James Norton: It’s important to know the war doesn’t represent Russia as a whole

British actor James Norton said the world was “quick to condemn” Russia as a country in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion, but has urged people to remember that “Russia is not Putin”.

Norton, 37, said filming parts of TV series War And Peace in Russia’s St Petersburg alongside Lily James and film Mr Jones in Ukraine with Vanessa Kirby has given him “balance” following the war.

The Happy Valley star told Adam Fleming on BBC’s Newscast that he feels “very lucky” to have an appreciation of the country “beyond one monstrous man”.

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“I think at the moment the world is quick to settle in quite divisive tribes and I think when the Russian war happened, the world was very quick to condemn Russia as a country – as opposed to Putin,” he said.

“I was very grateful that I’d had the opportunity to film in Russia. We shot a lot of War And Peace in St Petersburg, I shot Mr Jones in Ukraine, and that was obviously a film which is very prescient now because it was about the other time Russia invaded Ukraine and caused systematic kind of genocide.

“And obviously (on) McMafia I met some fantastic Russian actors. For me I have some really wonderful friends and they feel this immense compassion for the Ukrainians.”

Norton described Russia as “extraordinary”, having submerged himself in the cultural heritage of the country while he was filming there.

He continued: “That being said, what’s going on in the world right now is despicable and there is nothing which can condone this invasion.

Graham Norton Show – London
James Norton during filming for the Graham Norton Show (Matt Crossick/PA)

“And so it’s been a complicated sort of thing to navigate, particularly having good friends in Ukraine.”

Following Russia’s invasion on February 24 last year, Norton said a “sweet” Ukrainian man he had met on set while filming in the country had sent him a video running through a war-torn village.

He added: “The guy who was my translator sent me a message saying, could I send money to buy infrared goggles so he can see. I did. I’ve done little bits, it’s difficult, you just feel completely helpless.

“I think it’s important to remember that Russia is not Putin and this war does not represent Russia as a whole and I’m very lucky to have had an appreciation of that country beyond one monstrous man.”