It’s perhaps testament to how convincing he was in the role, but actor James Norton has revealed he was subjected to death threats after playing psychopath Tommy Lee Royce in the crime drama series Happy Valley.
In an interview with the Radio Times, James, 32, spoke about the incidents following his portrayal of Tommy when he was asked if he was worried what his latest TV role might open him up to.
The actor is due to return to our screens next week in an eight-part crime thriller called McMafia, where he will play Alex Goodman, an English-raised son of a Russian ‘godfather’ type character.
“Some people have asked me if I’m worried about getting death threats for exposing how the Russian mafia works,” he told the magazine.
“That would be nothing new,” he continued, before making his shocking revelation:
“Playing Tommy Lee Royce, I’d get death threats buying milk in my local shop.”
James was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Tommy Lee Royce, and won Best Supporting Actor from the Crime Thriller Awards for his portrayal of the psycho.
He told the BBC back at the start of series one of the show how much of a privilege it was to take on a role that was so far removed from his own personality.
“For any actor, it’s a great privilege to play a character that is very distant from yourself,” he said. “Luckily I’m not a psychopath!”
James did admit though that with the help of the Happy Valley producers, he did a lot of background work into psychopathic behaviour to ensure he totally nailed the part.
“The production team were wonderful. They put me in touch with a psychologist called Costas who works in The Priory in Manchester,” James told the BBC.
“He knows a lot about criminal psychology and we had a two-hour meeting all about psychopaths. The biggest challenge of the research was trying to empathise with him and trying to understand the world from his point of view.”
“It’s a complete joy to play someone so complex.”
Just keep telling the other customers in the local shop that, James…