Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Arcadia: A mountainous district in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. In poetic fantasy it represents a pastoral paradise and in Greek mythology it is the home of Pan.

– Oxford English Dictionary

 

Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Arthur Octavius Prickard

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We continue our journey discussing the last series of ENDEAVOUR as well as previewing tonight’s film with writer/executive producer – Russell Lewis.

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DAMIAN: ARCADIA was notable for many things of course, but perhaps some of the most significant aspects were the departure of Detective Sergeant Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) and the introduction of Woman Police Constable Shirley Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards). Were these two events connected?

RUSS:  Yes and no.  I had originally introduced Trewlove in FILM 1: RIDE in a much bigger way – she found the first body, which was not in the Ghost Train…  but that’s another story. However, with all else that was crammed into FILM 1, it was suggested that her introduction was dropped back to FILM 2.  So, it became a bit of an Emma Peel/Tara King handover.  One out, one in.

I was very sorry to lose Jack – but you play the hand you’re dealt.

DAMIAN: I’ve often bemoaned the fact that ENDEAVOUR has so many rich supporting characters but so little screen time to share with all of them. Indeed, characters such as Bright and Dorothea for example, often have their scenes trimmed or cut altogether. With this in mind, why add another regular cast member?

RUSS:  Well, Jack’s departure meant we were a Sergeant down in CID – and it seemed to be a good opportunity for Strange to start his climb up the greasy pole.  You lose Strange from uniform, and someone has to step in.  Thus, Trewlove.

DAMIAN: Has there ever been any pressure from either ITV or Mammoth Screen to make ENDEAVOUR more diverse in terms of creating characters or casting?

RUSS:  The network, like all broadcasters, quite rightly has a responsibility to make sure that life onscreen reflects and represents life off-screen – but they’ve never been prescriptive. 1967 Oxford is a very different place to 2017 Oxford – so we need to be true to that to a certain degree. To have replaced Strange in uniform with another bloke would have been a bit swapping like for like, and I thought it would be more interesting to see a young woman in the boysie atmosphere of Cowley nick.

I believe she’s brought a welcome new dynamic to the set-up.  Dakota’s just terrific, and it’s been wonderful to watch her become an integral part of the team.  But, in answer to your question, neither the network nor Mammoth asked me to add a woman to the line-up of Police characters.  Rather I felt it was an oversight on my part.   Even Carry on Constable depicted women in the Police Force – then it was a Force, now it’s a Service.  And if you go back even further you’ve got Joyce Grenfell’s immortal Ruby Gates in the St.Trinian’s series.

So, in part, Trewlove’s creation owes something to those characters.  I just wondered what might happen if we played it straight, rather than for laughs.  Shirley Eaton was the epitome of that kind of cool, capable and resourceful character across a multitude of British pictures from the period.  Ms.Eaton’s character in Carry on Nurse for example.

I know it’s the second time I’ve mentioned the series, and The Carry Ons may seem a curious well upon which to draw for a drama, but they’re a fascinating archive of little period details and social history.  Not the more rompy, period costume numbers, particularly, although they’re enormous fun — but certainly the first seven or so, up to Cabby.  And then the odd one here or there that looked at some aspect of British life or another.

Seriously.  If anyone wants to understand the British…  start with The Carry Ons.  All the oddities and preoccupations of our long island race are contained therein.  Class.  Sex.  The lavatory.

So, that’s sort of where Trewlove came from.  Not an Ice Queen – just nobody’s fool.  Smart as a whip, and as brave as you like.  I guess the other template, to a degree, is Betjeman’s Myfanwy.  ‘Ringleader, tomboy, and chum to the weak.’  And, of course, a bit of Sue Lloyd’s “Jean” from The Ipcress File.

DAMIAN: Protesters outside Richardson’s supermarket shout to end the illegal regime and freedom for Rhodesia reminding me that we’ve touched ever so slightly on politics before in our discussion of TROVE when I asked if you infuse any of the characters with your own personal politics and you replied “I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree”. I wonder if political events from last year such as Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump might make for a more intense “infusion” in the future?

RUSS:  Trump might be a stretch.  The audience might not believe such a character could exist in any credible world.  Besides, Tim Burton and Danny DeVito got there first with Batman Returns.  ’68 (if it happens) with Paris and Prague is already of interest, and probably goes some way towards answering your other point.

DAMIAN: If such recent events suggest voters on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly leaning more to the right of politics, doesn’t it make for an interesting dichotomy that film and television makers who, it could be argued, are supposed to represent and reflect their audiences are in most cases vocally to the left?

RUSS: No dichotomy at all for a politically correct, virtue-signalling, snowflake, Leftard luvvie, and fully paid up member of the metropolitan liberal elite such as myself.

The Right has more than enough media outlets to make the case for its interests.  If it falls to us, in the interest of balance, to do our bit as a loyal opposition, so be it.  But Right/Left is almost too simple a paradigm, and plays into the hands of those who seek to divide and rule.  Typically, across the last few decades, it’s been the Right that’s held sway and provided the pricks to kick against, but you’ll note we didn’t roll up our tents in ’97.  The divide is, as always, between justice and injustice; the powerful and the powerless.

At such a time, with extremism of every stripe on the march, it’s important to hold the line. To bear witness.  To question.  To challenge.  To give a voice to the voiceless, the ignored, the marginalised.  To stand with those who daily, in so many ways, both great and small, live the case for compassion and humanity.  If the best way we can do that is through a Wallace Beery wrestling picture, then, I promise you, it’ll be the best damn Wallace Beery wrestling picture you ever saw.

Just remember.  Kelvin MacKenzie wrote ‘The Truth’.  Jimmy McGovern wrote ‘Hillsborough’.

DAMIAN: Would it be fair to say that Detective Constable Morse is more liberal and Detective Inspector Morse more conservative or is this simply a reflection of the two periods in which they appeared?

RUSS:  I’m not sure about appeared.  That Endeavour’s backdrop is the middle through late 60s is more likely to be germane.  The Detective Chief Inspector never struck me as particularly conservative.

DAMIAN: And that’s all from Question Time this week, we now continue with our usual programming. In my research I found that there was a John Richardson who was an English Quaker minister and autobiographer. Did he have anything to do with the naming of the supermarket?

RUSS:  Would that we’d been so canny.  They ended up as Richardson because it was the nearest we could clear to Robertson (which was their original name – but wouldn’t clear because of danger of confusion with the Jam makers).  ‘So, here’s to you, Mrs.Robertson…’  &c. The story started out – in part – as a salute to Mike Nicholls and The Graduate.  And some of that survived.

DAMIAN: We spoke last week of your mischievous nods to future films and in ARCADIA we see packs of Frosties and adverts for cat food in the supermarket! Did you get permission to use Kellogg’s brands but not the Brekkies cat food or is there some hidden meaning behind the name Brecco?

RUSS:  I assume permission must have been forthcoming on the former, but not the latter.  Art and Design were responsible for stocking the shelves of Richardsons – so some mischief may well have been theirs.

DAMIAN: The first series was set in 1965, the second was 1966 so I’m wondering why both the third and fourth are set in 1967 – was it a very good year?

RUSS:  We quite simply didn’t get through all the ’67 stories.  More practically, I’m anxious not to run out of sky before we reach the end of the decade, which has always felt to me like the natural point to bring our part of the story to a close.  Also – the happy result of a two volume ’67 means that, should we return with ’68, then it will broadcast exactly 50 years after it’s set. And there’s something pleasing about half a century between then and now.

DAMIAN: Early in ARCADIA, the Thursday family share a box of chocolates in front of the television. Win, Joan and Sam can all be seen chewing with a guilty look on their faces as Fred asks who had the Savoy Truffle. Well, who was the culprit?

RUSS:  You know my methods, Barcroft.  Apply them!

DAMIAN: Yes Sir. In fact, it was a “Good News” box of chocolates! We’ve discussed your fondness for Horror, Western and Film Noir many times in our previous interviews but I think we’re yet to address your obsession with The Beatles (we’ll do Tony Hancock another time). Indeed, from the very beginning, hasn’t ENDEAVOUR been awash with references to The Fab Four?

RUSS:  The 60s are unimaginable without them.  I don’t know if it’s an obsession, but their output year by year has been very helpful in getting one’s head into the right place.  ’68’s ‘The Beatles’ a.k.a. the ‘White Album’ has already got me thinking about the way forward.  The clue lies in the liner notes, such as they are.

As for The Lad Himself – last week’s film originally had a slew of nods, but they bit the bullet. I’m sure they’ll come again.

DAMIAN: Naturally, there a lots more references as usual ranging from the aforementioned The Graduate, Raymond Chandler and John Bunyan (House Beautiful also a nod to LEWIS) but I was concerned by Max’s joke “the last of the red hot livers” a play on words of the Neil Simon play which didn’t appear until two years later. Shouldn’t there be a rule that characters don’t make references to cultural events that haven’t occurred yet?

RUSS:  Max was invoking Sophie Tucker – widely known as ‘The last of the red hot mamas’ – swapping out ‘mamas’ for ‘livers’ to reflect the state of deceased’s cirrhotic organ.  The joke, such as it is, works for a modern audience for its being – unintentionally on Max’s part – but a letter away from Mr.Simon’s play.  That said, as a phrase, ‘the last of the red hot… <insert your choice here>’ certainly had some currency prior to the play.

DAMIAN: ARCADIA featured one of the most thrillingly intense sequences of any ENDEAVOUR film thus far. Just before they find Verity and the bomb, Endeavour asks Jakes, “This time next month you’ll be riding the range – any regrets?” to which he replies “Life’s too short”. In comparison to both INSPECTOR MORSE and LEWIS, ENDEAVOUR puts our friends in peril on a much more regular basis and given that you’ve toyed with our nerves regarding Thursday’s possible demise in NEVERLAND and again if we count CODA, isn’t there a danger of you becoming the writer who cried wolf?

RUSS:  My impulse always inclines towards the fatal.  Damien Timmer is far more charitable. But one of these days the undertaker will be sent for…

We were all very fond of Little Pete (and even fonder of Jack) and thought it would be nice for the character if we gave him a happy exit – after all his childhood unhappiness.

DAMIAN: There must have been lots of night shoots on location for this film. I can think of lots of advantages and disadvantages for this but do they generally prove easier or more problematic for cast and crew?

RUSS:  Technically, it’s not problematic, but it does put a lot of pressure on the circadian rhythms of cast & crew.  Health & Safety and good working practices means that a certain amount of hours have to elapse between shifts, and so, if you’ve got a night shoot, or a couple of nights, then you can only slowly get the ship back on an even keel,  You claw back a couple of hours a day – or schedule them close to a natural break – a full day off.

DAMIAN: I presume you did your research and timed yourself running to see how long it would take to get to the phone box on Merton Street and the second rendezvous on New College Lane?

RUSS:  Naturally.  I also had a large sum of money in a briefcase as a handicap.  Nothing if not a Method writer.   And I always commit identical murders before sitting down to write each series. Just to make sure I get the details right.

DAMIAN: Marion Brooke (AMNOX) from MASONIC MYSTERIES makes an appearance in this film but wouldn’t it be even better if Endeavour bumped into Hugo De Vries one day?

RUSS: Each thing in its season.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see him sooner or later.

DAMIAN: You’ve written some cracking lines for Thursday over the years but his comments after visiting the hippy commune are priceless…

THURSDAY: Consider the lilies of the field? Come that old madam with me, and he’ll be considering my boot up his arse.

…ARCADIA sees Thursday becoming increasingly impatient, perhaps even intolerant, culminating in the dramatic showdown of CODA. Does his behaviour in series three mark a permanent shift in the dynamics of the relationship between Thursday and Endeavour?

RUSS:  I think we’ve always seen it as something organic.  We didn’t want it to become set in aspic, or predictably cosy, but rather something that evolves naturally out of events.  I think you’re already getting some insight onto their developing relationship in Series IV.

DAMIAN: It seems such a pity for Jakes to have left Oxford just as Endeavour and the audience were getting to know him. If Jack Laskey hadn’t signed on to star in the Canadian spy thriller X COMPANY, would we have had to wait much longer for the warmer Jakes?

RUSS:  No.  I don’t think so.  Like Bright’s relationship with Endeavour – they’ve been through a lot together, and if that didn’t change how they related to one another then I think it would be a bit repetitive to watch, and a bit unrealistic in terms of human behaviour.

DAMIAN: At the end of the scene in which Jakes helps Endeavour move into his new flat, we hear Ebben, Ne andro lontana from the opera La Wally by Alfredo Catalani, is this because, like Jakes, Wally decides to leave her home forever?

RUSS:  Wasn’t one of mine.  A wheeze of Mr.Pheloung’s.

DAMIAN: Other than this film, NEVERLAND was arguably the most revealing in terms of our understanding of Jakes’ character and backstory. This combined with his first name might suggest Peter Pan and Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks in Greek mythology which ties in with Jakes moving to Wyoming with his fiancee to work on her father’s cattle business. Add ARCADIA into the mix and we’re back to Greek mythology and a pastoral paradise – correct?

RUSS:  Again – yes and no.  ET IN ARCADIA EGO.  The notion that even in paradise Death stalks the land.  If memory serves, we originally wanted the Poussin, a.k.a., ‘Les bergers d’Arcadie’ to be the picture Endeavour saw at Bixby’s do in RIDE, but we couldn’t get clearance – copyright on images belonging to The Louvre, and they wouldn’t let us use it.  Perhaps because we were suggesting it was a forgery.  I can see how that might worry them, but to anything more sentient than a bowl of custard it’s sort of obvious that we’re in the business of pretend.  The Rijksmuseum was a lot more amenable.  But it’s mildly frustrating – and sometimes makes layering the puzzle a lot harder than one would like.  Things one would presume to be public domain that turn out not to be.

DAMIAN: Well, it was a lovely send-off at the Lamb and Flag with most of the gang together one last time but Jakes sees Endeavour pass the window outside. We know Endeavour is forever on the outside looking in, but why didn’t he go in for a pint?

RUSS:  A morbid dislike of ‘good-byes’ – formal and informal.  In his way, he’d become surprisingly fond of Jakes.

DAMIAN: And it was beautiful of Endeavour to give Jakes those premium bonds for his kid but I don’t think many in the audience would have fully appreciated how generous this actually was given the debt Endeavour is in (partly due to his late father’s gambling problems) which isn’t explored until CODA and doesn’t really come across at this point. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to convey this context to the audience sooner?

RUSS:  We’d been trying to crowbar in his paying off his father’s gambling debts since TROVE – but hadn’t been able to find space for it.  Revealing it in CODA serves the plot, but also gives insight into the essentially private and stoic nature of Endeavour’s character.  It’s something he hasn’t shared with anyone else.

Perversely, as a member of an audience when watching stuff, I find it quite enjoyable to have to retro-fit facts to what has gone before.  It gives a piece a bit more life in the mind of the viewer. I don’t think much would have been gained by knowing Endeavour’s straitened financial circs ahead of the Premium Bonds.  It would have made him even more of a martyr – something Shaun Evans is always keen to avoid.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

DAMIAN: Yes, I also teach my Grandmother to suck eggs in my spare time. Anyway, in addition to the scenes with Jakes, there were some lovely moments with Endeavour and Joan and I particularly liked her comments following their discussion of Jakes (who she briefly dated in series one) and his fiancee Hope…

JOAN: Out of all the people, who’d have thought? Love, I suppose. Don’t know until you meet the right one.

…and it’s beautiful to see that she can’t stop smiling around Endeavour throughout the entire scene. There was a lovely chemistry between the two from the very beginning but at what point did you decide that they’d fall for each other?

RUSS:  From the moment I had her open the door to him for the first time.

DAMIAN: Wouldn’t Thursday be pleased if his daughter ended up with a gentleman like Endeavour?

RUSS:  Would you?  He’s quite a difficult, haunted…  damaged character, isn’t he?  Brilliant detective, but emotionally…  something of a train wreck.  That early, formative loss.  See how deep the bullet lies.  They’ve been circling one another for two and half years.  Endeavour’s been denying his feelings – compartmentalising – for all that time.  Both of them, really.  Joan’s been intrigued by him from the off.   He’s not like anyone she’s met before.  Kind, and respectful, and lost, and brilliant, and emotionally guarded.  Dysfunctional in his way.  Jakes grabbed her arse.  Endeavour gave her his coat, and walked her home.

Sara Vickers is a wonderful actor, and a delight to write for.  She just got it right.  Nailed it every time.  Joan’s bravery, and intelligence, and utter decency.  All of it so beautifully understated. Her scenes will always have a very special place in my heart.

DAMIAN: Another delightful scene was Bright’s introduction to Trewlove who seems rather taken by her (“My door is always… well, if not actually open then not infrequently ajar”) – smirks all round from Endeavour, Thursday and Jakes. Does this scene together with his comments to Mrs. Robinson regarding her missing daughter (“Believe me, I do apprehend something of your anxiety”) and later revelations in PREY suggest he sees her as something of a daughter figure?

RUSS:  Anton has an almost preternatural grasp of what underpins much of Bright’s dialogue. There are things that he instinctively chivvies out – reading, quite literally, between the lines.  To watch him do his thing…  Never less than astonishing.  Riggers (Sean Rigby) wrote that being in a three-hander with Anton and Roger was like being at a masterclass.  They do create rather wonderful music together.

There have been some Bright things we were unable to include in SERIES 3 & 4…  As has proved with many of my deeper designs, perhaps the third knock will open the door.

DAMIAN: Green Shield Stamps and toys at the bottom of cereal packets, ARCADIA was affectionately nostalgic wasn’t it?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Being dragged around the local supermarket – with interminable stops for gossiping – is an overriding childhood memory.

DAMIAN: And was that an Eric Morecambe “Wha-Hey!” I heard when Sam finds the coveted Thunderbird 2?

RUSS:  You’d have to ask Jack Bannon.

DAMIAN: Now then, not wishing to make a song and dance about it, but you were rather miserly in your preview of last week’s film if I may be so bold. So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to compensate for that now and shower us with fascinating titbits about tonight’s film…

RUSS:  Well – since you mentioned The Beatles earlier…  Endeavour goes pop.  It’s a collision between two worlds – that of Endeavour’s generation and that of his parents.  What’s acceptable, and what’s not.  The Permissive Society – so called.  What would the neighbours say?  Vague shades of another INSPECTOR MORSE story – I’ll leave it to you to work out which. But it’s quite an oblique brushing of the shoulders – thematically.  Directed by Michael Lennox – who’s done something very special with it.  Rather not go into too many details.

But I had a lot of fun with Matt Slater putting together the songs for it.  The first is sung by Sharlette – who’s got a gorgeous voice, and is quite a find; and the other features the actors who make up The Wildwood.  We recorded it at RAK Studios (founded by Mickie Most in 1976) one Sunday in early-ish summer – and that was a high point.  Shaun came down.  And the Great Ziegler.  Enormous fun.

In retrospect, I wish we’d done ALL our ‘period’ non-classical music this way.  Watch this space. Or listen to it, more like.  Perhaps one day – when we get to the end — we’ll go back and retrofit the entire back catalogue.  Though that might mean we’d have to retitle ‘SWAY’.

DAMIAN: Last week you chose DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION and GREEKS BEARING GIFTS as your first two “Desert Island Dexters”. Can you tell us about your next two choices please?

RUSS:  This is far harder than it looks.  It was always a terrific show from first to last, but I think it’s generally agreed that it hit a real purple patch between S4 through S6, from which I could pick more or less any film.  However…  THE INFERNAL SERPENT- a great, dark, coil of a story by Alma Cullen.  Fabulous misdirection.  The central guest performances were just terrific – Cheryl Campbell, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, and Geoffrey Palmer.  And John Madden weaving his magic again.  As you know, we borrowed (pinched!) Geoffrey Palmer’s character from this for TROVE.  I hope Alma didn’t mind what we did with him.

And the first of a probably a few by the great Julian Mitchell.  (I can see I’m not going to get to cover all my faves.)  CHERUBIM & SERAPHIM features my dear friend Charlie Caine as the DJ. We’ve known one another since we were six — so I’m having that.  And, of course, it’s the story in which we meet Gwen and Joyce.  Anything that gives us a window on Morse’s past is always a favourite.  And this is one of those stories.  Unconventional in its way.  It could have been quite an easy misfire, Morse amidst the Rave scene, but Julian, as ever, proved a master of his materials and handled it with great insight and sensitivity.  Youth and age.  A story laden with melancholy and regret.

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THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / WPC734 / ARCADIA

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