Main pic © Ken McKay, REX
Words by Alison James
Family has always been important to Robson Green. He’s spoken at length about his love and admiration for his late miner father and he’s always been close to mum Ann, who lives near him in Northumberland. So it’s hardly surprising that his 14-year-son Taylor is the absolute apple of his mesmerisingly blue-green eyes.
“He’s an amazing young man – just stunning,” Robson beams as we sit chatting at the ITV offices. “I’m so proud of him. He’s extremely bright and something of a scholar – he’s an exceptional historian, his Spanish is fantastic, his Latin is wonderful. He’s a beautiful, beautiful human being and just takes my breath away.”
Wow! You don’t find many dads waxing so lyrically about their teenage sons. Haven’t they locked horns yet? “Oh he’s been giving it all the young buck stuff but that’s a rite of passage, isn’t it?” Robson goes on. “We go running together and he’ll say, ‘I’m faster than you now dad.’ The other day, he challenged me to a sprint... he’s like a gazelle, really put me to shame! The world is his oyster but I think he may become a writer when the time comes for him to choose. He recently wrote a wonderful poem to commemorate the start of the First World War.”
It may be wise that young Taylor (whose mum, Vanya Seager, separated from Robson in 2011) chooses to forge his own path rather than trail in his father’s footsteps. Robson the actor and TV presenter is a tough act to follow. Casualty, Soldier Soldier, Wire in the Blood, Waterloo Road, Christmas Lights... the dramas and comedies he’s starred in over the years are like TV gold. Plus he’s carved out a very nice niche for himself with his entertaining, extreme fishing programmes for Channel Four.
And now, the eagerly anticipated Grantchester is upon us. Adapted from the novel Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, the six-part series is set in 1953 in the beautiful Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester.
Robson plays Police Inspector Geordie Keating who teams up with the local vicar Sidney Chambers (played by charismatic young actor James Norton) to solve crimes in the area.
“I knew within half an hour of reading the scripts that I wanted to do it,” Robson explains. “Set against the serene Grantchester backdrop, it’s beautifully shot and very charming. The themes are universal and there’s a real shadow and grit to it – as well as an undertone of living in the shadow of death of the Second World War. Then there are all the taboos that existed in the Fifties – be it homophobia, racism or how the locals felt about outsiders. I kind of saw Columbo, the iconic American TV detective of the Seventies, in Geordie Keating – he’s a dishevelled, working class individual set against a backdrop of that pomp and ceremony of a different class. He’s morally very, very clear but I like that.
‘I saw Columbo, the iconic American TV detective, in Geordie Keating – he’s a dishevelled, working class individual’
Design-wise, the attention to detail on Grantchester is spot on. Right from the off, you feel like you really are in 1953. It must have been a real surprise to the people of the area when we were filming to suddenly find themselves in the Fifties.”
With Grantchester complete, Robson is currently filming the second series of Tales from Northumberland. “It went down a storm last time,” he smiles. “Yesterday I was swimming alongside big white dolphins off the coast of Northumberland, then I was doing a bit of Cumberland wrestling. You wouldn’t believe how popular that is. It’s a form of combat to settle scores – it dates back to the Vikings but then the Geordie accent comes from the Vikings, too.
I also track down one of the rarest animals in the world – the Northumberland white cow. There’s only 130 of them in the world and 115-120 reside in Northumberland. The other ten are in a secret location in Scotland. I’ve lived in Northumberland all my life but had never seen one before. They are mythical-looking creatures but go anywhere near them and they will go for you. Man, the young bulls! They do the classic, covering themselves in poo and mud and going, ‘Come on then!’ They’ve been there since time began and they’re unreal. Amazing that they’re just on my doorstep.”
Robson clearly has his native Northumberland stamped through him like a stick of rock. “I’ve always lived there,” he says proudly. “Always had a place in Northumberland and spent more time there than in the south. It’s what I know best and I love the people, the landscape... My roots are there, my sense of family and belonging.”
He can’t stand reality programmes like Geordie Shore, which, he feels, denigrate the area. “The producers should hang their heads in shame. The so-called stars are desperate and will say and do anything to be on camera. If that’s a reflection of the north east of England, I want nothing to do with it. I know it’s not, but it makes me despair.”
On a happier note, Robson will turn 50 in December. Is it a sore point? “Not at all! I didn’t think I’d still be this busy at 50. I also feel I’m still in good nick.” There’s no doubt about that!
- Grantchester is on ITV from Monday, Oct 6, at 9pm. Catch up on any missed episodes with ITV player.