John Simm and Richie Campbell on Grace Series 3: ‘It’s a treat to keep playing these characters’

Richie Campbell as DS Glenn Branson and John Simm as DI Roy Grace in Grace S3, stood against a soft green background (Credit: ITV)Richie Campbell as DS Glenn Branson and John Simm as DI Roy Grace in Grace S3, stood against a soft green background (Credit: ITV)
Richie Campbell as DS Glenn Branson and John Simm as DI Roy Grace in Grace S3, stood against a soft green background (Credit: ITV) | ITV
John Simm and Richie Campbell spoke to NationalWorld's Alex Moreland about Grace Series 3, the new writing team for the ITV crime drama, and more

“When we first started out, nobody knew who they were,” says John Simm, discussing how ITV detective drama Grace has changed going into its third series. “We had a challenge to make it exciting, and to make the audience want to get to know these characters.”

“It’s a treat to keep playing them, because it develops,” he continues. “The relationships develop, we slip into the [characters’] shoes much easier every time, the audience is more invested because they've seen them so many times.”

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“You know, the good thing about Grace is that you've got the long form episodes to really create these characters and [give them] little nuances and things like that,” agrees Richie Campbell. “It’s lovely that people can invest in these characters, that's the great thing about them.”

Simm and Campbell spoke to NationalWorld’s TV critic Alex Moreland ahead of the return of Grace, ITV’s adaptation of Peter James’ Brighton-set crime novels. The new series – which adapts Dead Like You, Dead Man’s Grip, and Not Dead Yet – sees Grace investigate a sinister copycat killer, consider whether a road traffic accident hides more than meets the eye, and track an obsessive fan stalking a star musician.

With Series 3, DSI Roy Grace (Simm) and his partner DS Glenn Branson (Campbell) become, for each actor, amongst the parts they’ve played longest. What sort of challenges – and opportunities – does that present for an actor?

“Over time, you just get to understand their relationships with other people, their relationships within the police force, all of that kind of stuff,” explains Campbell.

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“Especially mine and Rich's character,” says Simm. “You get to see them out of work, which is brilliant to play. When we're at work, we're just professional – we’re cops, you know, that's what we do, we solve the case. To see other aspects of it – that our lives are not perfect, and we help each other, and we deal with everything else outside – that's brilliant to play. It makes it more interesting as an actor, definitely.”

“It's enjoyable because we know the world is so big,” continues Campbell, pointing to quite how prolific author Peter James is. “We know there are 19 books or wherever there is, it feels like we already have a great trajectory. It doesn't feel like we're just playing the characters just for the sake of it.”

Behind the scenes, there are other changes going into the third series of Grace. Where the first two series of Grace were all penned by Morse and Endeavour writer Russell Lewis (“I got quite obsessed with Endeavour,” reveals Simm. “Because I was a huge Morse fan, I put it off for a long time, but eventually I watched the first episode and I loved it”), the upcoming episodes see the arrival of a new writing team.

“They've been great, we've really liked the scripts” says Simm of new writers Ben Court & Caroline Ip (Whitechapel) and Ed Whitmore (Rillington Place). “If you get one person - or with Caroline and Ben, two people - concentrating on one script, instead of trying to do the whole series [as Russell did], you get the scripts faster, and usually they're quite polished by the time they get to us.” 

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“It almost feels like three separate films, because you've got these separate writers and directors on each episode” suggests Campbell, highlighting the work of directors Camilla Strøm Henriksen (Føniks), Isher Sahota (McDonald & Dodds), and Will Sinclair (Vera). “We all know the world and they understand the throughline but it feels like it's separate movies that are connected, which I really like. That's the thing I'm really proud of about the show: it feels like it's elevated television, because they are kind of filmic.”

“Yeah, I think Richie’s right when he says that,” agrees Simm. “We've got different directors on every single one as well, so they want to bring their own thing to each episode. 

“Each film is a standalone piece: even though it's the same characters and it's the same show, they're slightly different. Which is great! It's not as formulaic [as it could be if it were] the same people writing and directing every episode. It's a fresh take each time.”

It’s something fans of Grace can continue to look forward to, too, as Simm offers the briefest hint about plans for Series 4. “We've got my old mate Tony Marchant [who created the Channel 4 drama Never Never, which starred Simm and Sophie Okonedo] writing one, and he’s a brilliant writer. They've been great writers on Series 3 – and we've got great writers coming up too, luckily for us!”

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