Grantchester star James Norton criticises trend for faith being portrayed as 'exorcisms and cults'

Joel Adams
James Norton, star of TV’s Grantchester, has said the medium doesn’t do enough to portray faith in a positive light and focuses too much on exorcisms and cults - Copyright ©Heathcliff O'Malley , All Rights Reserved, not to be published in any format without prior permission from copyright holder.

James Norton, star of TV’s Grantchester, has said the medium doesn’t do enough to portray faith in a positive light and focuses too much on exorcisms and cults.

He made the criticism while saying he was proud to play Reverend Canon Sidney Chambers in the ITV series, whom he called “a hero with faith”.

In an interview with Weekend magazine, Norton said: “The idea of faith isn’t really explored any more on television; now the only real representations of it are either comic or sinister with exorcisms and weird culty things.

“But so many people have faith and I enjoy showing that.”

James Norton and Robson Green in Grantchester Credit: ITV

Yorkshire-born Norton, 31, was educated at a Catholic boarding school before studying theology at Cambridge, and said he was attracted to the character’s relationship with God.

He said: “Sidney has a pure and simple faith. He doesn’t make it funny or dark in any twisted way.

“He’s a hero and has a faith and there are lots of good people out there who are the same, so I’m proud to play him.”

The third series of Grantchester, set in 1955, will explore Sidney’s conflict between his heart and his vocation as his relationship develops with new mother Amanda who remains married to another man.

But viewers hoping for a repeat of last year’s shirt-off shenanigans will be left disappointed.

Robson Green and James Norton in Grantchester Credit: ITV 

Production on the series, which is filmed in the eponymous Cambridgeshire village, started too late in the year for any river swimming scenes of the type which raised pulses and eyebrows last year.

This is not the first time television’s characterisation of religion has been publicly criticised.

Only last November a senior BBC broadcaster warned that the corporation was “coming up short” in religious broadcasting.

Roger Bolton, a producer and Radio 4 presenter, warned the BBC was not doing enough to promote knowledge and understanding of religion and specifically criticised its lack of a senior editor devoted solely to religious and ethical programming.

He wrote in the Radio Times: “Perhaps it’s not Christian bias we should worry about, but something far more worrying when it comes to understanding and interpreting our modern world: a bias against taking religion seriously."

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