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This episode is sponsored by Viking Viking offers an all new custom built ocean fleet designed to bring the traveler closer to the destination with and a state rooms and a short excursion included in every port, Viking by river and by sea. Learn more at Viking Cruises Dotcom. I'm Jace Lacob and you're listening to Masterpiece Studio, Grantchester is a cozy kind of series with wit and charm bursting out of the seams even as blood and murder lurk not so quietly in the background.
You realize if a nun is the wife of God, she's not a nun. You've slept with your boss's missus. That's all I'm saying.
It's something Grantchester stars like Lauren Cast noted when they spoke with us here on the podcast.
I love that line. Writes really well. And that's the kind of sharp humor that she has. And she challenges people and she gives as good as she gets.
In a bit of a departure from a typical British television drama, Grantchester employs a writers room, and we were lucky enough to speak to a few of this season's writers. A special bonus conversation about crafting the false Eden of the Fifth Series. Writers Daisy Culham, Joshua S. Johnston and John Jackson join us here on the podcast. And in a first for us in a special video excerpt from our respective voluntary quarantines on either side of the Atlantic Ocean available now on PBS Dawgs masterpiece.
This week, we are going inside the writers room on Grantchester and we are joined by Daisy Culham, John Jackson and Joshua S. Johnston. Welcome. Thank you.
Thank you. Hello. Thanks for having us.
Writers rooms, while ubiquitous in Hollywood, are still somewhat rare in British television. What does it mean to a series like Grantchester to have a team of writers working on a season together?
We were all kind of did multiple projects at the same time, which is often the case. So it's a funny one because this is like season five. So we touchwood kind of know what we're doing. So we didn't it's not like you need a big, big room for like weeks and weeks and weeks to break it because you don't need to kind of go over the characters and stuff like that.
So if you have it done, American style written because it sounds really alien to me. I've done a few and it's really different. Josh, you've done a few, right?
Yeah, I'm not sure I'd call them American style, inasmuch as sometimes they start at 10 and finish at four. I think you're lucky if they lost more than three weeks. I think American style is they last six months from eight a.m. to eight p.m., if you're lucky. Yeah, I, I like six densified five framework. Yeah.
I like the way we do this, which is like we didn't really like we don't really sit down and figure out every, every scene or every not even every episode really. We kind of figure it out, you know, we really had like a couple of days just thinking about what the kind of broad themes were. And then we came up with a bunch of stories that we worked on together that reflected that theme.
And then I see that in your little tiny office and you're sitting on my gimbal so you don't sit on the gimbal I type. I get a drink in the puppet.
And yeah, back when we had pups, back when they were pubs, I mean, so you don't then sort of assign scripts, writers go off to write. How does the process work on Grantchester? How much interplay is there between through the individual episode writers in terms of making sure that those story beats line up? So everyone will be assigned their episode and then really you don't have script editors in marketing now, suddenly your script editor is sort of the person who keeps the threat all together across each episode to make sure everyone's connects up.
And then I'll read everyone's scripts sort of go back and forth, really. It just seems a much more sort of laissez faire attitude, actually. And I'm sure it's much more stringent in America than we are.
I think raunchiest is like one one from the old school, which is what I quite liked about. It's kind of like it was when I sort of started, I think, in a way. And it's not like that on a lot of shows now. And I think it's helpful in a good way, like reflected. But in terms of EPS with this one, I like I guess we just kind of funny story was that we were like trying to make Josh come and do what story can we come up with to make jokes with it.
So we the kind of like. Yeah, exactly. Just like a drugstore.
It's kind of a cerebral kind of episode that really focused on the moral ambiguities of LSD.
Like Josh, we can't get joked about how we get a sense that sounds much more creditable.
One of the amazing things I think you guys always do, and I've only been on two series and I guess we don't have a day or a half day on season two, but I missed it on season five. But you just come with this really complete vision of what this series is about. And I guess the difference with a lot of shows is it's and it's a really good story of the week because the detective show and it's incredibly generous if you come up with the story of the week for people like me who are just visiting, but then also not just through the of people, sort of is so clear what points on that story you want to sort of resonate with the big overarching story of the season.
I think it makes it incredibly easy for gastritis to turn up and do a good job. The theme this year of it was about Eden and Ideas of Eden and how real they are and how sustainable they are and where real happiness lives is amazing that after four seasons already you can come up with a really good thing like that, which works for a detective story but also works for a character who's a Vitka and is like, you haven't done it in any of the previous Four Seasons, but that's really exciting.
So I want to ask about that sort of idea of Eden and happiness, we have this sort of overarching theme for this season being cast out of Eden.
Left is hopeless despair and craving a return to a place that was lost.
But even though Jesus died to cleanse us of our sins, we still find ways to sin against each other. What sort of ideas does that spark when Daisy says that's sort of what we want to explore this year, are you sort of throwing out ideas individually or are you sort of in this case, you know, how do you tie in an episode about LSD use and murder to this sort of overarching theme? How do those pieces come together? You coined it, John.
Do you remember you coined the phrase, it was about Eden because we were kind of we sort of working around this idea of everyone's in a lovely place and everyone's happy, like, how do we make this better? How do you reference publicly you? Well, it's the Fall of Eden kind of thing.
I think it kind of came from three places, which was exactly that. It was like where we finished like season four, that everyone was was kind of on this highway, which is like not the greatest place to start a season of anything like, you know, everyone's happy with what we do. And then I think one of the things that Dunia put on the wall of the bunker when we were storyline in that first couple of days was that Macmillan, a prime minister at the time, it said he never had it so good.
So so we just kind of started to run with this idea that actually we're in the good times here. And what does that mean? In a way, Grantchester as a show and as a as a place, if you have been there in the 50s, is is that kind of idyllic sort of England that you imagine? And I think I think it's everyone if you've been on it, you kind of know it's never that simple. You can kind of look back.
And it was kind of misty eyed, as in the show, you know, every episode kind of starts like that. But then there's a murder and it is much darker than you think, as are all kind of idealistic things, I think. So it was that and then it was where the characters were. And particularly like, well, as a sort of idealistic young man, this was like was Jones and Tom's chance to take the series and make it his.
And it's like, well, what would those kind of even be? And then. And then. And then the story just kind of came quite naturally from that. It was like, let's let's find a bunch of different things and kind of like explode. I mean, I guess we do like have a look at the reality underneath the Adan's. So like they kind of can quite quickly read anywhere. I mean, like we had I think that seven and then we just sit there.
I mean, what's intriguing to me is how you managed to track the characters journeys hitting those storyboards while still advancing this sort of case of the week mentality. Clues have to be gathered. Suspects are interrogated, which takes precedence. Is it ever tricky to sort of balance the needs of the character arcs with the sort of case of the week? Yeah, I think if we're being honest, I we more enjoyable characters like doing that world and there's a lot of time where you just go, I just want to stay with Leonard.
Yeah. See, and I love them so much. And, oh, God, there's a crime. It's trying to be satisfied with the crime and also do what you want to do as a writer, which is enjoy those characters. Is that how you feel? Yeah.
Yeah. I quite enjoyed a sort of technical challenge of trying to do it differently because, you know, there's been a lot of episodes now and it's and I don't have as many issues, but it's just so tough. But there is something, you know, it's it's not long. It's like less than an hour. And you've got to kind of get all the booze in there and kind of land, which, you know, not make it obvious.
I mean, I kind of enjoy it like a lot of world building of that is kind of fun, like going into that and see what all the girls college. You know, there is something fun about dropping your characters into those worlds because, you know, is always like wherever you put in the same God.
I know what you're saying, John, about the technical aspects and like sort of solving crossword or something. You're incredibly good at it, I have noticed, which is fine. Maybe you enjoy it so much. I think I enjoy it, too. For me, it's definitely the hardest thing because it has to be right and it has to work. And then you get a note saying, oh, they didn't have that way of solving crimes in nineteen fifty seven back to the drawing board, or we use that piece of evidence in the previous episode.
So you're going to have to do something other than bloody candlestick.
Whatever I did want to ask, I mean not having things like DNA evidence or cell phones or being able to trace someone's GPS, does that open up story possibilities in a way that telling a mystery in the present day eliminates? Did you think that you could take out a mobile phone and then you create drama almost as soon as you take the mobile phone out of it because there's Jeopardy and you can't just go find somebody up and I dunno, just things like that.
They have to sort of be a bit more cerebral about it, maybe totally.
And I think it gives you the chance to have those kind of like Walken talks. You can't be when people are like sitting at like I hate scenes where people are like sitting at computers and they just fire the thing. And I think I think some of the best, like, will enjoy these scenes are the ones when they're kind of on the way to go and find the like. We're trying to use those. I think we would try to like make those moments not just exposition or quiet moments, that they should kind of function on three levels.
So so you get a kind of relationship being there as well, retracing your steps, American Mumbo-Jumbo, not answer for those Americans. Can you finish this conversation you had? Suppose you got used to losing stuff, living in a stately home, and if you could do it easily, then you'd lose all those moments you don't think of often the best ones. Do you ever write murder rules with a specific actor in mind, Ali Dimmesdale wife, Zoe Tapper, for example, plays homicidal cigarette girl Betsi in Episode three?
I mean, do you write those roles with an actor in mind? You say this would be perfect for X or Y? That was Emma, wasn't it?
Emma, the producer has a massive girl crush on Zoe Tappa, so she's been trying to get in the show for ever. So it was like, it's her, I'll get her in. So I think, you know, some people have favorite actors like Julian Glover in the Christmas episode. You're like, oh, my God, we got Julian Glover. You know, you kind have these moments where you kind of have a wish list and then sometimes it happens.
You're lucky you got some good ones, though. Did you still are going to, Josh?
Yeah, I couldn't write with anyone in mind this time. I mean, one of the things which is such a joy comes right for Grantchester is that he just created all these characters with incredibly strong, clear voices. So and then they were is attracted a great cast. And obviously Wil is new, but he's great. But then lots of rigs who actually take up a lot of the story time and screen time. And so you've got all these great actors that you know, you're writing for already.
And you could just his I find it so easy to write apart from the type of thing, because you just know how they're going to make a line work, you know, what would come out of their mouth. And so actually, it's quite nice not having other actors in mind for the other parts. Yeah, yeah, I agree.
I think like some of the especially the comedy, I think plays like Testa's. So let me say it's so good. All of them really can do it. So you don't have to kind of ov over the jokes. I don't think sometimes like you just know it's going to be funny. Just you wrote an orange somewhere or something and you just have to kind of find the right words and it'll be, yeah, well, you don't ever write.
So I did get I got the notes from Emma to give a Mrs C more looks and less lines up because she was coming back with lines when she would probably just give them a look. And when I said, look, it's priceless, it's priceless. I mean I think the show does have a really good like people want to do the show because I hear other people have a nice time on it. I think because the main I can imagine if you're a sort of actor who's coming in and out of shows, the main cast is really important.
And the Melbourne, cos they're really nice to people, you know, make them feel welcome. So I think that's part of it as well.
That's why we get such good people before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors. St. Petersburg's Hermitage, Moscow's Red Square golden ring town's Viking, dedicated to bringing travelers closer to the real Russia along the waterways of the SaaS, offering a small ship experience with a shore excursion included in every port, discovered more at Viking Cruises dotcom. This season is the most explosive thus far, resulting in a fifth episode reveal that was horrifically shocking, not just to Wil Davenport but to the viewers as well.
We talked about this a little bit dizzy, but where did this idea for the Vic Morgan revelation come from? Didn't we have a newspaper article, John? I feel sure, or maybe I brought one in and it was about how there were these sort of rehabilitation. They were real, these kind of places where we thought we would be into that that kind of idea of rehabilitating criminals and setting them on the right path, you know, in his kind of boat rocker sort of persona.
So we started from there and then we just I don't know. How do we do it, John?
Well, I think it was that, but I think it was like we were kind of thinking like, what is that back to that thing? What is well, was kind of ultimatum. And the idea of this place, which was kind of supposed to be inspiring and based on kind of work and obviously loves boxing, but just this place, which was like this father figure and Vic, thank you to the military police for their begrudging support of the world will come up in.
Ladies and gentlemen, this man has been a literal godsend. I saw you, Vic, the only girls you had your inspiration.
So we were be mean to. Well, I think I mean, it is going about what is his greatest place and how we make it to himself. Yeah. How do we kind of have the fall of this place? Because I think that's what the series is really about.
We we say is about growing up. What made you we are talking about this is the series where Will grows up, realize that the world isn't. Perfect. Yeah, yeah, I mean, it's sad, really sad, but I think I mean, is that the episode? I think the best part of the whole series is at five is amazing. And yeah, I just I mean, it's so well, it's just so well done, like all of it.
But it's hard. It's a heart to heart thing.
I'm curious about how his writers, the team wove those little hints and clues about Vic throughout the season. How much did you collectively want to hint at what he was without hanging a lantern on it? I'd say Emma gave me a really clear note, which is the hint, not at all, and do anything that I could to just make the audience love him and trust him and root for him. That was my absolute zipser just before I let you know.
It's a really good note because we want to be with Wil in terms of like when that shot comes, we want to be completely shocked. Yeah.
And that was I suppose that was, there were hints of it wasn't there in the when Matthew tries to rob the cinema and it's obviously comes from a place of he's desperate to get out and he just can't say the words. And it's only if you look back that you realize that's what's going on. So we knew we wanted to peace, but that was the main thing, wasn't it? Make him. And also Ross Noble, the actress, you just want to give him a cuddle because he said, I think he's a really nice person and he's just good at playing that avuncular guy.
So, yeah, then you are just like he wants to be with. Well, but also with Jodie. Like those both. I mean, it's as you know, I think naïve is too strong a word for it. But we had this idea that was kind of innocent, innocently looking up to him. But he's sharp enough that I think if there was any sense that there was something off with this guy, he wouldn't have stood first. And in Matthew, there are other boys there.
And I think, you know, we sort of use the fact that will and they are kind of bonding. And he was kind of, you know, kind of jealous about it in a way as the misdirect that that's. So, Jodie, you know, anything that he thought was off about it was was oh, it's just me being silly and maybe I'm being jealous about that. I mean, it's almost like he's blindsided by what it really is and like, will it in a way, because, you know, he's kind of got his two father figures to choose from.
The idea of him being pulled both ways kind of made him blind to it.
So I did say that. That's what I mean. I don't really know.
I think he he doesn't like him. But yes, you're right, not exactly what you said. But he's he's twisted by the idea that he's losing Will to this other father figure, sort of in a subtle way.
But that's that's the thing that I think it was a case of not putting anything over in there so that they could blame that any any kind of hairs on the back of the neck feeling about this guy. I could describe it to other things and not to that. I think that was important because I think it was if there was any sense that George Orwell thought it was something like that, then they would never mind.
The shock couldn't have happened in it. I'd have been guessing. Did you see it just did not see it coming?
No, not at all. It's only I've seen it now three times. So it's only going back that I keep seizing on to these small moments that I'm like, that's a hint. That's a clue. But going through the first time, I had no idea. So it completely took me by surprise and was just a horrific episode to watch. Because you did feel like, Will, that you'd had the rug pulled out from beneath you and your whole world view, sort of shaken by the fact that this guy who seems innately good, like a do gooder, is actually the face of evil.
It was very traumatic to what I think, especially because Will's reaction to it is so devastating. We are devastated as well. Yeah. As really important that you guys told the story in that way, because that is that seems to represent the reality, doesn't it? I mean, I was just without any type of thing and creating that persona that is like a character from even someone who is helping boys and a force for good in the world. That's what allows them to get away with doing what they do.
Yeah, that's what Jodi says, isn't it? We were all fooled by him, know everyone was fooled by him. So that's how they work, these men.
And they gave me this great note, which is we're grooming the viewers in the same way that he's grooming his grooming will. And that is that's such a great sort of metaphor for it, because it makes it it's the thing that makes it work.
Yeah, yeah. I think it was in the air in the atmosphere, wasn't it? Was the whole hashtag metoo movement was happening. It was all kind of swirling around that. I think you just pick up on those feelings.
Will chafes against Emilia's new relationship and his guilt over his father's death. Leonard stands up to his father. Kathy deals with her mother's bipolar disorder and her childhood trauma. Was it intentional to link the theme of parental child relationships this season? I mean, it seems as though every one of the characters or nearly every character is suffering through some form of parental trauma in a way.
Yeah, I think that was I think we started with where did we start? But I know that the thematically it fits into that thing of growing up, people shedding the sort of the things that are holding them back, like your episode, Josh, with Cathy and her mom, in a sense, she has to let go of that past that's been holding her back. Yeah.
And also, I mean, it felt to me like a really important thing. I mean, you said that Will is in a good place at the start of season five and he thinks he is. But the truth is, it's not that long since his father blew his brains out, having been responsible for another person's death in a fight. So will so has all that to work through. But he's working through it really badly. I'm not at all.
And I think that that's just that was just there in the back story. The final image of the season finally brings Will back to what is important, the sort of friends and family around him is this Will finally realizing that he has found Eden on Earth after all that it is sort of within these people that he knows this we were talking about, John, that whole idea of you find the truth within that perfection and you have to sort of strip away perfection and just go, well, I have is good enough.
What I have is is perfect in its own sort of way, I suppose. And that's what. Yeah, it's about family. For him, he has found his family and that's why I'm really excited about in the next season is just really exploring will properly within that mix. John and I have just been working away on that way.
So I asked Tom Britney about this. But I'd love to pose this question to the writers as well. This season ends on Will's birthday after he's given up his vow of celibacy by sleeping with Sister Grace. Is the fact that it's his birthday intentional? Is this intended to sort of be seen as a rebirth of sorts for Wil Davenport? I think, you know, it's really terrible what I just did, because I really like the idea that he's lying in bed with a nun and he just goes, it's my birthday today.
It's my birthday today. Happy birthday. How old are you? Actually, I'm not sure today, that's all it was riding on me. You're right, it is a sedative. He's grown up, he's in the water, and he's stopped believing that in this impossible kind of way of living. So he's free to, but so is free to go off and have fun. Six, I think.
Yeah, I think I think I was the celibacy was a big part of the reason. I think it was this idea that there was like this sort of perfection, that there's a purity that we must keep this. I don't know why is this sort of a fallible idea, almost kind of putting too much stock in something which probably, you know, if you're not addressing the death of your father, then don't worry about celibacy. If it was felt like that was not true.
That's where to go.
Like to maybe not with a nun, though. I don't know what. I'm getting a bit crazy at that point. Yeah, absolutely.
With season five wrapped in a six season on deck. Yeah. What are some of the ideas or themes that you are looking to explore in this upcoming season of Grantchester? Again, we storyline's it quite quickly, didn't we, to remember it was like two days and then Gimple again, you came in so much. And so it's about justice versus injustice and the fact, the idea that within justice there can be so you can you can fulfill justice in the law, you can get a result, somebody can go to prison.
But is it always just to do that? Is that always the right thing? And it's sort of without giving too much away about challenging Jordis belief in his job as a power good. Which, blimey, let's face it, somehow we've managed to get ahead of the curve on that one because of the whole black lives matter and everything you feel like. When does police work? When does it slip over into something slightly that it was it was the moral versus the legal?
I think that was it.
Yeah. Well done. You put it better. No, no, no. It's interesting because I think that's that's will Jodi. Jodi is the legal and what was the moral and both of them.
Yeah, that's them is kind of archetypes.
But but they both got room for manoeuvre in that because because that's not necessarily to say the judge was right either. And it's not necessarily to say, you know, the law is it was wrong. Both of them kind of know that. But they find themselves in different places.
Both actually. We basically put them both in impossible situations, the series which test them and their belief in their work. So it's good. I think I'm quite excited.
I'm really excited. It's moral, legal. And I think, you know, the idea of like a bigger story as well as episode stories story to take this sort of right through.
Yeah, but, you know, as ever, hopefully, you know, really engaging standalone.
Obviously, Grantchester tends to be six episodes each season. Season six has eight. How does having those extra installments change the way that you structure story? Is it more real estate to explore character dynamics or to tell a more complicated sort of season long plot?
It was know it was so much easy with eight, because I think sometimes because it's already six, we find we've got something like, oh, we want to tell this story like we want to do more with Kathy and her mum, but we have to sort of park that to do well.
And Vic, or if we'd had eight episodes there, we could have done so much more with Kathy and her mom, I think. Can you just give us a bit more breathing space? I think that you think did?
Yeah, definitely. It was wasn't there one season where we were going to do it and we storyline there and it was hard, but we figured that we have to do something a bit different, like because with six you can almost in the series store you can tell one story. But I think where you need to kind of work a little bit harder and that story needs to do more. An extra couple of twists, obviously, but it just needs to be bigger.
All you need to function almost too, too big a story is that you can play next to each other, which is what something done really, isn't it?
We've got to stop stories that sort of intersect, really. And one takes over the second half. Slightly more is good because we've got so many good cos it's just nice to use them because they were brilliant and you're just like Leonard's or everyone really.
So I think this feeling that this is the season that Mrs C becomes a serial poisoner and she's sort of poisoning everyone. I'm spoilers upstairs.
I know I would love to see Tessa as a murderer, though. That'd be great. But no, I.
I want to write down Daisy. She'd kill.
Every single murder is attributed to her across a series bottom, but she's got away with it for so long.
Guys, thank you so very much. Thank you. Daisy, John and Joshua. This has been fantastic. Thanks so much.
Thank you many. The summer of mystery continues with a thrilling new season of endeavor, and later this fall, three bold new series come to masterpiece Vanderbank Flesh and Blood and Road Kill You like you were told about the brief.
And I take it. Yeah, I was. But I went to the briefing room because that's what I thought the briefing was taking place.
That's a bit literal. Nothing is, as it seems, clueless. What?
I also got a phone call. There's another dead body. We'll have interviews with the stars from these new titles and more right here on the podcast is Autem.
Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Anderson, Alicia Eatock is our editor. Rebecca Eaton is the executive producer at large of Masterpiece, the executive producer of Masterpiece with Suzanne Simpson. Sponsors for Masterpiece on PBS are Viking Cruises, Raymond James and the Masterpiece Trust.