Interview with Al Weaver and Tessa Peake-Jones
With Season 6 under their belt and Season 7 filming wrapped, it goes without saying that Grantchester stars Al Weaver and Tessa Peake-Jones know each other pretty well by now, quirks, coffee orders, and all. See what the duo had to say about their experience filming the heart-wrenching sixth season, what it was like to return to work during a global pandemic, what items they’d give each other on a deserted island, and more! [Editor’s Note: This interview contains discussion of the Season 6 plot.]
Let’s talk about Leonard’s heartbreaking struggle this season. How did it affect the characters around him? How did they handle the situation?
Al: Apart from Will and Jack, who are in full support of what he’s done, I think Tessa’s character, I would say from the outside, is struggling with it because she feels embarrassed.
Tessa: Well, I can only talk for Mrs. C obviously. I think she’s found it hard… the struggles with him being gay. And that’s taken three seasons, but now that it’s come to this, I think she’s really torn between her love for him and wanting to support him, especially if he’s going to prison…and her worry about her faith, what God thinks about it all, and what the gossip in the village is. Because I think her standing and status, that whole thing, it is quite important to women of her age. She’s been born and bred [in Grantchester].
I think it’s mainly she’s worried about his soul. But she also sees how happy he’s been with Daniel, and she really wants him in the vicarage. She really doesn’t want him in trouble like this. As for the other characters, I think all the characters rally around [Leonard] actually, don’t they?
Al: Geordie is obviously torn because he’s part of the constabulary, but personally, he’s rooting for Leonard. We saw with Episode 4, when he tries to just give him an alibi. He’s obviously helping him go against his own sort of morals, really. So everyone’s in support, which I think helps Leonard gather the strength to face the court appearance really.
You two used to ride to work together — were you able to do that during this pandemic?
Tessa: Al, be honest. When we were told we were going to have to be [in] individual cars because of COVID, I was really sad, and I said, “Oh, what a shame.” I know that wasn’t the same for Al Weaver. I think he was going, “Thank god I don’t have to travel with her every morning.”
Al: I can get 25 minutes of meditation in instead of five. Tessa, she’s a talker. On the way there and on the way back. …I was just thinking of the carbon footprint. Honestly, I was.
What would you say that you two learned from filming this season? And what were people’s reactions?
Tessa: I met a guy today, a chum of mine, for lunch. He’s gay and in his 70s, and he said, “Watching this season of Grantchester has been so incredible for all of us who are gay to see where it was in the 50s and where it is now….I remember those times in the 50s and 60s, and I remember being not able to be open. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made to all of us as a community.” I just thought, isn’t that fantastic?
Al: It’s had quite a profound effect on people, hasn’t it? More than anything we’ve ever done, really, I think… Maybe because we’re six seasons in and we’ve got a strong fan base, and the writing’s good and people care about these characters, that is always the goal of the show. Much more than a murder show, is that it’s about family and it’s about people.
What are your hopes for Leonard and Mrs. C?
Al: Prime Minister. Prime Minister, I think.
I think [Leonard’s] got to find his meaning, and he’s in search of his meaning, because once all the court things happen and stuff like that, he loses his priest license so he’s got to find his calling again, whatever that may be.
Tessa: I guess the ideal scenario for Mrs. C would be to have all her people around her, her so-called family. And watch them all doing their own thing and being happy, if that’s possible.
I picture everyone at a big Christmas dinner.
Al: Then James (Norton) comes back. He walks through the door. Or he’s in a present that we give to Robson. He’s in a big box and he opens it…
Tessa: It’s a cake!
Al: It’s James Norton! In a cake that we bake! And that’s the last image we see of Grantchester. That’s it.
What would you say to any future costars about how to work with Tessa? With Al?
Al: I would say one, get your agent to make sure you’ve got your own car. She does drink tea on set, but only one a day. She likes her cappuccino. But, this is very like When Harry Met Sally. She’s like, “I’ll have a cappuccino, but I’ll have it with skimmed milk and I’ll have two sweeteners in the cup before you do the cappuccino. I want the coffee on top and then skimmed milk and some chocolate on top. That’s the way I like it.” The woman at the coffee shop is like, “Is it for the lady across the street?” I’m like, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
Tessa: I am amazed that you’ve remembered that order. You get 10 out of 10 for the quiz. I would say to anyone working with Al Weaver, be warned, he will giggle. He might lose it altogether and be asked to leave the room. You’d enjoy every minute of working with him.
I imagine that this many years into it, you’ve had some fun together.
Tessa: Mind you, we’ve had fun from day one, haven’t we? Really.
Al: Yeah, we have. We’ve been very lucky. It’s good for the crew as well. Everyone’s nice, everyone likes to joke, everyone talks to each other, everyone’s interested in each other. It’s not just actors in a corner and everyone else over there like a lot of jobs are. We try and set the standard. I think that’s why we get really good people coming in, because it’s got a good reputation for being a really lovely place to work. We’re really proud of that.
Speaking of having fun on set, we saw more of Dickens this season! Is that still the same dog actor from season one? The same Dickens?
Tessa: Oh yes. Eight weeks old when he started filming. He’s seven, eight years old now, isn’t he?
Al: I was really into training him when he first came on set. Now he won’t do anything. To be fair, he’s so used to sausage and things that he just won’t do anything unless it’s for sausage, whereas when he was a puppy, he was just excited to be there. Now, he’s just like, “I won’t do anything unless it’s for sausage.” And then, your hand’s out of shot with a bowl of sausages, or sausages in your pocket in a bag. And he’s licking your hand. It’s very glamorous on television, but in real life, you’re kind of like, “Has anyone got a wet wipe? This is so gross.”
If you two weren’t acting, what profession do you think the other one would be doing?
Al: Tessa would be a talk show host.
Tessa: I’d quite like to do that.
Al: You know the morning television presenters, because she’s very sprightly in the morning. She’d be like, “Hi. This is the Tessa Peake-Jones Show. Welcome, Britain.”
Tessa: I would love that. So, what would you be doing? Well, I think there is several things. You might be a musician. You might be in a band. Writing your own music.
Al: Yeah. That would be nice.
Tessa: You might be a film director… Or you might be a playwright. You’re very multi-talented, so there’s an awful lot of things you could do, actually.
Al: Yeah. That’s so confusing, isn’t it. I wouldn’t be able to pick one. I’d probably just be an Uber driver.
Of all your cast mates, who would be the best detective in real life? Who would you trust to solve a crime?
Al: No one would pick me. Definitely not.
Tessa: You think they wouldn’t?
Al: I’ve got the attention span of a puppy.
Tessa: No one would pick me either, actually.
Al: The best detective… Probably Robson (Green).
Tessa: I think Tom (Brittney).
Al: I think Nick (Brimble) looks more like he could have his own detective show. He could be a real-life detective.
So you’re both stranded on a deserted island. What are three things that you would pick for each other to have?
Al: For Tessa, they do like a Costa coffee machine that you get in the garages here, at gas stations. I would say a phone so she can call her daughter and her son. She would definitely want to FaceTime them and her friends. She’s always calling her friends. So Costa coffee, an iPhone that works, and… I don’t know. A knitting set or something? To pass the time. You don’t play musical instruments, so I just think you could make stuff.
Tessa: I’d get you a phone/computer/laptop that connects to everybody so you could carry on doing things like watching your programs on Netflix. You can even edit your own stuff. If you could record yourself, make little films, I think that would keep you occupied.
Al: Castaway 2. That’s a good idea.
Tessa: I’d get you an endless, endless supply of [self] help books. You know to get to know yourself and pick yourself up and meditate. Endless. Personal growth forever that would never run out, so you would never get bored.
And I think I would get you a direct line WhatsApp to me so that we could chat all the time. How about that, Al?
Al: Great. Can I trade with you here? Can I trade the last one for some water? Or wine?