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Happy Valley star James Norton's surprising career before acting revealed

The actor had a very different job before becoming a TV star

james norton tommy
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
7 February 2023
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James Norton has been receiving high praise in recent weeks for his portrayal of murderer Tommy Lee Royce in Sally Wainwright's gripping series Happy Valley - which recently aired its dramatic final episode

The 37-year-old is clearly very skilled in his trade and has some exciting upcoming projects following his last stint as Tommy. But did you know that he wasn't always in the entertainment industry and had a very different job prior to his big break? Watch the video to see what James has said about his previous job.

WATCH: Find out James' surprising career before becoming a TV star

Luckily, it wasn't long before James landed his first big role as he went to appear in the 2009 film, An Education, playing Carey Mulligan's on-screen classmate. 

From there, he starred in several stage productions, including Posh at the Royal Court Theatre and a touring production of the First World War play Journey's End. 

He then went on to play Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley in 2014, and in the same year marked his first starring role in ITV detective drama, Grantchester, playing crime-solving vicar Sidney Chambers alongside Robson Green's Inspector Geordie Keating. 

Tom Brittney, Robson Green and James Norton in Grantchester© Photo: Rex

James alongside Tom Brittney and Robson Green in Grantchester

James stayed in the role for four years before passing the baton to Tom Brittney, who took over as Reverend Will Davenport. Explaining his decision to leave the show, James said it was "a combination of things".

"The Amanda storyline tying up the way it did with her and Sidney breaking up and him choosing the church in the third series felt like a natural conclusion to Sidney’s story," he explained to

"Then when the possibility of a fourth series came along, the decision was whether or not to start a whole new journey for Sidney."

James Norton© Photo: BBC

James as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley

After departing Grantchester, James went on to star in several major films and TV shows, including the BBC miniseries War & Peace, the crime drama McMafia, Black Mirror and the 2019 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

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