The first episode of Grace, starring John Simm as tenacious Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, will be screened on ITV this March (date TBC).
Episode number one offers an adaptation of Dead Simple, the first novel in the multi-million-selling series by crime writer Peter James, and with the 17th Roy Grace book coming out in May, it’s potentially a TV series with the legs to run and run.
Which made it all the more important that its very first outing, despite the pandemic all around it, should be – to all appearance at last – completely Covid free.
As John Simm says: “Everybody was saying that (the Covid thing) will age it. Nobody wants to see anybody talking about Covid. It was the most depressingly boring year and we don’t want to see it in the film, I don’t think. It really ages it and puts it in a specific year and that’s just not what it is all about.”
And that’s precisely what the team behind it have managed.
Paul Sandler, one of the executive producers, is delighted that they have managed to overcome “some enormous challenges.”
“It was one of the first dramas to go back into production last summer… or the autumn really, and the brief from ITV was that this needed to be a real Covid-free world so we didn’t want to see background artists with masks on; we didn’t want to see signs outside shops or social distancing. So there was a great deal of thought that went into the protocols and the processes of how we could deliver this safely because obviously that was the top priority for everybody.
“ITV and ITV Global Distribution, the financiers behind this, were incredibly helpful and co-operative and the whole team really pulled together and worked under some very difficult and stringent conditions. We had the crew broken up into very small bubbles.
“Everything was done in rotation so that the sets were approached and dressed and so on in a very different way from how one would normally achieve it. And despite all that, I think what we have made looks like it was shot in a completely Covid-free world and thanks to everyone’s real perseverance and professionalism I think we have managed to pull it all off, but there were certainly some very stressful moments particularly at the beginning, but we got through it, hopefully something we won’t ever have to do again.
“It was more expensive (because of the restrictions) and we had to go back to the financiers and rework the budget and find some additional funding because it is a slower process and you need more of everything in order to maintain social distancing. There was a lot of care taken around fogging to kill the virus on locations, hand sanitising stations everywhere, very careful scheduling. It was a real challenge and an absolute credit to the team that were on the ground for pulling it off, a really incredible feat.”
The first film, Dead Simple, opens with Grace running inquiries into long forgotten cold cases with little or no prospect of success. He’s fixated by the disappearance of his wife, Sandy, which haunts his thoughts. His unorthodox police methods have come under scrutiny once again, and Grace is walking a career tightrope and risks being moved from the job he loves most.
With so much at stake, his colleague Detective Sergeant Glenn Branson knows he has more to give and asks him for help with a case. When a stag night prank appears to go wrong and the groom goes missing, Branson calls on Grace to unravel events that led to the mysterious disappearance of a successful property developer with everything to live for. Is this a case of stag night shenanigans gone wrong or something more sinister?