‘Grantchester’ interview: Tessa Peake-Jones on Mrs C’s dilemma in Season 6

Grantchester is back!

Based on the novels by James Runcie, the popular ’50s crime drama series returned in the UK earlier this month.

The sixth season continues on Friday nights on ITV, and it’ll premiere in the US in October on PBS.

Watch the trailer:


Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses) is reprising her role as Mrs Chapman in the eight new episodes.

Here Tessa chats about what’s coming up for Mrc C in the new season, and what it was like filming during the Covid lockdowns earlier this year:


Could you tell us a bit about where Mrs C is at the beginning of this season?

“At the beginning, for Mrs C it’s one of the happiest times the audience will have ever seen her have. Going on holiday with the entire vicarage family and the children and all having the most amazing holiday together, it’s more than a dream and it means more than anything to her.

“She also jokes around saying that the happiest day of her life is winning the lovely legs competition at Merries and her husband, Jack asks her ‘What about your wedding day?!’

“Mrs C is just very happy and content with her life. She loves looking after Leonard and Will, and cooking for them, for her it’s like looking after her chicks!”


As you say in the first episode the whole gang goes to Merries. What was that like to film outside of Grantchester?

“It was our first time back together after six months of Covid and it was just lovely to all be reunited!

“Where we filmed was so extraordinary, the set designer had done such a brilliant job. The scenes at Merries were actually filmed in an army barracks but you just believed you were at a holiday camp.

“There couldn’t have been a better way of starting the series. To be there after not seeing anyone for so long, and being at a holiday camp in these amazing 1950s outfits enjoying a summer holiday (even though it was actually freezing!) it felt glorious and it had a really special meaning for us all.”


What does your character have in store for her this season?

“Mrs C is really going to go through the mill a bit. I don’t think in any other series she has cried quite so much. Her relationship with Leonard is challenged throughout this series. She is torn because of the love she has for Leonard and the dilemma he has found himself in which makes her question what is morally right, her religious views and what is legally right.

“She’s very conflicted over this question, she’s adamant she’s right about certain things to the point of excluding everyone else and then reflects and realises maybe things aren’t that way. She is challenged on her views about relationships, Leonard and the Church.

“She has forthright views and she’s stubborn but gradually over the series she has to alter her way of thinking and towards the end the audience can see how she thinks differently about things.

“That’s what I love about playing her, she always grows, changes and she is willing to self-reflect. She’s really taught a lesson through it all. Her love and care for Leonard overrides everything that has happened to both of them.”


How is she getting on with her husband Jack?

“They are very happy together. Generally she and Jack tick along very well, he is always there to support her. He is much more sympathetic in terms of Leonard’s journey than Mrs C is. He tries to persuade her and help her to see that she is being a bit unreasonable so there is also that side of their relationship too.

“She does get irritated at one point when she is lent a book on Feminism from Cathy and on reading it Mrs C begins to challenge Jack on marital issues and what women are about and that’s some light relief!”


When you started on Grantchester did you think it would run for seven seasons?

“We hoped it would! I remember on day one, we were with Emma our Executive Producer and were outside in the garden at the vicarage where we film, it looked so amazing and felt like we were in the 1950s.

“Robson said, ‘If this goes it could run and run until we’re in our Zimmer frames!’ We were howling with laughter and we thought we better not count our chickens and here we are.

“Each year Robson says, ‘What did I say!’ and we start filming again. It’s lovely because from the word go we all believed in the project, we all got on like a family and all of us including the crew wished the series all the best. It’s joyful to watch, I think people love it for the nostalgia and we’re all so pleased that it has run for as many series as it has.”


What other themes and storylines can viewers expect to see in this season?

“As well as all the ins and outs of intrigue in the murders, a lot of this series is centred around Leonard’s story. How it’s dealt with by the Church and the Law and how the characters deal with it, everyone has a different reaction.

“Will’s attitude for example to tell everyone to free up and say a man is a man, it doesn’t matter about his sexuality and to see Leonard as a great curate whereas Geordie’s is more about sticking to what is lawful.

“[Season 6] examines how a group of people react when one of them has a huge dilemma. How do they all cope with that?”


Why do you think viewers enjoy Grantchester so much?

“I think the viewers love the 1950s, it gives some of the audience a chance to reminisce on that time. It’s colourful, the costumes are beautiful, Grantchester itself and Cambridge, the buildings and the scenery are so picturesque.

“I think the audience takes to the returning characters and following their stories, they’re invested in what happens to all of us. They like to see how we all grow and how our interactions develop and change with one another as well as the ups and downs each character goes through.”


What was it like working through the pandemic?

“It was quite extraordinary, it’s a time in all of our lives that we’ll never forget. We all felt we were so lucky to be able to make a programme that we love because all of us had friends that work in the theatre world who, even now, haven’t worked for months.

“It was a joy to be with each other and to celebrate the fortunate position we were in and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it for that reason.

“The production made it feel like such a safe and secure place, it didn’t matter how impractical the protocols were, it just felt great to know we were filming something that would bring happiness to the audience. It also made us realise that entertainment was a real source of escapism for people during lockdown.”


Tessa Peake-Jones and the rest of the cast are already busy filming the next season of Grantchester.

Premiering in 2022, Season 7 will be set in 1959 and we’ve got the first details here!

Grantchester is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.