It’s GRIM down south! Forget sun, sea and sand – Brighton’s a hotbed of murder, affairs, torture and man-eating pigs in crime thriller Grace
- Based on the novels by Peter James, Grace is the third series of episodes
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Crime & Punishment, Trauma, Prey, Code Of A Killer – the titles alone are enough to give you the shivers, and Grace star John Simm readily admits his TV career has been a steady stream of gritty and often quite gruesome dramas.
‘I honestly don’t know why but it’s certainly true, and Grace is no exception,’ says John, who returns to our screens as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace in a new three-part series of ITV’s Brighton-based crime thriller tomorrow night. ‘This is heavy stuff.’
He’s not kidding. Based on the hugely successful novels by Peter James, this third series consists of three darkly compelling feature-length episodes again co-starring Richie Campbell as Grace’s colleague and friend DS Glenn Branson, Craig Parkinson as DS Norman Potting and Laura Elphinstone as DS Bella Moy.
They begin with Dead Like You, in which the rape of a woman in a Brighton hotel bears chilling similarities to attacks carried out a few years earlier, while in the second, Dead Man’s Grip, what appears to be a simple road traffic accident leads to torture and murder. In the final case Not Dead Yet, identification of a body discovered at a pig farm proves difficult as the pigs have pretty much eaten the corpse apart from the teeth.
John says, ‘I’m not complaining though. Roles like Grace are great to play. The meatiest parts are always the best, even if the content is pretty gruesome and grim.
John Simm as DS Roy Grace, Richie Campbell as DS Branson, Craig Parkinson as DS Norman Potting and Laura Elphinstone as DS Bella Moy in the new series of Grace on ITV
‘Plus you tend to have more fun on set because you need a release from the seriousness of the storylines. On Grace there were times when we were laughing so much the director was getting hacked off and we had to pull ourselves together.’
Writer Peter James often draws on his own experiences for his peripheral characters, like the creepy cabbie who becomes a suspect in this week’s first episode. ‘He was inspired by various taxi drivers I’ve encountered over the years, including one in Manchester I thought was going to murder me and one or two weird ones in New York,’ reveals Peter.
‘It’s that feeling of helplessness they create when they central lock the doors and make you their prisoner.’
There are developments in their private lives for both Grace and Branson over the course of the series too. Branson discovers his wife Ari is cheating on him and moves in with Grace while he tries to come to terms with what’s happened.
‘He and Ari went to see a marriage guidance counsellor to try to get their relationship back on track so the sight of her kissing another man is an absolute bombshell,’ explains Richie.
There’s also a bombshell for Grace, whose wife Sandy is missing presumed dead and who’s preparing to set up home with his new love, pathologist Cleo Morey (Zoe Tapper).
‘Sandy went missing more than six years ago, and at the end of the last series he was preparing to declare her legally dead,’ says John. ‘But then there was a possible sighting of her.’
The prospect of Sandy coming back into his life leaves Grace in turmoil. ‘He’s in love with Cleo and wants a life with her, and flashbacks in this series reveal that Roy and Sandy’s marriage wasn’t perfect.
Based on the hugely successful novels by Peter James, Grace is the third series of three darkly compelling feature-length episodes. Pictured: Craig Parkinson as DS Norman Potting and Laura Elphinstone as DS Bella Moy
‘She found it difficult to deal with his work and to play second fiddle, whereas Cleo is far more understanding.’
John’s own private life is much less complicated. He’s been married to actress Kate Magowan since 2004 and the couple have two children, Ryan, 21, and Molly, 16.
By happy accident the family moved to Brighton from London during the pandemic, so were perfectly placed when it came to filming this most recent series.
‘It means I don’t have to live out of a suitcase, which I’ve done a lot in my career, and it also means I’m getting to know the places in Sussex where Grace investigates crime,’ says John.
It also meant he was on hand to watch his beloved Manchester United when they took on Brighton last May. ‘Although let’s not talk about that,’ he winces. ‘United lost 4-0!’
- Grace starts on Sunday at 8pm on ITV1 and ITVX
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