Although nothing great lasts forever, Grantchester’s fans felt a huge pang of sadness when they learned about the departure of James Norton in the first episode of season four. Norton starred in the series as Sidney Chambers, a charismatic clergyman with an intuitive approach to fighting crime.

He was replaced by a new cast member, Tom Brittney, who took over the duties of ministering to the Grantchester’s faithful and solving various crimes in the murder-plagued Cambridgeshire village.

But why did James leave? Well, we have two explanations: what the star revealed and what fans believe really happened. Let’s dig deeper.

Norton’s Version

According to Norton, his departure from the show was fueled by the quest to grow his acting career. He didn’t want to become complacent, so his priority was to find an acting role which was more challenging.

The star stated that he had become used to playing Sidney Chambers and feared that he would be challenged less and ultimately learn less in his acting career going forward.

So, after he felt that his character’s storyline had come to a natural conclusion—Sidney having chosen his faith over his sweetheart Amanda in season 3—it was time to hand over the baton to someone else. Norton added that although it was a privilege to play the character, he felt that there were other vicars to be explored.

Fans’ Version

While the star’s explanation was convincing enough, fans in the know weren’t moved. They felt that Norton had other reasons for leaving Grantchester, and top among them was his rising star—and potentially taking a lead role in a high-end movie franchise.

When Norton join the detective drama in 2014, he had only a few credits to his name, including supporting roles in films such as Belle and An Education as well as TV series, Death Comes to Pemberley. 

Norton’s star has been on the rise since then. He featured in the BBC drama, Happy Valley, which earned him great accolades, appeared in one of the episodes of Black Mirror, Nosedive, and starred in the 2016 War and Peace’s TV adaptation.

He also landed a lucrative starring role in a BBC-AMC co-production, McMafia in 2018. Additionally, the star played John Brooke in the memorable Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women alongside other great A-listers, including Meryl Steep, Saoirse Ronan, and Emma Watson.

Other fans were even rumored to be placing bets on the star becoming the next 007 in James Bond films. So, although Norton tried to convince his fans that his reason for leaving Grantchester was a feeling that the series needed some new energy, his rising profile was surely a major contributor to his exit decision.

Well, with more opportunities beckoning, it is not hard to understand why Norton felt that his character’s storyline had come to a natural conclusion.

Bottom-line

Hopefully, you now understand why James Norton left Grantchester. Although you may have been disappointed about the star’s departure, his exit didn’t mean that the show ended.

ITV renewed the show for a fifth series with Tom Brittney and Robson Green taking the center stage to solve more crime mysteries. In the meantime, Norton has a number of new TV and film projects to keep him busy.