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TV Quickfire: James Norton on the final series of drama Happy Valley

With Happy Valley back on BBC One for its final series, Rachael Davis chats to star James Norton to find out what's in store

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley
James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley

ALMOST seven years after Happy Valley was last on screen, Sarah Lancashire and James Norton have reprised their roles as strong-willed police sergeant Catherine Cawood and hardened violent criminal Tommy Lee Royce in the third and final series of the acclaimed BBC One drama.

Set and filmed in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, Sally Wainwright's thrilling crime drama captures a snapshot of northern English life along with a dose of harrowing criminal activity.

IT MUST BE INTERESTING TO RETURN TO PLAYING TOMMY AFTER SO MANY YEARS. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HIM?

Tommy Lee Royce is an enigma and a puzzle and a kind of terrifying mess.

Genuinely, I am still kind of working him out. I think I had certain preconceptions about him in the first series. We would talk about him quite flippantly as if he is a psychopath.

I did a lot of work into psychopathy and was introduced to some behavioural psychologists and criminal psychologists who were really wonderfully helpful in excavating Tommy and the mindset that he has.

HOW DO YOU GET INTO TOMMY'S HEADSPACE?

The way into Tommy's headspace has been challenging because by nature he lives in a very different space to me and most people I know – on that kind of fringe of humanity.

But that is kind of the joy when you are asked to empathise with someone who feels very distant from yourself. That's kind of where you learn the most; if you go on that journey with empathy and understanding you get to see the world in an entirely different way.

WHERE DO WE FIND TOMMY IN SERIES THREE, AND WHAT DOES HIS JOURNEY LOOK LIKE?

We pick up Tommy seven years later and he is still in prison serving multiple life sentences. But he has changed, he has moved on and grown and he has matured. He has calmed down and there is a definite shift in his demeanour and his temperament.

Unlike the Tommy we have seen of the first and second series he feels quite affable and in control, I think that's probably because we arrive in the third series and Tommy has information about something we don't know about yet. That information, that situation, is giving him a sense of contentment.

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley
Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF ABOUT HAPPY VALLEY?

I am immensely proud of the series as a whole. Immensely proud that I was able to have a part in it. And it's wonderful to come back knowing there is such an appetite and a love for the show.

I was really proud when I went to America and I realised how far-reaching the show is. I think it's such a specific show about the very specific part of England, and the accents and the temperaments and sensibilities of those characters are quite specific to the area, and yet when I go to America, I am amazed at how many people have watched it and how many people love it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD BE MOST EXCITED FOR IN THIS FINAL SERIES?

I think the reason this series is particularly exciting is because everyone knows it's the last, and so everyone is predicting and guessing how Sally wants to end it.

I have been predicting for the last seven years how she is going to end it, so it was really wonderful to read the script and hear her ideas – and they don't disappoint.

Happy Valley's third and final series is on BBC One at 9pm on Sundays.