James Norton: “I’ve had experiences where my work has consumed me.”

Get a sneak peak of our cover story with James Norton, where the actor sits down with HUNGER to chat 'A Little Life', 'Happy Valley' and saying goodbye to each of his disparate roles. 
  • PhotographerRankin
  • WriterScarlett Coughlan

James Norton is sitting in a minibus parked amid the vast hillsides of Iceland. He’s on the set of King and Conqueror, the forthcoming drama series telling the story of King Harold II and William the Conqueror. Deep into the second week of shooting the Battle of Hastings scene, Norton, 38, is dressed in chainmail and leather armour and a crown. Having appeared in works like 2019’s Little Women, Norton is no stranger to a period-drama costume, but this one – not including its actual heftiness – carries with it extra weight. It’s a physical embodiment of a piece of history.

This is something that Norton, as his flourishing acting career evolves, is keen to impart on the world. His other recent venture, Playing Nice, which will grace our television screens later this year, marks not only his foray into production but, equally, his dedication to telling consequential stories – this time the tale of two couples who discover their children were swapped at birth. “Apparently, you’d be surprised how often it happens,” Norton says. It’s by no means a niche experience to contend with, but something about the scenario speaks to bigger questions around family, a key aspect of Norton’s own life. He takes his dad to film with him as an extra, after all. But if you can make your old man’s dreams come true, then why not?

Scarlett Coughlan: You’re currently filming King and Conqueror, which is slated for release next year. What are you most enjoying about being part of a historical drama?

James Norton: I love this kind of experience, particularly if it’s a real story like King and Conqueror. There’s a certain gravitas and privilege to be telling these massive stories that are architectural moments of the modern world. And there isn’t really one more profound and important than the Battle of Hastings in terms of English history. It’s so fun to be doing big battle scenes on the side of a hill in Iceland in the blowing wind and rain like we’re doing right now. But I also keep having these moments while I’m giving this big speech to the Saxon army about a guy from a thousand years ago called Harold, who was doing it for real, and realising how important that act was for millions of people. You also get to wear fabulous costumes. I mean, I’m currently dressed in, like, seven layers of leather. I’m wearing a fucking crown and I have a sword and a dagger and a shield. It’s sort of my ten-year-old self’s dream. It’s insane.

This excerpt was taken from HUNGER Issue 31: The Dreamers. Full story is available in stores worldwide now. 

  • Fashion and Beauty DirectorMarco Antonio
  • GroomerPetra Sellge at The Wall Group using Boy de CHANEL and CHANEL Hydra Beauty Micro Sérum Lèvres
  • Photographer's AssistantsJody Evans, Harrison Phillips
  • ProducerSarah Stanbury
  • Production Co-ordinatorAbby Rothwell
  • RetouchingTrue Black Studio