RIPPER STREET 5 interview with the casting directors

CASTING RIPPER STREET

An exclusive interview with Kate Rhodes James

And Louise Kiely

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

DAMIAN: Of all the aspects of film and television making, the casting director rarely gets interviewed or sees much written about them and yet it is a fascinating process with all its power to potentially make or break an actor. Why are you so mysterious?

KATE: I very rarely get interviewed. I don’t think many people have a clue what we actually do. It’s very hard to quantify how we work. Each CD [Casting Director] works in a way particular to them i.e. their taste, their specific knowledge. It’s hugely creative and instinctive and I think people massively underestimate that.

LOUISE: I actually get interviewed quite a lot. I guess because there are so few in Ireland, they come to the same small pool for info. It is not a job one can train or go to college for in Ireland, so perhaps getting into it becomes a little tricky or mysterious.

DAMIAN: By necessity, do casting directors need to be quite thick-skinned?

LOUISE: I don’t feel particularly thick-skinned.

KATE: Yes and no. You can’t be so thick-skinned that you are impervious to new ideas but you have to remember not to take things personally. It is ultimately a business.

DAMIAN: And in contrast, aren’t actors -perhaps especially the younger ones- rather vulnerable at the start of their careers?

KATE: They are as vulnerable twenty years in as they are when they start. To be an actor you have to remain vulnerable. Good CD’s are acutely aware of this and do their utmost to provide a safe and comfortable audition space.

LOUISE: Anyone who is auditioning or interviewing for a job can feel vulnerable. It is our job at that point to make them feel safe and assist in whatever way we can.

DAMIAN: Have you ever had to deal with someone breaking down in tears because you didn’t put them forward for a part?

LOUISE: Nope, thank heavens.

KATE: No. I have had abuse in person from actors who felt they should have got the role. But we are facilitators, once the actor is in the room it is up to them.

DAMIAN: How would you make the audition process a little easier for someone who was particularly anxious or nervous?

KATE: It depends whether I am on my own or with a team. If interviewing on my own I always ask an actor about themselves at the start and get a sense of who they are before we start talking about the project. If auditioning with a team I will prepare the actor before entering the room so they know what to expect. For instance some directors are not great conversationalists so I will pre-warn the actor that lack of chat does not mean the director is not interested.

LOUISE: Depending on the person, some people who are a little nervous prefer to dive right in. Others we have a chat about other stuff for a wee while until they feel ready.

DAMIAN: You both actually started out as actors yourselves. What were your own experiences like with casting directors?

KATE: Mostly good. I learnt an enormous amount from Maggie Lunn (who sadly died this year). I met her for a role and she told me immediately that I wasn’t right for the role and why. Then we just chatted about life. I felt like I had been treated like an adult and left the room with no false hope. I loved that.

LOUISE: Again, there were only a few in Ireland and they were all lovely. I didn’t train with anyone but I certainly drew from my experience and how I was treated by others. They were only ever really nice.

DAMIAN: So what made you both decide to stop acting and move into casting instead?

KATE: I knew I wasn’t cut out to act, I didn’t really believe in myself enough. I had always loved the idea of casting and had been knowledgeable about actors since my teens so it seemed the most logical step. I started as an assistant twenty-five years ago and went from there. It was clearly meant to be.

LOUISE: I was in a co-operative agency and it was 2005. One of the actresses in there, who is also a really good friend, and I decided randomly we would try casting. We really had no idea how to actually do it so winged it for a while.

DAMIAN: Kate, some of your early experiences in casting included working on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which featured a dazzling army of guest stars and character actors. Are there any that particularly stand out as you look back?

KATE: I assisted on the last season so many of the memorable actors were cast before my time.

DAMIAN: And you also worked with Debbie McWilliams on the casting of three James Bond movies. What did you learn from those experiences?

KATE: I loved working on the Bond films. Debbie McWilliams is the most extraordinary CD and taught me an enormous amount. Working on Bond films are rather like an out of body experience. There is nothing like them out there and I certainly have never had a similar experience.

DAMIAN: There are far too many amazing projects for me to mention them all but I think my readers would be particularly interested in the fact that you did the casting for Byron, Sherlock Holmes and the Silk Stocking, the 2005 BBC miniseries Bleak House, Jekyll (2007), The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Jekyll and Hyde (2015), The Missing, Line of Duty and Sherlock. First of all, I thought Rupert Everett was a brilliant Holmes in Silk Stocking and I would have loved to see him play the character again. Do you know why Tiger Aspect productions didn’t make more with him in the role?

KATE: Well thank you for that. I have been incredibly blessed to work with extraordinary talent. As for Tiger Aspect not continuing with Rupert Everett as Holmes you would have to ask them!

DAMIAN: Let’s suppose that Benedict Cumberbatch became either too busy or expensive to make any more Sherlock for the BBC, who would be your first choice to replace him?

KATE: I can’t answer that!

DAMIAN: It was worth a try. Anyway, Bleak House! Did you create the perfect wish list and everybody just happened to say yes?

KATE: Bleak House will always be very precious in my heart. Believe it or not, no!  We had a very specific remit to make this not a reverential BBC period drama piece but to place modern, recognizable faces. The trick was placing those faces in the right roles, as opposed to putting them in anywhere. We actually got a lot of snooty responses from agents, who thought we were making a terrible mess of it all. One actor, who will remain nameless, took themselves out of the piece as they thought it would be a flop!

DAMIAN: Back to you Louise. You have at least five projects in pre-production at the moment so I’m wondering if you work on each one at a time or is it an ongoing process particularly with reference to television?

LOUISE: They are all motoring along at the same time. I have a team who are all delegated work.

DAMIAN: Some of your work includes the mystery thriller series Jack Taylor (starring Ripper Street’s magnificent Iain Glen from the fifth episode of series two), the crime drama Red Rock and the recent EastEnders spin off Kat and Alfie: Redwater. Presumably all these have the potential to run and run so I’m wondering how you manage to juggle existing projects while also pursuing new ones?

LOUISE: I have found a real strength in numbers. I could never have taken on as many projects as we do now, when I was on my own. We “hive brain” a lot – for ideas etc.

DAMIAN: Game of Thrones, The Frankenstein Chronicles, The Truth Commissioner, Line of Duty, Morgan, The Secret, The Fall and many more! Why are production companies queuing up to film in Ireland?

LOUISE: We are so lucky! I guess it started with great tax incentives. They still remain. We also now have very skilled cast, crew and beautiful locations.

DAMIAN: And of course, another one filmed in Ireland – Ripper Street. Kate, you cast from a wide pool of international actors while Louise casts the local talent in Ireland. Can you tell me how you both became involved with the show?

KATE: Will Gould the Executive Producer sent me the piece and I loved it and it went from there. I knew Stephen Smallwood of old and we were a terrific team. I loved working on this show and it’s a very special piece for us.

LOUISE: I had an interview with the Producer Stephen Smallwood. I had never done a TV series on this scale before so I worked very hard to get the job.

DAMIAN: To what extent did Richard Warlow (Series creator) and Will know who they’d like for the three main male characters of Reid, Drake and Jackson?

KATE:  They hadn’t a clue!  I am sure they won’t mind me saying that. It was a journey that we all went on it together. The trio was the result of a collaborative casting process. We all had the team that we dreamt of.

DAMIAN: And Long Susan and Rose?

KATE: Same. Bear in mind that it’s so much better when everyone doesn’t have a pre-conceived idea, makes it much more enjoyable for everyone.

DAMIAN: Whenever I’ve done interviews with the actors, they all tell me about this great chemistry between them. To what extent do you try to account for this and have you ever found the perfect actor for a role only to find that you’ve had to recast because they don’t quite have the right chemistry with another actor?

KATE: It actually stems from the creative team.  We all got on really well and Tom Shankland who directed the pilot episode was an essential part of the process as well.  We then cast actors that we all liked and because we had done our job well they all clicked. It might sound too simplistic but it really is how it should be. We all listened to each other and respected everyone’s thoughts. I’ve never had to recast anyone.

LOUISE: I have never had that issue to be honest. We go for the best actor for the role.

DAMIAN: Adam Rothenberg auditioned and was cast rather late in comparison to both Matthew Macfadyen and Jerome Flynn. Was there another actor in mind or was it a particularly difficult role to cast?

KATE: That is true. There was someone else that we had in mind but it didn’t work out for endless reasons. But every cloud has a silver lining. We were meant to have Adam.

DAMIAN: Did Matthew or Jerome actually audition?

KATE:  Matthew didn’t audition but Jerome did. Poor chap had to come in a couple of times but was terrific each time.

DAMIAN: And I’ve also interviewed some of the actors you’ve cast which are based in Ireland. Is there a particular look that you’re after when going through headshots and CVs when casting for something period like Ripper Street?

LOUISE: We did have to take into account that this is a period piece when reading actors. That said, we always went for the most talented and suitable artists for the role. Hair, Makeup and Costume worked their magic then.

DAMIAN: I remember watching Interview With A Vampire which was a great film but I couldn’t help thinking that while Brad Pitt was fine, Tom Cruise looked somewhat out of place as a vampire originally from 1791. Do you think there is such a thing as a period or contemporary face?

KATE:  It’s tricky. A while ago I would have said yes but these days not so much. We can get very hung up on period opposed to contemporary faces. The longer I work in this business the more I think it’s not really a valid discussion. Cast the right actor and the rest melts away.

LOUISE: That is one of my favourite films of all time. I guess it is not something we may have expected from Tom Cruise but I love that he did it and pulled it off, I believe, with aplomb. I guess there are “more contemporary/period” looks but I would never discount anyone for that at the top of the process.

DAMIAN: There has been an amazing array of guest stars on Ripper Street over the years including some of my favourites like Anton Lesser, Iain Glen and Joseph Gilgun. Have you ever thought, well, I’ll try their agent but they’ll never do it?

KATE: Always!! You must always ask as you never know what the outcome will be.

DAMIAN: And how did you find your Elephant Man in Joseph Drake?

KATE: I’ve known Joseph for a long time and adore him. We needed a physical actor and he has terrific physicality. We were thrilled that everyone agreed and cast him.

DAMIAN: Clive Russell is perfect as Abberline. Whose idea was it to cast him?

KATE: It was mine. But that is my job !

DAMIAN: Is it almost something of prerequisite than when an actor finishes work on Ripper Street, they move onto Game of Thrones or vice-versa? – I’ve counted at least fifteen so far who’ve appeared in both!

LOUISE: I shall defer to Kate on this but I gather they just cast the best actors for the roles. Some wonderful actors in both.

KATE: Sheer coincidence. Bear in mind a lot of actors are in GOT so you cross over all the time.

DAMIAN: In the beginning, are there character breakdowns for each script that the production company sends – can you take me through the process of casting a show like Ripper Street?

KATE: We do the breakdowns and issue to the agents.

LOUISE: We would send out the character briefs to agents and select from there. We would also invite people without representation to audition, should they be suitable.

DAMIAN: And how does a casting director go from looking at a headshot and CV to deciding that they embody a certain character perfectly?

KATE: You can’t really. You need to meet and read them

LOUISE: I guess we read them for the role and see how we get on.

DAMIAN: What I find particularly interesting about all this is at the end of the day, isn’t it down to instinct and gut feeling and isn’t there a certain amount of subjectivity involved here and perhaps no two casting directors might cast a project the same way?

KATE: I totally subscribe to that. This is a personality based business. I just love actors and what they do. I love challenging them and casting against type. I know immediately if someone is for me the show etc and go with that. Times when I have not trusted my instincts, it has not been so successful. My team challenge me all the time and that is healthy.

LOUISE: I like the idea that someone potentially has a different taste to me. Within my company, I find discussion around who we choose interesting. At the end of the day, it is the Director and the Producers’ decision. I loved working alongside Kate on this show. Kate has incredible taste.

DAMIAN: What is the single most difficult role you’ve cast on Ripper Street?

KATE: God – where do I start! There were quite a few  which I now can’t remember.

LOUISE: I think it was possibly BARNABY the giant or possibly the Victorian Circus.

DAMIAN: And finally, is it common practice for actors or their agents to take you to the theatre and do they pay for the tickets and a drink during the interval?

KATE:  They do indeed. It is one of the perks of the job. I go to the theatre at least twice a week. But I also take myself. I don’t expect agents to take me but it’s lovely when they do.

LOUISE: Sometimes although I go the theatre and cinema a lot myself also.

DAMIAN: Kate, Louise, thank you both very much indeed.

KATE:  Pleasure!

LOUISE: Welcome!

~~~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

~

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with Visual Effects Supervisor Ed Bruce

The VES Award-winner and BAFTA nominated Visual Effects Supervisor, Ed Bruce (above emerging from the smoke-filled set), has worked on everything from big-budget Hollywood movies such as A Good Day to Die Hard, The Last Days on Mars and Independence Day: Resurgence to some of our favourite TV shows that are a little closer to home including Game of Thrones, The Frankenstein Chronicles and, of course, Ripper Street that we’re here to discuss as well as share some rare and previously unseen images…

An exclusive RIPPER STREET interview

with Visual Effects Supervisor

~ ED BRUCE ~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
Ripper Street images copyright © Ed Bruce/Screen Scene/Tiger Aspect Productions 2016

~

Down these Ripper streets Ed must go

DAMIAN: Ed, little did I know, sitting in the cinema as an eleven-year-old kid watching Young Sherlock Holmes in the spring of 1986, that I was witnessing the first character to be entirely created by computer-generated imagery. And who knew that The Glass Knight, impressive though he may have been back then, was merely a forerunner to Terminator 2’s T-1000 or Jurassic Park’s terrifying T-Rex? Visual Effects (VFX) have obviously come along way and previously only dreamt of scenes and images can now be realized, not only at the movies, but also in the corner of our own living rooms. When did you first become aware of the power and potential of VFX?

ED: From a very early age I have been in love with film. Some love books or music, but for me my medium was film. When I was really young, what I now know as special or visual effects, was never really questioned, and merely intertwined into the films narrative only leaving me in awe of the spectacle. The skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts was a particular moment of wonderment. It was magnificent, glorious, beautifully executed and equally terrifying.

Jurassic Park of course is a benchmark of visual effects for me. It still to this day stands up. A beautiful balance of practical, special effects, animatronics and visual effects. It’s very difficult to re-emulate that feeling I had when the first dinosaur was revealed.

However, the film that really sparked my imagination and curiosity for how it was crafted was Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future. The simple yet effective optical effects of overlaying Doc Brown and Marty against the vanishing, time travelling DeLorean. This mixed with the animated glowing electrical tubes, flashing pops, comets & contrails surrounding the car before it disappeared to 1955. I was mesmerised.

When I was an early teen my family inherited a vast collection of VHS’s, a couple of TVs and a Panasonic M10 VHS camera. It was the beginning of me spending many hours either watching films or creating them. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated good film making. Sometimes that has been with the support and use of visual trickery. From the simple act of floating walls within 12 Angry Men, allowing the director to reduce the size of the set and increase the claustrophobia and tension, to the bringing alive of creatures or characters, places and planets that don’t exist. I love a good illusion that supports the storytelling.

DAMIAN: This may get confusing but I understand that VFX can be categorized into the following: Simulation FX, Animation, Modelling, Matte painting and Compositing. I’m sure it would be useful for both myself and the reader if you could illustrate each of these techniques with examples from your work on Ripper Street.

ED: There are actually many more categories within the VFX dept. All tools to deliver a complete visual effect. Sometimes you end up using them all to do one shot, but most of the time it’s just a few. Ripper Street VFX has predominantly been about adding to the scale and embedding into the Victorian landscape. For the most part this means we’ve mainly concentrated on set extensions through digital matte paintings and CG buildings.

To give one example that contained multiple techniques and VFX departments would be the fully CG shot of the Kimberly Diamond mine. After a lot of research trying to really understand the scale of these massive mines we were able to plot and design this big high wide shot. We used a technique called 2 and a half D. That’s not 2D and not quite 3D, but somewhere in between where you build simple 3D geometry and project a digital matte painting onto it. We blocked out the camera move to know how far we could push this technique. We found that for the most part 2.5D worked well, however the foreground really required higher detailed 3D assets. These would be machinery, buildings, carts etc. It was also really clear that these mines were full of people. It took a lot of labour to run such large scale operations. CG crowds were created, animated and scattered through the shot. These little tiny visual specks helped to show scale whilst also demonstrate the bustling active mine.

We simulated FX for smoke and atmosphere. Created digital ropes and wires pulling carts and their contents. All of which finally end up within a compositors realm ready to assemble together into a realistic composition.

The VFX department often supports other departments directly, especially the SFX team. There is a great balance between the two departments. Ripper Street’s SFX team are amazing. There would be many examples of simple additions VFX would bring to help SFX complete a shot. Adding digital rain/snow or weather, adding smoke to chimneys, blood spurts and gore etc. We had great fun supporting Stunts & SFX with the scene where a detective is thrown from a two story window landing on a spiked fence. It was a wonderful example of multiple departments working collectively to create an exciting and thrilling Ripper Street moment.

[For clarification, SFX are practical/physical effects made during production such as props or animatronics. VFX are digitally created on computer in post-production] – D

Steven Hartley’s character, Detective Sergeant Maurice Linklater, from Pure as the Driven (Series 2, Episode 1)

DAMAN: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into the business and the circumstances in which you first got hired to work on the show?

ED: In short, I met a girl.

Having completed my engineering based degree in product design, I followed an Irish girl back to Dublin leaving behind my ambitions to become an engineer or product designer.

The degree was enjoyable but I slowly fell out of love with most of the tasks a product designer did, bar the presentational side mocking up 3D renderings of my designs. So off I went to Dublin. I liked the idea of somehow continuing within 3D and very soon found an opportunity as a Runner within a small Post Production House. There I was surrounded by talented people creating visuals for Commercials, TV and Film. Spending all my extra time learning and offering up my 3D modelling abilities to support the team ended up with me being promoted from Runner to a 3D Generalist. It was in this capacity I learned my trade and over time and into another company as I shifted into Head of 3D before becoming a Visual Effects Supervisor.

When it was decided Ripper Street was going to be shot in Ireland it was inevitable that they would come and speak with Screen Scene, Ireland’s leading post production facility. We’ve been fortunate to build up a great catalogue of VFX work and have a reputation for quality. Also having then completed work on season one of Game of Thrones, it gave everyone confidence that we were the right guys for the show. I was delighted that Tiger Aspect awarded myself and SSVFX the project.

DAMIAN: So what’s your starting point – do you read the scripts and then annotate them with details regarding what kind of shots and effects are needed for each episode?

ED: Yes. Most shows start with a script in parallel with a vision. A director will know how they wish to tell their story visually. Doing the first read through of a script allows my brain and the directors to align. Through doing breakdowns and discussing relevant scenes both parties can be confident of singing from the same hymn sheet.

Of course one of the main reasons for doing a breakdown is to ascertain how VFX is needed and thus a cost. Through each iteration of script and talks about each shots approach a visual effects, a shot list will be created. We also might do some concept work or pre-visualization to help firm up the design and look.

This is all done before shoot giving the VFX department and any connecting department’s time to design and plan their execution. It is vital that we have a plan when it comes to visual effects.

DAMIAN: In general, do you work on each episode after it’s shot in chronological order or do you perhaps bunch together similar effects requirements?

ED: Episodic television is always a challenge. Mainly because of schedule. It’s generally fast and furious. Normally we do work in chronological order, however when some episodes have challenging or large scale visual effects within them, we will start earlier to build assets and prep for when an episode editorially locks and we are green lit to complete the work.

With Ripper Street the edit begins in anger as soon as that ep’s shoot is wrapped. Within maybe three weeks we’d have a cut and VFX will get turnover. At the same time this is happening the next episode is shooting. As you can imagine planning is key.

DAMIAN: How many VFX shots would an average episode of Ripper Street need?

ED: There is never really an average episode. Ripper Street is story telling heavy. This means some episodes, like Whitechapel Terminus, require a vast amount of visual effects to tell the story. Others may not.

If I had to say an average it would probably be in the thirty – fifty shots then plenty of small clean-ups.

DAMIAN: How long might each episode take to complete and how long would you typically spend working on an entire series?

ED: From an episode’s edit lock to VFX being finished, it was often four to six weeks. Sometimes quicker.

In terms of a whole series, from the first contact to the last episode’s VFX shot completing would be around seven to eight months. Of course I and a few other key VFX people would be on the show from the start until the end, through pre-production, shoot and post.

DAMIAN: I’m wondering how you go about your research given the intricate historic details. So, for example, when we see VFX shots of Tower Bridge or St. Paul’s Cathedral, are there certain books or websites that you’ll consult in order to get the right look from a particular angle or distance from Whitechapel?

ED: I love the research stage. It often happens through multiple departments, particularly Art department, and key individuals like Mark Geraghty and Stephen Daly [Production Designers] as well as the VFX dept. Ripper Street has always had a great writing team headed by Richard Warlow. They really know their period and locations and always have provided us with a great starting point. On some episodes we’ve consulted an historian. For the most part we do our own research after receiving any references from Mark or Stephen. It tends to be myself and my colleague Nicholas Murphy. We of course scour the internet, however I find for period visuals referencing old drawings and paintings extremely informative. Especially around the architecture. I’ve books of drawings from people like Falcon Hildred [below] which really do set a feeling and tone.

Of course many of the larger London landmarks are still here today. Which means we are capable of photographing and de-aging back to Victorian times. For many of our big wide establishing shots we would build our landmarks in 3D, thus allowing us to ensure we can use for the correct angle, lighting and time of day.

I believe that to hide a lie, you need to ground them in many truths. Getting your research right is the first major step in achieving our illusions.

I’m sure my internet search history looks pretty interesting if you didn’t know I was researching for Ripper Street.

DAMIAN: Indeed – mine too! Now, I frequently feel as though VFX are used too much in film and television and, in my humble opinion, this results in some productions becoming tiresome and often having the same look and feel to them. Again, it’s just my opinion, but Ripper Street is a good example of getting the right balance. So, for example it would be both expensive and impractical to employ hundreds of extras for crowd scenes and creating the Victorian backdrops and skylines that obviously no longer exist is entirely justifiable. Although it’s your bread and butter, to what extent would you agree that VFX can be used too much or inappropriately these days?

ED: Visual Effects is a film maker’s tool. In recent years VFX has got so good it’s often invisible. This means we all spot bad visual effects a mile away. Also we’ve seen a big shift in terms of the amount of studio films that are these huge visual spectaculars, often heavily relying on VFX, whether superhero or comic book. With these stories we are all aware that they are computer generated characters or environments and unless they’re flawless we feel cheated.

However, there are so many films and TV shows that are littered with invisible VFX work that the audience never notices and therefore never criticizes or complements. The story telling is merely supported perfectly by the use of VFX.

With shows like Ripper Street budget often helps us be savvier with the use of VFX. When you’ve a small budget you must be creative and careful not to leave yourself with a difficult task of creating complex visuals with not enough time or resources. I’ve always believed in the saying that you’re only remembered by your worst VFX shot. On Ripper Street our VFX team have gone into production firmly believing that if there’s a practical way to find the solution we must exhaust that before going digital. Also taking it further, if there is something we can shoot to help the VFX then it’s worth capturing.

On location in the streets of Dublin

Ed at the Natural History Museum, Dublin

Nicholas Murphy

Nicholas with colour chart ball

Dublin is a great place to shoot period Victorian London. There are many streets and locations that are less touched by modern influences which mean there is less for Art Dept, Construction and Visual Effects to do. We would often only add a landmark to a background. A Christchurch steeple or St Paul’s. Just the subtle suggestion of London.

Of course Visual Effects are often the best route to go. Crowd duplication is definitely one way VFX can deliver scale at a fraction of the time and cost Production would have. Hiring large crowds, putting them in costume and make-up, feeding and moving them has a tipping point. We’ve done quite a number of crowd duplications over the five seasons.

DAMIAN: I think another good example of this is the Phossy Jaw effects from series two which were done digitally and that made perfect sense. However, where applicable, Waldo Mason steps in with the prosthetic special effects providing various severed heads, dismembered bodies and corpses which benefit from the actors’ ability to physically interact with them. I mean it would have been the wrong creative decision to animate any of these or the Elephant Man makeup that he created wouldn’t it?

ED: I love Waldo. He is a super talent and has brought some wonderful contributions to the world of Ripper Street. Prosthetics play such an important role with characters like the Elephant Man or with brutal injuries etc. However there are times where prosthetics need a little support. Often that’s with negative effects. Prosthetics tend to be additive. The Phossy Jaw effect was clearly a negative effect. We wanted to see into the jaw and mouth cavity.

We had originally planned to use prosthetics to create the edge/seam of the cavity and then green within. Waldo and his team had begun creating a mould of the actor’s head and were planning the sculpture, then the shoot schedule changed. It was brought dramatically forward. This meant Waldo was unable to deliver in time and we discussed the best approach. I was extremely keen that Waldo continue to sculpt and design the desired look. His expertise is in anatomy and he really understood the desired look. We therefore agreed with production that Waldo would provide the VFX department with a sculpture of the face. This of course meant that we shot the scene using a more traditional route of facial tracking markers. Little black dots placed on key areas of her face which we would use to track and attach the digital face.

After Waldo supplied this beautiful model, we were able to digitally sculpt using it as a wonderful physical reference. Our team then added subtleties like tongue movement and spit dribble to really sell the horrific look and also the negative space through depth cues.

To answer your question though, it would have been wrong to go digital with the Elephant Man. Waldo’s work was fantastic. To replicate this full in Visual Effects is of course possible, but extremely time consuming, challenging and ultimately costly and when you look at the result we got through Prosthetics, why would you try?

DAMIAN: You mentioned Whitechapel Terminus earlier and the epic train crash from that episode from series three was obviously another highlight that stands out. What can you tell us about that?

ED: That episode and particularly the train sequence was by far the biggest visual effects contribution of the entire series. Initially it wasn’t planned that way, but to really do the narrative justice it ended up this way. Richard had written this very tense and dramatic sequence which at its core was a train robbery that left a train on a collision course through London. London of course is a bustling built up city. We shot our train sequence at a closed train track up in Loughborough. The track was surrounded in countryside. Richard’s writing had the train departing from St Katherine’s Dock and ending up derailing in Whitechapel.

As the edit developed the story telling became more and more clear. The tension and drama really needed the train shots to be surrounded by buildings and an ever growing sense of London. Most of the train shots had their entire environment replaced with only the train and bits of track remaining. It was a mammoth undertaking within the tight TV schedule. A lot of late nights and long weekends. It was worth it. It’s a great sequence and was the perfect start to season three.

DAMIAN: What single individual effect have you found most difficult to create?

ED: There has been a few challenging shots. Whether it be the Phossy Jaw or the complexity of fully digital shots like the Diamond Mine or Hyde Park. But to be honest the difficulty tends to come with the sum of all within the tight TV time frame. You rarely get time to ponder your designs or try multiple routes. It’s fast and furious and ultimately all about planning and execution. If it was an unplanned VFX shot then sometimes that became difficult.

Hyde Park

DAMIAN: And if you could pick just one effect that best exemplifies your work on the show over the past five years, what would it be?

ED: Such a difficult question. Five seasons of so many visual effects shots, with so many back stories to their creation and design. I think though the real success of our work has been the set extensions to establish the London period and location. Some as, I’ve said before, may be a small addition of a landmark or in many cases fully digital shots. I hope that most were invisible to our audience. I do like the St Katherine’s Dock shot of the train leaving at the start of season three. But again, so hard to choose.

I’d prefer to ask others what their favourites were.

DAMIAN: Perhaps fans will tell us and leave their comments below. Now then, you’ve been a little mischievous with some of your effects shots. Can you give us some examples?

ED: Oh yes. We’ve had a little fun.

When populating a world you need to have a lot of artwork and even names for shops and signs. We’ve always had a bit of fun giving homage to the Ripper crew and team. We’ve had ships named after post supervisors, shops named after the directors, book stores named after our writers. One of our follicly challenged 3rd ad’s had a barbers named after him.

There are plenty of hidden gems if you know where to look.

DAMIAN: What projects are you currently working on?

ED: I’m just finishing off season seven of Game of Thrones. This year is even more spectacular than the last. It’s an unbelievable show. We’re also about to go into post on The Favourite, starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and Nicholas Hoult and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

I’m also about to begin the shoot for Lenny Abrahamason’s The Little Stranger, which I’m very excited about. I’ve worked with Lenny for years, from his early days in commercials and it will be my third feature with him after Frank and Room.

A few other things are in the melting pot. It’ll be an exciting year.

DAMIAN: Ed, thank you very much indeed.

ED: Thank you Damian.

It’s been an absolute privilege to work on Ripper Street and that has been because of the people involved across the board. We’ve had so many wonderful directors helming the 36 episodes carefully penned by Richard and his team of writers and performed by the awesome cast, especially Matthew, Jerome, Adam and MyAnna. This foundation has led to the ultimate success of the show and its appeal.

We must though remember all the amazing crew that it takes to make a show like Ripper Street. All departments have excelled and it’s always been a pleasure stepping on the set of Ripper Street because of the warm and generous support of so many people. It really is a testament to [executive producers] Will [Gould] and Frith [Tiplady] at Tiger Aspect for forming the band, so to speak. They’ve been such a great driving force and I’m very much looking forward to working with them again.

Of course I owe a huge applause to our visual effects team in Screen Scene VFX. They’ve really brought their craft, diligence and talent to the show. It is their hard work and ethos that has helped Screen Scene VFX amass an ever growing ten award nominations or wins including winning an Royal Television Society Award and being nominated for a BAFTA, Visual Effects Society Awards, two Hollywood Post Alliance Awards and two IFTAs.

It’s hard to believe there will be another show quite like Ripper Street.

Some of the Ripper Street cast and crew including Matthew Macfadyen (far right)

~~~

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
Ripper Street images copyright © Ed Bruce/Screen Scene/Tiger Aspect Productions 2016

http://Click here for more information about Ed Bruce and the VFX company Screen Scene

~

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with production designer Stephen Daly

He began his film and television career working in the art department on productions such as David Copperfield, Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Cristo and worked his way up to production designer on Ripper Street. Despite being busy working on the fourth series of Peaky Blinders, Stephen Daly kindly took the time to talk to me about his stay in Whitechapel and share some rare and previously unseen images…

An exclusive RIPPER STREET interview

with the production designer Stephen Daly

~~~

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All images Copyright © Stephen Daly/Tiger Aspect Productions 2016

~

DAMIAN: In preparing for this interview and coming up with some questions for you, I thought about the production designs that have had the greatest impact on me over the years and came up with the following: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920: Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig and Hermann Warm), Metropolis (1927: Otto Hunte), Alien (1979: Michael Seymour), Blade Runner (1982: Lawrence G. Paull), Batman (1989: Anton Furst), Dick Tracy (1990: Richard Sylbert) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992: Thomas Sanders). These may be rather obvious choices and I apologize that they all seem to belong to either the horror, Sci-Fi or comic book genre. However, I wonder what productions have inspired you and when did you first become aware of the art of production design?

STEPHEN: Corny though it might sound (and quite a cliche for filmmakers of my generation), I first got interested when I saw Star Wars at the age of 5. I lived in the US in 1977 and although I was very young, I remember thinking “how the hell did they do that?” I had no idea what a Production Designer was or what an Art Department did, but I knew somebody made it, somehow the hyper-realistic look of the film was man-made. Over the years I’ve always collected “the art of” books and been interested in behind the scenes. I suppose I’ve always had a leaning toward Sci-Fi and Westerns in particular. I think the 70s designers like John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Dean Tavoularis, etc, brought in a new period of ‘beaten-up’ sets. Suddenly worlds became more lived-in. Theatricality was definitely out. I think the films of my childhood, the films that subconsciously affected me –Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, ET, all that 70s and 80s Hollywood stuff- had this great lived-in feel. As I got older and into Scorsese, Hitchcock and Coppola, I remember noticing more how the camera moved and how it affected the sets, how colours really mattered and how a film could have a combined visual design. I also became a huge fan of Japanese movies. I think compared to a lot of Hollywood cinema, the notion of design was more obvious in a lot of Japanese stuff; big swathes of colour, epic scale, great stuff.

A blank canvas

John Neligan (Set Decorator), Marion Picard (Props Buyer) and Briana Hegarty (Supervising Art Director)

DAMIAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your training and how you first came to work in the business?

STEPHEN: After I left film school, I spent a year in a place called Concorde in Galway in the middle of nowhere in the west of Ireland. Roger Corman had 3 studios at the time (mid-90s), one in the US, one in Russia and one in Ireland. I got a job with the art dept, doing anything and everything (standing by on set, designing sets, storyboarding, making props, set construction, set painting…), got paid bugger all and had a great time. It was amazing training for a young guy starting out. You really got to learn all aspects of the game and you had to think on your feet. I worked on SEVEN feature films in one year.

You can’t get better than that.

Then I became the Art trainee on a BBC TV production called Ballykissangel, which was fun. There wasn’t much to do so we would let all of the work pile up until Friday.

DAMIAN: Mark Geraghty did phenomenal work on the sixteen episodes from the first two series, was it a somewhat daunting experience for you to take over as production designer – especially on such an epic project as Ripper Street?

STEPHEN: Mark is great. I first met him on The Count of Monte Cristo, when he hired me as Assistant Art Director. I did the standby job and did the storyboards for the film. It was my first proper big job. We made the film in Ireland and Malta and I remember having a great time on the job and I think we in the art dept did some super work. Mark was amazing to work for and I learned a ton from watching him.

I don’t think I found the move to Ripper too daunting. I felt ready to move up in scale and budget. Until then I had been designing small, low-budget features and TV and really wanted to move on. Ripper came along at exactly the right time. Of course I was nervous, but I think any budding designer keen to get stuck in would relish the thought. I had seen the show and really liked it. I remember visiting the sets when they were under construction and being really impressed.

DAMIAN: Given the exquisite period detail, you must have conducted painstaking research in designing the sets with such authenticity. Were there any books or websites that you found particularly useful in helping you to visualize and then actually realize Victorian Whitechapel?

STEPHEN: The key to doing a good job, I think, is having the right crew and enough time. Thankfully, on Ripper, we had this. I had such a fantastic art dept – they really did an amazing job, all of them. I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘painstaking’, though – that makes it sound like slavery. It was very enjoyable because we had enough time (just) to do some good research and then design. It’s very important to immerse yourself in the world for a while and let it sink in. The two main sources that immediately come to mind are Gustav Dore’s drawings of Victorian London and a great book called ‘Lost London’ by Philip Davies. Obviously there were more influences, both conscious and not, but these two were a huge help. But they were both black and white. There’s not much colour reference from back then, which freed us up to choose our own palette. I like limiting the colours we will use at the start of the job (with a huge degree of flexibility) and keeping the palette simple. I think that way, the colours have a more direct impact on the viewer, whether it’s noticed or not, and therefore it underlines the mood of the story more.

DAMIAN: Presumably you see the script and then start making notes but can you take me through your pre-production process as a production designer using Ripper Street as an example?

STEPHEN: Actually, I started designing Ripper 4 and 5 before we had scripts. Richard [Warlow – series creator] and I talked about plots and so on and he told me the main beats for the series as a whole. Also, I knew it needed an old Victorian London street and a Police Station, etc, as we had done it before, so that was a help.

Normally, on a film you have a script but it’s quite common that for a TV series you might only have outlines or maybe just episode one or two. So working closely with the showrunner/writer is very important early on. The lion’s share of my work, as I see it, is in the early days, before most of the crew is on the job and way before shooting starts.

On Ripper Street series 5, I knew we needed a backstage area for the Alexandra Theatre. From talking to Richard et al, I knew we would spend a lot of time there, so it made sense to build a set. We also knew we were striking the interior of Abel Croker’s warehouse from series 4, so basically we set to work revamping Croker’s place and turning it into the theatre backstage.

So while Briana (supervising art director), John (set decorator) and the rest of the art department were getting on with the nitty-gritty of the theatre (furnishings, wallpapers, posters, you name it), I spent a lot of time with Gordon the Location Manager figuring out how to design the shoot and find locations. I say ‘design the shoot’ because that’s what it feels like. So much of my work with the Location Manager is piecing together the sets in areas that can facilitate the shooting of the show while not compromising the look. This takes weeks and weeks of visiting places, seeing if they work for certain characters’ houses, certain beats of the script, you name it, and trying to put the jigsaw together. So we will print out pictures, slap them all up on a big wall, stand back and have a look. Also, I have to keep my budget in mind at all times. There are other balls in the air… Maybe an actor isn’t available when we want to shoot at a certain place. Maybe there are sound issues. Maybe this, maybe that… The list is a long one.

Then when we think we have something to go on, other crew members get involved. Obviously, the director has to have his tuppence-worth. He might look at a location and think, oh God that’s not what I had in mind at all (this is when I feel like a salesman, trying to convince him/her of my genius idea…). The DP needs to light it. The gaffer needs to get his gear there. The crew need access. Basically, pre-production is a huge spinning-plates session, but always, always, I have to keep the design of the show in mind.

DAMIAN: And then when it’s actually production time and the cameras are ready to roll, can you describe a typical day on set – perhaps the very first day of a shoot would be a particularly illuminating example?

STEPHEN: The only difference between the first day and any other day is that a sort of collective panic starts to descend on the whole crew about a week before. The art dept has usually been chugging along, busy as you like, for a few months by this stage, but everyone else is twiddling their thumbs, anxious to get going. So there seems to be an subconscious notion that we are shooting the entire show next Monday!

But really it’s good to start shooting, get the ball rolling it’s why we’re all here after all.

I would usually get to set first thing in the morning, check in with the director, see if it’s all OK. Then buzz about checking on locations or sets, drawing a bit back at the office. In a nutshell, we need to be ahead of the camera, so we work backwards from when we think the set will be ready, always working to the shooting schedule. Schedule changes are hell for the art dept.

DAMIAN: How many different sets or locations might you need to prepare for an average day’s shoot?

STEPHEN: It really depends. Sometimes we are on the same set for days on end, sometimes we might do up to seven little things on a day. However, what the script might call ‘little’, as in screen-time, still requires a great deal of work from us… no matter if it’s on screen for twenty seconds or twenty minutes, it still has to look like 1897.

Paddy the plasterer

DAMIAN: I think the first three series were shot at Clancy Barracks and then you moved to a disused hotel complex in Kilternan. Why the move and to what extent were you able to recycle the previous sets?

STEPHEN: The lease on Clancy was up – the site is now being developed into swanky apartments. So, Ripper needed a new home.

We looked at various options in the UK and Ireland. My favourite two options were an old cigarette factory in Liverpool and the Kilternan hotel. The Liverpool place suddenly became unavailable, so we really only had the Kilternan hotel – not that that was second best by any means. It ended up being a dream of a location and base.

We recycled what we could from before. Scaffolding, doors, windows, but really it was a build from scratch.

We built the main street set (including interiors and Croker’s warehouse) in an area that was supposed to be for indoor tennis courts. This meant we had full control of light (night/day) and weather (rain/snow).

DAMIAN: So for series four and five there was the main set including a new police station and exteriors. Can you tell me some of the dimensions of these sets such as how high they were built and how long Leman and other streets actually were?

STEPHEN: The main ‘booking hall’ of the police station was about 40’ wide and 30’ deep. It was a big space – I always had a Wild West saloon in mind.

The main street outside was about 90’ long, and it snaked under a railway bridge at one end and ended in a t-junction at the other. One thing I was very keen on was allowing the camera/actors into the actual interior spaces. Previously, we had to cut from exterior to interior (i.e. they were two different spaces) but I really wanted it all to appear seamless. It might only have been in one or two shots, but it all added to the atmosphere of the show.

On the main street set, we built the set on two levels. You could walk around the whole thing on ground level or on the first floor. So we either used the upper level for sets (Mathilda’s window for example, or the opium den) or camera positions. We generally kept ceilings very high, about 11’ or so, so we could light from above and not worry about seeing the ceiling. If we needed it, we would add a lightweight canvas ceiling piece, called a windbag.

DAMIAN: How long did it take to first design the sets and then to actually build them?

STEPHEN: Once we had decided on the tennis court space, the design came quite quickly really. The ‘stage’ wasn’t a real stage as it had a pitched roof, unlike a proper stage with a high flat roof. I think it was 33’ tall which isn’t massive – and only in the middle. So the main run of Leman Street ran along this pitch, allowing us the full height to light it. But it meant the edges of the stage became quite cramped, where the stage ceiling was only about 16’. Along the edges we had alleyways and side-streets.

I think I had about six weeks to design and draw the main street set. Obviously I didn’t do this alone. Briana and the other art directors were busy scribbling away to have it ready for Nicky (construction manager) and his (excellent) crew. Nicky had 99% of the set done in eleven or twelve weeks, which is astonishingly quick considering the scale of the job. Eamonn (props master) and his guys started dressing it with about five weeks to go. It was all hands on deck.

DAMIAN: Were there any particular advantages that the new sets had over the previous ones in terms of the how the directors could shoot scenes?

STEPHEN: As I said before, being indoors meant full control of the lighting (time of day). We were shooting in the middle of summer, but it could be night-time at the flick of a switch. So, the writers had the freedom to write night where previously we would have been limited to interior work only. I think this gave Ripper a nice grim outdoor feel.

Also, we had the freedom to shoot about five different street set-ups on the one set. With some notice, my department could prep a street for different areas of London (as long as grimy was your thing) and the crew could move around easily. It meant staying in one place, with the ease of being on a stage, without going hither and yon from location to location. We really shot a heck of a lot of stuff on the stage. Once we added computer generated skies, you’d never know it was a stage.

Kieron Hawkes (Director) with Si Bell (Director of Photography)

DAMIAN: I think most of the first two series were shot mainly on set and then you started to film on exterior locations for the last three. Do you prefer or is it easier to shoot on set rather than location work?

STEPHEN: I refer to my last answer. Actually I think it was the other way around. Not that we didn’t go on location. Of course we did. But we made a big effort to shoot on our big street set as much as possible after we had spent so much money on it!

Also elsewhere in Kilternan we had an old (early 1800s) house, which was Drake’s office, detective rooms and staircase from the police station (upstairs) and Dove’s house interiors (downstairs). We also converted the men’s changing rooms in the hotel spa into Jackson’s police lab. We even used the swimming pool there for the Thames at night. There was so much stuff. Not to mention the hundred-odd acres of golf course. It was an excellent base.

It’s hard to say which I prefer. If you haven’t got the money, then location is the way to go. But when given the time and money (and the backing from the producers, as in this case) then building sets makes life much easier for all involved. Film-making is like hanging around with a circus 24-7, so if the circus doesn’t have to move so much, then happy days. From my point of view, if I know I have the workshop and props store right beside the stage, then last-minute ideas are actually possible, whereas if you’re off on location your planning has to be bang on.

DAMIAN: To what extent does production design necessitate a creative collaboration with other departments such as the art director, set decoration or location manager?

STEPHEN: Film-making in general is one huge collaboration – for everyone. So many departments and jobs feed off one another, you simply can’t be too precious and firm in your ideas. It’s a strange mix of knowing what you want and yet oddly being willing to bend here and there to suit whatever.

My department feeds off my ideas, but having said that, I’m by no means ‘The Boss’. I really like the idea that we are all in it together. I can’t expect people to come to work to get told what to do. I remember working like that when I was an assistant or an art director and I absolutely hated it, so I wouldn’t do it to my crew. We should enjoy it otherwise we will do bad work.

I like getting lots and lots of references, doing some key concept drawings and making sure my guys understand the world that our characters live in. That’s my job, really; I am the link from the rest of the production to the design of the film. I have to pitch my ideas to the director/producers and also listen to what they want.

Same goes for locations. The Location Manager might have an idea from reading the script that is different from mine, but that’s not to say it’s a bad idea. Just different.

Really it all goes back to prep time. If I have enough time to get lots of period reference in advance, in order to feed through to Art, Props and Locations, then we can all get on board for the ‘world’ we want to create.

Although I want to allow my crew the freedom to do their own thing, I still think the Designer’s decision should be final. If you don’t have one single vision, then it’ll look too uncoordinated, too scatty.

DAMIAN: And did you liaise with Ed Bruce and the visual effects team in order to provide a consistent vision that marries together the physical and virtual depictions of Whitechapel?

STEPHEN: Yes. absolutely. We had lots of meetings in the beginning and we would bring them in to meet us regularly or we would go to their offices. VFX is just as important as anything else for me. Ed and his guys are great. When you’re dealing with people as good as them you’re in good hands.

DAMIAN: The first series of Ripper Street was set in 1889 and the fourth in 1897 with the fifth picking up events straight afterwards. How does your production design reflect the changes in technology during this period of Victorian history?

STEPHEN: Richard is always great for adding gizmos and gimmicks in the script – a way of showing progress in the story. That’s a big help when you pick up the script in the first instance. So, like with all good scripts, you’re already thinking of what was ‘new’ back then.

I talked a lot with Leonie (costume designer). We were very conscious of the mixture of the old and the new. London was such a dump back then, so many warrens of slums and sh*t (quite literally). We wanted to show that the people in our world would add a layer of modernity, whether it’s nice clothes or fabrics in their houses, on top of the old decay that had been around for years.

I think if you show modern trends (and that’s down to research and references) on top of very old stuff, then you’re not shoving it down the audience’s throat, instead you’re bedding it into the world more realistically. I liked finding much older (sometimes Georgian) locations, or references, then dress a thin layer of Victorian lace or some patterned fabric on top. It’s really just like the world we live in today. We live with the past as much as the now.

One way I was very fixed on was showing progress in the street art, i.e. posters. As printing became cheaper (for full colour) and trends changed, we could reflect this change over the years on the streets in the background.

DAMIAN: Fans of the show will undoubtedly remember the epic train crash that opened series three. Can you take us through the sheer logistics of designing for something that ambitious?

STEPHEN: That was shot over several locations…

Carriage interior – set build on a stage in Dublin.

Train station platform – at Loughborough in England.

Trains travelling – Loughborough and surrounding area (about three locations I think).

Train crash site – at the big Whitechapel set at Clancy Barracks, Dublin.

Signal Box – Loughborough again.

Train traveling over Whitechapel – CG addition to the Clancy set.

The key to a big thing like this is to storyboard. That way everyone has a visual story in their heads first. Then we can break down each of the elements and design the shoot around each element, knowing already what has to be shot. Then the editor can reassemble the jigsaw puzzle, again working to the storyboard.

Andy (director), Jonathan (storyboard artist) and myself worked out the story of the shoot, but it meant a few weeks of Andy and I looking at various train options in the UK and seeing what would fit.

I think it probably took the bones of a week to shoot the whole thing, including the aftermath.

It was a long time ago…. I can’t really remember.

DAMIAN: What has been the most challenging set or scene to design?

STEPHEN: Er, um… Wow. That’s a good question. Can I come back to you?

You’d be surprised really. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing.

DAMIAN: Is there a sense of sadness once the shoot has wrapped and the sets start to be dismantled?

STEPHEN: Yes and no. I’m not remotely precious about the sets. The job is to get them on camera and make a film after all.

What I really worry about is not getting ‘that shot’ on the day of the shoot. I always have a key wide angle in my head and will usually draw a concept piece showing this angle. I’ll try to harp on about it ad nauseam so the director will be shamed into doing it. If I look at the rushes and it’s not there, then that’s when I feel sadness. Usually by the end of the shoot, I’m the first guy in line with a sledgehammer.

DAMIAN: What happens to these sets – surely they don’t just get thrown away?

STEPHEN: Yes, they do.

DAMIAN: And finally, you’re currently working on another epic period drama, also made by Tiger Aspect, what have been the main challenges in the production design for series four of Peaky Blinders?

STEPHEN: Peaky is a great show. I’ve always been a fan and it’s great to work on.

I’m the third designer on the show, so the main challenge is keeping the right feel that has been established, and also doing what I want to do.

Peaky, to use a silly cliche, boxes way above its weight. Ripper did too, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I shouldn’t talk budget too much really, but Peaky is very well thought of internationally and sits right up there with other TV shows with far bigger budgets. We shoot a lot on big locations. I think Peaky needs scope and scale. Whereas Ripper was about a small, claustrophobic world of the warrens of Whitechapel, Peaky is about big money, big gangs and a much more broad, open story. So it’s big. So I think of big locations, with lots of depth in the frame. I hope you’ll like it when it comes out. I think the stuff we are shooting this year looks amazing and I’m very very happy with it… Stay tuned.

DAMIAN: Stephen, thank you very much indeed.

STEPHEN: No problem. Thank you!

~~~

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

~

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All images Copyright © Stephen Daly/Tiger Aspect Productions 2016

~

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with Eddie Jackson

A TALE OF TWO CITIES:

FROM VOLANTIS TO WHITECHAPEL

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Eddie Jackson

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Portraits of Eddie Jackson copyright © Rob Benson 2017

~

DAMIAN: They say it’s a small world Eddie. Well, Ireland must be tiny because it seems as though the moment an actor finishes their work on Game of Thrones, they quickly change costumes and then wander over to the set of Ripper Street – or vise versa! What’s going on Eddie?

EDDIE: Well, Ireland is a small place and you always know someone who knows someone. On the production side of things it’s great that our country attracts so many projects to both the south and the north. Hopefully that won’t change anytime soon. It wasn’t that quick of a turn over, I filmed my first scene for Game of Thrones in September in Belfast, my second scene in Almeria, Spain in October, and I didn’t film Ripper Street till February the following year. I did however audition for them both in the same week. Though I didn’t audition for the part of Mr. Sparks that I ended up playing in Ripper street.

DAMIAN: You’ve got some exciting projects coming up including a new TV series and a horror film. What can you tell me about them?

EDDIE: Yes, I am looking forward to seeing them both. The TV series is Acceptable Risk which will be aired here in autumn. I was delighted when I got the part because it was the first time on a big production that I was playing a character that helps drive the narrative. It was great to work on because it’s really a crime drama driven by female leads and I had such a fun time working with them all. Working with actors like Elaine Cassidy, Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Angeline Ball was a great learning experience. I also got on very well with the director, Kenny Glenaan, which made the step up easier.

The horror film is Red Room, directed by Stephen Gaffney, along the lines of Saw or Hostel. It has a great ensemble cast, but too many to name them all without feeling bad if I left one out. But Brian Fortune was one name that made me more excited about the project. I had been a big admirer of Brian for a long time and got to work with him a few years back on a short film, since then we have become good mates, but never got another chance to work together. Not that we share much screen time in this. We are writing a feature together to make sure that happens soon though.

DAMIAN: And I’m particularly interested in The Man Who Invented Christmas. The film tells the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol but doesn’t it also feature characters from the book?

EDDIE: Yes it does, from the scenes I have seen it looks great. It brings to life a few characters from the book itself. So I was playing one of those characters along with Marcus Lamb and Michael Judd, who are both also based here in Ireland. Most others were flown in, so it was great to get the part. Especially since it was just before Christmas, not much work goes on then unless you do Panto.

Fresh from his success as the Beast in Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas

DAMIAN: And it’s an impressive cast you’re performing alongside isn’t it? The great Christopher Plummer plays Scrooge, Dan Stevens as Dickens, fellow Game of Thrones alumni Jonathan Pryce (Dickens’ father) and Donald Sumpter (Jacob Marley), not too mention Dickens’ stalwarts Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyes. Can you describe what it was like working with such a prestigious cast?

EDDIE: Well I only got to work with Christopher and Dan but it was an amazing five days on set. I took it as a massive chance to learn from one of the greats, although most people know him from The Sound of Music, I knew him more from The Beginners which is one of my favourite films. I don’t know a lot of younger actors so I wasn’t sure who Dan was, though once I saw his face I remembered I had seen him in The Guest which was an amazing film. I am not really one to get star struck or whatever you might call it, I realized that when I got a chance to work with David Wilmot a few years ago, who is also in Ripper Street [as Artherton]. I’ve had huge respect for him as an actor for many years. I guess it depends on the person though and how they treat you, I’ve been very lucky so far. But yeah, on that film it was the same as any other set, actors sitting around chatting between takes.

Eddie as Belicho Paenymion in Game of Thrones

DAMIAN: Most readers will probably recognize you from Game of Thrones in which you played slave master Belicho Paenymion. I don’t know if you’re the sort of actor who still gets a little nervous as they start work on a new project but is there a kind of added pressure when working on such a celebrated and epic series such as this?

EDDIE: Well I was already a big fan of the show. I had an audition with Carla Stronge in Dublin on a Wednesday, found out I got the part on the Friday and was in Belfast on set on Monday, so to be honest I didn’t have much time to think. In terms of production, it was the biggest project I had worked on to date, but once again, everyone was so friendly it made me relax and be able to enjoy it more. I don’t get nervous about the project or the people in the project but more about the choices you make for the character, I guess. Even after you’re done you question that, but it’s not the same thing as nerves, I think every actor does that.

DAMIAN: So, let’s talk about Ripper Street. Can you tell me a little bit about the character in the second episode A Brittle Thread?

EDDIE: I play Mr. Sparks who is a bit of a hustler. He sells exotic animals that he has collected from his travels around the world. It’s kinda hard to talk much more about the character in case I give anything away. But he does seem like the kind of character I would love a chance to expand more.

DAMIAN: I interviewed production designer Stephen Daly and if the sheer spectacle of the stunning sets weren’t enough to impress on screen, his description of the work that he puts into making it all look so authentic is just mind boggling. Tell me about your first day on set.

EDDIE: I’d say I got there about six in the morning. I probably just ate a banana or something small, I usually try to eat before I leave for set. You don’t know if you will have enough time to sit down and eat when you get there. No point in getting hot food, as any minute you could get called to hair and makeup and I don’t think I could eat a cold fry-up after, plus I like to soak my porridge overnight!

I always like to run through my lines and do all the checks before I start. I was in a good mood. I had been cast in Thrones, Reign and then to be cast in Ripper Street on the back of them was exciting.

I got lucky because the set I was on was Mr. Sparks shop, so that can tell you a lot about the character. There were exotic animals like llamas, monkeys and parrots everywhere. I am a massive fan of David Attenborough so I loved the moments between takes to get a chance to look as these animals up close.

But the set was great, I got a chance to work with some great production designers over the last few years and this was right up there with them. The people like Stephen behind the scene don’t get enough credit for the passion and commitment they put into these sets. They are the first to arrive and last to leave. The attention to detail amazes me every time. Just hope I get to work on more of his sets in the future.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about getting into the character of Mr. Sparks?

EDDIE: Well I think when you are playing a smaller character and only see the scenes you’re in, the costume and makeup department can give you a lot of ideas about how the character fits into the world, they tell you a lot about how the director wants the character visually portrayed. Which can give you more material to work with. Sometimes seeing the costume or makeup can change some ideas you had. But I was happy to be wearing trousers this time.

Killian Scott [Augustus Dove] who I’m in the scene with, I’d seen in LOVE/HATE and was a gent as he wouldn’t have known me at the time, but made sure I was comfortable and had enough room to move when the table had to be moved back for the camera, even though we didn’t spend much time together it told me a lot about the kind of person he is.

There’s always a lot of rushing about on productions like this and you get used to someone coming up and pulling at your hair, or brushing fibres off or touching up your make up. Also when you’re only on set for a day and show up in the morning and are introduced to thirty people, I get nervous I won’t remember all the names. But I am getting better.

DAMIAN: Describe working with the director Daniel Nettheim and the filming of your scenes.

EDDIE: Daniel was nice to work with, he just gave me an idea of who Sparks was. When you’re playing a character in just one or two scenes it is more important to me that you lend yourself to the overall theme or if your character interacts with one of the main characters that you lend yourself to their arch. In fact in these situations it’s nearly better if the director doesn’t have to say much to you at all, it means you’re already doing what they want. I would be more worried if he was talking to me at length but it was an exchange between myself and Killian and I can’t really say much about it without spoiling it, to be honest. We did have to record the dialogue again without some of the animals around as I think it was hard to shoot soundwise.

DAMIAN: Eddie, I look forward to seeing you in Monday’s episode and all your future projects – very best of luck with them. Cheers.

EDDIE: Nice one Damian. Thanks for the chat.

RIPPER STREET CONTINUES MONDAY AT 9PM ON BBC2

~~~

In addition to Eddie, the following actors have all appeared in both Ripper Street and Game of Thrones: Philip Arditti, Dean-Charles Chapman, Ian Gelder, Iain Glen, Paul Kaye, Anton Lesser, Francis Magee, Michael McElhatton, Ian McElhinney, Joseph Mawle,  Kristian Nairn, Clive Russell, Owen Teale and of course Jerome Flynn.

~

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Portraits of Eddie Jackson copyright © Rob Benson 2017

See website link below:

Rob Benson Photography

 

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with Charlene McKenna

“You think you can hide from life and perhaps another man might… but not a man such as you, Bennet Drake. You believe yourself cursed. You are not. You believe you carry only pain into other people’s lives – you do not. Bennet, you brought love into mine. A love that is keener now than ever it was. You are a good man… I will say those words until the day I die. Bennet Drake is the best of men and this life, this world, will not let him sink from its surface.”

– Rose Erskine Our Betrayal

BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT

An exclusive RIPPER STREET interview

with Charlene McKenna

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~~~

DAMIAN: Rose refused to accept that Bennet Drake was cursed but he was ultimately proven to be right wasn’t he?

CHARLENE: I, with a very heavy heart have to say he was right. Rose the ever hopeful, refused to ever admit it could be true.

DAMIAN: You once told me in one of our previous interviews that to live in Rose’s head is to always have hope. Surely all her optimism has now gone forever?

CHARLENE: I don’t want to quell anyone’s hope by any means. But with everything Rose has been through from season one to the end, I’m not sure she can hold the eternal optimism she once had. She is definitely damaged beyond repair I think. It’s so sad.

DAMIAN: At what point did you learn that Drake was going to be killed off and what was your reaction?

CHARLENE: Me and Jerome both knew we were ready to leave the show, so thankfully they worked around us. But to know Jerome was being killed was heartbreaking. I think we represented an innocence and purity in the show (the characters I mean. Ha!) and to see that killed off certainly allowed a “realism”, a cynicism to descend on Whitechapel.

DAMIAN: Why did Jerome want to leave the show?

CHARLENE: There just comes a time when you feel you’re ready to move on. There were no dark motives or nothing sad behind it. Just life and time to leave the party and head home.

DAMIAN: Other than MyAnna, you must have spent most of your screen time with Jerome so what was it like to actually film your final scene together last series?

CHARLENE: Let’s just say. All Rose’s tears were Charlene’s tears as well, both for different reasons.

DAMIAN: As we’ve discussed before in our interviews, you and MyAnna have been close friends both on and off the screen. However, last series put something of a strain on their friendship. Are you happy with how Rose’s story arc and her relationship with Susan and other characters has been resolved as the series concludes?

CHARLENE: I love MyAnna. And we had so much fun working together. As far as Rose and Susan go, boy have we come a long way. It was a very mixed bag of emotions. It was so sad they deteriorated so badly as friends and ostensibly became enemies but as actors it was charmed.

DAMIAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your last day on set – were there tears?

CHARLENE: So. Many. Tears. MyAnna came for my last scene, she wasn’t even in that day, and she brought bubbles and we all hugged and cried and then went out and got rather drunk!

DAMIAN: And what about the wrap party – did everyone behave themselves? — I’m thinking specifically Adam and Toby!!

CHARLENE: Short answer? No! – what else would you want and expect?

DAMIAN: I like to imagine Rose disappearing to America and not been heard from again until she’s middle-aged and enjoying a life of opulence and decadence during the 1920s jazz age. You’ll be appearing in the Irish premiere of The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre in Dublin over the summer, who do you play?

CHARLENE: Awww what a sweet imagining. I’m not sure where Rose will end up. I hope her tough street background kicks in and she makes something work. Yes, in Gatsby I play Daisy. And I CANNOT wait. The concept for this show and the scale of it, is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s immense, intense and SO exciting!!!

DAMIAN: The production has been described as an immersive adaptation! What does this mean and should traditional theatregoers who like to sit in the audience sucking on a bag of wine gums be somewhat concerned?

CHARLENE: They should be willing to rip up the rule book! It’s wonderful. And a rare chance to get intimate with the actors and the text and be involved. The puritans may turn up their nose but I think they’ll be highly mistaken. It’s a beautiful heartbreaking story and a rare chance to see it up close and personal.

DAMIAN: The Gate Theatre website states that the audience are encouraged to wear 1920s attire and dancing shoes are mandatory! So, if I come along, I can’t sit down and eat wine gums, but I will have to dress like a dandy and dance all evening with a bunch of flappers?

CHARLENE: Yes!!! You’re mad about wine gums! We have lots of champagne, whiskey and gin bars and should you chose you can drink all throughout! And yes, dress your best. I mean you’ve got an invitation to Gatsby’s mansion why wouldn’t you want to look sharp?

DAMIAN: I won’t dance, don’t ask me – Merci beaucoup. As with Rose’s journey from Tenter Street to Blewett’s Theatre and music hall stardom, The Great Gatsby also explores issues surrounding inequalities in social and class mobility. And again, isn’t there also a sense of doomed or cursed relationships fighting alongside an optimistic desire to transform idealistic and possibly unrealistic or impractical dreams into reality?

CHARLENE: Yes but I mean Rose and Daisy couldn’t be more different. I think Rose is beyond courageous and a fighter and will always try to trump the odds. I think Daisy is spoiled and a coward. She has lived in a world without consequences. And even after she kills Myrtle she still retreats back into her money and never had to face it. Somewhere in her soul she has to live with that but as women they are a class apart. If you’ll excuse the pun!

DAMIAN: You’ve loved, laughed and cried both on and off the set but I wonder what will be among your most treasured memories from your time in Whitechapel?

CHARLENE: I have so many! So, so many. I will always be grateful to the Ripper Street cast and crew. The laughs on and off set. The gift of Rose Erskine/Drake. It changed my life forever and for the better.

DAMIAN: Maybe there’s a young girl in Ireland reading this who is falling in love with the stage or screen for the first time. What advice would you give her in wanting to pursue acting?

CHARLENE: Acting is wonderful. And awful. And joyful. And tearful. And and and… it’s not all you think it is for better and for worse. If you want to do it. And you LOVE IT. Do it. Follow it to the end and don’t give up.

DAMIAN: You know, these interviews and this website, it all really started with Ripper Street. And, in the very beginning there was Mark Dexter, Toby, MyAnna and yourself who were kind enough to agree to being interviewed and help get me started. I will always be enormously grateful for that. Thanks so much Charlene and may you run fast in all your tomorrows.

CHARLENE: Damian, thank YOU!!! It’s been all our pleasures. Don’t be a stranger.

~~~

The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, Ireland

July 6 – September 16, 2017

Previews: from Thursday 6th July

Opening night: Wednesday 12th July

See link below for more details:

Click here for more information and to book tickets

The fifth and final series of Ripper Street will be broadcast on Monday nights at 9 on BBC2 with the entire series also available to purchase from amazon. I’ll bring the wine gums.

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

In memory of Colin Dexter

I never met Colin Dexter and now of course, sadly, I never will. But, I came close – almost. The first time I visited the filming of Endeavour, Sam Costin, then script editor, informed me that Colin was filming his cameo the following day at Exeter. Exeter? Why, having only just set up Unit Base for location work in Oxford are they suddenly moving to Devon? It didn’t make any sense. Of course it wouldn’t make any sense, and it was only afterwards, having said my goodbyes that I realized Sam had obviously meant Exeter College in OXFORD. Damn my stupidity because I’m sure, having put up with me and my endless questions for one day, the cast and crew probably wouldn’t have minded me hanging around for another. By the time I returned to the set the following year, I was told that poor old Colin was too ill to film any more of his famous appearances. So there you go, I missed out on meeting one of my literary heroes by just one day.

Many of you reading this may have had the pleasure of meeting Colin at various book signings and other events over the years, while others may even have had the privilege of actually working with him. And yet regardless, and in the absence of such pleasures and privileges, we all feel as though we know Colin don’t we? Perhaps you first encountered him through his books, or like myself and others who were late to the party, you feel you know him through those aforementioned cameo appearances. And what fun it always was to spot him. Sometimes his presence was easy to see, sometimes it was a little more difficult – especially when disguised as a tramp, and sometimes they were simply hilarious such as the time he tried to upstage Sir John Gielgud (of all people!) in Twilight of the Gods. So, having seen him pop up on our screens over the past thirty years, it was hard not to feel a great sense of loss when Colin himself didn’t, physically at least, appear in the last series of Endeavour. A little bit of the show’s magic was gone and he was missed. Indeed, regardless to how long the series continues, Colin will always be missed. However, even without Colin’s stewardship, Endeavour will continue to sail on with the safest, kindest and most gentle of hands at its helm.

Whenever I visit Oxford, I always like to stop by at “The Bird and Baby” and find an empty corner of the pub in which to reflect on its literary heritage. I’ll almost always imagine J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis sitting there together with a drink next to the glowing fireplace and this year, when I inevitably embark on my annual pilgrimage once more, there will be another gentleman sat beside them. I’ll nod, raise my glass and say cheers Colin.

And it’s a funny thing imagination. When you research and write about something as much as I have on the subject of Morse, it’s very easy to let your imagination run away with you, especially while staying in Oxford. I obviously realize that no matter how long I wander about the pubs or cobbled backstreets, that I’ll never happen to bump into John Thaw, James Grout or Peter Woodthorpe, but then I suddenly find myself on set again shaking hands with Shaun Evans or testing Russ Lewis’ patience by asking him ridiculous questions like what Thursday has on his Wednesday sandwich (he never tells me), and it’s in moments like these that you realize almost anything is possible.

So, this year – and every year, I’ll imagine Colin is still with us but it won’t be the tiny, fragile old gentleman that we saw in his last few screen appearances, rather it will be the giant of Detective and Crime fiction that I’ll see before me. And I also like to imagine Colin back in his favourite holiday destination of Lyme Regis with the taste of the salty sea air on his tongue. Or sitting in his comfy chair in his study at home surrounded by his books and the photos of him with John Thaw and Kevin Whately. So, in the absence of my own personal memories of him, imagination is all I’m left with. Although I never actually met Colin, I loved him anyway.

So for now, farewell my friend, and yes, goodbye Sir. Until Oxford circa 1968 then, because your legacy will continue…

30 YEARS OF MORSE ONSCREEN

An exclusive celebration

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

For Colin…

Our love to you and your family.

~

INSPECTOR MORSE and I were both first introduced to this world in 1975. While the conception of our favourite detective in a little guest house in North Wales, halfway between Caernarfon and Pwllheli, on a rainy Saturday afternoon is well documented, details surrounding the circumstances in which I was conceived remain somewhat more elusive and I’m happy for them to remain so. Sometimes it’s best not to ask. I share a couple of other things in common with Morse – a passion for classical music and booze for starters. Sadly though, this is pretty much where it ends as I’ll never be able to compete with his stunning intellect but here’s what I do know – thanks to Colin Dexter’s masterful grasp of the crime and detective genre, Morse and his faithful companion, Lewis, are the best and only true rivals to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

However, there’s room for another odd couple in this prestigious list of honours – Endeavour and Thursday. But how did we get from Inspector Morse to Endeavour via Lewis? Well, it has been a long televisual thirty-year journey which began on the 6th January 1987. During this period, some of the finest actors, screenwriters, directors and producers have all worked tirelessly not only to keep Colin’s creation alive, but also create some of this country’s greatest and most iconic television shows. Perhaps it is as simple as that. Maybe.

Some years ago and feeling very sorry for myself, I was standing outside a bank withdrawing cash from the hole in the wall when a bird defecated on me. Please stay with me. Just when I thought the day would never get better, someone approached me – I’ll never know who it was or even know the person’s name – but the individual didn’t point and laugh or steal my money, no – the elderly lady took a tissue from her handbag and gently wiped the offending substance from my jacket while I stood there like a helpless child. A small act of kindness but one that I’ll never forget. And, like Endeavour observed, inspired by Rosalind Calloway’s performance of Un bel dì vedremo, it restored my faith in humanity in its own little way and I myself also saw that there was beauty in the world. True, the news and the media, particularly of late, often remind us how dark and troubling the world is, and yet there really is beauty in the world isn’t there? If only we know where to find it or at least take the trouble to look. Indeed, one good day, we will see.

One of the places we are almost certain to find beauty is Oxford and I don’t just mean its architecture and dreaming spires. No, whether it’s the Oxford of Inspector Morse during the 80s and 90s, the more contemporary Oxford inhabited by Lewis and Hathaway, or the one we are currently enjoying now in 1967, you’ll find beauty in all of these because they have characters with integrity; men and women who will always do the right thing – even if occasionally they do the wrong thing for the right reasons – you can depend on them and their moral code. As with life, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a villain every week or so, but for every stinker, you’ll also find a handful of decent men and women – people with honesty, complete incorruptibility and maybe even a spare tissue for a stranger.

Perhaps then, in addition to the ingenious creative cast and crew who have worked on Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour over the years, this is why they and Colin Dexter’s work endure. We watch the screen in the corner of our living rooms each week and not only see the decency of Endeavour, Thursday, Bright, Strange, Max, Trewlove and Dorothea et al., but we also see the respectability and potential within us all. A glorious widescreen high definition vision of our better selves.

And speaking of ingenious, I asked members of the Endeavour team to join this celebration of thirty years of Morse on our screens. This is what they told me…

ED BAZALGETTE

Director ~ GIRL

‘Never underestimate the audience’ – one of the first things you learn when you start working in TV, it could have been invented for the Morse/Endeavour audience. Since 1987 that audience were treated to scripts that teased and tantalised, beautifully drawn characters leading them up blind alleys, into dark corners, stories that stretched their minds, challenging them to think logically and laterally. In its time Morse became a national treasure, a much loved institution that had seen so many great stories, wonderful writers and directors.

When the call came to direct the first Endeavour of series one it was an easy decision but a tough task. We were making the prequel, stepping back in time to the crimes, cases, loves and losses that would be the making of Morse: the early years of the man who was one of the most popular characters in British television. The backdrop to this was the world of Oxford in 1965. So many period dramas had seemed to fetishize the time they were set but looking at the 60’s British films I liked, the incidental background detail was just that – the cars, clothes and interiors weren’t always front and centre, and that was exactly the feel I wanted for the world of Endeavour. Not everyone had beautifully tailored three button mohair suits, cars weren’t gleaming and routinely polished – our world had to reflect that kind of detail. Of course it could still be beautifully observed and atmospheric!

Russell Lewis refined his splendidly cryptic layered script and I researched the background. The script featured an Oxford secretarial college, I traced down people with memories and stories of the ‘Ox and Cow’ – the nickname of a well known college at the time. An early 20th century shopping parade in Ruislip became the location for the post office run by Wallace and Derek Clark in the script – after a lot of digging I found a photograph of the parade actually taken in 1965! I rifled through old family photo albums for trace elements of 60s life.

Directing the opening film meant casting many of the characters who have gone on to inhabit the Endeavour films with such well observed performances. Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and James Bradshaw had already been established in the pilot episode. Anton Lesser came aboard and was wonderful from the moment he became Chief Superintendent Bright, a beautifully realised portrait of a man from ‘another world another class. One which by 1965 was already slipping out of memory and into history’. His subtle rhotacism, and the reference in the stage directions to Field Marshal Montgomery hit the tone of a man out of time perfectly. Jack Laskey as Jakes and Sean Rigby as Jim Strange made up the rest of the core cast. On the morning of Sean’s audition I arrived first thing for some early meetings and bumped into him a few streets away. Hours before his allocated time he was pacing the neighbourhood being Jim Strange. I knew we had our man. And the guest cast for GIRL were wonderful too: Jonathan Hyde, Olivia Grant, Luke Allen Gale, Mark Bazeley, Jonathan Guy Lewis and Sophie Stuckey.

Each day’s rushes brought new delights and sitting in the edit afterwards I felt we had something very special. It all worked but one detail bugged me. The opening shot – a high view of Broad Street shot from the Cupola of the Sheldonian theatre – looked flat and empty. All the reference photos from the 60s show it packed with cars. Our shot had about six. With each viewing it looked emptier. I started to obsessively research vintage car clubs and eventually found one who promised they could access up to 30 period cars and motorbikes. Too good to be true? It felt like a long shot but before dawn on a freezing Saturday in January I went back to Broad Street to find well over almost 40 period perfect cars waiting. And they all looked right – not shiny and sparkling but properly used and lived in. In the briefest of windows between sunrise and Oxford waking up we got the shot. That was pretty much it, but not quite. The final memory was going to the recording of Barrington Pheloung’s score. Could there be a more appropriate venue to complete the first Endeavour film and recreate the sound of 1965 than Abbey Road studios?

JAMES BRADSHAW

Dr. Max De Bryn

Growing up in the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and having a keen interest in brilliantly told detective dramas, Inspector Morse was essential viewing in our house. Proud that he had attended the same educational establishment as the writer of these wonderful stories, my Dad would turn to me without fail, at the end of every episode and say, ‘Colin Dexter went to Stamford School, did you know that?’

And now thirty years on, I am very proud and honoured to be working with a fantastic team of cast and crew, who have created a whole new set of brilliant stories, inspired by Colin Dexter’s Endeavour Morse.

Russell is such a wonderful writer and every time I receive a new script, I never cease to be impressed with his sheer skill and mastery at story-telling. Every character is so finely drawn, and as an actor, I am personally grateful for the all those wry and pithy witticisms from Max De Bryn (far cleverer than I could come up with) and an education into the fascinating world of 1960s forensics.

I always enjoy working with Shaun very much, he is such a talented and generous actor, and I remember the first scene we filmed where Morse first meets Max. I think it was the first day of filming and I remember going home thinking what a great day, and feeling that I was part of something special.

And whether I’m learning my lines as I stroll by the river and through the local cemetery, trying on bow-tie and cardigan combinations with the Wardrobe Department, researching ‘occipital fractures,’ or having a good natter with Abigail at the read through, it’s always a delight working on Endeavour.

SAM COSTIN

Script Editor ~ Series I – III

It’s difficult to disentangle my experience working on Endeavour with my own entry into working in television generally, an opaque and boggling industry at the best of times, as they both naturally coincide and overlap. I had stumbled into a job working in development with Mammoth Screen not long after graduation, having previously mimbled about (very vaguely, one hastens to add) in arts journalism. I had been writing about cinema as an adolescent, then as a student. Strutting ingrate that I was, when by chance I saw a graduate script editing position advertised online. I assumed that the critical skills required to analyse a completed product were transferable to that which had yet to be made. I had much (read: a bucket load) to learn.

I’ll always be grateful that having blithered on no-doubt incoherently about The Singing Detective and Cathy Come Home in their old Rathbone Place offices, Damien, Rebecca, Preethi, Michele and the rest of the Mammoths first hired me on a provisional basis, and then – gasp, pant – continued to hire me for an extended period of time. I had greatly admired previous productions such as Christopher and His Kind and Margot, and other highlights (The Best Possible Taste, Parade’s End) were cresting on the horizon. I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I lived in permanent fear of being metaphorically defenestrated for getting things wrong and making ridiculous mistakes. As it was, I made several, but I was allowed to develop, grow and find my creative feet; a luxury rarely afforded and something for which I remain thankful.

Eventually I was asked to script edit the first series of Endeavour – an ask I took extremely seriously. I’d seen the Pilot film at a screening, and then again when it was broadcast in early 2012. I knew nothing of the production process and my memories of the first series are something of a blurred jumble of learning curves and mad panics, with producer Dan McCulloch exhibiting Job-like patience as I learned the ropes.

All this time later, the job remains a relentlessly amorphous one, with Wilder’s famous dictum about directors – “….must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.” –  bearing some vague application. In this particular case it became a process of best serving and protecting the special alchemy and deliberate architecture of Russell Lewis’ screenplays, works that are often astonishing in their adroitness and cine-literacy, as well as honouring the lineage and internal continuity of the Dexterverse that had preceded them. Across three series, every film was its own different working experience, with Russell as the constant, the details of which would fill pages too innumerable, exhaustive and personal to fully expound upon here. But the show became my morning, my day, my evening, my night; my weekday, my weekend. My life.

Endeavour Morse sustains as a lasting spoke of British cultural iconography, regardless of specific iteration, because he appeals to the best of us. So it is with some pride that I got to call his cockeyed caravan at Oxford City Police, however briefly, a home. May he, and all those who ride with him, endure.

IRENE NAPIER

Make-up Designer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

I’ve always been a huge Morse fan. I’ve seen all of them at least twice. Which is why, when Colm McCarthy, director, called to say he had a new project, I got very excited. I had just finished working in London so I arranged to see Colm and Dan McCulloch, producer, in town before I left to drive back up to Scotland. I’m glad to say the meeting went well and Dan called the next day to tell me I was first on board on Endeavour. And as they say, the rest is history. I love doing Endeavour it always has fantastic scripts, courtesy of Russell Lewis, with great stories and many challenges. I think I’m the only crew member who’s done them all. Which is a huge honour. The core cast are all fantastic! When I travel down from Scotland to start a new series it’s like a lovely feeling of coming home and meeting up with old friends.

I never had the chance to work on Morse so this, for me, is a fantastic opportunity. We’ve had great directors and fantastic guest artists. The casting is always spot on which makes my job so much easier. With Russell’s scripts, each character is finely drawn but there’s always scope for me to add little twists. We’ve had many stunt doubles, always a challenge! In Ride we had one character playing five different characters including a twin. On this series I particularly enjoyed Canticle where we had to create a 1960’s pop band. We added many bits and pieces of hair and wigs to those boys to get an authentic look. Doing 1960’s is great fun, lots of Carmen Rollers used! One of the great things about it is, the production is really well run. We don’t do ridiculous hours and we get to go to Oxford, which is a real  treat. The crew all love to come back which just shows how much everyone loves it. It’s fantastic, for me, to be part of such an iconic production.

SEAN RIGBY

Detective Sergeant Jim Strange

Despite The Dead of Jericho first airing nearly two and a half years before I was born, it would be impossible to grow up during the Nineties and not be aware of Inspector Morse‘s immense popularity.

Towards the end of filming the first series of Endeavour, I got the cast to sign an omnibus of the first three novels to present to a long-time family friend, neighbour and self confessed Morse fanatic back in Lancashire. When I gave it to her, she had tears in her eyes. I think that’s the first time it truly hit home just how much this iconic programme means to people.

We all have to start somewhere, and I had the incredible fortune of taking my first steps as a professional actor in the formidable shoes of James Grout. Even now I still pinch myself. My working days are spent with wonderful scripts and the finest actors and crew you could find. What more could you ask for?

It is a tremendous honour to be a small part of Inspector Morse‘s enduring legacy.

Long may it continue!

MATTHEW SLATER

Composer

1987; BMX bikes, Michael Fish telling us it was only going to be a bit windy, back when there were only five billion of us on the planet, but more importantly the year Morse hit our screens.  Of course, we didn’t know E. Morse was indeed Endeavor those decades ago. I can remember the press and public interest surrounding that enigma for years with vigorous speculation and conjecture.  Being a thirteen-year-old teenager, I can also remember the television set being switched over regardless of what was on the other side.  The cast, the stories the music – it was something new and gripped the nation by the millions.  I don’t know whether it is an urban myth or not but I read at its peak some nineteen million viewers tuned in and during the ad breaks, the National Grid had to go into overload as so many kettles were being switched on simultaneously.

Back when cop shows were all guitars, brass and funk, Morse was something different.  Refined, classical and considered.  Barrington Pheloung’s theme and approach to the series was something clearly integral to the success and longevity of the characters.   Had someone told me as that thirteen-year-old that not only would I get to work on the original Morse series, but then Lewis into Endeavour, and to then finally have the honour of composing for the series in its thirtieth year, I’d have said they were utterly mad.

Being asked to become part of such a well-loved, talented and established team of actors, producers and crew is like being asked to become part of a huge, friendly family.  Shaun Evans and Roger Allam’s onscreen chemistry is equally as strong as John Thaw and Kevin Whately’s.  The entire series from start to where we are now has been brilliantly cast.  So many of the world’s finest actors have passed through the hallowed doors into the world created by Colin Dexter that I don’t think there has ever been such a vast and venerated cast list in the history of entertainment.

I felt a huge responsibility in writing the music for the thirtieth year and can only thank Tom Mullens, Damien Timmer and all at Mammoth for putting their trust in me.  Working with Russell Lewis’ brilliantly engaging new characters and stories has been a privilege.  Being involved for twenty years myself, whilst the prospect was daunting, I felt a natural and familiar comfort immersing myself into the world of one Endeavour Morse, or perhaps more befittingly…

— — .-. … .

ABIGAIL THAW

Dorothea Frazil

2017 comes around and I had no inkling it was 30 years since Morse first crossed our TV screens. Perhaps that’s a credit to the Endeavour series that we’ve become so immersed on our characters and our own program. Suddenly I am in the thick of the “30 years” thing and I can’t believe it was so long ago that it all started.

But I remember thinking, while waiting to shoot my first scene of Series 4 on some beautiful quad, that being in Oxford is a pertinent reminder of my father for me. It brings me back to him with a jolt; the colleges, the streets, the Randolph Hotel, the Ashmolean. Strange because I lived there as a child long after my parents divorced so I’ve rarely been there with him. But the character of Morse is so ingrained in that golden stone and the legacy (although I hate that cliched word) is quite sobering. Staring round at this wonderful, talented crew and actors, there to tell the stories of Inspector Morse’s crime solving… I mean, how extraordinary is that!

Thank you Colin Dexter and thank you Dad for giving Morse a corporal existence and everyone for continuing to make it happen: Damien, Russell, Kevin who drives you to the set happy and rested, Shaun with all that weight on his slender shoulders that he carries effortlessly… The list is very long. And then I stop thinking about it because if I didn’t I’d be overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to do my job!

Having James Laurenson in the first episode was a treat and it was lovely to hear his stories of that very first Morse; the uncertainty of whether it “had legs”. But for the rest of the time I don’t think about “Morse” or “Dad”. I look across at my fellow actor and I think, Hello Endeavour, or Hello Thursday, and when the camera’s not rolling I’m having a jolly good laugh; or putting the world to right over a custard cream and a tepid cup of tea; or trying to remember my lines and not bump into the furniture. Or trying to look as though I drive a 1960 Triumph with exceptionally stiff gears every day of my life…

And I love Dorothea. I fall for her more with each series. Russell thinks up all sorts for her, some make it to the final cut and many don’t but I know they’re there and they help me fill her out. Russell graciously allows me to feel I have some input into her development as I email him with the odd thought but I have to admit, he’s the puppet master. And I love the glimpses we get of her private life. Her friendship with Endeavour is touching and particularly comes to fruition in this series. Not to give anything away! She’s a lonely soul much like her Morse compatriot. But she’s got such gumption and life force. She can be utterly charmless when she wants to be which is rare in playing or being a woman. Something men take for granted. I wish I was more like her in many ways. But not at the witching hour after a scotch too many. Or those dark hours before dawn. I doubt she’s a stranger to the Dark Night of the Soul.

Whatever other job I do during the year, there is nothing like the thrill of a fresh new Endeavour script arriving, the comfort of all those familiar faces working for the same thing, making it as brilliant and enjoyable as possible. Putting on Dorothea’s rather uncomfortable clothes and pointy bra and drowning in a sea of Irene’s (Napier) hairspray, I’m plunged back into “Ah yes, I know this. Hello, girl. Cheers.”

DAMIEN TIMMER

Executive Producer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

Back in 1995, as a relatively fresh faced young script editor working at Central Films, the drama dream factory run by the legendary Ted Childs, I had the great fortune to be assigned to the Inspector Morse one off THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS. This was a huge event at the time; the first Morse film for a couple of years, after THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS had apparently ended the series (with John Gielgud amongst the cast!!) back in 1993. It was a career highlight for me – working closely with the great director John Madden, being in the orbit of Colin Dexter, and actually getting to see John Thaw on set in our Wytham Wood location.

The most important relationship was with the writer, one Russell Lewis. At the time Russell was the rock star god of writers; a young man who had The Midas Touch. Everything he wrote was a huge, monster smash – KAVANAGH QC, SHARPE, CADFAEL. He was the most modest man I  had ever met, but also  genuinely the cleverest; this extraordinary collision of huge (if not mammoth) erudition with this great story brain; an innate understanding of how to hook in a big audience with a well told tale.

Adapting THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS was a complex puzzle, as the (wonderful) novel presented many challenges. I got to know Russell’s brain well over that long summer, and it was a massive learning curve for me. He was my hero.

We worked again shortly after this, on a new series for Carlton called HEAT OF THE SUN, a series of adventurous detective yarns set in Happy Valley Kenya in the 1930s. Originally conceived for Kevin Whatley, at the eleventh hour it became a vehicle for Trevor Eve. A documentary series stole the title just before transmission, and the show was (unhappily) renamed UNDER THE SUN. Beautiful scripts, but the production process was a slightly bruising experience, stretching everyone involved to the limit. But my admiration for Russell’s brain grew yet further. The joy of reading his stage directions! Such nuanced scripts, packed full of allusions to all manner of things, both sacred and profane! The show was so expensive to make it didn’t return, but it put me slightly more on Russell’s radar, so I was happy!

In 2006, the idea of a Morse tribute film looking at what happened to Robbie Lewis after THE REMORSEFUL DAY emerged. I was then at London Weekend Television, and was having a development brainstorm with Julie Gardner, now Queen of All Drama, who was also working in the department. ‘Can Kevin Whatley ever play another TV detective?’, she asked plaintively. I had my eureka moment – ‘would he ever return to play Lewis? Just one last time?’. Russell said it was a good idea, and set to work. Ted Childs was approached, and Christ Burt came on board. Kevin was sceptical, as was Colin Dexter, but great work from Russell persuaded them that this would be made with integrity. The single was a huge success, achieving a rating of 11.3 million, a huge number even back then. Many more films followed. The dynamic between Lewis and Hathaway – forged by Russell’s brain – delighted audiences for many years. Thirty three stories were told – the same as Inspector Morse.

The notion of doing an origin film to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse was one Russell Lewis, Michele Buck and I had discussed for some time. As huge fanboys of the original series, we were excited by the notion of glimpsing Morse in his early years. But was this a spin off too far? I was convinced that it deserved to be made when Russell offered up the title. Of course! ENDEAVOUR! From that point on, the show had its own unique identity. It exists in the world of Inspector Morse, it *is* Morse, but it is also, uniquely, Endeavour. We never talk about Morse in script meetings; we only ever refer to him as Endeavour.

Casting the young Morse was key, of course. Shaun Evans had appeared in the first episode of Monroe, a hospital series Pete Bowker had written for ITV with James Nesbitt. He was a last minute substitution after another actor had pulled out. We were discussing the script of Endeavour at the same time as were editing Monroe, and I kept thinking there was a soulful quality about this young actor which made me think of Russell’s Endeavour Morse. He had something of a fallen angel about him; his face conveyed such sadness, such intelligence, such warmth. And those eyes! With hindsight one marvels at the madness of trying to cast the young John Thaw! What were we thinking of? But to Shaun’s great credit, the first Endeavour film won many accolades from critics and fans, many of them focusing on the brilliant performance at the centre of it, but also the chemistry between Shaun and Roger Allam. Thursday, of course, is integral to Endeavour. That first script originally had Joan and Win, and Strange also made an appearance – all later cut for length. Only Bright and Jakes were missing. I think this goes to show what an extraordinary grasp on this world Russell had from the very beginning. Why is Thursday called Thursday? Why does Joan exist? I have never asked Russell, but knowing his mind and how it works, ‘Thursday’s child is full of grace…’ am sure is part of it. He had it all mapped out! I’m certain he had that extraordinary last scene between Endeavour and Joan at the end of series 3 mapped out when he first wrote the original pilot; he’s always had a very clear sense of how the lives of Thursday, Strange, Morse, Joan etc will play out over the ENDEAVOR years. That’s the thing that sets the show apart from Morse and Lewis; Russell Lewis’ role as sole author. Morse had extraordinary writers (Anthony Minghella! Julian Mitchell! Daniel Boyle!), and there was a thrill in seeing different talents take up the challenge of writing for Colin Dexter’s great creation. But in Endeavour *everything* comes from Russell’s brain. This is highly unusual in the world of returning detective drama, and I think it’s the thing that elevates Endeavour. The complex mythology extends each year. It’s a world where everyone shops at Burridges, follows the tennis career of Elva Piper, listens to recordings of Rosalind Calloway. Russell pays constant tribute to the world of Morse which lies ahead, but he also slowly builds up one of the most detailed and credible fictional worlds on modern television. Everything is to be found in this slice of 1960s Midlands life. Endeavour’s adventures take him to the world of Lonsdale and the other Oxford colleges, but also to the wider world – much more than Lewis did, and possibly more than Morse did.

Endeavour, forged by Russell, helped by Dan McCulloch, Colm McCarthy and many other wonderful directors, Sam Costin, Helen Ziegler and many others over the years. And special mention to Helga Dowie, our inestimable Line Producer. We are blessed that Sheila Hancock makes  a special appearance at the end of this 30th anniversary, in one of our very favourite films yet. Big kudos to director Jim Loach for making something so special. The camaraderie on Endeavour really is one of the most striking things about it; Russell, Shaun, Roger and everyone else all going the extra mile, knowing they are making something a little special. Knowing some of Russell’s plans for future stories I genuinely think the best is yet to come!

SARA VICKERS

Joan Thursday

Being an actor can be a lonely road. Jobs come and go, people come and go. So to enter into the world of Endeavour and Morse, is like a little haven. Meeting up with the loveliest cast and crew year after year, it’s a privilege to be part of it.

And to get to play sassy Joan Thursday to boot, I’m pretty chuffed with that.

A massive congratulation to everyone who has made Morse the huge success that it is. Long may it continue!

Happy 30th Birthday Endeavour Morse! x

HELEN ZIEGLER

Producer ~ Series IV

What makes Endeavour so special, is that each film invites you into a different world, from the spooky slipper baths and thinking machines, to the hedonistic life of pop stars, a haunted hospital and a nuclear power station. In each film, Russell creates these sublime and utterly different stories which intertwine actual events, issues and personalities with thrilling plots. He effortlessly clashes together both obvious and hidden layers of references to history and the arts, and of course ways to celebrate the 30th anniversary.  So many that even when working on the show you relish trying to work out all the secrets of the script!

I have too many great memories to pick just one. What could be better than exploring the hidden secrets of Oxford, creating a man versus machine competition, following Roger and Shaun in a boat as they seek Nick Wilding through the fog, or shivering as they run through the dark corridors of a deserted hospital, watching dancers tirelessly perfect their rainbow moves and getting to press the big red button on our set for the nuclear power station!

Ultimately, the best memories come from the people, the Endeavour family, the passion, dedication and the many many laughs. Working with such incredible talent both on and off screen was a constant inspiration for me, and it is an experience I cherish.

~

Remembering those who were there in the beginning with the very first Inspector Morse and are no longer with us:

JAMES GROUT

Chief Superintendent Strange

NORMAN JONES

Chief Inspector Bell

KENNY MCBAIN

Producer

ANTHONY MINGHELLA

Screenwriter

ALASTAIR REID

Director

PETER WOODTHORPE

Dr. Max De Bryn

and

JOHN THAW

Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse

~

I would like to thank everyone who was kind enough to contribute to the article above and all those who have done interviews with me over the past few years – especially Russell Lewis. If you ever find yourself in the back of an ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation – he’s the only man to call out for!

Also, I spoke earlier about people of good character and morals. Well, I save my final thanks to someone with more integrity, principles and goodness (not to mention patience!) than anyone I have ever met – my Kirstie. I love you x

~

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on CODA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

“Coughing better tonight” – The Wigan Nightingale

Russell Lewis on CODA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

The final part of our journey discussing series three of ENDEAVOUR as well as previewing tonight’s film with writer/executive producer – Russell Lewis.

~

Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

~

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…

DAMIAN: Morning Russ. Just pass me that note on the fireplace, it’s got the questions on. Thanks. So evil twin, no, we’ve done that. Tiger, yeah that one too. You see, I’m asking all the right questions, but not necessarily in the right order. Here we go then, eyes down for a full house – would you agree that CODA was by far the best film of series three?

RUSS:  I honestly couldn’t say.

DAMIAN: Of all the ENDEAVOUR films thus far, which one would you say was the best or at least which are you most proud of?

RUSS:  Again – unhelpfully – I don’t have a favourite child.  I have good (and less good) memories about each of the films.

DAMIAN: Do you ever get a sense, either in the writing, filming or post production process, which of the films are going to be a hit with audiences?

RUSS:  Not particularly.  ENDEAVOUR has always been a Variety pack.  Someone will love the Ricicles, but not the Sugar Puffs.  I view it as a totality.

DAMIAN: When I’ve asked you about specific films in our previous interviews, I often get the impression that you haven’t seen them in a while. Obviously you see the rushes from each day’s shoot, but other than that, do you not watch them again?

RUSS:  It’s very personal.  We watch not just the dailies, but also the weekly assemblies, and every cut that’s done in post – on which we give notes.  And then again in the grade…  and during the final mix.  So.  Once I’ve seen the final cut graded & mixed…  I tend not to watch them again.  All I ever see are the flaws – the things we could have done better.  Battles lost and won.

DAMIAN: Would it not even prove beneficial to watch them again as a refresher before you embark on writing the scripts for new films?

RUSS:  It probably would, but the pain to benefit ratio is too far tilted towards to the former as to make it unbearable.

DAMIAN: Will the Lewis family not be gathered in front of the television with a Good News box of chocolates to watch tonight’s film?

RUSS:  Unlikely.

DAMIAN: There’s this rather strange phenomenon now where fans tweet along as ENDEAVOUR is actually broadcast instead of focussing on the show and giving it the full and undivided attention it deserves. What do you make of this?

RUSS:  If people enjoy it, I don’t see any harm.  People talk while watching things.  It’s just an extension of that.  We are a guest in their homes, and it’s lovely to be invited around to spend time with them.  So long as nobody gets hurt, there’s nothing to frighten the horses, and it’s all consensual, then folk can do just as they please in their own lounge rooms.

Either side of the TX +1, it’s a lovely way to interact and connect with people who enjoy the show.

DAMIAN: As many reading this will know, your scripts are always filled with so many delightful references to INSPECTOR MORSE and various other things –CODA is no exception and newcomers might like to check out GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, PROMISED LAND and THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS in particular– so you must go back and view the original series every so often?

RUSS:  Mmm.  A bit, yes.  With one exception.  It’s usually characters that have stayed in the memory that put in an appearance.  But there’s a lot still left to plunder.  Yes, PROMISED LAND loomed large over CODA – thanks to the diligence of Helga Dowie, our brilliant Line Producer who has been with us since FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, we managed to shoot the funeral of Harry Rose, which opens proceedings, at the same cemetery.  Helga also came through magnificently with last week’s LAZARETTO – going to great lengths to secure the location used in DEAD ON TIME for William Bryce-Morgan’s house.

It’s worth saying that the raid in CODA is not the bank-raid STRANGE and MORSE discuss in PROMISED LAND, which claimed the life of RON PIGGOT.  ‘I lost one of my best officers that day, and you lost a good friend.’  We’re looking at the raid before that.  Filling in some of the blanks. I did compile a feasible timeline that allowed for both raids and the fallout from each as part of my prep.  Taking birth dates from the actors involved.   So – Con O’Neill’s character from PROMISED LAND appears here as one of the children at the funeral.

‘They’re all villains.  The whole Matthews family.’

DAMIAN: Did the idea for CODA begin with the bank robbery?

RUSS:  It began with the conceit of how we might have Endeavour solve a murder story in the middle of one, yes.  Something different.  I’m drawn to the proper coppering type stories – and I think the show often works best when the cryptic whodunit is working alongside the more Z Cars/Dixon/Carry on Constable type stories.  Each of our heroes playing to their respective strengths.

DAMIAN: There was a few elements, acts and decisions in CODA where I wondered if there might have been some debate or discussion as to whether or not a character would do this or that. Were there many rewrites for this film?

RUSS:  There are always MANY, MANY rewrites for EVERY film, with the concomitant amount of debates and discussions.  Further, I wouldn’t wish to go.  However – because we’re up against it, the last film in every run typically has fewest changes.  So…

DAMIAN: Well, I think given everything going on with Thursday, although Endeavour doesn’t approve of him knocking about the informant Bernie Waters, I can just about understand Thursday’s sentiments that the end justifies the means. However, what did surprise me was Bright, after Division made it quite clear that Thursday was to remain suspended from duty, that he later gives him the gun (and indeed evidence from Blenheim Vale no less), basically giving him his blessing to go all Clint Eastwood. Now, it’s a beautiful scene between two men with such loyalty and respect for each other but the Bright we met in GIRL certainly wouldn’t have done this would he?

RUSS:  You’re absolutely right, of course.  BRIGHT from GIRL would never have done it.  I think the return of the revolver was a key moment in BRIGHT finally making his peace with THURSDAY.  He goes against Division.  It’s Joan’s life on the line.  Unleash THURSDAY.

If I remember right, the revolver moment first appeared in an early draft of RIDE – quite early on in the story.  But it got the boot, and dropped back in proceedings to the last story.

DAMIAN: And the other element which I wondered might have been a subject for debate was Strange also punching Bernie Waters?

RUSS:  No, that wasn’t ever a sticking point.  In some ways, he’s closer to Thursday in his methods.  Thursday knocking Hodges about in PREY, and giving Bernie a taste in this story – it kind of gave the green light to Strange to get physical.

DAMIAN: And, of course, doesn’t the scene serve as a brilliant foreshadowing of the future strained relationship between Endeavour and Strange who is now his superior?

RUSS:  Which is why we went the way we did with it.  With Thursday and Strange getting heavy handed, it leaves Endeavour, as the one point of reason, isolated.  And it puts another boat’s length between Endeavour and Strange – as the latter pulls out in front on the ladder of progress and ambition.

DAMIAN: You must have many discussions, perhaps even heated sometimes, with the directors and actors and I suppose this question is in two parts really. Firstly, tigers aside, you’ve written every episode so far and you’re obviously doing a grand job so why don’t they just trust you to get on with it by now? And, secondly, to look at it from a different perspective, who do you think challenges you to do your very best work?

RUSS:  It’s just not how it works.  Any piece of work is a constant conversation from first to last. All interested parties provide feedback in the form of Notes – requests for changes.  It’s our job to square the circle, and action the majority, if not all, of those changes.  If people are bumping their toe on this or that bit of the story – initially a Brains Trust of Damien Timmer, Tom Mullens, Helen Ziegler on Series IV, the script editor, formerly Sam Costin, but on IV, Paul Tester – then it’s worth paying attention and addressing their concerns, because if something’s not working for them, then it’s very likely not going to work for an audience.  And then the director will come on board – and they’ll have their take on it.  And then it will go out to the Network for their thoughts.  And, of course, at various stages – particularly after read-through – Shaun and Roger will give their feedback.  Rebecca Keane – Creative Director at Mammoth is a top trouble-shooter and our last line of defence.  She’s invaluable at identifying underlying difficulties and offering eleventh hour solutions, and has saved our collective bacon more times than I can remember.  ENDEAVOUR is the work of many hands at every stage of development and production.

But the notion of in the beginning was the word, and that the word is in some way inviolate is an utter fantasy.  There are always other words.  And you will need them all.

It can be tricky on any story you’re telling, but with whodunits – you build a Swiss watch of a plot, and if you’ve done it right, every requested change will have a massive knock-on.  A stone echoing down a well.  Sometimes it’s more of an avalanche, and you have to go back to the drawing board.  A billion things – conflating characters; losing characters; dropping a loop of story.  The phrase you’ll hear on any ENDEAVOUR script-meeting is ‘plot vertigo’ – which was minted by Damien.  It’s his shorthand for something so fiendishly complex that it just leaves everyone giddy, and going, ‘Huh…  Whu?’

At the front end, changes are editorial, but as production rolls, it becomes more practical. Things happen.  Events, dear boy.  Events.  A location falls through, or a prop doesn’t work, an actor goes down, or you don’t quite get what you were hoping for, scenes dropping off the schedule that contains a piece of information vital to driving the plot – a million and one things. And you have to write your way out whatever the problem might happen to be.

But I’m very lucky with the Mammoths – Damien knows which way is up.  And, the Network on Series IV was very, VERY trusting and unbelievably supportive.  Next to zero in the way of Notes. The thing to remember is not everybody gets their own way.  None of us.  It’s compromise. Often finding common ground and a third way that provides a solution everyone can feel happy with.

I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I have two notes up on the wall.  The first is ‘Television is a collaborative medium.’  The second is, “Collaborators will be shot.”  Now, that’s clearly facetious, but there probably an element of truth in it.  I’m sure I drive them absolutely round the twist from time to time.  Daily, probably.  We all drive each other crazy.  But it comes from a good place.  Always.  In the end it’s all about the work.  Everyone cares so deeply about making it as good as it can be.

ENDEAVOUR’s an absolute juggernaut of a machine, and once it’s left the station on its six to nine month journey it’s unstoppable.  You have to keep feeding the coal in, and make sure nothing derails it.  Television is an expensive business – and stopping production for whatever reason would be the equivalent of catastrophic engine failure.  Immensely costly in terms of blood and treasure.  And it’s always against the unforgiving minute.

It’s not vital War Work – it’s show-business, but like any job it has its own levels of stress and anxiety.  You live on your nerves from first to last.

We all want to do the absolute very best we can with and for ENDEAVOUR.  And that kind of comes back to the first dictum.   The great William Goldman again – We’re all at each other’s mercy.  So, when the muck and bullets are flying, and the stress levels are in the red zone, it’s important to keep that in mind – and deal with everyone as kindly as you’d wish to be dealt with yourself.

Who challenges me to do my very best work?  That’s hard to say.  Different people challenge you in different ways, but I don’t need much encouragement to be unforgiving of myself.  I can’t stand to repeat something, or even tell the same gag twice.  So, I tend to make the creative life as difficult as I can.  Throw up roadblocks and obstacles.  And now…  blindfold.  You’re just trying to trick the brain, so it doesn’t automatically reach for the tried and trusted solutions.  So the decisions one makes become almost independent.  I’m sure that sounds unhinged.  But ideally – such is the level of concentration one’s applying to the task at hand that the experience becomes out of body.  The choices made are subconscious.

It’s hard to describe, but it’s a kind of right hemisphere/left hemisphere thing – you want any story to surprise and intrigue, but never for its own sake; it also, primarily, has to be as emotionally truthful as you can make it.   So you’re operating in a kind of no-man’s-land between the two opposing demands – attaining an equilibrium — and slipping from one into another.

I don’t recommend it as a technique for a moment, it’s more a case of needs must when the devil drives, but some of the pieces I’ve thought have worked best over the years – not just on ENDEAVOUR, but across the board — have come out of a long writing session.  Forty-eight, seventy-two hours.  Unbroken.  No sleep until you write ROLL END CREDITS.  Somewhere in there you reach an altered state without the aid of chemicals.  The barriers break down, and the other guy comes out to play.  The dark passenger.  I find I can access some places – emotionally, and, er… in terms of memory, that I might not get to otherwise.  Your brain is overclocked.  And it’s just developing the facility to exploit that access to waking dreaming.  A kind of guided hallucination.

I’m also available for Children’s Parties.

I don’t know – any piece of writing always feels like it’s Russian roulette.  Is this going to be the one where a full cylinder comes level with the hammer?

DAMIAN: Aside from the absolutely cracking story and plot for CODA, what impressed me most, as always really, was the beautiful tender moments between characters such as the dialogue when Dorothea tries to comfort Mrs.Thursday during the armed robbery, the exchange between Thursday and Trewlove when he gives her the cigarette and Strange stopping Max from wading into the bank. All fabulous but as is often the case with the relationship between Endeavour and Thursday, it’s what left unsaid that really resonates. Like the scene towards the end (“There was a bullet left in the chamber, whatever you told Cole Matthews, you knew it. You drew his fire”) it’s the silence after this, the two seem to communicate best in theses pauses and they are masters of an almost Pinteresque understatement in conveying their respect and quite possibly love for each other. By the end of the final ENDEAVOUR, will they ever develop the ability to articulate this devotion and bond that they share?

RUSS:  Well – that’s very kind of you.  Sadly, there was more Dorothea/Win material in that sequence that we lost for time.  A bit of a window on Dorothea’s life.  It always kills me to lose such things – and my heart bleeds for the actors.  I fight for such moments all the way down the line, but all too often one has to bite the bullet.

DAMIAN: And you’ve obviously got a plan for the characters and their story arcs, can we expect to enjoy ENDEAVOUR at least up until the seventies arrive?

RUSS:  Well, it’s outside of my gift to say how long ENDEAVOUR will be on screen, but, for the audience’s sake, I hope we can take it to its natural conclusion in terms of story.  I know when I think it should end, and what that end will be, but we shall see…

However, before then there’s a few things still left unexamined.

DAMIAN: For the final time then, please tell us about tonight’s film?

RUSS:  Hmm.  Well…  Hymns Ancient & Modern.  Endeavour & Thursday investigate a mystery that encompasses distant pre-history and the shape of things to come.  Being a story with a pastoral flavour, the audience will need to winnow much chaff to obtain the wheat.  It’s the conclusion of our Thirtieth Anniversary run, and I hope our final salute brings the many worlds of Endeavour Morse together in a way that pleases.

At risk of falling foul of the Data Protection Act, I can reveal the contents of an email I got from Shaun Evans who, in his capacity as Associate Producer, dropped by one of the Mixing Days. Children, and those allergic to ‘bad’ language should look away now…

I’m in the mix. Just seen the opening. This is F*****G BRILLIANT!!!!!!!”

For my own part…  The casting cat’s somewhat out of the bag, but I”ll just say this.  “And” can be a very special word.

DAMIAN: Will there be a cliffhanger?

RUSS:  All I can tell you is that it’s a very different ending for a series of ENDEAVOUR.

DAMIAN: Will there be sandwhiches?

RUSS:  Always.

DAMIAN: What about wildlife?

RUSS:  Sheep may safely graze.

DAMIAN: So far you have chosen: DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION, GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, THE INFERNAL SERPENT, CHERUBIM & SERAPHIN, DEAD ON TIME and MASONIC MYSTERIES. As we conclude your “Desert Island Dexter”, can you please give us your final two favourite INSPECTOR MORSE episodes?

RUSS:   Okay.  It’s worth saying that the eight I’ve chosen are in no particular order of merit.  But to close…  Two very special films, I think.  SECOND TIME AROUND – amongst the most affecting of all the Morse stories.  I think it’s the human tragedy at the heart of it.  The death of a child is always a serious business – but the circumstances of that death in this story just run through every moment so that the thing just aches with a sense of loss and grief.  There’s no triumph in Morse’s cracking the case.  Only regret.  And like ‘It was Mrs.Fallon I knew…’   At this distance, I may be misremembering the exact phraseology, but SECOND TIME AROUND contains the most heart-breaking exchange in the entire canon.

‘She should have been held.’

‘Perhaps she was.’

For some, I’m sure it’s surpassed by ‘Good-bye, sir’.

But – for me – without a shadow of doubt, it’s ‘Perhaps she was.’

Kenneth Colley’s tremendous in it.  Monumental.  And an early outing from Christopher Ecclestone, and the lovely Pat Heywood – such a fine actress.  And dear Oliver Ford-Davies.  Yeh – it’s a keeper for me that one.  And, I guess, in terms of ENDEAVOUR we are edging towards an event which proves key to the story.  Barrington’s score on DEAD ON TIME is terrific too. Amongst his finest.

So – finally, finally…  PROMISED LAND.  The last of my trio by Julian Mitchell.  Again, directed by John Madden.  Morse and Lewis transported.  Strangers in a strange land.  In many ways it’s amongst the least Morse-like films – THE WENCH IS DEAD, notwithstanding – but that’s probably why it works so well.  Because it’s a character piece.  All the trappings stripped away, not just from Morse himself, but from the established identity of the series.  It’s not what most would consider a whodunit – with a range of suspects and clues.  It’s a mystery, yes – but I’d argue it’s not a whodunit.  It transcends the form.  Triumphantly.

Madden said that he wanted the whole thing to build to a kind of High Noon finale – and he realised that brilliantly.  So many treasures to enjoy across the film – the Matthews family funeral – that we plundered in CODA.  But what’s so great is to see Morse so much on the back foot.  That all the unfolding tragedy was down to his error.

In those days, there was no guarantee that series would return year on year, and so – with this final episode of Series 5, there was every possibility it would be the last.  I think all of us who watched it at the time properly feared that Morse would not make it out of the final reel.  And all of that was conveyed by the very simple device of Morse – for the first time – calling Lewis by his first name.

Then you have that heart-stopping finale – and Con O’Neill delivering so much in next to no screen time.  He’s a very fine actor – and I was lucky enough to get to work with him on my last LEWIS.  He really deserved all the prizes as Joe Meek.  A powerhouse of a performance.  And wasn’t Mr.Evans in there somewhere?

But – back to PROMISED LAND, and that finale.  Stupendous work.  A tragedy painted in heat and dust.  And then that final exchange on the steps of the opera house.  That eternal unbridgeable gulf between Morse and Lewis.   The great man alone, trudging wearily up the stairs in hope of solace from his lifelong comfort.   Up with the Morse code, and we’re into the theme…  Curtain.

DAMIAN: And if you had to save just one episode of INSPECTOR MORSE from the waves?

RUSS:  None of the above.  I lay no claim to it being the best, that accolade would very deservedly go elsewhere, but for very personal reasons – THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS. Writing and making it was a very special experience – working with Gina Cronk, a kind and clever friend, who gave me my first break into drama, and the woman without whom I wouldn’t be doing any of this at all.  And Ted Childs, of course, and dear old Chris Burt.

It also marks my first encounter with Damien Timmer – my partner in crime on many occasions, but for the last six years we have been conspiring to kill people, mostly on screen, on ENDEAVOUR.  It’s been a very special and creatively rewarding relationship.  He’s a dear fellow, madly talented and fearfully bright – and daily faces a workload that would leave lesser mortals six feet under.  Seriously.   He is inexhaustible, and gives so much of his brilliant creative energy to ENDEAVOUR.  I don’t know how he manages it, but all of us are very grateful that he does.  Neither ENDEAVOUR nor LEWIS would have come into being without him.  We all do what we do, and all of us involved bring the best work we can to the party, but we’re just the Owsla — he is our Chief Rabbit – Damien-rah.

So, a happy memory all round.  Weeks of kicking the story around with John Madden over at Shepperton.  I think I’ve mentioned before that we got into VERY hot water for going off piste – we couldn’t see a way of delivering the central plank of Colin’s novel, and put together an entirely original story before being jerked off our feet by a strong tug on the choke-chain.

Then, of course, having John and Kevin and Jimmy and Clare saying one’s words.

A golden afternoon spent watching them shoot the final ‘wash-up’ scene over at Leith Hill.

John and Kevin doing their lines about ‘triumph and disaster’, then heading across to the burgundy Jag.

I may have said this before, but it’s perhaps worth repeating.  When I think about that afternoon, twenty years ago now, the thing that always comes to mind is the final chapter of ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ – in which Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an enchanted place, and we leave them there.

“So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

And that’s how I always think of Morse and Lewis.  That’s where they are for me.  Somewhere out there still.  Playing, and squabbling, and still fighting for a world worth saving.

DAMIAN: Before we banish you away to the island, I’d just like to thank you for these interviews – I know I’ve been very naughty this year with some of the questions but it is very much appreciated as you know and I’m still your number one fan. Here’s to thirty years of Morse on our screens, to you and all of Team ENDEAVOUR – cheers! Now, drink up Lewis…

RUSS:  Well, that’s very kind of you.  Much appreciated by all at #TeamEndeavour.   Another thirty years of Morse?  Who knows?  It’s been a privilege to have been a part of it, in one way and another, across all its various incarnations thus far, but I expect 2047 will see me long in Kensal Green.  Younger, better, infinitely smarter fingers will be upon the typewriter.  And that’s how it should be.  But it all began with Colin Dexter.  Morse was Colin’s gift to the world.  That the legend has been expanded upon and embellished by so many is testament to the strength of Colin’s original creation.  There have been many custodians over the years, I’m just the latest. I doubt I’ll be the last.  Vitai lampada.

~

And for Tootles…

“Bloody nice shoes”

~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / No.26 / CODA

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

~~~

DAMIAN: Put fire on luv, it’s getting coda in here. Coda! Be honest, what do you think of it so far?

TIGER: Rubbish! – get off…

 

Far to go: Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with the Thursday children

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

FAR TO GO…

An exclusive interview with the Thursday children

Jack Bannon – Sam Thursday

Sara Vickers – Joan Thursday

~

By Damian Michael Barcroft

~

DAMIAN: Jack and Sara, thank you so much for talking to me about Thursday’s children. How are you both?

JACK: Great thanks.

SARA: Very well, thanks.

DAMIAN: Sara, obviously water and swimming pools featured quite heavily in the first episode this year but what’s this I hear about you performing ROMEO & JULIET in a swimming pool?

SARA: Seems there’s plenty of drama to be had in a swimming pool and plenty deaths for that matter. We did a site specific theatre piece in Victoria Baths, Manchester, for HOME theatre. Juliet’s tomb was in the first class men’s pool. It took days to fill with water and was decorated with floating candles and flowers. Quite a sight. Although one performer did fall in during a show… the atmosphere may have suffered slightly on that occasion.

DAMIAN: And Jack, I’ve recently done interviews with Gillian Saker and Jonathan Barnwell, and you are yet another actor to work on both RIPPER STREET and ENDEAVOUR. What can you tell us about your time in Whitechapel?

JACK: It was certainly very different to my time in Oxford tends to be. In Oxford I keep out the way, mind my own business, whereas in Whitechapel I was in the thick of it. I play a drunken, incestuous fishmonger… who says I don’t have range?!

DAMIAN: Looking through your CV Jack, you’ve worked on FURY starring Brad Pitt and THE IMITATION GAME with Benedict Cumberbatch no less! What were those two projects like to work on?

JACK: They were both fantastic projects, a real experience for me! I’d never done a feature film before so it was kind of a baptism of fire. Weirdly I had the first round of auditions for the two films on the same day along with an audition for KIDS IN LOVE an Ealing studios film which I ended up doing too… I only wish I knew what day of the year it was, I could line up as many auditions as possible on that day every year!

DAMIAN: I think one of your first screen credits was on a show called SHADOW PLAY back in 2004 and I noticed that Helga Dowie worked as line producer on that and later produced both LEWIS and ENDEAVOUR amongst other things. Did this connection have anything to do with you getting the part of Sam?

JACK: Yes!! What an eager eye you have. As far as I’m aware it had no bearing on me getting Sam. You’d have to ask Helga. I remember recognizing the name when I started ENDEAVOUR and it was my mum who made the connection. However I’ve never spoken to Helga about it… I doubt she’d even remember me from SHADOW PLAY – I was 10!!!

DAMIAN: Sara, and how did you get the part of Joan?

SARA: I auditioned for Joan during casting for film 1 of the first series. After a couple of meetings, I was told the Thursday family had been written out. Luckily they were back for film 2 and off I went for another meeting. I remember the day I got the part. I hadn’t been out of drama school all that long and I was serving champagne at a catering event. I thought I need to be drinking this stuff right now – not serving it!

DAMIAN: Were either of you familiar with the world of Colin Dexter before ENDEAVOUR, had you seen any of the original INSPECTOR MORSE or LEWIS?

JACK: My grandparents have always enjoyed it and I’d seen bits and bobs…it’s great being at the start of the Morse journey.

SARA: I was familiar with the shows and had watched the odd episode but never seen a series right through. Luckily ENDEAVOUR precedes all that work, so maybe it’s better not to know too much!

DAMIAN: Other than ENDEAVOUR Sara, I suppose you must be most recognized for your work on another detective series SHETLAND with Douglas Henshall who I admire greatly as an actor. What’s he like?

SARA: Dougie is fantastic to work with. He is always experimenting with numerous options of how a scene can be played, he would never pin anything down until he absolutely had to. I really admire that element of endless creativity within the technical confines of filming. He is constantly questioning and unearthing and has a real fire in his belly… perfect qualities for playing a detective.

DAMIAN: And you’ve worked on two Matt Smith projects, BERT & DICKIE and the phenomenally successful THE CROWN. Tell us something about your experiences working on those?

SARA:  Well BERT & DICKIE has a special place in my heart as it was my first TV role as a professional actor. I got to work with fantastic people and play a headstrong Scot called Margaret Bushnell. Playing a real person brought another dimension to the work. I met Margaret’s daughter at the screening who luckily welcomed my interpretation of her Mum. In THE CROWN I played another real person, Crawfie the Queen’s nanny. It was fascinating diving into her story, as it was quite the scandal.

DAMIAN: Filming for ENDEAVOUR involves a lot of scenes around the table in the Thursday home but Jack, is it fair to say you usually do most of the eating?

JACK: Haha yes!! From the first scene we ever shot where we are eating beef stew I decided Sam was a big eater – growing boy and all, although I think I remember we were about to break for lunch, it had been a long morning and I was just hungry so I shoehorned in some character ‘choice’ so I could gorge. Props weren’t too happy having to top my plate up every take but they get their own back when it’s an eating AFTER lunch and I can’t fit anything in. From that first scene on Sam always seemed to have something in his mouth, you’ll have to ask Russ if that’s deliberate, I hope so, it’s a nice running theme I think.

DAMIAN: What are Roger Allam and Caroline O’Neill like as your onscreen parents?

JACK: They’re brilliant. Every day is fun when we’re all together. The fact we get to meet up every year and chat about what we’ve been doing etc. – it’s like a real family.

SARA: The best. Win is a caring, loving, yet don’t mess with me kind of mum. I reckon Joan and Sam have both pushed their luck over the years and not gotten very far! Fred is an overprotective, straight down the line kind of Dad. But can you blame him in his line of work!? There is a lot of love, laughter and warmth in this family. Perhaps that is why Endeavour is drawn in.

DAMIAN: Roger is one hell of an actor and a pretty formidable presence on set, were either of you nervous filming your first scene with him?

JACK: I was nervous to meet him what with it being my first TV job for years and being a fan of his but once that first handshake at the read-through was out the way it was brilliant. He’s absolutely hilarious, the nicest man and most generous collaborator. Every set should have a Roger. He also occasionally helps us get into the era with little memories of his childhood which is great.

SARA: Funnily enough I felt very at ease filming with him. For one, he is a total joker. What a dry sense of humour he has. He also has a real grounding quality. As soon as we start we know what world we are in. The family naturally orbit around him. Very much the traditional British family in that sense.

DAMIAN: Sara, there’s a beautiful chemistry between Joan and Endeavour which I think really began to shine during HOME from the first series. The writer, Russell Lewis, told me that from the moment he had her open the door to him for the first time in FUGUE, he knew that Joan and Endeavour would fall for one another. Did you have any idea back then what Russ had planned for the characters?

SARA:  I’ve been very much on a path of discovery, along with the audience! Directorial wise, especially in those first few episodes, I had been steered towards light hearted flirtation and friendly teasing, and things seem to have grown from there. It’s wonderful to play a character and then have things grow from moments created on set.

DAMIAN: How would you describe Joan’s attraction to Endeavour?

SARA: Good question. I think Joan is very intrigued by Morse. She is not one for the ordinary and Endeavour appears to be everything out of the ordinary. They have something they can’t put their finger on. But surely that’s the best kind attraction, the indescribable.

DAMIAN: I admire you commitment to the role because it must be terribly difficult to pretend to fancy Shaun Evans.

SARA: It’s a real tough job. Thank God he’s a nice person.

DAMIAN: And Jack, I loved that moment in PREY last year when you express your faith and admiration for Thursday (Sam: This with work… Whatever it is, you’ll get him. THURSDAY: Will I? Sam: Of course. You’re my dad). I wonder if there is a sense with Sam that he feels the need to gain respect from Thursday by following in his footsteps by joining the army as he did before becoming a copper?

JACK: Sam definitely looks up to Fred and seeks his approval. It’s also something very much of the era I think, he would never say as much but quietly he does, we all do, still, a bit don’t we? It’s a good job Sam likes Morse otherwise he might be a bit irritated by this young bloke taking a lot of Fred’s ‘mentoring’ energy away if you could call it that…

DAMIAN: There was another tender moment that I loved at the bus stop when Sam and Thursday say their goodbyes as he leaves for the army although it was a very quiet and restrained send-off with so much that seemed left unsaid. I asked Russ about this and why Thursday couldn’t have given Sam a hug to which he replied, well, it was the sixties. What are your thoughts on this?

JACK: Well, male relationships were different then. A father son relationship will always be an odd thing I think. In that scene I saw it as all the other wanted to say was ‘I love you and I’m proud’ but they just don’t it’s all very ‘jolly good, look after yourself.’ I loved that scene, it was a rare moment of just Sam and Fred without the girls chatting away and a rare foray out the house for Sam!

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you’ll remember this Jack but there’s a moment from ARCADIA where, upon finding the coveted Thunderbird 2 toy in the cereal box, you give an Eric Morecambe-like “Wha-Hey!” Again, I’ve asked Russ about this and he told me to ask you so presumably it wasn’t scripted?

JACK: It was scripted! I hadn’t deliberated referenced Eric Morecambe but if you think it works then yes, thank you, it was most definitely intentional…

DAMIAN: The relationship between Joan and Sam is also lovely to watch but how do the two of you get on off-screen?

SARA: We get on very well and have good laugh as the kids! We can go through a whole series without meeting any of the guest cast. So it’s a darn good thing we are mates. Sometimes it feels like we are filming our own show… The Thursdays!

JACK: She’s horrible. Really, really horrible. (She’s bloody brilliant and I wouldn’t want anyone else playing my sister) As Sara says, we are a little aside to the plot a lot of the time so it’s just us hanging out which I kinda like… watch out for ‘The Thursdays’ it will be great, although Sam can’t be eating all the time in that, I’d end up 20 stone!!

DAMIAN: What would you say the two of you share in common with your characters?

JACK: I love food and recently bought some ‘shoe trees’ because I also believe if you look after your shoes they’ll look after you…or whatever the quote is…

SARA: We both have a soft spot for the good guys.

DAMIAN: And finally, what have you both got lined up next?

JACK: I’m about to start rehearsals for a play at the Hampstead theatre and look out for my Scottish accent in The Loch and Clique two new series on ITV and BBC respectively which will air in a couple of months! Oh and ‘The Thursdays’ hopefully!

SARA: A new year…..who knows…hoping it’s something exciting!

DAMIAN: I’ll be watching with interest. Thank you both very much indeed.

JACK: Cheers mate! All the best.

SARA: Thanks Damian. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series four.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

JIM LOACH: An exclusive interview with the director of tonight’s ENDEAVOUR

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Jim Loach – Director

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~

DAMIAN: Hello Jim and thanks for this. Quite understandably, and for rather obvious reasons, you never originally intended to become a director. However, would you agree that even very early on in your career, you still clearly felt compelled to tell stories in some form or another?

JIM: I guess. I mean I was always telling stories – most of them quite tall, and they often got me into trouble!

DAMIAN: So, having studied philosophy and worked in news and current affairs, why did you then decide to actually become a director after all, and perhaps even more to the point, although I can appreciate the link between this and your recent projects, why did you leave campaigning journalism to work on soaps such as Coronation Street and Hollyoaks?

JIM: Well my heroes were people like John Pilger and Paul Foot and the great Don McCullin. I wanted to be a heroic journalist, and so documentaries and current affairs was an incredibly exciting place to find myself. Plus I was lucky enough to be making documentaries for World in Action, which was the iconic current affairs show at the time. At Granada television, there was kind of an understanding that you could move from World in Action to Coronation Street – directors like Michael Apted had done it. And by then I’d admitted to myself I wanted to make drama, so they let me have a go on the Street.

DAMIAN: I wonder if forging your own identity as a director was an important issue for you, and if so, were you therefore ever tempted to stay clear of projects that one might, rather simplistically, describe as films with a social conscience?

JIM: I’m still working it out, I think. I mean it’s probably no secret  it’s something I’ve struggled with at times, but I kind of don’t think about it too much anymore. You know there’s some things that are easy to pass on because they’re just too close to my Dad, but generally I’ve kind of made my peace with all that. I just follow my gut, and do the things that I’m passionate about. People write what they write, think what they think, it’s not for me to try and control. Mostly it’s OK.

DAMIAN: And given that identity was a central theme in both Oranges and Sunshine (2010) and Life of Crime (2013), do you think this is what attracted you to two these projects?

JIM: Yeah I guess. Plus I liked the characters in both, and I wanted to see them on screen. Identity is always fascinating to me – who we are, what makes us who we are, I think all drama can be reduced to this, in a way, because it’s the essence of the human condition isn’t it ?

DAMIAN: To deal with Oranges first, was the impetus behind the film to explore the person, Margaret Humphreys, or the issues her work raised?

JIM: Well I came across the story and I just was amazed and shocked by it, and really wanted to make the film.  The fact that an incredible woman was at the centre of the story, with her own dilemmas, just made it stronger to me. So it was both those things really, in tandem. I thought there was something very primal about the idea of children being separated from their parents, and the story had very visual elements – so I knew pretty much straight away I wanted to make the movie.

DAMIAN: Who approached Margaret [above] and what was her initial reaction to making a film based on her memoirs?

JIM: I went to see her, and she was pretty wary. For good reasons, which I fully understood. Maybe I just wore her down, I don’t know! Margaret is a very close friend now, and I’m so fond of her.

DAMIAN: Like someone such as myself asking their subject interview questions such as those found here I suppose, how does a writer or director get to the truth about a real person they are making a film about without becoming manipulative or exploitative?

JIM: I think you just tell the truth, as it seems to you in that moment. Honestly I don’t see it as any more complex than that. When we made Oranges, we didn’t want to be mawkish or sentimental, and of course we felt a huge responsibility to the real people involved, to make sure they would be OK. But at the end of the day we also had a responsibility to make a film that connected with a wide audience.

DAMIAN: Emily Watson gives yet another extraordinary performance in this film. Using Emily’s portrayal of Margaret as an example, can you tell us a little bit about your method of working with actors in terms of research, exploring characters, rehearsals and possibly improvisation?

JIM: With that film, Emily spent some time putting in what I call some building blocks for the character…. where she went to school, college, where she’d met her husband, where she worked, that kind of thing. I think working out the stuff that’s before the events in the film is most important, rather than rehearsing scenes from the script. Emily and I worked together very intuitively, I think. Not too much chat, we’d set the scene up as truthfully as possible and then just start shooting – always very long takes, not too much cutting. There was a lot of emotional content to every scene, so we didn’t want to hinder that in any way.

DAMIAN: In many ways, both Margaret Humphreys and Denise Woods, the character in your three-part police drama Life of Crime, share quite a few similarities don’t they?

JIM: Well they’re both very strong women, not to be messed with!

DAMIAN: What do Oranges and Life of Crime say about our society when the relationships between the husbands and the lead female characters in these two stories are severely challenged, or ruined in the latter case, because of their work as crusaders for truth and justice?

JIM: I think the private cost of public duty is a great dramatic dilemma – it’s a circle that can’t ever really be squared, although it doesn’t stop anyone trying.

DAMIAN: Hayley Atwell who played Denise Woods is probably most famous internationally for her appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe such as Captain America and Agent Carter. How did she become involved with Life of Crime?

JIM: I love her work and we met up and talked it through. It was a tough shoot, and Hayley turned in a brilliant performance.

DAMIAN: Obviously an actor will audition for a part but how does a director usually get chosen for a film or television project?

JIM: Well there’s a difference between the projects you have developed yourself, and those that are sent to you. I like both, but it’s a different process. If it’s a script you’ve been sent – you have to audition, like everyone else! But I tend to be quite careful, you have a sense of where your zones are, material-wise, if you know what I mean. And my agents tend to only send me stuff they know I’ll respond to.

DAMIAN: And can you describe how and why you think you were approached for ENDEAVOUR?

JIM: I was really keen to get back into British television, as I’d been away for a long time. And I met Helen Ziegler, our supremely talented producer, and we talked it round the houses. For me, it’s always a combination of the material, the writer and the producer that makes me want to get involved.

DAMIAN: So you get the job, you read the script and then, because I’m fascinated by the whole process, I wonder what happens next – can you take us through your approach to directing tonight’s ENDEAVOUR, HARVEST?

JIM: Well we started with a brilliant script of course. Without that you really haven’t got anything. But then I loved the elemental feel of it, and the very pagan, ritualistic story, set against the modernity of nuclear power. So that central conflict seemed very cinematic, and like a representation of Morse’s inner conflict. So together with the brilliant Ed Rutherford, our director of photography, Alison Butler, the designer and Charlotte Mitchell our costume designer, we developed the visual plan for the piece. We wanted to use lots of low, direct light straight into the lens, flares and all that… we wanted a kind of ethereal, ‘other worldly’ feel, where anything is possible.

DAMIAN: In terms of camera angles and setups, do you ever wish you’d have approached certain scenes differently when you see the rushes of during the editing process?

JIM: Shall I lie ? Yeah, course. You’re constantly confronted with your mistakes, but you learn to try to work in a way that enables you to cut them out! It’s when you’re stuck with them you’re in trouble. But then again, you’ve got to take risks I think – playing it safe isn’t really an option. No guts, no glory, I reckon.

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you’re a fan of ENDEAVOUR or INSPECTOR MORSE, but do you think it is a help or a hindrance if directors are “Morse literate”?

JIM: I think you can do it either way. I don’t personally like to get too hung up on what’s already been done, and the references and all that are cool, but I’d personally prefer to leave them for the audience. You kind of have your own thing going on, and you want to develop that.

DAMIAN: There are often many revisions to the script throughout the shooting of ENDEAVOUR, can you describe your collaborative process with the writer Russell Lewis?

JIM: Russ is an exceptionally talented writer and a pleasure. Basically he told me what’s going to happen, and then I got on with it! We had a lot of fun, and he’s a very collaborative writer, full of ideas. When everyone sat and pondered, he’d go out for a crafty smoke – and come back with the solution.

DAMIAN: I know that Shaun Evans has a very particular view and insight into his character, often sharing his own opinions regarding the motivations of Endeavour etc. At what point would you say that most of his queries are resolved, during pre-production or while shooting?

JIM: Well anytime really. Anytime is fine with me, so long as it’s post coffee. We talked all of the time, throughout the whole process. Inevitably a lot of stuff gets worked out as you shoot, because the whole thing has come to life then, and the questions become more urgent and real, in a way. Shaun has a brilliant eye for the detail, which is important because ultimately he’s the guy that’s got to tell us what’s been going on. I loved watching him from the camera.

DAMIAN: And with a cast of such a high calibre as ENDEAVOUR, isn’t it a little daunting to direct actors who know their characters inside out and have been performing them for some years now?

JIM: Not daunting no, because actors are actors, you know? The process is the same. You’re all searching for the the truth of the piece, and looking to stretch yourself creatively.

DAMIAN: As opposed to projects such as ENDEAVOUR, would you say you enjoy more creative freedom when directing your own films which might be described as a little more intimate or personal?

JIM: In a way, yes, I mean on my films you kind of have complete freedom, because you are the originator of the project. But then I have to say the producers gave me a lot of creative freedom with this, which was really brilliant. It’s exactly what you want from producers really – encouraging you to go for it, to have the courage of your convictions. So creatively it was very rewarding, and I’m very proud of the result.

DAMIAN: Each ENDEAVOUR film has had a different director (apart from FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK and HOME which were both directed by Colm McCarthy), is there ever a sense that directors are expected to remain consistent to a particular style or are directors free to put their own visual stamp on their episodes?

JIM: The producers told me to put my own stamp on it. There’s no ‘house style’. They want you to do your thing. So that was a big reason to get involved.

DAMIAN: Would you say that you have a particular visual style?

JIM: Oh god, you know it’s not always easy to articulate, because it’s sort of intuitive, it’s a part of you. It’s a reflection of how you see the world, people, relationships, your aesthetic tastes, your hang ups – absolutely everything. I mean, I would say definitely yes – but that’s probably for others to judge…

DAMIAN: Which film or television directors do you admire?

JIM: So many. Cassavetes was my hero, the Dardennes, Winterbottom, Lynne Shelton, David O’Russell. So many. I think I’m probably influenced by everything I see, in some way – I guess we all are.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about your new film Measure of a Man which I believe is due to be released sometime this year?

JIM: It’s a classic American coming of age film, about an overweight kid, who just wants to fit in. It’s a film I’d wanted to make my whole life really – I think it’s a genre that American independent cinema does so well – and Stand by Me has been a film that I’ve always loved. I wanted to make a movie with more of a smile on its face, just lighter in tone – I thought it was time to have some fun. So there’s a lot of humour, but I think it’s a story that anyone can connect with, because we’ve all felt like an outsider at some point. Judy Greer, Luke Wilson, Donald Sutherland star alongside young Blake Cooper, who is incredible.

DAMIAN: And what is the legendary Donald Sutherland like to work with?

JIM: He’s deadly serious about the work of course, and tonnes of fun also, so it’s a good combination. I think he’s the most technically accomplished actor I’ve ever worked with, and he found an extraordinary emotional connection to the character. He’s done something quite special in Measure of a Man, and I can’t wait for people to see it.

DAMIAN: Your next film after that is another collaboration with screenwriter Rona Munro. What is it about her writing that you find so engaging?

JIM: Rona writes dialogue which is so beautiful, and so true, and we adore working together. I think we see the world similarly, which is important, and balance each other quite well, except she’s much cleverer than I am. I hope we can get to make another film soon – we have a script ready. But first I’m going to be making a film called The Panopticon – it’s a fantastic script by Jenni Fagan, adapted from her own novel. It’s set in Edinburgh, and a really special project.

DAMIAN: I notice that many films these days, particularly those with a relatively small budget, have many production companies, distributors and financiers credited in a list almost as long as its cast. How difficult is it to get your feature films made and into cinemas?

JIM: It’s hard, and getting harder, but others are better placed to say why. I just want to be able to raise enough money each time to make the films I want to make.

DAMIAN: What do you think you’d be doing now if you hadn’t decided to become a film and television director?

JIM: Ha, God knows! Centre midfield for arsenal?!

DAMIAN: Well I’m glad you did, particularly when you direct projects with such honesty and integrity. And I must say, I much prefer to see you directing in Oxford as oppose to Weatherfield. You know, I remember seeing Russ as a child and he kept a sick pigeon in a box at the bottom of his bed until it was well again. I wonder if you had any birds as a child – a kestrel perhaps?

JIM: HA! No birds, but we did have a cat called Fanny. Don’t ask why…

DAMIAN: Jim, thank you very much indeed and all the very best with all your future work.

JIM: Thanks!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.