An Insider’s Look at Making Grantchester Season 5

Never mind Grantchester‘s vicars and detectives—hear about its poison octupuses, spilled beer, and even a suspected kidnapping when actress Lauren Carse (Ellie Harding) takes us behind the scenes for a real insider’s look at the antics and friendships of the Grantchester cast on and off set! You’ll also get the scoop on Grantchester‘s roving reporter from the lovely actress who plays her.


Robson Green and Lauren Carse on the set of Grantchester as seen on MASTERPIECE on PBS
Masterpiece:

Obviously, everyone working on Grantchester is super professional, but it looks like you guys had a lot of fun, too! Was there anyone in the cast who made you laugh or was naughty on the set?

Lauren Carse:

Yeah! There’s a scene at the vicarage where I’m having dinner with Tessa [Mrs. C] and Al [Leonard] and Tom [Will], and they got the giggles. Tom and Al were like naughty schoolboys, they just couldn’t keep it together. Tessa is really nervous, she told us, when she’s working with props—she already knows it and Al knows it, so she was giving him these stern looks, like You can’t mess this up for me, the camera’s on me. And that just made it feel like we were all at school, when you know you’re not allowed to laugh, and it just makes everything ten times funnier. You could just feel the tension in the room where everyone wanted to get the scene done and move on. But I would say when Tom and Al are together, they’re the naughty ones in the classroom.

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Masterpiece:

How about you? Did you make some trouble yourself?

Lauren Carse:

I was good as gold all the way through that scene! There was one scene in Episode 5 where there’s a boxing match going on and I have to take Robson’s beer from him, and on one of the tapes I snatched it just a little bit too firmly and it spilled down his chin. But he didn’t attempt to clean it up; he just looked at me with all this dribble, really judging me for what I’d done and just carried on staring at me through the scene.

The cameras were far away from us, so I don’t know if they caught it, but I couldn’t stop laughing. It was just one of those real “pinch me” moments, where I was looking at him—beer stained Robson— with this whole crowd shouting, at this boxing match. Afterwards, he said to me, “You’ll never forget that moment, that’s going to be one of your highlights of this series,” and I thought actually, it really was. But by this time, we knew each other quite well, so I wasn’t scared of him as I was when I first met him!

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Masterpiece:

What were your feelings going into meeting him, and your first impression of him?

Lauren Carse:

He’s just so funny and his humor is so sharp! The first time I met him, I was in a rehearsal room and I knew that they would be coming in, and I didn’t quite know where to put myself as I was waiting for the door to open. So I was just hovering near the bags and then he opened the door and was like “She’s stealing!” And that’s the first thing he said to me! I was like “Oh I’m not, I’m the new character, hi…” That kind of set the precedent for, just, the fun relationship that we all have as a cast…I was just really happy to be a small part of that and to experience what it was like to be friends with these amazing people.

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Masterpiece:

Did he talk to you about fishing a lot, and did you like it?

Lauren Carse:

I liked it week one. Week two…I’m joking, I learned so much about fish on that show, though I’ve forgotten most of it! But I never got bored of his stories because it was always something crazy—and he would say it between takes as well—talking about being in the Amazon and then they’d be like “Quiet, we’re rolling.” And I’d be like, “Well, tell me the end!” and he was so professional and able to pull whatever smile or look he was giving me off his face, and get back into it. And I’m now wondering about this poisonous octopus and how likely it is that I’m going to come face to face with one, and what should I do? So yeah, I did enjoy his stories, they definitely were the highlight.

Masterpiece:

What’s your favorite off-camera memory of working with Tom Brittney?

Lauren Carse:

I loved the most all of our time in Cambridge, and it wasn’t just Tom, but there was a taxi journey that we had on the way back from being at a pub with all of the villagers of Grantchester. It’s something that they do every year, a really lovely kind of celebration of our show and a thanks to the people who live there and allow us to use their facilities and everything. So we were in this taxi and it was really late, and it was supposed to be a 15, 20 minute drive, and suddenly all the roads had shut and it turned into an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes, and we were just stuck going round and round these ring roads! It was me, Tom, Robson, Tessa, Al Weaver—Kasey was in the front trying to direct the taxi driver—we’re all trying to route, and Robson was singing and doing these big claps like we were on some folk camp…And then someone said, “Well, what if we’re getting kidnapped?” and then it became very real, like maybe we’re not going to make it back. And then it was Robson’s got a 4:00 a.m. call—do we have to just go straight to set with Robson and drop him there?

It was a mess, but it was glorious, and it was truly one of the funniest taxi journeys of my life. I’ve got some videos of that taxi journey that I posted at the time just to be like look where we are! That was one of the highlights, and Tom was there.

Masterpiece:

How about your favorite off-camera memory of Robson Green?

Lauren Carse:

The whole time at Cambridge, it was just so much fun. And I spent a lot of the time trying to get everybody to race me in the swimming pool—I really wanted a Grantchester swimming gala. Nobody took me up on it, but Robson and I did do a workout together once, and that was another “pinch me” moment, both doing bicep curls in the gym, and I was like I’m just working out casually with Robson Green in Cambridge, my life is made. I won’t come back from this, I peaked.

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Masterpiece:

What were Robson and Tom like together?

Lauren Carse:

They’re both big kids, they like playing with the set and props and doing funny things to make you laugh. You turn around and Robson had a bucket on his head—I’ve got pictures of that, that I’ve gone back and gone what was that? So yeah, if there was a prop to be used you could guarantee they were both either climbing it or wearing it. But they were so much fun all the time.

Masterpiece:

What about the dog who plays Dickens? I know you didn’t have a ton of Dickens’ time, but your character, Ellie, got a little shade from Mrs. C for feeding him. What was it like working with that dog?

Lauren Carse:

That dog is so naughty and will do anything just for food, he’s so fickle. I love Dickens though, I have a Labrador myself, so I was so excited to get on set that day. But yeah, I had to just feed him little pieces of bread and he made so much noise and slobbered everywhere that they just, when he wasn’t in a shot, they just moved him out of the whole scene, so I was just kind of crumbling bread onto the floor and pretending to stroke this dog. So just to try to be method with it, but yeah, because when he was there it was just saliva and whines and give me that bread, so yeah, he’s a character, he’s such a diva, but it was an amazing day with Dickens.

Masterpiece:

What’s your favorite thing about Ellie?

Lauren Carse:

I love how confident and self-assured she is, because I think it was quite unusual for a woman to be that way in the ’50s. It was a really fun character to play in that she was the quick-witted one and the sharp one that teased people. And her energy in all of the scenes—I just loved being within that and to find the funny side of things.

Masterpiece:

Did you learn anything in particular in preparing for the role about what a young female journalist might have faced in 1957?

Lauren Carse:

Yeah, I had research of just what it would have been like, the conditions for women and there weren’t that many female journalists at that time at all, so Ellie was a trailblazer. There wasn’t anybody that she would have been able to look up to, as a woman, to show her how it was done. Most of the big important storylines would have gone to male reporters, and that was a big part of my construction of this character: her tenacity to be able to get those stories. She had to create opportunities and perhaps slightly bending the rules a little bit, in the way she got her information. But it’s a really great side of her that she was confident and fierce enough to do that, and brave as well.

Masterpiece:

Did you love her red plaid jacket as much as Grantchester fans?

Lauren Carse:

I loved it so much, in fact I wanted to keep it, but they’ve had to keep hold of it…I love that it just brightens up the scenes, and it’s almost like when you see that red jacket come on in the corner, you’re like “Oh no, here comes trouble!” And I love that.


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