Happy Valley star speaks out about his North Yorkshire theatre experiences as a boy
Star of Happy Valley James Norton has spoken of how theatre experiences as a boy in North Yorkshire made all the difference – and he also hit out at the government.
Playing villain Tommy Lee Royce, the actor had the nation gripped in the finale of the BBC TV drama on Sunday, in his showdown with police officer Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire.
In the light of the show’s success, James, 37, has been talking about the importance of exposing people to the arts when they are young.
He lived with his family in Malton, and went to school at Bramcote Prep School in Scarborough and Ampleforth College.
As a guest on the The News Agents podcast, he spoke about growing up in North Yorkshire and participating in youth theatre performances.
“Every summer holidays I did a youth theatre, it was called Live Wire and it was great,” he said.
“I went to Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough for work experience one summer. So there was stuff there, it was just about finding it and making sure kids know it’s there.”
James was also critical of the Prime Minister’s plan for all pupils in England to study some form of maths until the age of 18, saying “we need to keep nurturing the arts”.
Asked how the arts could be made more accessible for children across the country, James said: “Well, first thing you do is you don’t follow Rishi Sunak’s advice and make everyone take maths through to A-level.
“You nurture arts and humanities all the way through school and allow kids to take on courses which aren’t necessarily as practical and vocational.
“And so the most important thing is school, I guess, making sure that they are supported and there’s outreach programmes from centres of excellence in London and then in other big cities, and they get out to those schools, and they introduce kids to theatre at an early age and so there’s an awareness.”
The actor also revealed that no Happy Valley cast or crew members other than himself and Sarah Lancashire were aware of the dramatic ending which saw Tommy come face-to-face with his nemesis Sergeant Cawood before dousing himself in petrol and setting himself alight at her kitchen table.
“It was mad because most people, I think everyone, had watched the show, the first two series, everyone knew this day was very special.
“No one knew what was going to happen because they only gave the scripts to Sarah and myself and the producers who needed to know, so everyone was really excited to see what happened.”