Stephen Fry returns for a third series of ITV1’s ratings winning series Kingdom.
He is joined by Hermione Norris, Karl Davies, Celia Imrie, Tony Slattery, Phyllida Law, John Thomson and a host of prestigious guest stars, including June Whitfield, Peter Sallis, Sandi Toksvig, Jack Dee, Sophie Winkleman, Anna Massey and Jaye Griffiths.
The six part drama, filmed on locations in Norfolk, follows the fortunes of Stephen Fry’s character, Peter Kingdom, an affable country solicitor in the picturesque Norfolk town of Market Shipborough.
Stephen Fry on Kingdom
Stephen says he loves getting away from it all and travelling the world, but he’s always happy to return to “Kingdom country”.
His home county of Norfolk has become a star of the series, and Stephen is more than happy to share its delights with fellow actors, and tourists who have flocked to the area to see where the filming takes place.
“I like being away from the noise and the news and gossip of Britain. I like not knowing what is going on. I like being with a small group of people all fond of each other and getting on with it and not worrying about what is in the newspapers and who is saying what and what’s on television , and knowing who’s died.
“I like being completely disconnected. Although I also love gadgets and being connected in the other sense. I love it when people email me and phone me asking me to do something and I can say no I’m away for three months.
“But there are things I miss when I’m away like porridge, cricket, good tea, good cheese. I’m annoyed if I’ve missed a new television event that’s exciting, or movies, but you can always catch up with them they are available on line
“I grew up in Norfolk and I absolutely adore being back there. It is a beautiful place. It has a strange and mysterious beauty and one that is not similar to the beauty of any other county.
“Norfolk has become a real star since we started the series. That is one of the most pleasurable sides of what is known as the Kingdom effect on tourism in the county.
“Swaffham, which is where we are mainly based for filming Kingdom, has produced Market Shipborough rock. The local cabs have ‘Welcome to Kingdom Country’ written on them, the local hotel has a big display about Kingdom country.
“It is very touching that people do come to join the cast. They come to lovely Norfolk and enjoy themselves.
“There are some excellent actors in the new series. Sandi Toksvig, Jack Dee, Anna Massey, June Whitfield, Peter Sallis. Talk about champagne casting you don’t get much better than that. It was marvellous to have old friends, and new friends, on set.”
Between filming the second and third series Stephen has been travelling the world to film documentaries.
“I went to America straight after we finished filming the second series of Kingdom to make a documentary series for the BBC where I visited every state in America, and there are 50 of them so that was a heck of an undertaking.
“Then I went to the Amazon for another series called Last Chance to See, which is looking at endangered species. Then I did another leg of the American series before returning to England to start work on QI.
“When I finished filming this third series I went to Africa, Mauritius and Madagascar for the endangered species documentary, then onto Indonesia, China and New Zealand.”
One of the things Stephen enjoys about being home is being able to watch television dramas.
“I am very happy to sit and watch two hours of Midsomer Murders, or Doc Martin or Marple, especially as I am such a fan of Agatha Christie. I love a good whodunit.
“I also loved Ken Stott’s Messiah and Cracker and Prime Suspect and Wire in the Blood, Trial and Retribution, and things that are dark and pretty heavy.
When I’m away I fill my laptop with TV so that I can enjoy viewing when I am in the Bush. I have watched Midsomer Murders in the middle of the jungle!”
Stephen enjoys stepping back into the shoes of the avuncular Peter Kingdom, but he confesses he is not as affable as his character.
“I get a bit irritated when people think I am playing myself when I play Peter Kingdom, because I am far less charming than he is. I’m far more likely to be grouchy.
“I think it is absolutely necessary as an actor to be yourself, and to pare away the parts of yourself that are not like the character you are playing
“Acting is not about putting on a mask, it is about taking off a mask. There is part of me that is like Jeeves and a part of me that is like Peter Kingdom, and part of me that is like Oscar Wilde, and a part of me like General Melchett.
“They are all absolutely natural for me to play because it is that part of me – it is a bit like saying which part of your body will you show. If I say my knees, they are different from my hands, but they are still me. The different characters are not transformations. They are different parts of me.
“It is much easier to play a character like General Melchett who is barking, and unpredictable and scary because you just don’t know where he is coming from next; order your death or give you an éclair.
“It is great to play a character where you don’t know if he is going to kiss you or kill you. But I like playing kind characters too.”
In the new series of Kingdom Peter is now free from the havoc his late brother Simon provoked in the town and looking forward to the future. The locals have plenty of issues to keep him busy.
“Peter Kingdom is almost stitched into the mellow stone work of Market Shipborough. He has a sense of belonging to the place and being old fashioned and authoritative. He is old fashioned in the sense of kindness and courtesy.”
“We can deal with real issues in Kingdom there is a plot in the new series about parents who come to me because they are not allowed to video their own child in school because school doesn’t allow children to be photographed.
“I always made the point from the very beginning that market towns are not cosy chocolate box places at all. These are not places where old fashioned law and order is respected more than it is in the cities. I would say quite the reverse.”
Stephen has just finished filming Last Chance to See for the BBC and is about to record to new series of QI.