With roles in Happy Valley, Granchester, and AMC’s McMafia, James Norton has established himself as a leading man who’s not afraid to lean into the dark side of drama. This week, it’s been announced that he’s signed up to play notorious British conman Robert Hendy-Freegard in the thriller film Chasing Agent Freegard. It sounds like exactly the sort of charming but slippery part he excels at.
To whet your appetite, here are a few things you might not know about the 34-year-old actor who’s even been tipped as a future Bond.
1. He was educated at Ampleforth College, a prestigious Catholic boarding school in Yorkshire whose alumni include Rupert Everett and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
Sadly, it wasn’t an entirely happy experience. “I actually got quite badly bullied at school and one of my saviors, one of the people who really got me through was a monk called Father Peter, who wasn’t a teacher, nothing to do with the school but he had confession,” Norton told The Daily Telegraph last year. “I was able to go and just talk, and he basically became my therapist and I just would sort of sob my eyes out.”
2. He then read theology at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge – and graduated with First Class Honors.
“Obviously I have a relationship with religion, because I went to a Catholic school and studied theology. I can’t call myself religious, but I’m definitely fascinated by it,” Norton said in 2013.
3. He has Type 1 diabetes, which means his costumes often have special pockets stitched into them for his glucose tablets.
“Adrenaline, sleep, alcohol — they all affect it,” Norton told The Times earlier this year. “I have to inject every time I eat carbohydrates — up to 15 times a day, with 5mm needles you use discreetly. I’ll probably do one or two during this interview. Also, I have this device called a Dexcom, a subcutaneous glucose monitor that Bluetooths my phone and tells me what my sugars are. Before, I had to draw blood from my finger.”
4. He lives in Peckham, south London, which has been named the 11th coolest neighborhood in the world.
Norton gives us a glimpse of his daily routine – including a swim at south London’s beloved Brockwell Lido – in this video interview for British retailer Marks & Spencer.
5. The first character he ever played was No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.
Yes, really! It was for a “school miming competition” when Norton was 11. “We had one wig and one skirt to share. Not many people chose to do it. I was utterly terrified at first and just stood there demurely tapping my foot,” he recalled in a recent interview. “Then everyone began cheering. All of a sudden I started enjoying it, strutting up and down the stage and lapping up the applause. After the first few lines I felt this wall of support from the audience and I thrived off it. That was the moment I became a drag queen.”
Apparently one of Norton’s teachers sent him the performance on DVD, but sadly this has yet to find its way online.
6. His father Hugh Norton appears as an extra in nearly all of his shows.
“My dad is recently retired from working as a lecturer at a college near Hull, and it’s a really great way for him and my mum to see the world,” Norton said in a 2016 interview, Radio Times reports. “So my dad comes and dresses up as these mad characters, and my mum sits off the sidelines and just laughs at him. And they love it.”
You can check out a picture of “Papa Norton” with son James below.
7. Not everyone in the Norton family quite appreciates why he’s become a bit of a pin-up.
“I was sitting opposite my great-aunt Grania at a family lunch the other day and she was staring at me, in a quizzical way,” Norton told the Daily Telegraph in 2016. “Then she said: ‘Honestly, James, I just can’t understand why you look so good on the telly. In real life, you’re just so bland and normal-looking.'”
Ouch! But honestly, we all have a relative like this, don’t we?
8. He wasn’t a Doctor Who fan before he appeared in the 2013 episode “Cold War.“
Norton has said he felt “guilty” about this – especially when co-star Matt Smith handed him the iconic sonic screwdriver – but had a fun time on set anyway. “I really enjoyed filming it and I had the most camp death in the world,” he said later that year. “I was on a winch and an alien grabbed me from above and I got yanked off screen. About 30 times in a day, I had this big harness on and just got whipped up. It was like being at a theme park. This claw would come to shot and I’d have to scream.”
9. He’s been in a relationship with British actress Imogen Poots (Roadies, The Look of Love) for around two years.
The couple, who appeared together in a West End production of Amy Herzog‘s play Belleville in 2017-18, keep it pretty low-key, though Norton has shared a photo of his partner on Instagram.
10. For his role in AMC’s acclaimed crime series McMafia, he studied the Russian martial art Systema.
Which sounds pretty intense – as Norton explains in this U.K. TV interview.
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