’s business. I’m quite chill in the morning. I require a bit of “me time” so I can do my meditation as we go from my house to her house. It’s about 50 minutes, and then the 50 minutes after that, it’s just like that [makes a talking gesture with his hand]. And we’ll talk about anything. When we’re filming Grantchester, we always ask if we can come back together; it’s about an hour and 10 [minutes]. But we’ve got a new thing on the way back, where we stop at the garage and get a bottle of wine. We’ll sit in the back and we’ll have a little bottle of wine on the way home, and have a natter, which is really sweet, actually.
So Sidney helped Geordie solve crimes, and Will helps Geordie solve crimes. Leonard has tried his hand at this as well. So what about Mrs. C? I’d like to see her have a shot. Do you think she’d be any good?
I think she would, actually, because she wouldn’t take no nonsense. It’d be like good cop, bad cop. I’d be the good cop.
Dickens is a dog, so presumably he could also contribute something, right? Do you think he’d be capable in helping to solve a crime?
Interestingly, because of his very, very average acting skills, we spend more takes on Dickens than anyone else. It’s unfortunate for Dickens; he’s not very good. But yeah, he could sniff stuff. He could find a sausage—he just eats sausages the whole day. And you’ve got to put them in your pockets and then your hands smell of sausages and stuff, it’s gross. But I’m sure he’d be very good. With him and Mrs. C and Leonard, there’s definitely a spinoff there.
On MASTERPIECE, you have a history of being highly detective-adjacent: you’ve been in five seasons of Grantchester; you were in the Sherlock episode The Blind Banker; you were recently in Press alongside David Suchet, our long-time Poirot; and then many years ago, you were in episodes of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
So your mystery cred is through the roof. Do you think this would give you an advantage in crime-solving, if you ever encountered that in real life, or in avoiding being murdered?
I do, I do. I think I’ve picked up certain skills, definitely. As Leonard I can pray for help and can hide well. With Press, I could definitely investigate, because he was an investigative journalist. And in Sherlock, he worked in the museum, he was really smart, so, I think I’d be all right. I quite like the sound of that, I quite like the idea of being a detective. Maybe that’s an alternative—I’m 40 in January, so maybe it’s something I’ll pursue.
Leonard has grown so much over the course of the series. Can you describe the journey he’s been on and what, you that means to you, as this person who’s embodied him?
I think the change is huge—he didn’t really have a family, and he’s got that now; he’s made a family here in the village. He’s had the support and the friendship and the love and the trust, and that’s allowed him to blossom into this very fierce, at times, character. He can be very angry with people and put his foot down. I think he’s been less silly—I think he’s sort of gone from a boy to a man. Every time a season starts, I’m just sort of like, “What year is it? How old is he, is he like 50? I don’t know.” I was like 33 when I started. So obviously that changed, and they write for that, as well. We’ve just seen him grow so much into this wonderful human—I think he’s a real, good, positive example for people. I love that about him, and I love what the writers do, they’re really brave. In a weird way, I don’t think they get as much credit as they deserve for the writing of someone like Leonard. He’s quite a pioneering character, especially in the ’50s. They’re doing some quite dangerous stuff with him. So yeah, more of that.
What are you most looking forward to when Grantchester can finally begin filming its new season?
I think just seeing the people, because we have a lot of the same crew back as well. And it is such a jolly time—we have such a good laugh filming…Every year it’s a different adventure, and we get lots of brilliant, brilliant cast in, who play all the other parts, and they always have a good time. So you always meet new people and make new friends. It’s a nice place to be.