Category Archives: Endeavour

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: ANTON LESSER

An exclusive Endeavour interview with Anton Lesser

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: We’ll discuss Bright and Endeavour shortly, but first I wanted to talk about your return to the theatre last June after a ten-year-absence. Why such a long break?

ANTON: Well, good question. I had two or three years of vocal problems. It was a really bad situation where nobody knew what was wrong with my voice. It was just sort of very unpredictable with muscular spasm. I had cameras down my throat trying to find out if anything terrible was going on and I think it was a combination of psychological things – things going on in my personal life. It was really difficult and I lost a bit of confidence about doing anything that I wasn’t absolutely in control of. So, when things came up for the stage, I just felt that I didn’t want to let people down. Again, I stopped doing audio-books as I felt I was going to let people down. As time went on, fortunately work kept coming in and I was offered other things.

When the play [The Pope] turned up last summer, it was just so good that I thought I really want to do this. And, I showed it to my kids and they said, ‘Dad it’s brilliant, you’ve got to do it’, but it’s a huge role, basically a two-hander – me and Nick Woodeson. I went and met James Dacre [artistic director] who I got on with immediately down at the Royal Derngate & Northampton and the theatre was lovely – a beautiful little Victorian jewel of a theatre – and it wasn’t the West End so I thought I can do this because it was very friendly, about 400 seats so it didn’t feel as though I had to shout!

DAMIAN: The play is a fictionalised encounter of your character, Pope Benedict, meeting with Pope Francis which explores the scandals involving child abuse and the financial running of the Vatican. Did you have any reservations about taking on a play dealing with such controversial issues – perhaps particularly the child abuse?

ANTON: Erm no, over the years I’ve been often parts on tele with characters that I’ve looked at and thought I don’t want my kids to see me doing this and I’ve always had a gut feeling that something doesn’t feel right but no, I had no qualms about doing this because what’s wonderful about the play is it gives Benedict a voice and it gives a perspective on what happened and, we the public, don’t know about it and it has been intriguing why a man in his position would seemingly – and again this is all conjecture – turn a blind eye to such terrible things. It’s a wonderfully non-judgemental and very generous investigation into that and I think that’s why I felt I had to do it.

DAMIAN: An objective point of view so the audience could decide for themselves?

ANTON: Yes. The writer, Anthony McCarten, his films have been huge successes [The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody] and he does have a wonderful eye which is objective and he just touches something that is so full of humanity that it feels accessible and very recognisable when you see it and get a little window into somebody’s heart. He really just has a wonderful way of letting the audience in, especially as something as remote for most of us as life in the Vatican.

You know, on paper, a play or a film about two old men talking about religion you think, ‘Ooh, that’s exciting’, but actually it’s absolutely intriguing. The other lovely thing that happened was a lot of people came to it and said things like ‘I’m a practicing Roman Catholic and I was really concerned about coming to this play’ and thought they were going to be offended or outraged but they said things like it was ‘one of the best things they’d ever seen’ so that was wonderful.

DAMIAN: I was actually going to ask, since it was quite a small and intimate theatre if you noticed any priests or nuns in the audience?

ANTON: Oh, we did have a few yes – you couldn’t see them from the stage or identify them by their dog collars or whatever but we did have people who came to talk to us afterwards and said how absolutely absorbing it was.

DAMIAN: During our last interview we talked about some of the actors you admired and you mentioned Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce which is funny because they both star in the film version of the play, The Two Popes, made for Netflix. Have you seen it?

ANTON: Yes, it’s quite a coincidence and the film is brilliant.

DAMIAN: Back to the play, so you return to the theatre after ten years, it’s opening night and you get the 5-minute call to go on stage – can you describe what were you feeling at that moment?

ANTON: Ooh, ooh, its a mixture of ‘oh my God what have I done?’ [laughs] – nerves or butterflies don’t go away just because you’re old – but also real excitement and often fear and excitement are difficult to distinguish aren’t they? The symptoms are pretty similar! And it’s just a name we put on them that makes them one thing or the other but much more, I don’t know what it is about going out in front of a live audience, but it is at the same time a terrifying and stupid thing to do but in another way its incredibly liberating because unlike the tele, you’re not going to be edited. You’re not going to be watching the tele and think I’m sure I had a nice scene there and now it’s gone – it’s in your own hands for a couple of hours.

And it’s a lovely journey and particularly lovely because you’re working with people that you respect and enjoy their company. That was one of the great things about working with Nick because right from the beginning – two such good parts and the relationship is so fundamental – you really need to be happy about who you’re working with and to work with Nick was an absolute joy because we worked together years and years ago at the National in The Birthday Party so it just made everything easier.

But coming back to that moment just before you go on stage, you’re going on a little journey with a mate and we had a little agreement; I said to him when we started rehearsing, I said Nick, ‘we’re now of an age when one of us – or both of us! – is going to just look at the other and know that the other one hasn’t got a clue what to say!’ [we both laugh] and I said, ‘shall we have a pact that you forgive me in advance if I just don’t know what to say?’ and he said ‘absolutely’ so we had this mutual agreement. We had a great time – lots of laughs.

Anton during rehearsals

DAMIAN: Actors on the set of Endeavour might typically be on set from 7 or 8 in the morning to 6 or 7 at night which must be enormously draining physically but at least you can return home of an evening – how does this compare to the demands of theatre and staying in hotels?

ANTON: It is very different. A different sort of process and you have to manage that process. The thing about tele is somebody might pick you up in the early hours of the morning in the dark and cold in some pretty horrible places that are not very glamorous and then sit in a cold trailer for hours and hours and hours and then you might be called upon to do your little bit which may be quite an intense emotional moment out of chronological order while trying to find some emotional truth.

So you have 5 minutes of work and then back to the trailer in a completely de-energised state again for 3 or 4 hours and you might expect to do a scene – but then it’s changed or cancelled or shifted so its a whole different thing. That’s why I love to come back to theatre because of the rehearsal process which you never get in tele or film nowadays. The rehearsal process is just great – it’s where you stretch your muscles and interact and experiment. Do dangerous things in a safe place so it’s like a completely different job and yet the place where they do coincide as the same job is trying to express – as truthfully and as humanly as you possibly can – so that, if it can come from my heart, if it can come from some truth inside me, then there’s a better chance it will touch that place in the audience.

DAMIAN: Yes, well I’m glad you’ve said that because I’ve got a few questions on that exact theme really, that issue of finding the moment. I’ve visited the sets and location work and they do the technical rehearsals obviously; they get the camera angles, the lighting, they do the sound checks and then they do a few more sound checks but in terms of the Endeavour team, do the principle actors ever actually get to rehearse the acting before a take?

ANTON: Depends on how much time there is. We have a little sort of word run with the director before any of the crew come in. We’ll talk about the way the director wants us to come in from, whether we might sit or stand or if we are going to move during the scene but it is very, very perfunctory. It’s very quick because there isn’t time to explore and you’re expected at this stage to know the character and what they would probably do in that situation and you just need to get on with it. Luckily, because we’ve been doing it for so long together we have a kind of shorthand with each other. We know what’s right for us as actors much more quickly than if it was something new and we were beginning from scratch. Then you’d need a week or two to explore the relationships – well we have those relationships already!

DAMIAN: Last time we discussed your early days as an actor at RADA but I’d like to expand on this slightly further and ask you about the sort of acting techniques or theatre practitioners that you might have been exposed to back then?

ANTON: Well, at RADA, you see I don’t remember particularly reading tomes from Stanislavski and doing all that in those days – probably because I’m so lazy! [laughs] I mean it’s changed now, but it was virtually non-academic; you weren’t expected to read books or write essays and pass exams but I think nowadays they are. A lot of kids that I know, the academic aspect is quite substantial to get their diploma or whatever.

Russian theatre practitioner, Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), was a celebrated director, character actor and author of several influential books including his “ABC” of acting: ‘An Actor Prepares’, ‘Building a Character’ and ‘Creating a Role’. His autobiography, ‘My Life in Art’, is also highly recommended reading.

ANTON: Different directors came in to do different shows with us and they would of course bring with them their particular expertise or their interests. One of them might be more interested in a particular method than another. We were aware of the Method and actors like Brando and how they operated but there wasn’t anything formal like a focus on Stanislavski or anything like that. The exposure that I remember was the acting that I would see in the theatre who were inspirational, you know?

DAMIAN: Like at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool?

ANTON: Yeah, Jonathan Pryce doing Comedians and Bernard Hill, and then of course, people at the RSC, Ian Richardson – wonderful Ian Richardson! All these people, all that was percolated back to conversations we would have at RADA and those would be my influences. Definitely, so yes, to put it in a nutshell, it was less about what we were studying and more about what we were absorbing and what was percolated back through to us.

DAMIAN: You see, back when I was studying drama at college we were introduced to Artaud, Brecht, Grotowski -the usual suspects – and I didn’t really respond much to any of these but what really resonated was the work of Stanislavski so I read a lot of his books but then independently took this much further by exploring Lee Strasberg and the Method style of acting.

Strasberg (1901-1982) built on the work of Stanislavski and helped to develop “The Method”. He was also one of the teachers and artistic director at The Actors Studio where rising stars such as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean trained. His later generation of “Method Actors” included Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando on the set of ‘On the Waterfront’. Their other classic collaboration were ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Viva Zapata!’
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro discuss a scene during the making of ‘Taxi Driver’. The two have worked together many times but for me, at least in terms of a director/actor partnership creating unforgettably intense character studies, ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ remain their most significant collaborations.

DAMIAN: So when I think back – you’ve just talked about the actors that inspired you – but when I think back to the kind of films and actors who inspired me as a teenager learning about drama, the Method paved the way for some of the most outstanding collaborations in the search for behavioural or emotional truth in acting and realism – actors and director such as Brando and Kazan and De Niro and Scorsese.

ANTON: De Niro and Scorsese! Oh yeah, yeah, yeah – De Niro and Pacino- you don’t get any better than that. And of course Brando, when he was not messing about, I don’t know whether that’s to do with, obviously it’s influenced by, but I don’t know if its necessarily only  to do with how they studied at the Actor’s Studio but something about them instinctively as human beings. They have this unbelievable mysterious something and you look them and even when they are doing nothing, you just can’t stop looking at them. How much that is to do with how they’ve been influenced by that tradition or how much they’ve just nurtured what they have as human beings I don’t know but they are just unbelievably magnetic to watch. It never fails to amaze. You know I’ve been watching a lot of De Niro and Pacino on youtube recently, clips of old movies and it’s just amazing and you think, what is it, what are they doing?

DAMIAN: I always got a sense – and this was obviously in the early days of their careers – that they didn’t know what it was they were doing either. Rather we were watching them learn as actors on a journey in which they were exploring both their characters and themselves. It was a great experiment and I think it goes all the way back to Montgomery Clift, James Dean and, of course, Marlon Brando. That period of acting was so rich and such a great time for experimentation.

ANTON: Yes, yes – exactly!

DAMIAN: Obviously as an actor himself, what’s Shaun like to work with when he’s directing?

ANTON: Oh, he’s great. Yes, he absolutely knows his stuff and benefits, of course, from having a crew that were pretty much continuously there from when we all began. So, he’s got a lot of very skillful practitioners around him who know what can and can’t be achieved. And they know how to achieve it very quickly and they can say to him, ‘Yeah, I know what you want but it might be better if we do that shot from blah blah blah and he’ll say, ‘absolutely brilliant.’ So there’s a real efficiency about the people around him to make his vision happen and he’s great. I think he wants to do more and think he may end up being more of a director than an actor.

DAMIAN: Really?

ANTON: Yes, but it’s great working together because he knows both sides of the job. It’s like he can interface between his technical requirements and the acting.

DAMIAN: What do you think you would be like at directing?

ANTON: Rubbish! Absolute rubbish because I’m not built for that. I like to be told where to stand, told what to say and told when I can have my lunch and if I’ve got the afternoon off and can go home! [laughs] You know, a director has to be there all the time and that’s not what I want to do with all the days in my life. I enjoy other things and fortunately I’ve been employed almost continuously, but if I was ever in a position where I just had to take everything and do everything 24 hrs a day, I don’t think I’d be very happy.

Also, the thing about directing is directors have a facility – the good ones – have a great skill to point you in the direction of what they want without showing you how to do it. I know from experience when I’ve done little things with students that my instinct is to get up to display and almost say do it like this and that is an anathema to an actor because it closes the door on your creativity and all your effort is to try to emulate it or reproduce something – and you think well he’s done it much better than I could so what’s left for me to do?

I remember I had a personal experience of that with Jonathan Miller years and years and years ago. Bless the man, he’s such a wonderful actor himself – and comedian – but he couldn’t resist getting up and saying ‘No, this is what I mean!’ and then you think OK, but there’s nothing left for me to do but try and match how they’ve done it. It’s awful and you feel sort of emasculated as an actor so I would be no good.

DAMIAN: Each Endeavour film has a different director which helps to keep the show visually fresh and unique, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of this – for example, presumably they can’t possibly know the characters as well as the actors who’ve been on the show since the beginning?

ANTON: Well, as you say, the advantages are that you get a fresh eye and the whole thing doesn’t become thematically repetitive and safe. A fresh eye will hopefully take a few risks and bring a kind of out of the box sort of view on it. The downside is that some directors won’t have that shorthand with the DOP or the sound guys who’ve been there all the way through – most of them have been there for the whole time and they’re familiar faces. They know their job and they know what can and can’t be done and one or two directors might have a sort of, not a clash, but they might be looking to do something that the cameramen or the sound man will just know is not the greatest solution and there might be little moments of friction or disagreement.

But that never usually happens. It’s a happy, happy crew and I think it’s so rare but we do get inevitably and understandably a new director coming in who will want to put their mark on it and will want to have a very distinctive contribution and why not? They’re doing their thing. So it’s a balance and most of the time it works beautifully when people find that balance but occasionally it can be a bit divisive.

DAMIAN: You mentioned this earlier and it goes back to the actors having a short hand between themselves as well as the crew. Is there ever a sense that the principal cast still have things to learn from each other as actors as you explore these characters – have you ever been caught off guard and thought that was interesting what such and such an actor was going for in such and such a scene?

ANTON: Yeah, yeah. I mean I think that happens all the time but perhaps in quite subtle ways and I think what we’d like to do more of is have a little more time to explore moments like this that come up and actually give them space to see how well it could work and find something to look at in a totally different way.

The constraints of time mean, actually, that is interesting but we just have to get on with it so  we might take a sort of comprise through the interaction and you’re just left thinking we could have explored that and gone down that road but there isn’t time for that. Yeah, that happens quite a lot. But because we all respect each other’s skills – you know, working with Roger and Shaun in particular – but also all the guest actors who come in and bring something unique and we kind of want what you get in the rehearsal room of a play; wanting that in the context of a film – which, of course, you can’t have.

DAMIAN: I’ve been doing my interviews again with Russ and I recently reminded him of what he told me regarding your character that Bright was ‘a man even more out of his time than most in the 1960s’. So, I was wondering how on earth Bright is going to survive the 1970s?

ANTON: Ooh!, (mischievous laughter again] yes, yes, yes! Well, I can’t give too much away obviously…

DAMIAN: No, of course not. I meant more culturally in terms of the style and fashion of the era.

ANTON: You will see that the tensions that were arising at the end of the last series which exposed those cultural sort of challenges for him, they sort of take off in a big way and you see the man – which is what I’ve wanted for years actually, you see much more of the man behind the uniform. Out of uniform and into situations where he is potentially out of his depth, which of course, are the places where we all learn things quickest.

So it’s been much more fulfilling these last couple of series because we see him really up against it and in situations – that a man like that – you would expect to unravel. You don’t know whether he does or doesn’t – you’ll just have to wait and see! It is much more of what you were hinting at this time.

DAMIAN: Fans have wondered about Mrs. Bright for years now so wasn’t it a little cruel of Russ to finally meet her when she’s dying?

ANTON: Yes, it is cruel. You know, for years I didn’t even know whether she existed! The references to her could have almost been like wishful thinking. All the actors used to joke that she didn’t exist and he went home to a lonely house and sort of fantasied that he had a wife. But no, suddenly here she is and we had the wonderfully brilliant Carol Royle play her. It was great for me to open up the whole backstory about the daughter dying in India and it’s great for me to be able to begin that journey out of uniform and to see him at home in a different environment. And suddenly, an environment that challenges him really, really deeply and emotionally. So I’m very happy about that but not happy that it could be so brief and seems to be coming to an end. We’ll see…

DAMIAN: The scene with Bright where he confides to Max at the club and asks for his help was one of my favourites from the last or any series. Absolutely beautifully written and performed.

ANTON: Yes, people have remarked about that scene and said lovely things about it. That sort of encounter for me is what I’ve been wanting all the way through the series and every time Russ would write lots of those lovely scenes but they’d all be cut because of time. Such a shame but, yeah, I’m glad you liked that one.

DAMIAN: However, wasn’t it a curious choice for the audience to learn about Mrs. Bright’s cancer in a scene with Bright talking to Max rather than his wife? Because that would be the more obvious emotional choice wouldn’t it?

ANTON: I guess it would. Yes, and as I recall, they were having dinner and she’d come back from London and had a nice day and he’d made her dinner and then she suddenly starts to cry and he says. ‘what’s the matter?’ and then we cut dramatically. I think it was clever because you think, ooh, something big is going on but were not allowed to see that and then it comes with Max. I can see that dramatically it’s a device that keeps the audience wanting to know more and keeps that tension longer and if they had continued that scene together it would have been all exposed and wouldn’t have carried that curiosity.

DAMIAN: That’s very true. In the episode Mrs. Bright says ‘I don’t think I’ve been a very good wife.’ and he replies, ‘No man ever had a better.’ In the script he has an extra line, ‘Is there… something you want to tell me?’ so it did hint at that but you’re probably right in terms of keeping the tension going because the audience are left guessing and it could have been that she was having an affair?

ANTON: Yes, yes, which of course she did because there was another beautiful scene that got cut the year before where she says ‘they never meant anything’ so ask Russ about that.

[I later checked with Russ and he confirmed the following: ‘she said at some point “none of them meant anything. I just missed her so much.” Or words to that effect. The notion being that her infidelity was born of grief for Dulcie.]

DAMIAN: I think we can infer from some of the dialogue in the Club scene, along with the one earlier in the last series (PYLON) where Endeavour is talking to Max in his garden, that Max doesn’t meet any of his colleagues out of work. Although Endeavour and Thursday once often drank together at pubs during lunch or after work, isn’t it a pity that such seemingly lonely characters – lonely in their different ways such as Bright coping with his wife’s illness and Thursday’s marriage breakdown for example – they don’t spend more time together and do you think this isolation makes them more endearing to the audience?

ANTON: I think it’s something that certainly the audience will recognise because there is such a culture of – and certainly in those days – of not sharing feelings. Especially with men and I think people of a certain age will recognise that and connect to that and feel more familiarity with that isolation. We all know what that feels like and how difficult it is to break that habit – especially people of that generation.

DAMIAN: I mentioned Brando earlier, and we now know from various books and documentaries that he never prepared prior to filming during his later career – didn’t even bother to learn his lines – and yet, when he paused, took a moment or gave a certain look as he did in The Godfather or Apocalypse Now – it’s pure magic and electrifying to watch. Despite your protests to the contrary, I told you last time that you have that same sort of gravitas…

ANTON: NO, NO, RUBBISH – THAT’S NONSENSE!

DAMIAN: Well, I’m sorry but what I wanted to say was that you have that same sort of gravitas to command a scene. That’s my point and my question is to what extent can you as an actor with your vast experience rely of your little bag of tricks and does it become easier with age?

ANTON: Not at all. I don’t recognise what you’re saying about me. And, therefore I can’t rely on anything – I don’t rely on anything because I don’t believe it’s true.

DAMIAN: Come on now, in that club scene with Max there’s a moment where you take off your glasses and clean them and put them back on and I don’t think there’s any dialogue for a moment but it is electrifying…

ANTON: Well, that’s amazing and it’s lovely of you to say so but it’s not anything that I know how to do. It probably comes out of a moment of quite the opposite; of not knowing what to do and honouring that, do you know what I mean? A lot of the time, apparently, this is so fascinating – in life, in daily life – we have become socialised and habituated to moving around the world in a way that gives the impression that we know what were doing. The truth, if we’re honest about ourselves in our most quiet moments, is nobody knows the f*ck what’s going on! [Anton laughs wildly while I try to compose myself after hearing Anton use the F word]

You never know what you’re doing because you present – because of habit – you’ve created a persona and people ask who are you and you say. ‘Well I was born in such and such and I went to Drama school and that’s who you are. It’s a fabrication sustained through memory, habit, projections, and you walk around with this thing called a person that doesn’t actually exist, and actually, what really is there is that you’re just a body with thoughts flowing through and memories and some skills that you’ve learnt and… oh, I could go on about this for hours.

But to answer your question, what you see when you see something and think, wow – that was really amazing is me not covering up the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing at that moment.

DAMIAN: You’re too modest by far.

ANTON: Absolutely Damian, that is the truth! I mean I can accept – and this may be the answer to my own question about what it is that De Niro and Pacino have. What they do maybe is something to do with the fact that they’re brave enough not to use a trick or a mannerism or a way of speaking that they’ve learnt so what you get is pure vulnerability. It’s not acting – it’s revealing.

DAMIAN: That’s a very interesting way of looking at it.

ANTON: I don’t know if that’s true but it’s getting near to it because it’s just being willing to be there, to be naked in a moment and therefore reveal something that an audience will recognise in themselves. Sort of coping with life by presenting something. A person and actually when you stop, and usually it happens to us because of suffering or because life kicks us in the teeth or somebody dies or somebody you love leaves you, there are moments of absolute vulnerability and you get in touch with something real about what you are and maybe the actors that we like and we’ve been talking about have these mysterious qualities when they’re doing that to some degree. Consciously or unconsciously.

DAMIAN: I agree with all that and you’ve raised some really interesting points but I think I’ve researched and written enough about television to know good acting and what isn’t good acting when I see it. Now, there was a shot of you standing in your tiny little office smoking a cigarette and you look out of the window to Box who’s looking straight back at you so we get this marvelous shot of the two of you where you are both reflected in each other’s gaze…

ANTON: Yes, yes, yes – I do remember that.

DAMIAN: Neither actor is saying anything but you just look at Box and it’s a beautiful moment; very tense and yet very subtle as well. A lot of actors couldn’t do that as well because they’d overplay it.

ANTON: Well, I’m just delighted that that’s the effect and when I hear you say that it makes me feel it validates my trust in those moments when I don’t really know what to do and I can use that space and I can just be as honest as I can in that moment.

DAMIAN: As we’ve discussed, sometimes you’ll simply get what you referred to last time as a “very good, carry on”kind of scene but now you’ve got all this character development stuff. Is your approach or preparation to either of these any different – I suppose I’m trying to ask how you prepare for some of the more emotional scenes from this or the last series such as the tower collapse or Mrs. Bright’s illness?

ANTON: I know and I’m going to disappoint you I think Damian. I actually remember a scene that you will see this year which demands something on an emotional level that’s not like anything that’s happened before and just like the moment when I see the tower collapse or when I hear about the diagnosis, happily in my personal experience I don’t have a direct experience that I can draw on to replicate in any way. I remember saying to the director, ‘I haven’t got a clue about how to do this’ and she said ‘You absolutely know how to do it.’ And that did what this conversation is doing for me now, which is it just legitimizes the fact that even though I’m not the sort of actor who can go away and emotionally prepare in a Stanislavski way, something that happens which I am learning to trust more and more and more, actually in the moment – when they say action – that if I can be brave enough to let myself open up?

A bit like the difference between a hand being closed and a hand relaxing and opening. It’s like something inside and if I can allow it to just not grab hold of something to present to make me feel safe, you know like being emotional, or if I can say no and dare to just be open and vulnerable then again a space will be available for the audience to put their own version there. I can’t really give you any more than that. It’s a mysterious thing that I’m trying learn to trust more and love more because I think it’s a very precious thing to have you know?

DAMIAN: Well, it is and you should because when you say a line like ‘a moment’s courage or a lifetime of regret’, there’s this hypnotic power that we talked about earlier…

ANTON: As you’re saying that, I’m just thinking about that great scene in Taxi Driver – great moment of acting. Do you know that scene quite early on in the film where he’s trying to express something to the boss of the taxi company he works for?

DAMIAN: Yes, I know the film very well.

ANTON: They go out the back and there’s this kind of older man and it’s the most heartbreaking scene I’ve ever seen because you feel this kid is going to explode and this older man doesn’t know what to do.

DAMIAN: I think it might be the ‘I got some bad ideas in my head’ scene with Peter Boyle.

ANTON: Oh, it’s wonderful. It’s one of my favourite moments in cinema.

DAMIAN: Absolutely stunning film. Now, albeit only temporarily, do you think the moral downfall of Thursday last series suggests that all bets are off now as we edge closer to the end of the show and anything is possible in the future for the characters?

ANTON: Yes I do. I think that’s what’s so exciting because there’s so many sides to these characters that you couldn’t call it and you couldn’t say where they’re going to end up.

DAMIAN: At the end of the last series, my face – as I’m sure was the case with many fans – was absolutely beaming when Bright told Endeavour, Thursday and Strange that he’d be assuming command at Castle Gate. People really do care about these characters don’t they?

ANTON: Yes – it’s great. I know, people come up to me sometimes in the supermarket or at the train station and say ‘we watch it on television and we absolutely love it.’ And I just think that’s such a privilege to be involved in something that’s had that effect.

DAMIAN: Anton, thank you very much indeed.

ANTON: It’s a pleasure to speak to you Damian.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART III

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

EXT. CHIGTON GREEN/POST OFFICE/ROAD – DAY 1

The CHIGTON GREEN CLOCK – telling the time. Never too quickly. Never too slowly. Telling the time for Chigton…

A SIGN for: “CHIGTON GREEN” Here the green. There the duckpond. Shops. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Fishmongers. Post Office.

Well-tended houses and gardens. Garden gnome – fishing…

CONFECTION (S6:E3)

Trumptonshire: Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton

DAMIAN: This opening to CONFECTION was filmed with idyllic shots of the quaint village including a white picket fence adorned with red roses and the overture ends with Farmer Bell shooting Mandy-Jane with a shotgun. I wasn’t quite sure if I was watching Endeavour, an episode of Trumpton or David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. What mood were you and the director going for with this?

RUSS: Um… I think the picket fence was Leanne’s choice, as were the red roses. The Lynch probably more in her mind than mine – but I loved what she did with it. My only regret is that we ended up with the Roy Orbison and not her first choice. I love Roy Orbison — but the other track she ran with almost through to lock was a bit more kitsch and camp and torchy. A vocalist in the Kay Starr tradition… ‘Accused of stealing kisses, I’m guilty of the charge…’

DAMIAN: Preceding the scene where Endeavour meets Isla Fairford for the first time, you write that he ‘takes a moment – soaks up the atmosphere’ of the village which represents ‘a world and a life he left behind’. Not only is Isla obviously very attractive, but to what extent is Endeavour also attracted to the “notion” or “idea” of her and, rather ironically of course, the innocence she might represent in his longing for simpler times or the fact that he ‘grew up somewhere just like this’?

RUSS: What we were reaching for was a dull ache in his heart for somewhere – and more specifically – “someone” to call his own.

DAMIAN: Regarding the character of Isla, your script references Middlesex, a poem by Betjeman, with the following quotes: ‘Fair Elaine, the bobby-soxer, fresh complexioned with Innoxa… well-cut Windsmoor… Jacqmar scarf of mauve and green’. What was it about this poem that resonated with the character of Isla?

RUSS: Well — we were smashing together Christie, Trumptonshire, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in our creative Hadron Collider… and, you remember those wonderful illustrations across the opening of the Hickson Miss Marple?

The characters feel very late 40s through 50s. Actually – a touch of Long Weekend in there also. Mayhem Parva preserved in aspic. But there’s something sly about the eyes of all of them. And the Betjeman seemed to chime very happily as a short-hand for the kind of young woman she presents to the world. I think also – there’s a tiny echo of Barbara Shelley in Village of the Damned. Maybe a bit of Truly Scrumptious too. We were playing around a little with a Christie classic.

DAMIAN: In the Endeavour and Isla duck pond scene you write a line of action in the script that reads ‘One lonely heart lurches towards another.’ Obviously deceiving the audience is part of the game in murder mysteries but in reference to the cast and crew, do your scripts always tell the “truth” about a character or is there an equal objective to surprise those at the readthrough as well?

RUSS: Not the readthrough so much, as anyone’s first reading. By the time we get to that – most people are familiar with it. You want to convey in the stage directions the same experience the viewer will have when they see it for the first time. Physically and emotionally.

DAMIAN: The scenes ends with Endeavour asking Isla out on a date: ‘Look, I’m not really in the habit of, uh… – I just wondered if – perhaps – you’d care to go for a drink somewhere later… (a moment) With me.’ Is this supposed to be ironic considering Endeavour is exactly in the habit of falling for and attempting to romance wrong’uns?

RUSS: I think it reflects where he is at that point in his head. He’s not firing on all cylinders. He’s wounded emotionally. And a part of him has a fantasy of turning his back on the fight. Isla and her little boy are like a ready made, off the shelf family. He’s a weakness for those he perceives as vulnerable – so, of course, he’s drawn to her. Having failed to save his mother, he is compelled to try to save everyone else. As if in doing so, he might bring her back. It’s a nonsense – and childlike magic thinking, and I’m sure it’s all subconscious. But there’s a truth to the psychology of it.

ENDEAVOUR: I met someone. She’s got a kid. A boy. Five years old. It could be – I don’t know – something. (off STRANGE) Why not? Everybody else gets a shot – why should I be any different?

STRANGE: Because you are.

ENDEAVOUR: What if I don’t want to be? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? Something to come home to.

STRANGE: I wouldn’t know. Some day. Maybe.

DAMIAN: Isn’t it about time for a strange bedfellow?

RUSS: Ho ho. Well — we’ve seen him on a date, haven’t we? I think he gets by. But there’s nobody special at the moment.

Back in NOCTURNE (S2:E2)

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/POLICE STATION – DAY 4

ENDEAVOUR with THURSDAY…

THURSDAY: What’s this you were with Shepherd’s daughter at the pub?

ENDEAVOUR: It was just a drink.

THURSDAY: She’s a suspect. Christ, what’s the matter with you? Bat their lashes and you’re just…

ENDEAVOUR: I’ve got a life.

THURSDAY: Not on duty, you haven’t.

ENDEAVOUR: I wasn’t on duty.

THURSDAY: It shouldn’t matter. A copper’s a copper – first, last and always.

ENDEAVOUR: And where’s that got you?

THURSDAY – a kicked dog. Torn between shame and the urge to lash out. ENDEAVOUR instantly regrets the shot.

DAMIAN: Thursday lost all the money he lent to his brother, Charlie, there’s the marriage breakdown, the death of Fancy and then, of course, there was also the demotion. Was it the misadventures in his home or work life that was the final straw?

RUSS: I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at? In Thursday crossing the line? Oh – I think all of those things. He’s in a mess.

INT. PUB 2 – NIGHT 3

BOX: After the way they’ve treated you? I wouldn’t treat a dog like that. Christ, you must’ve noticed a change in your pay-packet? And you’ve still got a wife and kids to feed. (off THURSDAY) What’s next? They put you out to grass on some nothing job like old Reg? A man’s got his dignity, Fred – or he’s got nothing. Doesn’t make you a bad copper. Just makes you a smart one. Go on. Take the missus out this weekend. Treat her.

THURSDAY breaks. He reaches out – takes the envelope, and puts it into his pocket. BOX relieved.

BOX (CONT’D): Blimey. A minute there, you had me giving it two-bob, thrupenny bit.

THURSDAY: You and me both.

BOX: To be fair. I was no different the first time. Second time, you barely feel it. After that, it’s all gravy. Go on, then. Get ‘em in.

THURSDAY – his soul forfeit.

DAMIAN: As you are very well aware, fans have wondered about Mrs. Bright for years now. Years! So, wasn’t it a little cruel to the devoted curious that we finally meet her when she’s dying of cancer?

RUSS: Mmm. Rules of drama, old man. Come in as late as possible, get out as soon as you can.  It’s always been a case of how much screentime we have available.

INT. DINING ROOM/BRIGHT’S HOUSE – NIGHT 1

MRS. BRIGHT, (54), a great Society beauty, and the Deb of the Year in 1934, sits at the table – distracted. BRIGHT enters – bearing something lovely for her supper – which he sets before her.

BRIGHT: You are good to me, “Puli”.

DAMIAN: Why does she call him Puli?

RUSS: From their time in India. It means Tiger. For obvious reasons.

DAMIAN: Indeed. The scene in the film ends with ‘Oh ‘Puli’. I don’t think I’ve been a very good wife.’ and with a beautifully reassuring smile, Bright replies ‘No man ever had a better.’ In the script he has an extra line, ‘Is there… something you want to tell me?’ Either way however, and I thought he actually knew she was seriously ill before this, did you consider it more dramatic for the audience to learn about it from his conversation with Max rather than his wife?

RUSS: No – this was the moment she told him. I’d imagine the cut was more to do with timing. I think the question from Bright was possibly a case of crossed wires. Given their history, when she says ‘I don’t think I’ve been a very good wife,’ his immediate lurch would be the thought that she has committed some indiscretion, not that she’s about to tell him her number is up.

INT. MAX’S CLUB – DAY

MAX waiting. BRIGHT makes his way through the crowd. MAX stands to greet him.

MAX: Chief Superintendent.

BRIGHT: Doctor. It’s very good of you to meet me.

MAX: Not at all. What may I get for you?

BRIGHT: Oh – er… A brandy, I think.

MAX attracts the attention of a passing waiter.

MAX: Albert. A brandy, if you would.

WAITER heads off.

MAX: (CONT’D) They do quite a decent spot of supper.

BRIGHT: Excellent. Excellent. I’m sure.

MAX: Now – how may I be of service?

BRIGHT: I may rely on your discretion. As a medical man.

MAX: Always. Please. Speak freely.

BRIGHT: My wife has been diagnosed with cancer of the lungs. Inoperable, according to the specialist. She’s scolded me for an optimistic fool, but I wonder if you might recommend anyone from whom one could seek… a second opinion.

MAX: Well, there’s no better man in England than Sir Julian Fitzalan. I know him slightly and would be happy… (off BRIGHT’S reaction) Chief Superintendent?

BRIGHT: Julian is my wife’s specialist…

DAMIAN: I thought this scene was perfectly written, shot and performed – certainly one of my favourites from series 6. The scene heading in the script simply states ‘Max’s Club’ and I was wondering where and what this might be?

RUSS: Well — thank you. There’s a few Gentlemen’s Clubs in Oxford – but I think we were sort of leaning towards Frewen’s as a model – which is St.Aldate’s. Yeh — it was lovely to be able to have Anton and Jimmy share a two hander. And, of course, they both played it to perfection. There was a fair bit of weeping from certain hard-bitten crew members when the scene was shot, so that was a good sign.

DAMIAN: I’m presuming from the dialogue that this is the first time that the two have met outside of work -excluding funerals and suchlike- and we know from the scene in the garden at Max’s home that he and Endeavour don’t socialise either. Has Max not got anyone?

RUSS: Max’s private life is for the moment a closed book. It would be lovely to put some flesh on the bones. We saw a little more of Max in this run — his home, his club.

DAMIAN: Endeavour lost his father, Cyril, in HOME (S1:E4) but they had a troubled relationship and unlike two little boys I know extremely well, he wasn’t fortunate in having a special bond with his grandfather. However, he did have Thursday and that family unit of Fred, Win, Joan and Sam represented the happy home that Endeavour never had. Throughout series 6 Endeavour is ‘sickened’ by an ‘unrecognisable’ Thursday, never more so when he sees him drinking and smoking (a cigarette!) at the Indian restaurant with the Droogs. Endeavour suppresses the evidence in the suitcase that would have implicated Thursday in the conviction and hanging of the wrong man in the Clemence case at the beginning of series 6 – would he have done the same by the end of film 3 or the beginning of 4?

RUSS: Yes – I don’t think their friendship is thrown away as quickly or easily as that. Thursday in his way is punishing himself for Fancy. He hates himself because he blames himself for Fancy’s death – every bit as much as Endeavour blames himself — and I think the temptation with Box has to be viewed through that lens. It’s an act of self-harm. Almost as if he wants to be caught and punished for something. Anything that will bring an end to his torment.

The cigarette… He’s also feeling like yesterday’s man, and – I think you asked me in an earlier Q&A about why he puts away his pipe after glancing through to Box and Jago. Well — they’re the coming men – younger, The Sweeney in waiting… and they’re all on the tabs. Thursday suddenly feels his pipe is perhaps old fashioned. If he’s going to run with this mob, he’d better start fitting in. But I don’t think Endeavour gives up on him – or ever would entirely. There’s too much between them.

Endeavour is hurt and confused by Thursday’s uncharacteristic behaviour. Rog was adamant that he didn’t want Thursday’s crossing of the line to be a ruse or a wheeze – a wink to the audience – in order to get the bad guys – which is probably the line I would have erred towards. But it was just as important to me that he came to his senses of his own will.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sorry about the Disciplinary. You deserved better.

THURSDAY: I don’t know about that. Anyone should answer for what happened to George Fancy, it’s me. I was in charge.

ENDEAVOUR doesn’t know where to go with this THURSDAY.

ENDEAVOUR: Well – good luck with it, anyway. (a final throw of the dice) If you – fancy a drink some time..?

THURSDAY: Yeh. Yes, we, uh – we must do that.

Offered with all the conviction of one who has no intention of doing any such thing. Worse – they both know it.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: Why couldn’t Thursday reach out to Endeavour?

RUSS: It was important to illustrate that the relationship had changed. That they were no longer the happy few, the band of brothers from Cowley. And that was true with all the relationships. Bright – sidelined. Strange – making his way up the greasy pole. Endeavour and Thursday estranged. It was important that the audience shared in their pain.

ENDEAVOUR: My report. Syringe is in the bag.

THURSDAY: I’ll see the Guv’nor gets it.

ENDEAVOUR: Anything?

THURSDAY: Early days. You know how it is.

Seeing ENDEAVOUR in CID is more ‘yesterday’ than THURSDAY can bear.

PYLON

DAMIAN: ‘Yesterday’, hardly a coincidence given your frequent Beatles references and the aptness of some of the lyrics…

Yesterday,

All my troubles seemed so far away,

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh I believe in yesterday

Suddenly,

I’m not half the man I used to be

There’s a shadow hanging over me

Oh yesterday came suddenly

…but why did you want ‘Mad About the Boy’ playing at Thursday’s home?

RUSS: It just helped edge Thursday into the idea that perhaps he was losing Win too. If she was going off to ballroom with another man, and playing Mad About the Boy on the radiogram…  It all played into his lost equilibrium.

DAMIAN: You described Endeavour as the little wooden boy (in reference to Max acting as his conscience in the garden scene from APOLLO) in one of our previous interviews and after Isla is arrested in CONFECTION, you write that Endeavour ‘casts a look back at the house. Shepherd and Henry [Isla’s five-year-old son] in the window. Another unhappy little boy.’ Do you sometimes think of Endeavour as a little boy?

RUSS: Not particularly — but it’s a large part of what made him, isn’t it? There was a much bigger spat between Isla and Endeavour at the car — a literal spat, insofar as I think Endeavour got a faceful of saliva – along with some very damning words from her.

But Henry — felt very much like an echo of his own history.

DAMIAN: You’re very perceptive but circumspect regarding melancholy childhoods aren’t you?

RUSS: ‘I am not I; thou art not he or she; they are not they’ There’s a fair bit of mud to dredge. Long closed rooms and deserted galleries on the upper floors. But no more than anyone else, I’m sure. It would be a mistake to draw any particular conclusions from it.

DAMIAN: All of the previous film titles of series 6 were self explanatory but why DEGÜELLO?

RUSS: You know my fondness for Westerns. At one point – the night before the gunfight – which I’d intended to be a much larger set piece – at the Four Winds quarry – I had Thursday singing along with Dean Martin on the turntable – ‘My Rifle, My Pony and Me.’ from Rio Bravo.

It was a much bigger build up for all of them. Long dark night of the soul stuff. But ‘Degüello’ as you know was a bugle call ordered by Santa Ana at the Siege of the Alamo. I believe the more or less literal translation is ‘cut throat’, but it’s a signal that ‘No quarter’ is to be given. That the fight will be to the death, and that no prisoners will be taken.

EXT. CRANMER HOUSE ENTRANCE – DAY 2

SANDRA emerges into a world of swirling grey dust.

She gasps what seems to be her last breath – and collapses out of frame…

…into ENDEAVOUR’S arms.

ENDEAVOUR looks up the tower. Shocked. Traumatised.

DEGUELLO (S6:E4)

DAMIAN: Although Newham is mentioned, I couldn’t help but think of the Grenfell Tower tragedy during the Cranmer House disaster, especially with the casting of the mum and her young daughter. Indeed, your script specifically states they are ‘Afro-Caribbean’, was this on your mind too?

RUSS: I was working very late the night Grenfell happened and had the TV on for company. I remember seeing the first phone camera footage coming in, and it was clear straight away that it was an utter catastrophe which would result in terrible loss of life. We’ve all seen fires – but I don’t think any of us had ever seen anything to compare with that. Not here. The only thing that springs to mind is the R101 Disaster. Something that was instantly beyond human agency to contain. Watching it, one couldn’t comprehend that there could be such a conflagration without some sort of accelerant. And, of course, we know now that it was the cladding – without which it would never have gone up the way it did, or spread so rapidly or so fiercely. That this was happening in the heart of the capital…

So… But that wasn’t the inspiration, although, obviously, it certainly coloured one’s approach.  We’d considered developing a story that drew on Ronan Point the previous year, but then Grenfell happened and it wouldn’t have been at all appropriate. But I think the level of civil indifference and arse-covering by all responsible parties – which is still being covered – concerned with Grenfell fed into our story. Essentially, people died because money was deemed to be more important than their lives. They died because they were less well off than their neighbours. Because they were held to be of small account. One has to be careful what one says and writes about it because the Inquiry is ongoing and criminal charges may follow. But, to borrow a lawyerly phrase, if ‘one takes oneself out of this case’ and talks in more general terms… It does feel as if one has been hearing the phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ for the majority of one’s adult life. Meaningless hand-wringing and lip-service contrition. It’s interesting to compare the wholly unbelievable pack of lies some professional villain will offer from the dock with the elegant and expensive sophistry of corporations and government at national and local level. The latter groups would likely not consider themselves as in any way comparable to the former — but in the end if comes to down to this. They are both lying to avoid responsibility and consequence.

In part, when people like those in Grenfell die, they do so because successive governments – with the connivance of a sympathetic press – have sold the lie that we can have a functioning and safe society without having to pay for it. It’s forty years we’ve been chasing this illusion. The asset stripping of the UK plc. Of course — some people have done very nicely out of it. But they’ve always done very nicely, thank you very much. I think we had Thursday nod to it years ago. ‘It’s the same the whole world over, it’s the poor what gets the blame, it’s the rich what gets the pleasure, ain’t it all a blooming shame.’

DAMIAN: Indeed. Let us move on. Marvellously nefarious performance but I thought the character of Jago was terribly underwritten. I obviously understand why now but would it have been possible to develop him further so we knew a little bit more about him without giving the game away?

RUSS: Anything is possible, and we could have gone further in drawing him out, but I think we quite liked all the attention being on Box, with Jago appearing as not much more than his side-kick, only to invert that power dynamic at the last.

DAMIAN: Tell me about your original idea to include a flashback to the snooker hall with both Fancy and Jago and why it wasn’t filmed?

RUSS: I thought it might have helped the audience – but it wasn’t practical for a number of reasons.

DAMIAN: ‘Surprise, you couldn’t see me for Box’. Was Jago’s line improvised because it isn’t in the script?

RUSS: I would imagine that to be the case. I’d intended a much bigger shoot out – but the best laid plans, etc.

Once Upon a Time in Oxford

Four guns speak almost as one. BOX shoots JAGO. JAGO shoots BOX. ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY shoot JAGO. BOX and JAGO go down – JAGO mortally wounded. ENDEAVOUR kicks JAGO’s gun away, and watches the light die in his eyes – while THURSDAY sees to BOX.

BOX: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave you to it.

THURSDAY: I know.

BOX: Who’d’ve thought…

DAMIAN: In contrast to what was scripted, isn’t the scene as shot and edited rather more ambiguous?

RUSS: Is it? I’ll take your word for it.

DAMIAN: And, despite what both you and Simon Harrison told me in our interviews last year, he did redeem himself after all?

RUSS: We lied.

DAMIAN: Was this always part of his journey as planned from the beginning?

RUSS: There’s a certain amount of development as you watch some relationships and performances across the early films in a run.

DAMIAN: Why was series 6 the right moment to introduce the house we know from Inspector Morse?

RUSS: Well — the whole series he’s been looking for somewhere to call his own, after all the various flats and dossing in the office. But we also know he’s not exactly loaded — so somewhere that had been a squat with an unhappy history… there goes the neighbourhood. It felt organic that he might have come into his long term home by such means. He is forever surrounded by ghosts.

INT. LIVING ROOM/SQUAT – DAY 2

DULCE DOMUM sprayed on the wall… STRANGE’S attention lands on the graffito.

STRANGE: (mispronouching it, natch) Dulce domum.

ENDEAVOUR: Sweet home.

STRANGE casts an eye over the wretched state of the place.

STRANGE: No place like it.

DEGÜELLO

DAMIAN: What was the idea behind the Jag on the scrapheap which was then restored to its former glory by the end?

RUSS: It reflected where Endeavour and Thursday were at the start of the run — and, again, it felt right that the black Jag be restored to Endeavour by the end. Something put out for scrap – dismissed and disregarded by all for the next bang up to date thing — that felt very much like Endeavour. And like the house – it’s a hand me down. Something wonky in some way. But his affection for the Jaguar… looks set to be lifelong.

DAMIAN: ‘I hope this will become clear in the watching’ you told me when I asked about the moustache last year. Did it become as clear as you would have liked or would you have preferred the following not to have been cut:

ENDEAVOUR: You. I thought I knew who you were – but this past year, I barely recognise you.

THURSDAY: Nice tache. (which brings ENDEAVOUR up short) You’ve never been one to follow fashion. So, what’s that all about?

ENDEAVOUR: Seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t know. Maybe it’s like Nicholson. Living with something you can’t put right.

THURSDAY: George, you mean?

ENDEAVOUR: I couldn’t stand to wake up every day and look at the man in the shaving mirror. The face that’d… let him down. I thought… if it was someone else staring back, I could forget it. If it didn’t happen to that face – I could fool myself it never happened at all.

THURSDAY: Perhaps we’ve all been hiding one way or another. From ourselves. From each other. From George. You’ve always given me too much credit. I’m not what you think.

ENDEAVOUR: Yes – you are.

THURSDAY: Nah. I’m just an old flatfoot with too many miles on the clock.

ENDEAVOUR: What’s going on? This isn’t work. This is something else.

THURSDAY: I took a wrong turn, and it cost me. But I can see a chance now to set things straight.

DEGÜELLO

RUSS: Mmm. Again – I think this was a request. The boys – Shaun and Rog – asked for something which explained it. So, I wrote this exchange for them. Which, when they read it, they thought was too self aware.  Sometimes – less is more.

DAMIAN: Endeavour tried to forget the death of Fancy and Thursday took a wrong turn. In contrast, both Bright and Strange refused to be bribed and the latter never gave up on trying to get justice for Fancy. To what extent were Bright and Strange the real heroes of series 6?

RUSS: I think it was about the quartet – getting the band back together, overall. But, yes. It was lovely to strike those notes with Bright and Strange. And they were both hugely important. I don’t think one should imagine that Endeavour or Thursday had given up. Endeavour wouldn’t let it rest, either. They were both… winded, I think is the best way to look at it. What happened to Fancy hurt them both deeply — and knocked them back. They each have their strengths and weaknesses – but that’s what friends are for, isn’t it? When you stumble, they make sure you don’t fall. The reaction to it all was quite extraordinary though. People were getting quite cross that one had made them suffer for so long. But that had to be. If we’d just shrugged off Fancy’s death by the end of the first reel – it would have been pretty unsatisfying. By the time we got to the end, hopefully the audience had been on a credible emotional journey with them all.

DAMIAN: I’ve asked some of the cast this same question but I wonder what your take will be: albeit only temporarily, do you think the moral downfall of Thursday suggests that all bets are now off and anything is possible for the future of the show and its characters in terms of what the audience thinks they are ethically capable of?

RUSS: Yes, perhaps.

DAMIAN: What can you say about the last film of series 7, ZENANA?

RUSS: Er… There’s an advisory referendum… Lady Matilda’s college is exploring the notion of going co-ed. That’s the jumping off point. The good end happily and the bad unhappily. Or something like that.

DAMIAN: Will series 8 be the last adventure?

RUSS:  Nothing is written.

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you can remember much about our very first interview back in 2014 but I said it surely can’t be a coincidence that so much of your work features the police and detectives and you replied that ‘it’s mostly coincidence.’ Well, I was delighted to hear that you’ve scripted a new TV series and I was wondering what it was about?

RUSS: A very old friend from school – Andrew O’Connor – who amongst his manifold achievements has been responsible for Peep Show, and in the theatre is intimately involved in the Derren Brown shows – got in touch. He asked me if I’d be interested in adapting the tremendously successful Roy Grace novels by Peter James for television. They’re a very different kettle of fish to my Oxford adventures — leaning more towards thriller / procedural territory.  And they’re very much Peter’s stories. But they have a distinctive identity – set in Brighton. Grace is an interesting modern copper. They’re contemporary – which is something I haven’t done for a while. John Simm is playing Grace. So… Watch this space. More anon, no doubt.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed… oh, there was just one more thing. I know you’re familiar with the Cake Paradox but let me ask you about the Sandwich Dilemma. You’re having lunch at the Thursday house and Win has made a variety of sandwiches to show off her Monday to Friday range. However, you and a friend arrive a little late and there are only two sandwiches left: the cheese and pickle or the sandwich she makes for Fred on a Wednesday. Now, you’d really like to have the cheese and pickle but that would only leave the Wednesday Special for your friend and he or she might reveal the much discussed filling to the world! Which do you choose?

RUSS: The Wednesday Special, of course. 

DAMIAN: See you down the road?

RUSS: Until then.

We leave Russ there with his Wednesday Special, the weight of the world on his shoulders and the fate of Oxford’s finest in his hands. And what lovely hands they are too. ROLL END CREDITS.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: MATTHEW SLATER

An exclusive Endeavour interview with composer Matthew Slater

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: What makes a truly great TV theme?

MATTHEW: Well, that’s the 64 million dollar question. I think it depends on the time of the making of the program as well. Coronation Street has spanned decades without change, even when the style and tone don’t necessarily address a modern audience. The big tunes of Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em, Dad’s Army, Tales of the Unexpected and many more of the 70’s classics have such active melodic elements that one almost immediately can remember it. Therein I think that’s where times have changed a little. Strong melodic identity has now become possibly secondary to a robust sonic character.

DAMIAN: What are your top 10 most iconic TV themes from the 60s and what makes them so memorable today?

MATTHEW: That’s a tough one since I wasn’t born until 1974! I’m afraid I’m from a different era, and I would be cribbing if to create a top ten.

DAMIAN: Well, I was born a year later than you and that hasn’t stopped me from having a go! I also asked Russ for his favourite themes (he added that they arne’t by any means definitive – but rather amongst those that mean something to him) and we both came up with Star Trek, The Saint, Doctor Who, Stingray and The Avengers. His other choices were Randall & Hopkirk, The Prisoner, White Horses, Robinson Crusoe and Public Eye while my other picks were Fireball XL5, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Mission: Impossible. I would have also liked to include Batman but we’re limited to ten choices each.

Anyway, to what extent would you agree that the sound of many film and television scores during the 60s owed much to the popularity of the Bond films and the incredibly innovative work by the great John Barry?

MATTHEW: John Barry was an incredible composer beyond doubt. His style has continuously been nodded to throughout film history, and indeed I’ve done it myself in this series of Endeavour. There were so many great film and television composers around during that era. I think it was a real period of experimentation and development in terms of style, harmony and instrumentation. The fall in popularity of orchestral only scores, the use of new electronic instruments, big bands jazz scores etc.

John Barry.

DAMIAN: What about a top 10 from the 70s?

MATTHEW: Ah, now that’s a more straightforward question for me this time. In no particular order, I would have to say; Dallas, The Muppet Show, Fawlty Towers, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Open All Hours, The Good Life, Happy Days, The Wombles, Roobarb and Custard and Battlestar Galactica.

DAMIAN: I’d certainly agree with you on Dallas and Battlestar Galactica. Again Russ and I had some that were the same – Van Der Valk (Eye Level), Tales of the Unexpected and The Persuaders. His other choices were: Rockford Files, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Tinker Tailor (nunc dimittis), I Clavdivs, Thriller, All Creatures Great and Small and Catweazle. My remaining choices were: UFO, Space 1999, The Six Million Dollar Man, Return of the Saint and erm, Charlie’s Angels.

In what ways did the sound of scoring for television change from the 60s into the 70s?

MATTHEW: I guess for television, the increased use of electronic means of making music would have been down to the availability and more affordable means of access to music technology. So technologies out of reach for most TV composers during the early sixties would have become more accessible during the latter part of the seventies and an explosion in the eighties.

DAMIAN: And what are some of the most significant changes in how the music was written and performed back in the 60s and 70s compared with today and the work you do?

MATTHEW: Chalk and cheese, or rather a pencil and CPU. Mocking up a music score for a director or producer to approve consisted of playing a few ideas on the piano and saying ‘this will be the strings, this the brass etc.’ Now, with the level of technology at our fingertips, a composer can render a very close facsimile to what is going to become the final recorded score. Technology has become so unified to what we do now that it’s no longer possible to write purely traditionally as at some point a demo or mock-up will be required from a TV show to big-budget movie. A few composers are lucky enough to still work that way, but you’re really talking Hollywood giants like John Williams.

John Williams

That doesn’t mean the formation of the initial idea isn’t still a pencil and paper. I do work that way myself a lot, but at some point, it has to hit the computers now. Computers have enabled us all to work quicker, and the demands of television now mean shorter delivery periods.

DAMIAN: I know from our first interview that you often discuss the music in some detail with Russ, the directors and producers. Also, you are sometimes given a guide score by the editors, directors and producers. Given the nature of APOLLO (S6:E2) and the Supermarionation sequences, I was wondering to what extent the music for that was discussed during pre-production and filming rather than post and did the name Barry Gray happen to come up at all?

MATTHEW: To carve a score that nods to Barry Gray would have been obvious and what we do with Endeavour is to perhaps bow to a reference that helps set us in an era, but certainly no intention to reference too heavily. In this case, it was directed by Shaun, and he had an evident sound in mind from a previous episode I had scored for Endeavour, so we developed our ideas from a single tone and melodic element from another of our films.

Barry Gray

With the body of work now I’ve established quite a lot of the score is usually temp’d with my own work from previous scores. Occasionally a director will pool from other sources, and every music score I try to add something new, so the library grows each season. With APOLLO, Shaun was very keen that we worked the old fashioned way, spot the film with very little or no guide as we could chat and form ideas rather than be guided too much. Was a great experience.

Matthew with Kate Saxon who directed ZENANA (S7:E3)

DAMIAN: Each film has a different director so there’s always a fresh new visual look, do you ever have a disagreement with any of the directors regarding their particular take on how their film should sound and which you feel might not remain faithful within the music universe of Endeavour?

MATTHEW: No, never. It’s a significant team effort, and I think that anyone who comes into the world of Endeavour is always keen to keep that sense of team experience. I will always try to capture what a director, producer or executive producer wants, but the great thing about Endeavour is there’s a palette at the core. However, I’m always amazed by how much the series can take in terms of its musical development. It’s truly a joy to see what we can do next and to have the support and trust of the team makes that job so much easier to be bolder and more experimental while still existing within the Endeavour universe.

DAMIAN: You told me before in another interview that the application of music rather than the specifics of thematic, harmonic and textual content is of equal importance and the genius is in the placement of the music. Surely this is very subjective in nature so might this be a possible contentious issues between a director and a composer?

MATTHEW: It’s not as subjective as you’d think. The placement may shift a few frames here or there, or a music cue dropped or moved entirely, but that’s what the spotting session is for. Of course, things can develop through the writing and review process, but of the many great directors I’ve worked with on the series, there’s never really a contention. A discussion about how either might approach a scene, but you’d be surprised that when it fits, it tends to make everyone feel it’s right.

DAMIAN: I know that Shaun has visited the recording of the music in the past and you’ve mentioned that he already had a sound in mind for APOLLO, does he have lots of notes or just trust you to get on with it?

MATTHEW: As I’m sure you will have seen from many of the interviews with colleagues about Shaun that he knows exactly what he’s looking for but can keep that sense of collaboration between the team. From a composers perspective, it’s always been an excellent experience working with Shaun. He’s keen to allow the space for creativity, so it’s usually a discussion about the general feel we’re looking for the audience to experience, with some details about textures. After that, it’s pretty much over to me.

Rather than detailed notes, Shaun is excellent at focussing on what needs tweaking at the review session in person. So, Shaun will come over to my studio with producers, and we’ll go through the score after I’ve worked in any comments from Damien, Helen or our producer this series Jim. We work through the changes, I make them with everyone in the room, and at the end of the day the score is signed off and ready for the orchestration and music preparation process before getting the music in front of The London Metropolitan Orchestra, who bring it all to life.

Matthew conducting the LMO

DAMIAN: What are some of the most commonly used musical instruments in creating the sound of Endeavour and how might this have evolved to reflect the new decade?

MATTHEW: Endeavour has a very traditional background with Morse, the orchestra being at the heart of each score. Strings, piano and harp are pretty much the staples of the Endeavour sound. Less to do with the period change, I’d say I’ve introduced significantly more sound design and electronic characters to augment the orchestra to create new flavours and textures which are more where we all feel the score should go.

Howard Shore

DAMIAN: I have so many favourite composers but high on the list would be Howard Shore so I mean it as a compliment when I say that your scores sometimes have a The Silence of the Lambs or Se7en feel to them during the more tense and thrilling moments. I don’t know if you know what I mean but can you describe the style and what instruments are used?

MATTHEW: That’s incredibly kind of you to say so! Exactly how I’ve spoken about evolving the sound. Through more extended orchestral techniques, the use of synthesisers and electronic sound sources, expanding the orchestra to become something similar in size to films and treating each score more like a film score, than TV. These days I don’t think there’s a distinction as much as there used to be. People digest film and TV in so many similar ways that why can’t TV sound like a film?

DAMIAN: You’re often asked to experiment with themes, songs, cunning musical clues, historical references and, of course, there’s the classical music and opera. What do you consider to be some of your biggest challenges for series six?

MATTHEW: Series six seems such a long time ago now. The time between reading scripts and it hitting screens is six months or more. Bright’s staring moment on the zebra crossing was a new one for me, the childlike mystery moments in APOLLO was a new texture. I never see these as challenges really, it’s rare in a series to get so many opportunities to do something new and different in every film without it feeling out of character of the show overall. I guess that’s the genius of the story writing, acting and production that allows me to do that.

DAMIAN: Tell me a little bit more about creating the music for Bright’s Public Information Film in PYLON (S6:E1), it must have been fun to do the “If the Pelican can – then so can you” song?

MATTHEW: Yes, that was a bit of fun, a quick chat with Russ, a bit of humming and warbling on my part, and there it was.

DAMIAN: And what were some of the biggest musical challenges on series seven?

MATTHEW: There is a big trick we’ve done this year, and a few in Twitter Land and social media have started to twig, but no one has got it spot on, yet so I’d hate to spoil it for all our international friends!

DAMIAN: You’ve used the term ‘score personality’ to me before to describe the sound of an individual story. Which score from series seven would you say has the biggest personality?

MATTHEW: That’s like saying which of your children is your favourite! They are all so different this year, and yet there’s a running theme that we’ve never had before across an entire series and not just La Cura.

DAMIAN: I ask you this every year but are there any updates on when there will be a proper soundtrack of all the Endeavour scores released?

MATTHEW: It’s been lovely to have so many people ask for this, but sadly it’s not my gift to give. A few ideas are banding around, but as yet, nothing firm.

DAMIAN: Since we’re in the 70s now, what are the chances we can get a little bit of Geoff Love on Endeavour?

MATTHEW: Ha! I think you’d need to talk to one Mr R Lewis about that one.

DAMIAN: Matthew, thank you very much indeed.

MATTHEW: It’s always a pleasure and thank you for the always thought-provoking questions.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: JAMES BRADSHAW

An exclusive Endeavour interview with James Bradshaw

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: Our friend Dr Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn proved resilient to much of the culture and fashion of the 1960s but what are the chances of him succumbing to disco fever during the new decade?

JAMES: Well, I really can’t see Max going full Saturday Night Fever, but there are a few nods to 70s fashions starting to appear. Watching some of the news footage and TV shows from the early 70s, I noticed that everyone seemed to have long hair. Even serious politicians like Edward Heath had pretty impressive sideburns, so I did make a conscious effort to grow my hair. I told Russell I was aiming for a Rodney Bewes style bouffant. Viewers of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads will understand.

The wonderful ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ (1973-74) with James Bolam and Rodney Bewes (right)

I don’t think we are going to see Max strutting his stuff at the local disco, but there are hints in past episodes that he enjoys popular culture, in particular the Eurovision Song Contest, so I could imagine him happily tapping his feet to Mary Hopkin and Clodagh Rogers.

DAMIAN: What do you personally remember of the 70s; any key historic social, political or cultural moments that defined the decade for you?

JAMES: I was interested to read up on some social history about the early 70s before we started filming. It was certainly a time of much unrest and political upheaval, I mean, its incredible to think of the three-day-week happening today.

I was born in 1976, so my memories of the 70s are pretty vague, but I do remember some of the TV from that time, Tom Baker as Doctor Who, and Larry Grayson’s Generation Game. And Butterscotch Angel Delight was a culinary favourite. We moved house, and that was during the week of the 1979 election, so I guess that was a memory of quite an important political event.

EXT. MAX’S HOUSE – DAY

ENDEAVOUR on the doorstop. MAX opens the door — wearing a cook’s apron, and with a knife in hand, he looks as if he’s just stepped out of his mortuary.

MAX: (re: the knife) Nothing sinister. I was just getting a seed cake out of the oven.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: I was disappointed it wasn’t a rather large Raspberry Royale! Are you yourself fond of seed cake?

JAMES: I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten seed cake. I am quite partial to date and apple flapjack. And Raspberry Royale is always a winner!

DAMIAN: And what about a Whisky Mac?

JAMES: I’ve been teetotal for years, but I’m sure Max enjoys a tipple, Whisky Mac, a few bottles of wine over meals, and gin and tonics down the pub.

DAMIAN: I’ve been asking Russ why we can’t see more of the good doctor’s home and personal life for years, so, like me, you must have been delighted to see Max’s house in the script?

JAMES: Oh yes, I was!

DAMIAN: And albeit only his doorstep and garden thus far, is it how you imagined Max’s home to be?

JAMES: I always had an idea that Max lived somewhere peaceful and aesthetically pleasing, that offered sanctuary, so when I saw the cottage and the beautiful location, I thought it was just wonderful.

EXT. GARDEN/MAX’S HOUSE – DAY

A trug and a kneeler by well-tended flowerneds. Birdsong and the hum of drowsy bees. ENDEAVOUR amidst the floribunda – a long drink in hand. MAX comes out bearing a freshly baked seed cake, which he pops on the table.

MAX: Have to give it half an hour to cool. Well – this is a first. (re: drinks) Splash more?

ENDEAVOUR returns to table – MAX knocks up a Whisky Mac – scotch and ginger wine over ice.

ENDEAVOUR: Been here long?

MAX: Eight years? Yes. Eight years. Don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest. How d’you know where I live, by the way?

ENDEAVOUR: You’re in the book. (re: the house and garden) Nice.

MAX: I’m fighting a war of attrition with the greenfly over the tea-roses. Not very successfully, it must be said. But, yes – as a spot I’m rather fond. (a moment) Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?

DAMIAN: Don’t you think that both the passion for baking and his love of gardening was a great insight into how Max manages to keep his work and personal life at a safe distance?

JAMES: I loved playing those scenes. They were written so beautifully, and I think the niceties that Max has cultivated in his home life are encapsulated in that line, ’Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?’

DAMIAN: Later in the scene, Max says that ‘I shan’t flatter myself it’s altogether a social call…’ and as we discussed in our first interview, Max and Endeavour have much more in common with each other than many of his other associates and are both on the same cultural and intellectual wavelength. So, isn’t it a pity they don’t socialise more and why do you think that is?

JAMES: I am sure work permitting, they do socialise. And more so, as they get to know each other over the years. It would be nice to see them enjoying a few drinks and a chat down the pub.

DAMIAN: The following is the how the scene originally ended in the script but was unfortunately cut:

ENDEAVOUR takes his leave…

ENDEAVOUR: Thanks.

MAX: Any time. (a moment) Look, I’ve got to ask. What are you doing? Stuck out in the middle of nowhere?

ENDEAVOUR: Minding my business, mostly.

MAX: Are you? It was a bad go with George Fancy. Bad for everyone. The break up of Cowley on top of it. (off Endeavour) Somebody’s got to rally the troops.

ENDEAVOUR: But not me. Not me. Not this time. So, don’t ask.

MAX: They’re broken, Morse. I can put bodies back together again – but hearts..?

ENDEAVOUR: There’s not enough vinegar and brown paper left, Max. Not to fix us both. I can’t do it.

MAX: Then all really is lost.

DAMIAN: I asked Russ about this scene and he told me he thought of Max as acting as Jiminy Cricket to Endeavour’s little wooden boy. What are your thoughts on this and do you, like the other members of the principal cast that I’ve interviewed, find it frustrating that many precious scenes with so much insight are often cut?

JAMES: Jiminy Cricket? I like that!! Yes, I do remember that scene and I thought there was a lovely poignancy in those lines. It’s a shame it was cut but there are always going to be limitations with screen time, and storyline takes priority. You can’t take it personally, its all part of the process.

DAMIAN: And speaking of scenes getting cut – shall we dance?

INT. MORTUARY – NIGHT 5

MAX working – swabbing down the slab. Humming a happy hum. Footsteps off – JAGO together with GOG and MAGOG [McGyffin’s heavies] – who are in poor CID mufti.

JAGO: Evening, Doc. Got a request from the Yard to transfer this Binks body to London.

MAX: Hollis Binks?

JAGO: That’s him, aye.

MAX: I assume you’ve got your Home Office 127 (b) chitty – which authorises transfer from my keeping.

JAGO: Oh, yeh, Doc.

MAX: In triplicate and counter-signed by a magistrate?

JAGO: It’s all in order. (the penny drops) There is no 127 (b) chitty, is there? Doesn’t exist.

MAX: Alas. (a nod to GOG and MAGOG’s footwear) And if those muddy boots have ever seen Hendon, then I’m Carmen Miranda.

MAX takes up a blade from his tray.

MAX: (CONT’D) What does exist, however, is a Number Four scalpel and a lifetime’s experience of wielding it. So. Shall we dance?

DEGUELLO (S6:E4)

DAMIAN: It’s such a shame that this was cut because I would have loved to have seen Max “dance”.

JAMES: Yes, I remember that scene, I thought Richard Riddell was terrific as DS Jago, he brought a real menace to that role, so I was looking forward to squaring up to him in the mortuary. I remember there were a few changes on that script, and sadly it was cut before we started shooting.

DAMIAN: Again though, isn’t it scenes like this that reveal different layers to your character as I never would imagine Max to be quite so brave as to stand up to three bad guys?

JAMES: Oh, I don’t know about that, I think that underneath that sanguine exterior there is real moral fibre and a very steely resolve. His job requires a strength of character, and I don’t think Max would go down without a fight.

INT. MAX’S CLUB – DAY

MAX waiting. BRIGHT makes his way through the crowd. MAX stands to greet him.

MAX: Chief Superintendent.

BRIGHT: Doctor. It’s very good of you to meet me.

MAX: Not at all. What may I get for you?

BRIGHT: Oh – er… A brandy, I think.

MAX attracts the attention of a passing waiter.

MAX: Albert. A brandy, if you would.

WAITER heads off.

MAX: (CONT’D) They do quite a decent spot of supper.

BRIGHT: Excellent. Excellent. I’m sure.

MAX: Now – how may I be of service?

BRIGHT: I may rely on your discretion. As a medical man.

MAX: Always. Please. Speak freely.

BRIGHT: My wife has been diagnosed with cancer of the lungs. Inoperable, according to the specialist. She’s scolded me for an optimistic fool, but I wonder if you might recommend anyone from whom one could seek… a second opinion.

MAX: Well, there’s no better man in England than Sir Julian Fitzalan. I know him slightly and would be happy… (off BRIGHT’S reaction) Chief Superintendent?

BRIGHT: Julian is my wife’s specialist…

CONFECTION (S6:E3)

DAMIAN: I think this is one of my favourite scenes from the last or any series; written and performed to perfection.

JAMES: I’m so glad you enjoyed that scene, I thought it was beautifully written too, and working with Anton was a delight. Not only is he kind, witty, and wise, he has a wonderful generosity of spirit, which I think is priceless for an actor. And Leanne Welham directed that scene with such sensitivity. When you have days like that, you learn so much, and it really is an absolute privilege.

DAMIAN: The audience can infer that he doesn’t socialise with Bright any more than he does with Endeavour. Has Max got any friends to go out with?

JAMES: I am sure he has a varied social life, I imagine he plays Bridge and goes to concerts but as for real friendships, they are few in number. I imagine he would enjoy a platonic friendship with Dorothea, I could see them making regular trips to the Oxford Playhouse and enjoying saucy jokes and several large gins in the pub.

DAMIAN: You said in our first interview that ‘there is an eccentricity to Max, and a flamboyant persona, which is probably a useful device for steering clear of emotional attachments’. Would you say this extends to, and excludes, any sort of love life?

JAMES: Yes, I think so. There is no mention of a romantic partner and he lives alone. There was a scene in a previous film where Max was asked about the possibility of a recently discovered fatality being suicide, and I remember Max’s line, ‘Love’s very popular. The want of it. A broken heart.’ There was a lovely quote from Housman, and there was a real poignancy to that scene. I wondered instinctively if Max had perhaps had a brief love affair a few years previously which had ended unhappily.

ENDEAVOUR: Twenty-seven. What a waste.

MAX: Oh, he’ll have had his reasons, I expect. Love’s very popular. The want of it. A broken-heart.

MAX zips the remains into a rubber shroud — nods the MORTUARY MEN to cart the body off on a stretcher.

ENDEAVOUR: Where do you stand with all that?

MAX: Suicide?

ENDEAVOUR: Love.

MAX: Early in the day for metaphysics, isn’t it?

MAX holds ENDEAVOUR’s gaze a life-time long.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sorry, it’s none of my business.

ENDEAVOUR looks upstream – embarrassed. MAX’s eye is set on some far distant country where falls not hail…

MAX: ‘And one was fond of me: and all are slain.’

ENDEAVOUR’s tongue – never far from Housman – finds the closing line.

ENDEAVOUR: ‘Ask me no more, for fear I should reply.’

MAX – a wry smile.

GAME (S4:E1)

DAMIAN: You also mentioned that both you and Colin Dexter hail from Stamford in Lincolnshire and you later discovered that there was a surgeon operating at Stamford Hospital around the 1950s named Doctor Du Bruyn. Did you ever find out more about him and if he was the inspiration for Max?

JAMES: I found out quite bit of information about Doctor Du Bruyn. Apparently Max was based on him and also a consultant who worked in Peterborough. As I mentioned before, Doctor Du Bruyn was very well known in Stamford, and those who remember him, say he was much respected and well liked. I even have a photo of him in a book called Stamford Memories.

DAMIAN: And finally, do you still learn lines in your local cemetery?

JAMES: Of course! Preparation is everything in the acting game, so as soon as the script comes in, I’m straight down to that cemetery and learning the lines.

DAMIAN: James, thank you very much indeed.

JAMES: Thanks Damian.

NOTE TO THE READER: James told me during our first interview that he treated himself to a nice pudding from Marks and Spencer when he landed the part of Max. Curious ever since, James finally revealed to me at the previous Endeavour unit base that the pudding was a rather large Raspberry Royale!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: SEAN RIGBY

An exclusive Endeavour interview with Sean Rigby

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

BRIGHT: 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.

THURSDAY: Sir…

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.

THURSDAY: Sergeant…

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

ICARUS (S5:E6)

DAMIAN: Pretty rousing stuff but I never quite understood what Russ meant by ‘Cometh the hour. The one true friend…’ when I first read the script and why Strange was the one true friend but, of course, I certainly do now. Endeavour was almost impotent with denial and Thursday spent most of the last series edging slowly towards the dark side. So, not only was Strange the one true friend, but to what extent might he also be described as the one true hero of series 6?

SEAN: He certainly stepped up to the plate. He’d be extremely red faced at being described as a hero though.

Double doors give on to a narrow vestibule/hall – a hard bench against a wall. Facing the open doors – a drop-leaf counter beyond which, the suggestion of a back room, from whence OPERATIC MUSIC floods the building.

ANGLE – SERVICE BELL on the counter. Beyond – out of focus – a UNIFORM sits with his back towards us, typing at a desk.

A hand comes down on the Service bell.

VISTOR (Off-screen): Shop!

UNIFORM rises – comes to the counter, and we recognise – ENDEAVOUR in full Thames Valley blues – three stripes on his sleeve. And sporting a moustache. His visitor – STRANGE – a touch of Brylcreem. Three-piece suit. Chelsea Boots.

STRANGE: This is where you’ve been keeping yourself, is it?

ENDEAVOUR’S not going to make this easy. A distance has fallen between them. Things unsaid, and for too long.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: Brylcreem, three-piece suit and Chelsea boots! – whatever happened to those rather fetching tank-tops?

SEAN: Being a style icon requires constant innovation and evolution. Strange and I have shown the world the many faces of the humble tank-top. It was time to move on!

STRANGE: We’re still no nearer to finding who did for George.

ENDEAVOUR: ‘We’? I’m here. You’re there. He’s [Thursday] at Castle Gate. Mister Bright at Traffic. There isn’t a we – not any more – nor likely to be.

STRANGE: We said…

ENDEAVOUR: You said. I don’t blame you. Heat of the moment. Like the last day of school. Solemn oaths and giddy declarations. ‘We happy few…’

STRANGE: I meant it.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sure. But that’s not how it turned out. It’s never how these things turn out.

WIDE – two old friends, coffee table between them – the width of an ocean.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: I thought these and similar scenes in PYLON and throughout series 6 were beautifully written and, indeed, performed. He might not be as smart as Endeavour, but there’s no one more loyal and dependable when the chips are down than our Strange. Not only is he appalled by Endeavour’s attitude, but isn’t Strange also a little confused by it as well?

SEAN: The shock, and it was an extreme shock let us not forget, has affected them very differently. They are both grieving. Strange is using it as fuel whilst Morse uses it to build a wall around himself. It’s definitely confusing.

DAMIAN: Despite this, Strange continues to help Endeavour and even lies to ACC Bottoms towards the end of the film telling him that Endeavour belongs to one of the College Lodges in order to secure the transfer to Castle Gate. Why exactly does he do this; is it purely out of friendship or did he think Endeavour is more likely to pursue the truth about Fancy’s death if he’s stationed there?

SEAN: Six of one, half a dozen of the other. A less isolated Morse could prove to be more malleable.

DAMIAN: Also in PYLON, Endeavour pleads, ‘Look, you’re doing alright. Friends at the Lodge. Going places. You’re on the up. Just let it go.’ but Strange replies with ‘I can’t. I can’t’. Seemingly more than anyone else, why do you think Strange is so haunted by Fancy’s death?

SEAN: First and foremost, Strange cared for George. They were friends. For there to be no justice, no closure, is simply unbearable. His only way to emotionally deal with it is to make sure the culprit pays for what they did.

ENDEAVOUR: Who else knows about this?

STRANGE: So far – just us.

BRIGHT: Dr.deBryn was good enough to notify me and Detective Sergeant Strange first. I think – for the moment at least – such information should be contained amongst former City officers.

ENDEAVOUR: We’re a man shy, then. Aren’t we?

Awkward looks from BRIGHT and STRANGE.

DEGUELLO (S6:E4)

DAMIAN: Albeit only temporarily, do you think the moral downfall of Thursday suggests that all bets are off now and anything is possible for the future of the show – I mean, is there a real sense of not knowing what to expect when you read the scripts for the first time?

SEAN: I think that has always been the case. Narratively, stylistically and tonally the show has always been quite daring. Thursday’s journey is certainly an example of that. Russ has written real people. Real people do unexpected things. I’m always excited to open up a new script and see what trouble everyone has been getting into.

ENDEAVOUR: I met someone. She’s got a kid. A boy. Five years old. It could be – I don’t know – something. (off STRANGE) Why not? Everybody else gets a shot – why should I be any different?

STRANGE: Because you are.

ENDEAVOUR: What if I don’t want to be? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? Something to come home to.

STRANGE: I wouldn’t know. Some day. Maybe.

CONFECTION (S6:E3)

DAMIAN: I thought the characters of Bright and Strange really evolved in series 6 but I wonder if, considering we’re now well into the third and final act of Endeavour, if there’s anything you’d like to explore with Strange before the curtain falls – perhaps get a girlfriend considering he hasn’t been on a proper date since 1966?

SEAN: I’d like to see more of Strange the leader. The authority figure. Too busy for dates!

DAMIAN: I thought the series got a lot darker as it grew towards the end of the decade. Indeed, the fun and playfulness of scenes such as Strange playing the trombone and becoming one half of the odd couple when he shared a flat with Endeavour seem to be sadly long gone. Do you miss these aspects of Strange’s character from the good old days?

SEAN: I feel they are still a part of his character, just below the surface. I imagine the trombone is kept under his desk. For emergencies.

STRANGE: Back to the day-job, then. That was quite nice while it lasted. Bit like the good old days.

ENDEAVOUR: Which were they? Remind me.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: You told me in our first interview, ‘I’d like to think that Strange in the 1960s is very much trying to find himself. He is very sure of where he wants to go in the world but is still unsure of his footing within it.’ How do you see Strange in the 1970s?

SEAN: Harder. Tougher. Self assured. He’s his own man now.

DAMIAN: Sean, thank you very much indeed.

SEAN: A pleasure, as always!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: STEPHEN LA RIVIERE

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer, producer, director, puppet operator and editor Stephen La Rivière

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

INT. MOONBASE

Consoles with winking lights. The HERO of MOON RANGERS – square jawed MAJOR.ROCK RENTON with X1 the ANDROID and COLONEL CRATER, crusty old patriarch.

MAJOR RENTON: If only we could access Damian Michael Barcroft’s website from outer space. I wanted to read his interview with Stephen La Rivière about the making of the ‘Moon Rangers’ sequences for ‘Endeavour’.

Some electronic beeps — X1’s ‘VOICE’.

COLONEL CRATER: What did that box of wires and lights say?

MAJOR RENTON: X1 says if we can beam our signal off the asteroid, we might be able to find Barcroft’s Uniform Resource Locator.

COLONEL CRATER: His URL? Great Scott! It’s a billion to one-shot, but it might just work!

(Not quite as originally written – apologies to Russell Lewis)

CUT TO:

DAMIAN: Okay Steve – right, let’s go! Stephen, you’re a producer, director, writer, actor and, of course, a puppeteer best known for your work relating to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Supermarionation style of filmmaking. However, you were born in the eighties so must have missed most of their really iconic shows?

STEPHEN: If we’re talking original transmission, then I missed all of them. However, there was a HUGE revival in the early 90s – and, indeed, again in the early 2000s. It always surprises me that so many people have forgotten about the revivals – which were in many ways more successful than the original transmissions. The Tracy Island toy was the most sought after Christmas present for children both times. And it was quite a feat – perhaps one only really matched by the likes of Disney. Children were tuning into a show made three decades previously and accepting it as something of their time.

Having said that, I discovered the shows slightly ahead of their revival courtesy of my mother who bought a video of Thunderbirds from the bargain bin at Woolworths because she’d liked it when she was a child. And it seems to have been instant love.

DAMIAN: What shows do you remember watching as a kid that had their first broadcast in the eighties and how did they compare to favourites like Thunderbirds?

STEPHEN: On the basis of pure vanity, I’d like to point out that I’m sufficiently young enough to only have a couple of sketchy memories of the 80s as a whole! My memories of 80s shows were largely on repeat – and again they were shows like Thomas the Tank Engine that had artistic appeal that allowed them to live beyond their original audience. Thomas, incidentally, was produced by an ex-Thunderbirds model maker. Of my contemporary shows in the first half of the 90s… I watched stuff like Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Stuff that was entertaining enough at the time but no real longevity. I have nostalgia when I catch a glimpse of stuff like The Raggy Dolls etc. But that’s it really. Nostalgia. I wouldn’t watch these shows for enjoyment now – whereas the Gerry and Sylvia shows of the 60s are endlessly watchable.

The early 90s was a golden time to discover great shows of the past. Friday evenings on BBC 2 – Thunderbirds, Stingray, Doctor Who, The Champions, The Man From Uncle. Plus Channel 4 showed The Avengers. In 1996 ITV did a repeat run of Upstairs Downstairs. Lots of kids discovered Doctor Who during this time too – and loved it even though it was in black and white. Great television and films will never die, so long as new audiences are given a chance to see them. That’s the sad thing about Netflix algorithms – it reduces your chance of exposure to stuff you wouldn’t normally look for. Also the idea that ‘modern kids won’t like that’ is a nonsense. Children have no preconceptions at first – they’ll either enjoy something or they won’t. In many ways, they’re less set in their ways than adults. Early exposure is the key though.

DAMIAN: Can you describe your childhood, for example, were there other kids you could share your passion for sci-fi and fantasy with or were you something of an outsider?

STEPHEN: I was an outsider. In more ways than just my interests. Even at the peak of the revival I didn’t know anyone who liked the same things I did. I managed to get one friend briefly into Doctor Who – but I suspect he was as interested in Doctor Who as I was in football during the brief moment I ‘got into’ it. I.E. to have a shared interest. Also, I wasn’t really a sci-fi fan. Probably more of an old television fan. By the age of ten I was as content watching stuff like Upstairs Downstairs or I Claudius – which I believe a certain mutual friend was in – as I was anything sci-fi. My principal loves though were the Supermarionation shows and Doctor Who. My interest in Who has waned over the years, but my Supermarionation love… well. Need I say more? Anyway, the short answer is: no. I didn’t have anyone to share my interests with!

Through Century 21 Films, Stephen co-produced two new documentaries about the stories ‘Four to Doomsday’ and ‘Earthshock’ for the blu-ray release of Peter Davison’s first season of Doctor Who

DAMIAN: Were there certain characters from any of the Anderson productions that you identified with or perhaps aspired to be like?

STEPHEN: Not really. I’ve never really looked for characters who were like me – and my family background and life has been so odd I’d be surprised if I ever saw a character I could directly identify with. Nor have I ever needed it. Television was a great way to find cool people unlike you! Did I aspire to be like a character – yes. I always wanted to be as cool as Scott Tracy. That voice! Thunderbird 1! Unfortunately, some things are out of range. I suppose if I started smoking 50 a day now I might manage to get a voice like Jeff’s.

There’s a message that underpins many of the Supermarionation shows about helping others – and I think that did leave a lasting impression. I was in Japan during the big earthquake in 2011 and I think part of my desire to stay and volunteer was partly driven by that childhood message relayed in almost everything the Andersons made.

DAMIAN: I’d like to talk a little bit about finding an audience or readership and how the internet has opened up so many opportunities. What can you tell me about your first experiences and how these led to the documentaries and books?

STEPHEN: Well, I’m guilty to an extent of piggy-backing on someone else’s audience. The background to my production life really begins with the fact that I had an awful time at school – which culminated in three kids trying to knife me. So I left when I was 15 without any qualifications. And that immediately reduces your options. The great thing though about being an outsider as a child is that it gives you lots of time to watch TV! And so whilst I lack any formal film education, by sheer osmosis I think I learnt a lot about how to make films. DVDs – and consequently DVD extras – were becoming a thing at that time. I found out that Terrahawks was being released on DVD and suggested to the releasing company that they do some interviews. Somehow that led to me making something for them – my first credit. And that led to making more behind the scenes programmes. So my audience was stolen really.

I got a bit disillusioned with production in 2008 so gave it up permanently. I wrote my book Filmed in Supermarionation the same year – and then in 2010 moved to Japan. So the last five years back in the world of film, television and advertising has been a bit of a surprise. I was tempted back on a one-off basis because I was offered the chance to turn Filmed in Supermarionation into a documentary. Which in turn has led into something of a Supermarionation revival when we produced three new episodes of Thunderbirds for the 50th anniversary of the show. And my goal with that was not just to celebrate the past but to bring a new audience to what I believe is an art-form that is both beautiful and bonkers!

DAMIAN: In addition to the old cliché about being in the right place at the right time, to what extent would you agree that there’s usually some sort of kind mentor along the journey that helps with making contacts or offers sage advice?

STEPHEN: The self-made man is a myth. We all get through life with the help – and sometimes hindrance – of others. When I did the Terrahawks DVD extras I was out of my depth really. Kevin Davies – who designed the Terrahawks titles – was by then a documentary maker. He immediately clocked that I could do with some help. But he never humiliated me – just gave me little tips about things I could do. So I owe him a lot. And along the way there have been lots of people who have helped me. Including some who I met because I wanted to interview them. Thunderbirds director David Elliott, playwright Rosemary Anne Sisson, actress Jean Marsh, composer Alexander Faris – people I went to meet once, who then helped me in immeasurable ways. Like everyone else I’d like to believe that I’m completely in control, but I think the most you can hope for in life is to be the captain of a boat in stormy seas. You push in certain directions, but the tempestuous waves of a million different factors – people, circumstances, chemicals in your brain – earthquakes! – take you to places you wouldn’t normally end up.

DAMIAN: Well, Russell Lewis, being a huge fan of the Anderson productions himself, greatly admired your work and told me that he pointed the Endeavour team to you. How did you first hear the news that they wanted you to film the Moon Rangers sequences and what was your reaction?

STEPHEN: I got an e-mail one day from the producer, Deanne Cunningham. ‘I’m the producer of an ITV drama. I am trying to contact Stephen La Rivière about an episode we are currently planning involving supermarionation style puppetry. It would be great to speak to you about this if you have the time.’

I can’t imagine not having the time for something like this!

It was very exciting. The life of a freelancer is so often waiting for the e-mail or letter that will start a new adventure. A couple of days passed before I found out what it was about – during which time I’d resigned myself to the fact that maybe someone else had got the job. Not that we have any competitors as such as it’s such a specialised field, but the thought is always there.

When I found out and read the script I was very excited, but also worried. Linking up with another crew can produce problems. We worked on an advert for the Halifax in 2016 and I made the error of allowing them to choose the crew who would work under our advice. The crew were perfectly accomplished – but they’d never made anything like this before. The original Supermarionation crew were very clever. And it’s very difficult to film these puppets and models if you don’t know all the tricks that were used by the original Century 21 Films team. The Halifax crew – not used to practical miniature work – couldn’t understand why they weren’t getting the right results with their usual techniques and consequently it was a very stressful experience. So I was worried about a repeat of that experience.

And so as to rob this story of any tension and drama – Endeavour was the best experience possible. Just wonderful people to work with.

DAMIAN: So, you’ve got the job. Can you take me through the process of how you prepared the Moon Rangers sequences including the design of the characters, their costumes, sets and vehicles?

STEPHEN: We all met in London for an initial meeting and discussed ideas and approaches. I think to begin with both sides preferred to have greater control – which is completely natural. Production is difficult, stressful and costly and you want to get people you can rely on. So naturally they favoured as many of their own crew and I favoured as many of mine. What we ended up with though was a collaboration that – I think – worked out perfectly. My initial preference was that we should build the main set as the scale is really important, but understandably Paul Cripps [production designer] wanted to do that. And taking on board our advice I think he came up with something fantastic. It looks great on camera, whilst having the right sort of aesthetic.

On the flip side, Paul originally planned to do the puppets, but it made more sense for us to build them as our puppet makers are the experts in this particular style of marionette and we wanted to ensure everything worked as we needed. Though, having said that, we still managed to have a mechanical malfunction on the day that nearly drove me to a nervous breakdown. Which is something else I’d like to praise the Endeavour team for. I warned them that these puppets are very temperamental and reshoot time would be essential if needed. All of that was taken into consideration – which makes the whole experience so much easier.

So Paul designed the main puppet set – which matched aesthetically what I really wanted to go for. Even though the episode was set in 1969, I felt that Russell has perfectly caught in the dialogue the essence of Fireball XL5 and Stingray – which had that sort of weird late 50s / early 60s hybrid look.

Rock Renton and below: Steve Zodiac (Fireball XL5), Troy Tempest (Stingray) and Scott Tracy (Thunderbirds)

Paul also gave us sketches as to how he envisaged the characters. Rock Renton was made specially for the show by top sculptor Stephen Mansfield who sculpts all our new characters. Stephen took Paul’s design as a starting point and then translated that into the pre-set proportions of a Supermarionation puppet whilst adding a few influences from the original characters. I was really happy with the look of Rock Renton – he seemed to embody Steve Zodiac, Troy Tempest and Scott Tracy somehow. Once the sculpt was done and approved puppet maker Barry Davies built the puppet and installed all the mechanisms.

X1

The X1 Robot was again built following Paul’s initial design – but with slight changes that occurred as a result of using ordinary household objects. The head, for instance, is a paint pot! He was built by our effects team of Toby Chamberlain and Hilton Fitzsimmons and operated by Elliot Pavelin.

Luna
Colonel Crater

Luna and Colonel Crater followed Paul’s ideas more by chance than design in that we already had puppets that looked right. Paul wanted Colonel Crater to look like Morse creator Colin Dexter. We agreed that an existing puppet – who we’d had built for the new Thunderbirds episodes we’d made in 2015 – again sculpted by Stephen Mansfield – looked the part. Because of the pre-determined proportions of the earlier Supermarionation puppets, you can never really do an exact copy – so you aim to capture the essence. And the puppet previously known as Dawkins seemed just right for the job.

Luna was a previously unused puppet – sculpted for (and deleted from) the Halifax advert by Marina and Lady Penelope creator Mary Turner. Given Luna is an homage to Marina it seemed almost serendipitous that we could provide a puppet sculpted by the same person.

Paul also included some costume sketches. The costumes were made by our costume lady, Liz Comstock-Smith. She followed Paul’s design for the main uniform, whilst the final look of Luna was influenced by some rather fabulous flowing fabric Liz found. Supermarionation is a very organic process – whatever you set out to do morphs across the different elements of production. Not just because of the creative whims of the team – but because the puppets are so specific in what they require. In the case of the costumes, the fabric and construction has to be perfect to allow the puppet to move freely.

On the special effects front, the rocket was kit-bashed by Hilton Fitzsimmons who built two models – just in case we needed to blow up two. Paul arranged the staging and drapes needed for the SFX shots – and had some rather nice moon craters built. The stage was dressed with sand for the drama shots – but we substituted that for other materials when it came to the effects shot itself for a better effect.

We were on set for a week in total. The drama sequences were shot on the Wednesday and Thursday – and then we took over the stage to shoot Moon Rangers. Both puppet and model sequences were shot on a vintage Mitchell on 35mm film by Boyd Skinner our expert DOP who knows all of the lighting and lensing requirements. Malcolm Smith came into do the pyrotechnics (which were very loud). Again, Malcolm is an expert in producing the right sort of explosions that work in miniature. He also has to plan out the timing of each shot precisely because we shoot at high speed. So a 5 second detonation is in fact only 1 second in real life.

The model shots were done in sections. The landing and initial detonation, the collapse, and then various shots of detonation – which had to culminated in the foam of the extinguisher in order to take us back into the main drama. I was very conscious that we were an elaborate, but small part of a big drama and tried to make sure as much as possible that our bits would integrate into the main action.

I can’t stress enough how much of a genuine collaborative effort this was. We were all in constant touch checking with each other that we were getting what we wanted. From my side, I wanted to be providing the show with what its production team wanted. From their side, they were respectful of making sure that I got the things I needed to make sure we ended up with an authentic looking, affectionate homage – not a badly made parody that cheapened the original shows.

I hope that what we ended up with is a true marriage between Russell’s written vision, Shaun’s directorial vision, Paul’s design vision and my vision of how to do new Supermarionation work that doesn’t harm the original shows, but brings a new audience. And given the reaction online – I think we succeeded. In the year since Apollo went out, we’ve been inundated with requests not just to bring Thunderbirds back, but to do full series of Moon Rangers!

Stephen with David Elliott and Mary Turner above them

DAMIAN: How did puppeteer Mary Turner and director David Elliott who both worked on the original Thunderbirds become involved?

STEPHEN: I’ve known Mary and David for the best part of 20 years – I first met them as a young fan wanting to know how the shows were made. Going to Mary for puppeteering seemed natural – not just because she was there, but because she understands television puppeteering. It needs to be subtle as the camera amplifies everything. She was joined by Géraldine Donaldson as the supervisor (she ensures that all the puppets are prepared, dressed, styled and working) and Elliot Pavelin – who worked as a lip-sync operator and puppeteer. Although to be honest we all do a bit of everything really. My co-producer Andrew T. Smith not only looks after the running of the whole operation, but puppeteers, lip-sync operates, sorts out camera problems. We all have to be all rounders!

As for David when we began production on the three anniversary specials of Thunderbirds, he asked if he could direct one. It hadn’t occurred me to ask because it’s a huge strain and he was 84. I hesitantly agreed and… he sat down in the chair and five decades fell away. It was like he’d never been away. He did some amazing work for us.

For Endeavour, I wanted to puppeteer too, and so it made sense to have David on set too. Originally it was to have a second pair of eyes focussed just on the action to make sure we were getting everything – but he’s so full of good ideas it can’t help but be a collaboration. So even though I got sole credit, it was actually both of us – some shots are his, some are mine. One of the shots was actually the idea of my co-producer, Andrew T. Smith. It really is a very collaborative process. If someone’s got a good idea we use it!

It wasn’t just David and Mary – David Graham, the voice of Parker, provided (uncredited) the voice of Colonel Crater. Mary and David Elliott are in their 80s, and David Graham is in his 90s – so I think I might have the oldest working film crew out there!

The dialogue was recorded at Hackenbacker in London. Nigel Heath gave us a fantastic 60s microphone set-up so we could get the authentic sound. Justin T. Lee provided – again uncredited – the Scott Tracy-esque voice of Rock Renton.

DAMIAN: What was Shaun Evans like to work with as an actor and a director?

STEPHEN: As I said earlier on, one of my great concerns about this was having a repeat of the Halifax experience – trying to work through another director. But Shaun said that I should direct the Moon Rangers bit as it was a specialised form of filmmaking. So my level of respect for him is huge. Not every filmmaker has the lack of ego to be able to say, ‘Actually, it would be better if we let this person do this bit’.

That’s not to say Shaun had no involvement – everything done was to service his show. But ultimately, this was one long special effects sequence involving specialised knowledge and it was fantastic that we were allowed to get on and do the things we needed to do.

A specialised sequence like this – in the middle of a big production with its down demands – could have been a nightmare to get right. But it was just a pleasure. Nearly two years on, I’m still surprised to be able to say that as it’s so unusual!

DAMIAN: Who gave the best performance – the puppets or the human actors?

STEPHEN: Given that Rock Renton broke down – mechanically, rather than mentally – for three hours on the shoot day, I’d say the actors. Definitely more reliable. Though, like many temperamental stars, I don’t think any of Rock’s problems showed up on screen.

I would like to highlight one puppet performance though that I loved – Colonel Crater collapsing. Mary Turner operated Crater and her comic timing reduced everyone to fits of laughter. Which on a stressful, complicated day is something we all needed!

DAMIAN: Russ visited the studios at Twickenham for two days and said that they were amongst the happiest he’s ever spent on the show. However, from your perspective, I wonder if having the writer there watching you perform was a little nerve-racking?

STEPHEN: I think many creatives suffer from Impostor Syndrome. The idea that you shouldn’t be there. So on that basis, I like keeping everyone away so I have time to fix the problems before anyone notices. And boy – do the puppets come with lots of problems. Paul Cripps suddenly wandered onto the set unexpectedly when we were having problems with Renton – and I wanted to die from shame. I mean, I know the puppets come with these problems – they either work beautifully, or they’re bastards. Even Gerry used to call them ‘little bastards’. But it worries me that to people who don’t do this on a daily basis that they think it’s incompetence, rather than the nature of this type of fiddly filmmaking.

I was delighted Russell could come down. Not least so I could express my admiration for the script which I think is genuinely very clever. In one minute it totally distills the essence of those shows. And it’s enormously quotable. Amongst my crew it’s easily the production we reference the most.

DAMIAN: You know, I think Russ actually found the experience very moving and not just because he’s a fan of Stingray, Thunderbirds and the other Anderson shows, but he told me that watching you work reminded him of when he was a kid making 8mm stop-motion films with Action Men. Essentially, as an artist, would you agree that you’re not only operating the puppets, but also gently holding people’s childhoods in your hands?

STEPHEN: Yes! Absolutely. And I’m very conscious of that in everything we do. We’re playing in a toy-box that deserves respect. My only intention with everything we do is that we tell the audience – new and old – that these shows were fantastic. Of everything we’ve done, I think Moon Rangers has done the most to promote that idea. We have big plans for Supermarionation – and Moon Rangers has really helped us on that path.

DAMIAN: Was it your idea for Russ to have the little cameo?

STEPHEN: Actually, I think it was Géraldine’s idea – our puppetry supervisor. The hand insert wasn’t in the script – but the script made quite a bit about the human sized props. So I thought it’d be fun to do a human hand sequence not least because everyone remembers them. But also, it would serve the main drama plot. As we were preparing for the shot Géraldine said, ‘Wouldn’t it be a nice idea to give Russ a cameo?’ So she went away and made a sleeve for him out of a bit of the remaining puppet costume material and he came onto the set to play Rock Renton. It’s a lovely touch. We were also able to film a bit of Russell on set with the puppets as we were at the end of the reel – hopefully a nice memento for him of the day.

Thinking about that day I feel so warm towards the experience. That’s the magic of these puppets – despite the frustrations of production – there is just a magic of stepping onto those sets and seeing the characters live.

DAMIAN: What’s next for you and Century 21?

STEPHEN: Stand by for action… We’ll be back. We just can’t say anything about it yet!

DAMIAN: Stephen, thank you very much indeed.

STEPHEN: No, thank you. I’m not blind to the fact we were 1 minute of a much-loved series. But as I’ve said to everyone else until their eyes glaze over, I loved the whole thing. Normally old work makes you wince – but I’m hugely proud of my tiny part in Endeavour.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART II

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Special thanks to Stephen La Rivière

INT. VENDING MACHINE AREA/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

BRIGHT at his solitary repast – nosing through a newspaper with an APOLLO HEADLINE. THURSDAY arrives.

THURSDAY: Giving the canteen a miss today, sir?

BRIGHT: I was just… uh… (re the Apollo headline) Extraordinary thing.

THURSDAY: Yes, it is. Hell of a thing. Brave as you like. I was a boy when Alcock and Brown crossed the Atlantic. Everybody said that couldn’t be done. Fifty years on, and it’s the moon.

BRIGHT: ‘Man’s reach’, Thursday.

DAMIAN: Russ, what do you remember of July 1969?

RUSS: My chief recollection is peering at a black and white TV and trying to make sense of the images thereon. Was the touchdown beamed back live – or is my mind playing tricks? The pictures were quite difficult to process for my young mind. Quite abstract. Oblique views of the lunar surface.

But there was a great air of excitement about it all. My maternal grandmother was as old as the century, and it’s mad to think her life encompassed both the Wright Brothers first powered flight, and then – sixty-six years later – she was still alive to watch men walk on the moon. Quite staggering. Having seen Alan Tracy do his thing in Thunderbird 3, one might have been a bit blasé about it, assuming that – ‘well, of course, the moon is nothing special. Thunderbird 3 goes there all the time.’

E/I. THE MOON/SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

The surface of the moon. Pockmarked with craters. Buzz Aldrin’s ‘Magnificent desolation.’ The blast of deceleration rockets – and a spaceship descends to the surface.

The space-ship crashes in a tremendous explosion… A moment – and a couple of STAGEHANDS enter frame with fire extinguishers to put out the flames… WIDE – and we see the MOON is a model set.

DAMIAN: The second film of series 6, APOLLO, was something of a love letter to Gerry Anderson and the Supermarionation style of filmmaking. Can you tell me what shows like Thunderbirds and Stingray meant to you as a child?

RUSS: I guess, along with the films of Ray Harryhausen, they furnished my imagination. I would have watched them in black and white, I suppose – first time round. Like most of the country, not having a colour TV. But, yes, I was completely in thrall to the worlds created in each of those shows.

DAMIAN: Also, some of the puppets such as Lady Penelope and Marina were strangely alluring to young boys weren’t they?

RUSS: Marina, perhaps. Lady Penelope… not so much. As a child I found her rhotacism a bit off-putting. I was fascinated by the imagery in the end credits of Stingray – across the “Marina” theme. Exquisitely shot. These felt like images that could have come from a big budget, high production value movie. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the mood and imagery for Pulp’s Hardcore video has been a bit of a touchstone across the last couple of Series — which in turn took its inspiration from a coffee table book called Still Life edited by Diane Keaton (yup!) and Marvin Heiferman. I’ve got a pretty battered copy, but it’s filled with stills and publicity shots from Hollywood movies between 1940 and ‘69. There’s something very strange and staged about those shots – oddly lifeless and artificial — and often sinister, in a kind of David Lynch/Twin Peaks way. There’s something about the kind of world that they’re trying to depict which rings utterly hollow. They’re what the mind of someone who has lived an unsophisticated life imagines the sophisticated life to be. Do you know what I mean? It’s like what children imagine a King’s life to be. Ice cream for breakfast, lunch and supper, delivered on silver salvers by periwigged flunkies in buckled shoes – illustrated by Quentin Blake.

And… this does get back to Marina and Lady Penelope, I promise you… In the UK, there was that same brittle Soho glamour abroad after the war. Telephone accents. Ruth Ellis. It’s there in Betjeman’s Song of a Nightclub Proprietress — that piss elegance that pretends to something it isn’t. Del Boy Trotter’s ‘Bonnet de douche’. That’s probably a bit unfair on Del Boy – but Hyacinth Bucket is close to the mark. And I think that’s certainly true of Lady Penelope. It’s a suburban imagining of the aristocracy. Ha! You remember that scene with Jane Fonda in Klute where she goes and monologues the fantasy of the old gentleman in the Garment Factory. He’s come from the old country, and the fantasy is all about Fonda’s trip to the gambling tables of Monte Carlo, it’s all dripping with Euro decadence and the ‘pagan’ feelings stirred in her by some older man in the casino. And it’s a fantastic scene – but again, it’s that level of pretence. It’s no accident Lady Penelope ends up in Monte in The Man from MI.5. And that’s there in the Marina montage as well. Candles melting in a Chianti bottle. A vision of glamour that most of us could only dream about in the UK. But it was bogus. Ersatz. Rank Charm – as they say.

DAMIAN: You visited filming at Twickenham studios for a couple of days and I believe the first was with Shaun directing the human actors. You’ve obviously known Shaun for a long time now but what he is like as a director?

RUSS: Thorough. Prepared.

DAMIAN: Did the two of you have any significant creative differences on this film?

RUSS: Not that I recall, specifically. But what goes on tour…

DAMIAN: Shaun’s first foray into directing was a couple of years ago now, do you think he always had ambitions to direct an episode of Endeavour and why do you think he wanted to direct this particular film?

RUSS: Well – he didn’t want to open the batting – first time out, and the only film available to him to direct was the second in the run.

DAMIAN: Have you ever thought of having a go behind the camera?

RUSS: I’m already insufferable enough.

DAMIAN: Not you, sir. The second day of filming at Twickenham involved the puppet sequences. Now, I’ve often tried to get you to pick a favourite child and you always refuse. However, you must have something of a special soft spot for this film?

RUSS: I enjoyed the puppets very much. Getting up close and personal with Stephen La Rivière’s wonders. His team is fantastic, and I could happily spend the rest of my days doing nothing but working with them. What I adored was that it took me back to making my own 8mm stop-motion films as a kid. Then – Action Men were my cast, brilliantly poseable for animation – but it was in essence ‘bringing one’s toys to life.’ And there was an element of that with the puppets and the vehicles. Obviously, compared to the budget they’d had on the commercials they’d done, we could offer nothing like the same resources — but, clearly, when they’d been doing their Thunderbirds at 50 films, I don’t think they were awash with money, which brings me to my point — they have retained a very healthy sense of make do and mend, and most importantly, the only thing that matters is what’s in the frame. Does it tick all the rules boxes? No. Does it work? Does it look fantastic? Absolutely. That chimed very happily with my approach to making things. I adore sleight of hand. The movie and TV magic. What you thought you saw, you did not see.

He and they have such a genuine reverence for the original way of doing things, and a touching affection for those who broke that ground first time around… Having David Elliot and Mary Turner on the floor – and seeing Mary manipulating the puppets from the ‘Bridge’ over the set, as she had done for Anderson nearly sixty years ago… For those of us to whom such a moment might mean something… It was extraordinarily moving.

DAMIAN: Is this why you chose this film to make your first and only onscreen appearance?

RUSS: First do no harm. It was Stephen’s idea. And it kind of fed back into the make do and mend approach. At first, I think, we’d built the cut to the human hand into the story – and explained it in dialogue as part of the plot. There was a lot more about guns and blanks and live rounds early on, as a way of explaining why more than one person would have tested positive for firearms residue. But there we are. I was always very conscious as a kid of the cut to the live human hand pulling a lever or pushing a switch – and I think I wrote about that in the stage directions. Geraldine – Stephen’s colleague at Century 21 Films – had an offcut of material left over from Renton and Crater’s costumes – literally, a fragment of cloth, perhaps with a bit of braiding, was it? – and I was sewn into that to create a bit of cuff. Just enough to deceive. The ONLY thing that matters is what’s in frame. And away I went. A career in hand modelling beckons… And not a moment too soon.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the atmosphere on set with Stephen La Rivière and Century 21 working their magic?

RUSS: Well, as I think I’ve mentioned, it meant a lot. To be on the floor with Stephen and his team, and of course David and Mary. Really was amongst the happiest days I’ve spent on the show. That the shoot took place during the heatwave merely added to the fun of it. The studio – with the lights blazing – was stifling. We were the Alec Guinness Bridge on the River Kwai ‘Sweatbox’ Re-Enactment Society. As the late, great Neil Innes said when I saw him play at the Marquee some forty years ago, ‘The sweat’s running down the cheeks of my arse like juice from a rhubarb tart.’ But if I could spend the rest of my days doing that… it would be no contest.

DAMIAN: You mention Barry Gray’s music in the script and his contribution to the Anderson productions can’t be overstated. Any particular favourite themes or songs?

RUSS: Stingray is sensational. And I’m very fond of Joe 90.  The organ line is marvellous. I also like the vocal version of Captain Scarlet by The Spectrum – who supposedly performed it (or mimed to it) on The Golden Shot. I’d love to know if there was any truth in that. The vocalist to my ear always sounds like Ray Brooks – who narrated Mister Benn. Marina is a stone cold classic. The mighty Thunderbirds theme. But with a lot of these, it’s the incidental music that haunts the mind. Some of the stuff on The Uninvited – the strange Thunderbirds story set around a pyramid.  Madly, I always feel like I catch echoes of it in some of the arrangements in The Specials early work — Ghost Town in particular – those brass stabs, and the flute figure always sound very Thunderbirds to my ears. Barry Gray’s music did so much of the heavy lifting in terms of mood and scene setting. In much the same way that our own Barry – and now, of course, Matt Slater – bring so much to Endeavour. Their music has saved our blushed more times than I can remember.

DAMIAN: Was it the idea to incorporate the Apollo 11 moon landing or the Supermarionation aspects of the story that came first?

RUSS: Oh – the Moon Landing. It would have been a natural exit point for the series as a whole – as the pinnacle of human achievement.

INT. SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

A puppet Moonbase. Consoles with winking lights. The HERO of MOON RANGERS – square jawed MAJOR.ROCK RENTON in a scene with X1 the ANDROID (a ROBOT), LUNARA – one of the Moon People; and COLONEL CRATER, crusty old patriarch.

COLONEL CRATER: Barbara’s not only my daughter, Major, but she’s also a renowned Astro-Physicist in her own right.

MAJOR RENTON: I warned her not to go, Colonel. Now, she’s out there somewhere on the dark side, with only thirty minutes of oxygen left.

COLONEL CRATER: Don’t blame yourself, Rock. She was determined to get that space-flu vaccine through to the miners at Station X19…

DAMIAN: Tell me about creating these characters, the choice of names and if you needed to do much research or does hokey dialogue just come naturally?

RUSS: They were kind of Stingray-ish, really, weren’t they? Alliterative for Troy Tempest/Rock Renton. The name Renton had stuck in my head for fifty years — I think there was a character called Rod Renton in either Secret of Zarb or The Terror of Tiba – these little books I had when I was a kid. Spitfire Books. I’m not sure if they were for younger readers or just pulpy – but they were all genres… cowboy, war, adventure… and the pair in question were sort of secret agenty. The kind of story where each of the buddy-buddy heroes had alliterative names.

DAMIAN: Note the book logo – Tigers were everywhere in the 60s.
RUSS: I think the chap in the fez and robes on the cover fed into stage directions for supporting artists at Bixby’s party in RIDE. We just added the horse-hair fly-swatter. A shilling!  Money well spent.

And Crater was a version of Commander Shore from Stingray. What we were reaching for with Moon Rangers though was a show that had already passed its sell-by date. Anderson had moved away – with Captain Scarlet – from the larger headed marionettes of the earlier productions to more properly proportioned puppets. And it was important for us that our studio – Heaviside – was still flying the old flag – that it was slipping behind the times. I know Stephen La Rivière has much greater affection for the Stingray/Thunderbirds era puppets. And I do see his point. While Scarlet and Joe 90 were much more realistically proportioned, it was at a cost of what could be done. The puppets in those two shows ‘walk’ or move far less than those in Thunderbirds and Stingray. You’ve got Lieutenant Green on his slidey chair – and Colonel White behind his rotating desk. They’re much more static. It’s a choice. You feel the later shows, including The Secret Service from 69 – which was half live action, half puppetry – were consciously trying to shake off their origins. I liked the darkness of Scarlet a lot, and I’d dearly love to find a way to deliver a version of it — but the artistry and scale of Stingray, together with the hopeful message of Thunderbirds, really makes them the yardstick, and what people tend to think of when they think of Century 21. The particular gait of the puppets, which has been providing comedians with much mileage for over half a century. News recently came through of the death of Alan Patillo at the age of 90. Writer and director for many of Anderson’s shows – his work was quite remarkable. In tribute, Stephen tweeted a link to the climax of The Perils of Penelope. Really — it’s a masterclass in suspense. Absolutely brilliant. A sequence of which Hitchcock or Spielberg would be proud.

DAMIAN: Jeff Slayton, CEO of the fictional Heaviside studios, describes Moon Rangers as a sort of ‘Bonanza in space’ which, of course, reminded me of Star Trek. Now, you often mention the Prime Directive whenever I ask a question regarding Endeavour’s past – typically with reference to Susan Fallon. I obviously understand that the Prime Directive in Star Trek means that Starfleet personnel are forbidden from interfering with the natural development of alien civilisations but can you clarify what is meant when you use it in reference to the Morse universe?

RUSS: It’s [also] Doc Brown’s warning to Marty, isn’t it?  We can’t do anything in the past which might change the future.

DAMIAN: Will Susan Fallon ever appear in Endeavour?

RUSS: Well, she sort of already has. She is standing in the group of mourners at her father’s funeral. We just didn’t pick her out or have her see Endeavour, as it felt that might undermine what they have to say to each other in Dead on Time.

LAZARETTO (S4:E3)

DAMIAN: Of course, APOLLO wasn’t all puppets and explosions, and although we’ll discuss some of the key moments regarding Endeavour and Thursday when we conclude our discussion on the themes of alienation, change, guilt and paranoia next time, I wanted to highlight two of my favourite scenes in this script. The first continues from where we began earlier at the vending machine:

THURSDAY: All well, sir?

BRIGHT: A sobering thing to discover so late in life that one is considered a fool.

THURSDAY: Not you, sir.

BRIGHT: Oh, yes. I’m under no illusion. I am a figure of ridicule. To be openly mocked and scorned. (off THURSDAY) This Pelican! — is an albatross around my neck. Someone even mentioned it to Mrs.Bright at Canasta the other evening. People laugh at me behind my back, and even to my face.

THURSDAY: More fool them. Seems to me we’re in the business of keeping the Queen’s Peace and preserving life and limb. This campaign of yours – you’ll probably never know how many lives you’ve saved. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe – by the time it’s done.

BRIGHT: I’ve always been able to rely on you. Well — I must meet a representation from the Oxford traders. Up in arms over parking restrictions.

BRIGHT goes. THURSDAY watches after him.

DAMIAN: Wonderfully played by both actors but Anton’s pause after ‘I’ve always been able to rely on you’ and the poignant look on his face was so moving and beautiful. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but this is the sort of scene, maybe because it doesn’t involve Endeavour or drive the mystery plot forward, that might easily have been deleted in the earlier days of the show. However, I’m confused as to why the following brilliant “best not go there…” scene which does feature Endeavour was not filmed in its entirety and much of the really insightful dialogue not included. Was this simply because of our old enemy screentime or a creative difference perhaps?

INT. CID/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

THURSDAY and BOX in BOX’s office. ENDEAVOUR and JOAN keeping an eye on FLORA and MATTHEW — sister helping her brother with his drawing on a blotter. JOAN at the window – eye on the glimpse of moon in the darkened sky.

JOAN: Mad to think there’s people up there. Right now. That someone could have looked out of the window like this and thought – ‘Right. We’re going there.’

ENDEAVOUR: “This was the prized, the desirable sight…” (off JOAN) Sorry. Being clever again. It’s always occupied the human imagination. Understandable, I suppose. But strange, all the same.

JOAN: Strange?

ENDEAVOUR: That something so far away and seemingly out of reach could bear so great an influence on one’s life. Even when you can’t see it. It’s still there. (best not go there…)

RUSS: It was shot. Shaun didn’t care for it and asked me to write another scene – which is the one that was broadcast.

DAMIAN: Finally, what can you tell us about tonight’s film, RAGA?

RUSS: The 1970 General Election is a backdrop. All in Wrestling has a part to play. Greeks Bearing Gifts had a notional influence upon it. It features an Indian restaurant, so probably best avoided by those who bleat about ‘Political correctness gone mad.’

DAMIAN: Just one more thing; you’re having tea with a friend and there are two cakes left on the plate – a large one of a kind you very much like, and a smaller, dry looking one. Which do you choose?

RUSS: Neither. I’ve never been fussed about cake.

DAMIAN: Please yourself.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

So, Russ is a hand model now is he? Hmm…

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART I

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

‘I’m afraid I see little of anyone in Traffic, but you’re remembered – often. All my old Cowley gang. You, Inspector Thursday, Sergeant. Strange. Constable Trewlove. And young Fancy, of course. Absent friends. Not yet a year, and already our City days seem a lifetime ago. But there we are. A new decade just around the corner. Well, I must get on.’

Bright to Endeavour from the shooting script of CONFECTION (S6:E3)

DAMIAN: Recalling our very first round of interviews back when we were both still in shorts, I remembered you told me that Bright was ‘a man even more out of time than most in the 1960s’. Indeed, the same might also be said of Thursday, so I’m wondering how on earth the two of them are going to survive the 1970s?

RUSS: There is of course nothing to say that they will. But I think you’re asking about cultural and societal changes. Hot pants. Punk. The mind boggles. There was a little bit of Sir Robert Mark, I think, underpinning the creation of Bright. ‘If you drove like that, you’d deserve to be called…’ And one wonders what he might have made of a Day-Glo Mohican (Mohawk – for our friends across the Big Water) and bondage trousers. Gobbing. I think Thursday might wonder if such was what he fought a war for. The answer – of course – is that such is EXACTLY what he fought a war for. Perhaps, in truth, they’d have taken it all in their sagacious stride. From their end of the telescope – I can tell you – that one tends not to sweat the small stuff. And most things are filed under small stuff.

EXT. STREET – DAY 1

A couple of KIDDIES skip home from school. Off: the bingly-boingly tune of an ICE CREAM VAN. Kids stop and react to see:

Across two streets – at right angles — an ICE CREAM VAN parked up. The KIDDIES come to the kerb between parked cars. Traffic races past. As they start to cross — a gentle hand comes down on a shoulder…

BRIGHT: (Off-screen) Stop!

KIDDIES look to find BRIGHT beside them.

BRIGHT: (Cont’d) Wait a minute. Not so fast. That isn’t how you cross the road. If you step out here you could get badly hurt – or worse. Come along. Come with me.

DAMIAN: The first film of the last series, PYLON, opens – unusually – with Bright and your storylines for series 6 offered the opportunity for Anton Lesser to explore his character in many new dramatic ways. Was there a particular motivation on your part to make series 6 the year for Bright to shine?

RUSS: Well, I’d say Bright always shone. My admiration for Anton Lesser – as an artist and as a human being – knows no bounds. You know of old that his history is something I’ve been trying to include for several series. We got a hint of it with Dulcie, I think, at the end of series 5. A lot of people had been asking about the much mentioned Mrs. Bright, and wondered whether she was going to be another Mrs. Mainwaring or ‘Er Indoors. So it was lovely to meet her at last – albeit we were joining them at a moment of crisis.

DAMIAN: Bright’s Public Information Film is rather tame in comparison but do you remember how truly terrifying some of the actual ones made in the late 60s and early 70s were?

RUSS: I have several DVDs of Public Information Films — and half remember shooting one as a kid. But, yes, there were some terrifically sinister ‘Stranger Danger’ ones. Mummy Says – cut out animation pieces. Children’s artwork cut up and animated – with a child’s voice over. A sort of precursor to the much sampled ‘Charley Says…’ series. I think we all went around in the 60s and 70s in more or less a permanent background state of trauma and anxiety lest ‘a man’ offer us sweets or a ride in his car to a private viewing of some puppies. If said viewing took place adjacent to OPEN WATER or… a PYLON!!!!! Well… there you are. The Pelicon/Pelican crossing PIF was also animated. So we added Bright, a pelican and a catchphrase. Speaking of which…  ‘Clunk-Click’ I suppose covered all bases, insofar as you had a Road Safety PIF presented by an absolute danger to livestock.

BRIGHT: (Cont’d) There might not be a police officer or lollipop lady to help you cross the road, so always find a safe place to cross at a designated pedestrian crossing. And remember! “If the Pelican can – then so can you!”

BRIGHT salutes. Musical sting – “If the Pelican can, then so can you!”

DIRECTOR: (Off-screen) And… cut.

Off CAMERA – a Public Information Film Crew about its business. A few BYSTANDERS watching the fun. ‘Checking the Gate’ &c. The PELICAN WRANGLER moves in with a bucket of fish. BRIGHT – the star of the show – ignored.

BRIGHT: (to the DIRECTOR) Was that alright? You know, I’m not sure I would salute…

DIRECTOR: (Off-screen) It’s in the script.

DAMIAN: It’s in the script! – if only that was the policy of all directors. This lovely end to the original opening scene with Bright was cut but was there ever a concern as to what extent a character of such dignity and respect should be humiliated by his demotion?

RUSS: No. Not in the slightest. As you say – knowing quite how much dignity and his place in the world meant to Bright – to cast him down from a high place into something quite else was integral to the design. He was hurt and humiliated and it hurt us to see him brought so low.

DAMIAN: Is Shaun Evans a ‘It’s in the script’ kind of director’?

RUSS: Well – it’s funny isn’t it…  A scene that ends with ‘It’s in the script’ – having that bit cut out in the edit. If I remember, Damien Timmer [executive producer and joint-managing director of the production company, Mammoth Screen] felt it was too arch and knowing. So — no director was responsible for that particular dropped stitch. We’ve been very well served by our directors, amongst whom I’d number Shaun – and I’m enormously grateful to them for all they bring to the party. I’d also refer you back to the two signs on my office wall — ‘Television is a collaborative medium’ and ‘Collaborators will be shot!’

EXT. ROAD/SERGEANT’S HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST – DAY 2

A high, lonely stretch of road. Summer fields. Distant PYLONS. A BLACK ZEPHYR comes into view. It slows and pulls off the road outside a SERGEANT’S HOUSE – the only building for miles. A PANDA car parked outside.

CUT TO:

INT. FRONT OFFICE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST

Heat gone from the day. The soft long light of a late summer’s evening falls on a patch of wall spotted with POLICE ‘PUBLIC INFORMATION’ POSTERS – bathing all in gold and lime…

…Double doors give on to a narrow vestibule/hall – a hard bench against a wall. Facing the open doors – a drop-leaf counter beyond which, the suggestion of a back room, from whence OPERATIC MUSIC floods the building.

ANGLE – SERVICE BELL on the counter. Beyond – out of focus – a UNIFORM sits with his back towards us, typing at a desk.

A hand comes down on the Service bell.

VISITOR: (Off-screen) Shop!

UNIFORM rises – comes to the counter, and we recognise – ENDEAVOUR in full Thames Valley blues – three stripes on his sleeve. And sporting a moustache. His visitor – STRANGE – a touch of Brylcreem. Three-piece suit. Chelsea Boots.

STRANGE: This is where you’ve been keeping yourself, is it?

ENDEAVOUR’S not going to make it easy. A distance has fallen between them. Things unsaid, and for too long.

DAMIAN: Alienation, change, guilt and paranoia. These are the words that I would use to describe series 6. We’ll perhaps come to some of the others later, but let’s discuss change for now. It’s 1st July, 1969 and, as scripted, you describe a demolition scene complete with wrecking ball and three new high-rise tower-blocks in various stages of completion beyond. Later, Thursday is about to light his pipe but changes his mind and you end the description of this scene simply with the words ‘Out with the old.’

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/CID/POLICE STATION – DAY 9

THURSDAY in his office — filling his pipe. As he goes to light it… He looks across the way to BOX’s office – wherein; BOX and JAGO laughing it up – clinking drinks.

THURSDAY shakes out the match – lays his pipe aside. Out with the old.

Now, I appreciate the more obvious elements such as the fact that we are in a new police station and find many of the characters in new positions, but I also wondered to what extent series 6 might be seen as the beginning of the final act of Endeavour while also memorialising a bygone age of innocence?

RUSS: Yes, I think that’s right. George Fancy – the death of a young colleague – was to my mind the end of the innocence. They’d all taken their knocks – one way or another – and bore them each alone. One can bear one’s own pain — because whatever the level of personal discomfort – emotional or physical – one knows it’s finite, typically. But something like George… That’s something none of them can fix. That’s with them now. Always.

INT. COACH (TRAVELLING) – DAY…

ENDEAVOUR’s POV: through breaks in the ragged hedgeline, distant glimpses of that city of cupola and aquatint…

ENDEAVOUR stares out of the window. The music swells, soaring cor anglais in excelsis…

EXT. OXFORD – DAY

Towers and spires float above the treeline. An aching, giddying, tremulous beauty. Eden before the fall.

Excerpts from First Bus to Woodstock (Shooting draft)

DAMIAN: Eden before the fall. You have created such a rich and rounded world that I almost find it hard to imagine a time when there was only Inspector Morse and Lewis. However, recalling one beautiful day back in January 2012, when a young and sanguine Morse was first introduced to the world, I have a sense that both he and the show were a lot more optimistic in 1965 than 1969. Given some of the more recent storylines – for example, series 5 which Damien Timmer would call the “angry” year – and the resulting character developments, do you think you were also a lot more optimistic as both a writer and a person in 2012 than you are today?

RUSS: Oh, I’m always optimistic. Always. Take the long view. We’re an extraordinary species. Right now we’re in the middle of a f*ck-awful catastrophe of our own making – but we’ll fix it.  It’s what we do. We’re the problem solving ape. And supposedly uniquely the only type with mortality salience. Awareness of Dying (1965) is good on this. So, the remarkable Greta Thunberg gives cause for hope. The Extinction Rebellion. It feels like we are standing upon one of those fulcrums of history that come along every so often. The way we’ve lived is – to coin a phrase – unsustainable. Also – that old saw, we must love one another or die.

INT. CID/POLICE STATION – DAY 3

ENDEAVOUR exits the lift and comes through to CID OFFICE. The place is buzzing. Phones ring. CID scurry hither and yon. The air thick with cigarette smoke. A moment as he takes it all in.

DCI BOX’s OFFICE off the main drag. THURSDAY’S considerably smaller office. He crosses to a MURDER BOARD — O.S. MAP of the area pinned there. PHOTO of ANN KIRBY. ENDEAVOUR sets an evidence bag down. THURSDAY enters – comes across…

ENDEAVOUR: My report. Syringe is in the bag.

THURSDAY: I’ll see the Guv’nor gets it.

ENDEAVOUR: Anything?

THURSDAY: Early days. You know how it is.

Seeing ENDEAVOUR in CID is more ‘yesterday’ than THURSDAY can bear.

DAMIAN: Both as scripted and shot, how significant is it that the audience first see the new police station, Castle Gate, from Endeavour’s perspective?

RUSS: Absolutely key. We wanted the audience to experience it along with him – and share in his sense of alienation. Change is always unsettling.

DAMIAN: I mentioned paranoia earlier and when I interviewed the production designer of series 5 and 6, Paul Cripps, we discussed how Alan J Pakula’s paranoia trilogy of Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976) influenced the look and feel of the new CID set. Why were these important to you and how do you think the influence manifests itself in the finished films of series 6?

RUSS: Ah, dear Paul — top man. Certainly the intent was to have a chillier milieu, something lacking the warm, woody tones and cosiness of Cowley. Looking at my pictorial history of Oxford City police, we did draw on the real world new station that seemed to come in with the change from City to Thames Valley. We’ve always wanted it to feel like something that’s evolving naturally – rather than something preserved in aspic.

DAMIAN: And are there any films or television that might have served as visual references for the production designer, Madelaine Leech, this year on series 7?

RUSS: Um… Oddly… Don’t Look Now – a little bit.

Don’t Look Now (1973)

DAMIAN: From your own experience and perspective of the 1970s, which historical, social or cultural events shaped the decade?

RUSS: Crikey. How long have you got? Heath government. Three Day Week. Blackouts. Joining the EC. Oil crisis. ‘75 Referendum. That summer. Jubilee. Winter of Discontent. And then the great misfortune. But across it all – ‘The Troubles’ – as we euphemistically call them. Like a running sore. Blood and dirty protests and hunger strikes and Long Kesh, and knee-capping, and tarred and feathered, and Guildford and Birmingham, and Balcombe Street, and the Disappeared. All of it seemingly played out against the World in Action theme tune. Beyond that – the ever present threat of nuclear annihilation. But I wouldn’t want you to think it was all fun and laughter. The New Economics Foundation – a think tank that does such things – looked into it, and, having looked into it, came to the conclusion that, based on an index of social, economic and environmental factors, 1976 was the best year on record for the quality of life in Britain. I think that The Good Life and Fawlty Towers landing the year before, and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin being broadcast in ‘76 (Rising Damp and Porridge were also running) may have had something to do with it. Perhaps it’s all down to Leonard Rossiter.

But there certainly was a sort of confidence in the air. Abigail’s Party was almost upon us. What market-research nodes and New Labour would later distill as an ‘aspirational’ mindset. We touched upon it a bit in APOLLO [S6:E2] with that Lotus Eater swinger set. An internationalism seemed to be in play. The uptake in foreign package holidays was really getting into its stride.  Jeux Sans Frontieres – which we also nodded to. A sense that we were part of something different and that different was exciting. Beverly’s penchant for Demis Roussos is on one level wildly funny – but as with putting the red wine in the fridge, we are being invited to laugh at her pretentions towards the cosmopolitan.

You’ll also notice around the middle of the decade that ads for things like Campari – ‘Were you truly wafted here from paradise?’, Martini and Cinzano were suddenly everywhere. The Cointreau Christmas ad. All of this spoke to an exoticism – a world beyond our shores. Britain was on the up.

DAMIAN: And looking back at First Bus to Woodstock right up to the end of series 6, were there any historical, social or cultural events that you would have liked to have squeezed in from 1965 to ‘69 but weren’t able to for some reason or another?

RUSS: The death of Hancock. On one level I’m sorry we didn’t mark it – but on another… in our through a glass darkly world, I like to think The Lad Himself is still out there, the fictional Anthony Aloysious St. John Hancock, sometime actor, and general chiseller. There was a grain of hopeful, canine optimism in Galton & Simpson’s version of Hancock that somehow eluded the real man. Well – there’s booze for you. Don’t do it, kids.

HRH PRINCE CHARLES (Voice over): “I, Charles, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and truth I bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks.”

DAMIAN: Why was it important to include the investiture of Prince Charles?

RUSS: It’s a memory. My old man was from the Valleys, and was in Wales for his annual fortnightly family visit/holiday at the time of the Investiture. He brought me back a Welsh flag. We had a commemorative mug, too, that I remember. In terms of the design – it’s a handover, isn’t it — or a least the foreshadowing of one. Though one imagines Endeavour has a lot shorter wait to come into his estate than the Prince of Wales.

DAMIAN: As with many aspects of the country at the moment, opinion seems divided regarding the Royle Family. Do you think a character like Endeavour is less likely to be sympathetic towards the monarchy than, say, Thursday or Bright?

RUSS: Well, I think we’ve seen Bright’s starry-eyed encounter with Princess Margaret [ROCKET, S1:E3]. And there would have been a deference hard-wired into Thursday, I suppose. Endeavour – ambivalent at best.

STRANGE: Back to the day-job, then. That was quite nice while it lasted. Bit like the good old days.

ENDEAVOUR: Which were they? Remind me.

DAMIAN: The delightful little social or cultural references in your scripts often resonate with people who personally remember the 60s or 70s and PYLON has quite a few but what really struck a chord with me was simply ‘Mrs. KIRBY pops three fish-fingers under the grill’. Can you describe the smells coming from your kitchen during the late 60s or early 70s?

RUSS: As you know, my domestic arrangements were singular — so the kitchen was more redolent of the Long Weekend. Another slice of gravy, anyone? Our kitchen was a death trap. Health and Safety… just wasn’t a thing. That I am here at all is pure luck. Smells coming from the kitchen? Boiling lard. Seriously. Boiling lard. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet with Endeavour — but the rise of the DEEP FREEZE, so beloved of serial killers, is on its way. Whole livestock carcasses. WHY? Oh, it was a bargain, was it? Suddenly, a dead sheep is on the premises – dismembered and resembling something reclaimed from the tundra permafrost. Arctic Roll? You’re darn tootin’.

INT. ENDEAVOUR’S FLAT/SERGEANTS HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST – DAY 2

Above the shop. It’s seen better days. Some drinks later.

STRANGE: So, what’s the Blues all about?

ENDEAVOUR: CID closed a month after I got to Woodstock. Budget. It was uniform or nothing.

STRANGE: You could’ve gone elsewhere.

ENDEAVOUR leaves that possibility hanging – unanswered…

DAMIAN: Since Endeavour left that possibility hanging, could you perhaps answer on his behalf please?

RUSS: Of course, he couldn’t. He had unfinished business.

… ENDEAVOUR: What about you?

STRANGE: You know me. I’m doing alright.

ENDEAVOUR: There was a piece in the Gazette about an Inter-Departmental something or other.

STRANGE: The Inter-Departmental Forward Strategy Steering Committee.

ENDEAVOUR: Steering what exactly?

STRANGE: Resources. Man-power. It’s a sort of ‘quasi-managerial anticipatory role.’

The management speaks rolls trippingly off the tongue, as from one to the manner born…

DAMIAN: Sometimes a figure of fun but always a thoroughly decent and dependable chap. The beautifully written transition from the Strange in GIRL (S1:E1) to the one we see in THE DEAD OF JERICHO is happening so gradually and subtlety but to what extent are his advancements attributable to the Lodge or his own good character and hard work?

RUSS: I’m enormously fond of Riggers and of all that he’s brought to Strange. He’s a fearsomely good young actor. I’ve seen him on stage, and I can tell you, with Strange we barely scratch the surface of what he can do. Yet we may, Mister Frodo – yet we may. As with all our company, we’ve been enormously fortunate — and I really do admire and respect young Mister Rigby. He’s an absolute gift. His level of preparedness and professionalism… Anybody out there would be lucky to work with him. We see a lot more of Strange in Endeavour, of course, than we ever saw of Jimmy Grout in Inspector Morse. And that’s given us the opportunity to feather in some history beyond that in the series or in the novels. I think he’s hugely able, and that we’ve barely begun to tap into his talents as a copper and a detective. The Lodge has its part to play — but Strange is no fool trading on a funny handshake and an apron. 

STRANGE: (lightly) Seen the old man?

ENDEAVOUR: I called the house a few times. Left messages.

STRANGE: I’d’ve told ‘em where to stick it.

ENDEAVOUR: Would you? (they both know STRANGE wouldn’t) Division doesn’t like losing police officers.

STRANGE: Full Disciplinary, though? Busted down a rank? It wasn’t right. (a moment) And we’re still no nearer to finding who did for George.

ENDEAVOUR: ‘We’? I’m here. You’re there. He’s at Castle Gate. Mister Bright at Traffic. There isn’t a we – not any more – nor likely to be.

STRANGE: We said…

ENDEAVOUR: You said. (beat; off STRANGE) I don’t blame you. Heat of the moment. Like the last day of school. Solemn oaths and giddy declarations. ‘We happy few…’

STRANGE: I meant it.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sure. (beat) But that’s not how it turned out. It’s never how these things turn out.

WIDE – two old friends, coffee table between them – the width of an ocean.

DAMIAN: You know, I increasingly find myself siding with Strange and other supporting characters rather than Endeavour. Indeed, like Strange, I’m often ‘baffled and appalled’ by his attitude. Another example would be the vicious way he mocks Joan’s attempts to improve herself in APOLLO (S6:E2). Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t this a bit of a problem considering he’s the main character?

RUSS: Well, with Joan, of course — ‘If he can’t have her, he must hurt her.’ It’s a mess. What can I tell you? But, in the example you mention, it’s a man putting off the dread hour. If we’re going to look at it in terms of the wretched paradigm, this is the ‘Refusal of the Call to Adventure.’ Barf! There’s a scene with Max that didn’t make the cut – that you’ll have read [this will be included in another interview], where again, Endeavour is really doing his best not to be dragged back into the fray. He’s bleeding. Fancy’s death is chewing him up. He doesn’t want to be the hero that the universe is demanded he becomes. And so he’s dismissive of Strange’s overt camaraderie.  We’re back to Bogart — ‘I stick my neck out for nobody.’

ENDEAVOUR at his ablutions. The face that looks back in the mirror is one he hardly recognises. Emotional permafrost. The only clue that this is still our ENDEAVOUR is a wounded look in his eye, for which there is no balm.

DAMIAN: Does Shaun ever have reservations regarding the likeability of his character or does he relish exploring the deep complexity of Endeavour?

RUSS: I always imagine it to be the latter.

EXT. SERGEANT’S HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST

Dusk. ENDEAVOUR walks STRANGE over to his car.

STRANGE: Well, then, matey.

ENDEAVOUR: Let me know next time. I’ll bake a cake.

STRANGE turns for his car – and then turns back.

STRANGE: Oh, I saw Joanie. Said to say hullo if I ran into you.

ENDEAVOUR lets the conversational ball drop.

STRANGE: (CONT’D) Started in as a trainee with the Welfare. So, I suppose it all works out in the end. (turns at his car) We shouldn’t let it go — what happened to George. (off ENDEAVOUR’s indifference) Don’t you care?

ENDEAVOUR: Would it make a difference?

DAMIAN: Tell me about Joan’s new job and the introduction of Viv?

RUSS: I think I’ve said before that I’m deeply invested in her journey – Joan and Win, actually – representing, as they do, two generations of women – a mother and daughter at a hinge of history. And again with Dorothea Frazil – very much a woman in a man’s world – taking a claw-hammer to the glass ceiling. On one level – with the coppers being coppers there’s a danger that it turns into something very blokey. If you’re going to try to paint in some social history beyond the whodunitry, then why would you exclude the greater half the population?

And – again, as I’ve said before – having put Joan through some difficult experiences, it felt right to have her reclaim agency over her own life. Her life, her rules, her way. She’s had quite enough of blokes for the time being, thank you very much — now it’s about her. Her wants and needs. I’d always seen her as someone with a lot to give to the world — and it seemed right that she would move into Welfare – particularly Children’s Welfare – right at the point that people’s need for that service was expanding. There was a show in the early 70s called Helen, A Woman of Today which had that Aznavour hit, ‘She’ as its theme tune. It starred Alison Fiske and Martin Shaw – and was really ahead of its time in the way it put a woman at the centre of the drama, and explored the story from her point of view. Hugely important show. So, there was that, and then an afternoon show with Stephanie Beacham called Marked Personal about the ‘Personnel’ department (HR nowadays) of a large business. Again – that had, in the phrase du jour, a ‘female-centric’ approach. Within These Walls – the Women’s Prison drama with Googie Withers and Mona Washbourne – was also contemporary with these, and clearly made some kind of impression. I suppose all of this fed into how Joan is developing. It seemed like a rich area for us to explore, and I’m sure will prove so. You know, Sara Vickers is just an amazing talent, and I love to write for her. It’s always a thrill to see her work – so intelligent, so sensitive. Enormously grateful to her.

DAMIAN: I’m sure we’ll talk about Thursday in a lot more detail in another one of our interviews but for now, I was wondering if the Clemence subplot was always a part of his backstory or created specifically for this film?

RUSS: I think it was always something at the back of my mind. That because much of his work would have taken place while we still had capital punishment, he would have helped send people to the gallows. Also, in terms of all that followed, combined with the situation he’d found himself in courtesy of Charlie, it undermined him further still.

EXT/NT. 13 JUBILEE ROW – NIGHT XI (FLASHBACK – 1954)

Night and rain. A trench-coated DETECTIVE SERGEANT THURSDAY crosses from CID CAR parked outside – past UNIFORMS and into a house.

Blood spatter up the walls.

In the back parlour – A WOMAN lies dead in a pool of blood. It’s a pretty squalid environment. UNIFORMS, PHOTOGRAPHER, the usual paraphernalia. A flash gun goes off.

Near the body – a PLAYPEN in which a TODDLER (2) stands in a romper suit – bawling its eyes out. THURSDAY reacts — heartstruck. He sweeps the child up from the PLAYPEN, and carries him out.

CUT TO:

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/POLICE STATION – NIGHT 3

ENDEAVOUR: Who killed his mother?

THURSDAY: His father. Philip Clemence. Commercial traveller. Knocked out brushes – door to door.

ENDEAVOUR: He go down for it?

THURSDAY, a moment — darkness here.

DAMIAN: Darkness. You know, I can’t help but think that Thursday’s backstory regarding his younger days in the army and subsequent formative years in the police would make a great film in it’s own right.

RUSS: Only if – as with Sam Vimes and John Keel – Roger could act as mentor (for a while at least!) to his younger self. But yes — when we all turn our warrant cards, I have half an idea to explore Thursday’s London career, but not as a television piece.

INT. GALLOWS – DAY X2 (FLASHBACK – 1954)

PHILIP CLEMENCE’s hands are pinioned by PIERREPOINT. White cloth back goes over his head.

CLEMENCE: I didn’t do it. I’m innocent. Thursday!

PIERREPOINT pulls the handle…

DAMIAN: Pierrepoint was the famous hangman who exectued hundreds including the Acid Bath Murderer and the Rillington Place Strangler as well as more contentious executions such as Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley. Is the latter point the reason you reference him in the script and, if so, why wasn’t this made more explicit in the film?

RUSS: It was there more as a grace note.

Albert Pierrepoint (1905-1992)

EXT. MAX’S HOUSE – DAY 6

ENDEAVOUR on the doorstep. MAX opens the door — wearing a cook’s apron, and with a knife in hand, he looks as if he’s just stepped out of his mortuary.

MAX: (re: the knife) Nothing sinister. I was just getting a seedcake out of the oven.

DAMIAN: Nothing sinister is another Russ-ism – you often say that, you know? Anyway, I loved this scene and was thrilled to finally catch a glimpse of Max’s house and I thought both the baking and his love for gardening was a great insight into how he manages to keep his two worlds at a safe distance.

MAX: Have to give it [the seedcake] half an hour to cool. Well – this is a first. (re: drinks) Splash more?

MAX knocks up a Whisky Mac – scotch and ginger wine over ice.

ENDEAVOUR: Been here long?

MAX: Eight years? Yes. Eight years. Don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest. How d’you know where I live, by the way?

ENDEAVOUR: You’re in the book. (re: the house and garden) Nice.

MAX: I’m fighting a war of attrition with the greenfly over the tea-roses. Not very successfully, it must be said. But, yes – as a spot I’m rather fond. (a moment) Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?

DAMIAN: Later in the scene, Max says that ‘I shan’t flatter myself it’s altogether a social call…’ and I was wondering – as is the case in the original Colin Dexter novels – if we will see the point in their relationship where they do actually socialise together?

RUSS: Yes, Jimmy lost out a bit here, insofar as there was an Endeavour taking his leave of Max scene that followed on which I’d thought was quite important [again, this will be included in a later interview]. A spur to Endeavour’s flanks – or at least a prick to his conscience. Perhaps one day we’ll include all the outtakes in the definitive, all our sins remembered, DVD collection. It felt right – Max acting as Jiminy (Jimmy) Cricket to Endeavour’s little wooden boy.

I’m sure we will get to see them socialise more at some point — should we last that long. But in terms of this run of films, it was as much about underlining Endeavour’s own rootlessness at that point. His lack of somewhere to call his own — which would eventually bear fruit at the other end of the run.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the first film of series 7, ORACLE?

RUSS: Well, I realised that with all the other things that had to be taken care of in ‘69, I hadn’t gone out of my way to particularly dial up the Scare the Bejesus Meter, and thought those that care for such might have felt left out. So… With that in mind, and as they used to say in the comics, A Happy New Year to All Our Readers.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews by following me on twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: MADELAINE LEECH

An exclusive Endeavour interview with production designer Madelaine Leech

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: When did you first become aware of the art of production design and was there a particular TV show or a trip to the cinema that fired your imagination?

MADELAINE: Maybe I was just a slow starter but it took me a while to realise there was such a thing as production design. I always loved rainy Sunday afternoons when a black and white film would be shown on BBC2. I hated Wimbledon as this slot would be replaced by boring tennis, unless it rained. My favourite films were 1930s, 40s , 50s at home drama so there never “appeared” to be any design, they just were. But one of my favourite films is Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit. I loved the story and even more the design and sound of the equipment he uses to make the thread. So I think this is the one which subconsciously fired by imagination. The results and dressing after each bomb blast always amuses me.

Art direction by Jim Morahan
Alexandre Trauner worked with many great directors but one of mine and Madelaine’s favourite films was this collaboration with Billy Wilder.

DAMIAN: Are there any production designers that have inspired you over the years?

MADELAINE: I love the work of Alexandre Trauner. And Ken Adam with his sets for James Bond are fantastic. 

Dr. No was the first of Ken Adam’s seven stunningly designed Bond films which largely influenced the style of the entire series
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
Diamonds Are Forever
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker

DAMIAN: You’ve worked in various different genres but what kind of project really gets you excited to the point where you can’t stop thinking of ideas?

MADELAINE: Drama. It all begins for me from the characters in the script. I start to imagine what type of home or environment would they have created for themselves. Or what outside factors have influenced that person.

DAMIAN: And you’ve also worked as a set decorator, art director and, of course, production designer. Can you tell me a little bit about your training and at what point you realised that this was the creative discipline for you?

MADELAINE: I went to Art College and studied Interior Design. I knew it wasn’t the career for me but worked designing pubs, hotels and offices for about two years. Then in the 1980s, like many people, I was made redundant. I wondered why I was trying so hard to get into a job I found very slow. So I turned my attention to designing for TV. I was lucky enough to get a job in the BBC design department. From that moment, I have loved every minute in this industry.

DAMIAN: Your many impressive credits include another detective series, Vera, do you have any favourite productions that you’ve worked on or consider to be particularly instrumental in your development as a production designer?

MADELAINE: One of the jobs I am most proud of, other than Endeavour of course, was a single drama about Shirley Bassey. A designer’s dream to be able to follow a character over many years. We started in the 1930s and ran through till the 1960s. I loved the amount of research which was required into a real person but also giving me the freedom to interpret her personality. It was a fun job. 

DAMIAN: How did you come to work on Endeavour?

MADELAINE: I had wanted to design Endeavour… well… forever really. I love the show. A little bird had told me Paul Cripps was moving on so I asked my agent to push for an interview. I was seen by the Line Producer and the Producer and I was very, very lucky to be successful.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has had various previous production designers: Pat Campbell did First Bus to Woodstock, followed by Matt Gant, Anna Higginson, Anna Pritchard, Alison Butler and the aforementioned Paul Cripps worked on the previous two series. Perhaps unlike some other aspects of film and television making, would you say from your own experience that art departments offer more opportunities regardless of gender?

MADELAINE: Yes, it does seem like that. Which is a very good thing. I think they do go for just the best person for the job rather than gender.

DAMIAN: Did you look at their work as part of your research or for reference before you started your own designs and is it more challenging to take over from previous artists or more artistically rewarding to start from scratch?

MADELAINE: Yes I did. Endeavour has its own style and I did my research and looked at all the previous designers work. One thing that struck me was the volume of graphics required so I knew from the start I needed a strong graphics department.

I enjoyed fitting in with the previous designers work and as each film introduces new storylines, you still get the opportunity to put your mark on it.

Colour mood board
Original location
The finished set

DAMIAN: Compared to most TV dramas, would you agree that Endeavour is especially ambitious in that each different film has its own unique look and feel?

MADELAINE: Yes, I do agree. It works really well as each episode has a different Director and Director of Photography so they manage to achieve this very successfully I think.

DAMIAN: I know from meeting Paul and Russ and my subsequent interviews with them both that there was a lot of discussion regarding the look and feel of last year’s new CID set and how it would evoke the themes of alienation, change, guilt and paranoia. Without giving too much away, what do you consider to be the main themes of series seven and how do your designs reflect them?

MADELAINE: We have continued these themes in this series too. But also added deceit and decay. I believe we have achieved the decay rather well with wall treatments, colours and  textures.

DAMIAN: What was the most challenging set to design of the three films this year?

MADELAINE: Again without saying too much, the story travels abroad on this series. I had to recreate some of these lands far away within the Watford area. We had two amazing location managers. So with their help I think we have succeeded in making the audience believe they are not in the UK.

DAMIAN: Considering series five had six episodes, you had it easy didn’t you?

MADELAINE: I take my hat off to all the cast and crew who worked on series five. We only did three but yes it was very hard work. But worth it and a lot of fun. Many of the crew return each year and I can see why. They are a very friendly, hardworking and professional team.

DAMIAN: I was born in the seventies so I’m especially curious to see how the look of Endeavour has evolved this year. Now, I’ve mentioned this many times to Russ but one of the productions that I relate to most strongly in terms of the visual look and “smell” of the seventies is Hitchcock’s Frenzy. It’s something that I can’t quite describe but, despite the fact that it is obviously about a serial killer, it remains the one film which resonates with me and has visual echoes of my own childhood. Funny thing, when I asked Russ to give me an example of a film that visually echoed his first memories, he said 10 Rillington Place! – dare I ask what yours might be?

MADELAINE: I love 1970’s films and TV now but in my youth I was definitely into much older films. I would love films like Hobson’s Choice. Saying that, Far from the Madding Crowd (1967 version) was a favourite to be watched over and over.

Hobson’s Choice
Far from the Madding Crowd. DAMIAN: I like the red curtains very much.

DAMIAN: We obviously got a glimpse of Endeavour’s new home in the last series which fans know from the original Inspector Morse series. To what extent do you think you have put your own personal spin on this while also remaining faithful to how it looked when the show was first broadcast in 1987?

MADELAINE: When preparing for my interview I looked at the Inspector Morse programmes with  special interest to his house. I decided the best way was to start from the end and work back. Again the location manager on series 6 was very clever in finding a house that had the feel of the original. Morse’s living room was a pale baby blue which I felt was wrong for the younger man. Due to Russ’ script and the feeling of decay and the fact that the squat which he had bought at the end series 6 had been covered with graffiti I decided strip back the walls but keep the many layers of wallpaper. It looked great and Russ even changed the action to suit the design.

DAMIAN: Madelaine, thank you very much indeed.

MADELAINE: Thank you. I love your website, it really helped me when I was researching to get to work on Endeavour.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: ABIGAIL THAW

An exclusive Endeavour interview with Abigail Thaw

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

‘I see Dorothea in the 1960s as having the sleuth-like brains of Ms Marple, the independent feminism of Germaine Greer, the seductive charms of Ava Gardner and the sense of humour of Eric Morcambe.’

Abigail Thaw (March, 2014)

DAMIAN: It’s been almost six years since our first interview and yet I vividly remember what you told me when I asked you to describe Dorothea which still makes me smile every single time you appear onscreen. Still a good description isn’t it?

ABIGAIL: Hah. Yup.

DAMIAN: And how would you describe Dorothea in 1970?

ABIGAIL: The same! A little older. A little sadder. But perhaps a little more hopeful.

DAMIAN: What do you personally remember of the 70s; any key historic social or political moments, films or TV shows that defined the decade for you?

ABIGAIL: Well, I was a kid so for me it was the music and the TV. David Bowie and Suzi Quattro. Stevie Wonder and Funkadelic. The Generation Game, Morecambe and Wise and Six Million Dollar Man. The hot summer of ‘76. Power cuts. Fewer cars. Playing football in the streets… Sitting outside pubs with a coke and a packet of crisps while the grown-ups lived it up inside. Actually, we loved that. Can you imagine that now?! My kids certainly can’t. Like driving around in a car with a chain-smoking adult and the windows closed!

But in terms of family life, in the early 70s the Women’s Movement was the most prominent continual event. My mother was very involved and it meant a lot of marches and meetings and travelling with her to conferences. Some of my earliest memories are sitting on her lap or in the creche at the Oxford Union. She was a mature student there and started up the Women’s Liberation Conference along with her peers. This finds its way into the first film of series 7, actually. My daughter is playing my mother, very briefly!

I was always brought up to believe I was equal to a man. It was a simple doctrine. No better or worse but entitled to the same opportunities and the same respect. And I was always encouraged to speak up if I felt there was an injustice to me or anyone else. Trade unions had a lot of power but not many women did so mum helped set up the Night Cleaners Union. They were women who had very few rights and did the shifts no one else wanted to do. It meant going on a lot of demonstrations and painting banners and even wearing a night cleaner’s overall at the front of the march which maybe influenced my desire to act and show off in later life! My mother was very serious about the ideology and felt that men were part of that movement. My step-father was very present as was my father and she loved men. I think that made me feel confident to fight my corner if I felt there was injustice. That men weren’t the enemy, they were my friends. It was society!

DAMIAN: So much has happened since 1965 and I’ve got a few questions about Dorothea and her relationship with Endeavour in particular. First of all, you told me before that she has ‘a fond and protective spot’ for him and is ‘often trying to find ways “in”’. Do you think she has found a way “in” yet?

ABIGAIL: I do, actually. They don’t need to say much but they have been through a lot, seen a lot, fallen out and reconciled. That adds depth.

DAMIAN: Also from our previous interview, I remember you mentioning Russ’ excellent scripts, the way he writes with a particular syntax for each character and that you and Shaun often try to find ways to play with this as you both like a bit of a laugh. However, you also mentioned that the directors often try to reign you both in on this so I’m wondering -since Shaun is obviously a director himself now- if you feel a little more free to explore and experiment with the dialogue when he’s at the helm?

ABIGAIL: Hah. Not really. I’m a big believer in the written word. It’s been put there for a reason. But things change all the time on set. Sometimes time simply runs out or a plot line has to change so you adapt. The exploration mainly comes from how you say something rather than what. And I’m often surprised to find the mood of a scene can go a different way. Probably much to Russ’ dismay!

DAMIAN: You told me that you had a notebook tucked away with some thoughts when I asked if you had your own ideas regarding Dorothea’s backstory. Since then, Russ wrote a scene in QUARTET (S5:E5) which was sadly cut but would have offered some great insight into the character’s past:

INT. AMBER LODGE/LOBBY – DAY 1

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?

CLAUDINE: No.

DOROTHEA: Then you’ll be alright. Why?

CLAUDINE: Why didn’t you do more?

DOROTHEA: Ask me when you come back.

DAMIAN: I wouldn’t have thought of Dorothea as being squeamish either so I’m wondering why Dorothea didn’t do more. Was it fatigue, too traumatic an experience or simply a revulsion for slaughter and suffering?

ABIGAIL: I think the latter mainly. At some point you reach saturation point and you either normalise it – and go slightly mad – or you call a halt. I think she thought, enough. I’m going back to Oxford, where I was happiest. Not much can happen there…!

DAMIAN: Dorothea often witnesses Endeavour in his darkest moments such as the following scene -as written rather than shot- during the aftermath of George Fancy’s death in ICARUS (S5:E6):

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…

DOROTHEA: Here.

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.

Time and again she also acts as something of an emotional intelligence mentor as in the following scene from PYLON (S6:E1), once again on the subject of George Fancy:

DOROTHEA: You have to forgive him.

ENDEAVOUR: For what?

DOROTHEA: Dying. Then you can forgive yourself – for being angry at him. It’s part of letting go.

ENDEAVOUR: Have you just got back from an Ashram?

DOROTHEA: Make peace with him, Morse. Or it’ll eat you alive.

DAMIAN: Is Dorothea simply offering sage advice or is there perhaps more to this scene such as the possibility that it comes from her own experiences of pain and guilt?

ABIGAIL: I think she’s been there in some way. Again, we’ve had a glimpse of what it was in another episode but it was cut.

DAMIAN: There’s a wonderful scene in CONFECTION (S6:E3) with Dorothea and Endeavour who has fallen for yet another wrong’un:

DOROTHEA: Second time lucky. The vet’s daughter.

ENDEAVOUR: Haven’t you had enough of gossip to going on with for now.

DOROTHEA: What we do, isn’t it? ‘I won’t quarrel with my bread and butter.’

ENDEAVOUR: Swift. ‘Polite Conversation’ (off DOROTHEA) Nothing polite about this. Tittle-tattle. Cheap thrills.

DOROTHEA: Makes the world go round, Morse.

ENDEAVOUR: I thought that was love.

DOROTHEA: I can’t speak to that.

ENDEAVOUR: No. Me neither.

DOROTHEA: Buy you a drink? They say misery loves company.

ENDEAVOUR: Another time?

DOROTHEA heads off. ENDEAVOUR alone.

DAMIAN: If only Dorothea was a few years younger! You know, intertextual Freudian nightmares aside, I often think that Dorothea and Endeavour would make a great couple were it not for their age difference. A lovely moment from HARVEST, where the two of them are exploring the higher levels of a power station and he freezes because of his fear of heights and she says ‘Just shut your eyes and take my hand. Come on. One foot in front of the other.’

I’ve asked Russ if Dorothea is just a little bit attracted to Endeavour but he says that is absolutely not the case so let me put it differently and ask a slightly different question: if Endeavour ever had a long-term girlfriend, wouldn’t she have good reason to be jealous of his relationship with Dorothea?

ABIGAIL: Well, probably. In the sense that Dorothea has access to parts of his interior life that he doesn’t share lightly. So even though it’s not sexual, it is intimate. When people ask me why Endeavour and Dorothea don’t get together – apart from the Freudian nightmare! – I think of the ancient Greeks’ belief that friendship is more valuable than erotic love: the latter makes things messy and ultimately can end. Friendship endures and deepens.

DAMIAN: Now, it obviously goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Endeavour and a great admirer of Russ’ writing. However, I don’t think my interviews with him – we’ve done one on each and every episode over the last six years- would work if I simply told him how brilliant he was every time. Indeed, we’ve had our differences of opinion and one of the points of contention involves Dorothea because I was disappointed by her relationship with Kent Finn in GAME (S4:E1) who is described in the script as ‘a brooding inkslinger clinging to his thirties by a fingernail… [his fandom as] an Oxford equivalent of James Ellroy’s ‘peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps’…’

Furthermore,  on seeing Dorothea, ‘A flirty, lupine smile plays roguishly about his lip… is the kind of crap line that belongs in one of his novels’. And so I was disappointed that someone as wise and perceptive as Dorothea would get involved with such a man. What are your thoughts on this?

ABIGAIL: Hasn’t everyone had an amour fou? Maybe he was great in bed and no strings attached!

DAMIAN: And another issue was that, as exciting as the her abduction was to watch and the subsequent car chase and crash, I wondered if seeing Dorothea in the role of damsel in distress was also a little disappointing as opposed to giving her something more empowering to do?

ABIGAIL: I see your point but I think the fact that she got herself out of his clutches by strangling him while he drove like a lunatic was pretty brave. She wasn’t worried about the inevitable car crash when you’re choking the driver.

DAMIAN: Rather than engulfed in flames, the original idea was for the car to be submerged in water but was changed for budget reasons. Was this for the best or are you a good swimmer?

ABIGAIL: Haha. Yes, I am a good swimmer. It really was budget. And I think it was Endeavour who was going to fish me out of the water. So maybe I was deemed too heavy!

DAMIAN: I was thrilled to hear that Sheila Hancock would be appearing in HARVEST (S4:E4) to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Inspector Morse but disappointed that the two of you didn’t share a scene together. However, when I later studied the script, I was even more dismayed to discover the following scene was actually written for the two of you but not bloody used:

EXT. BRAMFORD MERE

DOROTHEA: Good morning, Miss Chattox. Dorothea Frazil. Oxford Mail. I interviewed you a few years ago, about your battle with the Power Station.

DOWSABLE: I remember you.

DOROTHEA: Still fighting the good fight, I see.

DOWSABLE: If you mean they haven’t seen me off yet, then, no – they haven’t. Nor will they.

DAMIAN: Please tell me this scene was actually filmed and still exists somewhere?

ABIGAIL: It was and it does. Somewhere.

DAMIAN: And finally, I told Russ recently that I thought both he and the show were a lot more optimistic in 1965 than 1969 and highlighted as evidence some of the more politically-charged storylines such as those in series 5 which Damien Timmer called his “angry” year. What do you think Dorothea would make of a country that seems so politically divided in 2020?

ABIGAIL: I think she would despair. As I do. But she’d have a more practical approach to trying to fix it.

DAMIAN: Abigail, thank you very much indeed and let’s not leave it so long next time.

ABIGAIL: Absolutely. Thank you, Damian.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

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