Tag Archives: Colin Dexter

In memory of Colin Dexter

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 YEARS OF MORSE ONSCREEN

An exclusive celebration

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

For Colin…

Our love to you and your family.

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

ED BAZALGETTE

Director ~ GIRL

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

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

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

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

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

JAMES BRADSHAW

Dr. Max De Bryn

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

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

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

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

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

SAM COSTIN

Script Editor ~ Series I – III

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

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

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

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

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

IRENE NAPIER

Make-up Designer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

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

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

SEAN RIGBY

Detective Sergeant Jim Strange

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

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

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

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

Long may it continue!

MATTHEW SLATER

Composer

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

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

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

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

— — .-. … .

ABIGAIL THAW

Dorothea Frazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIEN TIMMER

Executive Producer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SARA VICKERS

Joan Thursday

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

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

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

Happy 30th Birthday Endeavour Morse! x

HELEN ZIEGLER

Producer ~ Series IV

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

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

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

~

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

JAMES GROUT

Chief Superintendent Strange

NORMAN JONES

Chief Inspector Bell

KENNY MCBAIN

Producer

ANTHONY MINGHELLA

Screenwriter

ALASTAIR REID

Director

PETER WOODTHORPE

Dr. Max De Bryn

and

JOHN THAW

Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse

~

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

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

~

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

 

Far to go: Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with the Thursday children

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

FAR TO GO…

An exclusive interview with the Thursday children

Jack Bannon – Sam Thursday

Sara Vickers – Joan Thursday

~

By Damian Michael Barcroft

~

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

JACK: Great thanks.

SARA: Very well, thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JACK: Cheers mate! All the best.

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

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

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with composer Matthew Slater

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Matthew Slater – Composer

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: As a very young boy I was given two records from an uncle which I played constantly. One was Children’s TV Themes (1972: Cy Payne & His Orchestra) and the other was Star Wars and Other Galactic Space Themes (1978: Geoff Love & His Orchestra). The latter, in particular, showcased some very cheesey disco-pop versions of music from film and television but they started a life-long passion for orchestral music and soundtracks and I’ve since amassed a huge collection of original scores. Now, I enjoy all sorts of musical genres from Frank Sinatra to indeed opera, however, my first and true musical passion will always be soundtracks. Needless to say then, it’s an absolute thrill and a pleasure for me to be able to do this interview with an actual composer so thank you very much indeed. I wonder, what sort of music were you listening to as a child?

MATTHEW: Thank you for asking me and you’re more than welcome. Your reference to the ’78 disco version of Star Wars did make me laugh out loud.  When I first played that version of Star Wars to my children they were incredulous as to why they hadn’t heard of it before.  Being a child of the 70’s this pop version did resonate with me a little more than it perhaps should have done.  Can’t help but wonder what Mr Williams would have thought of it?

I always had a leaning towards music written for picture there was something powerfully attractive about the story telling aspect of it.  Star Wars obviously was playing constantly in our house. In fact, anything by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, John Barry and Ennio Morricone there would be a good chance I’d be listening to it.

DAMIAN: At what point did you realise you wanted to be a composer?

MATTHEW: The Purley Way cinema, Croydon, December 1982.  I can remember queuing around the block with my Mum to get into the cinema to see E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  I watched that film in complete awe and amazement.  The direct emotional contact the score had on me was profound and from that moment on I wanted to be a composer.  I had a very unconventional route into the world of orchestral music for picture; not following the conservatoire route completely but learning through the times of electronic and experimental music in the ‘90’s and in many other areas of music before becoming a professional composer for picture.

DAMIAN: Can you remember the first time you became aware of soundtracks and the artistic possibilities of the synthesis between sound and screen?

MATTHEW: December 1982!  That film did show the power music can have to picture.  I once remember seeing a documentary where John Williams couldn’t quite make all the hit points work in the final twelve minute sequence in the film, bearing in mind that Williams was conducting to spots and streamers on screen which is largely a lost talent and very difficult to do compared with the click tracks we all have today which make the recording process considerably quicker.  Spielberg famously said that he’d take the picture away from the screen in the recording studio and let Williams conduct the end sequence as he would if it were a concert work or symphony.  Spielberg would then recut the end of the film to fit the most musically emotional performance by the orchestra and to me that’s why it’s one of my most emotionally charged moments in modern cinema where the combination of music and picture combine in perfection.

DAMIAN: Which film/tv composers have inspired you most as an artist?

MATTHEW: Certainly the greats as I’ve already spoken about but I think there is an enormous wealth of talent from composers like Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Michael Giacchino and George Fenton.  I also have a great deal of respect for Christopher Gunning, especially his concert works.  So, in answer to your question, all the above!  Dominik Scherrer also has a sound that is completely different which I find intriguing and has influenced me a little.

DAMIAN: And if I asked you for your favourite film or television scores?

MATTHEW: Star Wars, E.T. and To Kill A Mockingbird is sublime for film.  For T.V., now that’s a more difficult question for me.  I don’t tend to buy or listen to many T.V. scores, mainly as I think the music now must do a subtly different job to that in music for film.  I find the combined world of orchestral and electronic scores very exciting.  There are some great dramas in recent years all with very different sounds and feels and many are excellent at linking music with picture but few that you could necessarily hum the theme tune to.

DAMIAN: In recent years, Classic FM has started to play the odd film/tv theme and BBC Radio 3 has its Sound of Cinema programme but other than that, I’ve always felt that soundtracks never really get the respect and exposure that they deserve. Would you agree?

MATTHEW: I think that’s changing.  More and more people are wanting to become composers than ever before; the advent of technology has widened the creative net for people wanting to score to picture.  Just look at the number of scoring to picture courses and classes that have been established over the past ten years and it seems to be increasing every year which can only be a good thing if the foundations of composing music itself are not lost in the technology.

DAMIAN: You worked on the orchestration for the following original INSPECTOR MORSE episodes (THE DAUGHTERS OF CAIN, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOUR, THE WENCH IS DEAD and THE REMORSEFUL DAY) not to mention eight series of LEWIS. Additionally for ENDEAVOUR, you’ve worked as an onset music supervisor and arranger, composer of original songs and now also orchestrator and composer of the music score. So, you’ve obviously worked closely with Barrington Pheloung for many years, how did the two of you come to work together on MORSE, LEWIS and eventually ENDEAVOUR?

MATTHEW: Alan Bullard, my composition teacher at my college, suggested I enter a competition run by the Society for The Promotion of New Music to work with Michael Kamen on a week-long master class at the South Bank in London, culminating in a recording with a small ensemble at Angel Studios, also in London.   I duly sent off my scores and thought nothing further of it.  A few weeks later I received a letter saying that I’d been chosen as one of five from hundreds of applicants to attend the masterclass.  Unfortunately, (or one could say fortunately in my case) Michael’s scoring commitments meant he was unable to come to London for the masterclass and that Barrington Pheloung would be taking the masterclass instead.  I knew of Barry as I was a Morse fan so happy days all round.  The class ensued as did the recording and I was the only one of the five composers who wanted to conduct their own music. I jumped at the chance in fact.  Something must have impressed Barry as he invited me down to his studio and by the end of the day offered me a job as his music assistant.  That was around 1996 so I started making coffee for him and now some years later have conducted and composed the music for four ENDEAVOUR films and have pretty much done all jobs regarding the creation of a score to picture from tea boy to composer thanks to Barry.

DAMIAN: In all your years working with Barrington then, what do you think you have learnt most from him?

MATTHEW: His huge appreciation of the quality of the musicians we both work with and how to run an efficient yet relaxed recording session.  If it’s right on the second take, move on to the next cue.  Done.  Of course, quality must always be maintained but he taught me not to get into the take after take after take mentality.

DAMIAN: To what extent would you say Barrington’s music was an influence and how does it figure in the way you approach the music for ENDEAVOUR – for example, do you feel free to completely do your own thing or are you perhaps restricted in terms of, if not emulating his music, trying to remain faithful and consistent with the tone already well established?

MATTHEW:  Having worked with Barry for over twenty years it would be very not hard to have had some of his musical influence naturally come into my own music.  It wasn’t a process that I think needed a great deal of thought when scoring ENDEAVOUR.  I’d worked with Barry, Colin Dexter’s and latterly Russell Lewis’ characters for years so they seemed naturally embedded in me although Morse, Lewis and now Endeavour all have a subtle musical difference yet are definable as sitting in the same dramatic world.  It’s an unprecedented situation I think, especially when dealing with an enormous body of film work over thirty years.   Having the opportunity to work with some wonderful directors in this series also allowed a blend of the established world of Endeavour and my own sound to come in and in the right places we could go somewhere different and new.  I also had the opportunity to work closely with Tom (exec. prod.) and Helen (prod.) more than perhaps would be normal due to schedules etc. which I found a very creative experience with the exchange of ideas between everyone.

DAMIAN: You composed the complete score for PREY (SERIES 3: FILM 3) and also films 1, 3 and 4 for this series. But what can you tell us about the two original songs that you wrote for film 2 which your collaborator, Russell Lewis, tells me was like him playing Lorenz Hart to your Richard Rogers?

MATTHEW: Ha! Wonderful question! What a kind comment from a lovely talented man and friend.  I had a call from the production office on the Thursday saying that two original 1967 sounding classics were required, at least in draft form for a scene being shot on the Monday – I’d already had a little time to think about it beforehand after going on set to talk through some ideas with Mike and Helen.  Without giving anything away it naturally left Russ and I little time. There were a few lyrics in the script but not songs.  I asked Russ whether he’d mind writing a few more verses to give me a handle on the songs.  He fantastically provided, and in about 30 minutes each song was written both lyrically and musically.  It just seemed to work between us – Mike Lennox the director instantly liked them and that was that!  We went into RAK studios in London and recorded with a rhythm section, brass, strings and the actors themselves singing to make sure it all looked and sounded as real and convincing as possible.  It was a great day, even Shaun, Helen, Mike and Russ popped down to listen to the process.  No pressure for me then!! Joking aside everyone was incredibly supportive and complementary.

Working with Russell like this was an absolutely pleasure and I was thrilled to be asked to collaborate with him.  I was on set during one of the playback scenes when I overheard two actors trying to Google one of our tracks to see who originally wrote it in the ‘60’s which was a rather humbling experience.  Russ is such a great writer that it’s a composer’s dream to get to play with themes, songs, clues, historic references, operatic and orchestral masterpieces all within the one series.  It’s challenging to say the least but when that musical primer presents itself everything else comes together.

DAMIAN: If the script writing work dries up, do you think Russ has a future as a lyricist?

MATTHEW: I think there’s little chance of the writing ever drying up for Russ but yes, I would wholeheartedly say there’s another world out there just waiting to be explored.  I’ll leave that one with you…

DAMIAN: At what point in the production do you become creatively involved with each film and to what extent are the musical choices, both the underscoring and source music, discussed with Russ?

MATTHEW:  That very much depends on each film. Some require a lot of discussion and work during production and filming whilst others occur during post production so it’s generally down to how much and what type of music is woven into the plot.  Russ, the directors and producers also have their input at each stage so each film has its own unique way of unfolding in terms of collaborations with the composer.  That’s what makes the whole ENDEAVOUR process so exciting as each film I’ve ever worked on sets up new challenges and the fun is how are we going to deal with each musically.

DAMIAN: And I’d like you to take us through the process of how you approach composing the music for ENDEAVOUR. You talk to Russ, look at the script and then what happens – is there much research involved or do you initially begin with your immediate responses and feelings?

MATTHEW: It rather depends to the extent of music that’s incorporated into the story.  If there is little then the editors, directors and producers will lay up what’s called a guide score.  This is used to give the composer an idea of what emotions need to be conveyed at that point in the film.  I usually receive a copy of the script well before this so have an idea of what I think will be required.  Once the film has been locked off, that is there are no further structural changes to the film, I receive a copy of the film with the guide music score then head into the edit suite with the director, editor and producer and talk about each spot where music should or shouldn’t be, what’s liked, what isn’t and that gives me a good feel of where to start musically.  Sometimes that might be to compose the last climatic cue first so we can all see where our film is heading towards musically and making sure everyone is on board for that and sometimes the film needs a more chronological approach from start to finish in terms of composing the score.  That’s the beauty of ENDEAVOUR, each is unique and the challenge is to inject a new musical element that brings that episode together, yet remains within the music universe that is ENDEAVOUR.

DAMIAN: How long would you say it takes to write the complete score for a ninety-minute episode?

MATTHEW: That’s the six-million-dollar question.  It’s the amount of time you have available to write it!  Sometimes that’s a few weeks, other times it can end up being a matter of days to get a first draft of the score together.  As dubbing the recorded music into the final film is one of the last things that happens before the film goes out for transmission, the music schedule often gets compressed as do many other areas of production that are at the end of the production process.  That’s not always a bad thing though as I tend to work well under tight deadlines – perhaps I shouldn’t have said that…sssh, don’t tell anyone.

DAMIAN: Are all the scores recorded in chronological order and how long do these sessions take?

MATTHEW:  Not always.  For example, in this series we recorded film 2 first.  It depends completely on which films are ready for scoring and that’s not always as it sets out to be at the start of the production process.  Generally, yes, and of course that’s always a nice way to develop themes and ideas across a series so sometimes you have to think around corners to keep a sense of cohesion and development across a series.

DAMIAN: How do you decide on which individual orchestras and musicians to perform the scores?

MATTHEW: That’s an easy one.  The London Metropolitan Orchestra were formed back in 1987 with the first INSPECTOR MORSE film.  Many of the players still play on the ENDEAVOUR sessions today and are some of the world’s finest musicians without a doubt.  It’s always an honour to work with the LMO as it’s like working with friends who just happen to be world class musicians.

DAMIAN: Finally, if you had to choose just one piece of opera that best reflects the character of Endeavour Morse, what would it be?

MATTHEW: I’m going to swerve this one I think.  Over the thirty years so many wonderful operatic works have been used in the films, many reflecting different aspects of Morse’s character, others annoying him terribly.  We’ve seen him through INSPECTOR MORSE, LEWIS and now the events in ENDEAVOUR that led him to THE REMORSEFUL DAY.  I don’t think any single opera has the scope of thirty years of Endeavour Morse, much like his much loved Times crosswords, he works on so many levels.

DAMIAN: Matthew, thank you so much.

MATTHEW: You are more than welcome!

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

~

HOUSE OF GHOSTS

Baroque Theatre Company’s Production of Alma Cullen’s play

Inspired by the Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter

~

In an exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to producer and founder of the Baroque Theatre Company, Claire Bibby, director Adam Morley and award-winning actor, Nigel Fairs who plays Chief Inspector Morse.

~

Damian: Baroque is a professional touring theatre company founded in 2010 and based in Norwich. Can you tell me a little about the genesis of the company and something of its ethos please?

Claire: We are passionate about our craft and thrive on bringing inventive and high quality theatre to regional theatre venues. Our casts and crews are energetic teams of creative individuals, committed to engaging audiences with vibrant and captivating entertainment. Our goal is to generate a “renaissance” in local theatre, performing a wide range of genres from revitalised classics to exciting new writing, from comedy to drama. Our ethos is to build the company on a repertory style, whereby a core team of actors and crew remain associated with the company. We are proud to have the opportunity to contribute to East Anglia’s rich and flourishing base for arts and culture. We take our touring shows to all parts of the UK and perform in a vast range of different spaces and venues.

Adam: Baroque is creating quality entertainment, traditional story telling, going out across the country with reasonable pricing, aiming to make theatre and live entertainment accessible and affordable to all. We want to entertain not only regular theatre goers but also attract new people to theatre with a wide range of productions including Inspector Morse House of Ghosts which is our most exciting show to date.

Damian: Your previous productions include The Haunting of Hill House, Veronica’s Room, Great Expectations and most recently, Sherlock Holmes. Why did you choose House of Ghosts as your next production and what attracted you to the world of Inspector Morse?

Claire: Morse is a complex, fascinating character with many layers to his personality that we very much wanted to bring to the theatre audience. There is only one stage play written about this iconic sleuth by Alma Cullen and so we felt privileged to be granted the professional touring license in order to bring this wonderful story to regional theatre venues.

Adam: The chance to be part of the Morse cannon, part of a rich history and walk in the footsteps of giants is extremely exciting.  The opportunity to explore this deeply complex and flawed human character is a real honour. Having new insights into Morse’s past and what shaped him has been a real treat.

Damian: Alma Cullen is a prolific writer who actually wrote for the original Inspector Morse television series* (1987 – 2000). Can you tell us about the story and her particular interpretation of Morse and Lewis in House of Ghosts?

Claire: The plot delves deep into Morse’s history as a student in Oxford, reuniting him with ‘ghosts’ from his past. Giving us an insight into some of the events which shaped Morse’s life in years to come. A real treat for the Morse fan. Our Morse in House of Ghosts is in his late forties and the play is set in the 1980’s. He is still developing his persona and traits at this stage of life and the character in the play presents a bridge between the characters in the TV series of Endeavour & Morse.

Adam: We find Morse at a crossroads in his personal and professional life. The show is about obsessions and as the title suggests it reveals previously unknown or little known aspects of Morse’s past.  Similarly we see the depth of relationship between Morse and Lewis as the faithful and tenacious Sergeant tries to keep Morse focused and on track.

Damian: And the stage-within-a-stage concept?

Claire: The play opens with a performance from Hamlet, when Ophelia dies suddenly mid-performance. Inspector Morse is immediately on the scene, having been in the audience. The stage is cordoned off and becomes a fully-fledged murder scene. In the opening scene, the audience are watching events unfold from backstage.  The stories then unfold in a more traditional manner on stage.

Adam: This lovely concept by the incredibly talented and humble Alma Cullen (I have never worked with such a supportive and encouraging writer) allows us to keep the pace flowing beautifully and create a wonderful mixture of different locations including the Theatre. As a director this has been a wonderful challenge transferring what has worked so well on television to the stage.

Damian: Morse enthusiasts may recall the first production of House of Ghosts back in 2010 with former Doctor Who Colin Baker in the role of the Inspector. Are there significant changes in your adaptation?

Claire: Adam has worked closely with Alma to bring a fresh interpretation of this production which we hope will delight Morse enthusiasts as much as we have enjoyed working on it.

Adam: Alma has been amazing and has allowed us to restructure some of the scenes to better suit a theatrical production. We have together gone back to a much earlier draft of the script allowing for even more character development and revelation. The previous incarnation of the show had many short sharp scenes. We have a different pace allowing for a more linear approach and greater plot and background development. It is a true honour to have been allowed so much freedom with such iconic characters. We have always at every step respected the writers and the cannon; this version is faithful and shows a more vulnerable Morse in all his glory brilliantly portrayed by Nigel Fairs.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS2Damian: In comparison to Colin Baker, the casting of Nigel Fairs as Morse is certainly more in keeping with that of Shaun Evans in Endeavour, is this something that you took into consideration?

Claire: Adam will be better able to explain from a Director’s casting point of view. Nigel was able to portray the characteristics we were looking for with skill and flair as well as putting his own stamp on the performance. There is always a risk if an actor’s performance is a carbon copy of a famous actor’s portrayal of an iconic figure such as Morse. With Nigel’s wide spanning experience, versatility and expertise he was able to nod to the character appropriately whilst making it the role his own.

Adam: Casting Morse was the hardest casting challenge of my professional career. Not only did we need to find an actor with the ability to portray this deeply complex individual , we needed to respect and understand the other interpretations and allow our incredibly talented Morse room to grow into the role which he has done magnificently. After the long search we then needed approval from Alma and Colin Dexter, there was no hesitation on their part with our choice. We absolutely kept in mind suitability of the actor and ensured we had found absolutely the right man for the job in keeping with the narrative age and development of the character between Morse and Endeavour.

houseofghosts3Damian: To what extent does the play attempt to bridge the gap between Endeavour (1965 onwards) and Inspector Morse (1987 – 2000)?

Adam: The play itself sits in-between and shows us Morse a Chief Inspector torn between two worlds; academia and the Police. We meet a Morse who is in the throes of internal conflict when new opportunities arise to possibly change direction. In this show you see how he ultimately progresses form the young man in the Endeavour days into the classic Morse we all know and love as played by the late great John Thaw. It is a glimpse of a crucial moment in his development – does he want to be a policeman anymore as the ghosts from his past just a few years previous to Endeavour come back to haunt him.

Nigel: When I first got the part, I vowed to myself not to watch either the incredible John Thaw or Shaun Evans (I’ve yet to see Endeavour) until I’d finished the tour, as it would have been so tempting to try to imitate their performances.  I’ve known and worked with Colin Baker for years and I even resisted asking him how he’d played the part! I felt it was really important to find the truth of the Morse we see in this play and to create my own “version”.  I would hope that I’ve done just that, and feel really honoured to have been given the opportunity of being one of only four actors to play him. Like the lucky actors who’ve played Doctor Who or James Bond, I now feel like I’m a member of a very privileged club!

Damian: I’ve interviewed and discussed Endeavour many times with its writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis, and one of the challenges was reconciling certain discrepancies between Colin Dexter’s thirteen Morse novels plus his various short stories** and the thirty-three episodes of the original TV series – specifically, Morse’s childhood and college days. Since your plot also delves into Morse’s past and student life in Oxford, I was wondering whether you have been either helped or hindered by the enormous success of Endeavour in terms of your own creative freedom in exploring the character?

Adam: It has been a great help. Firstly it introduced the character to a whole new audience who may not have known about Morse and has hopefully lead to them reading the books and seeing the original TV series. Secondly it has given us in our research and development so much more source material and inspirations to consider.  This production is very much its own unique story set in the Morse universe showing us a character we know and love in a truly harrowing and complex investigation with deep personal ramifications to the character. It has many influences but I am extremely proud of how we have made it our own whilst always respecting what has gone before and being true to it. The incredibly talented cast lead by Nigel has worked in their own various ways to achieve the characterisations with my guidance. This is I hope a true treat for fans of the ever growing and ever popular Morse universe.

Nigel: Like I said, I have yet to watch Endeavour but I’m itching to watch both that and the classic Morse episodes as soon as I’ve finished the tour!

HOUSEOFGHOSTS1Damian: Does your production of House of Ghosts explicitly address Morse’s early love life and why he left college?

Adam:  Yes it does in detail; revealing previously unknown events that shaped Morse.  We discover some of the reasons why he left and what his thinking was at the time…these events play an integral part of the plot.

Nigel: This is exactly his struggle.  What I love about the plot is that Morse gets it wrong, despite having all the evidence about the truth presented to him early on. He’s desperately trying to be the professional but that terrible time back at college is constantly clouding his vision.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS4Damian: Can you tell us about your own particular interpretation of Morse and how you prepared for the role?

Nigel: My favourite – and in a way, most vital – bit of “research” came when I read a passage in Colin Dexter’s short story As Good as Gold. It was the first time I’d truly seen into Morse’s head, as depicted by his creator.  Reacting to Strange, Morse thinks:

“Seven – or was it eight? – “she”s.  With one or two “her”s thrown in for good measure? Yet in spite of the bewildering proliferation of those personal pronouns (feminine), Morse had found himself able to follow the story adequately, feeling gently amused as he pictured the (now) grossly overweight Superintendent as a podgy but obviously pious little cherub happily burbling to his baby-sitter.”

That passage nailed it for me, and not only because that’s more or less exactly what goes on in my own head most of the time (usually accompanied by the most amazing incidental music score; another similarity to Morse)! As I move through House of Ghosts as Morse, there isn’t a single second where I’m not analysing other characters’ speech patterns, imagining outcomes or possible motives, chastising Lewis (and other characters) for their incorrect use of grammar… But all the time being thwarted and distracted by the HUGE emotional resonance of the Past Events that have resurfaced. Morse is in mental turmoil here, which is a joy (if exhausting) to play.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS6Damian: How would you describe the relationship between your Morse and Lewis (played by Ivan Wilkinson) in the early days of their partnership?

Nigel: I adore Ivan Wilkinson, and his beautifully detailed and layered performance of Lewis is a joy to play opposite.  I think that between us we’ve managed to come up with a fascinating relationship that constantly blurs the line between “mentor” and “student”. They both have such a lot to learn from each other. Without spoiling the plot, there are a wonderful couple of scenes in the second act where we see exactly how much they need each other to work as a team, or even individually.

Damian: What will the next Baroque production be after you’ve finished touring with House of Ghosts in May?

Claire: We will be touring with two productions from November 2015 – January 2016. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Carol by John Longenbaugh and The Great Santa Kidnap by Roy Chatfield. Our exciting programme for the remainder of 2016 will be announced soon!

Adam: In addition to those shows with Baroque Theatre Company, I’ll be directing The Birds based on the Hitchcock film and Du Maurier book in a co production with Baroque. I will also be directing a Moliere (in French) in London and Paris and then moving onto The Canterbury Tales.

Damian: Claire, Adam and Nigel, thank you very much indeed.

 ~~~

*Alma Cullen’s Morse episodes: The Secret of Bay 5B (1989), The Infernal Serpent (1990), Fat Chance (1991) and The Death of the Self (1992).

**Colin Dexter himself wrote about Morse’s background and history in Mr. E. Morse, BA Oxon (Failed) also known by its original title, Morse and the Mystery of the Drunken Driver, a short story published in 2008 by the Daily Mail as part of a Christmas serial special.

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

HOUSEOFGHOSTS8House of Ghosts continues its tour throughout April and May at the following venues:
WEDNESDAY 29TH APRIL 7.30PM
CYGNET THEATRE, FRIARS GATE, EXETER EX2 4AZ
Box Office: 01392 277189
http://www.cygnettheatre.co.uk/theatre-exeter-arts-entertainment-whats-on/
THURSDAY 30TH APRIL 7.30PM
WEYMOUTH PAVILION
Box Office: 01305 783225
http://www.weymouthpavilion.com/page40.html#Morse
FRIDAY 1ST & SATURDAY 2ND MAY 7.30PM
FISHER THEATRE, BUNGAY
Box Office: 01986 897130
http://www.fishertheatre.org/Event.htm?date=201504011930&
WEDNESDAY 6TH MAY 7.30PM
THE REGAL THEATRE, MINEHEAD
Box Office:01643 706430
http://regaltheatre.co.uk/show/house-of-ghosts/
SATURDAY 9TH MAY  7.30PM
THE PLOWRIGHT THEATRE, SCUNTHORPE
Box Office: 0844 8542776
https://tickets.scunthorpetheatres.co.uk/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=28090
TUESDAY 12TH MAY 7.30PM
POMEGRANATE THEATRE, CHESTERFIELD
Box Office: 01246 345222
http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk/shows/inspector-morse-house-of-ghosts.aspx#.VTtv5fBm21o
FRIDAY 15TH MAY 7.30PM
THE GUILDHALL, LEICESTER
Box Office: 0116 2532569
http://www.leicester.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums-and-galleries
SATURDAY 16TH MAY 7.30PM
THE TOWER THEATRE, FOLKESTONE
Box Office: 01303 223925
http://www.towertheatrefolkestone.co.uk/event/house-of-ghosts/

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis – Part IV

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Viscount Mumbles

and Rowsby Woof

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

EPILOGUE

~

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

Russ: You and me both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for watching.

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

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

– A. E. Housman

~

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

James Bradshaw

Barrington Pheloung

Sean Rigby

Amanda Street-Shipston

Abigail Thaw

and

Russell Lewis

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange takes his Police Sergeant Examination Paper.

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

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

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

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

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

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: James Bradshaw

Please note that this interview was originally posted April 13, 2014 during the series two run.

JAMES BRADSHAW

Exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Uncle Bob and William Dunn ~

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

‘First Bus to Woodstock’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

Peter as Max ©itv

Peter as Max ©itv

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

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

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

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Home' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

'Trove' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Trove’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

~

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

‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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