TONIGHT’S EVENT DETAILS: The evening will start at 6 with The Whitechapel Society’s annual general meeting. I’ll then be joining publisher, author and executive editor of ‘Ripperologist’ magazine, Adam Wood, and world-renowned crime historian and historical adviser to ‘From Hell’ and ‘Ripper Street’, Keith Skinner, at 7 to discuss the acclaimed TV series. There will also be a charity auction of Ripper memorabilia in aid of The British Heart Foundation.
So, hopefully see you tonight although for those who can’t make it, the talk will be recorded and available next week via Rippercast: The Podcast on Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders.
DAMIAN: Dickens (aka Uncovering the Real Dickens) was a wonderful three-part 2002 BBC docudrama written and presented by the great Peter Ackroyd. Now, the reason I mention this, aside from the fact that I love to rewatch it almost every Christmas, is the fact that this series introduced me to your work. It’s the most superior portrait and I found your interpretation of Dickens to be authentically tortured, gritty and even somewhat cruel at times. I’m wondering to what extent you discussed, either with directors Mary Downes and Chris Granlund or Ackroyd himself, how far you went as an actor in exploring such a dark side to one of our greatest and most celebrated writers?
ANTON: Hmm, we’re going back a bit now aren’t we? Yes, my goodness, well, from the research that I remember doing he was quite a difficult man. He was such a mixture, a really complex character and I think that’s what I always look for in whatever I’m playing; not necessarily a grittiness, but a complexity. So when you come across stories about the difficulties, how difficult he was to live with and all those stories about his wife and the affair and building a wall in the middle of their bedroom, it really inspires you not to go for the easy option, but really mine it for layers. I hope that it had those layers and wasn’t just sort of one aspect of a very complex character.
DAMIAN: And there’s an accompanying programme where Dickens is at home performing A Christmas Carol for friends and family who are gathered around him beside a glowing fireplace. Again, it’s an extraordinary and almost hypnotic experience to watch such a tour de force performance as you play Dickens acting out all the various characters with such energy and vigour; ranting, seething and barking – it was simply remarkable to see such danger and unpredictability. I wonder, do you ever get lost in the moment during such performances?
ANTON: Oh, erm… [laughs] what I remember most about that was that because I wear specs and couldn’t wear them [as Dickens] for reading, and I wasn’t familiar with contact lenses at that time, I had to learn the whole thing – the whole book!
DAMIAN: Good heavens! I assumed you had an autocue because they were extremely long takes…
ANTON: [laughs] It would have been great to be able to read it but I couldn’t see it! I had to learn it and pretend to be reading so the energy in that was to do with trying to remember.
DAMIAN:Well as I say, such energy and your arms were flailing about so much I was sure that you’d knock the glass of sherry over on the table next to you but you never did. Just a marvellous performance.
ANTON: Thank you.
DAMIAN: Let’s go back to the beginning of it all. I believe that you originally considered a career as an architect so at what point did you decide to pursue acting instead?
ANTON: That’s right. I did a degree at Liverpool University in architecture and then the usual course was you did a year out in practice and you came back and did a Masters and another year out. A bit like medicine you know, seven years! So I did my year out in Africa, in Nigeria, doing voluntary service overseas and while I was there I saw a British Council Film about the Royal Shakespeare Company and I had a kind of moment of recognition that that’s what I should do and I came back, went to RADA and my first job was with the RSC! So it was a very powerful experience of certainty about what I should be doing and that’s how it happened.
DAMIAN: Were you a nervous student or did you feel instantly at home at RADA?
ANTON: I loved it actually. I remember the first day feeling very daunted when they took us round the theatre and I thought oh my God, how the hell are you supposed to make yourself heard in a big place like this. So I was quite nervous in that respect but I loved being there because I’d done my student days already at University, I was there to get what I could get not to be a sort of student do you know what I mean? So I really made the most of it, yeah, I think I had a wonderful time there.
DAMIAN: You’ve mentioned fearing the audience wouldn’t hear you in such a huge theatre but was it during this period that you developed that wonderful aristocratic voice of yours?
ANTON: [Huge explosion of hearty laughter] Erm, I don’t know, I mean I’m a Brummie! So I don’t know about that, hmmm, I dunno. I think vocally, I’ve always been very unsure of myself…
ANTON: I’ve always wanted to have a relaxed and really easeful voice but I’ve had a lot of vocal problems, particularly the last few years, so it’s an area I’ve never felt that I can really express what I want to express. It has always been a sort of compromise. I hear stuff coming out of my mouth and I find it very disappointing; the gap between being able to speak and the actual delivery is very often deeply unsatisfying and tense. I have this subjective judgement, we all do I suppose, but other people say nice things about it and offer me work.
DAMIAN: I find that absolutely astonishing to hear. As a regular listener to Radio 4, I often hear you in the plays or reading poetry and your voice is instantly recognisable – it’s a fantastic voice.
ANTON: [Slightly bashful] Thank you.
DAMIAN: You’re probably hardly ever the tallest actor on set, and yet, our eyes cannot help but gravitate towards you and you effortlessly command every scene you’re in. Tell me, where does this power and energy come from?
ANTON: Well first of all, I’m very flattered but I don’t recognise that as true because, you know, I am tiny and I think of myself as lightweight. I’ve been watching this series on television on Sky about great actors and great directors and the ones that I admire have a sort of effortless authority. I was watching one about Peter Finch last night and Anthony Hopkins, you know people like that, so I don’t feel as though I do have that quality that you describe but it’s lovely to hear.
DAMIAN: Well I think there will be many who would argue otherwise but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Anyway, I was actually going to ask you about this, in retrospect, were there certain actors in theatre or on film and television when you were growing up in Birmingham that you particularly admired and may have inspired or influenced your decision to become an actor later on?
ANTON: Yes, I mean long before I ever thought of being an actor, I do remember seeing John Wood in a play in Birmingham when I was at school and it was called The Sorrows of Frederick, about Frederick the Great, and it was this absolutely amazing performance and that obviously had a huge impact, and much later of course, I had the privilege of working with him and was able to tell him how he inspired me. Another actor I saw as a student at Liverpool was Jonathan Pryce who was at the Everyman Theatre. He had a powerful impact on me. I saw him do a lot in Liverpool and then when I was at RADA, he’d done Comedians, the Trevor Griffiths play in Nottingham and then the West End, and when we got to finals and I had to choose a part for the showcase performance, I said to the principal I’d like to do the Jonathan Pryce part in Comedians and he said alright, if you can cast it from your year we’ll do it and we did and it was that which was seen by Joyce Nettles who was the casting director at Stratford at that time and that’s how I got my first job.
DAMIAN: And, of course, since then you’ve many credits across theatre, film, television and radio, but at what point in your career did you start to become associated with roles in which you are often cast as rather regal characters and those in positions of authority?
ANTON: Yeah, I don’t know how that happened really. I mean I’m trying to think of the first one. I suppose because my first job was Richard of Gloucester in the Henry sixes, I started very early being associated with the classics and Shakespeare which was a huge surprise to me because I thought I was just going to end up holding a spear but then I went on to do, I suppose, classic costume drama on television like Anna of the Five Towns. So yeah, I suppose I started to get a connection with classic literature rather than modern stuff. Maybe that was it but the regal thing? – I don’t know! [laughs]
DAMIAN: Well, I’ve some examples for you: the Archbishop of Canterbury in The Palace, the Duke of Exeter in The Hollow Crown, Prime Minister Attlee in A United Kingdom and Sir Thomas More in Wolf Hall (2015) which is a production I believe you are particularly proud of?
ANTON: Oh, I think it’s one of the best jobs that I’ve ever done because of the wonderful director, Peter Kosminsky who was fantastic, the adaptation and of course, Hilary Mantel’s amazing material. And then you had this sort of gallery of wonderful practitioners and actors and I was just so privileged to be in that. I was thinking the other day that I’m very lazy as a person, and, as an actor – I’ll get away with whatever I can get away with [laughs] but I remember thinking with that job, I don’t want a day off – I want to be here everyday and to be playing every part because I think it’s so brilliant! So yes, I certainly have an attraction for classic literature and great writing. Yeah I’ve been very fortunate.
DAMIAN: And in addition to Attlee of course, I must mention another Prime Minister, this time Harold Macmillan in The Crown (2017) and you also play Qyburn in Game of Thrones which are two of the biggest shows on the planet at the moment! Is it fair to say that you are more popular now than you’ve ever been?
ANTON: [laughs] Erm, I think you’d have to ask my agent [more laughter] because you don’t really know what you’re availability is being checked for.
DAMIAN: But you must recognise the enormous impact that these two shows have had?
ANTON: Absolutely. Yes huge, absolutely huge, and I feel very, very honoured to have been involved in them at all. I mean what is sad as an actor is when you see something like The Crown and you notice how many scenes you’ve shot that are no longer in it. That’s really difficult.
DAMIAN: Well, it’s interesting that you say that at this point because I obviously want to discuss Endeavour, and I’ve done a series of interviews with Russ Lewis [writer and deviser of the show] since 2013 where we discuss each and every episode in some detail and it’s quite surprising, upsetting even, that so many scenes are cut.
ANTON: I know, I mean I watched the first one last week of this new series and I was sitting there thinking, oh, for God’ sake, here we go again, that’s another scene [cut] and the reason that they always give, I mean I don’t know what Russ has said to you, is because of the format, the guests each week are the people that drive the plot so inevitably you can’t save time by cutting any of their stuff. So what has to go is the lovely backstory and detail that is so rich and unusual and interesting but, you know, is actually dispensable. So invariably, if there’s a nice scene with me and Roger where we’re talking about family, life and the past – a lovely little look into an another area of their life, that’s the first thing to go. Every year it happens and every year I complain…
DAMIAN: But I think Russ probably feels the pain most. Now, because I’ve interviewed so many of the cast over the last few years, it wouldn’t quite be the done thing to have a favourite character. Therefore, let me say instead that Reginald Bright is a character with which I have a particular interest and fascination. In my interviews with Russ, he told me that some of the initial inspiration for Bright came from Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. To what extent was this useful in helping to find your character as you prepared to play Bright for the first time?
ANTON: Well I mean I didn’t know much about him, that particular man, but I knew enough anecdotally – bits of footage that we’ve all seen over the years about the war. I got a sense of that type of man but I think what helped me most was the letter that Russ wrote to me when he was describing the character and he was describing what he felt about him and I sort of intuitively got a sense of what he was after so it’s in no way, my portrayal, is in no way a response to in depth research about Montgomery.
DAMIAN: I also asked Russ about Bright’s backstory and he had the following to say: ‘Bright has come – as I think is alluded to in some of his dialogue – from the Colonial Police, and has spent most of his career ‘overseas’. I think that dictates in some part his attitude to the men. He is still applying the lessons learnt in the tropics – a certain ‘Empire’ way of dealing with ‘local officers’ and indigenous peoples – to the good folk of Oxford. His is a world – his younger days at least – straight out of John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song. ‘Six o’clock news… lime juice and gin.’ The second son. Packed off to ‘foreign climes’ to make his way in the world, and do his bit for King and Country. He is a man even more out of time than most in the 1960s. But, he is a very decent man, if a little dazzled by those he perceives as his social betters. When the chips are down, his loyalty to his troops – for all his bark and bite – is total.’ What’s your response to these influences?
ANTON: Sounds like the man I’m playing doesn’t it?
ANTON: Yes, I’m very glad to hear that because it means that I’m sort of pretty well there. I love him and I feel especially sad that we don’t see more of what’s going on underneath. We do in the last two episodes as you’ll see but, erm, I just think the viewer is always more interested in the peoples’ backstory than in the plot because I think that’s the continuous nature of the piece. They get a different story every week but they’re hung on this continuous thread that we’ve known and loved all these years. That’s what nourishes the whole thing.
DAMIAN: To what extent did you discuss the future of Bright and where he was heading as a character with Russ?
ANTON: Not at all. No, I mean I don’t know how much of an arc he had in his head right in the beginning and don’t know whether he knew then about what’s happening now [with Bright and his wife].
DAMIAN: Well, it’s interesting because I’ve recently done an interview with Damien Timmer [executive producer and managing director of Mammoth Screen] and he feels quite certain that, if you take someone like Joan Thursday for example, Russ has actually got many of the character arcs all mapped out. Indeed, I asked Russ in one of our interviews when he knew Endeavour and Joan would fall for each other and he said the moment I had her open the door for him that first time.
ANTON: But do you think right at that beginning he had the end in view – the whole thing in view?
DAMIAN: Well, yes…
DAMIAN: Obviously I don’t know the details but that was another question I asked and Russ told me he knows exactly how Endeavour will end and that was back in 2013!
DAMIAN: Yeah. Anyway, in addition to the aforementioned A Subaltern’s Love Song, which has always struck Russ as a sort of Between Wars idyll, he cites Indoor Games Near Newbury, also by Betjeman, and Love For Lydia by HE Bates, as continued inspirations for Bright. Looking at texts such as these, some of which might simply be seen as a gentle satire on the middle classes, also evoke a certain rites of passage and courtship rituals; the sitting in the car outside the dance for example, which combine to suggest a very loving man with a deeply sensitive side to him which perhaps only his wife would be privy to. Was exploring Bright’s home life something that you’ve pushed for? I mean, I’ve personally pestered Russ for years about why we can’t meet Mrs. Bright…
ANTON: [Laughs] Well only that, as I’ve said, I’ve always wanted more of what’s going on behind. We had one little story about his time in India didn’t we with the tiger? I just think that those things are so precious and so I have wanted more.
But the interesting thing about his wife is that there was a scene very early on and there was a picture of his wife on his desk and we were discussing with Thursday some infidelity that was part of a case that they were looking at. And, when the director was shooting it, he was shooting it across the desk towards me and I said, you know -this is me sort of being desperate to get one of those threads into the scene- and I said if you shot it from the other side, you can get me shooting a glance at that photograph. Obviously we don’t have it in the dialogue for anything to be inferred but it’s just another little thing that somebody might pick up when they’re talking, just get a little note of something that says I wonder if something’s gone on in his own life back in India. Yeah, that was just me trying to get another little note and colour in there.
DAMIAN: When we first met Bright in GIRL (S1:E1) he was a stickler for the rules and could only see things in black and white. However, NEVERLAND (S2:E4) saw the beginning of a gradual softening in Bright’s character, do you agree that this was a turning point for him and how deeply do you think he was affected by the events at Blenheim Vale?
ANTON: Oh yes, with the child abuse and all that. Yeah, I think that was huge for him because we started to see his own history about his own child. We started to get intimations that something might have happened in his history and he has a deep wound. Yes definitely, that was when I started to feel I wanted to see more of what was going on.
DAMIAN: And I think there was another turning point for Bright when he gives Thursday his revolver back in CODA (S3:E4) even though Division made it quite clear that he was to remain suspended from duty. Was this Bright’s way of making his peace with Thursday following the shooting?
ANTON: Yes, I think there was a couple of moments like that when Thursday got himself into a scrape, didn’t he beat a witness up? There was a lovely scene where Bright actually goes against all his principles, about going according to the book. Moments like that were huge for him because he’s always done everything by the book, but of course has learned as we all do, that life doesn’t operate by the book and it doesn’t actually always serve your best intentions and there are moments when you have to abandon the book. I think those little moments for his character were brilliant because they allowed me to show a man who’s worldview has actually started to be dismantled. That’s what I always find interesting, that’s where I think we can see through the cracks into something more human and that’s what we recognise. I think television can become really, really powerful when we recognise our own humanity.
DAMIAN: One of the lovely surprises regarding Bright was seeing how he welcomed and warmed to WPC Shirley Trewlove when she was first introduced in ARCADIA (S3:E2), ‘My door is always… well, if not actually open then not infrequently ajar’.
ANTON: And again, that’s that whole child thing isn’t it? At first you sort of sense that there was this rather, you know, a man far too old having sort of feelings for this attractive young woman and then we realise no, it’s a father-daughter thing. And then we understand that later when he talks about his daughter dying in India.
DAMIAN: Were you particularly pleased to read the script for PREY and discover that Bright took centre stage in the climatic action set-piece for once?
ANTON: [mischievous laughter] That’s been my favourite scene in the whole series!
DAMIAN: Has it really?
ANTON: Yep, just to have that moment where we stop having to relentlessly be, you know, motivated by the plot and we can actually zoom in on the human beings who have this history and reasons for why they are behaving in the way they do. I loved it! I really loved that episode. Yeah, that’s really been a highlight and it was directed by Lawrence Gough who has become a really good friend. I’ve just done a film with him called Gatecrash.
DAMIAN: When will that be released?
ANTON: Well, I’m hoping soon but I think it’s got to do the rounds at the festivals before it gets any real exposure – look out for it!
DAMIAN: I certainly will. Now, we were talking about Trewlove before and when I interviewed Dakota Blue Richards last year I asked her what it was like working with an actor of such gravitas as Anton Lesser and she replied, ‘Anton is one of the world’s better people. The ideal combination of talent, humour, professionalism and gentility. He never fails to delight me and is always the best part of my day. Working with him has truly been a joy and an honour’. That’s quite an endorsement isn’t it?
ANTON: Aw, blimey, that’s amazing – she’s such a liar!!! [laughs]
DAMIAN: Were you sad to see her go?
ANTON: Yeah, I really was. I could understand it though, I mean she is a fantastic actor and it wasn’t really fulfilling enough for her – it wasn’t going anywhere. Obviously they wanted her to stay and they did everything they could, but no, it wasn’t enough. You need to keep refueling as an actor.
DAMIAN: I thought it was a pity because in the last series they really built up her character quite significantly.
ANTON: Yeah I know it was a really sad. I felt for her because I’ve had similar feelings all the way through. I thought to myself if this character doesn’t start opening up somehow, if we don’t see something going on I can’t see myself continuing, but each year they’ve asked me back and they’ve said it’s going to be great and we’ll try and get that theme back that we couldn’t get [before] and put it back in. To an extent that’s happened [now] but I mean it’s still frustrating because the amount of screen time that you get as one of these characters can be minimal then and that’s OK if, when you are on screen, it’s a scene that is more than just sort of ‘very well, carry on’ sort of acting.
DAMIAN: I understand but I’d never forgive you if you did leave… [Anton laughs] Given what you’ve just said then, how did you feel about the changes to Bright with the closure of Cowley and the character developments relating to his demotion?
ANTON: Well again, the man starts to become much more vulnerable and that is much more interesting to explore than somebody who is always on top of everything and by the book – it gets to become a bit predictable and not very interesting to play. So now when things fall apart, it becomes more tender, softer, vulnerable and complicated. So I’m enjoying this last phase of the story much more.
DAMIAN: In addition to Russ’ amazing scripts, I think the magic of Endeavour is that it’s got this wonderful ensemble cast that work so well together and share this magical chemistry.
ANTON: Yeah, we’ve also had a whole mix of directors of course. But yes, that consistency, having that one eye over everything – it’s wonderful from our point of view because you know it’s one voice. One storyteller.
DAMIAN: Anton, it’s been an absolute honour and a privilege to do this interview so thank you very much indeed.
ANTON: It was nice to talk to you, cheers Damian.
A Subaltern’s Love Song
Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun, What strenuous singles we played after tea, We in the tournament – you against me!
Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy, The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy, With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won, I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.
Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won, The warm-handled racket is back in its press, But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.
Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk, And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk, And cool the verandah that welcomes us in To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.
The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath, The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path, As I struggle with double-end evening tie, For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.
On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts, And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports, And westering, questioning settles the sun, On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall, The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall, My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.
By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways, She drove to the club in the late summer haze, Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.
Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, I can hear from the car park the dance has begun, Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band! Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!
Around us are Rovers and Austins afar, Above us the intimate roof of the car, And here on my right is the girl of my choice, With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.
And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said, And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead. We sat in the car park till twenty to one And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
INT. POLICE STATION/CORRIDOR/CID – DAY X (FLASHBACK)
BRIGHT alone in the corridor. He steels himself, comes along the corridor – and enters CID at the THURSDAY OFFICE end.
BRIGHT: If I might have everyone’s attention.
THURSDAY emerges from his office. UNIFORMS arrive.
BRIGHT (cont’d): As you know, since the merging of City and County – together with our sister constabularies to create Thames Valley, the future of Cowley Police station has been in the balance. I have this day received news from Division. The station is to be reduced to a skeleton staff by the 24th of the month and will close – permanently – at midnight on the 31st. Details of future placements will be sent to each of you in due course.
Looks amongst the troops… ENDEAVOUR, STRANGE, FANCY and TREWLOVE — thunderstruck.
BRIGHT (cont’d): Meantime, I know I can rely on each of you to discharge your duty with the same professionalism I have come to so admire these past years. That is all. Carry on.
DAMIAN: And so with ICARUS, it was the end of Bright as we have come to know and love him?
RUSS: Indeed. Again, I think, in the earliest drafts, I was going for a Christmas/December film. Hence the 24th. And… again, this was shot down.
DAMIAN: You know, you had a good thing going here: the CID set, in a similar way to the Rovers Return or the bridge of the Enterprise perhaps, felt almost like a second home for both the characters and the audience – we felt comfortable and liked meeting there with the characters and the actors who play them, and had an almost unprecedented -for a detective mystery TV show at least- magical chemistry. And yet, in name of progress, you take away our comfortable place and split up the family, casting them to the four winds. It’s certainly brave creatively but was it also a little risky?
RUSS: Five series. We could have kept it going unchanged indefinitely, I suppose. But it felt with the historical end of City Police and our move from the base we’d occupied for Series 3, 4 & 5, that it was time to burn everything to the ground. And Fancy – of course. That was key. And that arose from Dakota’s decision to leave. So… All of these things felt like major changes. And they reflected the year – 1968 – turbulence at home and abroad. Closing the station and breaking up the band felt the right thing to do.
DAMIAN: ‘Don’t run boy!’. You’ve told me in the past that you were in and out of education as a child, and also there was a kind teacher who was supportive of your writing. Looking back at your education, or lack thereof, how do you think it shaped the bespoke writer and purveyor of fine manuscripts we have all come to so admire these past years?
RUSS: Lack of formal education. It just wasn’t something on the cards for someone of my socio-economic background – or, as we used to call it in old money, class. My family were of a generation that thought you only went to University if you were going to be a Doctor or a Lawyer. College – we didn’t really have a notion of at all. And attending ‘The Academy of Eyes and Teeth, Love’ from 3 to 16, er… its own grasp of higher education was pretty non-existent. I had an on-set tutor for a couple of years, and that was quite intensive and useful — but under employment/educational law you were only obliged to do three hours of proper schooling a day. No science. Dreadful really. Appalling. But you play the cards you’re dealt, don’t you? I was a very early reader – and I suspect that made up a lot of the shortfall. But it was for the most part reading without structure or design. The library, the library, the library. The library was a palace of wonders.
So – yeh… No proper education to speak of. Just the natural low cunning native to my class. That may sound facetious, but it’s not entirely. I suppose the way it shaped the writing – to return to your original question – is that nobody in a position of academic authority ever told me that such and such was notthe way to do something. Equally, the flipside is that nobody ever said that such and such wasthe way to do something. I suppose it’s why I’m skeptical about the “You Too Can Have a Screenplay Like Mine” snake-oil salesmen. You have to find your own way to it.
But I digress. Look — I’m not proud of a lack of formal education, but I’m not ashamed of it either. Hard to be proud or ashamed about something over which one had no control. It’s just a thing. It made me hungry to know stuff — maybe more hungry than if it had all just been laid out before me. There’s something thrilling about knowing how things work. Whatever it might be. Oh – so this bit of the world fits together with that bit of the world, &c. I just find that beguiling. A puzzle without end. You’re never going to solve it, but each new bit of information deepens your understanding. We have such a short time in existence. So much to know — so little time. And so much of the stuff I’ve picked up along the way has been through work. You know — you do Sharpe or Hornblower or Cadfael and you want to make a good job of it, you’d better start reading around the subject, bone up on it as if preparing for an exam, try to get a handle on the minds and manners of the period. Do your homework. Always. That’s the great joy. My library looks like the library of a lunatic. Things that have no business sitting beside one another – a history of the Delta Blues beside the mechanics of an 18th century sailing ship, and surmounted by a book on poisons. Looks like we got ourselves a reader.
DAMIAN: I take it you’re familiar with the 1968 film, if ?
RUSS: Yes, indeed. Huge admirer of all things Lindsay Anderson. The spirit of Mick Travis has infused quite a bit of Endeavourland along the way. Sam Costin [script editor] and me had some fun with Lindsay Anderson stuff across the first three series. Little nods here and there. Funnily enough – only this week I’ve caught up with an old grognard, the great muso Jeremy Stacey, and we got to talking about when we did Giles Cooper’s play Unman, Wittering and Zigo for Radio 4 in the late 70s, with Gawn Grainger playing Mr.Ebony – we were about 15 or something. There’s a fabulous film of it with David Hemmings and the late and lovely Tony Haygarth – who I was blessed to work with on Between the Lines. And Carolyn (Survivors) Seymour too, before she left for the States, plays Hemmings wife.
Answering this – I realise that I worked with both Hemmings and Carolyn. I did a TV play with Carolyn in the early 70s – written by my hero John Hopkins whose The Offence – directed by Sidney Lument – had a major influence on the vibe of Endeavour ‘69. Only Connect! My Round Britain Quiz/Panini Sticker life. The ‘boys’ though are a hoot. You’ve got Michael Kitchen in there – Lord is it now? Lord Cashman? Fabulous atmos. And great sleight of hand with the school. Like ours, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster. The exteriors here – the interiors there. So – that got drawn on a bit, as did The History Boys; Jennings; Dead Poets Society… anything with that boys’ school thing going on. Having done the girls’ side with NOCTURNE, it felt like it might be fun to do the boys.
DAMIAN: The headmaster at Coldwater asks if he plays sport and Endeavour replies with the lie, cricket. I wondered if this was your own personal preference in sport or a nod to the other Lewis?
RUSS: Cricket would always be my personal preference — but I went for Cricket because we were shooting in the winter, and the story was set in the winter, and Endeavour would think it a good wheeze to offer up a proficiency in a summer sport, in the hope of avoiding any physical exertion whatsoever.
DAMIAN: And isn’t it funny to see Endeavour finally at the chalkface because I asked if you thought he’d make a good teacher in one of first interviews and later, of course, he confides in Monica with a moped that he’s considering leaving the police to teach?
RUSS: Yes — that certainly played back to his conversation with Ms.Hicks.
DAMIAN: Bright has a line of dialogue ‘The local Detective Inspector and his bagman lost their lives last weekend in a road traffic accident with an articulated lorry’. Knowing the extent to which you plan your future stories and character subplots ahead, I was worried this might be a sly foreshadowing of events yet to come or am I reading too much into things again?
RUSS: Not every question gets an answer. There are things you might infer.
TREWLOVE: Just the one bed, I’m afraid.
ENDEAVOUR: I can take the couch.
TREWLOVE: Don’t be ridiculous. How’s that going to look if anyone comes knocking?
Off ENDEAVOUR: What can Trewlove be suggesting…?
DAMIAN: What was Trewlove suggesting?
RUSS: One would imagine a bolster being involved.
INT. ROSE COTTAGE/LIVING ROOM – NIGHT 4
ENDEAVOUR listening to one of IVORY’s LPs. TREWLOVE paints her toenails.
TREWLOVE: They say – that – when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. Do you think that’s true?
ENDEAVOUR: Grim topic for someone painting their toenails, isn’t it?
TREWLOVE: I told you. I like grim. What should a girl talk about, Morse? Ponies? Kittens? Boys?
ENDEAVOUR: I saw your boy this afternoon. He’s got it into his head that us being shacked up here is the perfect opportunity for a torrid affair.
TREWLOVE: But you’re not my type. Oh, Lord. I told him not to get too serious.
ENDEAVOUR: I thought you liked him.
TREWLOVE: I do. He’s desperately sweet. But, we’re both young. We’ve got to put career first right now. Haven’t we?
ENDEAVOUR: A career’s not going to hold you at three in the morning when the wolves come circling.
TREWLOVE: Do they come circling? Morse?
ENDEAVOUR: It’s late. I’ve got to make my bath. I think, if I found someone… All this wouldn’t matter a damn.
DAMIAN: I can’t quite believe I’m actually going to ask this in light of our Casanova debate, but one of the things I regretted about Trewlove’s departure was the fact that we would never get to find if they would or wouldn’t. I’d argue that there was a mutual attraction from the very beginning but had she stayed another year or two, would they have ever got together do you think?
RUSS: It was something we were keen to avoid.
DAMIAN: Despite protests to the contrary, isn’t Endeavour exactly her type?
RUSS: Opposites attract.
DAMIAN: I think they would have made a very fine couple but I was less convinced by her attraction to Fancy. Lovely as he was, would a girl like Trewlove really have had much interest in such a dope?
RUSS: Because the people who should be together always end up together, don’t they?
DAMIAN: Was Endeavour jealous of their relationship or did it simply remind him of his own loneliness?
RUSS: I don’t think he was jealous of them at all. Your latter point – possibly.
DAMIAN: Did Endeavour like Fancy or not?
RUSS: I think Fancy grew on him. But perhaps more important than whether he liked him or not — he felt responsible for him. And Endeavour would blame himself for not having protected him. Also, I suspect that deep down he fears Fancy was in some way trying to impress him. After their last unhappy conversation… Of course Endeavour is going to take all the sins of the world, and the loss of Fancy onto his shoulders – for all his protestations to the contrary.
EXT. SNOOKER HALL – NIGHT 5
Police vehicles. In the lee of the entrance, ENDEAVOUR — shocked to his core – he struggles a smoke to his lips, but his hands are trembling too hard to light it. DOROTHEA…
She lights his smoke. Their eyes meet over the flame.
DOROTHEA (CONT’D): Is it true?
The answer in ENDEAVOUR’s – wounded, thousand yard stare.
DAMIAN: Again, I’ll understand any frustration you might have in my asking the following question given our last interview in which I was complaining about him smoking but why doesn’t Endeavour smoke in the filmed version of this scene?
RUSS: You’d have to ask Shaun and Gordon [Anderson, director]. I’ve no idea. They thought better of it on the floor, presumably.
THURSDAY: I can’t have you pair shooting up the town like it’s the Wild West. Somebody’s going to get hurt…
DAMIAN: Since I know you’re a fan of Westerns, so you will have undoubtedly seen the famous cinematic versions of the Wyatt Earp story such as My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?
RUSS: Yes, indeed.
DAMIAN: And the audience are all waiting with bated breath for the big shoot out?
RUSS: Uh huh.
DAMIAN: So, while I appreciate Endeavour is not a western and Fancy is certainly no cowboy, you sustained a tension throughout six episodes regarding Eddie Nero and other violent rival gangs, and then the anticipated resolution to this which happened to be a bloody shootout occurs offscreen!!! Surely Fancy, and indeed Lewis Peek deserved a better send off than this?
RUSS: Well — you have a choice, don’t you? You either experience the discovery with Endeavour, Thursday and Strange — or you show it, and put the audience ahead of our heroes. Finding out what has happened to Fancy at the same time as his comrades felt the more shocking, brutal and cruel option. I would contend that if you’d known Fancy was in the thick of it, then the moment wouldn’t have had such an impact. I’m more drawn to subverting expectations anyway, and would likely have gone for the least obvious, and most awkward, crunchy option.
DAMIAN: I did like that when Bright asked if Fancy’s family had been notified, Strange replies ‘Devon, Sir. Local boys’re dealing.’ That was an especially nice touch wasn’t it?
RUSS: One for Lewis. We loved and do love him. It’s never easy coming in to something knowing that you’re going to be put to the sword at the end of the run. It was very hard for him, and I did feel for him – but one had to see it through.
INT. POLICE STATION/BRIGHT’S OFFICE – DAY 6
BRIGHT and TREWLOVE. The end of all things…
BRIGHT: I had hoped to see you as the first female officer in Cowley CID, but our loss is the Yard’s gain. You will do great things there, I’m sure. Great things.
TREWLOVE: Thank you, sir.
BRIGHT: We shall all miss you. I don’t suppose there’s anything one can say..? I’m so frightfully sorry.
TREWLOVE: George was happy here, sir. He particularly admired you.
BRIGHT: His regard was poorly placed, I fear – and woefully served.
TREWLOVE: It wasn’t your fault, sir.
BRIGHT: No, well… The investigation will decide where any blame must fall. (he offers his hand) Good luck, Constable.
TREWLOVE: Thank you for always looking out for me.
BRIGHT: It has been… a privilege.
DAMIAN: It’s typically quite proper for Bright to express his affection for her with a simple handshake but Trewlove could have given him a hug goodbye surely?
RUSS: She could. If they’d wanted to go that way on the floor they would have done. As the cigarette moment outside the snooker hall shows, Director and cast will sometimes take things their own way.
DAMIAN: Well, back to the noble question of whether to hug or not to hug again I’m afraid, after the touching scene where Joan cooks dinner for Thursday because Win has left…
THURSDAY: Whatever went on with you last year… It’s none of my business. I shouldn’t’ve interfered. But it’s what fathers do.
JOAN: It’s what you do.
THURSDAY: I can’t help that. You’re my little girl. Apple of my eye. Always have been. Since the moment you came into the world. Always will be. But it’s your life. I just miss you being in mine. This past twelve months…
JOAN: Oh, Dad.
…the script, albeit not in the filmed version, ends the scene with ‘Hugs’. I remember chastising you for not having Thursday hug Sam as he left for the army and you said something about men of the period being more reserved in the way they show affection, so is it only OK for Thursday to hug his daughter or does he love Joan more than Sam?
RUSS: I’m not quite sure how you get to that conclusion – but no, he doesn’t love Joan more than Sam. But I’d probably contend that fathers and daughters in the period are marginally more likely to hug than fathers and sons.
DAMIAN: I appreciate that Endeavour is obviously the main character but wouldn’t Trewlove have wanted to say goodbye to Bright last and wouldn’t it have been better for her to have her final scene with him in a kind of Wizard of Oz/’I’ll miss you most of all’ sort of way?
RUSS: As Adam West was purportedly fond of telling Burt Ward, ‘The show is called – Batman.’
DAMIAN: The farewell between Endeavour and Trewlove appears as scripted but the following really lovely scene was sadly trimmed due to running time:
THURSDAY waiting. TREWLOVE enters. A moment between them.
THURSDAY: If there was anything I could’ve done. If I could take it back. Me for him.
TREWLOVE: He wouldn’t’ve wanted that. They’ll need you now more than ever. Someone’s got to see them through.
STRANGE comes through.
STRANGE: Off, then, Shirl? Look after yourself, love.
TREWLOVE: You too, Jim.
STRANGE: (off TREWLOVE’S hug) Now, then. You’ll set me off. (a moment) He was a good lad.
TREWLOVE: I know. Look out for Mister Bright. Be kind to him — if he’ll let you. Well…
With a backwards wiggle of her fingers in parting, she exits into the corridor.
DAMIAN: Time, it’s your old archenemy I know, and you’ll undoubtedly find this a vexing question, but Trewlove really did come into her own during series five and I wonder if Dakota would have wanted to leave at all if she was given the material she had last year?
RUSS: Yes — we shot it, but it didn’t make the cut. Regrettably. Broke our hearts to see her go, but we were never going to hold on to DB. Sail on, Silver Girl.
EXT. BRIGHT’S HOUSE – DAY 6
30s Mock Tudor. BRIGHT – in civvies – trimming his privets. He sees: ENDEAVOUR.
BRIGHT: Morse. Good heavens.
INT. BRIGHT’S HOUSE – DAY 6
Decorated in Late English Desperate vernacular. Oh, chintzy-chintzy cheeriness, half-dead, and half-alive… Between the wars. Punkah-Poona-on-the-Hill. BRIGHT ushers ENDEAVOUR in.
BRIGHT: Mrs. Bright is out, I’m afraid. Bridge circle. I think. May I offer you a drink? I generally have a lime-juice and gin about now.
ENDEAVOUR: Thank you, sir.
BRIGHT: Yes. Well, I’ll just go and, er… wash my hands.
BRIGHT exits. ENDEAVOUR takes in his surroundings. BRIGHT’s life arranged in photographs around the walls. The young subaltern in India before the war. Wedding pictures. Simla…
On a side-board a few framed photographs of a young girl. Babe in arms – toddler – scowling Prince Valiant haired tomboy in khaki shorts. A smiling HOUSE SERVANT looking on. And then… nothing. A sepia promise of beauty; unrealised.
BRIGHT: Dulcie. Our daughter. Sweet little thing.
Behind BRIGHT’s eyes, a world of painful memory. The sudden descent into fever. Tubercular meningitis. The Doctor ‘Up-Country’. A terrible week-long suffering. Nothing to be done. A woman, deranged by grief, howling in the night. All of it contained in the one simple phrase.
BRIGHT (CONT’D): The Tropics.
As well to argue with God. BRIGHT falls to fixing drinks.
BRIGHT (CONT’D): So what’s this all about?
ENDEAVOUR: Ballistics prove George Fancy was shot by someone who got away from the Snooker Hall. His killer is still at large.
BRIGHT: Well — presumably that will be passed to the investigating officer.
ENDEAVOUR: He was our colleague.
BRIGHT: And we will mourn him. I’m on indefinite leave. It’s out of my hands. Nothing to be done. Not what one would wish, but there we are. (brings DRINKS across) Your very good health. Fresh lime, you see. That’s the trick of it.
ENDEAVOUR frustrated. BRIGHT in some private hell.
DAMIAN: Private hell. A world of painful memory. All bloody good meat and potato stuff that actors love to play with and explore. And yet, it’s been a long time coming and I know that the confines of screen time has been a source of frustration for Anton Lesser. While I understand the reasons for this, what I don’t understand is why, apart from a initial letter you wrote to him outlining Bright’s past (the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein inspiration and Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song: ‘Six o’clock news… lime juiceand gin’ to name but a few examples), why you haven’t shared information on Bright’s future. In fact, Anton was completely unaware of many of the character developments for Bright over series five and six until he read them in the scripts. Rather than risk key players losing interest in their parts and possibly leaving the show, why don’t you share all your extremely detailed and insightful plans for the characters with the actors who play them?
RUSS: Because plans change. Having marched Anton up the hill only to march him back down it a couple of times now — I’m reluctant to tell anyone anything that’s in my design just in case it doesn’t happen. But believe me – every line, every scene an actor loses in production or in the cut… it’s tough – because you feel for them, and you wouldn’t have written the scene if you didn’t feel it warranted inclusion.
Look – here’s how it works. You write a thing. People ask for additional material for a multiplicity of reasons. You write the requested material. And as often as not, the stuff you care most deeply about – the stuff that made you want to tell that story that way in the first place gets squeezed out by the new material. That’s just how it is. There’s a lot of moving parts. A lot of people asking for changes to plot or character beats. It’s your job to square the circle. You hold on to what you can – salvage the rest. If you can’t take a creative punishment beating every day… then you’re in the wrong business.
INT. POLICE STATION/CID – DAY 9
CID stripped bare. THURSDAY in his office, boxing his last bits. ENDEAVOUR and STRANGE watch removal men cart off the last FILING CABINETS. BRIGHT enters. ENDEAVOUR – reacts.
THURSDAY emerges from his office.
BRIGHT: That’s the last of it, is it?
THURSDAY: Yes, sir.
BRIGHT: Well. I just stopped by to wish you all good luck.
A MURMUR of ‘Thanks’ from ENDEAVOUR, THURSDAY and STRANGE.
BRIGHT (CONT’D): When I arrived here three years ago, I had such high hopes. What an ignominious end I have led you to. I shall resign, of course.
BRIGHT: I failed him. I failed my men. The station gone. My brightest and best cast to the four winds. And all is brought to ruin.
Cometh the hour. The one true friend…
STRANGE: Bollocks to that.
STRANGE: No, sir. I won’t hear it. We might be down, but we’re not out. Not yet. Not by a long chalk. I’ll be damned if this is how it ends. We’ll have justice for him, sir. Whatever it takes.
THURSDAY: Jim’s right, sir. They can call us Thames Valley till the cows come home, but wherever we wash up, we’re City men – each one of us. To our boots. To the last.
BRIGHT: So few.
ENDEAVOUR: Enough to give him justice.
THURSDAY: We’ll find the bastard, sir.
BRIGHT: Your word on it.
THURSDAY: My oath.
STRANGE: And mine.
They look to ENDEAVOUR.
ENDEAVOUR: For George.
DAMIAN: Honestly, if I could have only risen from my sofa, stood up and joined the four musketeers there and then… Rousing stuff indeed. I was a little confused though, why is Strange ‘the one true friend’?
RUSS: George Fancy’s. Jim Strange was fond of the lad. There is something very straight about Jim Strange. He might not have the book learning, but when the chips are down, he’s the one man you want to see coming round the corner.
DAMIAN: Will all the mystery surrounding George’s death be resolved by the last film of series six and what can you say about Degüello?
RUSS: Yeh – I’d hope so. I can say almost nothing about Degüello.
DAMIAN: You say almost nothing. Any fragrant ladies? Plot vertigo perhaps? Nothing, really?
RUSS: There was something that we thought about for ‘68 – but for reasons which will become clear, we didn’t do it. But it is an ending. For good or ill.
INT. POLICE STATION/CID – DAY 9
ENDEAVOUR alone. He looks to FANCY’S desk.
FANCY (VOICE OVER): Your desk. Sorry. I was told to wait. Fancy…
TREWLOVE (V.O.) There is a woman under the uniform, Morse. Just not a stupid one.
JAKES (V.O.): Wotcher!
Ghosts fled. ENDEAVOUR empties his drawer. A the bottom — his PHOTOFIT of JOAN from (Series 4). A moment on ENDEAVOUR. He exits CID.
DAMIAN: I liked this very much. Why was the scene changed to Endeavour instead simply taking a moment and then turning the light switch off and leaving CID in darkness?
RUSS: I’d refer you to the answer I gave some questions ago. My original ending for S5 was very different, and among the greatest regrets is that I could not carry the day.
DAMIAN: You’re not going to elaborate further on this very different ending that was among your greatest regrets?
RUSS: An Endeavour Joan moment. More I cannot say. But it was a beautiful thing. At least, I thought so.
DAMIAN: You mentioned in our first interview this year that there was no danger of running out of stories and that Damien Timmer feels that the show could move into the early seventies quite happily. And, if the network want another series -they will have almost certainly made up their mind by the time this interview is posted- you won’t be hanging the Winchester over the fireplace or turning in your tin star just yet?
RUSS: As you know, I’m bound to silence by fearful oaths.
DAMIAN: When we do say goodbye to Oxford’s brightest and best for the final time though, and regardless to other shows you write -you will do great things, I’m sure- would you be happy to be known and remembered as the chap who wrote Endeavour?
RUSS: Don’t imagine I’ll be remembered at all – by any apart from those who know me. And quite happy to be forgot.
DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed. See you down the road?
For me, as an aficionado of Horror and German Expressionist Cinema, I know that some of the most potent screen images come from those early silent films such as Cesare abducting and dragging his prey across the oblique cityscape in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), the shadow of Count Orlok slowly ascending the staircase in Nosferatu (1922) and the thrillingly iconic creation of Maria in Metropolis (1927). These films, along with many others directed by cinematic pioneers like FW Murnau and Fritz Lang, inspired and influenced the Hollywood Horror Film and paved the way for the Universal Monster Cycle of the thirties and forties among other masterpieces of the genre.
And yet, when Universal first resurrected a host of classic gothic literary monsters for the sound era, they were reluctant to fully embrace the transition from silent film to talkies and the art of the music score. Many films frequently had music over the opening and closing title cards but anything more was usually restricted to diegetic (source) music such as if a character was at a concert, playing a record or listening to the radio. Indeed, their defining productions of Dracula and Frankenstein (both 1931) scream out for a full orchestral soundtrack. However, when James Whale was persuaded to direct a sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), this time the monster demanded a music score and it remains one of the greatest examples of the art of scoring a horror picture ever composed.
Given my affection for classic monster movies and their music, I was most intrigued to hear that the second episode of series five of Endeavour would feature a Mummy! I’d already met and later interviewed composer Matthew Slater and so I was obviously aware of the virtuoso and genius inventiveness that has immeasurably enhanced the mystery, the thrills and the romance of Endeavour. But how would Matt approach scoring an episode about an aged horror icon visiting Oxford to promote his latest cinematic tale of terror? I’m very pleased to have the opportunity of interviewing Matt again to talk about the making of CARTOUCHE and the horror film scores that have inspired him…
The monster demands a music score! – An exclusive interview with composer Matthew Slater
DAMIAN: Matt, I’m thinking back to the first truly great and influential Horror/Fantasy film scores and two obvious examples immediately spring to mind that I’d like to discuss, Max Steiner’s King Kong (1933) and Franz Waxman’s The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), unless you can think of anything that predates these?
MATT: Considering that just a little bit before those dates we were still in the land of silent movies, I think you’re probably right. I’m sure there were some fantastic scores improvised by the musicians playing along at the time, but yes, I’d agree with you over Steiner and Waxman being the big boys. Or, in films like Dracula in 1931, no bespoke score was recorded, and classics were used instead, which could also bring equal power and emotion to a movie. A concept not foreign to Kubrick.
DAMIAN: Let’s deal with Max Steiner first who, I think, composed over a hundred and fifty scores including music for Gone With the Wind (1939) Casablanca (1942), The Big Sleep (1946), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The Searchers (1956) to name but a few. However, would you say that it was King Kong that established him as one of early Hollywood’s most important composers?
MATT: I think King Kong certainly had a significant impact on Steiner’s career by its sheer Wagnerian size, much like Kong’s stature in fact. His use of themes and leitmotifs which have become commonplace these days would also play an extensive part in the success of the film. Bernard Hermann and Eric Korngold were also around at the same time and writing some fantastic scores. The list could go on, but depends on whether we’re just talking about the horror and fantasy genres at that time.
DAMIAN: As a composer, can you explain the impact that the score had on audiences back then and why it continues to be so influential today in terms of elevating the status and respectability of the monster and fantasy genres?
MATT: If I knew that, I’d be John Williams!! I think therein lies the answer though. It’s not always the tune that bears the most importance in a film, its what it is designed to accompany on screen and how to emote the audience at that point. That’s the genius of people like Rozsa, Steiner, Waxman, Hermann, Goldsmith and Williams. Matching the tune to that moment in time.
DAMIAN: Can you highlight some its defining musical features so that a layman such as myself without any musical knowledge or training can go back to the score and understand its monumental achievements?
MATT: Simply put, it’s the operatic feel, nature and enormity of the score which often gets that Wagnerian label. A nod to Tristan und Isolde probably goes a little way to help that association with Steiner’s King Kong. Perhaps his use of unconventional harmony might also go to make that bond between the two composers. Again, it’s not necessarily the notes or harmony themselves that particularly define a composer but more their application and placement in film, opera or ballet. Hermann’s Cape Fear and those descending intervals for instance. Inseparable. John William’s three-note Jaws motif, inexorably linked to the fish with the big teeth.
DAMIAN: And Franz Waxman, another prolific and groundbreaking Hollywood composer with credits such as Rebecca, The Philadelphia Story (both 1940), Suspicion (1941), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Rear Window (1954), to what extent did he advance the parameters for the potential of horror film music even further than Steiner with his sophisticated and multifaceted score for Bride?
MATT: I think all composers draw upon each other for the development of their respective genres, it’s almost impossible not to. Much like score styles go in and out of fashion all the time. Look at the recent moves we’ve had towards scores become a more sound design element to films rather than having distinctive musical context and harmonic structure. I’m not saying they are lesser scores by any means at all, just a fashion, as were electronic scores in the 70’s and 80’s. Even orchestral scores have gone in and out of appeal over the life of cinema and TV. I think the question might require a somewhat lengthy essay on the matter, so I’ll thin it down a little if you don’t object.
When it comes to comedy and horror the music plays an enormously important role. Take the score away and see how well defined those moments become. As I’ve mentioned before, for me, it’s the application of the music rather than the specifics of thematic, harmonic and textual content. As important as those facets are, the genius is also in the placement.
DAMIAN: Personally, I’d go as far as to say that the music to the final scenes with the creation of the Bride, with the constant thumping heartbeat-like repetition and the chimes evoking wedding bells, is the single most thrilling and exhilarating moment in the history of horror scores. Again, can you highlight some of the tricks the composer uses here to create both the horror and pathos of the scene?
MATT: Waxman’s use of low ostinati, low woods, timpani and brass give that feeling of doom and impending horror giving way to the full slush and pathos of high string chord portomenti patterns. Tubular bells and harp give that bridal feel all within those moments after “she’s alive!!”. A hint of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus perhaps in some perverse way?
DAMIAN: I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought of this but Frankenstein’s monster meets the blind man who is playing Schubert’s Ave Maria, do you think given James Whale’s celebrated dark sense of humour, that this was a joke because the little girl drowned by the monster in the first Frankenstein was called Maria?
MATT: I’ll pop along to my next local pub quiz, put that on the list of questions and get back to you.
DAMIAN: Endeavour’s ears may well be pricking up right about now because both the music of Steiner and Waxman have elements of Wagner as you’ve mentioned which might also be viewed as an extension of the German Romantic tradition and also the fact that so much opera has embraced elements of the supernatural such as scenes incorporating gods, monsters and magic. To what extent do you think operatic terms like Ombra and Sturm und Drang can be applied to the scores for Kong and Bride?
MATT: Take the picture away from Kong and Bride, add a few lyrics, a stage, singers – arguably not then operas and therefore applicable? Joking aside, I think you’re probably right; they could well apply. Demons and misunderstood creatures feature in score in terms of horror, pathos and misconstrued perceptions.
DAMIAN: In addition to Kong and Bride, I’ve come up with a list of what I consider to be some of the greatest or influential music scores in either the horror, thriller or monster film genre: Dracula (1958, James Bernard), Vertigo (1958, Bernard Herrmann), Psycho (1960, Herrmann), Cape Fear (1962, Herrmann), Jaws (1975, John Williams), The Omen (1976, Jerry Goldsmith), The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Howard Shore) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Wojciech Kilar). What would you add to this list?
MATT: You’ve left me some thinking to do as we have a very similar list – although with my last choice it’s a combo between score and use of songs that works so well. The Thing (1982, John Carpenter), Clash Of The Titans (1981, Laurence Rosenthal), Alien (1979, Jerry Goldsmith), Arrival (2016, Johann Johannsson), Poltergeist (1982, Jerry Goldsmith), Presumed Innocent (1990, John Williams) and Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (2017, Michael Giacchino).
DAMIAN: I suppose after the Universal Horror Cycle, the other most significant series of classic monster reinventions arrived on the screen courtesy of Hammer and although they employed various other great composers such as Tristram Cary, Don Ellis, Christopher Gunning, Laurie Johnson, Carlo Martelli, Mario Nascimbene, Franz Reizenstein, Harry Robinson, David Whitaker and Malcolm Williamson, to what extent do you think James Bernard was responsible for the sound we now associate with the studio and did you watch or listen to the soundtracks of any of their Mummy series as research for CARTOUCHE?
MATT: Subconsciously, who knows. But no, I didn’t listen to anything before scoring CARTOUCHE.
DAMIAN: I think your music for Endeavour far exceeds the expectations of any recent television drama series, but I was completely blown away by the music for CARTOUCHE – especially the ‘March of the Mummy’ theme. It was simply stunning and completely indistinguishable from a big-budget Hollywood score. Tell me about some of your first ideas in response to Russ’ script, the retro sound, the orchestration and choice of instruments… Matt, just bloody tell me everything please?
MATT: Thank you so much! There was so very little time to score those moments as I initially thought we were going to clear something original for use. I think I wrote those moments the day before the recording session. I’ve always been a big believer of putting the music budget on the screen, so since I’ve been scoring Endeavour, we’re using the size of the orchestra not uncommon in feature films. Mammoth Screen’s excellent appreciation of the importance of music in Endeavour has been a significant factor in what we can now achieve. Russ’ characters always seem to conjure their themes almost instantly. The strength of screenwriting helps enormously with music.
DAMIAN: Was there a guide music score for this film?
MATT: Some, but with the more recent films we’ve been using far less guide music than ever before which allows for a much broader scope of music context, remit and creativity.
DAMIAN: I know Russ is obviously a huge enthusiast but was the director, Andy Wilson, also a fan of the horror genre and can you tell us a little bit about working with him during the spotting session?
MATT: You’d have to ask Andy about that; however, he was an excellent director with which to collaborate. Allowing me to do what I needed to do, told me what he liked and didn’t, I revised then we achieved completion — all in a matter of hours at the review process in my studio. A joy.
DAMIAN: During our first interview, we discussed the influence of working with Barrington for over twenty years and the extent to which you balance honouring and respecting the musical heritage of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, while also enjoying the freedom to creatively pursue your own or new styles and tastes. Do you agree, particularly with series six, that you seem to be increasingly experimental (APOLLO is perhaps a good example of this?) in extending this soundscape while still remaining consistent with music universe of Endeavour?
MATT: The path of now scoring the majority of Endeavour has been laden with many challenges. I’d rather not go into details over the whys and wherefores. However, what I will say is that I’ve slowly been able to make Endeavour more my style while still hopefully keeping the viewers feeling like they aren’t suddenly watching a complete different series; but we have moved on and are developing the sound of Endeavour while still nodding to the Oxford history.
Absolutely. Endeavour is a robust set of stories and characters and constantly evolving plots. Score wise we need to reflect that; otherwise, the music becomes static. What I try to do is add a score personality to each episode, so if you heard the score in isolation, you could probably guess the film from which it came. Thank you for noticing!
DAMIAN: You also told me that working on each film presents its own excitement and challenges as every film is so different in terms of the musical demands. Which film of series six have you found to be the most challenging or demanding this year?
MATT: Having far less guide score this year has made the whole process more comfortable and more creative. I’m very fortunate to be trusted to that extent, and it’s a huge honour to work with Damien, Deanne, Russ, Helen, Shaun in his capacity as director, Johnny and Jamie plus and all the cast and crew. It’s a dream to be part of such a family. I have to mention Abbey Road, Air Studios, The London Metropolitan Orchestra, Accorder/Peer, Paul Golding and everyone that’s part of making the music work. It’s a massive team effort.
DAMIAN: Finally, as I think I’ve mentioned to you before, I own all the Morse albums that have ever been released in addition to the ones for Lewis and Endeavour but I’ve played these in rotation every time I start work on new interviews with the cast and crew which I began in 2013 – I need something new! I’m sure like myself, there are many fans who would like to buy the COMPLETE scores from EVERY series of Endeavour. What are the chances of this, or at least a highlights album, actually happening?
MATT: I’m always overwhelmed about people asking for the music, and it’s something I’d love to be able to provide. We’ll do our best to make something happen. Watch this space.
DAMIAN: Matt, thank you very much indeed.
MATT: It’s always a pleasure, thank you for such challenging questions!!!
DAMIAN: For the first few years at least, although it was always wonderful when Joan did pop up, she’d only make the occasional appearance opening the door for Endeavour and they’d flirt while he waiting for Thursday, that sort of thing, but now, well, you’ve become an integral part of the show and your character is now inseparable from the Morse mythology. To what extent were you aware of this, were there little clues in the scripts along the way or was it simply a lovely surprise?
SARA: I think at the beginning, there was no intention to have Joan as prominent a part of the show as she has grown to be (Russell may disagree with me here!). The Thursday family seemed to, in my mind, play the role of fleshing out Fred’s story, helping paint the picture of a family man. And for Morse, the Thursdays were a reminder of everything he was missing – family and companionship. But as the series progressed, there were clues that all the Thursdays were destined for bigger standalone stories. I remember very vividly reading one of the stage directions in HOME [S1:E4] where Morse walks Joan home, the stage directions eluded to a longevity between the characters. But nothing is ever a certain, things change, so every time I read the scripts, there is always an element of surprise.
DAMIAN: You mentioned in our previous interview that the directors of the early episodes often steered you towards light-hearted flirting and friendly teasing. I’m wondering if more recent directors now use words like melancholy, mournful and crestfallen?
SARA: Working with lots of different directors is a joy, they bring different energies and qualities to the world we are creating. There has been a bit of a leaning toward melancholy but I’d say it’s a natural progression due to storylines and character ‘baggage’ rather than a steer.
DAMIAN: Russ is very good at setting up grand and dramatic cliffhangers such as the one to series four where we discover Joan is pregnant. I wonder then, given it’s frequently the case that the opening to the following series is set months later, if you find it a little disappointing that you don’t get to explore the immediate aftermath of such scenarios as an actor?
SARA: I would have loved to have played some of those juicy moments!
DAMIAN: I found the rooftop scene from PASSENGER (S5:E3) to be one of the most beautiful and powerful of any series of Endeavour. Can you tell me a little bit about shooting the scene with Shaun?
SARA: Jim [Field Smith, director] was wonderful to work with.The film he created was visually stunning and had real heart. I discussed the scene with Shaun first off. It’s always nice to make sure we are on the same page. Jim allowed us to be free with our thoughts and choices which worked for us as Shaun and I tend to just see what happens in the moment. It was a beautifully simple scene that just lifted off the page.
DAMIAN: It was just so beautifully written by Russ and the two of you played the scene to perfection but why do you think Joan then tried to set Endeavour up with Claudine?
SARA: As I’ve just said, Shaun and I tend to have quite a bit of chat before we tackle a scene. This sometimes involves us scratching our heads as to why they don’t just get together (yes, we can get as frustrated as the audience!). I remember reading the scene in the readthrough. I was sat next to Abigail Thaw, she turned to me and said, ‘she’s testing him’. That thought played on my mind. Would he be willing to go with someone else? Could he be happier with someone else? I think it goes part of the way explaining the Claudine situation. I also think it has to do with trying to make a fresh start, trying to move on. That doesn’t always mean it’s right or not fraught with emotion.
DAMIAN: Given that he’s only just left her up there on the roof seconds previously, do you think that Endeavour’s immediate attraction to Claudine when he lights her cigarette somewhat undermined his feelings for Joan then?
SARA: The fact that he instantly hooks up with Claudine, doesn’t bode well for Joan and Morse being star crossed lovers! But then we have to wonder why it’s so immediate and why it is indeed with Claudine. It screams of someone whose been burned. But then I reckon I’m pretty biased!
DAMIAN: And then when Claudine leaves him, we have the scene from QUARTET (S5:E5) where they are standing outside her flat and she invites him in for coffee. Was Joan really inviting Endeavour in for something more than coffee so soon after his break up with Claudine?
SARA: This one is certainly up for debate… In my mind, it’s come in for coffee and sort this out once and for all! I think his decision not to come in gives her the impetus to draw a line, which is why we then see her refuse his offer.
DAMIAN: There was another lovely scene which was cut but some of the dialogue was reused again for this latest series and will hopefully find its place this time but doesn’t it reveal Strange to be a much more sensitive, perceptive and insightful man than anyone gives him credit for?
SARA: Sadly this scene is again, cut from the series. We couldn’t film it due to my other commitments.
DAMIAN: In the scene from APOLLO (S6:E2) why do you think Endeavour is so mocking and seemingly resentful of Joan trying to better herself with a career and becoming more cultured?
SARA: We loved filming this scene, a new side of their relationship to explore. Russ’ stage directions read ‘if he can’t have her, he must hurt her’. But for Joan, it’s no less hurtful for that! Using his intellectual superiority is a low blow and fairly uninventive for Morse.
DAMIAN: What was Shaun like to work with as a director?
SARA: It was weirdly the most natural thing. Nobody knows our story better, so to have him in control was the easiest of transitions. I knew he would do a fantastic job, his sets were warm and inclusive, and his passion, creativity and drive was there in abundance. The only thing I missed was our chats between takes. Being number one on the call sheet and directing doesn’t leave much time for nattering.
DAMIAN: I’m obviously not asking for any details but how far ahead do you know what Russ has planned regarding Joan and Endeavour?
SARA: Well we know there will be no white wedding, no surprise there. Russ has hinted he’s already written the final encounter, but what happens between then and now is anyone’s guess.
DAMIAN: Thursday obviously loves Win and his kids deeply but I suspect he also loves Endeavour as a trusted fellow police officer, a friend and perhaps even a surrogate son in light of the death of Cyril Morse back in HOME (S1:E4), and yet while I suspect Win might approve, given Endeavour’s forlorn and morose nature, I wonder how Thursday would react if they ever became a couple?
SARA: I’ve always thought he would be nothing but pleased. Morse is as dependable as they come and Joan’s energy could help balance out those darker moments.
DAMIAN: I asked in our first interview how you would describe Joan’s attraction to Endeavour and you said, ‘I think Joan is very intrigued by Morse. She is not one for the ordinary and Endeavour appears to be everything out of the ordinary. They have something they can’t put their finger on. But surely that’s the best kind attraction, the indescribable.’ I wonder if your view has changed at all since then and the extent to which recent character developments for both Joan and Endeavour have made their relationship more describable or perhaps exactly the opposite?
SARA: Their feelings are much deeper for each other due to all they’ve been through, but in that process, so much more complicated. Perhaps now, they know too much…
DAMIAN: I’d like to start by going back to what, in many respects, might be retrospectively viewed as the beginning with your work as a script editor on THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS. I find it absolutely remarkable and also somewhat affecting to think both you and Russell Lewis began a friendship and professional working relationship on the original Inspector Morse series and continued your shared journey together through the Colin Dexter Universe with Lewis and now, of course, six series of Endeavour which is arguably even better than either of its prestigious predecessors. Can you tell me a little bit about meeting Russ for the first time and your initial impressions of him?
DAMIEN: It would have been just before I worked on THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS twenty-five years ago. I was at Central Films in the mid-nineties, which was a real drama power-house in its day. Ted Childs had hit after hit, and Russell created and worked on so many of these shows – Kavanagh QC, Cadfael, Sharpe. He had the Midas Touch, and Ted turned to him for everything. I was a very junior script editor, and I would see him in the corridor – ‘that’s Russell Lewis!’. There was always a stir when he came in because he was this powerhouse of ideas and everyone adored him. You could feel the energy pick up in the office. I watched him from afar, and read his scripts whenever I was able to. Nothing else reads like a Russell script – the hugely evocative stage directions, the hinterland he gives all his characters, the way he combines real erudition with great populist story instincts, and his genius for plotting. So I was a very starstruck fan. And I got to know him a little bit doing THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS, which was a seminal experience for me, working with Russell and John Madden, the director. First impressions – that he was very bright eyed and bushy tailed, one of the cleverest people I had ever met, and also one of the kindest.
DAMIAN: And what were you like back then?
DAMIEN: Hmmm. Well, I had always wanted to be a script editor, and there I was, at Central Films, working on these big shows. I couldn’t believe my luck! And I was DULL. I took it all VERY seriously. Earnest.
DAMIAN: Funny, we met briefly before at New College during the location shooting of the opening dance number for CANTICLE but it was only later that I actually realised you had read history there at Oxford. I wonder what your career aspirations were during this period as a student and how did you find yourself becoming a script editor?
DAMIEN: Twenty-year-old Damien wanted to be a script editor – in the old days the Radio Times used to credit script editors in the listings, and I knew their names and followed their careers. I knew I couldn’t write, and I wanted to be a career script editor. I left Oxford at a time of terrible recession, couldn’t get any work, did various admin jobs, bar work, and eventually got a job on an Australian soap opera (another story). And then I got script reading work and eventually the job at Central Films.
DAMIAN: Is there still a certain amount of nostalgia regarding your association to both Oxford as a student, and professionally, the world that Colin created?
DAMIEN: Yes, for me. I went to New College, and there’s always a little frisson for me when we go back to film there. The opening of CANTICLE was filmed in one of the quads – drones, singing and dancing and umbrellas on the lawn – that made me happy. We were never allowed to walk on the lawn, so that was a transgressive thrill. Hollywell Street – which we film in a lot – was the centre of my life for three years, and I always get a little Proustian thrill when we film there.
DAMIAN: Specialising in producing original television drama for some of the major broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Sky, Mammoth Screen was founded by Michele Buck and yourself in 2007. Was it difficult setting up your own production company and what was your initial vision for it?
DAMIEN: The vision was just to try and make shows we liked. I try not to overthink it and just see where our taste and luck takes one!
DAMIAN: Why the name Mammoth?
DAMIEN: Well, I was knitting a lot at the time, and I liked the fact that mammoths were woollen. And we also thought it was funny to call a fledgling production company after an extinct creature. Tongue was very much in cheek…
DAMIAN: In addition to Endeavour, Poldark, Victoria and the Agatha Christie adaptations for BBC One to name just a few – how the hell do you manage to juggle so many celebrated and esteemed productions?
DAMIEN: Well, I guess it goes back to Central Films, and enjoying working across a big slate of shows. You get used to a certain workload. I genuinely find that working across lots of shows gives me energy. And obviously it’s only possible to do lots of things because I have very clever colleagues and we all help each other!
DAMIAN: As a huge fan of The War of the Worlds and H. G. Wells in general, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing your version, particularly as it’s the first period screen adaptation. What attracted you to this particular project?
DAMIEN: Going back to when I started in television I had always wanted to do a period adaptation of The War Of The Worlds, but there were rights issues. I’d been waiting twenty-five years!
DAMIAN: What do you believe are the essential ingredients for a successful TV drama or what do you look for in a script that lands on your desk?
DAMIEN: Obviously brilliant writing. But brilliant writing comes in so many forms. Every writer is different. I love some scripts that are wonderfully optimistic and full of joy, I love some scripts that are utterly harrowing and bleak. I think that’s true of audience too. I love writers who have a unique voice, and then obviously one tries to cast each show with the most memorable group of actors, and try to not be daunted by the budgetary limitations and achieve as much production value as is humanly possible.
DAMIAN: Would it be fair to say you have a propensity for period dramas and detective mysteries?
DAMIEN: I accept that it does seem to skew that way, but you can’t legislate for what is going to get commissioned from your development slate. Over the years we seem to do a lot of adaptations, but I think that is possibly part of a general trend. I do love history, and I love a period drama…
DAMIAN: Indeed, illuminated only by a solitary and flickering light, I like to imagine a long corridor beneath the offices of Mammoth Screen where you keep Russ typing away in one room with a set of Colin Dexter’s novels and Sarah Phelps in another with a library of Agatha Christie! Who might be found in the next cell?
DAMIEN: Well, we have optioned some interesting titles recently. But of course I can’t disclose what they are!
DAMIAN: Difficult, and also possibly unwise, to pick a favourite among your various productions over the years but given your aforementioned history with the character and the various artists who helped bring him to the screen, Endeavour must surely hold a very special place in your heart?
DAMIEN: Oh yes. Russell’s achievement is extraordinary. By the end of series six he has written fifty-four hours of television. That’s highly unusual! I think of Russell as a Savile Row tailor – he’s made twenty-seven bespoke suits! Clearly it starts with Colin Dexter, but Russell’s brain powers that show. Everyone who works on it has a special spring in their step because of Russell. I can’t think of another writer who has done this – he’s written every word of the show. David Renwick and Jonathan Creek comes close I think – but Russell has written more. Anthony Horowitz created Foyle’s War, but many other writers wrote on the show. It gives Endeavour a very unique identity. And it’s the seamless way in which Russell has developed Colin Dexter’s fictional universe with characters like Strange and Max, but also created the Thursday family, Bright, Jakes, Box etc. I worked on Lewis for many years and it was written by many writers – including some great writers – but the process was entirely different because there was no one author. It made it much much much less rewarding than Endeavour.
DAMIAN: I believe there were lengthy discussions between Russ, Michele Buck and yourself about the idea of an origin film to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse, but who actually came up with the concept – one of you must have been the first to mention it?
DAMIEN: It must have been about eleven or twelve years ago, I reckon? And I honestly can’t remember how it came up. I remember how Lewis came up; I was sitting having a cup of tea with Julie Gardner at LWT, and we were talking about detective series, and she said ‘we should develop something for Kevin Whately’, and I said ‘he’s already played an iconic detective. Hmmm. Surely we would never be allowed to give Lewis his own show?’. And after much wrangling Lewis was born. The idea of a Morse prequel story was just always there, I think. We spent a long time biding our time! Colin Dexter wrote a short story for the Daily Mail about the young Morse, and that gave us the courage to approach him. He took some persuading…
DAMIAN: Throughout my interviews with Russ over the years, he’s always maintained that the film that would eventually become First Bus to Woodstock was only ever intended as a one-off special to celebrate the anniversary and not a pilot as such. However, I find hard to believe that someone with as much business savvy as yourself never suspected that there was the potential for a long-running series?
DAMIEN: Our conscious minds were just making an anniversary film. Honestly. A similar thing happened with Lewis – we’d made a one off film which we persuaded ourselves was just a special one off. It seemed such hallowed ground, revisiting the world of Morse, and we honestly didn’t know if the audience would approve. They did engage with Lewis, but then we had Kevin Whately. The Lewis one-off was a success, and then we made a first series. Endeavour seemed like a much bigger gamble. The idea of a new actor stepping into John Thaw’s shoes seemed a massively high risk thing to do. So our conscious minds were telling us ‘do Colin Dexter proud, this is only a one off’.
DAMIAN: While looking back at the daily rushes of an evening, was there ever a particular scene that made you think First Bus would be a success with both critics and fans alike?
DAMIEN: That first two-hander between Endeavour and Thursday in the police office at night – those rushes were wonderful. The scene with Flora Montgomery where Endeavour almost kisses her – goose bumps.
DAMIAN: Why did First Bus work so well and what was the initial reaction from ITV pre and post-broadcast?
DAMIEN: It’s such a beautiful script. And Shaun and Roger are terrific in it. Colm [McCarthy, director] did such great work, Pat Campbell designed it so beautifully – it just all cohered. But Russell. That was the key to it. Russell honoured the original with such cleverness but he also gave the thing life. Young Endeavour just lived.
ITV were very keen on it, but no one knew if anyone would watch it. TV prequels rarely work. There might be an initial curiosity from viewers but this soon fades. What have we had over the years? An Only Fools and Horses prequel, a Dallas prequel, an Eastenders prequel, a show about the young James Herriot, First of the Summer Rain – none of them worked. And thenthe recent Prime Suspect show. So even though ITV liked the show I don’t think they necessarily thought it would be anything other than a footnote to Morse.
It went out on a Monday, I think – the 2nd January – and it was greenlit by the Friday. Peter Fincham – who was then in charge at ITV – took perhaps a day longer than we would have liked!
DAMIAN: Can you describe the moment when Russ was told that ITV wanted a full series?
DAMIEN: To be honest the ratings were so huge, and the response from the audience was so extraordinary that we just assumed there would be a series. We went into that first transmission thinking ‘we’ve made a tribute film to Morse, kind viewers please don’t be offended, we only mean well’. And then on transmission something unusual happened. People just LOVED it. I was staying in our cottage in the country and the TV broke about five minutes before it started. This seemed to be BAD OMEN. We have very bad phone reception, but I was able to get a signal by hanging out of a window. In my mind there was a gale, but I might have invented that. And I was expecting a very lukewarm response on twitter – because most things do get a lukewarm response – and there was this tsunami of twitter love for it. And for Shaun. And I think we just knew that Endeavour had legs. Russell and Dan McCulloch Producer] and I spoke a lot that night – you could just feel how much the audience loved it. Very rare feeling!
DAMIAN: One of the reasons that I believe Endeavour works so well and is so distinctive among other detective shows is the fact that Russ is the auteur and has an unrivalled talent for balancing the mystery-thriller aspects of the crime genre with ongoing narrative arcs populated with characters we care about and even love deeply. However, was there ever a concern from either ITV, or even yourself, that he’d be able to write every film?
DAMIEN: No! Generally speaking it’s very unusual for one person to write all of a detective series, but we took baby steps, and just hoped that Russell would want to write all of the first series, and then all of the second series. And it quickly became clear that the thing that really made the show work was Russell’s brain, and that the magic would stop if he wasn’t at the helm.
DAMIAN: Previously, both Russ and I wondered if 1969 would be a good year to end Endeavour’s adventures but you apparently believe that the show could still work just as well into the seventies?
DAMIEN: I think there’s something thrilling about leaving the 1960s. TV loves the 60s, doesn’t it? And it sometimes feels like the decade is hermetically sealed – ‘X show is about the 1960s’ etc. Endeavour is chronicling one man’s life, and I love the way we’ve seen Endeavour grow up as the 1960s unfold, and I think it’s thrilling to see how the 70s can challenge him – and Thursday too. The world continues beyond December 31st, 1969!
DAMIAN: Despite all the interviews in which I’ve tried to dissect a mind so full of obscure, unlikely, and possibly best forgotten cultural references, Russ is a mystery to me. However, it would seem he’s not the only one with strange fancies! – why does an Oxford-educated, executive producer and managing director of a hugely successful production company have such a fondness for a ramshackle and antiquated soap opera like Crossroads?
DAMIEN: Ha! Funnily enough I came across a youtube channel yesterday with lots of old episodes and I lost a very happy chunk of time watching some eps from 1975. As a kid I watched a lot of TV. Only child, busy parents – the TV really was my friend. I have affection for all TV of the 70s and 80s. Russell and I were both tickled by the notion that Kings Oak wasn’t so far from Oxford. The show isn’t the defining love of my life, honest! I have lots and lots of other guilty pleasures!
DAMIAN: And finally, as I’ve been curious about this for a number of years now, what exactly do you mean by the term ‘fragrant ladies’?
DAMIEN: Oh dear God, did Russell mention that? Well, Inspector Morse was riddled with fragrant ladies – right up to Judy Lowe’s character at the very end. It’s not just Colin Dexter’s world, good detective fiction with male protagonists – Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe etc. – needs female characters to beguile and sometimes lead the hero astray. And Endeavour carries on this tradition, starting with Rosalind Stromming in FIRST BUS.
Because its set in the 1960s the worlds of the show can be quite male dominated – the world of academia, the rural and industrial spaces we sometimes visit – and I have occasionally been known to ask if we can have a ‘fragrant lady’ in a story, meaning ‘an ostensibly sympathetic female character who is connected to the crime and might even be responsible for the crime’. Russell has written many great female characters over the years, riffing on a particular kind of British woman of the era – a little bit Terence Rattigan heroine, a little bit Celia Johnson colliding with the counter culture of the 1960s. In one early story I politely enquired if there was room for a ‘fragrant lady’ after Russell had delivered a brilliant but very male dominated first draft. She became the killer and the phrase stuck!
DAMIAN: Damien, thank you very much indeed.
POSTSCRIPT: Damien contacted me after this interview was posted with the following information which is quite interesting:
‘The other thing that amused me about Crossroads and the world of Colin Dexter is this: it has been suggested that Crossroads was axed to release money to the central TV drama budget to allow Ted Childs to make more high quality drama shot on film – and the original series of Inspector Morse was one of the lucky recipients of this additional funding. So Crossroads had to die for Inspector Morse to live. The circle of TV life! So it seemed fun to tip our hat to it, and locate both shows in the same fictional universe!’.
All other images provided by Paul Cripps courtesy of Mammoth Screen
DAMIAN: You were the production designer on series five of Endeavour and asked back again this year. Given the fact that you got to design the new CID set, I wonder if series six was even more exciting and challenging to work on?
PAUL: Series six was just as challenging as Series five except that it was two films shorter! That made a huge difference in terms of crew fatigue (and my own).
DAMIAN: In terms of the look and feel of the CID set, I know Russ (Lewis, writer and deviser of Endeavour) wanted to evoke Alan J Pakula’s paranoia trilogy of Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976) with a particular emphasis on the Washington Post newsroom in the latter and also the one featured in Zodiac (2007). Why do you think he referenced these and to what extent did they influence your designs?
PAUL: I pretty much came up with the same references as Russ when I heard the basic tenets of the first script apart from the The Offence. I think both Russ and myself were interested in the idea of seeding the series with alienation. The team have been split up, Endeavour is alienated from Joan, Thursday from Win, Bright from his former high position. We wanted to show the alienation associated through the brutalist architecture of the police station. Thursday has problems with this unfamiliar landscape and we also nod to the approaching world of modern policing and the move closer to the world of the first Morse series. I loved the office in Zodiac and that’s where the influence for the fake wood and metal office dividers came from.
DAMIAN: And wasn’t there also something about the light featured in The Offence (1972) that Russ wanted for the ceiling in the interview room?
PAUL: Yes I watched the The Offence a couple of times. It’s a very odd but great movie and the film was a really important reference for many things in the new station. There is a huge strange overhead light fitting in the main interview scene. It’s a little over the top and although I know Russ was keen to put similar in the station I tried to do this but keep with a slightly more believable light fitting. It think it works well but you’ll have to ask what Russ thinks.
DAMIAN: Obviously one of the most striking differences between the old CID set and your new one is the addition of the lift in the lobby area. Was this something that was required in the scripts or an idea of your own?
PAUL: I can’t remember if it was mentioned but I knew I wanted a lobby and lift to make it seem really modern compared to the old Cowley office. What we’ve done is create a lobby that can represent different floors in a big police station. With a few additions of walls and doors the first floor lobby and CID becomes the basement lobby with the vending machines and the entrance to Endeavour’s store room office. The set was supposed to last for quite a few episodes as per the old Cowley set so I wanted to be able to create different floors by redressing if required. Redressed and repurposed Endeavour’s office also becomes the interview room so it’s a very versatile set.
DAMIAN: I’ve found standing in both the old and new CID sets that they are much smaller than they appear on screen. To what extent is this camera trickery or are certain walls able to removed to accommodate camera and lighting equipment if necessary?
PAUL: The set itself is a lot bigger than Cowley but it uses a number of tricks to create space and depth. The set is longer in one axis and connects to the lobby using perspective and visual lines and then frames within frames to create depth for the camera. The wood effect office dividers are all glass with venetian blinds to create further frames within frames and to help blur background or foreground which again adds depth. The addition of a low ceiling with lights makes the space feel long like the All The President’s Men Washington Post office. I did create camera traps behind the notice boards on the walls but I don’t believe they were actually used.
DAMIAN: Technically speaking, what do you think some of the advantages were to the new sets?
PAUL: Well I think the set provides more depth and a bit more playing/blocking areas for the directors and actors. One of the walls hinges away to allow quicker crew access. I think the main change is the aesthetic with the idea of concrete panelled walls, glass and fake wood panels, browns, brown leather; the 70’s are almost upon us.
DAMIAN: I visited the set during the shooting of PYLON and noticed from the call sheet that the art department/prop requirements for that day were as follows: Thursday’s pipe, Tobacco, Matches, Drinks, Shoulder bag, Photos of Emily, Stanley’s mugshot, Typewriter, Pony books, Drug paraphernalia, Heroin wrap with scripted heading, Snuff boxes and Photo of Baby Stanley & Mum. Is this about the usual amount and how far in advance of shooting do you have either locate, make or buy these?
PAUL: That is an average kind of day. The time we have to source it all is the day number versus when that version of the script arrives to us, so there is considerably less time for day 1 as opposed to day 24. There is a combination of buying, hiring an making all these things. If it’s a big deal and we’ve had it flagged up beforehand, we may get something made before the finalised script which can always be nerve wracking.
DAMIAN: The list also mentioned Thursday’s props, is it actually someone’s job to take items like his hat and pipe from Roger at the end of the day and store them away until the next?
PAUL: Yes we have two standby prop men and a standby art director on the standby crew every day. The prop men have a character box of props for each character. The standby team represent me on set and work with the director and DOP [Director of Photography] and other departments, sorting and placing props, redressing the set if required and fulfilling last minute requests or errors. They are vital to us. But come on Damian, Molly looks after the famous hat, not us. That’s costume!
DAMIAN: I can’t imagine how long the props list was for APOLLO but it must have been enormous fun to work on the Gerry Anderson-themed props and sets?
PAUL: Yes it was good fun. Most of the supermarionation props came from Stephen at Century 21 but we designed and built the puppet sets and he worked his magic with the puppets. I thought it worked pretty well with Stephen recreating the 35mm style of filming on his original camera, and as a reconstruction of Gerry Anderson’s studio. We had quite a bit of photo reference of his studio from that period. Sadly his original industrial studio building has gone now.
DAMIAN: Was this the most challenging film to design of series six?
PAUL:I think Film 4 was the most challenging to design as Russ kept his toughest scenario for us to create till that last film.
DAMIAN: I imagine the old building opposite the hangar where the main sets are housed has been dressed and undressed more times than Holly Golightly?
PAUL: Yes it’s appeared in a lot of shows and films in the last few years but we didn’t use it that much as it was used exterior wise in a couple of the earlier Endeavour films before my time.
DAMIAN: Lets say, purely for the sake of argument, that you were required to design a set that had appeared in the original Morse series, would you recreate it faithfully or put your own spin on it?
PAUL: We have actually started to do this as you’ll see in film 4. I think it should recreate the original as much as possible but that in itself allows you to put your own creativity into it. Although I have to say the Kidlington police station in Morse is not that inspiring if I ever had to recreate that. I think I prefer my Castle Gate!
DAMIAN: Finally, is there any visual evidence in the sets this year that Strange is still an Oxford United fan?
PAUL: Well I don’t think we saw it in Strange’s flat when he was looking at his Fancy murder board in Film 1 Pylon, but he had a little reading matter next to his chair where he sips his whiskey. 1968/9 Oxford United programmes!!
Caught in the beam of a Follow Spot, A PAIR of FAMILIAR SILHOUETTES come onto the floor.
M.C.: Would you please welcome onto the floor, couple Number Seven, Frederick and Winifred Thursday.
The No. ‘07’ stretched across a familiar set of shoulders. FRED and WIN. The Astaire and Rogers of East Cowley.
A moment between them. It’s been a while. WIN gives him a nervous smile. THURSDAY shoots her an encouraging wink.
THURSDAY: Here’s looking at you.
Music begins. And they are away — gliding effortlessly across the floor. Bobbing and dipping. It’s a beautiful thing.
DAMIAN: And so it was. Russ, I’ve seen Roger a few times either on set or location and he’s never particularly struck me as the ballroom dancing type. Do you ever think it might be an idea to check if an actor is happy or comfortable learning to dance -or grow a mustache for that matter- before typing this stuff?
RUSS: They tend to let you know pretty quickly if they’re not.
DAMIAN: What are you like on the dancefloor?
RUSS: I would refer you to Mx.Ellis Bextor.
DAMIAN: You write in COLOURS ‘It’s been a while’ but how long exactly and was dancing something that Mr and Mrs Thursday started back in London before the family moved to Oxford?
RUSS: It’s something that fell by the wayside with bringing up the kids — but now, more or less alone again, it’s something to which they’ve returned. An ‘interest.’
DAMIAN: Of all the quotes, in all the movies, why did you have Thursday say Bogie’s most famous line?
RUSS: Even heroes have heroes. I could see it being a film they liked.
DAMIAN: Well, what with the Thursdays dancing and Strange playing the trombone, it was quite a year for revelations and, potentially at least, we could have had another! A scene set in the hair salon in the first draft reads ‘Hazel comes to her appointments book — leafs through, and finds an appointment for MRS.BRIGHT…’. Might this suggest that you do actually have plans to introduce Reginald’s other half one day, but if not, can’t you at least tell us if she’s blonde or brunette?
RUSS: Well… funny you should ask… We may meet her yet.
DAMIAN: We see the welcome return of Jack Bannon as Sam Thursday who says to Endeavour, ‘You’ve been around Dad too long. It’s rubbing off’, followed by a line of description that reads: ‘Something about SAM’s tone suggests this isn’t the compliment it might once have been – but rather a rebuke’. I wouldn’t say that Thursday has rubbed off on Endeavour in any negative way but let’s look at the following exchange which follows the possibility of Sam as a murder suspect and see if it helps put this issue into some sort of context:
STRANGE looks at ENDEAVOUR as if seeing him for the first time.
STRANGE: Christ, you’re some piece of work. Listen to yourself. What d’you think the old man’d say he heard you talking about his boy like that?
ENDEAVOUR: He’d say I was doing my job.
STRANGE: Your job.
ENDEAVOUR: Think the unthinkable. Follow the evidence. Without fear or favour.
STRANGE: Wherever it leads?
ENDEAVOUR: Wherever it leads.
STRANGE: I’m senior.
STRANGE: So long as that’s straight.
STRANGE: You start off down that road, you’re on your own. Deal me out.
ENDEAVOUR: I already did.
DAMIAN: Unlike Thursday’s actions in the next episode with the battered wife and Strange turning a blind eye in this one where the old man’s kids are concerned (not charging Joan for example for her part in the protest), Endeavour is right to play things by the book isn’t he?
RUSS:Caesar’s wife. Even more important to play it by the book, when Sam is potentially involved.
DAMIAN: Since they left on good terms when Thursday saw Sam off at the bus station when he joined the army, is there anything in particular that has happened offscreen that would explain why there was tension between father and son?
RUSS: Distance lends perspective. Sam’s older – a man, now. Some of those father/son scales have fallen from his eyes.
DAMIAN: Is it possible that Sam might, like his father before him, leave the army and join the police?
RUSS: Thursday & Thursday. It’s possible.
DAMIAN: Strange observes, ‘Just a girl? Might want to leave some for the rest of us. Claudine? That blondie one? Way you’ve been filling your dance-card lately, you think rationing was coming in.’ My thoughts exactly Jim, and this brings us to the subject of Endeavour’s Casanova phase again. However, let’s take a look at the following scene which is longer than the broadcast version:
INT. CLAUDINE’S BEDSIT – NIGHT 3 (23.59)
A deafening clap of thunder. Lit by streetlamp and lightning… ENDEAVOUR and CLAUDINE post-coital – lie in a tangle of bedclothes that has become a makeshift nest, teaspooned together — listening to the night rain. He’s smoking her cigarette. A moment — then:
ENDEAVOUR: Love and rain.
She retrieves her cigarette from his lips — and takes a drag.
CLAUDINE: How English.
ENDEAVOUR: I don’t think we can claim it all for ourselves. People have been doing this for as long as there’s been people. Before even. Right back to… whatever we were –
CLAUDINE: Quel philosophe!
ENDEAVOUR: They probably lay on a branch, just like this. Looking out at thunderheads breaking over the Savannah. Rain coming down on the leaves. Safe in that one brief moment from the vast unknowable careless awfulness of it all.
CLAUDINE: If he was as gloomy as you, I hope she kicked him out of the tree.
CLAUDINE: Yes! Oui! My God! Some men. So gloomy after.
ENDEAVOUR: Some men?
CLAUDINE: Of course — that’s the part you hear. (a moment) Seriously — why do you do that? Like someone died.
ENDEAVOUR: In my case – someone usually has. I don’t know. Intimations of mortality, I suppose. They say you’re never so alive as when you’re close to death. Maybe the reverse is also true.
CLAUDINE: Jesus. It’s just sex. (a moment) It’s not love.
ENDEAVOUR: I know.
CLAUDINE: It’s good to be clear.
ENDEAVOUR: I’m under no illusions. A day. A week. A month. I’ll take how ever long we’ve got. Just one morning you won’t be there. I suppose I’ll miss you when you’ve gone. That’s all.
CLAUDINE: We said. No regrets.
ENDEAVOUR: How French.
She reaches behind her head to mock rake his cheek with her nails. A long moment. Some ember of desire sparks into flame.
CLAUDINE (cont’d): Again?
ENDEAVOUR: God, yes.
Her mouth finds his. Still falls the rain.
DAMIAN: There was also another revealing scene with Joan and Strange which we won’t discuss because much of the content was included in series six and hopefully won’t be cut again. However, do you think the juxtaposition of these two scenes might have put to rest any qualms I’ve had regarding Endeavour smoking and his uncharacteristic libidinous behaviour?
RUSS: Uncharacteristic libidinous behaviour? If ever a character – as evinced by Colin’s novels – had sex on his mind…
Endeavour – perish the thought – managing to squeeze in a one night stand with Charlie’s daughter, and something more substantial with Claudine, hardly makes him Casanova, does it? It grew out of a conversation with Andy [Wilson, director] when we were making CARTOUCHE. A remark he made about ‘68 definitely being a bit of lively year romantically. Generally – he meant – not specifically.
Don’t you think that it grounds the longing of the older Chief Inspector for romance – and I use the word in both its pure and euphemistic sense – in something real? In his late 40s through to the end, what he’s missing is something he remembers, something he knew. Physical intimacy – as the boys in blue might put it.
The cigarettes… You’re really overthinking this… It’s her cigarette. Just strikes me as something Gallic. C’est tout! When I was young, French cigarettes was about as cool as it got. Jacques Brel – literally made of cigarettes. Can you imagine Rififi without smoking? Ditto the mood of the scene. Ooh – as they say – la la!
But, yes. Maybe. It’s a long time ago now, and I think there’s perhaps a bit of Endeavour trying to live la vie normale. However, I suspect that it always feels for him – to some small degree – as if he’s wearing someone else’s clothes. You can track much of his state of mind back to CODA. And then HARVEST and later. So — all of these things feed into his emotional condition.
DAMIAN: And editing can sometimes create almost a different meaning or context from what was originally written can’t it?
RUSS: You will not find me disagreeing with you on that point.
DAMIAN: Where are we on the idea that I proposed a while back regarding giving the fans a DVD release of a writer’s cut of episodes such as this one with all the deleted scenes restored?
RUSS: Oh – I think that’s highly unlikely, now. But you never know…
Now entertain conjecture of a time When creeping murmur and the poring dark / Fills the wide vessel of the universe…
DAMIAN: QUARTET then, given that series five was loaded with allusions to contemporary politics such as issues on immigration, was the inclusion of quotes from Henry V, arguably Shakespeare’s most patriotically British play, an audacious attempt to mock the establishment?
RUSS: No, not really. It was mostly about selling the dummy of the medieval opening. And it’s one of the great ‘eve of battle’ scene setters.
DAMIAN: Certainly less subtle, of course, were the references to the Berserkers and the business with the pig’s head in MUSE, not to mention the following quote from this episode spoken by Millie Bagshot: ‘our friends on the continent are taking it seriously enough. Why else do you imagine De Gaulle is doing all he can to keep us out of the European Community? Buy British – Get Boris.’ Well, you’re certainly not pulling your punches where the other boys in blue are concerned are you?
RUSS: Well, Oxford’s a long tradition of wankers in waistcoats – so such sentiments are pretty timeless. What’s that great line from Belloq about John Vavassour de Quentin Jones who was given to throwing stones? ‘Like many of the Upper Class, he liked the sound of Breaking Glass.’ In much the same way as John Bull is a sort of British, well, let’s be honest, English archetype, Boris was often used as a collective identifier for citizens of Redland. That it also happened to be the name by which a former Secretary of State is best known to the public was just serendipity. I find all of this a great deal less funny than may appear. Damien Timmer [Executive producer and co-managing director of the production company, Mammoth Screen] said he thought ‘68 had the angriest tone of any of the series up to that point – and I suspect he may have been right. Much then – and much now to be angry about.
DAMIAN: Is there ever any concern from either the production company or network regarding how political Endeavour should or shouldn’t get or it is regarded as no more than the sort of political satire one would expect from something like Have I Got News For You?
RUSS: If there is a concern, it has not yet been confided to me.
DAMIAN: Wouldn’t the backdrop of racial tension in Oxford have been even more dramatic had Monica with the moped made an appearance as I can’t imagine Endeavour didn’t think of his ex girlfriend while all this was going on?
RUSS: It might have been dramatically convenient, but we try to resist such urges.
DAMIAN: Although clearly reluctant to replace Fancy, wasn’t it still a bit unconvincing that Endeavour would take part in any It’s a Knockout tomfoolery?
RUSS: You clearly think so.
DAMIAN: As with the lovely scene from NOCTURNE in which Max was touched by the death of a young school girl, he seems equally distraught in his attempts of saving Steven and it’s wonderful to see James given something else to play other than the typically sanguine and unflappable aspects (I also appreciated the fact that he later mentions his time at Bart’s). I think the character development for Bright, Strange and Joan has really done justice to the superb actors who play them in the last couple of series, and yes, I know it’s terribly difficult, but do think that along with Dorothea, Max now deserves a little more screen time in order to blossom?
RUSS: Find me the screen time.
DAMIAN: Of course, scenes that do offer a glimpse into supporting characters’ personal lives and backstory are often the first to get cut. Let’s take a look at the following scene that sadly didn’t appear in the episode:
INT. AMBER LODGE/LOBBY – DAY 1 [12.03]
DOROTHEA waiting as THURSDAY enters with STRANGE.
DOROTHEA: Chief Inspector…
THURSDAY: Not right now, Miss Frazil.
DOROTHEA: Is this anything to do with the shooting at Christ Church Meadow?
THURSDAY: As I said – a statement will be made in the fullness.
THURSDAY and STRANGE start up the stairs — and we find:
CLAUDINE at the RECEPTION desk. She comes across to DOROTHEA…
CLAUDINE: Miss Frazil? Claudine Darc. I’m a photo-journalist.
DOROTHEA: Bad luck.
CLAUDINE: And a friend of Morse. Would you sign something for me?
CLAUDINE pulls out a well-thumbed book — ‘TRAVELS WITH MYSELF – THE WAR IN KOREA – BY DOROTHEA FRAZIL.’
DOROTHEA: Good heavens. Where did you find that?
CLAUDINE: A book-seller on the Seine by Pont-Neuf. It’s a classic. It means a lot to me. (as DOROTHEA SIGNS) What was it like? For a woman on the Front Line.
DOROTHEA: Are you squeamish?
DOROTHEA: Then you’ll be alright. Why?
CLAUDINE: Why didn’t you do more?
DOROTHEA: Ask me when you come back.
DAMIAN: Was this scene scrapped in pre-production or actually filmed and then cut in the final edit?
RUSS: Do you know, I honestly can’t recall. I suspect it didn’t get shot.
DAMIAN: So presumably it was too traumatising but couldn’t Dorothea have written books on other subjects?
RUSS: I don’t think trauma came into it. And Dorothea’s ouvres may well extend into other areas which have not yet been written about.
DAMIAN: What was it then?
RUSS: Fatigue. Revulsion for the slaughter and suffering. The absolute pointlessness of it all. Frazil is as tough as nails – but I think a sense of ‘Say they gave a war and nobody came.’ could have been part of it. On the one hand journalists bear witness, on the other the notion that by sending back reports to be consumed along of the kippers and kedgeree that the reporter is somehow complicit and by some means enabling the suffering and carnage. I’m not saying that’s right – but it’s how she may have felt.
DAMIAN: Endeavour asks, ‘No sandwich today?’, to which Thursday replies ‘Sunday? We’ll get a roast down the Lamb and Flag.’ After four years, wouldn’t he know that Thursday doesn’t have sandwiches either on a Saturday or Sunday, or has Endeavour bumped his noggin so many times on the headboard lately that he’s starting to lose his memory?
RUSS: In the heat of the hunt, the days run one into another.
DAMIAN: And what does Thursday have on his Wed… oh, nevermind. Taking into account the ‘love and rain’ scene, when Endeavour says to Claudine that ‘Sun’s going already. The year’s turned. Bonfires and hoar-frost. Mist’ll be up soon. The breath of winter’, is he not only accepting her imminent departure but also trying to tell her it’s OK or is it the case, as when she takes a photo of him, he remarks, ‘I wasn’t ready’?
RUSS: “When you knew that it was over, you were suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair.” The stages of grief. Denial. He’s aware that something is off – that she may be slipping away – but not how close it is to the end. ‘I wasn’t ready’ is a genuine throwaway – to be freighted with meaning in hindsight. But no – for all his fine talk – when the moment finally comes, he wasn’t ready for her to go.
DAMIAN: Endeavour goes to the pub to drown his sorrows after Claudine leaves for Vietnam and then we cut to the scene in the script, which is slightly longer from the broadcast version and contains dialogue cut from a previous episode, where Joan asks him in for coffee. Had he gone in, would they have…
RUSS: But he didn’t go in. He’s not an absolute cad. He’s enough emotional intelligence to know that to go to Joan on the rebound would be to use her – and that he would never do.
EXT. JOAN’S FLAT – NIGHT 4 (23.30)
ENDEAVOUR and JOAN come down the street to her front door. The walk has sobered ENDEAVOUR somewhat.
JOAN: How’s it going with you and Jim?
ENDEAVOUR: It’s not exactly the Yellow House. But it means we can both put something away. I should have enough for a deposit on somewhere by next year.
JOAN: A man of property.
ENDEAVOUR: I suppose.
JOAN: Didn’t Jane Austen have something to say about a single man in possession of a good fortune?
ENDEAVOUR: It’ll hardly be Netherfield Park. (the thought strikes him) Since when do you throw around Austen quotations?
JOAN: You didn’t need to walk me back, you know.
ENDEAVOUR: Old habits.
And here it is. Joan’s flat. No Fred to tap on the window. Nothing to stop them.
JOAN: Do you want to come in?
In the space between the question and the answer – stars are born and die.
Of course not ‘coffee’!
And all he wants is there before him.
ENDEAVOUR: I don’t go much for coffee.
As the moment slips by…
ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Besides…
Another moment, and he would be lost forever. What he wants to say is, I don’t trust myself.’ What he says is:-
ENDEAVOUR: Things to do.
JOAN: Okay. Goodnight, then.
She gives him a peck. ENDEAVOUR reacts.
JOAN (cont’d): What?
ENDEAVOUR leans in to her hair, to breathe her in…
DAMIAN: Vespertine! There’s more references to James Bond and various other Cold War/Spy films and television than you could shake a loaded umbrella at but it would probably prove very dull if I kept asking if such and such is from so and so and you kept simply replying ‘yes’ so instead, can I just ask what some of the most potent screen images related to the genre were running through your head as you wrote QUARTET?
RUSS: I think for a while the film was called ‘VESPERTINE’ – but it wasn’t particularly a nod to Miss Lynd. Well — this was our out and out salute to the 60s spy genre, and we only get to do these things once… so the Len Deighton/Harry Palmer trilogy loomed large, as it always does.
Things like The Quiller Memorandum. A Dandy in Aspic. Of the Bonds – Goldfinger. The pre-credit sequence and Auric’s factory. That’s what I was reaching for with Endeavour prowling around the perfume factory after dark. Alas. It was fun to take him up to that London. Albert Hall and the tube station.
DAMIAN: If we could end on quite a serious matter which relates to a lot of the themes of the episode, the terribly sad and shocking Salisbury poisoning happened only shortly after QUARTET was broadcast, now, would you have had to rewrite the script or postpone broadcast if the appalling event had occurred earlier?
RUSS: It’s quite possible. Dark days.
DAMIAN: Finally, what can you say about FILM 3, CONFECTION?
RUSS: Hard and soft centres abound. Um… ‘69 marked the final entry in Gordon Murray’s ‘Three Colours Primary’ Trilogy, and with The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society landing in Nov.’68 – this sort of felt like a chance to bring things together over the final summer of the 60s. Village Green is v.nostalgic – a harkening back to some supposed halcyon age. ‘Preserving the old ways…’ Well — I’m not sure all the old ways are worthy or deserving of being preserved. Nostalgia’s a bit of a slow poison. Seductive and comforting, but lethal in its way. Like too much sugar.
DAMIAN: You’ve appeared in some big-budget Hollywood films such as Everest, London Has Fallen and Transformers in addition to roles in high-profile TV series including Humans, Grantchester and Fearless. However, once an actor appears in Endeavour, they are forever part of the Morse Universe -indeed Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour have collectively become a treasured national institute- and there’s a certain immortality about becoming part of this isn’t there?
SIMON: Absolutely. All three shows, deservedly, have been hugely popular, and have been part of my world as a viewer since I was a teenager. What makes them so special for me is the combination of terrific writing, great performances and the twisting, turning plots that keep you guessing until the final frame. Russell [Lewis] has an encyclopedic knowledge of Morse’s world, and the fact he writes every episode of Endeavour astonishes me.
DAMIAN: Do you remember the audition scene or any of the dialogue you were given last year for the role of (then) Detective Inspector Ronnie Box?
SIMON: I do. The scene I played in the audition was the one where Box turns nasty (or nastier!) on Trewlove. There were so many juicy lines for an actor in that scene, but my favourite was telling Strange to stay ‘As you were, Tubby’. If that didn’t tell you all you need to know about Box’s character, I don’t know what would!
DAMIAN: What were your initial thoughts about how to play him and did this evolve significantly after landing the role and reading the script in full?
SIMON: He was written so well, that it was easy to tap into him. He felt to me, that he was from a different generation to Morse and Thursday – that he was from the world of John Thaw’s other great show, The Sweeney. So as part of my preparation I started watching episodes of TheSweeney (any excuse), so that I could understand where Box was coming from and ground him. Even though he’s young, he feels that he has seen a great deal more of the “Real World” than the Cowley lot.
DAMIAN: At what point did you know that Box would be a recurring character?
SIMON: As it happens, Shaun and I live quite close to each other. I bumped into him one day, and he told me that they were talking about bringing my character back, potentially, for one episode in the new series. He was very clear that they were still just floating the idea and not to get my hopes up – which I obviously did. A month went by and I still hadn’t heard anything, so I presumed they had thought better of it. A week later, my agent called to say they wanted me for the whole series, and my jaw hit the floor.
DAMIAN: So, PASSENGER (third episode from last series), you find yourself standing on the set of Cowley CID ready to film with one of television’s finest ensemble casts including Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser – what’s going through your mind as you prepare for a take?
SIMON: There were obviously nerves as I had watched these actors be brilliant for so long, but I couldn’t wait to play Box, and to see how they would react to this character. The Endeavour set is also an extremely happy and encouraging place to work. The cast, the crew, the make up and costume departments all make you feel welcome, so by the time you actually start acting, all you’re thinking about is the scene.
DAMIAN: In the dynamic and explosive scene, Box calls Strange Tubby as you mentioned, makes spitefully sexist comments to Trewlove -all of which was bad enough- but suggesting Bright had anything more than a soft spot for Trewlove was unforgivable wasn’t it?
SIMON: What a rotter!
DAMIAN: However, particularly considering you’re both Shakespearean actors, it must have been enormous fun to play such a meat and potatoes scene with an actor of such calibre and gravitas as Anton?
SIMON: It was an absolute joy. Especially as I first worked with Anton in a production of TheWinter’s Tale at the Royal Shakespeare Company eleven years previously. He is such a brilliant actor that you don’t feel like you are acting when you are in a scene with him. He’s also a lovely, lovely man.
DAMIAN: Unlike frequent antagonist DS Peter Jakes (Series 1-3) who audiences eventually began to warm to, and also to a lesser extent Bright who was somewhat cantankerous when first introduced, there surely can’t be any such redemption for a character as despicable as Box was in his debut episode can there?
SIMON: I’m not sure if redemption is what viewers will necessarily see with Box this series. However, what I hope they see is a real human being. One of the joys of being in the entire series, is that I got to explore Box’s character in so much detail. He doesn’t always react to situations the way you would assume, and sometimes he reacts EXACTLY the way you would expect.
DAMIAN: Always planning ahead, planting seeds for future narrative arcs and expanding the Morse mythology, the introduction of Box significantly played into the evolution of this sixth series didn’t it?
SIMON: It did. The end of series five gave us the trauma of Fancy’s death, and series six begins with the fall out from that. Everything feels different for the main cast now, as they struggle with moving on. They are apart from one another, both physically and emotionally, and Box and Jago steam into the vacuum that has been left. They have strong personalities and a very clear sense of how they see the job. It’s fascinating to see Morse and Thursday powerless to what is going on around them.
DAMIAN: It must have been somewhat daunting to play Roger Allam’s boss?
SIMON: I didn’t really think in those terms to be honest. It was more excitement about working with someone I’ve respected for such a long time. It was the same with Shaun too. I’ve always believed, no matter how experienced you are, you can always learn from working with great actors. They are also very generous and lovely people, so working with them and, of course, Richard Riddell , who plays DS Jago, was huge fun.
DAMIAN: I’ve dissected and analyzed every script, discussed every episode in great depth during interviews with the writer and I’m still yet to figure out every one of Russ’ hidden nods and cultural references. How do you find the scripts and how do they differ from other projects you’ve worked on?
SIMON: What I love about Russ’ scripts is that the world he has created is so rich in detail. Not just the period detail, which feels completely authentic, but also the world of Morse. There seem to be so many subtle nods to characters and ideas that feed into the established Morsian (is that a word?) universe, that I’m sure most of them passed me by! It is also the relationships, that have been moulded over the five previous series that feel completely honest and human.
DAMIAN: Simon, thank you very much indeed and help yourself to a glass of Pinot Noir.
SIMON: Thanks. It’s been a pleasure. But if I’m drinking as Ronnie Box, I’ll take a dram of your finest blended whiskey!
DAMIAN: You were surprised I liked CARTOUCHE. Why exactly?
RUSS: I thought you might find it too frivolous – too knowing.
DAMIAN: I’ve tried a couple of times in the past to get you to tell me what your favourite episodes are but without much success. Since you’re unlikely to budge on this, perhaps you might instead at least acknowledge that some episodes are more important than others?
RUSS: I don’t know if I’d agree with you over importance. To borrow from Marge Gundersson, ‘People always need the little stamps.’
DAMIAN: Let’s look at it from a different perspective then; would you agree that it is unlikely that ITV, Mammoth Screen or yourself would wish to open or close a series of a highly respected Sunday-night detective dramawith an episode featuring a mummy on the rampage in Oxford?
RUSS: I would. But while we probably wouldn’t open or close a run with a CARTOUCHE like number, if the entirety of the series followed suit then things might get a little samey.
INT. ROXY/CINEMA SCREEN – DAY 1
In darkness. A crackly, repeating MORSE CODE signal.
— .–. …
Onscreen: Black and white art-deco 1930s FILM LOGO — ‘MAMMOTH PICTURES STUDIOS’ wrapped around a spinning globe topped with a radio antenna sending ‘lightning bolts’ into the ether. An airship circumnavigates the sphere, against the rotation of the planet.
MUSIC of a distinctly Egyptian theme BEGINS… Black and White — TITLES against shifting desert sands. “MERIAM C. DENHAM presents EMIL VALDEMAR in THE PHARAOH’S CURSE” “Screenplay by W.P. Mayhew” “Directed by Von Mayerling.” &c.
DAMIAN: The original description for the Mammoth Pictures Studio logo was more reminiscent of the old RKO and Universal Pictures from the late twenties and early thirties and significantly different from the screen version. At what point did you have the ingenious idea of actually using a mammoth?
RUSS: When we couldn’t clear the original homage. I think I’ve mentioned before the legal minefield of clearance.
DAMIAN: It’s not actually Cavendish though is it?
RUSS: Doubtless an antecedent.
DAMIAN: This treasure must surely be proudly housed safely behind glass at Mammoth Screen?
RUSS: Like the Anglia knight? Alas. I haven’t seen it around the office.
DAMIAN: I think I get that W.P. Mayhew was the drunken writer in Barton Fink, (Max) Von Mayerling was the silent movie director turned butler from Sunset Boulevard but is Meriam C. Denham a composite of King Kong director and producer Merian C. Cooper and the Carl Denham character from the same film?
RUSS: Full marks.
DAMIAN: And accompanying those opening film credits, we hear Matthew Slater’s music score. Now, Matt has been doing a fantastic job as composer for most of the last couple of years or so -I think PREY was his first full score?- but CARTOUCHE was simply stunning wasn’t it and almost indistinguishable from a big Hollywood film soundtrack?
RUSS: Matt’s an extraordinary talent, and his scores are a joy. His work has spared our blushes on many an occasion.
DAMIAN: There’s been some great scores for horror and fantasy films such as Max Steiner’s work on King Kong, music for the Universal Monster Cycle of the 30s and 40s by composers like Paul Dessau, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner and Franz Waxman, in addition to the various artists, perhaps most notably James Bernard, who scored the Hammer films. I’m wondering if you listened to any of these while writing CARTOUCHE or discussed them with Matt as reference points because there’s definitely a Hammer influence in his score isn’t there?
RUSS: Yeh, we talked about Waxman, and James Bernard.
DAMIAN: It’s perhaps no coincidence that amongst Valdemar’s credits, Buddy and Louie Meet the Pharaoh is mentioned because of all the various costumes and makeup designs for the character over the years, the one in CARTOUCHE most resembles the one in (Budd) Abbott and (Lou) Costello Meet the Mummy. Was this slightly low budget design the look you were going for?
RUSS: Kind of. The Hammers also started to look a bit ragged – no pun intended – very quickly. It was meant to invoke something of a B-picture, knocked out very quickly, and on a limited budget. But Andy – our director – had a lot of fun with it.
DAMIAN: Despite having the most iconic makeup design, I’ve always found Karloff’s The Mummy to be a little slow and stagey much like Dracula as opposed to more cinematic masterpieces from Universal such Bride of Frankenstein, and actually much prefer Hammer’s The Mummy. Do you have a favourite?
RUSS: A favourite Universal or a favourite Hammer – or a favourite Mummy? I’m with you on Bride all the way.
DAMIAN: I meant a favourite Mummy. In comparison to other gothic literary characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Jekyll and Hyde etc., the Mummy is possibly the least interesting and I just wondered from a writers perspective, which film you thought provided the most engaging characterisation?
RUSS: Bubba Ho Tep. I suppose the first two Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz Mummy pictures. And of those two, the second probably gives you the biggest window on Imhotep’s history, doesn’t it? But – let’s be frank – as a franchise, it’s never been particularly deep, has it? I don’t think I mind the Karloff as much as you do. It is pretty slow, but it does set down all the key lore. Probably the least said about the latest incarnation the better.
DAMIAN: After the success of individual horror character franchises such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, Universal created a shared universe for these classic monsters. Now, considering that these films are meant to follow on from each other, it’s rather bizarre that Lionel Atwill is cast in so many and yet plays completely different characters including Inspector Krogh (Son of Frankenstein), Doctor Theodore Bohmer (The Ghost of Frankenstein), the Mayor (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), Inspector Arnz (House of Frankenstein) and Inspector Holtz (House of Dracula). Regardless, with the nod to his name in the script and the character with the one arm, why has the memory of Atwill endured perhaps more than other supporting Universal character players such as my personal favourite, Dwight Frye?
RUSS: I think – as you say – it was probably Atwill’s presence in so many different incarnations that guaranteed his immortality. Ah – Dwight Frye. Will Dwight Frye make you Frye of Dwight?!
DAMIAN: I suppose in a similar vein to the Carry On films and other beloved institutes, Universal and Hammer had a repertoire of supporting roles players which we don’t quite see to the same extent in contemporary productions. Do you think that, in always striving to prove their versatility and avoid typecasting, it’s a pity we no longer enjoy character actors in the same way anymore?
RUSS: Well, a Hammer never really felt like a Hammer without the appropriately named Michael Ripper, did it? I just don’t think we make things the same way. The world changes. But I’m very grateful we’ve still got all those wonderful films, and those regular faces to enjoy.
DAMIAN: And the Hammer Horrors featured many glamourous scream queens such as Valerie Leon and Ingrid Pitt but Veronica Carlson must still be a favourite who you mentioned in one of our early interviews and gets a nod in CARTOUCHE as Veronique Carlton. In your opinion, why is she the epitome of the 60s Hammer and British Horror scream queen?
RUSS: I think it’s that she pulled off that extraordinary back to back double in ‘68 and ‘69 with the Count and then the Baron. Dracula Has Risen from the Gravy — and Frankenstein Must be Dismayed.
DAMIAN: Apart from Bela Lugosi who died in 1956, which of the iconic horror actors would you have liked to have cast as Emil Valdemar if CARTOUCHE was actually made in the year in which it was set?
RUSS: Well — we were thinking about Bogdanovich’s Targets a lot – which was a big jumping off point for the story. So – it was Karloff the Uncanny, all the way. It would have had to be someone British and old enough to have served in the Great War.
DAMIAN: As always, there’s so many references in the episode such as Fu Manchu, the Corman/Price cycle and Poe more generally, that we can’t possibly discuss them all, although I thought the nod to Lauren Bacall (Betty Perske/Persky) was particularly lovely because she was actually a theatre usher in real life wasn’t she?
RUSS: Exactly that.
DAMIAN: It was wonderful to see Thursday in such a (rare) good mood reminiscing about the cinema of his childhood although I was less impressed with Endeavour’s response – is he only interested in watching Ingmar Bergman films and -much later in life- Last Tango in Paris?
RUSS: Colin didn’t really give us much of a steer on his cinematic interests. But Endeavour’s recollection of Saturday Morning Pictures are mine. I’m not sure if it made the cut – but his invocation of Dante made Damien Timmer chuckle, which always pleases me.
DAMIAN: Yes it did, something about all that screaming in the dark. However, for someone who consistently shows such a reverence in their writing for classic cinema, I’m somewhat surprised and confused by such negative recollections of Saturday Morning Pictures. I would have thought you would have more in common with Thursday than Endeavour in this regard?
RUSS: Endeavour’s recollections are perhaps not unsurprisingly my recollection of the one and only trip I made to the Granada, St.John’s Hill for Saturday Morning Pictures. I can still hear the screaming.
DAMIAN: Starting with Carol this series, Endeavour begins his Casanova phase which I had a few problems with and hope to debate in a future interview, however, can you not think of a nice young lady to introduce to Strange for a change?
RUSS: Well — we have seen him out on a double-date with Endeavour – to a Horror Double Bill appropriately enough. Well — I look forward to discussing Endeavour’s Casanova phase. A one night stand with the least appropriate young woman imaginable – and a meaningful few months with Claudine, of whom he had hopes. Some Casanova phase. Surely such Homework would warrant, ‘Must try harder!’ in the margin?
DAMIAN: And speaking of other halves, Bright is eating alone in the restaurant because his wife is otherwise engaged yet again! Come on now Russ, this is getting quite ridiculous unless Reginald has perhaps buried her under the patio or keeping her well-preserved mummified corpse in the fruit cellar?
RUSS: It’s been quite fun keeping people guessing about Mrs.Bright. We shall see.
DAMIAN: Towards the end of the episode, Charlie says ‘You’re the best of us, Fred’, to which Thursday replies, ‘The best of us never came home’. Earlier, when reminiscing about Saturday morning matinees as a child, Thursday mentions to Endeavour that he’d go in first and then ‘spring the window in the Gents for Chas and Billy’. Can you tell us more about Billy, presumably the youngest of the three Thursday brothers, or is this perhaps something you might elaborate on in a future story?
RUSS: There is a story that tells us more about Billy – but whether we will get to make it is doubtful. The exchange rate has taken a bit of a hit since I first had it in mind — and probably rules it out.
DAMIAN: You make the parallels between ex-Detective Sergeant Ronald Beavis and Endeavour quite explicit with similar characters traits and shared interests including a passion for opera; the two even have the same Rosalind Calloway performance of La Traviata LP – oh, just out of curiosity, why were you so specific in the script that the record not have her image on the sleeve?
RUSS: Was I? I think I just wanted to avoid the LP Endeavour had signed in the very first film also being owned by Beavis. As if it were the ONLY Rosalind Calloway recording in existence.
DAMIAN: Anyway, after leaving the museum at the end of the episode, there’s a discussion of the parallels between Beavis and Endeavour and Thursday says ‘he’d no family to keep him on the straight. Lot to be said for family’, to which Endeavour replies, ‘What if you don’t have one? Is that how you finish your days? Alone in some two-bob kip with nothing but a bottle for company?’. Thursday ends the discussion with, ‘That was his future. Not yours. You’ll make better choices’. First of all, does Thursday really believe this, and secondly, would he, if not really approve, then reluctantly give his consent -at this particular moment in time at least- if such choices included Joan?
RUSS: I don’t think there’s any reason for Fred to think Endeavour won’t make better choices. His first thought would be of Joan’s happiness. If being with Endeavour made her happy, then I’m sure Thursday would be behind her all the way.
DAMIAN: Of course, we know how it ends for Endeavour, but the way the scene is written suggests that he does too. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that loneliness is a subjective experience. For someone like Endeavour with all his emotional baggage and psychological damage, his loneliness and estrangement might foster a self-defeating attitude in that the more he marginalises himself, the more his protracted loneliness intensifies, and becomes increasingly difficult to break free from such a mindset that negatively influences his perception of relationships making him more pessimistic as to their outcome (as might be the case with Joan or Susan Fallon for that matter). To what extent would you agree with all this and has Endeavour -again, at this point in the story- accepted his fate or is he simply just a miserable sod?
RUSS: No – I don’t think he’s accepted his fate at all at this point. Did he ever? He always seemed optimistic when pursuing romance. In this instance, I think Endeavour was rattled by finding some similarities with Beavis – primarily, the music – and beyond that, the want of family. And, of course, he was an ex-copper.
DAMIAN: And so without further delay or cancellation, we arrive at possibly one of the most beautifully shot films of this or any other series of Endeavour. You’ve often found inspiration from poetry during the conception and development of characters such as Thursday (Henry Reed’s Lessons of the War – Naming of Parts in particular) and Bright (Betjeman’s Subaltern’s Love Song), so I’m wondering if there’s any deeper significance to your inclusion of WH Auden’s Night Mail in PASSENGER beyond the theme of trains?
RUSS: Well – all credit to Jim Field Smith and DoP Jamie Cairney. For my part, it was just an early memory of a re-run of the 1936 documentary that ends with the verse. The British Documentary Film Movement is an endless source of wonder and inspiration. But ‘Night Mail’… probably melts a bit into the train journey in ‘I Know Where I’m Going’. Trains – particularly the old steamers – have an innate air of romance, mystery and – for our purposes – danger. That ‘The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations’ makes the list of ‘These Foolish Things’ is no accident. The Orient Express. The Blue Train. The 4:50 From Paddington. All aboard!
DAMIAN: Interestingly, Auden was addicted to the crime genre and had some very particular opinions about it which shaped the poem, Detective Story, and an essay on the subject, The Guilty Vicarage, in which he makes a series of observations while deconstructing the Whodunit formula including the discourse between good and evil, the ethical and eristic conflict between Us and Them and the dialectics of innocence and guilt, while also identifying its five essential elements: milieu, victim, murderer, suspects and detectives. Perhaps even more than Sherlock Holmes’ more cosmopolitan and diverse Victorian London for example, I wonder if it’s milieu that’s particularly applicable to the Morse Universe if we view Oxford as a kind of garden of Eden in which the various sins don’t necessarily attract evil to the city, but instead reveal the evil that already inhabits the dreaming spires hiding under the gown of piousness and respectability?
RUSS: ‘As the milieu told its tale…’ I think much of Auden’s take on the Whodunit applies particularly to the Golden Age and the notion of Mayhem Parva. It probably starts to break down when applied to Bay City. Oxford as a Garden of Eden? I guess I’m with you about the frailties of human nature residing there already – rather than something that arrives with an interloper. (Though that may change…) But no more or less than any other town of a like size. Don’t be fooled for a moment by the architecture. Or by the trappings of academe. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. A juicy and coveted Chair is just as likely to be pursued, as is the wife or daughter of another don. Clixby Bream come on down! That’s one of the many things Colin did so well in the novels. And he knew that world better than most. Where abideth man, there abideth sin.
DAMIAN: And perhaps Endeavour represents this loss of innocence more acutely than either Inspector Morse or Lewis ever did?
RUSS: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. We have a much younger protagonist. And a romantic to boot. He was always going to have much further to fall. But I think that one of the things about his older incarnation is some part of that hope still remains. That’s what lends it its melancholy. And, of course, it’s what redeems him.
DAMIAN: One aspect of Auden’s musings on the detective story that certainly can’t be applied to Endeavour is that the characters are not changed in or by their actions. Indeed, reflecting on the heartbreak and misery frequently bestowed upon Endeavour and Joan for example, how far are you willing to go in putting your loyal and loving audience on a downer?
RUSS: Does it bring the audience down, do you think? One of the great, unlooked for delights of writing this thing has been charting the push and pull of those binary stars. Who knew?
I don’t know about putting the audience on a downer, but how far am I willing to go with telling that story? All the way. Always.
EXT. JOAN’S FLAT/ROOF – DAY
JOAN clambers up through a skylight onto the roof. ENDEAVOUR follows. By the time he’s out and into the daylight, with the resultant queasiness of realisation that he’s up high. JOAN is at the edge, looking out over OXFORD.
JOAN: It was the view I fell in love with.
ENDEAVOUR’S POV: JOAN against a backdrop of magic hour Oxford – a sky of pink and pearl.
A world contained in a single word. If his heart were to stop now, it would be enough. To die in the moment of perfection. Like…
ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Cherry blossom.
His whisper lost on the breeze.
JOAN: You can’t see from there. Come closer.
ENDEAVOUR: This is as close as I get.
And it is. And ever will be.
ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Come back now.
And it is. And ever will be.
JOAN: Scared of heights?
ENDEAVOUR: Not heights. Just falling…
DAMIAN: Fans may occasionally debate the merits of certain plot points and the motivation of various suspects or perpetrators but there can be little doubt that scenes such as this clearly demonstrate your transcendent and unrivalled talent for consistently writing characters in a detective drama that we all care about so very deeply. Knowing that you will almost certainly deflect the compliment in your now familiar self-effacing and reticent maner, I challenge you to give me an example of just one other detective drama written for TV that consistently delivers both the mystery and emotion of Endeavour.
RUSS: I don’t watch enough to have a representative sample upon which to draw. But, I think if all we were doing was constructing a puzzle for the audience to solve, it would be a very dreary exercise. A much bigger conversation probably, but, ‘Why write at all?’ Why tell stories? It’s about making a connection, isn’t it? One heart speaking to another. I think if you’re going to do it at all, then you have to be prepared to go all in. The audience can sniff out fakery at 500 yards. You might be dressing something up in slightly different clothes, or presenting it at one or more remove — but the initial impulse – the thing you’re having these characters saying – has to come from something real.
The plot and the whodunit are hugely important – but it’s the emotional beats that I suspect will outlast the conundrum. “All the feels”, as I believe the young people have it. Like the man said, “Nobody goes home whistling the scenery”.
DAMIAN: And then you almost go and spoil it all by following such a beautiful scene by having Claudine appear and Endeavour lighting a cigarette for her which I have two problems with: firstly, although I understand that one of the functions of the scene was Joan wanting to introduce Endeavour to someone who might look after him, doesn’t the smile he gives Claudine show his instant attraction to her despite having literally just walked away from Joan only seconds earlier and somewhat undermine his passion and love for Joan and all the pink, pearl and cherry blossom?
RUSS: C’est la vie, mon vieux.
DAMIAN: The second aspect was Endeavour lighting her cigarette; why would he even be carrying a lighter when he doesn’t smoke? – yet!
RUSS: You will recall Thursday’s advice to Trewlove concerning cigarettes. We forget now – in these more health conscious times – the social connection and conviviality that was part of the theatre of nicotine. “Cigarette?” was a great ice-breaker. An instant connection. For a detective dealing with those who have witnessed terrible things – to be able to offer a cigarette to someone ‘in shock’ was considered at the very least an act of kindness. Likewise – in interview, with a suspect or indeed the guilty party – the bestowal or withholding of tobacco – is a tool in the box. For Endeavour to be tootling about without a box of smokes would be a bit of a shortcoming.
DAMIAN: In response to my question in our last interview regarding how much longer the show could continue, you said that there’s a little way to go yet, but, you are starting to say goodbye. Therefore, given there’s a few other characters from the original series yet to make an appearance, I wonder if there’s still time to see Endeavour and Susan Fallon reunited and if so, is there even enough room for yet another doomed relationship – I mean how many great, ill-fated loves can one man have?
RUSS: I think it unlikely we’ll see Susan Fallon. The Prime Directive is all. Yet another doomed relationship? Well — given where we found him in ‘87 and left him at the end of century, one might argue that ALL his relationships were doomed. How many great, ill-fated loves can one man have? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Enter — DI RONNIE BOX, (30s), a young thief-taker, and DS PATRICK DAWSON, (30s), a mordant, humourless, career copper – a young Kenneth Colley.
BRIGHT: Ah. Perfect timing.
DAMIAN: Why now in this particular episode and what does Dawson’s relationship with Box say about his character here and in his future incarnation?
RUSS: There is perhaps more to tell on that score. We shall see if room is available.
DAMIAN: Unlike the antagonist DS Peter Jakes who audiences eventually began to warm to, there can’t be any such redemption for a character as despicable as DI Ronnie Box can there?
RUSS: Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?
DAMIAN: Was his introduction here planned to set up the character (and storylines) as a regular for the sixth series?
RUSS: Box certainly played into the evolution of the Sixth Series.
DAMIAN: I think we may have spoke about the use of clichéd and stereotypical archetypes before and how they can be both useful -especially in detective stories in terms of misdirecting the audience- but also dangerous for a writer. In retrospect, do you think that a stuttering trainspotter who still lives with his mother was a bit much?
RUSS: Clearly not. One might as well be hung for a sheep. The major story here concerned… well – it’s not possible to set down what it concerned without spoilers. But, one thing that did horrify me was a suggestion that one was presenting a character on the autistic spectrum. I’d grant ‘English eccentric’ and ‘flawed and malignant personality’- but when it comes to autism nothing could have been further from our intentions. A moment’s thought about that – given some of the things we’ve done elsewhere in the show – and I’d hope anyone would realise that, if such was indeed our intent, then we’d never engineer such a crass depiction.
DAMIAN: Did you ever have a train set?
RUSS: I did. Hornby. But like South West Trains, I could never get it to run properly.
DAMIAN: Some lovely cultural references again in this episode such as Norborough Station (60s Avengers) but I would have put money on nods to The Signal-man or Brief Encounter – did I miss them?
RUSS: We are ever constrained by what can be delivered. I had wanted to use the original location for The Signalman – but it lay far beyond our reach. ‘Hallo! Below there!’ Brief Encounter… I don’t know if it made the cut – but I’m pretty sure we’ve nodded to ‘taking books back to Boots’ elsewhere.
DAMIAN: I could have understood Bates Motel (indeed, there’s a slight reference: ‘Twenty-four chalets, twenty-four vacancies’) but bloody Crossroads Motel! You’ve given us countless tales that witness your fanaticism for Tony Hancock, Carry On films and The Beatles but why on earth would you even think of paying homage to such a decrepit piece of soap opera history?
RUSS: Damien Timmer is very fond of Crossroads, and was very keen to honour it. Lest we forget, when Miss Diane left Kings Oak, she tipped up in… of all places… a certain city of dreaming spires. Easy to knock, of course — but it once commanded huge audiences, and the viewing nation hung spellbound on the fate of Meg and Sandy and Jill, and all the rest
But as always with Endeavour, one might imagine it to be A Crossroads, rather than necessarily THE Crossroads. We rationalised it – kind of – thus, that once, perhaps, Hazel Adair and Peter Ling had taken a wrong turn on a lonely highway and ended up at our Crossroads, which had in turn inspired them to create their Crossroads.
You are right about Bates Motel, of course. In fact, I think in the original iteration of the script there was an extended night driving sequence for Endeavour before he arrived. Alas, time and budget, and poor man’s process, wait for no man. But I clearly thought it would have been funnier if we’d laid in a longer build-up to the reveal of his destination.
DAMIAN: And a certain Mrs. Turtle is referenced in the script and briefly seen on screen at the reception desk who looked remarkably similar to Ann George. Like Veronica Carlson, please tell me she wasn’t another one of your boyhood crushes?
RUSS: I worked at ATV in Brum for some time in the early 70s — and we would often see the stars from Crossroad in the canteen, or heading into studio. Ann George was quite glamorous in a furs and bling way – but, no, she never caught my imagination in quite the same way as Miss Carlson.
DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the second film of series 6, APOLLO?
RUSS: Er, well — Shaun’s directed it. And a very fine job he’s done, too. William Goldman’s advice was ‘Give the star everything.’ So – I hope the moon will suffice. Seriously – it’s quite spooky the way it worked out. Of all the films in all the series in all the world that he could have directed…
I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about it at a later date, but we were blessed to be joined on this film by Stephen La Riviere and his wonderfully talented team at Century 21. He brought with him some absolute pioneers of British film and television. So, for a couple of days, our pretend past reached out across half a century and joined hands with those who had lived the real thing. It also marks (and will remain) my only onscreen appearance in Endeavour, and proves that sometimes one’s childhood dreams really can come true.