Roy Grace TV detective role "manna from heaven" for John Simm

John Simm hits the small screen as Brighton-based detective Roy Grace in a new TV adaptation of Peter James’ multi-million selling series of novels.

John Simm
John Simm

Grace will air on ITV on Sunday, March 14 from 8pm-10pm.

It’s a role which came John’s way while he was in Chichester starring as Macbeth on the Festival Theatre stage.

“It was manna from heaven really to get that phone call,” John laughs.

“I was absolutely honoured to be asked to play Roy Grace. I didn’t (know the novels beforehand). I had seen them in the best-seller lists every time I went into a bookshop. I was aware of it. It’s not a genre that I would read normally. I was actually doing Macbeth when they called me and I was walking past a Waterstones. And I said ‘Yeah, that rings a bell. Yeah, Peter James rings a bell’ so I put my head into this shop and there he was. He was about number three or something so I thought ‘Yeah, I have seen those.’ So I devoured the first three very quickly and I was absolutely hooked. I am on book ten at the moment.”

Author Peter James is similarly hooked on John. He has said that he now thinks of Simm as he is writing Grace. Which all adds to the pleasure of it, as far as John is concerned.

“That’s a real honour if he is thinking of me, and it is really odd as well because I am so into these books and so into this character that I don’t think of me when I am reading it. I feel I have got him in my head. It’s incredible and we all hope, all of us, that we get to do more, that we get to do all these 17 books because there is plenty of source material and it is all really, really high quality. So fingers crossed.

“Grace is pretty inscrutable. He is a brilliant cop and he has had a wonderful career and also he has been visited by tragedy, his wife going missing, and for such a brilliant detective it is ironic that he can’t solve that, and that is always hanging over him. He uses strange methods, but as he says in the script, it is just ‘something in my back pocket, I want to explore all avenues, no matter what they are. If it works, it works.’ He just wants to get the result. He doesn’t care about what people think. But having said that, he is not maverick or anything. He is just a really, really good police officer.”

John accepts aficionados of the novels might have a few adjustments to make – compared to those who are discovering Grace for the first time with the TV adaptation.

“It is a delicate balancing act because they are two different things. A novel is not a TV show and a TV show is not a novel so while we are trying to be absolutely true to the source material, it’s a TV show and so fans of the novel, some of them, will be up in arms because it won’t be the characters that they had in their head but there is nothing we as actors can do about that.

“We just have to serve the script and what is in front of us, and I can’t really be worrying whether people that are into the novels will not like it. You have to take it from the standpoint that nobody knows the novels and nobody knows what is going to happen and that it is a separate entity, but at the same time, you know, being as true as we can be to Peter’s novels.

“My father-in-law was a policeman in the Met Police for thirty odd years. He read the first few and was very complimentary about the procedural stuff that’s in there. He said it was rare for an author to get it absolutely bang on. I think Peter prides himself in that, he’s a very clever writer and they are an addictive series of books.

“Peter and I were going to meet up before the pandemic came along, and we have spoken a number of times and we email each other. If I had any questions or queries during filming I would fire off an email and he would come back immediately. It’s just such a shame we haven’t been able to meet in person yet, but I look forward to the day when we can.”

The first film, Dead Simple, opens with Grace running enquiries into long forgotten cold cases with little or no prospect of success. He’s fixated by the disappearance of his beloved 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 upon Grace to unravel events that led to the mysterious disappearance three days before his wedding to his beautiful fiancée.

A successful property developer with everything to live for, there is no trace of the missing groom. Is this a case of stag night shenanigans gone badly awry? Or is this something more sinister?