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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.

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Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

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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”

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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.

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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…

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on PREY

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

“Tyger Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night. I love that one… what does fearful sy-mme-try mean?” – Paul Patterson

Russell Lewis on PREY

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

With special thanks to:
The staff & patients of Professor R.C. Tremayne’s Department of Psychiatric Medicine Research Wing

~

DAMIAN: Is it feeding time already? Welcome back Russ and so we finally come to the one with the tiger! Could this be the most divisive episode of ENDEAVOUR thus far?

RUSS:  Was it that divisive?  Really?  I don’t think any of us thought of it in those terms when we were making it.  It was as rooted in reality as any of our other adventures.  We took a bit of history, and extrapolated a story from that.

DAMIAN: Are you one of those writers who doesn’t read reviews of their work or do you occasionally pat yourself on the back or perhaps even shed a tear or two when no one’s looking?

RUSS:  I don’t obsessively seek them out.  I’m aware of some of it, but I tend to take the figures, and the audience a.i. (appreciation index) as an indicator of how well or poorly we’re doing. Millions regularly tune in, and it would be madness to imagine every last person adores everything we do.  The internet is very interesting, and it’s great that people take the time to offer their considered opinion.  Some of it’s very well informed, and well written.

People have been very kind to us by and large, but the level of vitriol one sees vomited elsewhere upon some shows and, in particular, their makers does make one question the psychological well-being of those making the criticism.  It goes so far beyond critique.  It’s so personal, so indescribably nasty.  Wishing dreadful things upon strangers because a piece of television did not meet your expectations in some way?  It’s unhealthy.  Any of these things are primarily an entertainment.  We all try to make them as well as we can.

Look, it’s lovely if people like and enjoy one’s work.  But, as I’ve said before, ENDEAVOUR is a Selection Box, hopefully with something for everyone.  It would be very easy when a particular story is well received – FUGUE, for example – to sit back on our laurels and just turn out a collect the set serial killer story every week, but I think the appeal for the audience would quickly pall.  So, for better or worse, we’ll carry on making our Variety Pack.

DAMIAN: Well, to illustrate the diverse variety of opinions regarding PREY, here’s a few comments that I found on the reviews section of IMDB: “Great episode. Well written”, “Endeavour’s Baskerville? – quality episode with a breathtaking climax!” and “Overall an impressive episode that works despite its unlikely premise”. So far so good, but you may need a stiff drink for the next ones: “[the writer] is lost in a maze of his own confusion and ineptitude!”, “PREY versus JAWS – homage or ripoff?” and “it was off the wall and that Russell Lewis, the writer, needs a rest”. You’re not feeling tired are you Russ?

RUSS:  Well, it’s very good of you to cast some of those into my teeth.  Seriously, though – everyone’s entitled to their opinion.  I stand by it four-square.  “If you can meet with triumph and disaster…”  Or, as Lemmy wrote, ‘You win some, you lose some, it’s all the same to me.’  I think one would always prefer brickbats or bouquets to indifference.  People either bought it or they didn’t.

We achieved what we set out to do.  I certainly don’t feel any need to defend it.  It is what it is.  It worked for some, and not for others.  People are free to praise or criticise as they see fit.  I think the only cause for concern is when it slips in to Annie Wilkes territory.

Tired?  Certainly not of ENDEAVOUR, no.  Many more stories to tell – given the chance.  Some, none, or all of which may or may not contain tigers.

DAMIAN: If I may, and we’ve personally had a good natured laugh at the reaction to PREY – not least my own!, I suspect that those who found fault with the episode didn’t have a problem so much with the concept but rather in its execution – pun intended! So, while it may have been just about palatable to have a man-eating tiger on the loose in Oxford, do you think it was the fact that it was also served with a side order of blatantly obvious JAWS and JURASSIC PARK references that was the tough bit to swallow?

RUSS:  You should have seen the first draft.  Three tigers.  Fully operational safari park.  Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically…  But it proved to be beyond our resources.

Oh, I don’t know.  The fun of it for us was recasting some of those things through the prism of 1960s Oxford.  I think there were a couple of direct nods to Amity…  The death of the lad from the campfire singalong gang, and Max’s somewhat belated post-mortem.  There could have been many more…  The death of the Kintner boy, &c.

The former turned the conceit inside out, insofar as it was the boy who copped it, rather than the girl who went into the water.  We’re nothing if we’re not an equal opportunities slaughter-house.  Tigers are often drawn to watering holes to hunt for prey – and the rivers are the nearest things we’ve got to such in Oxford – so I thought that was justifiable.  And Max…  Week in, week out, he outlines the grisly details of this or that violent death – scenes that, if one thinks about it, aren’t that far removed from the one in question.

Who wouldn’t want Jimmy Bradshaw’s Max deBryn channelling Matt Hooper if they had the chance to do it?  I think I just about fought shy of him snapping, ‘Do NOT smoke in here, thank you.’ Or asking for a glass of water.  But nobody goes full Dreyfus.

There was only one JURASSIC PARK nod, wasn’t there?  That was more about a salute to the late Bob Peck – taken from us far too young — than anything else.  EDGE OF DARKNESS is such a touchstone.

As you know, we like to do a genre piece every now and again – and when you’re looking at Spielberg’s mighty ouvre there’s a lot to salute.  As always, it’s born of great affection and respect.  You know ‘Bruce’ casts a long shadow still.  I remember going to see it in the cinema that summer of ’75, with my buddy Charlie.  I guess we’d have been about eleven, rising twelve, and scene after scene was burned into the memory.  I mean quite literally shot after shot.

Being in a darkened cinema and seeing the audience react to the Ben Gardiner jump scare by leaping back in the seats and screaming their heads off.  That stays with you. It’s such a beautifully conceived and executed piece of work.  If I could only keep one Spielberg, it would have to be JAWS.  Even over Indy – and, believe me, that’s a wrench.  There’s still enough of that late 60s/early 70s naturalism about the performances that you’re suckered in and have boarded the Orca before you’re even aware you’re on a rollercoaster.

DAMIAN: You see, I still think that like the NIGHT OF THE DEMON reference for example (“It’s in the trees…” “It’s coming…”), there wouldn’t have been such debate if you’d been a little more subtle. I mean, your references and allusions are usually more cryptic and less obvious aren’t they?

RUSS:  I suspect far more people are familiar with ‘The Hounds of Love’ than Night of the Demon.  And even more unaware that the opening of the track is a sample from the movie soundtrack.  The film is mostly known by horror aficionados, and those of a certain age.  But – again – it didn’t seem impossible that those two lines could have been uttered in such circumstances as we engineered.

Yes – they’re often more cryptic, but sometimes it’s fun to go a little broader and play to the gallery.  Particularly in a story like this.  Might as well be hung for a Judas goat as a kid.

DAMIAN: Where did the idea of the tiger come from in the first place?

RUSS:  It arose from a few things.  I think I mentioned when we talked about RIDE, my interest in the Mayfair Set – in particular, John Aspinall, a colourful character, and the late founder of Howlett’s Wildlife Park – the fact that 1967 was the year of Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’…  And finally, I think, if I remember, it was originally a 1966 idea – with the opening of Longleat Safari Park, which – together with the Aspinall link – is why we went for a Tiger rather than a Lion.  To put some blue water between us.

But in the 50s, before setting up Howlett’s, it’s reported that Aspinall kept two brown bears and a tiger in a garden shed at his home in Eaton Place.  So, I didn’t think it was too much of a reach for the paterfamilias of an eccentric crowd such as the Mortmaignes to have taken things one stage further.

We like where possible to fold in a film or a book or a record that had some influence on the year in question.  The Jungle Book – taken together with all the rest – just caught my imagination.

A tiger as a murder weapon seemed an interesting departure from the traditional country house Lead Piping in the Billiard Room.

DAMIAN: Were there any reservations from Mammoth Screen, ITV or the cast when they read the script?

RUSS:  Nope.  Not really.

DAMIAN: I don’t know if I dare ask, but have you ever had an idea so “out there” that someone has said it’s too much and you’re pushing the codes and conventions of ENDEAVOUR too far?

RUSS:  Not yet.  But, I’ll keep trying.

DAMIAN: It’s obviously credit to the special effects team that I’m even asking this question but what exactly was shot with a real tiger and what was CGI?

RUSS:  It was all real tiger, clever editing, and ‘comping’.  We did a two-day shoot with the real Shere Khan, at a sanctuary rather than transporting it to set.   Its well-being was paramount, and we didn’t want filming to disturb its regular life and habits any more that the absolute minimum.  Aside from setting a couple of maze hedge walls into its enclosure, and encouraging it to take an interest in the pram – which was achieved on the rangers’ advice by loading the vehicle with its lunch – what you see onscreen is pure legerdemain.

DAMIAN: Given your very early work for the screen, which I think I’ve -not so subtly- alluded to myself, and also the fact FEARFUL SYMMETRY was the title of one of your LEWIS episodes, isn’t it almost inconceivable that the tiger connection is mere coincidence?

RUSS:  Almost inconceivable…  and yet it was.  The LEWIS ep…  I think the title arose from something to do with knots, didn’t it?  The weight was on the symmetry.

DAMIAN: Let’s let sleeping tigers lie. You introduce us to a young Philip Hathaway (and the Mortmaigne estate of James Hathaway’s childhood) and I wanted to ask you about LEWIS. I think you wrote the story for the first episode and then also four actual screenplays. Given that you created the character of James Hathaway, wouldn’t you have liked to have come back and written the last ever episode of LEWIS?

RUSS:  There’s a line from The Croupier – ‘Hold on tightly, let go lightly.’  To have felt any proprietary sense over LEWIS would have been presumptuous.  I was there at the start, and then out, and then back…  So – no regrets.

DAMIAN: With the greatest respect to all the other writers involved, no one else ever came close or even seemed to make it a priority over the central murder-mystery to develop the characters of Lewis and Hathaway in the way that you did and have continued to do with characters in ENDEAVOUR. I wonder if you would have done anything different – perhaps a little more poignant for Lewis and Hathaway’s farewell?

RUSS:  I couldn’t possibly comment.  I think there were many terrific LEWISes by some truly great writers.  On the series with which I was involved, I think it was harder for LEWIS to develop the central characters because – I think I’ve mentioned before – as with INSPECTOR MORSE the transmission order was decided after the films had been shot.  So, at the end of any adventure, to a certain degree, the reset button had to be pressed.

DAMIAN: Now that we’ve got the tiger and Hathaway out of the way, I want to focus on what I think really deserves discussing about this film because there’s a plethora of standout scenes which really do flesh out the characters beautifully. One is where Strange visits Endeavour at his new home to give him the housewarming gift of a James Last LP (a close up of the record is present in the original broadcast but cut for DVD and international releases) which Endeavour turns his nose up at, the two then go to the pub and he also complains about the pint Strange has got him (“bit cloudy”), mocks Strange for drinking Double Diamond lager and generally acts rather unkindly towards him. For the show’s main protagonist, Endeavour is awfully antagonistic towards his friends isn’t he?

RUSS:  Well, I think with Strange he’s still working out his feelings post-Blenheim Vale – and the fact that, presumably in Endeavour’s view, the less able man has leap-frogged him on the promotional ladder.

DAMIAN: Another moment that I feel deserves special mention is the following short exchange between Sam and his father who is at a particular low point:

SAM: This with work… whatever it is, you’ll get him.
THURSDAY: Will I?
SAM: Of course. You’re my Dad.

I wonder if you bring such warmth and obvious love and affection to characters such as these because you are a father of a young son yourself?

RUSS:  Well, he’s not so young any more.  But the father/son dynamic interests me.  No more than any other, but I suppose it’s one of which I’ve experience – from both sides.

My old man fell off the perch just before I started making a living as a scribbler, and never got to see any of my stuff.  I don’t think I’m working any issues there, particularly.  I suppose everyone wants parental approval on some level at some time.  Even parental disapproval.  ‘Watch me, Daddy!’   But he gave me a pretty long rein.  As we’ve been talking Spielberg, “Did I ever tell you to eat up, go to bed, wash your ears, do your homework? No, I respected your privacy and I taught you self-reliance.”  He worked night shifts at a tannery for years, and so I didn’t get to spend a great deal of time with him until quite late in his life.

He was of an older generation – and his war mirrors Thursday’s pretty closely.  So, I had a window on a lot of the attitudes you’ll see echoed in the Thursday household.  The phraseology and idiom.

From the other end of the telescope..?  I’m sure we’d all like to be Atticus Finch, but most of us end up somewhere closer to Homer Simpson.  There’s no manual, unfortunately.  The road to hell… That last line of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit rings ever true – ‘Time just gets away from us.’

DAMIAN: Also steadily becoming part of the ENDEAVOUR family dynamic is Trewlove and her scenes with Bright are a particular delight: (Bright to Trewlove) “If we should encounter anything, you stay by me, yes?” and after hearing his story about killing the man-eating tiger of Kot Kindri, Trewlove says “Sounds frightfully heroic” to which he replies “No I fear not. A hero would have saved McKendrick” (his fellow officer) which of course was a fantastic segway to the climax of the story. In many ways, like SWAY was for Roger Allam, was this clearly Thursday’s episode; was this Bright’s turn to shine and how did Anton Lesser react to the script and the chance to reveal some of the character’s backstory?

RUSS:  Well, Anton’s always a delight – whether it’s a big BRIGHT story, or just a couple of scenes, he never gives anything less than his all.  So, I don’t think it engendered a huge reaction, but I think he enjoyed himself.  But yes, I wanted to do something for BRIGHT that gave him a moment in the sun.  I’ve said before that there’s more to him than meets the eye.  Still waters. But, I think everyone contains that capacity for heroism.

And it also serves as a reminder that BRIGHT too was once as young as Endeavour.  He had his hopes and dreams too.  Shades of Captain Darling, perhaps?  “Go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris…”

DAMIAN: Thursday erupts with anger and physically attacks a suspect (Hodges the park keeper) during questioning. Was there any debate as to how far you could go with this morally or at least Bright’s reaction, I mean would he have really been so willing to cover it up by claiming Hodges fell down the steps on the way to his cell?

RUSS:  It was intended to indicate Thursday’s increasingly cornered state of mind – and to a lesser degree to play into the theme of the story, which was about nature and instinct.  The Tiger’s nature.  Hodge’s predatory instincts.  And Thursday…  who, for all his warmth, has a great capacity for darkness at his centre.  He was carrying the knowledge that his days were most likely numbered by the bullet lodged in his chest.  As for BRIGHT, events at the end of NEVERLAND have brought him much closer to THURSDAY and ENDEAVOUR.  There is a sense of guilt there.  That he didn’t do enough.  That he was blinded by the dazzle of personal ambition to the cost of those who truly deserved his loyalty.  The blind eye turned was a small entry in the credit column.

DAMIAN: What did you think the audience would find more shocking, Thursday’s brutal attack of a suspect or the fact that Bright utters the words “pair of knickers”?

RUSS:  Oh – the former, certainly.

Knickers’ is one of those words, isn’t it?  ‘Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl, you’ve let your knickers down.’  How they got away with that lyric at the time still astonishes.  But ‘knickers’…  Yes.  It’s sort of a weirdly ambiguous word.  In this period, at least.  At once both ‘safe’ and de-sexualised, a playground word for underwear, while in the hands of a ‘blue’ club-comedian bent on innuendo, vaguely ‘eroticised’.   Like ‘newlyweds’.   Profoundly strange British hang-ups manifested in everyday speech.  Norman Bates stammering over the word ‘bathroom’ is the same thing.  We looked at some of this last week’s adventure with Mrs.Pettybon – the obsession with things – sex and bodily functions — being ‘dirty.’

DAMIAN: So, tonight’s film then – what can we look forward to?

RUSS:  Well, LAZARETTO is our Ladybird Book of the Hospital.  So, that’s at the centre of it.  A little bit creepy – as you might expect with such a location.  But there’s a lot else going on for both ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY besides.  It’s quite a test for Oxford’s Finest.  And, again, a big link to INSPECTOR MORSE. Best not to say too much.

DAMIAN: Just time for our penultimate “Desert Island Dexter”. So far you have chosen DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION, GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, THE INFERNAL SERPENT and CHERUBIM & SERAPHIM as some of your favourite MORSE episodes. Can you given us your next two choices please?

RUSS:  DEAD ON TIME, which opened Series 6, is a very special film.  Susan Susan Susan. Joanna David.  David Haig.  Adrian Dunbar.  Samantha Bond – whose mum Pat Sandys produced my first drama script, an episode of The Bill.  Richard Pascoe – ‘Between your knees, man!’ – as William.  Another flawless turn from Madden.  I think for anyone who was a fan of the show, and had taken Morse to their heart… this one just kicks you half way down the street.  John and Kevin’s performances are sublime.  John’s scenes with Joanna David – that glimpse of a happy, playful Morse, was just heart-breaking.  It’s an incredibly tight core cast, and a madly narrow roster of suspects.  You should see it coming, and yet you don’t.  Morse’s fury – all reserve gone. John was immense in that scene.  Across the whole film, really.  You asked earlier about Thursday wailing on a suspect.  Perhaps its genesis was here.

Lewis’ care for Morse which leads him to put loyalty before duty…  It’s perfect. From that opening shot of the house with the Schubert adagio playing over it, across a very sedate overture in which little seems to happen – but all of it vital – Haig’s car passing the GPO engineer’s vehicle, the nurse on her bicycle, all the way through to the final frame…  It just doesn’t put a foot wrong.

And I guess my other pick this week is MASONIC MYSTERIES – Julian Mitchell’s magnum opus – and still, for many, the yardstick against which anyone who ventures into Dexterland must be measured.  I’m torn – I think my favourite by Julian is still to come, but I’ll save that for next week.  However – MASONIC MYSTERIES…  Putting Morse front and centre as a suspect was a masterstroke, and everything flows from that.  Unique, insofar as it delivers a villain of such diabolical wickedness that we leave the whodunit behind fairly early on, and, instead it becomes the most brilliant thriller.  That’s terribly liberating for a writer – because it’s pure storytelling. It’s not about laying clues, it’s about what happens next.

The fire is a highpoint – obviously.  And maybe it’s the moment that the audience moved from respect and admiration for their heroes to outright love.  Morse – still suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation in the back of the ambulance.  Paranoid.  The world against him.  And his heart reaches instinctively for the one person who has never failed him.   Never doubted him – for all his tongue lashings and irascibility…  The one true friend.  ‘Where’s Lewis?  I want Lewis.’ Just beautiful.

And the final showdown – mano a mano.  Two great minds pitted one against the other.  Ian McDiarmid delivers a showstopper of a turn.  Such lightness of touch.  You’re expecting the devil, and you get a trickster.  Hugely amused by his own cleverness.  All of it a game.  He’s on screen for what?  Ten minutes at most?  And yet he owns the film.  That voice.  That diction. Seductive and mocking.   When it crashed to black – a nation held its collective breath.  Such a break with convention.  Utter genius.

DAMIAN: Three down, one to go. Thank you Russ and see you next week.

RUSS:  Thanks very much.  Until next time.

~~~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 2810 / PREY

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.

No scriptwriters were harmed during the making of this interview

Charlotte Mitchell – An interview with ENDEAVOUR’s Costume Designer

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Charlotte Mitchell – Costume Designer

LAST SEEN WEARING

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
Images copyright © Charlotte Mitchell/Mammoth Screen

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DAMIAN: Hi Charlotte and thanks for doing this. Can you tell us a little bit about what made you want to be a costume designer please?

CHARLOTTE: Hi Damian, I left art college with a degree in knitwear from Central Saint Martins and after a brief stint working in the fashion industry I decided to change my career into costume design. It suits me better as I prefer creating varied looks which depict a time in society showing a person’s class, a historic time or a feeling of emotion. Fashion is creatively far more narrow and restricted by sales.

DAMIAN: Even early on in your career you worked on some iconic television shows such as AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT, TORCHWOOD and DOCTOR WHO including arguably one of the best written by Steven Moffat, BLINK, which featured the first appearance of the Weeping Angles and an early screen role for Carey Mulligan. What would you say you learned most from those early experiences in the industry?

CHARLOTTE: Wow you have done your research and yes I’ve done my time! I am lucky to have gained so much valuable knowledge from the incredible shows I have worked on. I started out working my way up in the costume department, I wanted to get a broad brush stroke of information on how to design and work with incredible talent and challenging scripts. I assisted some amazing designers who are credited for the above shows and their knowledge is invaluable. I learnt you should always listen and absorb what is wanted, then you can take that information and push it further. Working under someone with great experience teaches you that.

DAMIAN: And you worked on another Steven Moffat production some may have heard of, the original pilot for something called SHERLOCK! What was that like in the days before anyone had any idea that SHERLOCK, or indeed Benedict Cumberbatch, would become such a phenomenon?

CHARLOTTE: It was great fun! We all new it was going to be special it had the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss touch. Establishing the new characters in a modern world was a challenge and finally lead us to the ‘the Sherlock coat’. I hope you haven’t missed the red button holes, I painstakingly sewed them on the original myself, but I’m sure there have been many remakes of that coat since!

DAMIAN: In compiling these questions, I thought a lot about the costume designers and their films that have had an impact on me over the years such as THE MALTESE FALCON and CASABLANCA (1941 & 1942: both by Orry-Kelly), VERTIGO (1958: Edith Head), BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967: Theadora Van Runkle), BLADE RUNNER (1982: Michael Kaplan), BATMAN (1989: Bob Ringwood) and BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992: Eiko Ishioka). What cinema or television would you say has inspired you most over the years?

CHARLOTTE: I am constantly inspired. I wouldn’t say I have been inspired more or less by any one production. It depends on what suits the story I am working on and how the director wants to shoot it. I feel I am most inspired by real life looking at a person’s social background, their job and age without stereotyping, it’s weirdly harder than you think. Also colour is so important to me and how it works in its environment so for this I admire Wes Anderson and Almodovar, and even Hitchcock, but this then becomes highly stylised so it’s what you take away from their films.

DAMIAN: How many of the costumes for ENDEAVOUR are off the peg and how many are specifically tailor-made for individual actors?

CHARLOTTE: For the main cast they are made. Each one of the suits for our detectives are tailor made by an incredible tailor I know. He is in his 70’s and made suits in the 60’s so still has all the original blocks to use for his pattern. I tweak some of them to help flatter the modern body but on the whole they are as they would have been made. For the background and guest cast I buy from vintage shops and hire from numerous specialist costume companies. Sometimes I can’t find the perfect thing so I have something made.

DAMIAN: In the cases where the clothes are designed and made by you, is it a problem finding the accurate and authentic materials for the period?

CHARLOTTE: Most fabrics now are breathable which is a good thing. Back in the 60’s there was a lot of nylon and most of my actors don’t like wearing it, so I find authentic looking fabrics, but tend to stay away from the real thing. I am a great believer in also using modern clothes and remodelling them or styling them to look correct. There are so many clothes in the shops which give the correct 60s feel and yet aren’t falling apart like a vintage piece might be! In episode 1 Tessa Knight’s denim coat is from a high street shop. It looks fresh like it should. As if she’s just bought it. Finding the perfect original coat for her didn’t work, they all looked to ‘period’, they looked like a costume where as the denim coat looks real.

DAMIAN: How do you approach researching the period and how long might this take per episode or series?

CHARLOTTE: It starts off with a discussion on the tone the director wants to give the episode. Is it going to be colourful? Is it going to be worn in? Is it going to be super polished? Then I start looking at old fashion stills to pull out key silhouettes for each character. I will then reference photography, film and art, and to make sure it’s real, look back at archive footage from the same time. To be honest it’s constant research, as I am always getting new ideas which send me down new interesting paths.

DAMIAN: In addition to the research, to what extent do you think your own personal tastes and styles have an influence on what we eventually see the actors wearing onscreen?

CHARLOTTE: Yes my own tastes definitely influence what you see. I like everyone on screen to work well together from the background to the main artists so I consider what colour costume will sit well with what. I prefer clean lines and less fuss over frills and pattern. Then if I do use anything more fussy it’s always against a neutral or clean silhouette. Haha, my own style is very simple lines and minimal pattern so yes.

DAMIAN: Would you say you spend the most time collaborating with the writer, Russell Lewis, the directors or the actors in terms of making creative decisions?

CHARLOTTE: It works as a joint collaboration but it is in this order: director, actors , Russ. Haha. Basically Russ has final say, but he is always very easy to please!

DAMIAN: Can it ever be frustrating that hair and makeup is a different department in that it prevents creative control over the complete visual design of characters?

CHARLOTTE: No it’s good to have that separation. Myself and makeup discuss where I am going with the costume and then makeup take it from there. I love seeing what makeup bring to the character and sometimes I make more changes once I see the end result. It’s all an organic process.

DAMIAN: If we didn’t know Endeavour as well as we do, and instead simply observed him from a distance, what do you think we could be able to learn from his clothes and the way in which Shaun Evans wears them?

CHARLOTTE: He’s an old man trapped in a young person’s body so there is a correctness about him. He is very rarely seen without a tie, so when he is it makes a subconscious impact on the audience. However he’s not vain, he is practical.

DAMIAN: Personally, I like the look of Thursday best with his great coat and fedora. Where is his hat actually from?

CHARLOTTE: Thursday has two hats. One is new and very beautiful but I don’t think it has the 60s look and the other is a beautiful slightly more beaten original. We used the original one in series 4 which came from a vintage shop. It has a narrower brim and a slightly higher crown. It’s actually late 50’s early 60’s as is Thursdays style, so I like that it looks a bit more faded. You have hit the nail on the head the newer one from series 3 looks like a fedora with the wider brim not a trilby… now I’m just being pedantic!

DAMIAN: And Jim Strange, is it fair to say he’s a bit drab and frumpish before his time?

CHARLOTTE: Absolutely! He’s heading towards the Jim Strange of the 1980s Morse with his thick rim glasses. He’s a bit crumpled and his suit is ill fitting. I love that he wears a tank top what ever the weather.

DAMIAN: James Bradshaw is so wonderfully eccentric as Dr Max deBryn, you must have enormous fun with his character?

CHARLOTTE: He’s fab isn’t he? When you have such a male heavy cast all wearing suits it’s hard to make a different look for each one, so his eccentricity helps me. He has an old fashioned style making poor James look many years older than he is with his button thru cardigans and his bow ties.

DAMIAN: We’ve yet to see Chief Superintendent Bright relaxing at home, what do you imagine he’d be wearing?

CHARLOTTE: It has been designed. He is a more tidy version of Max deBryn. He would always wear a bow tie too.

DAMIAN: How would you describe Dorothea’s look?

CHARLOTTE: Abigail has the most amazing figure! She is wonderful to dress. She has to show an element of power dressing yet she is still an attractive woman. In the 60’s women would been look down on if they didn’t wear skirts in the office, and even though she is the boss so could flaunt these rules there are standards she likes to keep up! She has a silhouette of the early 60’s due to her age and formality which is a joy to design.

DAMIAN: Which of all the characters in ENDEAVOUR do you find the most challenging to design for?

CHARLOTTE: Usually the guest characters as you never know what you are going to get.

DAMIAN: And finally, if we look at the BAFTA winners for film costume designs in the last decade: MAD MAX (Jenny Beavan), THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Milena Canonero), THE GREAT GATSBY (Catherine Martin), ANNA KARENINA (Jacqueline Durran), THE ARTIST (Mark Bridges), ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Colleen Atwood), THE YOUNG VICTORIA (Sandy Powell), THE DUCHESS (Michael O’Conner), LA VIE EN ROSE (Marit Allen), I think it’s fair to say that these are indicative of voting trends within the academy which clearly favour period or fantasy productions. And yet, I can’t help feel that in a way, isn’t creating ordinary, everyday costume designs for productions with contemporary and more mundane settings equally, if not more difficult, particularly in order to avoid clichés and stereotypes?

CHARLOTTE: Yes, yes! Everyone has an opinion on the modern and mundane. There’s many more voices to convince. Those designers you mention also do the mundane and achieve great results too but it is not acknowledged in the same way. In fact it was whilst I was pulling costumes from the costume hire company for ENDEAVOUR I came across Michael O’Conner competing for the same items. Whether you are on a TV show or large feature film we are all fighting together over the same items! It’s great fun who you find at the costume houses.

DAMIAN: Charlotte, thank you very much indeed.

CHARLOTTE: Thank you Damian, great questions!

Charlotte (left) and the ENDEAVOUR costume team © Charlotte Mitchell

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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.

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

‘Sit down, Lewis. Glad to see you.’ He continued to write with furious rapidity for two or three minutes. Finally he looked up. ‘Lewis, I’m going to ask you some questions. Think carefully – don’t rush! – and give me some intelligent answers. You’ll have to guess, I know, but do your best.’ Oh hell, thought Lewis.

– Chapter Twelve of Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Russell Lewis on RIDE

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Very special thanks to the best midwife/cheerleader in chief that a fellow could ever wish for.

~

Well, here we all are again. The fourth series is almost, finally!, upon us and if that were not reason enough to raid the Randolph and demand a bottle of their finest champagne, we’re also celebrating the 30th anniversary of Inspector Morse on our television screens. John and Colin, I raise my very first glass to the two of you and simply say thank you – what a legacy! — what a ride!!! Yes, RIDE. Of course, my thanks also to the writer and one of the executive producers of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, who has kindly agreed to submit himself to yet another interrogation – actually our ninth if you can believe such a thing! And, if you’re one of those lovely people who’ve been around since the beginning of these Endeavour interviews (very much appreciated by the way – and if you’re late to the party, welcome – I’m sure you’re equally quite lovely in your own way but what took you so long?), you may also find it hard to believe that there is actually anything new left to discuss.

Well, dear readers, you will be the judge of that but I can assure you, for me at least, there are still so many important questions yet to be asked such as what does Thursday have on his Wednesday sandwich and where the hell is Mrs Bright? Anyway, I’m reminded of the time, some years ago now, when Russ suggested that I begin these interviews with the warning that he tends to wheeze on like an old busted accordion. Should you the jury find him guilty of such a crime – I’ll surely be sharing the same prison cell. However, until such a verdict arrives, we’ll continue with what has now become something of a tradition and take a look back at the films from the previous series while also previewing tonight’s new offering. And, since it’s been thirty years since Inspector Morse first appeared in the corner of our living rooms (we should have asked him to pay rent if only we’d known back then how long he’d stay or at least get the drinks in every once in a while), let’s also ask Russ about some of his favourite episodes.

So, put on your best bib and tucker, join us in raising a glass to the cast and crew (both old and new!) who, for all these years, have nurtured, nursed and nourished Colin Dexter’s legendary and beloved creation – our friend, Endeavour Morse. Happy 30th Anniversary! – here’s to Team Endeavour and you, the Mateys – let’s have some bloody fun…

DAMIAN: Lewis, I’m going to ask you some questions… No, no, seriously now, Russ, how are you?

RUSS:  Mustn’t grumble, dear fellow.

DAMIAN: And how are you feeling as we approach the broadcast of ENDEAVOUR IV and the 30th anniversary of INSPECTOR MORSE?

RUSS:  The usual blend of apprehension and excitement.

DAMIAN: Like the James Bond franchise (with the possible exception of DIE ANOTHER DAY – invisible Aston Martin indeed!), there’s something to enjoy in every ENDEAVOUR film but those that I would regard as classic or at least what I consider to be some of the very best include: FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK (so called “Pilot”), FUGUE (Series 1: Film 2), HOME (S1: F4), NEVERLAND (S2: F4) and CODA (S3: F4). Seen as a whole, series three was quite different in many ways; really rather unconventional particularly in comparison to INSPECTOR MORSE and saw the introduction of an evil twin brother, poisoned applesauce -Hey, now!- and a bloody man-eating tiger on the loose! Any regrets?

RUSS:  Well — we always try to provide a bit of something for everyone across the run.

It didn’t feel particularly unconventional to us as we were making it, I don’t think. Things evolve — and should do, otherwise there’s a danger of it becoming stale for the audience, and for those of us involved in making the show. But that said — it still had Endeavour’s DNA hard-wired throughout proceedings.

DAMIAN: In terms of visual effects, what cost Mammoth Screen more money, the tiger or Jenna Coleman’s eyes?

RUSS:  Beguiling as they are, I couldn’t speak to Ms.Coleman’s eyes.

DAMIAN: I promise not to tell Mr Timmer but what were you watching in the BBC and ITV battle for Sunday nights last year – POLDARK or VICTORIA?

RUSS:  Happily, I was too busy working on Series IV to have to make a choice. My stockpile of shows awaiting a watch grows ever larger.  I will binge all of it one day.  However, I was heartened to see so many ENDEAVOUR alumni involved in the latter — both in front of and behind the camera.

DAMIAN: Back to the subject of twins, did you happen to see SHERLOCK: THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE which aired last year only a couple of days before RIDE?

RUSS:  I did, indeed.  Always a delight.  I guess what you’re rather diplomatically alluding to is, ‘It’s never twins.’  Except, of course, when it is.  Agatha wasn’t above using them.  Nor Shakespeare, Dumas, &c..  So, I didn’t feel I was in too poor company.

There were also what the Daily Mirror (was it?) tactfully referred to as ‘two sporting brothers’ knocking around the East End.  So…  Jack the Hat might have had something to say about ‘It’s never twins.’  Or perhaps, more properly, to give them their dark due, ‘It’s never The Twins.’

I think — originally — our pair started out as twins found in a dodgy orphanage in America, and ‘acquired’ by the magician for the purpose for which they were eventually professionally deployed, but, in the end, it was felt to be another loop of plot that required explanation, and we just simplified it.

The original story was much darker — and touched on a case in which Endeavour had been in another part of the country when still a probationary Police Constable — which would have given the audience a view of Shaun in uniform.  In that version, Conrad was a serial killer in a slightly more traditional vein.  Trewlove was also introduced in this iteration of the story.  But, all of that was kicked into touch in pre-production.

“The finding of this Board is that the tragic events of last December, which led to the shooting of DI Thursday and the arrest of DC Morse, were due solely to a mental breakdown suffered by ACC Clive Deare. We are also of a view that further investigation into other, extraneous, matters would not be in the national interest. To which end, all investigative materials relating to Blenheim Vale Boys’ home are to be sealed for 50 years.”

– RIDE

DAMIAN: At the end of series two, you left us with Thursday shot and fighting for his life, Endeavour languishing in jail, Jakes still drowning his sorrows in the pub, Monica with the moped peering out of the window searching for her lover, and Win, Joan and Sam waiting anxiously by the telephone. Despite the audience having to wait almost two years to find out what happened next, you decide to open series three, not with the recovery of Thursday or even the release of Endeavour, but rather an expository voiceover and moving the story forward some three months later. What would you say to some fans and members of the audience who may have felt somewhat cheated by the resolution of what was a stunning cliffhanger?

RUSS: Clearly, one wouldn’t want anyone to feel cheated or short changed.  The two year break was not something we anticipated when the cliffhanger was laid down – as I’ve mentioned previously – the World Cup schedule caught us all off guard.

There was a feeling that — with the additional time that had fallen between series — opening with a huge information dump ran the risk of alienating those perhaps tuning in for the first time — and could also confuse both the casual viewer, and even those with some recollection of how things had been left.

If I remember right — the drafts, until quite late into prep., went into greater detail — covering a fruitless search of Blenheim Vale grounds for Big Pete, and the villains who had got away… However, all of it was flashback and viewed through the device of the Board of Inquiry.  As we got closer to shooting, and again in the edit, these beats were reduced and thinned down to the salient information required to grasp where Endeavour and Thursday were.

Essentially – the most important cliffhanger was whether Thursday had survived, and that was answered in pretty short order.  Again — Social Media was always going to let that particular cat out of the bag.  Given Endeavour’s later career, the assumption was that most would understand he MUST have been released from prison.

We could have gone into the aftermath in more detail – shown Bright minding Thursday; Endeavour in chokey, &c., but that could have chewed through most of the first REEL, if not more.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice.  We are always up against it trying to squeeze as much meaty goodness into our 89 minute running time — and the new story had to take precedence.

Starting the story three months after events in NEVERLAND was purely down to a shift in our production schedule.  We shoot in sequence, and achieving mid-winter in early spring would have been somewhat unfeasible.

DAMIAN: Do some of the issues we’ve just discussed also perhaps highlight the problem that you’re obviously trying to balance ongoing character arcs and development with the well established confines and conventions of detective drama and mystery thriller genres?

RUSS:  I don’t particularly think of it as a problem.  It’s always a challenge to get the balance right — but the feedback from the audience is that they would like more character development. Fashions change.  If you look back to Inspector Morse, and LEWIS (to begin with at least) — the transmission order (perhaps with the exception of DEAD OF JERICHO and the later ‘specials’ that pretty much followed Colin Dexter’s ordering) was decided after production.  So they opened and closed with what they felt to be the strongest stories of each series.  There was very little, if any, character development.  The reset button was pressed at the end of each adventure.  Certainly all the feedback we have is that the audience really enjoys and responds to seeing how this set of characters develop and interact.

DAMIAN: Although you have occasionally used very brief flashbacks on the show, the format doesn’t allow you to have, for example, the beginning of RIDE still set in December 1966 in order to facilitate scenes of Thursday in hospital and Endeavour in prison, then move the story forward to the Bixby case in March 1967 does it?

RUSS:  No – we could have covered December 1966 with mostly interiors, and then jumped forward in RIDE, but it was an editorial decision to get into the new story almost from the off — and intercut that with fallout from NEVERLAND.

DAMIAN: Strange tells Endeavour at the fairground that Bright had Thursday under 24-hour armed watch while he was in hospital and never left his side until he was out of the woods. Shame we didn’t get to see it, that would have made a beautiful scene wouldn’t it?

RUSS:  That would have been one way of doing it.  I covered the evolving Thursday/Bright dynamic in a scene in the woods between them, when the body of the clippie was found. However — it was shot as a single unbroken take on day one of the Production Schedule. It contained some pretty soul-searching dialogue from Bright, and some consolation from Thursday.  However, we didn’t have the closes of Rog and Anton — and without them we felt the scene lacked the appropriate level of intimacy for the matter under discussion.  So, very sadly, it didn’t make the cut.

DAMIAN: We’ve seen flashes before of course, but series three saw a significant softening of Bright. Why has the barking and impatient Chief Superintendent suddenly mellowed?

RUSS:  As mentioned, Bright felt himself very much responsible for what happened to Endeavour and Thursday at the end of NEVERLAND, and is resolved to do better by his men. This was covered quite heavily in the excised Bright/Thursday scene, but we hoped there was enough contained in his welcome back to Endeavour, and the expression of his hopes for a better tomorrow, to point the way forward.

DAMIAN: Again, Bright makes reference to his wife in this film (she enjoys flower arranging) but when will we actually see her?

RUSS:  It’s almost more interesting not to see her. But who knows?

DAMIAN: And what does Thursday have on his sandwiches on a Wednesday?

RUSS:  That is for the moment a private matter between Fred and Win.

DAMIAN: There seemed to be few or at least very slight references to Easter so I’m wondering why you decided to set RIDE during that bank holiday weekend?

RUSS:  There may have been more — again, almost two years on, I’m not sure what actually survived into the final cut.  But Easter seemed to be very much in keeping with a theme of coming back to life.  Spring.  The earth renewed.  Change.  And a Bank Holiday is when most fairs tend to come to town.

DAMIAN: Some of the scenes involving Monica and Dorothea were cut. What did we miss?

RUSS:  Cripes – now I do have to rack my brain.  Dorothea was more involved in the early drafts in setting up Bixby — and ran into Endeavour down at his cabin in the woods.  She talked to him there about the fallout from Blenheim Vale and his movements over the intervening months.  I suspect it bit the dust as it was another harking back to Series III.  Monica…  If I remember, there was a scene between them which left things…  not entirely resolved.   My original intent had been to plot the unravelling of the relationship across the rest of the series, but the feeling was that their story had been told, and had been brought – for better or worse – to a close by the events at the end of NEVERLAND.

Endeavour had cut himself off from Monica as a way to try to protect her from the forces that had put Thursday in hospital and him in prison.  It called back to Thursday’s line from HOME, that ‘they come at you through what you care about.’

DAMIAN: Once more, this film is a maze of references in which the Morse scholar could easily lose themselves (Fitzgerald, Kipling, Twain and Orson Welles) but early on, we see the initials JB on a gambling chip which even has the familiar inside a gun barrel design and a fair few other allusions to 007 but it’s also interesting to note the comparisons between Joss Bixby and Lord Lucan who was renowned for his expensive lifestyle and passions including gambling, obsessive love and racing power boats (he also drove an Aston Martin and was apparently once considered for the role of James Bond). Were these deliberate references to Lucan?

RUSS:  The stage directions did include reference to a Lucan lookee-likee, and I think he might be there at the gambling tables.  Much of the underlying inspiration for Series III drew on the Mayfair Set, of which he was a part.

Mulling over the bow-tie and DJ world of the Mayfair Set (our own James Bradshaw played Charlie Benson in the ITV LUCAN drama) — and being rather taken by that milieu, it struck me that there were reasonable comparisons to be drawn between that keystone year in the decade and the excesses and wild abandon of an even earlier incarnation of that Set — the Bright Young Things of the Jazz Age.   Certain emotional parallels.  The giddy, alcohol & cocaine fuelled madness – as lived and described by Waugh, and Fitzgerald, among others – in some way a needful spasm after the bloodletting and carnage of the Great War.  And I wondered if that Summer of Love was in its own way a similar high tide, albeit one far slower to arrive, after the wholesale slaughter of ’39-’45.  A younger generation finally stepping out of the shadows of rationing and forelock-tugging and taking possession of their own moment.

In any event, such was my in all likelihood muddle headed reasoning, and once the idea struck me, the rat was in the bottle.  All else followed on from that.

Bixby was something of an amalgamation of several of the Mayfair Set — including John Aspinall, and drew on his alleged chemmy wheeze with Billy Hill, a notable figure in the London underworld for some forty years.

After Bixby’s death, there was a scene between Strange and Jakes which shed some light on the scam.  A small, old fashioned mangle was discovered, which had been used to put a ‘bend’ on the picture cards — in order to make them easier to read — by those trained to do so — from across the table.  This, it was suggested, was what Bixby and Harry Rose had been up to.  But – again – it was excised due to running time.

In any case — Mister Evans does cut something of a dash in a tux.  So… for that reason alone it was worth putting him amongst the highball crowd.

DAMIAN: There was a gentleman wearing an eyepatch playing at a gambling table during one of Bixby’s parties, was that supposed to be Emilio Largo from THUNDERBALL?

RUSS:  No — like the nod to Lucan, it was a nod to another member of the Mayfair Set.  Many of the various legends surrounding that particular crew provided jumping off points for SERIES III — particularly FILMS 1 and 3.   Perhaps we’ll discuss it more when we get to PREY.

DAMIAN: You mentioned that you had a relative who witnessed the crashing of the Bluebird in one of our interviews last year, could you tell us a little bit more about that please?

RUSS:  His name was Tom Henshaw – and he was my maternal grandmother’s nephew.  What does that make him — second cousin once removed?  He worked for a motor company – the name of which, decades later, escapes me – I believe in an engineering capacity.

DAMIAN: Did you ever see that lovely little 1988 TV Movie ACROSS THE LAKE with Anthony Hopkins as Campbell?

RUSS:  It was a terrific piece of work.  Cracking script, beautifully shot, and Sir Anthony Hopkins was simply wonderful.

DAMIAN: I loved the little nods to later films in RIDE such as Endeavour winning a tiger for Kay at the fun fair rifle range and perhaps most audacious of all – The Great Zambezi coughing up the bullet after the magician’s gun trick! These are almost Hitchcockian in their mischievous allusions to future plot points and storylines aren’t they?

RUSS:  Well spotted.  Yes — the funfair scene was originally a much bigger pissing contest between Endeavour and Bruce — sadly cut down to make schedule.  And the bullet cough…  I guess we’ll cover that in more detail when we get to CODA.

DAMIAN: So series four begins tonight. What can’t you tell us about the first film – GAME?

RUSS:  I can’t tell you who did it.

DAMIAN: I see. Well, you mentioned last year that as part of your preparation for series three, you created “mood boards” or collages for each film. Can you at least tell us which photographs, newspaper reports, brand designs, album sleeves, portraits or stills from movies that you may have drawn inspiration this time?

RUSS:  This year… moving with the times, I put together an A/V Keynote presentation for ITV on the Macbook – and ran that through their TV.  Looking back — I think the underlying theme of SERIES IV was quietly asserting itself.  For ‘67 Volume 2, we wanted to explore Mister Wilson’s ‘White Heat of technology’ a bit.  And that’s certainly to the fore in GAME.

DAMIAN: Will it be “classic” or “unconventional” ENDEAVOUR?

RUSS:  Classically unconventional…  or perhaps unconventionally classic.

DAMIAN: Anthony Donn and Roland Marshall from DECEIVED BY FLIGHT made appearances in RIDE, will we be seeing more characters from the original series pop up?

RUSS:  If not characters from the original series, then certainly characters related to characters. More, I can’t say.  You will, I’m sure, recognise an actor whose path crossed with DCI Morse 30 years ago, in tonight’s film.

DAMIAN: Do any of the films happen to take place on a Wednesday?

RUSS:  They might.

DAMIAN: And when did you say we would meet Mrs. Bright?

RUSS:  I don’t believe I did.  She has a very busy social calendar.

DAMIAN: So, Russell Lewis, I’m going to cast you away on a deserted island with only eight episodes of INSPECTOR MORSE to take with you (Desert Island DVDs or Desert Island Dexter perhaps?). Can you give us your first two episodes and tell us why you’ve chosen them please?

RUSS: Oh…  That’s a tough one.   In no particular order…  I’ve got a very soft spot for DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION.  A marvellous swansong from the man who opened the batting and set the template for all that followed — the late, great Anthony Minghella.  As Morse stories go, I think DTD was refreshingly unconventional.  Kind of slasher movie opening — done with great restraint.  Almost like the reverse of the extended pull out of Bob Rusk’s flat in FRENZY — back down the stairs, out of the front door into the street.  Unusually limited set of suspects on which to draw — was it going to be Boynton…  or wasn’t it?  And the finale was inspired.  Corking performances from Mr. Malahide, Christopher Fulford, and David Ryall which kept everyone guessing until the very end.

And…  GREEKS BEARING GIFTS.  A seemingly complex case underpinned by perhaps one of the most tragically human motives in the whole casebook.  Deeply affecting.  Stellar cast — Mister Martin Jarvis, of course; and Jan Harvey, as Randall & Friday Rees.  The much missed James Hazeldine as Digby Tuckerman; Richard Pearson almost stealing the whole film with his exquisitely realised Jerome Hogg.

What I love is how the whole thing mushrooms — from the death of a chef from a Greek restaurant, to College and a reconstructed trireme, via TV’s golden couple.  It does what some of the very best Morse stories do – touching on both town and gown, the high and the low, and providing a bridge from Lewis’ domestic world to Morse’s professional life.

The denouement is properly heart-in-mouth, edge of your seat stuff.  Brilliantly realised by Adrian Shergold.  Hilarious, all these years later, to remember it caused a question to be raised in the House of Commons.   MPs unable to distinguish between fact and fiction.  Perish the thought.

DAMIAN: Thank you very much indeed for the intelligent answers. Until next Sunday then…

RUSS:  Until then.  Thank you.

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 3529 / RIDE

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.

Good game, good game! Didn’t he do well? I hope you’re playing this at home…
…and not Sherlock!

The Endeavour Archives: An exclusive interview with Shaun Evans

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

SHAUN EVANS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

22927DAMIAN: I understand that you were the first and only choice to play young Endeavour Morse. Can you tell us whose original idea this was and what work they had seen you in that made them think you would be suitable for the role?

SHAUN: Yes, well that’s my understanding of it. I was at the read through for a part I was about to play of a guy who leaves his wife, because she has a brain tumour, and the execs clearly thought, “ah, what a charmer…there’s our man!” –  and the rest is history.

No seriously,  Mammoth Pictures were making a show called Monroe and I was in the first episode and I got the job from that. As to whose original idea the first film was, I can’t be sure, I suppose a combination of Damien, Michele, and Russ’.

22929DAMIAN: You weren’t familiar with the original TV series, Inspector Morse, hadn’t read Colin Dexter’s novels on which it was based, or even looked at a script at this very early point. What were your initial thoughts or perhaps even preconceptions regarding the character?

SHAUN: I didn’t have any preconceptions, as I didn’t really know anything about it, though that said, I wasn’t massively keen on the idea of a cheesy one off, that would just be a money spinner for the channel…however, given that, to my understanding, the execs had sought me out, I thought I have to repay that with a bit of research, and I’m glad I did… So I suppose I did have preconceptions!

10521052A1053DAMIAN: And after you’d read Colin’s books and the script for FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, what was it about Morse that you connected with and thought you could make your own?

SHAUN: I didn’t think I could make anything my own, but I was intrigued by the storytelling in the novels. The character seemed very clear and at the same time distant, I don’t know, I was intrigued I suppose. Then read Russ’ script and thought it was brilliant. So complex and interesting, that it allayed any of the perceptions that I thought I didn’t have!

DAMIAN: Were there any of the novels or short stories in particular that resonated most and what character details did you find in them that influenced your interpretation?

SHAUN: I particularly liked the penultimate novel, I can’t remember the name of it, something about it I just really liked. I’d long stopped reading them for research by that stage and was just enjoying them. It’s too hard to say specifically what influences your interpretation, it doesn’t really work that way in acting, for me at least, its a feeling.

DAMIAN: I wonder if you can describe the very first day of filming, the scene that was shot and at what point in the series did you think, yeah, I can do this – I’m Morse now?

SHAUN: Again, that’s a very external way of looking at it, you just do your days work, and hope people like it. The first day was myself and Jimmy Bradshaw looking at a dead body by a riverside, and I remember…well actually, when I work I often think “no one will see this, its just a bit of a laugh”  and I do that to feel free so that I can be creative, but I remember coming into my trailer on the first morning and the producers had, very generously, left a first edition of “Last Bus to Woodstock”, signed by Colin, along with a replica Jag, (miniature unfortunately) and I thought, “oh shit” , I don’t know why, but I just felt a degree of pressure, which I’ve never felt before, expectation I suppose. So I put the gifts in a drawer until we’d finished (which I guess is significant) got on my knees, said a quick prayer to help me get on with it,  and then went out and had a laugh with Jimmy and the crew, forgot all of it and got on with the job.

1352

1352aDAMIAN: Although the crosswords, the opera and the booze are all essential elements, I would argue that they have become almost a distraction in our understanding of the character. If I asked you to think of Morse as a man you had actually met and knew well, how would you describe him – how do you see him in your mind’s eye, where is he and what is he doing?

SHAUN: Wow that’s a good question, erm, I like to think that’s how he rests, sitting in a comfy chair, opera on the turntable, scotch by his side, and crossword half filled, in a melancholy mood, quizzing over the big questions and being lost in his thoughts…ha I love this character, I know that sounds mad, but I do.

1109

11061110ADAMIAN: Morse is very much a man shaped and moulded by his past – we all are to some extent I suppose. However, if we were looking for clues as to his loneliness and social awkwardness, would we find the most revealing pointers in his failed relationship with his college sweetheart, Susan Fallon, or perhaps his troubled home life with his father?

SHAUN: It’s too academic to want such solid reasons for things, the whys and wherefores, but life is more interesting and mysterious than that. “Thursday’s child has far to go”, who knows why, he just does. Over intellectualising ruins inspiration I think for the actor.

22938DAMIAN: There are some elements of Morse which very much remind me of Educating Rita and, given his working-class background and later education at University, has become something of a “Frankenstein’s monster”. He feels he doesn’t belong to, or is too good or educated for his own family, but by the same token, doesn’t belong to the more highbrow world of Oxford academia either because he constantly feels inferior to them, not because of his intelligence but because of his background. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Morse, because of his great intellect, isolates himself, doesn’t speak anyone else’s language, and no one can ever fully understand his – he doesn’t truly belong anywhere does he?

SHAUN: That’s right.

1108DAMIAN: This situation is obviously intensified later in his police career and his refusal to either conform or “play the game”. Would you say that Morse is paradoxically both superior and inferior in all his personal and professional relationships?

SHAUN: Er…yeah.

DAMIAN: Except, of course, for Detective Inspector Fred Thursday?

SHAUN: Ah, Thursday. How cool is Roger Allam?

1216aDAMIAN: It would be simplistic to describe the relationship between Thursday and Morse as merely father and son – there’s a more complex and intriguing connection between the two isn’t there?

SHAUN: I think so.

DAMIAN: Is Roger usually in character between takes or is he simply a bit like his Thursday character in real life?

SHAUN: Oh no, he’s glorious…funny, and irreverent, and sharp, but most of all one of the most wonderful, coolest actors I know.

DAMIAN: In addition to yourself and Roger, I can honestly say that I believe Endeavour boasts one of the finest ensemble casts of any recent TV series. If we look at the progression and augmentation of characters from the pilot and series one, such as Max (James Bradshaw), Jakes (Jack Laskey), Bright (Anton Lesser), Strange (Sean Rigby) and Dorothea (Abigail Thaw), these really do seem like living breathing characters who inhabit both Oxford and our imagination in the most serendipitous way. Abigail told me that you both often try to play around with your scenes and their often inherent humour but the directors usually reign you in so I’m wondering to what extent is there room to improvise and take advantage of this beautiful chemistry that the whole cast seem to share?

SHAUN: Well, if you cast well, and let the actors do their job, they’ll give you good stuff… yes we are blessed with a brilliant ensemble, all of the actors are prepared, have thought about the scenes and come offering something. They are all terrific. And yeah within the time constraints we play around as much as possible, it’s very much a team effort, it really is. And that goes on off stage too, if anyone is doing anything else, we usually organise a team outing to support, and also because I love watching them all work.

DAMIAN: Abigail also mentioned that she and Jimmy Bradshaw want their own spin-off series, Dotty and Max! – what are your thoughts on this?

SHAUN: Can I be in it as a guest?

DAMIAN: After the first Endeavour film, FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, you chose to play quite a dark character in The Last Weekend (2012) and again, more recently you opted for another character who couldn’t be further away from Morse in The Scandalous Lady W (2015) – do you think roles such as these are deliberate attempts to avoid typecasting?

SHAUN: I don’t believe in type-casting, you’re only limited to one role if that’s all you can play. I’m lucky that I’ve always had the opportunity to play parts far away from me, which I hope will continue.

DAMIAN: Would you say that it might be more interesting for you as an actor to portray Morse as dark a character as audiences would be willing to accept for a primetime ITV drama?

SHAUN:  I don’t know, I don’t think about it, Russ does the writing, and if I have any ideas or anything jumps out I have the opportunity to air it, but I think that we’re all pretty much on the same page about the important stuff. I don’t really think about the audience, in that way.

DAMIAN: You have a very distinctive way of… Talking. And. Delivering your lines. I can only describe it as measured and introspective which really works for the character. However, I’ve noticed that, in comparison to Roger who is pretty much consistent and says the same line the same way take after take, you are a lot more unpredictable and perhaps even slightly capricious in your delivery. Is this something you are aware of and does it ever affect the interplay with other actors?

SHAUN: I’d never noticed, it could be in the writing, or perhaps I’m trying to work something out, or maybe that’s how I think this person is thinking this thought,  and therefore speaking this… line.

1138DAMIAN: I was actually complimenting Russ for the scene in HOME (S1:04) between Morse and his father, Cyril, shortly before he dies saying how it was written with such beautiful understatement and so many implicit thoughts and emotions only for him to tell me it was originally quite different! Apparently he had written so much more about Cyril/Gwen and Morse/Susan Fallon but you and Colm McCarthy [Director] had some “notes”! I know both yourself and Roger provide significant input into the scripts so is this sort of debate regarding how or a scene should be shot and played typical?

SHAUN: No not typical, they’re brilliantly written, but it’s our duty to create an imaginary world in our heads, so at the read through of each film I’ve made extensive notes about certain things which block that process for me, which then facilitates it being faster on the working day, that we’re not caught up with small inconsistencies.

22944DAMIAN: In preparing for my interviews with Russ that take quite an in depth look at every film, I’ll spend hours simply watching them, pausing the DVD to make notes and trying to research all his cunning references and nods to not only the original series but also anything from horror, noir or whatever scrap of film, television or literature history that seems to take his fancy. If you haven’t watched the original Inspector Morse episodes, do you yourself find it difficult to spot some of the more obscure references?

SHAUN: That’s intentional. If something sticks out to me in the reading to be surplus, I’ll question it and it will quite often be a “heritage” thing, which for me is neither here nor there, unless it slows down our stories. Then you have to question if it’s necessary to the plot, and if it is deemed necessary, but it still sticks out to me, I just try to limit all of my interactions with it, because its cried out to me. I personally don’t find any enjoyment in that, but I know others do, so that’s OK.

DAMIAN: Owing to the phenomenal success of the original series, Colin Dexter began to change the way he wrote Morse in his later novels and short stories so as to incorporate John Thaw’s performance, personality and appearance. Do you think Russ has done the same thing with you and your interpretation over the last three series?

SHAUN: I’m not sure, nah, I don’t think so, I’d like to think I was endlessly surprising Damian, and that they never know what they’re going to get from me!

DAMIAN: The first Endeavour film, FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, was conceived in large part to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Inspector Morse series and was never actually intended to serve as a pilot at the time. Would you still have signed on to play Morse if you’d have known Endeavour would be such a success and last at least three -hopefully more!- series?

SHAUN: No, I don’t think so. It can lead to complacency, that way of looking at work, from everyone, the actors, the execs and the channel’s point of view. People feel like they own you, and it all becomes about business, making it cheaper and more of it-whilst we’ve managed to avoid that, which ultimately adds to the quality. I don’t think you can say any of our films are “fillers”, they’re all little works of art I like to think, some more successful than others admittedly, but all began with the best of intentions.

DAMIAN: Do you think that playing Morse during such long shoots (I think series three took about 95 days to film) has prevented you from accepting other roles you would have liked to explore?

SHAUN: Yes definitely, but you just have to prioritise, like I say I love this work and we have it very good, the team we have, and it won’t last forever, so I make the most of what I have in front of me, and if another job wants me enough, they’ll make the schedule work, and if not, that’s cool too. Its win/win.

DAMIAN: Russ has told me that he knows exactly how Endeavour will end and has even written the final scene. Presumably you’ve discussed this with him but what I and many fans really want to know, since there’s obviously no show without you playing Morse, will we ever get to see that ending?

SHAUN: I hope so.

1112DAMIAN: Shaun, thanks for doing this. As a fan of the novels, the original TV series and now especially Endeavour, it really is an enormous privilege for me to talk to you about this character that means so very much to me and so many other people around the world. And –hopefully Russ will forgive me for stealing his words from one of our previous interviews– thank you for bringing “a certain, special kind of Oxford magic to a whole new generation, with a pitch perfect portrayal of the heart, mind, body and soul of Endeavour Morse.” Thank you Shaun.

SHAUN: Kind words sir, thank you. I hope our new offerings delight more than anything we’ve done thus far. Cheers Damian

~~~

coda~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Endeavour Archives: NEVERLAND also previewing CODA

Funny. It’ll be twenty-eight years tomorrow since I joined the job. Twenty-eight years to the day – excepting the war, of course. All this with the merger put me out of sorts. Got me thinking less ahead than behind. I forgot for a minute it’s not about me. It’s about them that turn to us for help in time of need. Weak, defenceless. Old, young. Especially the young… I was born a copper. And I’ll die one, I expect. – THURSDAY

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: E14KM

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to PC Banks

Bloody place. It turns me guts. Bleach, sweat, boiled cabbage… and everything on tick. Never Never Land. – JAKES

Part IV:

NEVERLAND

Second star to the right and straight on ‘till Blenheim Vale

or

Do not forsake me oh my Pagan

Presenting the final look back at series two and a preview of tonight’s last film of what, I’m sure you’ll agree, has been a remarkable series three…

~

DAMIAN: Is it fair to say that there were some who were rather displeased that you ended series two on a cliff-hanger?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Some.  But outside of whether Thursday would live or die – there were far fewer chads left hanging than people seem to think.  Most, if not all, of the answers are there.

DAMIAN: You wouldn’t do that to us again tonight Russ, WOULD YOU?

RUSS:  Never say never.  You wouldn’t expect me to tell you in advance, WOULD YOU?

DAMIAN: I think it was Great Expectations in which it was said, ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies. So, let us fly to safer ground then, NEVERLAND. In retrospect, do you find it particularly pleasing that Jack Laskey (Peter Jakes) had his moment in the limelight in this film?

RUSS:  Yes, absolutely.

1057DAMIAN: At what point did you come up with Little Pete’s heartbreaking backstory concerning his childhood and the awful, terrible things at Blenheim Vale – was this always part of his backstory or created especially for NEVERLAND?

RUSS:  I always knew some part of Jakes was whistling past the graveyard.  Again – I find it difficult to chicken/egg the process at such a distance.  It’s possible it grew from the central notion of Peter Pan.  That – JM Barrie — was hard-wired into the story to a much greater degree until fairly late in proceedings.

Initially, the entire story was set around Christmas – Thursday emerging from Burridges, his arms laden with presents as the snow came down.  Phil Spector’s Christmas album blasting out of every radio.  Endeavour and Monica went to a pantomime of Peter Pan at The New, with her niece and nephew.  For a moment, you glimpsed one possible future for Endeavour – that of a happy family man.  Endeavour went round and met her Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts at a Christmas party.  Benny & Clyde were part of Captain Hook’s crew – there might even have been some version of Smee.  I’ve got a feeling there was a Thursday family Christmas lunch.  And Endeavour alone for the festive.  But it’s so long ago that my memory may be shaky.

Alas – Christmas was torpedoed amidships at the very last minute – and all the antique decorations went back to the suppliers unopened.  Which was a pity – visually.

But Peter…  yes, there was something fun in the notion of two Peters, if not the Two Jakes.   Big Pete and Little Pete.

DAMIAN: Would you have written his character any differently in series two had you known in advance that Jack was leaving us?

RUSS:  I don’t think so.  Not particularly.  It’s always the stories that lead with ENDEAVOUR – and telling those, from TROVE through to NEVERLAND, takes up so much screentime that any space I can find for character material is at a premium.  Certainly in SERIES II – I had a large company of regular characters – approaching a dozen, I think — to serve.  So…

DAMIAN: Benny and Clyde! You’ve added to a wonderful legacy of screen ventriloquist dummies (my personal favourites: Hugo from Dead of Night and Fats from Magic), there really is something so sinister and yet endlessly fascinating about them isn’t there?

RUSS:  It’s also a tremendous way to cut down the cost of the cast.  Two characters for the price of one actor!  I’d seen Oli Lansley in Tim Whitnall’s fantastic Kenny Everett biopic – which was also made by Mammoth – and thought he was simply terrific.  I’d no idea he was going to actually try to perform both parts in the moment, as it were.  I’d thought we’d drop Clyde’s dialogue in later.  But there you are.

1110DAMIAN: Do you think Nurse Monica “with the moped” Hicks (Shvorne Marks) has been rather ill-used in series three?

RUSS:  Neither the character nor her story is played out – in my mind at least.  It ain’t over until… &c.

DAMIAN: Endeavour talks to Monica about leaving the police, packing it all in, going abroad and teaching. Would he have made a good teacher do you think?

RUSS:  I think he’d have been a fantastic teacher.

1144DAMIAN: In our very first interview, you mentioned “a decent, encouraging English teacher”. Who was he or she and did they ever learn of your accomplishments as a writer?

RUSS:  There were two – a Mister Harris, (David – it might have been.  School teachers actually having forenames wasn’t something you even considered a possibility as a kid.) who – legend had it — had some part in the jet engine design for Concorde; he took my youthful scribblings seriously; gave me voluminous notes, and introduced me to writers like Stendahl, and, also, the Hard Boiled school; and, then — Richard Burrows who was my English teacher across during the ‘O’ Level years for Lang & Lit.  He was (and is) just a wonderful man – and we became friends after school was done.  He’d been in OUDS, and, extraordinarily, I did a show with him at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 80s – and then, some years later, acted as his Stage Manager // Tour Roadie // Sound and Light Guy on a tour he did of a one man show about John Bunyan. He wrote a very good screenplay version of that as well.  He relocated to Sussex, and became a classics master.  I haven’t seen him in too long.  A lovely, kind, wise, encouraging soul – without whom…

DAMIAN: What advice and, indeed encouragement, would you yourself give to those dreaming of becoming a writer?

RUSS: ‘I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy.’

There’s not really the space available to discuss this properly.  And anything I’d have to say would be telecentric.  But – briefly, and for what it’s worth…

All I’d ask is — do you want to write, or do you want to be a writer?  If it’s the former – then nobody’s stopping you.  If it’s the latter, then these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Don’t dream – DO!  Write.  Even if whatever other demands you have on your time mean it’s just a line a day.  Watch as many films and as much television as you can find time for.  See plays.  Listen to drama on the wireless.  Soak it all up.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you have an instinct for it, you will take something from everything you see — just by osmosis.  Read as many screenplays, plays and teleplays as you can.  See how other people have done it.  Build your knowledge shot by shot, line by line, scene by scene, beat by beat.  Watch the classics. Talk to people who do it for a living, if you know any.  Write to those whose work you like or admire, and ask for advice.  If they’re decent – and most are – you’ll get a reply.

Do not waste your time and money on any ‘YOU TOO CAN HAVE A SCRIPT LIKE MINE’ courses.  Avoid books of screenwriting theory – particularly those with diagrams – they will fill your head with meaningless garbage.   Likewise – don’t buy script coverage services.  Might as well shout down a well for all the good it’s going to do you.  Nobody can tell you how to do it. You have to work it out for yourself.

Send your original material and spec scripts of existing shows to agents, and the companies that are buying.  Assess the marketplace.  Find the shows with high turnover and output.  Study them.  Learn the house style.  If you don’t have representation, pick up the phone and call the script department/editors of the show you want to write for.  Talk to a real live human being.  If you can beg for five minutes face to face over a cup of tea all the better.  Either way, find out who is looking to expand their roster of contributing writers.  Send your material.  You won’t be the right fit for everything.  Rejection and knockbacks build character – and characters.  Don’t expect it to happen overnight.  It isn’t the X Factor.  Kiss the frogs, build a fortress around your heart, and if you’re fortunate enough to land a paying gig — stay limber.

DAMIAN: What exactly does an executive, as opposed to a “regular” producer do, or at least, what do you do as an executive producer on Endeavour?

RUSS:  We mimsy around, getting on everyone’s nerves, and generally being unhelpful to the people who actually get it made.  On Series three that would be Producer Tom Mullens and Line Producer – the unsinkable Helga Dowie, who has a long and distinguished track record, and has been with us since the pilot.   Essentially, Executive Producers are like General Melchett – safe behind the lines, giving stupid orders to the heroes in the trenches.

A lot of it’s about imparting tone – conveying the overall vision for the series – picking up on the things that are out of whack, or don’t chime happily.  Protecting the soul of the show, if you will. Keeping an eye on the details.  Saying whether we like the colour the Police Station has been painted, or want it changed.  Advising on casting.  Watching rushes.  Monitoring performances. Giving notes on successive edits.  Being there for sundry mixes.  Tweaking.  Buffing.  Polishing. Irritating…

You act as a final arbiter on certain creative choices.  But usually – the producer has put all the right HoDs in place, and is managing them brilliantly.  You know – we have fantastically talented people working on the thing who know far more about their particular area of expertise than we do.  Unless it’s something one feels strongly about – the best thing you can do is get out of the way, and let people get on and do their work.

DAMIAN: We must mention the eminent Anton Lesser. Is Bright softening in his old age?

RUSS:  There was a two-handed scene between Thursday and Bright out in the woods that we shot for RIDE – in which they discussed matters arising from Blenheim Vale, and Bright’s part in that.  Sadly, we lost it – partly for length, and partly because due to failing light we’d only managed to get it as a wide two-shot – but that dealt with where Bright is.

Disappointing – as it contained one of my favourite Bright speeches ever.  A proper window onto his soul.  We simply couldn’t use it.  Which is always frustrating.  There’s another Bright scene in tonight’s FILM that we couldn’t do – material that we had to cut as we couldn’t get the right location…  But Anton’s as cool as a cucumber approaching absolute zero and a total pragmatist.  And if we get another go around the lighthouse…  all these things will get their moment.

I think in terms of softening – the events of Blenheim Vale shook his world-view.  He’s always been on the side of the angels, though, I think.  For all his bluster.  Courageous, in his way.  And when the chips are down – devoted to his men.  And now – in the shape of WPC Trewlove – his women too.

DAMIAN: Bright occasionally mentions his wife – what are the chances we might meet her one day?

RUSS: No comment.

DAMIAN: Is even Mrs. Bright allowed to call him Reggie or it is Reginald or perhaps even Sir at home too?

RUSS:  It’s a pet name — picked up from their colonial travels.

1148DAMIAN: There are some lovely moments that undoubtedly resonate with viewers who grew up in the sixties (or seventies in my case) such as Thursday’s frequent sage advice: (on warming the polish with a heated spoon before shining) “Look after your shoes and your shoes look after you”, “See you finish your crusts”, “When I started, the good blokes all wore blue” and Bright: “The policeman is your friend”. Is this sort of nostalgia derived from your own childhood memories?

RUSS:  Yes – very much.

DAMIAN: Gideon’s Way, the British crime series broadcast between 1965 and 66 is mentioned in the first series of Endeavour by Jakes. What are your most potent memories of the period regarding how the police were portrayed onscreen that may have influenced or flavoured how you depict your men in blue?

RUSS:  I think it would have to be Bright’s ‘The Policeman is your friend’.  That was drilled into me as a kid.  I’d have been too young, I expect, for some of the kitchen sink police procedurals – Z Cars, etc.  So, my relationship with the police was more likely to be defined by Carry on Constable, and the Rank Look at Life cinema fillers where every copper wore a uniform, and greeted you with a friendly wave and a smile.

It was a Tufty Club world.

And then it wasn’t.

s0902DAMIAN: When we discussed the last film of series one (HOME) prior to the broadcast of NEVERLAND during our first round of interviews I asked the following:

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

Considering, obviously unbeknownst to me at the time, you did actually have Thursday shot at the climax this time, you must have been a little amused by the question?

RUSS:  Well, I always do my best not to give too much away.

s0903DAMIAN: And what a finale it was! I think the trick to its success, and again, testament to your genius writing in this genre, is that like Jakes in ARCADIA, if this was to be Thursday’s last appearance, it would be a fitting end – beautiful, brilliant and most importantly, utterly believable in its writing and realization. In many other crime/detective shows, there’s never really much sense of life or death danger when the heroes are put in peril – with you and Endeavour, one never really knows do they?

RUSS:  That really is very kind of you.  Well – we know certain characters survive.  But that still gives me a number whose futures are unwritten.  No guarantees.  I do like to blindside the audience when I can.

11541155DAMIAN: The choreography and camera angles felt very Western and the shootout slightly reminiscent of High Noon perhaps?

RUSS:  Well – as I’ve said before — we do like a Western.

DAMIAN: As thrilling as all this was, I suspect it was Thursday’s fantastic “I was born a copper” speech that really sold it for audiences. You even squeezed in a little A. E. Housman for good measure – had you been dying to quote from that particular poem?

RUSS:  It’s funny – the Housman…  it was the preceding stanza that I liked and it seemed to chime with the unfolding drama, but if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t, in the moment, make the connection to the more familiar lines.  So – in the end, we played to the gallery, and went for the recognition factor of the Remorseful Day stanza.

2108DAMIAN: In many ways while there are still clearly more stories to be told and new adventures to be had, NEVERLAND marked the beginning of the end for Endeavour as we have known it thus far didn’t it?

RUSS:  I suppose it did in a way.  Unlooked for – for the most part.  As I may have mentioned before – artist availability was a bit of a factor this time out.  Drove a coach and four through my design somewhat.  But I hope to try to cleave to the Quality Street approach still.  Every one is someone’s favourite.

It’s fascinating – watching people’s reactions to the films as they go out – person A will love something in one film, while person B is a bit non-plussed; the following week, you can reverse those reactions.  Things which delight some dismay others.  And vice versa.  You can’t please all the people all the time – and you really oughtn’t try to.  However, I do think that there’s a strong, core audience that seems to instinctively ‘get’ whatever it is we’re about, film by film.

I think it’s important that we never feel as if it’s just ticking boxes.  Becoming samey.  Keep pushing.  Trying new things with it.  You don’t want it to become a boring, predictable watch. It’s a fairly robust format.  And, so long as the regular characters are all firing as they should…  it ought to be possible to take the stories in unusual directions while still making sure it remains Endeavour.

DAMIAN: For the final time, please tell us something about the last film of series three, CODA…

RUSS:  I guess time will prove whether it’s really CODA or codetta.  Both titles were considered.  It’s an end, certainly, if not THE end.  But, yeh – it’s our last nod to the Fab Four too.  For now, at least.  I did promise that ’67 would be a roller-coaster.  After the thrills, spills and loop the loops of the preceding three stories, this marks the end of the RIDE.  Please keep arms and legs inside the carriage until it has come to a complete stop.

coda

EPILOGUE

DAMIAN: Series three took just under a hundred days to shoot. How much of your time did it take to write and redraft the films?

RUSS:  Pretty much all of it.  And those hundred days are actually only the days when the cameras are rolling.  It doesn’t include down time – prep, weeks between shoots.  It’s somewhere between six to nine months all told – because you’re still doing fixes and tweaks right to the end.

DAMIAN: To what extent has the success of Endeavour prevented you from pursuing other projects?

RUSS: I try to work development of other projects around ENDEAVOUR, but any new stuff takes a few years from initial notion to production and broadcast, so… there’s a fair bit of stuff in various stages between blueprint and prototype.  But, lately, it’s all had to fit in with the ENDEAVOUR schedule.

DAMIAN: You’ll see Endeavour to the end?

RUSS:  If the Network, the Mammoths, the boys, and the audience want me to.  I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome, or drag the show down in any way.  If I didn’t think I had anything new to bring to it, then it would be time to go, and pass the baton on.  We haven’t got there yet, I don’t think – but it’s an industrial-size can of whup-ass each year, and your capacity to soak it up probably diminishes with each go round.

When the time comes, I’m sure Damien Timmer will take me on a little run out to the Pine Barrens.

Leave the gun – take the cannoli.

DAMIAN: I think you know how much Endeavour means to audiences and how much I appreciate your time in doing these interviews. Thank you very much indeed Russ, and, if 1968 does happen, can we do all this again? – I’ll bring the sandwiches…

RUSS:  Thank you.  A pleasure.  Sandwiches are always welcome.

S0952~

BRIGHT: The job takes its toll, Thursday. Only so many years of active service in any of us.
THURSDAY: I’m good for a while yet. – NEVERLAND

~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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4Kx

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part II

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Rex De Lincto ~

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

ACT II

“GIRL”

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

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

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

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©itv/MammothScreen

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©kippa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Curiouser and curiouser!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

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S2-FILM2: 'Nocturne' ©itv/MammothScreen

S2-FILM2: ‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

~~~

THE INSIDE STORY

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

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

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

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

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

Morse meets Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright. Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen