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

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Jim Loach – Director

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Which film or television directors do you admire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JIM: Thanks!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

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.

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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.

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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

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coda~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

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~

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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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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.

©itv/MammothScreen

©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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©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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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©itv/MammothScreen

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.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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.’

~~~

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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.

©itv/MammothScreen

©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.

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©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

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

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

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

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: James Bradshaw

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

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

Exclusive interviews with the cast/crew of RIPPER STREET

“Ladies and gentlemen, in the absence of the lecturer with your indulgence I would like to introduce Mr. Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. Before doing so I ask you please to prepare yourselves – brace yourselves up to witness one who is probably the most remarkable human being ever to draw the breath of life.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you please not to despise or condemn this man on account of his unusual appearance. Remember we do not make ourselves, and were you to cut or prick Joseph he would bleed, and that bleed or blood would be red, the same as yours or mine.”
– Tom Norman, Showman and manager of Joseph Merrick

Damian Michael Barcroft presents…

EXCLUSIVE RIPPER STREET CAST/CREW INTERVIEWS

Joseph Drake

I am very proud to announce that acclaimed stage actor and rising TV star Joseph Drake will be the first in a new series of my exclusive interviews to be published in The Whitechapel Society Journal.

Joseph Drake plays Mr. Joseph Carey Merrick – better known to the world as the Elephant Man in the first two episodes of the eagerly awaited return of Ripper Street this Monday night at nine on BBC One.

Fans of the show will also be able to read extracts from more exclusive new interviews plus the chance to read previous articles in full on Monday nights following the broadcast of each and every episode of the second series of Ripper Street.

Additional exclusive Ripper Street cast and crew interviews in the forthcoming issues of The Whitechapel Society will include some of the finest artists working in the British film and television industry…

Jassa Ahluwalia ~ Vincent Featherwell

Jonathan Barnwell ~ PC Dick Hobbs

Leanne Best ~ Jane Cobden

Ed Bruce ~ Visual Effects Supervisor

MyAnna Buring ~ Long Susan

Jamie Crichton ~ Screenwriter

Toby Finlay ~ Screenwriter

Steven Hall ~ Director of Photography

Kunjue Li ~ Blush Pang

Aaron Ly ~ Wong King-Fai

Waldo Mason ~ Prosthetic Make-up Effects

Colm McCarthy ~ Director

Charlene McKenna ~ Rose

Lorna Marie Mugan ~ Costume Designer

Gillian Saker ~ Bella

Dominik Scherrer ~ Composer

and…

Creator/lead writer of RIPPER STREET – Richard Warlow

Plus more to be confirmed!

~

Absolutely none of these interviews and articles would be possible without the generous help and support of the amazing cast and crew of Ripper Street. I am particularly indebted to Toby Finlay, Richard Warlow and Iain Mccallum at Tiger Aspect Productions. Thank you all so very much indeed! D x

~

The Whitechapel Society (WS1888) publish London’s premier journal for the study of Jack the Ripper and Victorian/Edwardian social history and culture. WS1888 have also written two books on the Whitechapel Murders, Jack the Ripper: The Suspects and Jack the Ripper: The Terrible Legacy. Please see the link below for more information including membership, subscription and back issues.
http://www.whitechapelsociety.com/