Tom Brittney Answers Fan Questions
You asked, he answered! Grantchester leading man Tom Brittney sat down to field some burning fan questions, covering everything from Season 6, to Will’s romantic future, Robson’s eyes, the famous motorbike, and more. Buckle in! [This interview contains Season 6 spoilers.]
“Your character is described as an idealist. Are you more of a realist or an idealist?” Diane G. from Brighton, Michigan
I think I’m an idealist as well. I’m probably more pessimistic and realistic than Will is, but I like to think we share some of the more liberal views, and it’s probably quite similar to how me and Robson are in real life. We’re probably very similar to our characters. I think I’m the idealistic one and he’s the vehemently realistic one. It works.
“Tom, I love that you ride a motorcycle in the show. You sometimes do risky things on Grantchester. Are you like that in your day-to-day life?” Tannis Clark from Glenwood, Iowa
Well, I used to be as a teenager. I used to do BMX and skateboard and it was my little quarter-life crisis, I think, mid-pandemic, was I bought a skateboard and a BMX again, and then very quickly fell off and cut my leg up. I was like, “I’m too old for this stuff.” With the motorbike, I would never have thought to ever have ridden a motorbike, if it weren’t for the Grantchester executives forcing me to go and take my test.
“As Grantchester takes place in the 1950s, do you think you would’ve liked to live and grow up in those times?” Toni McKenzie from Cranston, Rhode Island
On a whole, no, and not just because I’ve experienced life now, like technology. Taking that all out, that’s probably the pro. There are times where you find yourself sitting on Instagram, or those kind of things, and say, “God, I wish this didn’t exist.” And things were simpler for some people in the 1950s, where we probably talked to each other more, and writing a letter is a lovely thing to do. You couldn’t text each other instantly or ignore each other’s texts. But for the views of society and stuff like that, no, I think it wasn’t a great time. I probably would like to think I’d be like Will, in trying to be a bit more progressive, but no, the 1950s weren’t that good, I think.
“Has playing Will had any influence on your own life as to how you see things? Have you become more aware of other people’s feelings and lives, for example?” Paula Bailey, from Aurora, Illinois
I think I have. I’ve also played a lot of bad characters, which also have their own positives, as in, “Wow, I never want to be like this,” or, “I never want to be around people that are like this.” But Will, I disagree with some of the ways that he does stuff, but on a whole, I think he’s a good person and it definitely has made me, as an actor, say, “Yeah, can I be more of a good person? Can I be more vocal when I think what’s wrong in the world?” Or even, on a smaller level, “Can I try and do stuff?” I got involved with Amnesty and stuff, and that was only, I think, from doing Grantchester and being like, “Yeah, maybe I can do some more stuff to help.” I still have a lot more to do.
“What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from working closely with Robson Green?” Jan Cornelius, from Laguna Hills, California
I was told it by James Norton at the beginning, you’ll have to put up with him singing a lot, and telling the same jokes and stories. And that advice has been very valuable over the last four years. But what’s my best takeaway? He’s taught me the most about acting, really. Robson is one of the best actors I’ve worked with. I wouldn’t have been able to direct if it weren’t for learning the technical side of screen acting from Robson.
It’s funny that you mention the singing part, because we also got a lot of those questions. “Does Robson sing? Do you sing with Robson?”
Yes, sometimes. Although, I don’t know half as many songs as he does. But there is a little game that I sometimes play, where you’d start singing the first couple of words from a song from the ’80s, and then he, without even noticing that you’d started singing, he’d just carry on. Yeah, he sings a lot. He’s got a great voice. He’s a very good singer, and he was very, very successful, as he will also remind you.
“Are Robson’s eyes really that beautiful in person?” Freddie L.
They are. You look at them, and I think there’s been many a day where I just think, “God, you’ve got beautiful eyes, you handsome man.” Do you know, he was down to the last few for Paul Newman’s son in Road To Perdition, but Daniel Craig got it; a guy who also has very good blue eyes. But I remember saying to Robson, “Man, you would’ve really killed in that part, because you kind of look like him.” It’s those sweet baby blues he’s got.
“This is an emotionally fraught time for Will, from dealing with Leonard’s trauma to a somewhat fractured relationship with Geordie to sleeping with Tamara to the arrival of Henry. How do you process all of that as an actor, and are you able to leave the set at the end of the day without carrying it all with you?” Gail Trask from Sandy Springs, Georgia
Well, firstly, let me state for the record, they did not sleep together, Will and Tamara. They did not. They just physically shared a bed.
I try to acknowledge it’s fiction, whether it affects me in terms of opening my eyes to a new issue. Leonard’s storyline, for the viewers or anyone who was part of it, it’s a really heartbreaking storyline to follow. We definitely would talk about it, or you definitely would feel something when you came home, but it was more on set, like when reading that sermon after Leonard’s been sent to prison and he’s written a letter for Will to read out loud. Even thinking about it, I just remember I could not get through it. I’m like, this isn’t even real, but it just was so heartbreaking, and loving Al Weaver [actor] and Leonard, those are the things that affect me the most; the stuff on set where your fiction and reality kind of blur.
“Will often ends his day by getting a pint with Geordie. How do you relax after a long day of filming?” Stephanie Appleton from Austin, Texas
Getting a glass of red wine with Robson. To be honest, when I’m filming, especially because I live an hour-and-a-half away from set, we’ll do 12, 13-hour days and then you’ll get back and you really only have enough time to quickly go over your lines, go to sleep and then wake up at 4am or 5am the next day. And so I think when I come back, I probably just watch a lot of YouTube. If I feel like I can maybe get away with it, I’ll have one glass of wine sometimes. My favorite part of the day is working and getting to see everyone, but I also quite like being in the back of the car at the end of the day, and just putting my headphones on and listening to a podcast or audio book.
“I would like to know how did Tom get started in acting? How long has he been acting and what influenced him to go into acting?” Tina Smith, from Orlando, Florida
Well, my mom was my elementary school drama teacher, and so I grew up watching her do amateur dramatics in our village hall. That was a big factor. My mom is instrumental in me being here, because she also made me realize that it was a career, not just messing about and making people laugh or cry or whatever, which is just what I wanted to do. It was growing up watching movies with Tom Hanks and Robin Williams and such, that just made me think, “I want to be in that world of make believe.” I’ve probably been doing it professionally for 10 years now, I think, since I graduated drama school.
And then you ended up acting with Tom Hanks.
Yeah, I ended up acting with Tom Hanks (in Greyhound). I’ve peaked and I’ve completed everything now. I’m going to retire now.
“Will seems a long way from being ready to marry. What do you think?” Regina R., from South Carolina
He’s still got a long way to go. He’s still got a lot to learn about his relationship with women. He doesn’t quite carry the same darkness that he used to, but he still has a troubled relationship with them and himself. I think he wants love, but doesn’t quite know how to find it or where to find it or what to do with it.
“Are there similarities between you and Will? Do you think you’d like Will as a close friend if he was a real life person?” JJ L.
I think there are a lot of similarities. There’s also times where when you play a character, obviously it was written a certain way, but the more that you play it, the more they start writing around you. Will didn’t seem too alien, I wasn’t playing something too far away from me. However, I’d love him as a friend. I think he would be a good friend to have, but I think I’d also get annoyed with him sometimes. I think being idealistic is one of those things where you do sometimes want to just give him a slap around the face. This season, for instance, holding onto his morals, where he won’t go and give an alibi to Leonard…Man, I would want to scream at him and go, “What are you doing?”
“Has being behind the camera [as a director in Season 7] altered the way you are in front of the camera?” Susan Z.
Definitely, yeah. Film and TV acting was always what I wanted to do, and I’ve been stage trained, but you do learn very quickly on the job that it’s an entirely different form. Robson really taught me about camera lens sizes and how to play to certain lenses. I learned so much from him in that respect. I think, hopefully, it made me a better director for me being an actor, so I kind of knew how actors thought and worked and how to maybe move the camera around them. But then also, as an actor, I realized how the director wants to work and how to communicate with them, or if there’s a certain shot, how to do your performance for that.
“What is your favorite type of motorbike, classic or modern? And when are you and Sam Heughan (Outlander) going to go for a ride together?” Lainie A. from Mississippi
I haven’t seen Sam since we shot [Outlander]. I’d love to see him again. But with the motorbikes, the classic motorbikes are beautiful to look at. No one can deny that, but they are a pain to ride, because obviously I learned on a modern motorbike where everything’s standardized. The brake is on one side, the clutch is on the other side, and then on a classic motorbike, it’s all flipped. Everything I’d learned had just gone out the window and I had to relearn briefly. But also, they’re so hard to start. I could never start the bike myself. On a modern bike, you just press a tiny button, boom, it’s on.
“Do you think Will will ever wear a helmet when he rides his motorcycle?” Dru M.
Well, we have a rule, and I do wear a helmet sometimes, but we have a rule that it’s over a certain distance in the show. If I’ve properly gone out of the Cambridge area, I’ve worn my helmet, but if I’m just puttering around from Grantchester to Cambridge, or Cambridge to one of the little villages just outside, no. You didn’t have to. And Will’s a bit rock and roll. He’s not going to wear a helmet.
“When Will and Geordie have a pint or a drink of whiskey, what are they actually drinking?” Linda V., from Great Falls, Virginia
Sometimes it’s non-alcoholic beer, which is my favorite, because you kind of have that placebo effect and feel like you’re actually having a drink in a pub. And sometimes it’s just watered-down Coca-Cola. I think whiskey’s normally watered down Coca-Cola, which is fine. My favorite is ginger ale, anything like that. But then also, if you’re doing 20 takes, then the sugar rush you get is insane.
“Are you a runner, Tom? You seem to like the chase scenes, but it must be a challenge in the vicar clothes and shoes.” Carolyn K., from Cincinnati, Ohio
Yes. Thank you for pointing that out. The running, I love running scenes. My favorite day is the running around and the fight scenes and anything like that. I’ll be on the phone to my agent right after saying, “I want to do a Mission Impossible film. Please get me some action.” I wish we had more. But you know what? For a vicar, I think I have a pretty good amount of punching and running to do. But in the costume, it is hell. I hate it. Those shoes have no grip, and then I’m wearing a quite tight waist coat and braces and everything like that. I sometimes watch it on screen and go, “I think I look a bit silly running like that, in that gear.”
“Would you consider being the next Bond?” Nereida Nazzaro from Ann Arbor, Michigan
Yes I would. I can’t remember when it was, there was an actor that I worked with who was in the running for Bond. In the poll thing. And he was like, “If you ever get asked about Bond, you’ve got to pretend, play it cool and not say you’d do it. Leave them wondering.” And I went, “Ah, screw that. I’m going to say yes. Of course.” I won’t get it, but of course I’d love to be Bond. Man, that’s so cool.
“Prior to Grantchester, did you grow up enjoying reading or watching mysteries?” Christine V., From Denver, Colorado
Well, my mom is a mystery author as well, so I read a lot of her books and that was always her passion, Agatha Christie and stuff like that. We were either watching them or Poirot…we always loved murder mysteries. Midsomer Murders and A Touch of Frost and then CSI, the American ones like that. I’m very chuffed that I get to be part of one.
“Is your mother [Lynn Brittney] going to add more books to the Mayfair 100 series? I enjoy her writing.” Jean Larkin
She would love that that question’s been asked. Yes, she does. Those books are really good. I’m trying to adapt them into a TV show. She’s got a good, loyal fan base with them. There will be more.