Category Archives: Endeavour

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis – Part IV

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: NEVERLAND (S2:04) on April 20, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Viscount Mumbles

and Rowsby Woof

ACT V
HOME’
(The last in our selection box. Unwanted. Alone)

“Home is the sailor, home from sea…”
– A. E. Housmam, R. L. S.

FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, GIRL, FUGUE and ROCKET all done and dusted. So, one final interview with the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, and as Chris Geiger once observed, all journeys eventually end in the same place, home…

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Damian: At its very worst, Endeavour is simply the best detective-whodunnit show on television. At its very best however, Endeavour also boasts strong character development which rewards long term fans by enriching the “Morse Mythology”. The final film of the first series is perhaps the best example of the latter and explores Morse’s history to unparalleled (with the possible exception of FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK) emotional effect while simultaneously incorporating the events of Cherubim and Seraphim from the original series. To what extent were the childhood aspects of this story something you intended to explore when you originally plotted the story/character arc for series one?

Russ: Well – that’s very kind of you to say so. But certainly over the last two or three years everyone involved has done their very best to honour its heritage and deliver a story cycle worthy of its much admired progenitor.

You’ll have to excuse me if my recollections are a bit hazy. I know it’s only a year and a bit ago, but there’s been a lot of ink under the bridge since then. And a fair amount of blood. But I’ll try to remember as best I can.

With such caveats in mind… HOME, like the rest of the series, went through a number of evolutions, some more violent than others. I’d always wanted to end it with high drama, and something that invoked the Western, (another passion), but if memory serves my first pass at it was very linear. The Coke-Norris story – if it existed at all, and I suspect it didn’t – did not feature Mrs.C-N. Starting on this, I realise that my recollections are really, really shaky. In fact I’m fairly certain the Coke-Norris angle might have come later. The best person to ask would be Sam Price [Script editor]. Things fly in and out across the drafts as you try to get the thing right – the blend of case and personal material – so that sometimes (often) it’s very difficult to go back and recollect the exact order of things. But Sam seems to manage it effortlessly.

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But the potted version is – my first go round was too radical a departure from the mood we’d established over the first three films in the series, and the single. Sometimes you need to go too far out, to overstate something, so you can find the thing you’re looking for – and then, once you’ve found it, you can dial it down on a second and subsequent pass. But it’s better to overshoot, than not to try something. These things are as much about trust as anything else, and I’m very lucky with the Mammoths [Mammoth Screen – the Production Company]. We have a long history, and they know my methods. However, we were fairly up against it for time – Christmas 12/13 was spent hunkered down rewriting it to shoot early January – and it got circulated quite early, with much of the sturm und drang still intact – which somewhat frightened the horses.

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I think… there was another gangland story woven into it – which I’ll spare you – and things got a bit (a lot!) Peckinpah in the final couple of reels. Colm McCarthy, who I’d worked with on Murphy’s Law and FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, came back to direct HOME and had been waiting for some kind of an Endeavour twist and that simply wasn’t in place. So he was a bit – unsurprisingly – nonplussed. Some stories come together easier than others.

I think it was Damien Timmer who suggested we reconnect it with what he calls ‘fragrant ladies’. That would be ‘fragrant ladies’ in terms of characters, rather than in the audience – of whom I’m sure there are many. And fragrant gentlemen too, no doubt. It had become very boysy. Not exactly a British gangster flick, but certainly less dusty dons and ivy clad quads than might be expected. A very wistful, ‘But it will be charming, won’t it? Won’t it? It will be charming.’ is Damien’s standard mock nervous response to some of my more outré diversions or descriptions of storylines I’m kicking around.

When you work with someone — as long as I’ve worked with with Damien, say — you develop a kind of shorthand. What he was saying, in his equally charming way, was he thought we could afford to dial up the Rattigan/Coward meter. Both masters of a particular brand of quiet, English desperation. An understated darkness at the centre. So… you get a note like that, a strong tug on the choke-chain, and a light bulb goes on. Ping! Sam Price, our doughty Script Editor, and me – are great admirers of what were once termed ‘women’s pictures’ – the work of Douglas Sirk, etc. The filmic, American version – to a degree – of the same kind of territory Ratigan and Coward made their own in Britain. Things not said. Still waters. Soldiering on. Celia Johnson returning to her husband at the end of Brief Encounter. Relationship dramas.

Going back to HOME, I guess the elder sister, Helen Cartwright (nee Sloan) played by Olivia Grant (from GIRL), would fall into that ‘fragrant lady’ category. The scene she plays with Dr. Prentice – a negotiation of sorts – is pretty electric and very quietly erotic. She’s like a wire, thrumming with untapped energy. That proverbial thin bat-squeak of sexuality. At some point his hand touches hers, and Olivia gives this intake of breath, which tells you everything you need to know, and in its way says so much more than something overt. Beautifully directed by Ed Bazalgette, and played to perfection by Olivia and Mark Bazeley.

So, it was just a case of reconnecting it with that. Reconciling the gangsterism with something more in keeping with Endeavour world. The Browning Version is a great favourite. Such a brilliant play – and two terrific film versions. And most recently a knockout BBC Radio 4 version with Michael York, Joanne Whalley, Ioan Gryfudd and our own Henry Broom, Mister Martin Jarvis. And so I kind of ran aspects of that through the Endeavour filter. Rattigan had taken inspiration and recast themes from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. So it was interesting to the give the wheel another turn. Thus Clytemnestra becomes Millie Crocker-Harris becomes Millicent Coke-Norris.

(I took it as some kind of cosmic approval that when we finally found a Production Base for Series 2 it was in a village called, of all things, Taplow…)

But – yes, Endeavour’s home… I think it’s something we’d always been leading towards. Again, like the Thursdays, I may have tried – unsuccessfully – to introduce them earlier in the run. A visit from Joyce, maybe. Happily, they found their moment – though some scenes didn’t make the cut – in the last. And that was fitting. Pretty much everything there was extrapolated from Colin Dexter’s clues. There’s a bit of mild license with certain things. Cyril and Constance may have divorced at a certain point according to canon – but I felt we had a little wriggle room. They might have divorced at such and such a time, but they could believably have split up many years earlier, which would explain the closeness in ages between Endeavour and Joyce. A dignified veil was drawn over the chronology. But many families had what were then seen as ‘dark secrets’. A certain amount of ‘What would the neighbours say?’ People moved, pretended to be married, widowed, etc.. Keeping up appearances.

I certainly felt that things had not gone altogether swimmingly for Cyril and Gwen. The return of the prodigal when Endeavour’s mum died providing a constant reminder for both of them of a previous set of circumstances from which they’d tried to move on, or strike from history. And there was Endeavour as a boy dumped right back into the middle of it. Unwelcome. Resented by Gwen. A constant reminder of the first Mrs. de Winter. So their mutual antipathy sprang from that. Cyril chose Gwen and Joyce over Endeavour. Anything for an quiet life.

There was a scene we shot and cut – or perhaps dialogue from the scene where Endeavour first arrives home, which really played to Endeavour and Gwen’s dislike of one another. Some harsh exchanges. But sadly – for length, they ended up on the cutting room floor. I think in the end we felt we’d got just about enough with what survived to understand that relationship.

There were some other home memento bits that didn’t make the cut. But they’re on file. Who knows?

Damian: It could be argued that all of the films from series one share the thematic elements of family: the possessive Sloan family and Pamela’s fighting for custody of young Bobby in GIRL, the contrast between Morse’s loneliness and Thursday’s happy family life in FUGUE, the family feuds between the Brooms in ROCKET and not least the risk to Thursday’s home and of course the troubled home of Morse’s childhood in this film. Many writers often return to the same ideas, motifs and preoccupations, was this notion of family ever a conscious dramatic decision or did the stories simply evolve this way?

Russ: I think it was unconscious. It was something Dan McCulloch first brought to my attention. You know – sometimes your nose is so close to the page, and for so long, that you don’t always get above it to take an overview. The family thing was certainly in my mind with the Morse/Thursday dynamic – Endeavour’s unhappy home, as against Thursday’s boisterous, loving brood. And, by extension, Endeavour’s professional family. Something of a ragbag – Bright, Jakes, Strange, Max and Dorothea. Each of them… unconventional in their way. I’m hesitant to say dysfunctional, but they are all to a greater or lesser degree solitary. Taking solace in the companionship of their fellows. Between those two notions it’s probably not too great a surprise to find a theme that bled out into the other stories. Thank you, Doctor Freud.

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Damian: I suspect you’re going to dodge this next question like a bullet but I’m going to take aim and ask it anyway. Obviously Morse, Strange and Max were the creation of Colin Dexter but of all your original characters for Endeavour, Thursday is perhaps the most well defined in terms of characterisation. I accept that this may be an unfair comparison given that Thursday obviously has more screen time than the supporting characters such as Bright, however, if we look at his many quirks and mannerisms, the character details such as his home life and family – not to mention the sandwiches, it would be hard to argue that Thursday isn’t the most vivid and well-drawn. So, here goes, of all the characters in Endeavour, is Thursday the one with which you most identify or perhaps infuse with your own personality – possibly with particular reference to his dialogue?

Russ: Fascinating. Um… Of the original characters… Well, as you say, he occupies more story time than any of the rest of the ensemble. So it’s difficult to make a fair comparison. They are all facets of oneself to some degree, I suppose. They have to be. Aspects of one’s personality, or those one has encountered along the way. Isolated and exaggerated so one can get a handle on them and they don’t all sound the same. But I’m very fond of them all. Of Colin’s originals as much as those I’ve added. Someone like Max – who looms large in the books – but who only appeared in, what was it, seven of the thirty-three films… the opportunity to flesh out his younger days, fill in some of the blanks, is really too good to resist. And you add James Bradshaw’s delightful performance to that, and that makes you want to know him all the more. Extraordinary to think that already Jimmy’s racked up more onscreen adventures with Endeavour than his later incarnation did with Morse. And it’s the same with Sean Rigby’s Strange. A terrific actor through whose performance one gets the chance to explore hitherto unknown aspects of that original character. And the Thursdays, and Dorothea, and Bright, and now Nurse Monica Hicks who has brought so much to the thing in her relationship with Endeavour… It’s just a dream ensemble of brilliant actors who bring these fascinating characters to life. That one gets to spend so much time with them in one’s head… Ridiculous good fortune to play with them in one form or another for the best part of a year at a time. And even in the breaks between series, they’re still there. The ideas for them stacking up.

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But, yeh… Thursday. You know – it’s Roger Allam, who’s pretty damn fine — in character or out. And rather adorable to boot. He’s Thursday. I just do the words. He wears the hat.

I couldn’t truthfully say I identify with Thursday as his experiences are so far outside of my ken – the War pretty much sets him apart from anything I could imagine. But I have known people with his qualities. And one reads as much as possible – to try to gain some insight into what makes someone like that tick. He most definitely is not me. Far too physically brave for one thing. He’s the Chandler ideal, I suppose. ‘Down these mean streets…’ And no doubt an idealised version of the man who was good enough to raise me and give me a name. He too was of that extraordinary generation who went through so much, and gave so much, and asked so very little in return.

So, I mentioned before about that quiet, unshowy heroism. That understatement you get with something like ‘Fires Were Started’. The dialogue… I’m a sucker for any slightly antiquated idiom. Mostly stuff I remember from a kid. Little things – ‘steps’ rather than ‘a ladder’; ‘wireless’ over ‘radio’. Period court transcripts are very useful for that kind of thing. I’ve probably said this before, so stop me if you’ve heard this one, but music was my thing when I was younger. I don’t know – you develop an ear for rhythm and tone. And that carries over into being sensitive to patterns of speech. A word here, a phrase there. File it away. With Thursday it’s definitely a 1940s slant. Too many black and white war pictures. (If there is such a thing as too many of those.) In Which We Serve; The Cruel Sea; Ice Cold in Alex. All of those Sunday afternoon delights.

It sounds glib, and probably is, but I’ve just tried to keep him human. He’s got a dark side, like most of us. A hinterland. He’s seen the worst, and perhaps now looks for the best. There’s certainly a great kindness to him. An old-fashioned sense of courtesy, now far less in vogue than it once was. He’s of a generation that thought it was the right thing to do to hold a door open, or give up his seat on the bus for a woman. Happily, he’s married to Win – who would take it very amiss if he didn’t do those things.

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Damian: Some might argue that FUGUE was the most suspenseful of the first series although I would have to say that HOME takes that honour. You deliberately, and quite masterfully, trick the audience into thinking that the threat is with Thursday and his family throughout the episode right up until the very end. Indeed, I was constantly thinking I can’t believe they are going to kill off Fred and coming to the conclusion that maybe Roger Allam didn’t want to do the show anymore! So, to not only have the unexpected twist of Morse actually getting shot in the nail-biting finale, but also connect this to John Thaw’s slight limp was truly a stroke of genius. Can you please detail how these events came to be tied together and was the leg thing an idea you always wanted to incorporate?

Russ: Well, I’m very glad you liked HOME. FUGUE was the more obvious Saturday morning pictures, edge-of-the-seat roller-coaster, but that you found HOME suspenseful is very gratifying. Endeavour catching a bullet was always in there, I think. And being able, in those last moments, to reconnect it again with John Thaw, and by association with Kevin Whately, and James Grout, and those original thirty-three films. There was always the possibility that we might never have done any more, and, if that had been the case, I felt very strongly that we should, at the end, honour that heritage once again.

Damian: The death of Morse’s father was a particularly beautifully written and performed scene which I suspect lesser writers might have overburdened with unnecessary dialogue. I’m curious as to whether this scene, and indeed the others with Cyril Morse, were always written with such brilliant understatement with so many wonderful implicit thoughts and emotions?

Russ: Well, you’d better add me to the lesser writers roster. In a fairly late draft, I think, Morse pere’ had goaded Endeavour during that first visit with a reference to Susan Fallon – (Bryce-Morgan). Something along the lines of ‘D’you ever see that girl?’ Which Endeavour hadn’t answered. It was there as a kind of rebuke – Cyril Morse mocking his son for his high-falutin’ ambitions – university, etc. He was, in effect, reminding Endeavour that for all his airs, girls like Susan Fallon would be forever out of his class. And – as I say – Endeavour left it hanging.

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And then the final scene – when Endeavour visits Cyril, who is by this time comatose… I revisited it. Endeavour lays bare his soul – and is only able to do it when his father is no longer in a state to respond or make comment. He describes his feelings at having lost Susan. And then the final line was ‘Is that how it was for you?’

I’d felt that the final question from Endeavour to his father was the kicker. A conversation that they should have had many years before. It seemed to me fairly plain that Cyril and Gwen’s marriage had not been an altogether happy one – ‘I’d have rung it through myself only she won’t let me.’ But that having made his bed, Cyril – for pride, or sheer bloody stubbornness – had stuck it out. And with that question he was reaching out to find some common ground with this man. Was this unhappiness and regret something they shared. Had he ever stopped loving Endeavour’s mother? And it’s a question Cyril will never be able to answer. ‘Not every question gets an answer’ as Thursday warns Endeavour earlier in the series. I’d wanted to deal with what we affectionately referred to as ‘Susan, Susan, Susan’ across the first series. To bring it full circle from that brief maddening glimpse we got of her at the window in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK. The ‘other shoe’ – which had never dropped.

So – that was my original version of it. With the exception of the final question, it had been a speech I’d had in my back pocket for Endeavour since before ROCKET. One of those that just pops into your head more or less complete. An aria. It could have gone in – albeit somewhat ungallantly, though no less truthfully — into one of his scenes with Alice Vexin, but I rather foolishly kept it up my sleeve for the last.

I think it was the day it was shot, I got a call from the floor asking if we could drop it. Both Shaun and Colm had issues with it. That it took away from the profundity of the moment. That it was a moment beyond words.

It was something we’d batted back and forth across the net in pre-production and after the read. So… they wore me down, and in the end I waved a white flag. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. Seriously… it wasn’t so much that I ‘suddenly remembered my Charlemagne’, but rather my Carol Reed and Graham Greene, and the difference of opinion they’d had over the ending of The Third Man.

You know – Shaun and Colm are both bright, smart fellas, and, like the man said, if enough people tell you you’re drunk, then maybe you should have a lie down. I suppose it comes back – as these things so often do – to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch’s advice. Murder your darlings. And believe me, you’d better. Because otherwise you’ll find there are plenty of people willing to murder them for you. In the nicest possible way.

So – there you are. Any praise due for masterly restraint in that sequence belongs wholly to Shaun and Colm. Theirs is the glory. The moral is… Work with good people. They will save you from yourself more times than you can thank them for.

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Damian: Well, I could talk about Endeavour all day and I fear we have – several times! Therefore, let us move swiftly on from the end of series one to the last of this year’s films, NEVERLAND and for the final time, will you please tell us just a little something about what we can look forward to?

Russ: It’s a tough one. Of all the films to date, this is by far the hardest to offer a teaser on. Almost anything would be a spoiler. It is early December… and the annual Police Widows and Orphans Gala is upon us… HMP Farnleigh… A report Endeavour was working on for Bright heralds a new beginning… Sunny Prestatyn…

~

EPILOGUE

~

Damian: I think it’s safe to say that 1966 was a most productive and remarkable year for our friend Morse. I wonder about 1967…

Russ: You and me both.

Damian: Russ, we have reached the conclusion of our odyssey and what a journey it was – thanks for taking me with you!

Russ: Damian, after all this time, it’s been a true pleasure to revisit the first four films from Series 1. I’ve dropped by the website to read the interviews you did with Abigail, Sean, Jimmy, and found them all hugely informative. I believe you’ve one with Barrington coming up – so, look forward to looking at that. When we’re in production we really don’t get to spend very much time hanging out or chewing the fat, so to read what the rest of the gang have to say about our joint criminal enterprise has been a delight.

All of us involved in making the show are very appreciative of all the work you’ve put in. And I’d like to offer personal thanks to you for making my own ramblings appears so lucid. Your choice of illustrative material has been pitch perfect.

One thing I mentioned earlier – about working with good people making all the difference. Most of the questions across these interviews have been about plot things in the first series, and Endeavour Morse as a character – and I hope I’ve answered them as comprehensively as I can – but what they haven’t given me the opportunity to do, and, if you don’t mind, I’d like to do now, is talk about Shaun Evans.

Whatever the rest of us on the production side might have put together to make it work on FBTW – the right story, the right look for the piece, whatever it was — ENDEAVOUR was always going to be pretty heavily scrutinised, and judged a hit or miss, rightly or wrongly, on Shaun’s performance. It was a gig which would have struck many as pretty daunting on the page. For all kinds of historical reasons. It came with a lot of additional weight. And no small amount of expectations. Approached the wrong way it was the kind of gig that could turn someone’s head or blow their mind. That Shaun avoided both possibilities is testament to his integrity as an artist and his absolute dedication to his craft.

He found the character as he would any other, by drawing on the text, and by going to the source – to Colin’s novels – through which he found his way back to an Endeavour in his mid-twenties. It was the only sane course of action. And that’s the key, really. We’ve never set out to present Detective Chief Inspector Morse. You’ll see glimpses, of course. How could you not? But to offer up some kind of fully formed version of the character with the same emotional cargo he’s hauling in his middle years? It would be crazy, and impossible, and wrong to attempt it. These are the adventures Detective Constable Endeavour Morse. A young man, with all of a young man’s dreams and insecurities still intact. Not exactly your regular Joe. An outsider for so many reasons. But at this stage of his life still burning with hope, and the potential for happiness, and so much to prove to himself and the world. And Shaun just got that and knew it and felt that in his bones from the off.

That we’ve now got to the end of the ninth film, and the second series, and he’s still bringing something new to it, and letting you feel that we’ve barely scratched the surface, really is a mark of just how deeply he inhabits the role. Sometimes you get very lucky. Working with Shaun would fall into that category.

None of us involved ever forget where we came from with this – the creative debt we owe to the extraordinary work of so many talented people that came before; the writers, directors, actors, producers, execs, musos, innumerable cast and crew who ploughed the field and paved the road. Truly, the shoulders of giants. We’re hugely grateful for having been allowed to make our own contribution to something begun all those years ago on a wet holiday in Wales by Colin Dexter. That we have been given that opportunity to do so for the past three years or so is due in no small measure to Shaun Evans who has reintroduced many to an old friend, and also brought a certain, special kind of Oxford magic to a whole new generation, with his pitch perfect portrayal of the heart, mind, body and soul of Endeavour Morse.

Thank you for watching.

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“Ask me no more, for fear I should reply”

“The sum of things to be known is inexhaustible, and however long we read, we shall never come to the end of our story-book.”

– A. E. Housman

~

I would like to thank the following for their time and generous support:

James Bradshaw

Barrington Pheloung

Sean Rigby

Amanda Street-Shipston

Abigail Thaw

and

Russell Lewis

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Inside Story

The last look at significant events and encounters from the first series and how they relate to the original Inspector Morse

Bright is quietly impressed by Morse’s shooting range results and notes that he has his Sergeant’s exam coming up soon. Morse later tells Thursday that he learnt to shoot when he was 12. It was the first Christmas after his mother had died and his father bought him a pistol. He would take the young Morse to the common after rabbits.

Morse’s sister Joyce rings to tell him their father (Cyril) is ill (he has suffered from angina for years). Not wanting to leave Thursday short while he takes some time off from work to see his father, Morse recommends Strange to serve as Acting Detective Constable in his place. Strange is very pleased… “Little acorns matey” indeed!

Morse’s stepmother Gwen, only manages a lukewarm welcome back to his childhood home (somewhere up north). Morse’s sister, he calls her Joycie, is much more pleased to see him again. Morse visits the grave of his mother (Constance) at the local church.

Just before Morse goes back to Oxford, Joyce tells Morse that his father is proud of him in his own way (although he never liked the police) but that he reminds him too much of his mother.

Thursday encounters his old nemesis, Vic Kasper. He tells Bright that Vic had recently become persona non with Sid and Gerald Fletcher (Get Carter).

Morse talks to Mrs Carter (now Wilkins), the widow of Mickey Carter who was killed by the Kasper gang. She tells Morse that Thursday looked out for her and sent money at the end of each month up until she got married again. Thursday had taken Mickey under his wing from a young constable. One night Mickey went to see an informant by himself but it was a setup. Thursday blamed himself, especially when he couldn’t prove anything and no one was charged. With a young family to keep safe, Thursday moved to Oxford to start afresh without the continuing threat of Kasper.

Morse is shot in the leg by Mrs Coke Norris during her confrontation with him and Thursday.

Morse’s father dies. Morse and his sister Joyce are at his bedside.

Strange takes his Police Sergeant Examination Paper.

Morse finally sees a doctor about his leg injury. The doctor tells him that it will mend but may well find himself saddled with a limp during middle age particularly when he is overtired or the weather turns.

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In memory of Zack. Goodnight little man – we love you x

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Barrington Pheloung

BARRINGTON PHELOUNG

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Papageno ~

MORSE is the loneliest of men. However, despite numerous doomed relationships and tragic love affairs, often overshadowed by the ghosts of girlfriends past, he does have one constant companion which is his music. In addition to being a devoted listener of BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 (although this is mainly to catch every episode of The Archers and the occasional Desert Island Discs) and Classic FM, Morse has an extensive library of LPs which highlight his many musical heroes including Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, and not least Rosalind Calloway, to name but a few.

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Since 1987 to the present day, music has featured so prolifically and prominently throughout the original Inspector Morse, Lewis and now Endeavour, that it is also inconceivable that every single note has been the responsibility of just one man. Indeed, in addition to composing all the original music for the three series, he has also arranged all the classical pieces and various “source music” that you hear in each and every film which are performed under his supervision. It is, therefore, a true honour to present this exclusive interview with one of my musical heroes, Mr Barrington Pheloung.

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DAMIAN: Barrington, you were first approached to write the music for the original series back in 1985 and I believe your first brief was to compose a theme that epitomized Morse’s cultured and cryptic mind while simultaneously capturing his melancholy nature. You did this with one of the most memorable and iconic television themes of recent times, expressing various aspects of the character with music that is both beautiful and yet haunting. Can you describe the complex character of Morse?

BARRINGTON: Morse had an incredibly cryptic mind (as do I finishing off The Guardian crossword – only two to go) but Kenny McBain and Anthony Minghella who wrote the first screenplay wanted me to explore the complexity of this character. He loved cryptic crosswords and classical music and therefore he was very close to my character.

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DAMIAN: For all his intelligence, Morse is rather inarticulate when is comes to communicating – especially with the fairer sex. To what extent would you agree that your music expresses the emotions and psychological makeup of Morse that are often implied rather than ever explicitly stated?

BARRINGTON: Less is always more. Morse is not inarticulate but slightly fumbling when it does come to his relationships with women.

DAMIAN: I hope you’ll forgive my lack of professionalism when I confess that I’m a huge fan of your work and own every Morse album that has ever been released. One of my favourites is The Passion of Morse, which in addition to the majestic Sinfonietta in MorseThe Morse Suite, also features some of your other work including Bach Sarabande, Cello Suite from Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bach Keyboard Concerto, Partita from The Politician’s Wife and Fantasia For the Little Prince. I really do recommend this album to both Morse completists and also those who might like an introduction to your other prolific work which has encompassed various film, television and theatre projects over the years. However, the main reason for highlighting this is because you mention in your sleeve notes for the album that some of the pieces, including the Morse track, are very personal and as much about you as they are about the film characters. Would it be too much of an intrusion to ask you to elaborate on this?

BARRINGTON: Every piece of music that I have written in my life has been based on my life and my own close family connections. Therefore I take this very seriously as an obligation.

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DAMIAN: You share more than a few of our favourite detective’s pastimes don’t you?

BARRINGTON: Yes I enjoy a pint at the pub and I certainly love chess and of course the cryptic crossword although Morse does The Times and I do The Guardian.

DAMIAN: Inspector Morse introduced the now familiar two-hour format for TV films and I’m wondering if it is true that the creative choices and stylistic features such as the use of slow camera pans were specifically designed to accommodate long sections of the beautiful music?

BARRINGTON: Our (Minghella and Kenny McBain) incentive was to try and produce a feature film rather than a television episode. Therefore, I was given much more scope to create longer sequences of music.

DAMIAN: You’ve said that you found it somewhat daunting when you were first asked to write the music for Lewis – why?

BARRINGTON: It was that I simply didn’t know where else to go. However, Kevin Whately’s character was so powerful and strong that I believed we had a new way to go and I even wrote him his own theme.

DAMIAN: The writer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, seems to take an active interest in all aspects of production beyond simply writing the scripts. Obviously much of the music that is used frequently relates to certain plots and characters such as in First Bus to Woodstock (Un bel di from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and the character of Rosalind Calloway) and Fugue (perhaps most notably the inclusion of Verdi’s Otello in finding clues to track down the serial killer, Dr. Daniel Cronyn aka Mason/Gull). I’m wondering at what point in the production do you become creatively involved and to what extent the musical choices are discussed with Russ?

BARRINGTON: Endeavour, Morse and Lewis has always been a subjective choice. Sometimes by directors, sometimes by producers and writers but ultimately I’m given the final choice and more often than not, these are the works that I have conducted many times before.

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DAMIAN: Unlike much television and cinema, where the scores are often used to compensate for the lack of dramatic and emotional depth, your music is chosen carefully and selectively which results in a far more potent contribution to the overall meaning of both the story and its characters. For as much as audiences love and remember the soundtracks, the music is actually used rather sparingly isn’t it?

BARRINGTON: Yes indeed – less is more; always.

DAMIAN: Like Russ, you do enjoy to play rather cunning games with audiences in which you often tease us with various clues but also a few red herrings. Can you give us a few of your favourite examples?

BARRINGTON: On many occasions I have given red herrings in Morse code pertaining to the killer i.e. she did it – he did it.

DAMIAN: Although not as prolific as Colin Dexter’s cameos, you have also made a couple of appearances in the original series, how did this come about?

BARRINGTON: Indeed I have made many appearances on film because I was requested to be on set as the conductor/producer of the music and therefore I was just there.

DAMIAN: I can’t think of another composer who has written the music for a franchise with such longevity and you must be one of the few people to have worked on every single Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour film. What’s the secret behind keeping the music fresh for both the audience and you as a composer?

BARRINGTON: Very simple, if I can’t think of an original theme or to keep a way to keep my music new then that will be time to give up.

DAMIAN: You did a concert at the Royal Festival Hall back in 1991. Is there a chance you might perform again in this country as I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would be thrilled to hear the Morse theme performed live?

BARRINGTON: I would love to as soon as I am asked.

DAMIAN: One final question. I must ask why, a man of your musical talent, is also running a lawn mower repair service?

BARRINGTON: I do indeed repair both my mowers here and in Australia where I have a 30 thousand hectare mountain however, I don’t repair anyone else’s mowers!

DAMIAN: If Russ is the brains behind young Morse, you are his heart and soul. Your music continues to enrich our understanding of the character and its been an absolute privilege to do this interview. Thank you very much indeed Barrington.

BARRINGTON: Thank you and may god bless.

~~~

Special thanks also to Amanda Street-Shipston of DNA Music Ltd.
www.dna-music.com
For more information about the composer, please visit his website:
http://www.pheloung.co.uk/

The final Endeavour film of series 2 is tonight at 8 on ITV

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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: SWAY (S2:03) on April 13, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

We’ve previously discussed FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK and GIRL, now we continue our journey through the first series of Endeavour with FUGUE and ROCKET in addition to previewing tonight’s film, SWAY…

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DAMIAN: FUGUE was something of a gear change, a race-against-time serial killer thriller. For as wonderful as the swinging sixties were, this was also the decade which witnessed the horrific murders of the Zodiac Killer, Charles Manson and closer to home, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. You must have been very young at the time but I’m wondering if you can remember these events from your own childhood and if they influenced the script for FUGUE in any way?

RUSS: With the exception of the Zodiac Killer – the rest were a constant presence from as far back as I can remember. The relations amongst whom I lived and grew up were all quite elderly, and the Victorian preoccupations, death and morbidity (we’ll leave spiritualism and the lavatory to one side this time around!) loomed large. I was probably privy to far too many details of the Tate/LaBianca murders at far too early an age. This Be the Verse…

Of course, one says Tate/LaBianca, but in truth it’s the left side of the oblique with which the media, and, through them, the public, was most fascinated. Likewise, the Saddleworth killings have provided the yellow press with easy copy for almost half a century. I doubt there’s many of my generation for whom the perpetrators didn’t occupy far too much imaginary real estate. The maternal side of my family came originally from Barton upon Irwell, so that created an additional, I hesitate to say proprietorial, interest for them, but I suspect that certainly had a part to play. ‘Manchester… so much to answer for.’

But, no – FUGUE was absolutely not influenced by either. I think there may have been a line, I’m not sure whether it was for FUGUE or not, in an early Endeavour draft for one of the films about ‘that business up North’, but I can’t remember now if it ever made a shooting script, or a final edit.

I wouldn’t want to trivialise or exploit any of those crimes by drawing upon them to any major degree, or constructing a direct parallel, in a show like Endeavour. It’s just not the place. Nor the time. If one was looking seriously and specifically at those crimes from a dramatic point of view, fine. But, otherwise… To plunder them for an ‘entertainment’ – to borrow from Graham Greene’s taxonomy – wouldn’t, to my mind, be appropriate. I’m happy to look further back for a jumping off point, but something within such recent living memory… No. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

By comparison – and we may be getting ahead of ourselves — the Victorian murders in NOCTURNE sprang from a loose personal connection some thirty-odd years ago with the murder of Francis Savile Kent at Rode (Road) Hill House, which – at the time – led me to The Saint With Red Hands by Yseult Bridges, and another volume by Bernard Taylor, Cruelly Murdered, I think it was, which also dealt with the case. It stayed with me, I suppose. Percolating. Germinating. Waiting its moment.

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It’s now one-hundred and fifty years in the past, and seems far enough removed to draw upon comfortably for something like Endeavour. (It was also drawn on – much closer to the time – to varying degrees by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, and also gets a run-out in a segment of Dead of Night, so we’re in pretty decent company). Yet, even there, our crime is but a faint echo – five murders rather than just the one – of its inspiration. In fact, I think the only direct point of contact is that the respective paterfamilias in both instances share the same forename. Though our Samuel was a tea-planter rather than a Inspector of Manufactories.

One final correction to be made. It’s been suggested that our luckless Victorian police Inspector (who ended his days a broken, hopeless drunk in a cheap rooming-house in Dorking) was a nod to Whicher – whose career never recovered from his failure to bring someone to book for the Rode Hill House murder. The truth is much closer to home. It was an affectionate tribute to the producer of the first series of Endeavour, Dan McCulloch – for whom, sober or not, the description holds some meaning.

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DAMIAN: Indeed, the psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull), mentions the growing trend in American serial killers and references Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (a nod to Psycho?). Furthermore, FUGUE also features many little allusions such as one of Cronyn’s aliases, Gull, who intends to claim five victims (a favourite suspect of the five canonical Jack the Ripper murders is Sir William Gull) and also the walled up body in the cellar of the farmhouse (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat?). Do you have a fondness for the horror and Gothic genre?

RUSS: Yes, Sir William (one of Stephen Knight’s now much discredited ‘unholy trinity’) was certainly in my mind – but it was the sense of his surname as a verb that was uppermost. Fairvale – the cuckoo’s egg amongst the rest — was indeed a nod to Hitchcock. The walling up… certainly has Poe associations, but, if anything, I think I would have had A Cask of Amontillado, and the fate of the poorly named Fortunato (and his thousand insults!) more in mind, as he was alive at the time of his immurement, unlike the victim in The Black Cat – but again, the point of departure for all the murders comes back to the first key idea, which was to recreate famous deaths from Opera. Radames fate in Aida was too attractive to ignore. Again – the idea was to attack the thing which gives Endeavour such comfort and pleasure, and taint it in some way. As in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK.

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©itv/MammothScreen

A fondness for horror/Gothic? You really will wish you hadn’t asked… One of my early prize possessions was Denis Gifford’s (sometime cartooning and writing partner of Bob Monkhouse, amongst many other achievements!) landmark A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which I got hold of when I was nine or ten, from WH Smiths at Euston Station. (The important things stay with you.) Later, I acquired some of Alan Frank’s fine guides to the genre.

Universal, RKO, AIP, Amicus, Tigon, and the mighty House of Hammer were as familiar in my mouth as household words. And like many young boys, the Aurora ‘Glow in the Dark’ model kits of the classic ‘monsters’ became an obsession. An obsession clearly shared with the young Mark Petrie… Though, so far as I’m aware, no one ever came scratching at my bedroom window.

This was all in a pre-video recorder/DVD age. But I was lucky enough to be growing up at a time when BBC2 could be relied upon to broadcast a regular Saturday night Horror Double Bill – starting off with the Universals, but, then, moving on to a mix and match of Hammer classics, and many of the Corman/Poe/AIPs. It really was an education.

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I was far too young to get into what were then X-Cert films – today’s 18 — which certificate such horror fare invariably bore. But good old TV came to the rescue by delivering the wig-out 70s, and such English curiosities as Scream and Scream Again; Psychomania; the late Hammer Draculas – AD1972; Satanic Rites, &c.; Pete Walker’s output: a brace of Phibes, (the latter featuring Robert Quarry, AIP’s own Count Yorga! for extra meta!) . Though, I suppose, of all that period, the film which casts the longest shadow is The Wicker Man. Ah… Sgt.Howie.

In some small degree FUGUE is a nod to both Phibes, and Edward Lionheart’s (Theatre of Blood) ‘collect the set’ m.o. And also – of course – though the ‘crimes’ were driven by a different motive altogether, Kind Hearts and Coronets. On the literary side… Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, and Dame Agatha’s And Then There Were None.

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We were hugely spoiled – for a brief wee while in the 60s and 70s — with TV shows in the genre; the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas; some ITV adaptations of the classics; Brian Clemens’s long running ATV Saturday night Thriller; Nigel Kneale’s Beasts; and then the BBC’s Supernatural, (mostly) by Robert Muller, came along in 1979 — tales told at the Club of the Damned. Made in studio, and directed multi-cam from the gallery. Staggering set designs and builds — of a kind you’d kill for now.

Robert Hardy wandering haunted canals and sitting at the table of a certain cafe in Ghosts of Venice. Gordon Jackson proving that there was much darkness beyond the kindly Hudson in Night of the Marionettes. Vladek Sheybal channelling Peter Lorre!! Oh my! So many gems. Between them, the Beeb, Network DVD and the BFI have reissued many of the above titles. If you have a taste for such, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

More recently, my fellow Spooks alum., the great LUTHERan, Neil Cross gave us a memorable addition to the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas, with his modern retelling of the MR James story Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad. And that appears to have re-established the tradition, though adherence has been sporadic, and more honoured in the breach…

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No monograph on the subject – which I realise this is turning into – be it ever so brief, would be complete without mention of The League of Gentlemen – Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. Keepers of the dark and secret flame, I’m a great admirer of their work — both severally and individually. Their collective admiration, respect and affection for the genre is something to be cherished. Mark Gatiss’s Crooked House trilogy, and, more recently, the Ghost Story for Christmas – The Tractate Middoth — have been particular treats. The three-hander Rope homage in the outstanding Psychoville (Series 1, I think), was something very special indeed. Flawless writing, execution and performance. And now Number 9, and Ghosts, and the Great Detective, etc.. Long may they reign – in all their numerous guises and disguises.

As a boy, I was in and around some of the studios where some of these productions had been made – the Hammers, Amicus, Tigon – and even, I think I’m right, someone will correct me else, an AIP (The Masque of the Red Death was done over here, as I think, was The Tomb of Ligeia) — and, indeed, still were being made. It gave me an enormous kick to be amongst such history.

I was much given to prowling (haunting) empty sound-stages and backlots during lunch breaks. There is a certain… atmosphere on a deserted studio set. A pin-drop silence. Some residual heat from the lights. A particular scent of warm air. To which nothing quite compares. All very Sunset Boulevard, I’m sure, but there is something about bogus corridors and flights of stairs that lead nowhere which, if you have a mind at all susceptible to suggestion, excites the imagination. I found it mesmerising. Thrilling. Perhaps even sacred. Still do. Alas, very little is shot ‘in studio’ these days.

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Amongst my very earliest memories is playing amongst a whole heap of Dalek casings on the back-lot at Shepperton, which would have been left over from the Peter Cushing Doctor Who outings. For years there was a particular aroma – which took a city boy a lifetime to identify – that I always associated with Shepperton. It drove me mad trying to work out what it was. But it wasn’t until we were in pre-production on TWTTW (The Way Through the Woods) that I was able to solve the mystery.

Chris Burt – who produced TWTTW — had an office in the ‘main house’ at the studio, and I was often holed up there with John Madden as we tried to crack some of the difficulties in adapting Colin Dexter’s novel. (There is a central conceit in the plot which it’s easy to get away with on the page – but because we have to present the thing visually it was as tricky as you like. In fact, thinking about it, there’s a couple of those. Colin is terribly canny and will sometimes tease his readers with a ‘someone saw something’ kind of sentence. Which is great, but how do we shoot it? Which ‘someone’? What ‘something’?)

Anyway, I digress – sorry, this is turning into a Ronnie Corbett story. But there, walking across to the house every day, was this scent again. Only this time, I was able to locate and identify the culprit. What was it that had haunted my senses for thirty-odd years? Only ‘box’ and nothing more… (Now I’ve told you, I can’t help but feel like Eric Idle’s waiter — Gaston, was it? — expounding his philosophy post the Mister Creosote sequence in the Pythons’ Meaning of Life!!) I think this is the point that the Harry Stoneham Quartet start playing the Parkinson theme and we roll end credits.

There’s a Lewis I wrote – my first when I came back onto the flight roster – set around Hallowe’en, which really was a massive nod to all of the foregoing. My love of the genre in film and TV, together with the writings of Poe, Lovecraft, M.R.James and many, many others, all got folded into that story. Falling Darkness, I think it was. I get confused as I did two for that series – the other was titled The Dead of Winter, and centred on Hathaway’s childhood connection to a stately home, and the family who live there. But we didn’t title them until quite late, and it could have gone either way – so I’m never 100 per cent sure which way round it was. It was the same with Series 1 of Endeavour – with the exception of, appropriately enough, FUGUE, the rest were all finally titled at the end of production. If we ever went again, I think I’d probably go back to that model – titles last. Otherwise things leak out – spoilers and so forth, which I’m not too keen on. At all.

One happy coincidence, however, that comes courtesy of my association with Morse, and which closes the circle, is that while we were prepping TWTTW at Shepperton, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was shooting on the sound-stages and backlot. Once more I was able to indulge my weakness for wandering deserted sets – this time of a beautifully realised Ingolstadt, and come at last within the baroque – though still memorably melancholy – shade of the House of Frankenstein. Even through adult eyes, the magic was, and is, and will ever remain, undimmed and undiminished.

‘And much of madness, and more of sin – And horror the soul of the plot’!

DAMIAN: FUGUE features more screen time with Morse than is perhaps usual with many scenes in which he is alone. The episode also introduces Thursday’s family for the first time so I’m wondering if this was a deliberate attempt to highlight his isolation and loneliness?

RUSS: If he is alone, it’s probably because we wanted to underline his status – still at this stage very much the outsider. And introducing the Thursdays – their normality pushed the disconnect with the nature of the case.

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DAMIAN: There’s a wonderful connection to the original series with the explanation as to why Morse suffers from vertigo (see Service of All the Dead) but am I right in thinking Masonic Mysteries was also an influence?

RUSS: Yes, Endeavour’s high-jinks were intended to sow the seeds of his later vulnerability – ‘C’mon! Show a little backbone, will ya?’. But the finale of FUGUE is one of those instances where – in early drafts at least — you’ll find “LOCATION DEPENDENT” in the Sluglines and Stage Directions. We had a good idea of what we wanted, but really couldn’t nail down what we might or might not be able to realise until a suitable location had been found. And so the Recce fed back into the script. Once we had the location for Alfredus College, we was able to tailor the action on the page to what could be achieved. Our nod to the genius of Harold Lloyd.

Masonic Mysteries is such a towering achievement in the Inspector Morse televisual canon that it is often there to a greater or lesser degree.

But I couldn’t close any discussion of FUGUE without mentioning director Tom Vaughan. That we were blessed with fantastic performances from the cast notwithstanding, Tom just ‘got’ FUGUE from the off, and gave us all we could have asked for and more. And then once Barrington Pheloung does his thing – aided and abetted by Matthew Slater… In the words of many a reality TV talent contest, it ‘takes it to the next level.’

~~~

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ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

DAMIAN: Again, there was change in mood with the third film, ROCKET, which was perhaps a touch lighter in tone and humour. Is it a conscious decision to shape each film differently with its own unique identity and is this why every film has a different director?

RUSS: Well – each film has a different director for very practical reasons. Typically, the post production period of the first film occupies the shooting period of the second, and the shooting period of the second is the ‘prep’ time for the third film. I suppose it might be possible to bring back FILM 1 director for FILM 4, but it would be a lot to ask, as their schedule would run – prep FILM 1, shoot FILM 1, post FILM 1 – prep-FILM 4 – shoot FILM 4 – post FILM 4.

From my end – we only get to do four of these a year, and I want to try to get as much variety in as possible. It’s always Endeavour, but, hopefully, comes out of a different trap for each film. But it was lovely that we got Colm McCarthy back for HOME – a secret Dan McCulloch kept up his sleeve until the last moment.

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DAMIAN: You’ve said in the past that there was a long and quite twisted backstory to writing ROCKET – would you care to elaborate for us please?

RUSS: You’ll have to jog my memory, as it’s quite a long time ago now. The final clue was always in my head – the accidental method whereby Endeavour unlocks the mystery. (Spoilers ahead!) Ah – now I remember. Yes. As I mentioned before, not everything you write ends up getting green lit and made, and some years ago – ten or more, I should think – I was asked to adapt a novel as 2×90 minutes. I… took some liberties. It was a pretty loose adaptation, as these things sometimes are, but I needed to find a way in, to make it more of a state of the union piece, and as a result I ended up looking at certain newsreels – amongst which sundry visits by members of the royal family were made to certain towns and factories, etc.. There was one with the DoE – it must have been the late 50s/early 60s – and the tone of it struck a chord somewhere. And then another of HMQ’s visit to… Stevenage, I think it was – there to admire the Thunderbird missile factory… Met by the Lord Lieutenant, etc.. ‘Have you come far?’ Bob Danvers Walker providing the narration. What a voice. And – to cut a long story – there was a changing of the guards at the broadcaster, and the new broom didn’t share their predecessor’s enthusiasm for the project, so it quietly died a death. But those newsreels were stacked away in the back of my mind…

Nothing is ever wholly wasted. A decade or so goes by… And thinking about stories for the first series of Endeavour, I remembered the newsreel. I’m fascinated by the long history of our island race – how EXACTLY did we get here? – changing social mores, &c. And the missiles and Her Majesty seemed too tempting to resist as a jumping off point. As soon as one thinks of factories and British films, a certain Boulting Brothers’ masterpiece (one of several!) can’t be far behind.

I thought it might be fun to have some kind of dynastic struggle behind the scenes amongst the owners of the factory. And the Plantagenets seemed a splendid model. Thinking of Henry, Eleanor and their fractious offspring brought to mind James Goldman’s staggeringly good The Lion in Winter. And the rest is…

So – those were the three things, the major ingredients for ROCKET stew.

I also had a the back of my mind that bit of folklore/urban myth about everywhere a royal personage visits smelling of fresh paint. So one takes that and puts it with the rest of it, and… Click!!!

Dan McCulloch brought us to director Craig Viveiros who was fairly untried with television. Little did we know that he wouldn’t just get the crate airborne, but would shortly dazzle us with barrel-rolls and loop-the-loops. Ridiculously talented just about covers it.

I’m very partial to a chamber piece – a precinct drama – which in effect is what ROCKET was. The factory and offices of Imperial Electric were a closed space. Our cut-off country house. We were two and a bit weeks in the old Tate & Lyle factory at Greenwich – possibly our longest stay at any location to date – which doubled for IEC — and I think the look Matt Gant (Production Designer) and his team of elves achieved simply dazzles. The way Craig and DoP John Pardue shot it… It’s just terribly stylish.

Likewise Chinon Court – the Brooms’ family home – which was Craig’s call for a location. I’d been terribly literal with the mediaeval vibe, but thankfully Craig, Matt and Dan saved me from myself, and went for this moderne masterpiece, which we then dressed with the odd bit of armour, etc., so’s not to lose sight of its inspiration. It fitted the look of the factory far more closely, and gave the whole thing a sense of completeness.

We were very lucky with our directors. Ed Bazalgette had the toughest gig of all, I think – opening the batting for us on GIRL; defending The Ashes almost, after the reception FBTW had received. He had so much on his shoulders – essentially setting up a new show – but he delivered with his customary brilliance, style and panache, and gave us not only a terrific film, but a perfect springboard for all that followed. An unbeaten double century.

But – back to ROCKET… Add the sublime Miss Jenny Seagrove, and the living legend that is Mister Martin Jarvis (every bit as lovely and mischievous as you might expect) as our Nora and Henry and it’s like all one’s birthdays and Christmases have come at once. That Martin had history with Morse (Greeks Bearing Gifts – What a film!) made the experience even more special. To hear that voice – THAT voice! – delivering one’s dialogue at the read… I mean… Come on!

DAMIAN: There are many moments for the fans to savour in this film but I particularly enjoyed the humorous exchanges between Morse and Strange (Bergman!) and the beautifully written and performed scenes with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy). I know Morse is currently busy with Nurse Monica but might we see Alice return one day?

RUSS: Yeh – dear old Strange. If not a cultural desert, then perhaps an area with very low precipitation. I’d forgotten about the Bergman, but now you mention it, that scene very nearly got cut from the final edit. Jokes are always a hostage to fortune – being seen as not furthering the plot, but I think I’ve said before, it’s the character stuff carries equal weight for me, and I think there might be some Jakes material lurking in this scene also, which probably saved it. You’ll have to forgive my memory – I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast. But, yes – Strange’s misunderstanding, possibly prefigures/draws on an exchange about Morse’s recent holiday destination in TWTTW…

Very sadly we did lose a scene between Dorothea and Strange, which came quite late in proceedings – once Endeavour was firmly on the scent. It is shot – and edited – and perhaps one day we’ll include all the stuff we couldn’t squeeze in. It’s a scene I like a lot – a rare two hander between Abigail and Sean. It sprang off the back of some oblique Endeavour mutterings in the cinema about Simeon Stylites. Also cut…

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©itv/MammothScreen

Ah… Alice Vexin… in the person of Maimie McCoy. I thought it was interesting to turn the usual coat inside out and have a character who had carried a torch for Endeavour, or rather her idea of Endeavour – enhanced by the passage of time. As Jakes observes in TROVE – ‘absence makes.’ There’s little quite so attractive as that which one cannot have. But I think once, almost immediately, that Alice had got it out of her system that the bubble was burst, and she could see Endeavour was not the brightest of prospects for something long term.

In terms of Endeavour’s development, it felt right to establish in the fourth film we’d done that he wasn’t going to lead some kind of prissy, asexual, weirdly monastic existence. He might be unlucky in love by the time we get to meet him as a Chief Inspector, but to imagine, or, worse, to actively want his twenties and thirties to be just this arid stretch of nothing seemed to my mind unrealistic, immature and more than a little bit Annie Wilkes! You dirty birdy! Of course Endeavour taking someone to bed on screen (as t’were) was a break with tradition, but we hoped we’d bring the audience with us.

Maimie’s this luminous, ethereal screen presence. A very sharp, very sensitive actor – both strong and fragile at the same instant, which was just perfect for Alice. And she and Shaun just nailed that relationship. I particularly like the way Craig V and his D.o.P. framed those scenes at the table in the pub. Very Kubrick.

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©itv/MammothScreen

One thing I’m keen to establish is the idea that Oxford is a living, breathing place outside of our adventures. The notion that Endeavour would not run into Alice, or, indeed, other characters previously encountered in a place so relatively small and socially insular (then! Before there are ‘letters’!) as Oxford strikes me as unlikely.

DAMIAN: As is now customary, please tell us a little bit about tonight’s film, SWAY – I believe you’ve been digging into Oxford history again?

RUSS: Yup, I’ve got a history of the Oxford City Police that contains a great section on Bonfire/Fireworks Night/November 5th, which was an annual blast of riotous town and gown mayhem. All leave was cancelled and the City Police deployed a large contingent of officers in ‘disguise’ to infiltrate the crowds and identify troublemakers for their colleagues to nab. I think I’ve mentioned before how the shooting schedule – late summer through winter – defines what we can and can’t realise, and so FILM by FILM the seasons progress – SWAY brought us to autumn, and November 5th seemed a good spot to hang the story on – there’s another reason it was chosen, which will become clear if you watch it, but I can’t go into it here for fear of spoilery.

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©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they relate to the original series. Today we continue with our study of Fugue and Rocket

Morse appears in The Oxford Mail with the following headline: ‘TOP OF THE COPS – DETECTIVE CONSTABLE IMPRESSES AUDIENCE AT OPERA RECITAL’. Fugue

The psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull*), is asked to help profile the “Opera Phantom”. He makes reference to the growing trend in American serial killers and mentions Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and also the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (Fairvale is fifteen miles away from the Norman Bates/Psycho mansion and motel). Fugue

*It is interesting that Gull wishes to claim 5 victims – the same number as the canonical Jack the Ripper murders – one of the suspects was Sir William Gull. Fugue

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

Morse develops a fear of heights which he still suffers from in 1987. Fugue & Service of all the Dead

-Thursday’s family: Win (wife), Sam (son) and Joan (Daughter). Sam has/or is about to join the army and Joan works in a bank. Fugue

-Thursday speaks Italian. He came up through Italy after North Africa, landed at Reggio and then on to Cassino. Fugue

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

-There is a picture hanging on the wall of Thursday’s living room which is reminiscent of Housman’s “blue remembered hills”. The picture is to the right of Morse when he is resting shortly after the stabbing. Fugue

Oxford City Police are responsible for providing additional security while Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret is escorted on a tour of a factory for the official unveiling of the new Standfast Mark Two surface-to-air missile. The purpose of the visit is to help promote British industry abroad. Rocket

Alice Vexin discovers the body of Percy Malleson (aka Kendrick). Alice had a crush on Morse while at University and lived across the stair from Susan. Alice and Morse haven’t seen each other for seven years and he hardly recognizes her at first. Rocket

Morse tells Alice he has only been back in Oxford for a couple of months. Rocket

Morse and Alice meet on a date at the Fox and Hounds where she used to drink as a student. Morse says he likes police work but doesn’t fit in. Alice tells him that he was never like the rest despite Morse wanting and trying to be. She continues that he was difficult, awkward… all corners socially and so angry… but himself most of all.

After Morse’s failed relationship with Susan, Alice hoped he might seek comfort in her but instead, he just disappeared from her life.

Alice wears her hair like Susan did in the hope that it will remind Morse of her and perhaps be attracted to her. Morse says he doesn’t know if he is still in love with Susan but it is obvious that he is. Alice wonders if he could love her too.

Later, Morse and Alice spend the night together but soon afterwards, she tells him that she doesn’t think he is ready for a relationship and doesn’t want to be second best after Susan. The two go their separate ways. Rocket

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: James Bradshaw

~ With thanks to Uncle Bob and William Dunn ~

Morse and Max enjoy Gin and Campari at the Gardeners…
‘Poor sod… Do you ever think of death? Mors, mortis, feminine – remember that?
‘Not likely to forget a word like that, am I? Just add on “e” to the end and…’
The surgeon smiled a sour acknowledgement of the point and drained his glass. ‘We’ll just have the other half. Then we’ll get back, and show you round the scene of the crime again.’
‘When the body’s out of the way?’
‘You don’t like the sight of blood much, do you?’
‘No. I should never have been a policeman.’
‘Always turned me on, blood did – even as a boy.’
‘Unnatural!’
‘Same again?’
‘Why not?’
‘What turns you on?’ asked the surgeon as he picked up the two glasses.
‘Somebody from the Oxford Times asked me that last week, Max. Difficult, you know – just being asked out of the blue like that.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I said I was always turned on by the word “unbuttoning”.’
– Colin Dexter, The Secret of Annexe 3
'First Bus to Woodstock' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘First Bus to Woodstock’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: As we’ll discuss shortly, the friendship between Morse and the pathologist, Dr Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn, is a rather unique one compared to other characters in either Inspector Morse or Endeavour, but first James, please tell us how you got the part?

JAMES: I received a call from my agent to say they had emailed the script over for a meeting the following day with Susie Parriss [Casting Director], Dan McCulloch [Producer] and Colm McCarthy [Director]. I had a good read and picked out a couple of scenes. I had a memory of Peter Woodthorpe’s Max from the Morse series, and as soon as I started reading Russell’s [Lewis] script, I thought ‘Now, I’d like to get this.’ I like to do as much preparation as possible, and I like to look right, sound right, and smell right, so I made sure I had the scenes off the page, and went in dressed in a smart suit and thick framed glasses. I didn’t look at any ‘Morse’ footage immediately before, as I didn’t want to do an impression of Peter’s Max, and I also felt that the character was so well drawn in Russell’s script, and Max’s mannerisms and demeanour came through very clearly.

I think I may have been a little conscious of Max’s air of eccentricity in the first reading and came across as somewhat theatrical, but Colm, who is such a brilliant director, said ‘It’s ok, it’s all there, you don’t have to push it.’ We tried it again, everyone seemed happy, and I was told by my agent that I had got the part about four days later. That was a lovely afternoon when I got that call, I went straight to Marks and Spencer and treated myself to a nice pudding.

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Lewis and Strange may have had longer friendships with Morse, but it is with Max that the detective finds the most in common as they are both on the same cultural and intellectual wavelength. How would you describe their relationship?

JAMES: They have such a wonderful connection and I think that is there right from their very first encounter. Max is most definitely ‘nonconformist’ in attitude and approach and I think he recognises that in Morse. There is also a shared appreciation of highculture, and Max loves Morse’s familiarity with the poetry and Latin that Max is so fond of espousing. There is certainly a lot of mutual respect there, and always warmth and affection, even when they’re having the odd little snappy moment. Max is also certainly not averse to the odd tipple or two.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Like Morse, is it fair to say Max is something of an outsider as he doesn’t really seem to fit in does he?

JAMES: There is an eccentricity to Max, and a flamboyant persona, which is probably a useful device for steering clear of emotional attachments. He is certainly highly regarded for his professional capabilities and I imagine in his leisure time, he is great fun at local wine-tasting events and bridge evenings, provoking amusement in some and bafflement in others with his odd mannerisms and turn of phrase. However, he might have many acquaintances, but very few real friends, and I think this has been a common theme throughout his life.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: So is Max a lonely chap or does he, with the possible exception of Morse, simply prefer his own company most of the time?

JAMES: I think he is quite a lonely chap who doesn’t always take care of himself as much as he should, probably over-indulging at times in his fondness for rich food and expensive claret. He is obviously very intelligent, and hugely capable at his job, underneath the prickly exterior, he has great warmth and humanity, but when it comes to close, emotional ties, he’s just a bit lost. He only feels real affinity with those he recognises as outsiders like himself.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

It was 4.30 p.m. before the fingerprint man and the photographer were finished, and before the hump-backed surgeon straightened his afflicted spine as far as nature would permit.
‘Well?’ asked Morse.
‘Difficult to say. Anywhere from sixteen to twenty hours.’
‘Can’t you pin it down any closer?’
‘No.’
Colin Dexter, Last Seen Wearing

DAMIAN: Max made his literary debut in the second Morse book, Last Seen Wearing (1976), and appeared in most of the novels until he died of coronary thrombosis in The Way Through the Woods (1992). He’s described as being hump-backed, having little respect for the police but is passionate about food, drink and indeed blood – he’s also a world authority on VD! Other than that, there is little information about him – I wonder if you have your own personal backstory for Max that helps to fill in the gaps for you as an actor portraying him?

JAMES: I always look at the text first, the original novels, and Russell’s screenplays for information about the character. I find this is always the best source of interpretation and provides those clues as to Max’s character and motivations.

Colin Dexter is from Stamford in Lincolnshire and by coincidence, so am I. We had a lovely chat at one of the read-throughs about the beautiful and historic town, and I discovered subsequently that there was a surgeon operating at Stamford Hospital around the 1950s named Doctor Du Bruyn. Apparently he was quite a local character, a man of brilliance and eccentricity, and I would love to ask Colin, next time I see him if he was in any way an inspiration, when writing the character of Max.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: One of my few gripes with the original series is that I felt they squandered the potential of the Max character by only having him appear in the first seven (of thirty-three) films. This is especially the case when one considers that they replaced him in the third series with Dr Grayling Russell who is also ultimately written out anyway as the producers must have realised that it was not a good idea to have a regular series character as a reoccurring love interest for Morse [Sorry Monica!]. However, his relatively sparse appearances were memorable thanks to Peter Woodthorpe’s masterful performance. What do you think of Peter’s interpretation of Max?

JAMES: I think I mentioned, I found a picture of Max on the internet and remembered him from the original series, but that had been a several years before, and I deliberately did not watch footage of Peter Woodthorpe’s performance before going in for my interview, as I wanted to play the role as written in the script, and very much keep away from doing an impression. After the pilot had gone out, I did watch some of the older episodes featuring Peter Woodthorpe, to give me a flavour of those wonderful mannerisms and body language he used as Max. It was fascinating finding out about Peter, he was a hugely versatile actor, and had done some ground-breaking work including the very first production of The Caretaker. I was also lucky enough to talk to some actors who knew and had worked with him.

Peter as Max ©itv

Peter as Max ©itv

Morse leaned forward and whispered in the dying man’s ear: ‘I’ll bring us a bottle of malt in the morning, Max, and we’ll have a wee drop together, my old friend. So keep a hold on things – please keep a hold on things! … Just for me!’
– Colin Dexter, The Way Through the Woods

DAMIAN: I only wish the original series had managed to incorporate Colin’s touching farewell scene between Morse and Max – two rather emotionally inarticulate men perhaps trying to find the words to express what their friendship means to each other one last time. Do you think this foreknowledge of their respective fates informs your own and Shaun’s performance as Max and Morse, perhaps adding an extra layer of poignancy and understanding?

JAMES: I always try to think of what has happened to the character beforehand rather than what will happen in their future, but it is a beautiful touching scene and I think that poignancy and understanding runs right through their relationship from their first meeting. I remember when we shot those first scenes, I think it was the very first day of shooting on the pilot episode, and it felt like the connection between these two outsiders was there right from the start. It helps that Shaun is a very focused, talented, and generous actor. It is just so lovely working with him, because the energy between the characters feels so right.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Russ provides Max with some wonderfully macabre yet humorous dialogue and there is also the matter of the copious but obligatory autopsy-related jargon – is it difficult to get all the terminology right in the relatively short scenes?

JAMES: I love Russell’s writing, some of Max’s lines are just delicious! The autopsy-related jargon is an education. I always make sure I know which part of the human body, I am referring to. I have a good mate in the medical profession who can always be called upon to help me out with that stuff. And he is very particular on the pronunciation.

DAMIAN: While we’re on the subject, I must ask if it is true that you learn your lines in a cemetery?

JAMES: Yes, there is a beautiful church close by the river, near where I live and I trot down there of a morning and walk through the adjoining cemetery. It is wonderfully peaceful, and an ideal place to go over the lines. I can try them out all sorts of ways with varying degrees of emphasis and there aren’t many other people walking around the cemetery at that time, so I don’t have to worry about getting curious looks. I get right into it, I really am in my own, little world when I’m walking through there.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: I really love Max’s dress sense, do you help to choose his wardrobe – perhaps picking out the odd bowtie or two?

JAMES: We have brilliant costume designers and wardrobe people on Endeavour. I had a vague idea about tweeds and bow ties and they just got it so right.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You wear glasses yourself, was it difficult to find the right pair for Max?

JAMES: I remember saying to the costume designer that I’d seen a pair of glasses that Arthur Lowe had worn in the Sixties (As Mr Swindley from Coronation Street, not Captain Mainwaring) and the style seemed just right for the time and the character. I found some examples on the internet, and they came back with the perfect frames.

'Home' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: In my interview with Abigail Thaw, she mentioned a spin-off series, “Dotty and Max” – please tell us more…

JAMES: Haha!! I love Abigail, she is wonderful company and a terrific actress, and I always look forward to seeing her at the read-throughs, she has such a brilliant sense of humour and we always have a laugh together. We both said one day, isn’t it a shame that Dotty and Max never meet. And then we began to invent a rambling, fictional tale about Dorothea and Max. ‘I wonder if they’re related, well there are similarities…’ that kind of thing. I think we imagined them constantly bickering, swigging gin and becoming slightly psychotic.

'Trove' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Trove’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You’re a fantastic Max; you honour both Colin’s creation and indeed, Peter’s take on the role while simultaneously making it your own. Thank you very much indeed for this interview James.

JAMES: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for asking me.

~

Many had known Max, even if few had understood his strange ways. And many were to feel a fleeting sadness at his death. But he had (as we have seen) a few friends only. And there was only one man who had wept silently when the call had been received in his office in Thames Valley Police HQ at Kidlington at 9 a.m. on Sunday, 19 July 1992.
– Colin Dexter, The Way Through the Woods
Nocturne ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2014

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part II

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: Nocturne (S2:02) on April 6, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Rex De Lincto ~

Last week we discussed FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK with the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis. Today, we begin our journey through the first series as well as previewing tonight’s episode – NOCTURNE…

ACT II

“GIRL”

(The soft centre with a touch of the chase me Charlies)

DAMIAN: FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK was a stunning piece of television which exceeded all expectations and must have been a huge challenge to follow, particularly when one considers that it was never actually intended as a pilot but rather a one-off tribute and 25th anniversary celebration of the original Inspector Morse. You have previously said that had you been aiming at a series, you probably would have done a few things differently. Could you give us a few examples Russ?

RUSS: Compare and contrast GIRL and FBTW. And, I think most of the answers are there… With GIRL, we were – apart from Shaun [Evans] and Roger [Allam], Jimmy Bradshaw and Abigail Thaw – starting over. Essentially, if FBTW had been the pilot for something, I would have set up the returning ensemble. STRANGE, most obviously. And the THURSDAYS. Truth is the THURSDAYS did exist in early drafts of FBTW. But it was so packed out already with story that – much to my chagrin – they were excised. Mothballed, as it turned out. I did try AGAIN – to get them into GIRL, but again… my designs were thwarted (for the best of reasons.) However, they found their moment and added considerable value to FUGUE. So – every thing in its season. Looking back now – it feels to me as if they have always been part of the fabric of ENDEAVOUR, even if they were off-stage for the first two adventures.

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

And one mustn’t forget DS JAKES, of course. A permanent stone in Endeavour’s shoe. I’m enormously fond of JAKES. His role as antagonist in chief was filled in FBTW, admirably, by the marvellous Danny Webb as DS Arthur LOTT. His relationship with Endeavour is constantly evolving. I mean, he’s got the rank and probably feels he should have landed the job as Thursday’s bag-man. So, that’s always a bit of a sore point between him and Endeavour. And yet, I think, even in the first series, he’d started to if not admire, then perhaps respect Endeavour’s abilities. Of course, a huge amount of JAKES’s appeal is down to Jack Laskey, who brings so much to the role. It would have been easy just to play the snide, but in Jack’s more than capable hands, Peter Jakes gives us so much more.

And, completing the Cowley Road nick line up, dear old Reginald BRIGHT – who took over from the unfortunate CRISP. I wanted to have a man in uniform at the top – to ring the changes from D.Ch.Supt.Strange and, in LEWIS, Jean Innocent.

DAMIAN: GIRL serves as an excellent set-up which not only re-establishes Morse for the casual viewer but also introduces new characters including an old friend and another great original creation in the aforementioned Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright who we’ll discuss again shortly. Before that however, can you tell us a little bit about PC Strange and why he missed the “First Bus”?

RUSS: Well – we had a fairly dense story to unpack. The key relationship that needed to be brought foreground was between Endeavour and Fred Thursday. There simply wasn’t room to introduce Strange and do him the justice he deserved. No dark agenda. Nothing… sinister. We are always up against it for screen-time, running, as we do – some twelve minutes shorter than the original IM [Inspector Morse].

Strange missed the "first bus"... ©itv/MammothScreen

Strange missed the “first bus”… ©itv/MammothScreen

...but he made it second time around! ©itv/MammothScreen

…but he made it “second time around!” ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It was a beautiful homage to James Grout, the gentleman who played Strange in the original series that you gave the new incarnation the Christian name Jim. Mr Grout passed away in 2012 but he appeared in your adaptation of The Way Through the Woods and I’m wondering if you ever had the chance to meet the great man and if you could tell us a little a bit about him please?

RUSS: Well – James Grout was known generally as Jimmy. I met him briefly on location at Leith Hil – which doubled for Wytham Woods – in TWTTW [The Way Through the Woods]. And had admired his work hugely – not only in Morse, but across a raft of memorable performances. The luckless George Batt in Mother Love springs most readily to mind. Strange – in the persona of Jimmy Grout – for all his grouching at Morse, there was always a certain kindness, a genuine affection, in their relationship. He had very kindly eyes, did Mister Grout. So…

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©itv/MammothScreen

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©kippa

Giving the unnamed Strange the forename of James Grout seemed a way to commemorate his enormous contribution to IM. It was doubly fortunate, as my son is also called James, and, if I’m in on the ground floor of something – creating it – I usually try to name a major character – typically someone with a kind nature and generous heart – after my own sprig, who has an abundance of said qualities. Thus, James Kavangh QC… and in the Morse universe, James Hathaway. That I was able to combine both in the person of Jim Strange was very pleasing.

But casting STRANGE was a tall order. And then we saw Sean Rigby – who was either just leaving, or had just left, drama college – and he blew us away. I mean, he just WAS Strange. Matey-ing away as if to the manner born. And we knew at once we’d found our man. That was the last bit of the jigsaw.

DAMIAN: I’d now like to discuss a horse of a very different colour and perhaps you might also tell us more about the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein inspiration?

RUSS: Ah… BRIGHT. Well, it was the voice and bearing, really. Here was this military giant, and yet to look at him, and hear him addressing the troops – the little foxy moustache, the rhotacism… And yet for all that, a brilliant commander who inspired great loyalty and devotion. So, that was the jumping off point. Anton Lesser (I still have to pinch myself at our good fortune that he agreed to take on the role) just fills those shoes to perfection.

CH SUPT Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) ©itv/MammothScreen

CH SUPT Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) ©itv/MammothScreen

I remember Anton was quite concerned that Bright shouldn’t be just a figure of fun, easy to ridicule. He was certainly very easy to read as that on the page, and I think that there was a general buzz in pre-production, because he has a certain way of speaking, a predilection for tortured and tortuous idiom, that he was just a buffoon. But to my mind – going back to Monty – nothing could be further from the truth. I think I either wrote, or spoke to Anton – wrote, I think – to outline my take on the character, which was at odds with that initial received impression of him. People might mistake him for a bit of chump – and to a certain degree he plays into his detractors’ hands with his demeanour – but, for my money, he was anything but a fool. He may be a stickler for the rule-book, but beneath that rather large hat, is steel and flint, all the way down.

Bright has come – as I think is alluded to in some of his dialogue – from the Colonial Police, and has spent most of his career ‘overseas’. I think that dictates in some part his attitude to the men. He is still applying the lessons learnt in the tropics – a certain ‘Empire’ way of dealing with ‘local officers’ and indigenous peoples – to the good folk of Oxford. His is a world – his younger days at least – straight out of John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song. ‘Six o’clock news… lime juice and gin.’ The second son. Packed off to ‘foreign climes’ to make his way in the world, and do his bit for King and Country. He is a man even more out of time than most in the 1960s. But, he is a very decent man, if a little dazzled by those he perceives as his social betters. When the chips are down, his loyalty to his troops – for all his bark and bite – is total.

DAMIAN: There is a reference to Charlie Hillian (played by Maurice Bush in Inspector Morse) in Girl – might we hear more of him in the future?

RUSS: I think it very unlikely that we will not hear, and see, more of Mister Hillian.

DAMIAN: Speaking of the future and specifically this evening, please tell us something about tonight’s film, NOCTURNE…

RUSS: High summer. A certain sporting event. 1966 was the year of Dr. Jonathan Miller’s masterly interpretation of Alice in Wonderland for the BBC. A favourite. Eerie. Unsettling. Haunting.

So the mood of that piece of work was a vague, uncertain point of departure. One thought begets another. Deborah Kerr and Tippi Hedren drop by to say hello. A snake of choristers sing their way along a sun dazzled beach. The cover of an old Long Playing Record sets hares running hither and yon. A West Country summer long since passed casts a long shadow. Frederic Chopin does his thing. And before you know it… NOCTURNE swims into view.

DAMIAN: Curiouser and curiouser!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

S2-FILM2: 'Nocturne' ©itv/MammothScreen

S2-FILM2: ‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

~~~

THE INSIDE STORY

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they relate to the original series. Today, we continue our study of Girl

Morse isn’t much of a team player. His school reports always stated that he was bad at games. However, he was good at Cross Country or anything where he could compete alone. Girl

Morse is described as having a grammar scholarship and a failed degree. Girl

Morse states that he was a cipher clerk in the Royal Signal Corps. First Bus to Woodstock & Girl

While serving in the Signal Corps, Morse’s training took place in Leicestershire. Girl

Morse meets Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright. Girl

Bright tells Thursday that Morse worked about two years in uniform before being transferred to CID. He also complains that Morse is acting as Thursday’s bag-man, a job that should have gone to a Detective Sergeant rather than a Detective Constable. Girl

Morse and Jim Strange meet for the first time marking the beginning of possibly Morse’s longest friendship which lasted 35 years until Morse’s death in 2000. Girl 

Strange is already thinking about promotion and tells Morse he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in blue serge. Girl

Morse bids farewell to Pamela and her son Bobby as they board a coach. Their destination is not stated but one of the services runs to Newcastle as advertised on one of the boards behind them. Girl

Morse and Chief Inspector Dawson worked as detective sergeants under the command of Charlie Hillian in 1969*. Second Time Around

*Hillian is mentioned by Thursday in Girl: “I know you’ve already spoken to DI Hillian out of Kidlington about the robbery”.

Mary Lapsley, an eight-year-old girl is murdered in 1973. Morse, Patrick Dawson and Charlie Hillian worked on the case which wouldn’t be truly solved until eighteen years later in 1991. Second Time Around

A celebration is held for former assistant police commissioner Charlie Hillian. Morse’s old rival, Chief Inspector Patrick Dawson (who you’ll remember were together when Hillian was a chief inspector in Oxford) leads the proceedings. Hillian later dies from a head injury, the truth about the Mary Lapsley case and indeed Dawson are finally revealed after 18 years. Second Time Around

Detective Constable Morse. Oxford City Police. Warrant Number, 175392. Girl

Jakes watches the television police drama, Gideon’s Way (1964-65). Girl

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Sean Rigby

~ With thanks to Anthony Sayer ~

DAMIAN: Endeavour boasts an impressive cast of characters and while I adore every single one of them, I’m particularly fascinated by Jim Strange and pathologist Max de Bryn. Perhaps this is because they are both somewhat intriguing characters who frequently appear in both Colin Dexter’s novels and the original Morse television series. Yours is a very understated and subtle performance made all the more remarkable considering this was your first professional job in television after graduating from LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). Can you tell us how you landed the part?

SEAN: I graduated from LAMDA in July 2012, and like most drama school graduates, was hunting for a regular job at the time. A friend of mine sent me an email telling me that he had been up for a part in something called Endeavour. He didn’t think he was right for it, but thought that I might be. I contacted my agent and requested that they get me an audition, but they had reservations about whether I was old enough to play the part. Luckily, they decided to take a punt, and got me an audition with Susie Parriss, the Casting Director.

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

"I'm Strange" ©itv/MammothScreen

“I’m Strange” ©itv/MammothScreen

My first audition with Susie was, without a doubt, one of the worst I have ever given. I wore the black three piece suit I had worn to my graduation, shaved off my beard, and slicked back my hair in a vague attempt to look like a 1960’s policeman. It was a roasting hot August day and it’s safe to say that I was sweating cobs. I got completely lost on my way to Susie’s house and had to ring a friend of mine to get on google maps and give me directions. If you had been around the area that day you may well have seen a proto-Strange frantically sprinting through the streets of Wimbledon. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, hair all over the place and severely out of breath. I went in, sat down with Susie, and promptly set about forgetting all my lines, mumbling and sweating even more. It was a complete disaster and I resigned myself to the fact that I had utterly blown it.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

For some reason, a week later, I got a call from my agent saying that Susie would like me to come in and read with her, Ed Bazalgette [Director] and Dan McCulloch [Producer]. That went much better, and the week after that I was called in to read with Shaun [Evans]. I had been told by my agent that this would be the last round of auditions. Susie asked me to come and audition for the part of DC Gray in Lewis in the meantime.

The next day, whilst sitting on the tube in Barons Court (right outside LAMDA), I got a call from my agent telling me they had “Good news and bad news. Which would I like to hear first?”. I requested the bad news to which my agent replied “Well, you can’t do Lewis!”. I leaped off the tube and performed an impromptu Irish jig on the Barons court platform.

DAMIAN: Can you remember which section of the script you were given to audition with?

SEAN: If my memory serves correctly it was the section of Girl where Morse discovers the Golf Cheese and Chess Society.

DAMIAN: I understand that you did a great amount of research after you were cast as Strange but you had never actually seen Inspector Morse before the audition. I’m wondering what were your initial thoughts on the character from reading Russell Lewis’ script?

SEAN: There’s a no nonsense style in the way that Strange communicates. I suppose that’s what struck me initially.

S1-FILM2: 'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM2: ‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It must have been greatly exciting to read through Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, finding various clues and making notes on all of the characters and their relationships. What were the most revealing pieces of the puzzle?

SEAN: It’s a very difficult thing to quantify, really. The relationship dynamics between Morse and Strange in Endeavour and Inspector Morse are at once vastly different and very similar. The most illuminating part of reading the books was discovering the world in which these characters operate. I had to quickly consume a body of work which Morse fans the world over had taken years to savour; as much as I wanted to find out every detail to inform my performance, I wanted to read the books in a respectful and appreciative way, not just cram as if for an exam.

DAMIAN: There are some wonderful insights into Strange’s family life in As Good as Gold (lovely moments in which he celebrates his birthday over a glass or two of Macallan while he proceeds to bore Morse with nostalgic musings on his grandchildren), did you also manage to take a look at the short stories as well?

SEAN: I must confess that the short stories are still unopened on my bedside table, but I will make a start on them very soon indeed. To echo my previous answer, I am cautious about ‘bingeing’ on Colin Dexter’s writing. It deserves pacing and appreciating, much as Strange would approach that Macallan!

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: This is the clincher: like Morse, both Russ and I have copies of Moriarty’s Police Law (1965, Eighteenth Edition) which was required reading for any police officer taking their Sergeant’s exam – but do you have a copy?

SEAN: I shall have to come clean and say that I do not. Strange would not be impressed!

DAMIAN: We simply couldn’t discuss Strange without acknowledging the great and much missed James Grout who played the role from 1987 to 2000. Strange’s Christian name was never mentioned in either Dexter’s novels or the original TV series so it was a lovely tribute that the character was finally named Jim in his honour. To what extent has James Grout’s interpretation of the role influenced your own?

SEAN: James Grout was an incredible actor. It’s as simple as that. He gave Strange effortless authority laced with a genuine kindness. I’d like to think that Strange in the 1960’s 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.

James Grout, right, with John Thaw

Say cheese! – the original Morse and Strange ©itv

DAMIAN: Strange is a Southerner and you are Northern lad, was is difficult to incorporate James Grout’s voice in addition to the accent into your own vocalisation?

SEAN: Well, James Grout was from London and you can certainly hear that in his accent. However he was a classically trained actor and that accent seemed to have been softened over the years. I decided that Strange might have a more pronounced London accent in the early days as it would be softened eventually from years in the Oxford police force.

The accent can be tricky at times. There a few occasions where I get quite tongue tied with some of the vowels and slip back into my native Lancashire.

DAMIAN: James Grout gave a beautifully judged performance that managed to encompass a great amount of comedy but this never detracted from his absolute gravitas and authority. It was a stroke of dramatic genius that Russ chose to reverse this by having Morse start out as Strange’s superior in the first film of series one (Girl) but by its end (Home), Strange, unlike Morse, has taken his Sergeant’s exam – will future series see the beginnings of the inevitable development of their shift in power?

SEAN: Perhaps a more pronounced shift in their already differing priorities.

DAMIAN: Of course, it is rather ironic that Morse is perhaps directly responsible for the eventual promotion since it was he who recommended Strange to serve as Acting Detective Constable in his absence when he takes some time off to his visit his ailing father (Home), might Morse regret planting those “little acorns”?

SEAN: He may regret his decision from time to time, yes!

DAMIAN: Surprisingly, it’s not Robbie Lewis with the honour of being Morse’s longest-serving friend – it’s actually Strange – a thirty-five year sentence! Morse and Max meet for the first time in First Bus to Woodstock before your character is introduced but Max is described as suffering a stroke early on in Inspector Morse and is replaced by Dr Grayling Russell in Ghost in the Machine (Max dies in Dexter’s novel, The Way Through the Woods) whereas both in print and on screen, Strange is with Morse right up until the tragic end of The Remorseful Day. Can you describe your own interpretation of the often antagonistic relationship between Morse and Strange?

SEAN: I think there is a mutual admiration between the two. Strange is equally impressed and frustrated by Morse’s intellect. Likewise, Morse perhaps finds Strange’s dependability endearing whilst being irritated by his reluctance to bend the rules. I think they have a quiet patience for each others’ shortcomings.

S1-FILM3: 'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM3: ‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: There were some lovely moments in Rocket which I thought were quite revealing about Strange: Morse mentions that there is a new Bergman playing at the Roxy cinema and Strange automatically assumes it is a new Ingrid rather than Ingmar Bergman film and also the proud moment when he appears (looking very dependable!) in the Pathe newsreel footage of Princess Margaret’s visit. Strange is not very cultured but he can be quite pompous can’t he?

SEAN: There is something of the Auguste clown about Strange at times. He has a confidence in his own abilities and an acumen which can lead him to make some fairly humorous gaffes.

strangehome1

S1-FILM4: ‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: The books and original series give the impression that Strange is somewhat under the thumb of his wife. Hopefully he is a little more fortunate than Morse when it comes to matters of the heart, will there be any forthcoming romantic liaisons for Strange that we can look forward to?

SEAN: Strange does dip his toes into the dating world. The results? We shall have to wait and see…

DAMIAN: You’re a great actor playing one of my favourite characters and you’ve been as good as gold – I think you deserve a chocolate biscuit or two! Thank you Sean.

SEAN: Cheers matey! I shall certainly enjoy a few! Perhaps a couple of Garibaldi’s (my personal favourite).

~~~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2014

~

I caught up with Sean again for a second interview while I was visiting the set in November 2018…

DAMIAN: In terms of how Strange has developed, the first thing that springs to mind are the events towards the end of NEVERLAND (S2: E4). While I appreciate that he was someone, at that stage of his development at least, who was more of a conformist and rule bound, isn’t it still unforgivable that he hesitated for so long and initially chose to follow ACC Clive Deare’s orders rather than help his friends Endeavour and Thursday at Blenheim Vale?

SEAN: I think unforgivable may be a tad extreme. Strange made the right decision in the end and, hopefully, that is what counts most.

DAMIAN: I think that part of the reason that Strange is such a fascinating character is that he’s often got this deadpan and almost innocently oblivious quality on the one hand (indeed, you described him as having something of the Auguste clown about him in our original interview) and yet, we’ve also seen a more cunning, calculating and complicated side to him with regards to climbing up the ladder in recent years haven’t we?

SEAN: Yes and I think that is all part of Strange becoming a more rounded character as the story progresses. It’s something we’ve seen with all the supporting characters, the duality of their personalities. Bright being impulsive and heroic. DeBryn’s heart and sombreness. Those are the two examples that spring to mind most readily.

DAMIAN: As someone who has been wanting to learn more about the background and personal lives of characters such as Bright, Max and, indeed Strange, I was delighted to see that Russ has finally written some scenes for you that shed some light on this at last. Is this something you’ve also pushed for?

SEAN: I’m not really the pushing sort. “You know what this needs? More of me!” It has been fun exploring how Strange inhabits different spaces, certainly. We all want to know what people get up to behind closed doors and what’s in their shopping trolley.

DAMIAN: Indeed, I was greatly amused and delighted to learn that in the first film of this year’s run that Endeavour has moved in with Strange and although they’re not quite sharing a bed together, isn’t their unlikely partnership beginning to resemble Laurel and Hardy or Morcambe and Wise?

SEAN: We had a great deal of fun filming those scenes. I don’t think their cohabitation will ever reach the harmonious heights of Morcambe and Wise making breakfast together though.

I’m not sure who would be who. I do have short, fat, hairy legs so make of that what you will.

DAMIAN: What’s with the trombone all of a sudden?

SEAN: Ah, the trombone!

DAMIAN: Do you play?

SEAN: Not in the slightest. I used to play the cornet as a kid but I am reliably informed by my parents that I was utterly pants. I had a good whack at the trombone regardless. I produced a sound akin to an asthmatic goose being sat on.

DAMIAN: I absolutely loved the scene in ARCADIA (S3:E2) when Strange, once again, completely genuine but oblivious gives Endeavour the James Last album. Since you’re a young lad, do you even know who James Last is and appreciate how funny it is to give it to someone like Endeavour?

SEAN: I made myself aware after reading the script and I can’t say it lingered on my iPod long afterwards. No offence intended to any James Last fans out there. Shaun is hilarious in that scene, like a young boy unwrapping an itchy jumper from his Gran on Christmas morning.

DAMIAN: And isn’t it fantastic moments like these that economically sum up almost everything we need to know about Strange and his polar opposite relationship with Endeavour?

SEAN: Absolutely. They find each other, for different reasons, quite hard to figure out at times.

DAMIAN: Naturally Endeavour turns his nose up at the gift and in the same episode, when the two are at the pub, he also complains about the pint Strange has got him for being too cloudy and also mocks him for drinking Double Diamond lager. Endeavour is really very unkind towards Strange isn’t he?

SEAN: Yeah, the ungrateful git. It is true to life though, isn’t it? When we feel at odds with the world, or hard done by, we take out our frustrations on those closest to us. Morse’s options are fairly limited in that regard.

DAMIAN: How do you think the relationship between the two has developed since Strange was first introduced in GIRL (S1:E1)?

SEAN: It’s certainly had its ups and downs. There’s more of a shorthand between the two. Not too much, mind.

DAMIAN: And we must mention Strange’s legendary tank tops which he seems to wear regardless to weather conditions as though his mother still dresses him. Is it fair to say he’s a bit drab and frumpish before his time?

SEAN: I think that would be entirely fair to say. The swinging 60’s really passed Strange by where fashion is concerned. Probably where everything else is concerned too!

DAMIAN: Is the maroon tank top his particular favourite?

SEAN: As it’s probably the least flattering of the lot I’m going to say yes.

DAMIAN: In a fantastically tense scene between two men with such loyalty and respect for each other, Endeavour doesn’t approve of Strange punching the informant Bernie Waters in CODA (S3:E4). Do you think that Strange is much closer to, and influenced by the methods of Thursday than Endeavour could ever be?

SEAN: I think by dint of his intellect and abilities, Endeavour stands alone. That’s not to say that there isn’t a great deal Morse can’t learn from Thursday, but he certainly has a few more avenues available to him when it comes to an investigation. Strange is going to take all the help he can get.

DAMIAN: Finally, and I’m not sure who told me this although it was probably Russ, is it true that you regard performing in scenes with Roger Allam and Anton Lesser as masterclasses in acting?

SEAN: I think that was in reference to one particular scene, series 3 if memory serves, where they’re both having a bit of a hoo-ha in Thursday’s office. I had to come in towards the end of the scene and deliver a bit of news of some sort. From rehearsals to the last take I had my nose pressed against the glass in total awe of the pair of them. Not just the acting but the way they communicated with each other, from one actor to another. They both had the goal of making the scene the best it could be, playing together in the purest sense. Ask any actor worth a sniff and they’ll tell you that there is nothing more thrilling than that.

Obviously, apart from that one particular scene, they’re both normally crap.

DAMIAN: Sean, thank you matey!

SEAN: A pleasure!

~~~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

 ~

ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: Trove (S2:01) on March 30, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES:

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

 With thanks to Privilege Privy

& Tobias Smollett

PROLOGUE

“Why was I not made of stone like thee?”

Wise, witty and really rather wonderful. Yes, our mutual friend is all these things and more: a cultured man with a refined taste for the arts as well as alcohol, something of a detective in his own right and, it must be acknowledged, a world authority on venereal disease and blood, that is his true speciality.

I speak of course of the pathologist, Dr Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn, the man with an awkward, melancholy smile and a vivacious appetite for language that is frequently interlaced with food analogies. And, (I’m cheerfully Anglo-Saxon when it comes to conjunctions – good evening Mr Burchfield wherever you are!), it is of refreshments that I would now like to draw your attention because our honoured guest is none other than the writer of Endeavour, Mr Russell Lewis, who has kindly agreed to share his selection box – a veritable treasure trove of centres soft, hard and chewy – amongst which it is hoped that the reader will each find a favourite. (His is the Montelimar Surprise!)

Indeed, it is a mammoth privilege to be privy to such a refined repository of recitals and renderings, but please be abstemious as what shall shortly follow is merely the starter before a sumptuous banquet of which I feel Max would surely approve – I spy a boiled shirt…

ACT I

– First Bus to Woodstock –

“Russefeiring”

DAMIAN: It is a waggish and whimsical indulgence of mine that I always address you as “Sir” but I thought we might dispense with the usual protocol for the purposes of this interview and run with something less officious. Mr Lewis? – no, this may prove somewhat confusing to the Morse devotee. Perhaps in the name of simplicity, whilst simultaneously honouring the traditional celebration of the Norwegian graduation ceremony, might I call you Russ?

RUSS: By all means.

DAMIAN: Sadly Russ, this is not an episode of This Is Your Life but I would like to take you on a trip down memory lane – cue “Gala Performance”: Taggart, Between the Lines, Wycliffe, Sharpe, Cadfael, Kavanagh QC, Hornblower, Monsignor Renard, The Last Detective, Murphy’s Law, Spooks and Marple to name but a few. The words prolific and remarkable spring to mind…

RUSS: A reviewer once described my output as Stakhanovite. It was not meant to flatter. Your ‘remarkable’ is likewise open to interpretation! As to prolific… Over twenty-five years, or near enough, it works out roughly to one show a year, sometimes the same show — first, second, and third series of things. Sometimes you get long patches – several years together – where you’ve got stuff in ‘development’, and zip in production. But, yeh… Slow and steady. ‘Scribble, scribble, scribble, Mister Gibbon.’

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It surely can’t be a coincidence that so much of your work features the police, detectives and sleuths?

RUSS: You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But it’s mostly coincidence. I certainly didn’t set out to be a crime writer. Don’t really think of myself as one. (Cue chorus of agreeing wholeheartedly.) I’ve operated, mostly, on a cab rank principle, and taken whatever’s come along next in the queue.

I read a lot of crime as a youth (when I wasn’t weeping in butchers’ shops). The usual suspects – Christie was a big draw when I was about nine. Those Tom Adams/Fontana covers held me absorbed in Smiths for HOURS. Conan Doyle, naturally; Chesterton; Hammett; and, of course, Chandler – through I probably came to the last two a little later.

Like a lot of young boys it was Fleming’s Bond – those early 70s Pan (was it?) imprints! – that got under my skin in a big way. Like the less attractive aspects of Blyton, I suppose the snobbery with violence passed me by at the time. I am still, however, extremely dismayed that LIVE AND LET DIE didn’t get the same treatment for its cover, and was lumbered with the movie poster for the duration of those imprints, which left the set incomplete.

In any event, my school holidays were spent mostly listening to John Barry – The James Bond 10th Anniversary Collection, FYI! – and filling untold exercise books with 007 knock-offs.

I got out a lot of Ellery Queen from the local library – in those Gollancz yellow-jackets. Television led me to Ellery, as the BBC would have been running the short-lived Jim Hutton series around then – mid-70s? I was obsessed with the chequerboard credits and sig tune. Now happily (and often!) revisited via Youtube.

And it was BBC radio – and a decent, encouraging English teacher – that brought me to Chandler and Hammett, respectively. The former ran a series of adaptations with the late, great Ed Bishop playing the immortal Philip Marlowe, which started a lifelong affair with Bay City and its murky denizens.

I started on The Bill – which was a great forcing ground for writers in its bi-weekly, self-contained story format period. I think most of us working on it, certainly during the years I was involved, approached it as the nearest thing we had at the time to a mini-Wednesday play. It was a drama about the police, rather than a police drama. And that’s something I’ve tried to hang on to over the years – that a thing has to work first and foremost as a drama.

And sometimes you pull it off – and sometimes (though not particularly with Endeavour) things get overcooked for one reason or another, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And notes. And one falls short, but that’s always the intention.

I certainly didn’t set out to ‘major’ in crime, but there’s a lot of it about, and I suppose if a writer makes a half decent fist of something on one or two, maybe you get thought of as a safe pair of hands for the genre. Who knows? But I’ve been very fortunate insofar as the crime I have done has been pretty varied – by dint of period or location. I like to think of most of them more as ‘thrillers’ really. But I do enjoy doing things where people don’t die horribly, despite the overwhelming evidence in my imdb c.v. to the contrary!

©ITV

©ITV

DAMIAN: You wrote the adaptation of The Way Through the Woods for the original Inspector Morse series as well as various episodes of Lewis, but how did you become involved with the 25th anniversary prequel, Endeavour: First Bus to Woodstock?

RUSS: I’d come back onto the LEWIS roster and done a couple of films for the Mammoths [Mammoth Screen Productions]– Michele Buck and Damien Timmer — that they’d been pleased with. I’ve a long history with both of them – going back the best part of twenty years to our Central/Carlton days — and had worked on TWTTW [The Way Through the Woods] with Damien. So, they just asked me if I’d be interested in doing a one off to mark 25 years of IM [Inspector Morse].

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Who had the original idea to do a prequel?

RUSS: You’d have to ask the Mammoths for the def-gen, but the Silver Anniversary was on the horizon, and they wanted to celebrate that in some way. But it was always a prequel – set in his early days. Inspiration was taken from Colin’s 1960s short story for the DM [Daily Mail]. We just fiddled with the chronology, ever so slightly, to make it fit more with his television incarnation. Twenty-odd years to becoming a Detective Chief Inspector seemed roughly right.

John Thaw was born in 1942, but we felt twenty-three was probably slightly too young to fit in the brief Army sojourn – so we settled on a d.o.b – the year at least — of around 1940. Which meant he was 25-ish, at the time of FBTW [First Bus to Woodstock]. But, as ever, the fog of battle allows us a little bit of wriggle room.

COLINDEXTER2

Colin Dexter

DAMIAN: Author and creator of Morse, Colin Dexter, once said that John Thaw was so successful that no one else should ever play the part. Furthermore, he added, John thought it was the finest thing he had ever done on television and for that reason, Colin didn’t want comparisons. Was it difficult to change his mind?

RUSS: Well – those conversations mostly took place between the Mammoths and Colin, but his final blessing depended on the outline/script being up to snuff.

I’m a little hazy on the exact chronology, but I went with Michele to meet Colin in the Morse Bar at The Randolph (Where else?!) after he’d read… I think the script… and he gave us his blessing there and then.

Morse on stage

Morse on stage

That evening the three of us joined Kevin Whately and went to see Alma Cullen’s play The Mystery of Morse at the New. Chris Burt was also in the house – as you know, CB produced much Morse, including TWTTW, and was also producing LEWIS – so it was a pretty extraordinary conjunction of people. Sitting there with KW watching someone else playing Sgt.Robbie Lewis. One of the trippier experiences. But, as Ch.Supt.Bright might put it — ‘a splendid evening was enjoyed by one and all.’

DAMIAN: The original TV series most notably consisted of adaptations of Colin’s novels or original stories that he wrote especially for the show. I understand that he remains a creative consultant on both Lewis and Endeavour, was it perhaps something of a daunting task to take on the responsibility of such iconic and beloved characters that he created?

RUSS: As I think I’ve said before, we were all of us very aware that we were treading on pretty sacred televisual ground. Most of us had come to it as fans before we ever worked on it, and it had meant a lot to us, so we were very mindful that we didn’t want to do anything to diminish its legacy. Of course it needed to connect with an audience with no previous knowledge of Morse, but for the most part, it was made by fans for fans. Getting it right – or landing as near as a man can aim – meant everything to us. It was from start to finish a love letter to the original show.

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: At what point in the development of the first script did you come up with those two beautiful and poignant moments that acknowledge the legacy of John Thaw’s Morse – the “Have we met?” scene (with John Thaw’s daughter, Abigail and Shaun Evans) and the reflection in the rear-view mirror?

RUSS: The rear-view mirror shot was in from the very first outline. John Thaw was a HUGE part of my writing life for many years. I first worked with him post the original series run of Inspector Morse on Kavanagh QC, then TWTTW, and then finally on Monsignor Renard. I admired him hugely, though in those days I was probably far too awestruck to tell him how wonderful I thought he was. So with Endeavour I wanted to tip my hat as affectionately and sincerely as I could. For my part, it was a very personal acknowledgement of a huge debt of gratitude.

For all that Morse is Colin’s creation, it was John who breathed flesh upon the bones, John whose eyes were a window into the melancholy soul of Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse. And in that single film, it was 25 years of the television show we were celebrating.

As to the Oxford Mail scene… It was very special for us to get Abigail to take part in that celebration. She’s a wonderful “actrix”, and an adorable human being. Given her personal association with the show, it meant more than I can possibly express that she very graciously agreed to become involved.

The scene kind of wrote itself – and of anything survived pretty much intact from the first draft. It was still folded into the plot, and you didn’t need to know anything of the extra mural history to simply take it for what it was – another scene in the drama. But if you were watching it with some foreknowledge, then it took on – for me, at least – a very tender dimension.

Of course, by the time the Network asked us to do it as a series, we’d all fallen for Dorothea Frazil’s feisty charms and wanted to see much more of her. Abigail’s an integral part of our ensemble, a constant delight, and, as time goes by, I promise, the audience will get to learn more about Ms.Frazil.

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of the original characters that you created for First Bus to Woodstock such as DI Fred Thursday and Dorothea Frazil?

RUSS: I knew Fred Thursday had to be grounded. Someone to provide a counter-balance to Endeavour’s sometimes prickly demeanour. A man deeply committed to his family, and with a stable, loving marriage. Grown up kids – or near as damn it. Not unlike DS Lewis in that regard, but from a previous generation. A kind of quiet, unshowy, everyday heroism about him. As straight as a die. Decent. Unafraid.

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

There’s a line from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 – the opening line… ‘The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.’ And I wanted Endeavour, having come from the polar opposite, to have that experience with the Thursdays. This warm, generous, kind, happy, loving family. It’s all about love. All of it.

And, of course, being the age he needed to be to make attaining the police rank he holds credible, puts a twenty-something Thursday smack bang in the middle of World War 2. That was for him – and for many millions of others – the defining experience of his life. He has seen the very worst of humanity, and survived. Everything after that is gravy.

He’s a Londoner – like Roger Allam, born within the sound of Bow Bells – and would have been raised in a level of privation unimaginable now to most of us. A big chunk of his young life would have been the Depression. Hard times. Merciless, even. ‘We’re arming for peace, me boys…’

His war record mirrors that of L/Cpl W.H.Lewis. Eighth Army – North Africa; El Alamein; Italy… Austria. Though at this point Thursday’s adventure takes its own particular turn. There are also echoes of Gunner Milligan’s war here and there.

Talking to Rog as he was preparing for the role, I suggested, if he wasn’t already familiar, that he might find something to draw on in Henry Reed’s poem Lessons of the War. Naming of Parts… &c.

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

The final stanza of Judging Distances always reduces me to rubble.

There’s a sense with Thursday, and it’s a matter of historical record that he was not alone in this experience, that having survived the war, he wasn’t going to just come back and pick up where he left off. There had to be a peace dividend. The old order of tugging the forelock at the Ruling Classes would no longer do.

So, along with millions of others, Fred and Win will have been responsible for electing the Attlee government, and, thereby, bringing in the Welfare State as we know it, the NHS, decent social housing. All the good, decent, civilised, and civilising things we’re now daily invited to malign and disparage. ‘Sweet moderation, heart of this nation, desert us not, we are between the wars.’

DAMIAN: Thursday has a fascinating back story that you have only hinted at on screen so far, can you elaborate or will we see more of this in series two?

RUSS: The foregoing answer notwithstanding, you may well learn a little more about Fred Thursday in series 2.

DAMIAN: I’ve a burning question regarding Thursday’s sandwich sequence – Mon: cheese & pickle, Tue: luncheon meat, Fri: corned beef – but when will we discover what he has on Wednesdays and Thursdays?

RUSS: They might get a mention this time round. Sam Price – our doughty script editor, and custodian of all things Endeavour, and much else besides – keeps a list. Of course… the question presupposes that Win does not have a monthly rota!!!

DAMIAN: Not since The Phantom Menace have I approached a prequel with so much fear and trepidation. With either the wrong script or lead actor, Endeavour could have been a disaster reviled by both fans of the original series and Colin Dexter purists alike, was there a particularly positive or negative buzz within the industry before First Bus to Woodstock was premiered?

RUSS: I think in some quarters there was a suspicion that it was a cynical attempt to try to exploit the franchise until the pips squeaked. But the Mammoths have enormous integrity, and none of us would have started in on it if that’s what lay behind it. There was too much riding on it if we got it wrong. We would have been pilloried – and rightly so – by the audience, who can smell faux anything a mile off. But we were very lucky to have a blinding team – wunderkind producer Dan McCulloch, and my fellow traveller from Murphy’s Law, the altogether marvellous Colm McCarthy directing… together with a crack cast and crew. But we were all of us on tenterhooks until the thing had been broadcast. We didn’t want to let anyone down, or sully anyone’s fond memories of the original show.

DAMIAN: Thirty-three episodes of the original television series, not to mention Colin’s thirteen novels and various short stories, how on earth did you go about researching the material before even beginning to write your script for First Book to Woodstock?

RUSS: I re-read the novels. Already knew the original series pretty well, but watched them ALL again. Soaked myself in the period. Beyond that…

DAMIAN: Colin himself wrote a short story for the Daily Mail in 2008 as part of a Christmas serial special published in three parts; Mr E. Morse, BA Oxon (Failed), also known by its original title, Morse and the Mystery of the Drunken Driver, chronicling the young Morse going to study at Oxford in 1968. Did you find this particularly revealing or useful in terms of developing ideas for the script?

RUSS: It was a very useful window onto young Morse’s mindset. But beyond that, Colin had already done most of the heavy lifting in The Riddle of the Third Mile.

DAMIAN: Russ, where were you on 22nd November 1963?

RUSS: Not in a certain Book Depository.

DAMIAN: You have done a splendid job of getting around timeline anomalies, inconsistencies between what Colin wrote and even contradictory information from the original series. Perhaps the most significant illustration of this is the confusion surrounding Susan/Wendy. [I direct the reader to my notes following this interview for more details on this and other matters] I know there is some debate surrounding how old Morse actually is in the first Endeavour but what has been the most difficult anomalies to reconcile?

RUSS: That’s very kind of you to say. We’ve done our best to ret-con where we can, but I’m sure it’s a fairly impossible task to dot every I and cross every T. The idea to resolve the Wendy/Susan anomaly was to imagine someone – not unlike Morse – who wasn’t too keen on their first name. However, unlike Morse they had a second choice to fall back on.

©ITV/MammothScreen "She preferred the name Susan"

©ITV/MammothScreen “She preferred the name Susan”

DAMIAN: One of my favourite scraps of information that you pick up on from the original series is the reference to Morse’s troubled childhood in Cherubim and Seraphim which you also explore later in Home. I’m wondering generally, but also with specific reference to First Bus to Woodstock, what ideas comes first – is it the mystery plots or the individual character-driven stories and development?

RUSS: That’s a hard one. Mainly because of the passage of time since we made it – the best part of three, three and half years now. And we’ve done eight since – each of which holds one’s complete attention for the duration of its production. But, if I remember correctly, it was the title First Bus to Woodstock that came to me first, and I kind of extrapolated the mystery from there. [The first Morse novel was called Last Bus to Woodstock]

As you know yourself, it’s quite difficult to chicken/egg a piece of work post facto. I’d carried – like most fans – a memory of the series, which I’d consumed first as a viewer. Of course, in prepping TWTTW, I’d immersed myself in Morse lore. But from a TV show point of view… there were touchstones. Waypoints. The opera. The crosswords. The real ale. Susan Fallon. Susan Fallon. Susan Fallon. The aching melancholy.

The ‘You know I don’t drink’ line, which was there in the outline – is, I think, Endeavour’s first, and was intended to convey a sense of – ‘You think you know his story. But you don’t know all of it.’ In my mind – we were joining him at a point in his life where he had been on a long, long sabbatical from alcohol. Perhaps having already having taken a peek over the edge of the abyss, most likely drowning his post-Susan sorrows, and seen where it could lead. That kind of got a little lost – though there’s a pointer towards it from Joyce in HOME when they go to the pub. She says something along the lines of, “I thought you’d taken the pledge”. But, it’s quite understandable if it was missed.

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

When he takes his sup of ale in the beer garden with Thursday in FBTW – having fainted in the mortuary after watching Max ‘having a rummage’ – it is a homecoming. Somewhere a bell should be tolling, for he is welcoming back into his life the slow poison that, for all the solace it brings him, will eventually number his days.

Morse’s Achilles Heel – as Fred Thursday puts it in GIRL ‘When it comes to a bird with a wing down, you’ve a blind spot a mile wide.’ — a predilection for falling for the wrong woman HAD to be in there. Another pedestalled Goddess. Susan Fallon… and then Rosalind Stromming. To take the one thing that has sustained him – saved his life in fact — and stain it, taint it in some way. To hurt him very badly. Another Brick in the Wall.

DAMIAN: Your scripts are both a joy and a nightmare to examine. For example, in First Bus to Woodstock, Morse’s landlady at the guest-house, Mrs Crabbin, tells him that his room was previously occupied by a certain Mr Bleaney and misquotes Philip Larkin’s 1955 poem of the same name, replacing “Bodies” with “Bodleian”. She also informs Morse that two of her other lodgers are Mr Goldberg and Mr McCann, a nod to Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. These often cunning or obscure references excite the researcher into thinking they may have discovered another connection to the original series only to find they are actually quite mischievous and have absolutely nothing to do with either Colin’s work or that of the previous television-makers. Do you enjoy leading the Morse scholar down the garden path?

RUSS: Well – a certain amount of Larkin and Pinter’s work seems, in my mind at least, to inhabit an area of English post-war drear. Seedy lodging houses of a kind Endeavour occupies. It seemed the sort of place both Mr.B, and Pinter’s shady pair might hole up. So… I put them in.

In truth, E’s arrival at Mrs.Crabbin’s owes much to Leslie Caron’s arrival at The L-Shaped Room – in which the mighty Avis Bunnage played the landlady. That was certainly in my mind for that sequence.

But – yeh — those little nods and references are there for those that want to find them. The puzzle within the puzzle. No £10 prize for identifying them all, but hopefully some extra amusement and satisfaction in nailing them for the viewer. They’re not intended to distract, but just another layer which bears forensic scrutiny on a second, or subsequent viewing. They are present to a greater or lesser degree in all the films.

DAMIAN: Morse fans love to spot Colin in his many cameos – one of my favourite appearances is in Twilight of the Gods in which he shamelessly tries to upstage the great Sir John Gielgud! – who decides where these will appear as they are not scripted are they?

RUSS: It always depends on Colin’s availability. But he always appears – these days at least – in an Oxford setting.

DAMIAN: I’m curious as to what extent there might now be a story arc and how far into Morse’s future has been planned or discussed?

RUSS: I know absolutely how it ends. The final scene is already written. And I have certain key points mapped out for all the major characters.

DAMIAN: Other than the unchangeable stories and events that are set in stone because of Morse’s future as depicted in the original series, to what extent do you have creative control over the stories and character development in Endeavour?

RUSS: Carte blanche really. I’ll typically have a notion of the stories for each series, the worlds we want to look at, and I’ll chew them over with the Mammoths, and my altogether brilliant Script Editor — Sam Price – who is worth a million times his weight in precious metal – and provided it’s not something that’s going to break the bank in terms of set pieces, etc., and we all share an enthusiasm for the story under discussion, we take it from there.

There was one major and one minor idea for this series – oddly enough, both in the same film — vetoed by the network at a very late stage. But I’ve hopes it might be considered again – ‘on appeal’ as t’were. Other than that, it’s been fairly straightforward.

So one writes and redrafts, and writes and redrafts, and then – when we’re happy, we’ll send the ReadThru Draft to Colin, which he’ll cast an expert eye over, and then he’ll usually attend the Read and give us the benefit of his wisdom and experience in the Apres ski section of the morning.

The boys – Shaun and Rog – like to get eyes on as early as they can, and always provide hugely useful feedback. They are the sharp end, usually shooting one film, but still finding time (somehow!) to read and respond to the next. Which is no small feat, given the schedule. But they are, both of them, like Colin, whatever the demands of the shoot, always on point, and their input is not only deeply valued, but also invaluable.

Thankfully, so far, we haven’t had a ‘You can type this shit, George, but you can’t say it!’ moment.

DAMIAN: Remarkably, you’ve written every episode of Endeavour thus far – you’re the Aaron Sorkin of Oxford! Do you ever get writer’s block or sometimes doubt your own ability to consistently deliver scripts of such high quality?

RUSS: We have looked at opening it up, but it’s quite an idiosyncratic brief to fill. I suppose having done the single – that set the tone, really. For better or worse. My mind is clearly quite rickety and wonky. Perverse. The way I fashion stories. What will work for me as a ‘blind’ and what won’t.

These films have to work on many different levels. In part they are whodunits, but if that was all they were I’d have probably hurled myself from a high window by now. I enjoy making the puzzle, but it’s the personal material – the character stuff – that sits alongside it – for guest characters as well as regulars – that makes the puzzle sit ‘just so.’ They should be impossible to separate. And when they come closest to that ideal, I think that’s when they work best.

I try to always push the format as much as I can – not letting it get predictable, which would be death to write, miserable to play, and dreary to watch. It’s hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes an Endeavour story an Endeavour story, but I suppose one just knows it when one sees it.

It’s very good of you to say they’re high quality – but, typically, one only sees what one could have done better. Unlike my namesake, for me the glass is not always half full.

As to writer’s block. Nope. Which isn’t to say that every piece of work isn’t like a game of Russian Roulette. You never know if you’re going to fill the blank page with the right words in the right order. Has been that way every day for over 25 years. I never know whether a thing is going to work until I get to the end. And if it doesn’t work, one just does it over again. Finds a better way of doing it. But it’s the not knowing keeps me going. ‘Assaulting the citadel,’ as Chandler had it. That, and an awful lot of people counting on one being able to deliver.

Because once the Endeavour production train has left the station, it’s nigh on impossible to stop. I have certainly at times felt a certain affinity with Grommit at the climax of The Wrong Trousers, clinging to the engine and furiously laying track, just to keep the thing on the rails. A derailment would mean stopping production, which would be catastrophic in terms of blood and treasure. Like the prospect of being hanged in the morning – it does tend to concentrate the mind. No room at the inn for Mister Block, I’m afraid.

That said – I’m very fortunate insofar as I have a very crafty cohort of folk with fine minds and brains the size of gas giants — Sam Price and the Mammoths, the Boys – Shaun & Roger – keeping me on the straight and narrow. And, of course, Colin.

For all that, my scribbling would avail us naught if we didn’t have a brilliant production team there to make it actually happen. It’s all very well me putting down this or that crackpot nonsense, but the production team have to find, design and dress the locations; cast, clothe and coiffure the players; source the period props, vehicles, etc., etc., etc., make sure everyone turns up at the right place on time, and that we’re lit, locked and loaded to shoot. On this series, they’ve done that for 97 shooting days – usually running between 12 and 16 hours plus — and kept the thing going through the brief downtime between each film. Which doesn’t take into account pre-production time, etc., etc. They are my heroes. Come rain, hail, sleet or snow… On this run PARTICULARLY RAIN… they deliver. I’m indebted to them.

DAMIAN: Whenever I’m researching and writing, I like to focus almost exclusively on the given subject and try to inhabit that world as far as possible rather like an actor might adopt the Stanislavski/Strasberg “Method”. So even as I prepared these questions, I was immersing (e-morse-ing?) myself by listening to opera and enjoying the odd cheeky glass of Glenfiddich or two (I’m still working to acquire his love of “pure food”). I’d love to learn more about your own writing process particularly when working on Endeavour – do you surround yourself with certain books, music or even liquor?

RUSS: Sometimes I’ll have music on very low on headphones, but usually not during daylight hours. I find it too easy to just listen to the music and not write. But if I’m pulling an all nighter, or doing several days/nights straight at the desk and not seeing the pillow, then I’ll have something on that’s barely audible – on a loop, which, together with too much caffeine, keeps me going through the watches of the night.

Dogs by the Pink Floyd has haunted my imagination since I first heard it in 1977. Definitive late night listening. Some very eerie passages. Likewise, some of John Martyn’s dead of night stuff has kept me company more times than I care to remember. Most of One WorldSmall Hours; Solid Air; pretty much EVERYTHING on Grace and Danger.

I also have a playlist of Barrington’s Morse scores – on SHUFFLE! – so that I’m not falling into a routine with it. On one or two of the films I’ve fired up a couple of Bernard Herrmann scores to set the mood. The suite from SE7EN — which we plundered for the temp score on HOME.

Youtube is very handy for the odd bit of classical music that isn’t yet in the collection. I’d like to say I have the Ring cycle on a loop, but I find the voices demand too much of my attention – so I tend, with Wagner, while working at least, to favour overtures and orchestral passages. (Go straight to Pseuds’ Corner. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.)

It’s funny how Wagner – Colin’s, and therefore Morse’s, grand passion — was sidelined in the original IM in favour of WAM [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart]. Who doesn’t love Mozart? But if fate allows, I will be edging Endeavour back towards RW. Though he is – or certainly at the time of FBTW – leaning heavily towards the more obvious charms of Verdi, etc. A young man’s fancy. Time will cast ever darker shadows upon his heart, and that will be reflected in his evolving musical taste.

Books… Well, for Endeavour — Colin’s obviously. David Bishop’s guide to the original series [The Complete Inspector Morse]. Sundry walk around ‘Morse’s Oxford’ volumes. Shedloads of 60s histories. But they are there more as a safety net. Somewhere I can go to look up this or that detail of canon, or historical curiosity.

But nothing really does it like novels, film and TV from the period. I’ll have a soak in some of that for a few months – overdose on it. Trying to reach critical mass. And then – off we go.

No Glenfiddich, alas.

DAMIAN: I must have been a strange teenager to have connected to a miserable old bugger like Morse but I really did relate to him. Firstly, I enjoyed classical music (“church music” the other schoolchildren teasingly referred to it) but I also shared his inability to engage socially with people and his awkwardness around girls. Do you have your own personal affinity with Morse?

RUSS: Well, I think at one time or another we’ve all ticked a good few of those boxes. I share his passion for crosswords.

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: I fear the cart is shaken all to pieces and the rugged road is very near its end. However, it may amuse the reader, as it certainly amuses the author of these shenanigans to learn that we’ll be returning for more of your reflections on inspiration and creativity next week. Russ, before you make your way home through the woods, might you give us a clue as to what we can expect from tonight’s episode?

RUSS: The unexpected. Hopefully. TROVE’s an interesting puzzle, and of all the films to date is our biggest tip of the trilby to the hard-boiled, noir school. It’s still ENDEAVOUR, of course, and deeply rooted in a particular English peculiarity, but there’s a little bit of ‘down these mean streets a man must go’ about it. It definitely started out with that influence – but we always run these things through the Endeavour filter, and that changes them again.

I don’t want to say too much else at this point, as I don’t want to spoil the experience, but do ask me again when it’s been aired.

DAMIAN: One final question for now, some months ago you told me that there would be much cross pollination across many a fictional world in the second series and teased with a “Wold Newton Universe” reference – could you elaborate further without arousing the wrath of the woolly mammoths?

RUSS: I like playing with the idea that certain fictional characters — i.e., Goldberg and McCann — places and businesses from other media – TV, books, film, &c. – actually exist (sometimes in plain sight, sometimes disguised) in one form or another in the Endeavour universe. Sometimes it’s something that comes from that particular year, but not always. Usually, they’re viewed through a glass darkly – twisted ever so slightly out of true. A name heard in passing. Or a throwaway line.

That said, it’s always the story that comes first – the puzzle, and whatever character advances one wants to make in a particular film – but I have great fun decorating the finished thing with hidden references and oblique tips of the hat to things that have meant a great deal to me, on one level or another. In which enterprise, Sam Price is my willing and ever-resourceful partner in crime.

Some of our plans come horribly unstuck, as we are subject to ‘compliance’ and ‘neg checking’ in accordance with Ofcom’s rules – which basically means if we settle on a name for a person or business, we have to run it by ‘neg checkers’ to make sure there isn’t a real person (or business) with that name pottering around who might take umbrage, or worse, sue us to death for having defamed them by suggesting they are a murderer, or are unkind to animals, or drive badly, or..? Anything you can think of really.

You’re okay if maybe ten people have the name you want to use, but doomed if even one of the ten should be living in Oxford, at which point you go back to the drawing board and start over. Having several members of a family is a particular nightmare. You might clear the father and daughter, but not the son and wife. So, you have to rename them all. Often quite late into pre-production.

Not only that but we have to make sure NOBODY of such and such a name EVER lived in Oxford. A modern madness and indicative of the litigious age in which we live – everyone’s a would-be Saul Goodman. Have YOU had an accident at work today?

It certainly never used to be the case when I started writing – but O tempora! O mores! Can you imagine if ‘compliance’ had found a B Fawlty; hotelier on the Torquay Electoral Roll in ’75? Or a Bank Manager by the name of Mainwaring in some other coastal town? Cray-cray. But this too shall pass. [Can you get back to the question? Ed.]

Some real people also get a look in. We had HRH The Princess Margaret in ROCKET… and our greatest sadness with TROVE was — because we film late summer through winter, and shoot the stories in chronological order – we were unable to squeeze in Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who performed The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus for a limited run at the New in Feb ‘66.

Due to the huge press interest in the couple – and the fact that Elizabeth Taylor was carrying some very expensive rocks on her fingers — rehearsals took place in the Oxford City Police gymnasium!!! An early draft does exist with them in it – Strange was their uniformed minder, and I’d planned to have Endeavour trading quotations with Richard B in the pub. But, alas – the season was against us. However, if you keep a very beady eye – there is a still a visual reference that survives of the fortnight that Hollywood came to Oxford!

It was this little bit of information – weirdly enough – that got the story of TROVE started. I’ll be able to say more once it’s been broadcast. These things always evolve, and you’d probably be hard pressed to track that through the story we ended up telling. But that was the original point of departure.

DAMIAN: There was once a twelve-year-old boy who would have been absolutely thrilled to talk to the man who writes Morse’s adventures. Unfortunately, the young chap in question is no longer with us; he was left behind and forced to grow up while the other children escaped to Neverland. However, I think I can speak on his behalf when I thank you so very much indeed for taking the time to do this interview and I’m reminded of a line Jim Barrie once wrote, “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.” Cheers Russ!

RUSS: Absolute pleasure. Apologies for the length of the answers to some of these. Hope I haven’t tested your readers’ patience past endurance. I think perhaps you should issue a warning at the start that I do tend to wheeze on and on like a busted accordion. However, having covered FBTW in some depth, hopefully the next won’t try your patience to such a degree!

©ITV/MammothScreen

©ITV/MammothScreen

“D-DAY, FRIDAY, 98018”

~

The Inside Story

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they tie into the original series. Today we continue our study of First Bus to Woodstock:

Morse’s father was a taxi driver until he lost his licence. His mother was raised a Quaker. Cherubim and Seraphim & First Bus to Woodstock

Morse’s father married Gwen who then had a daughter named Joyce (later known as Joyce Garrett). Morse was 15* when his mother died. Cherubim and Seraphim

*Morse says his mother died when he was 12 (not 15 as above). First Bus to Woodstock

Morse contemplated suicide at the age of 15. Cherubim and Seraphim

It is suggested that one of the reasons Morse didn’t go through with the suicide was because of the soprano Rosalind Calloway. After hearing her voice, he realized for the first time that there was beauty in the world. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse and Sir Alexander Reece knew each other while they were Lonsdale students and both romantically pursued a young lady named Wendy (aka Susan – see later notes on this matter). Arthur Drysdale was one of Morse’s tutors and took his scholarship away. He states that Morse could have achieved a first if only he had worked harder. Instead, Morse is distracted because of his doomed relationship. The Last Enemy & First Bus to Woodstock

There is reference to another significant love affair for Morse during his student days and gets engaged to a certain Susan Fallon (aka Wendy). However, Susan decides to marry Henry Fallon (an Oxford don) instead leaving Morse distraught. Morse later decides to leave the university, joining the army and then the police force. Dead on Time

Morse was engaged to Wendy/Susan. There was originally someone else (Henry?) from her first year and after it ended, she took up with Morse but it was not to be. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse did three years at Lonsdale but threw in the towel before his finals. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse states that he was a cipher clerk in the Royal Signal Corps. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse wants to leave Oxford City Police and even writes a letter of resignation. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse and Detective Inspector Fred Thursday meet for the first time. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse and Doctor Max de Bryn meet for the first time. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse bumps into his old Lonsdale “chum” Alex (later Sir Alexander Reece). Morse tells him that he is a policeman while Alex says he is still climbing the ladder of academe and even successfully predicts that he will be Master one day. Morse and Alex also briefly reminisce about a girl they were both keen on named Wendy who lived on St. John Street. Morse explains that she preferred the name Susan (as in Susan Fallon) so the Wendy/Susan’s of The Last Enemy and Dead on Time are presumably the same person. Of the two men, Wendy/Susan preferred Morse to Alex. First Bus to Woodstock

Morse meets one his heroines, soprano Rosalind Calloway/Stromming. He has most of her recordings and particularly admires her Butterfly ‘54. She retired from music to focus on her marriage to Rowan Stromming although still helps with college choir and charity galas. First Bus to Woodstock

After one final performance of Un bel di from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Rosalind Calloway is arrested and later hangs herself. First Bus to Woodstock

Thursday fought in North Africa during the war. First Bus to Woodstock

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

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ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Abigail Thaw

DAMIAN: Abigail, I’d like to thank you for this interview and congratulate you on the phenomenal success of Endeavour. It’s quite astonishing to consider the extent to which both die-hard fans and more casual viewers have embraced the show isn’t it?

ABIGAIL: Yes. I think that has a lot to do with the team behind Endeavour making sure the standards were kept very high. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise.

DAMIAN: Can you tell us when you first heard that ITV were commissioning a prequel to Inspector Morse and describe your initial reaction?

ABIGAIL: I heard a while before, when they were looking for an actor who could play young Morse. I was surprised, to be honest. Although looking back I don’t know why. He’s such an interesting character and the period is rich pickings for plot. So much happening socially and politically. Even in sunny Oxford!

© ITV/Mammoth ScreenDAMIAN: And how much later was it that you were approached to play a cameo role in the pilot which we now refer to as First Bus to Woodstock?

ABIGAIL: You would have to ask the powers that be. I suppose a few months before. But I wanted to be involved and told my agent to ask for a walk-on part – desk-clerk. You know, “Morning sir” or something. For the fun of it.

DAMIAN: Were you asked if you would like to be involved in the project before the script was complete or had the part of Dorothea Frazil already been written with you in mind?

ABIGAIL: No no. They’re a tough bunch, this Russell Lewis and Mammoth Productions, as I’m sure they’d tell you! I think they watched my show reel etc. I’d done a couple of things for Mammoth before… But Russell wrote the part for me.

DAMIAN: I’ve discussed Endeavour and its characters endlessly with writer Russell Lewis and I’m constantly amazed by his passion, knowledge and understanding of not only his vision of Morse’s world but also its rich cultural heritage. What did you think of the script for First Bus to Woodstock?

ABIGAIL: It was wonderful. One of the joys of Russell’s scripts are his stage directions which I often feel is a shame the audience never get to see. They’re full of references, quotes, puns… so much to help the actor, and makes the reading of them feel like you’ve read a really good novel.

DAMIAN: Russ is rather a cunning devil, it wasn’t until much later that I realised the significance of your character’s name: Frazil is a type of ice and if we put that together with the initial of her first name – D. Frazil – de-ice – is to “thaw”. I must also confess that it takes me at least a couple of viewings to fully understand the plots, do you sometimes have difficulty in keeping up with complicated storylines?

ABIGAIL: Hah! Yes. Very clever. But I have to say I would rather be left behind on a plot than be ahead.

DAMIAN: I think Russ also cleverly uses the supporting cast rather sparsely which always leaves the audience wanting to learn more about the characters such as Strange, Max and Dorothea. I’m wondering if this puts an extra pressure on the actors to convey or find their characters in the relatively little screen time they are given?

ABIGAIL: You really just have to get on with it and hope for the best. He writes with a particular syntax for each character and that helps. A lot of humour. Shaun Evans and I often try to find ways to pull that out more, as we like a laugh (They can be dark times in 1960s Oxford!), but the directors often reign us in!

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Endeavour

“Every story has a beginning. Before the gates of Troy. In a certain house at Ithaca. Upon the road to Thebes. But no matter where it starts, every story has its hero. As often as not, a young man on a journey from innocence to experience…”

Endeavour: Home

Series two begins Sunday, 30th March on ITV1

Exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of Endeavour coming soon to dmbarcroft.com and The Official Inspector Morse Society.