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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART II

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Special thanks to Stephen La Rivière

INT. VENDING MACHINE AREA/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

BRIGHT at his solitary repast – nosing through a newspaper with an APOLLO HEADLINE. THURSDAY arrives.

THURSDAY: Giving the canteen a miss today, sir?

BRIGHT: I was just… uh… (re the Apollo headline) Extraordinary thing.

THURSDAY: Yes, it is. Hell of a thing. Brave as you like. I was a boy when Alcock and Brown crossed the Atlantic. Everybody said that couldn’t be done. Fifty years on, and it’s the moon.

BRIGHT: ‘Man’s reach’, Thursday.

DAMIAN: Russ, what do you remember of July 1969?

RUSS: My chief recollection is peering at a black and white TV and trying to make sense of the images thereon. Was the touchdown beamed back live – or is my mind playing tricks? The pictures were quite difficult to process for my young mind. Quite abstract. Oblique views of the lunar surface.

But there was a great air of excitement about it all. My maternal grandmother was as old as the century, and it’s mad to think her life encompassed both the Wright Brothers first powered flight, and then – sixty-six years later – she was still alive to watch men walk on the moon. Quite staggering. Having seen Alan Tracy do his thing in Thunderbird 3, one might have been a bit blasé about it, assuming that – ‘well, of course, the moon is nothing special. Thunderbird 3 goes there all the time.’

E/I. THE MOON/SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

The surface of the moon. Pockmarked with craters. Buzz Aldrin’s ‘Magnificent desolation.’ The blast of deceleration rockets – and a spaceship descends to the surface.

The space-ship crashes in a tremendous explosion… A moment – and a couple of STAGEHANDS enter frame with fire extinguishers to put out the flames… WIDE – and we see the MOON is a model set.

DAMIAN: The second film of series 6, APOLLO, was something of a love letter to Gerry Anderson and the Supermarionation style of filmmaking. Can you tell me what shows like Thunderbirds and Stingray meant to you as a child?

RUSS: I guess, along with the films of Ray Harryhausen, they furnished my imagination. I would have watched them in black and white, I suppose – first time round. Like most of the country, not having a colour TV. But, yes, I was completely in thrall to the worlds created in each of those shows.

DAMIAN: Also, some of the puppets such as Lady Penelope and Marina were strangely alluring to young boys weren’t they?

RUSS: Marina, perhaps. Lady Penelope… not so much. As a child I found her rhotacism a bit off-putting. I was fascinated by the imagery in the end credits of Stingray – across the “Marina” theme. Exquisitely shot. These felt like images that could have come from a big budget, high production value movie. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the mood and imagery for Pulp’s Hardcore video has been a bit of a touchstone across the last couple of Series — which in turn took its inspiration from a coffee table book called Still Life edited by Diane Keaton (yup!) and Marvin Heiferman. I’ve got a pretty battered copy, but it’s filled with stills and publicity shots from Hollywood movies between 1940 and ‘69. There’s something very strange and staged about those shots – oddly lifeless and artificial — and often sinister, in a kind of David Lynch/Twin Peaks way. There’s something about the kind of world that they’re trying to depict which rings utterly hollow. They’re what the mind of someone who has lived an unsophisticated life imagines the sophisticated life to be. Do you know what I mean? It’s like what children imagine a King’s life to be. Ice cream for breakfast, lunch and supper, delivered on silver salvers by periwigged flunkies in buckled shoes – illustrated by Quentin Blake.

And… this does get back to Marina and Lady Penelope, I promise you… In the UK, there was that same brittle Soho glamour abroad after the war. Telephone accents. Ruth Ellis. It’s there in Betjeman’s Song of a Nightclub Proprietress — that piss elegance that pretends to something it isn’t. Del Boy Trotter’s ‘Bonnet de douche’. That’s probably a bit unfair on Del Boy – but Hyacinth Bucket is close to the mark. And I think that’s certainly true of Lady Penelope. It’s a suburban imagining of the aristocracy. Ha! You remember that scene with Jane Fonda in Klute where she goes and monologues the fantasy of the old gentleman in the Garment Factory. He’s come from the old country, and the fantasy is all about Fonda’s trip to the gambling tables of Monte Carlo, it’s all dripping with Euro decadence and the ‘pagan’ feelings stirred in her by some older man in the casino. And it’s a fantastic scene – but again, it’s that level of pretence. It’s no accident Lady Penelope ends up in Monte in The Man from MI.5. And that’s there in the Marina montage as well. Candles melting in a Chianti bottle. A vision of glamour that most of us could only dream about in the UK. But it was bogus. Ersatz. Rank Charm – as they say.

DAMIAN: You visited filming at Twickenham studios for a couple of days and I believe the first was with Shaun directing the human actors. You’ve obviously known Shaun for a long time now but what he is like as a director?

RUSS: Thorough. Prepared.

DAMIAN: Did the two of you have any significant creative differences on this film?

RUSS: Not that I recall, specifically. But what goes on tour…

DAMIAN: Shaun’s first foray into directing was a couple of years ago now, do you think he always had ambitions to direct an episode of Endeavour and why do you think he wanted to direct this particular film?

RUSS: Well – he didn’t want to open the batting – first time out, and the only film available to him to direct was the second in the run.

DAMIAN: Have you ever thought of having a go behind the camera?

RUSS: I’m already insufferable enough.

DAMIAN: Not you, sir. The second day of filming at Twickenham involved the puppet sequences. Now, I’ve often tried to get you to pick a favourite child and you always refuse. However, you must have something of a special soft spot for this film?

RUSS: I enjoyed the puppets very much. Getting up close and personal with Stephen La Rivière’s wonders. His team is fantastic, and I could happily spend the rest of my days doing nothing but working with them. What I adored was that it took me back to making my own 8mm stop-motion films as a kid. Then – Action Men were my cast, brilliantly poseable for animation – but it was in essence ‘bringing one’s toys to life.’ And there was an element of that with the puppets and the vehicles. Obviously, compared to the budget they’d had on the commercials they’d done, we could offer nothing like the same resources — but, clearly, when they’d been doing their Thunderbirds at 50 films, I don’t think they were awash with money, which brings me to my point — they have retained a very healthy sense of make do and mend, and most importantly, the only thing that matters is what’s in the frame. Does it tick all the rules boxes? No. Does it work? Does it look fantastic? Absolutely. That chimed very happily with my approach to making things. I adore sleight of hand. The movie and TV magic. What you thought you saw, you did not see.

He and they have such a genuine reverence for the original way of doing things, and a touching affection for those who broke that ground first time around… Having David Elliot and Mary Turner on the floor – and seeing Mary manipulating the puppets from the ‘Bridge’ over the set, as she had done for Anderson nearly sixty years ago… For those of us to whom such a moment might mean something… It was extraordinarily moving.

DAMIAN: Is this why you chose this film to make your first and only onscreen appearance?

RUSS: First do no harm. It was Stephen’s idea. And it kind of fed back into the make do and mend approach. At first, I think, we’d built the cut to the human hand into the story – and explained it in dialogue as part of the plot. There was a lot more about guns and blanks and live rounds early on, as a way of explaining why more than one person would have tested positive for firearms residue. But there we are. I was always very conscious as a kid of the cut to the live human hand pulling a lever or pushing a switch – and I think I wrote about that in the stage directions. Geraldine – Stephen’s colleague at Century 21 Films – had an offcut of material left over from Renton and Crater’s costumes – literally, a fragment of cloth, perhaps with a bit of braiding, was it? – and I was sewn into that to create a bit of cuff. Just enough to deceive. The ONLY thing that matters is what’s in frame. And away I went. A career in hand modelling beckons… And not a moment too soon.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the atmosphere on set with Stephen La Rivière and Century 21 working their magic?

RUSS: Well, as I think I’ve mentioned, it meant a lot. To be on the floor with Stephen and his team, and of course David and Mary. Really was amongst the happiest days I’ve spent on the show. That the shoot took place during the heatwave merely added to the fun of it. The studio – with the lights blazing – was stifling. We were the Alec Guinness Bridge on the River Kwai ‘Sweatbox’ Re-Enactment Society. As the late, great Neil Innes said when I saw him play at the Marquee some forty years ago, ‘The sweat’s running down the cheeks of my arse like juice from a rhubarb tart.’ But if I could spend the rest of my days doing that… it would be no contest.

DAMIAN: You mention Barry Gray’s music in the script and his contribution to the Anderson productions can’t be overstated. Any particular favourite themes or songs?

RUSS: Stingray is sensational. And I’m very fond of Joe 90.  The organ line is marvellous. I also like the vocal version of Captain Scarlet by The Spectrum – who supposedly performed it (or mimed to it) on The Golden Shot. I’d love to know if there was any truth in that. The vocalist to my ear always sounds like Ray Brooks – who narrated Mister Benn. Marina is a stone cold classic. The mighty Thunderbirds theme. But with a lot of these, it’s the incidental music that haunts the mind. Some of the stuff on The Uninvited – the strange Thunderbirds story set around a pyramid.  Madly, I always feel like I catch echoes of it in some of the arrangements in The Specials early work — Ghost Town in particular – those brass stabs, and the flute figure always sound very Thunderbirds to my ears. Barry Gray’s music did so much of the heavy lifting in terms of mood and scene setting. In much the same way that our own Barry – and now, of course, Matt Slater – bring so much to Endeavour. Their music has saved our blushed more times than I can remember.

DAMIAN: Was it the idea to incorporate the Apollo 11 moon landing or the Supermarionation aspects of the story that came first?

RUSS: Oh – the Moon Landing. It would have been a natural exit point for the series as a whole – as the pinnacle of human achievement.

INT. SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

A puppet Moonbase. Consoles with winking lights. The HERO of MOON RANGERS – square jawed MAJOR.ROCK RENTON in a scene with X1 the ANDROID (a ROBOT), LUNARA – one of the Moon People; and COLONEL CRATER, crusty old patriarch.

COLONEL CRATER: Barbara’s not only my daughter, Major, but she’s also a renowned Astro-Physicist in her own right.

MAJOR RENTON: I warned her not to go, Colonel. Now, she’s out there somewhere on the dark side, with only thirty minutes of oxygen left.

COLONEL CRATER: Don’t blame yourself, Rock. She was determined to get that space-flu vaccine through to the miners at Station X19…

DAMIAN: Tell me about creating these characters, the choice of names and if you needed to do much research or does hokey dialogue just come naturally?

RUSS: They were kind of Stingray-ish, really, weren’t they? Alliterative for Troy Tempest/Rock Renton. The name Renton had stuck in my head for fifty years — I think there was a character called Rod Renton in either Secret of Zarb or The Terror of Tiba – these little books I had when I was a kid. Spitfire Books. I’m not sure if they were for younger readers or just pulpy – but they were all genres… cowboy, war, adventure… and the pair in question were sort of secret agenty. The kind of story where each of the buddy-buddy heroes had alliterative names.

DAMIAN: Note the book logo – Tigers were everywhere in the 60s.
RUSS: I think the chap in the fez and robes on the cover fed into stage directions for supporting artists at Bixby’s party in RIDE. We just added the horse-hair fly-swatter. A shilling!  Money well spent.

And Crater was a version of Commander Shore from Stingray. What we were reaching for with Moon Rangers though was a show that had already passed its sell-by date. Anderson had moved away – with Captain Scarlet – from the larger headed marionettes of the earlier productions to more properly proportioned puppets. And it was important for us that our studio – Heaviside – was still flying the old flag – that it was slipping behind the times. I know Stephen La Rivière has much greater affection for the Stingray/Thunderbirds era puppets. And I do see his point. While Scarlet and Joe 90 were much more realistically proportioned, it was at a cost of what could be done. The puppets in those two shows ‘walk’ or move far less than those in Thunderbirds and Stingray. You’ve got Lieutenant Green on his slidey chair – and Colonel White behind his rotating desk. They’re much more static. It’s a choice. You feel the later shows, including The Secret Service from 69 – which was half live action, half puppetry – were consciously trying to shake off their origins. I liked the darkness of Scarlet a lot, and I’d dearly love to find a way to deliver a version of it — but the artistry and scale of Stingray, together with the hopeful message of Thunderbirds, really makes them the yardstick, and what people tend to think of when they think of Century 21. The particular gait of the puppets, which has been providing comedians with much mileage for over half a century. News recently came through of the death of Alan Patillo at the age of 90. Writer and director for many of Anderson’s shows – his work was quite remarkable. In tribute, Stephen tweeted a link to the climax of The Perils of Penelope. Really — it’s a masterclass in suspense. Absolutely brilliant. A sequence of which Hitchcock or Spielberg would be proud.

DAMIAN: Jeff Slayton, CEO of the fictional Heaviside studios, describes Moon Rangers as a sort of ‘Bonanza in space’ which, of course, reminded me of Star Trek. Now, you often mention the Prime Directive whenever I ask a question regarding Endeavour’s past – typically with reference to Susan Fallon. I obviously understand that the Prime Directive in Star Trek means that Starfleet personnel are forbidden from interfering with the natural development of alien civilisations but can you clarify what is meant when you use it in reference to the Morse universe?

RUSS: It’s [also] Doc Brown’s warning to Marty, isn’t it?  We can’t do anything in the past which might change the future.

DAMIAN: Will Susan Fallon ever appear in Endeavour?

RUSS: Well, she sort of already has. She is standing in the group of mourners at her father’s funeral. We just didn’t pick her out or have her see Endeavour, as it felt that might undermine what they have to say to each other in Dead on Time.

LAZARETTO (S4:E3)

DAMIAN: Of course, APOLLO wasn’t all puppets and explosions, and although we’ll discuss some of the key moments regarding Endeavour and Thursday when we conclude our discussion on the themes of alienation, change, guilt and paranoia next time, I wanted to highlight two of my favourite scenes in this script. The first continues from where we began earlier at the vending machine:

THURSDAY: All well, sir?

BRIGHT: A sobering thing to discover so late in life that one is considered a fool.

THURSDAY: Not you, sir.

BRIGHT: Oh, yes. I’m under no illusion. I am a figure of ridicule. To be openly mocked and scorned. (off THURSDAY) This Pelican! — is an albatross around my neck. Someone even mentioned it to Mrs.Bright at Canasta the other evening. People laugh at me behind my back, and even to my face.

THURSDAY: More fool them. Seems to me we’re in the business of keeping the Queen’s Peace and preserving life and limb. This campaign of yours – you’ll probably never know how many lives you’ve saved. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe – by the time it’s done.

BRIGHT: I’ve always been able to rely on you. Well — I must meet a representation from the Oxford traders. Up in arms over parking restrictions.

BRIGHT goes. THURSDAY watches after him.

DAMIAN: Wonderfully played by both actors but Anton’s pause after ‘I’ve always been able to rely on you’ and the poignant look on his face was so moving and beautiful. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but this is the sort of scene, maybe because it doesn’t involve Endeavour or drive the mystery plot forward, that might easily have been deleted in the earlier days of the show. However, I’m confused as to why the following brilliant “best not go there…” scene which does feature Endeavour was not filmed in its entirety and much of the really insightful dialogue not included. Was this simply because of our old enemy screentime or a creative difference perhaps?

INT. CID/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

THURSDAY and BOX in BOX’s office. ENDEAVOUR and JOAN keeping an eye on FLORA and MATTHEW — sister helping her brother with his drawing on a blotter. JOAN at the window – eye on the glimpse of moon in the darkened sky.

JOAN: Mad to think there’s people up there. Right now. That someone could have looked out of the window like this and thought – ‘Right. We’re going there.’

ENDEAVOUR: “This was the prized, the desirable sight…” (off JOAN) Sorry. Being clever again. It’s always occupied the human imagination. Understandable, I suppose. But strange, all the same.

JOAN: Strange?

ENDEAVOUR: That something so far away and seemingly out of reach could bear so great an influence on one’s life. Even when you can’t see it. It’s still there. (best not go there…)

RUSS: It was shot. Shaun didn’t care for it and asked me to write another scene – which is the one that was broadcast.

DAMIAN: Finally, what can you tell us about tonight’s film, RAGA?

RUSS: The 1970 General Election is a backdrop. All in Wrestling has a part to play. Greeks Bearing Gifts had a notional influence upon it. It features an Indian restaurant, so probably best avoided by those who bleat about ‘Political correctness gone mad.’

DAMIAN: Just one more thing; you’re having tea with a friend and there are two cakes left on the plate – a large one of a kind you very much like, and a smaller, dry looking one. Which do you choose?

RUSS: Neither. I’ve never been fussed about cake.

DAMIAN: Please yourself.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

So, Russ is a hand model now is he? Hmm…

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART I

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

‘I’m afraid I see little of anyone in Traffic, but you’re remembered – often. All my old Cowley gang. You, Inspector Thursday, Sergeant. Strange. Constable Trewlove. And young Fancy, of course. Absent friends. Not yet a year, and already our City days seem a lifetime ago. But there we are. A new decade just around the corner. Well, I must get on.’

Bright to Endeavour from the shooting script of CONFECTION (S6:E3)

DAMIAN: Recalling our very first round of interviews back when we were both still in shorts, I remembered you told me that Bright was ‘a man even more out of time than most in the 1960s’. Indeed, the same might also be said of Thursday, so I’m wondering how on earth the two of them are going to survive the 1970s?

RUSS: There is of course nothing to say that they will. But I think you’re asking about cultural and societal changes. Hot pants. Punk. The mind boggles. There was a little bit of Sir Robert Mark, I think, underpinning the creation of Bright. ‘If you drove like that, you’d deserve to be called…’ And one wonders what he might have made of a Day-Glo Mohican (Mohawk – for our friends across the Big Water) and bondage trousers. Gobbing. I think Thursday might wonder if such was what he fought a war for. The answer – of course – is that such is EXACTLY what he fought a war for. Perhaps, in truth, they’d have taken it all in their sagacious stride. From their end of the telescope – I can tell you – that one tends not to sweat the small stuff. And most things are filed under small stuff.

EXT. STREET – DAY 1

A couple of KIDDIES skip home from school. Off: the bingly-boingly tune of an ICE CREAM VAN. Kids stop and react to see:

Across two streets – at right angles — an ICE CREAM VAN parked up. The KIDDIES come to the kerb between parked cars. Traffic races past. As they start to cross — a gentle hand comes down on a shoulder…

BRIGHT: (Off-screen) Stop!

KIDDIES look to find BRIGHT beside them.

BRIGHT: (Cont’d) Wait a minute. Not so fast. That isn’t how you cross the road. If you step out here you could get badly hurt – or worse. Come along. Come with me.

DAMIAN: The first film of the last series, PYLON, opens – unusually – with Bright and your storylines for series 6 offered the opportunity for Anton Lesser to explore his character in many new dramatic ways. Was there a particular motivation on your part to make series 6 the year for Bright to shine?

RUSS: Well, I’d say Bright always shone. My admiration for Anton Lesser – as an artist and as a human being – knows no bounds. You know of old that his history is something I’ve been trying to include for several series. We got a hint of it with Dulcie, I think, at the end of series 5. A lot of people had been asking about the much mentioned Mrs. Bright, and wondered whether she was going to be another Mrs. Mainwaring or ‘Er Indoors. So it was lovely to meet her at last – albeit we were joining them at a moment of crisis.

DAMIAN: Bright’s Public Information Film is rather tame in comparison but do you remember how truly terrifying some of the actual ones made in the late 60s and early 70s were?

RUSS: I have several DVDs of Public Information Films — and half remember shooting one as a kid. But, yes, there were some terrifically sinister ‘Stranger Danger’ ones. Mummy Says – cut out animation pieces. Children’s artwork cut up and animated – with a child’s voice over. A sort of precursor to the much sampled ‘Charley Says…’ series. I think we all went around in the 60s and 70s in more or less a permanent background state of trauma and anxiety lest ‘a man’ offer us sweets or a ride in his car to a private viewing of some puppies. If said viewing took place adjacent to OPEN WATER or… a PYLON!!!!! Well… there you are. The Pelicon/Pelican crossing PIF was also animated. So we added Bright, a pelican and a catchphrase. Speaking of which…  ‘Clunk-Click’ I suppose covered all bases, insofar as you had a Road Safety PIF presented by an absolute danger to livestock.

BRIGHT: (Cont’d) There might not be a police officer or lollipop lady to help you cross the road, so always find a safe place to cross at a designated pedestrian crossing. And remember! “If the Pelican can – then so can you!”

BRIGHT salutes. Musical sting – “If the Pelican can, then so can you!”

DIRECTOR: (Off-screen) And… cut.

Off CAMERA – a Public Information Film Crew about its business. A few BYSTANDERS watching the fun. ‘Checking the Gate’ &c. The PELICAN WRANGLER moves in with a bucket of fish. BRIGHT – the star of the show – ignored.

BRIGHT: (to the DIRECTOR) Was that alright? You know, I’m not sure I would salute…

DIRECTOR: (Off-screen) It’s in the script.

DAMIAN: It’s in the script! – if only that was the policy of all directors. This lovely end to the original opening scene with Bright was cut but was there ever a concern as to what extent a character of such dignity and respect should be humiliated by his demotion?

RUSS: No. Not in the slightest. As you say – knowing quite how much dignity and his place in the world meant to Bright – to cast him down from a high place into something quite else was integral to the design. He was hurt and humiliated and it hurt us to see him brought so low.

DAMIAN: Is Shaun Evans a ‘It’s in the script’ kind of director’?

RUSS: Well – it’s funny isn’t it…  A scene that ends with ‘It’s in the script’ – having that bit cut out in the edit. If I remember, Damien Timmer [executive producer and joint-managing director of the production company, Mammoth Screen] felt it was too arch and knowing. So — no director was responsible for that particular dropped stitch. We’ve been very well served by our directors, amongst whom I’d number Shaun – and I’m enormously grateful to them for all they bring to the party. I’d also refer you back to the two signs on my office wall — ‘Television is a collaborative medium’ and ‘Collaborators will be shot!’

EXT. ROAD/SERGEANT’S HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST – DAY 2

A high, lonely stretch of road. Summer fields. Distant PYLONS. A BLACK ZEPHYR comes into view. It slows and pulls off the road outside a SERGEANT’S HOUSE – the only building for miles. A PANDA car parked outside.

CUT TO:

INT. FRONT OFFICE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST

Heat gone from the day. The soft long light of a late summer’s evening falls on a patch of wall spotted with POLICE ‘PUBLIC INFORMATION’ POSTERS – bathing all in gold and lime…

…Double doors give on to a narrow vestibule/hall – a hard bench against a wall. Facing the open doors – a drop-leaf counter beyond which, the suggestion of a back room, from whence OPERATIC MUSIC floods the building.

ANGLE – SERVICE BELL on the counter. Beyond – out of focus – a UNIFORM sits with his back towards us, typing at a desk.

A hand comes down on the Service bell.

VISITOR: (Off-screen) Shop!

UNIFORM rises – comes to the counter, and we recognise – ENDEAVOUR in full Thames Valley blues – three stripes on his sleeve. And sporting a moustache. His visitor – STRANGE – a touch of Brylcreem. Three-piece suit. Chelsea Boots.

STRANGE: This is where you’ve been keeping yourself, is it?

ENDEAVOUR’S not going to make it easy. A distance has fallen between them. Things unsaid, and for too long.

DAMIAN: Alienation, change, guilt and paranoia. These are the words that I would use to describe series 6. We’ll perhaps come to some of the others later, but let’s discuss change for now. It’s 1st July, 1969 and, as scripted, you describe a demolition scene complete with wrecking ball and three new high-rise tower-blocks in various stages of completion beyond. Later, Thursday is about to light his pipe but changes his mind and you end the description of this scene simply with the words ‘Out with the old.’

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/CID/POLICE STATION – DAY 9

THURSDAY in his office — filling his pipe. As he goes to light it… He looks across the way to BOX’s office – wherein; BOX and JAGO laughing it up – clinking drinks.

THURSDAY shakes out the match – lays his pipe aside. Out with the old.

Now, I appreciate the more obvious elements such as the fact that we are in a new police station and find many of the characters in new positions, but I also wondered to what extent series 6 might be seen as the beginning of the final act of Endeavour while also memorialising a bygone age of innocence?

RUSS: Yes, I think that’s right. George Fancy – the death of a young colleague – was to my mind the end of the innocence. They’d all taken their knocks – one way or another – and bore them each alone. One can bear one’s own pain — because whatever the level of personal discomfort – emotional or physical – one knows it’s finite, typically. But something like George… That’s something none of them can fix. That’s with them now. Always.

INT. COACH (TRAVELLING) – DAY…

ENDEAVOUR’s POV: through breaks in the ragged hedgeline, distant glimpses of that city of cupola and aquatint…

ENDEAVOUR stares out of the window. The music swells, soaring cor anglais in excelsis…

EXT. OXFORD – DAY

Towers and spires float above the treeline. An aching, giddying, tremulous beauty. Eden before the fall.

Excerpts from First Bus to Woodstock (Shooting draft)

DAMIAN: Eden before the fall. You have created such a rich and rounded world that I almost find it hard to imagine a time when there was only Inspector Morse and Lewis. However, recalling one beautiful day back in January 2012, when a young and sanguine Morse was first introduced to the world, I have a sense that both he and the show were a lot more optimistic in 1965 than 1969. Given some of the more recent storylines – for example, series 5 which Damien Timmer would call the “angry” year – and the resulting character developments, do you think you were also a lot more optimistic as both a writer and a person in 2012 than you are today?

RUSS: Oh, I’m always optimistic. Always. Take the long view. We’re an extraordinary species. Right now we’re in the middle of a f*ck-awful catastrophe of our own making – but we’ll fix it.  It’s what we do. We’re the problem solving ape. And supposedly uniquely the only type with mortality salience. Awareness of Dying (1965) is good on this. So, the remarkable Greta Thunberg gives cause for hope. The Extinction Rebellion. It feels like we are standing upon one of those fulcrums of history that come along every so often. The way we’ve lived is – to coin a phrase – unsustainable. Also – that old saw, we must love one another or die.

INT. CID/POLICE STATION – DAY 3

ENDEAVOUR exits the lift and comes through to CID OFFICE. The place is buzzing. Phones ring. CID scurry hither and yon. The air thick with cigarette smoke. A moment as he takes it all in.

DCI BOX’s OFFICE off the main drag. THURSDAY’S considerably smaller office. He crosses to a MURDER BOARD — O.S. MAP of the area pinned there. PHOTO of ANN KIRBY. ENDEAVOUR sets an evidence bag down. THURSDAY enters – comes across…

ENDEAVOUR: My report. Syringe is in the bag.

THURSDAY: I’ll see the Guv’nor gets it.

ENDEAVOUR: Anything?

THURSDAY: Early days. You know how it is.

Seeing ENDEAVOUR in CID is more ‘yesterday’ than THURSDAY can bear.

DAMIAN: Both as scripted and shot, how significant is it that the audience first see the new police station, Castle Gate, from Endeavour’s perspective?

RUSS: Absolutely key. We wanted the audience to experience it along with him – and share in his sense of alienation. Change is always unsettling.

DAMIAN: I mentioned paranoia earlier and when I interviewed the production designer of series 5 and 6, Paul Cripps, we discussed how Alan J Pakula’s paranoia trilogy of Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976) influenced the look and feel of the new CID set. Why were these important to you and how do you think the influence manifests itself in the finished films of series 6?

RUSS: Ah, dear Paul — top man. Certainly the intent was to have a chillier milieu, something lacking the warm, woody tones and cosiness of Cowley. Looking at my pictorial history of Oxford City police, we did draw on the real world new station that seemed to come in with the change from City to Thames Valley. We’ve always wanted it to feel like something that’s evolving naturally – rather than something preserved in aspic.

DAMIAN: And are there any films or television that might have served as visual references for the production designer, Madelaine Leech, this year on series 7?

RUSS: Um… Oddly… Don’t Look Now – a little bit.

Don’t Look Now (1973)

DAMIAN: From your own experience and perspective of the 1970s, which historical, social or cultural events shaped the decade?

RUSS: Crikey. How long have you got? Heath government. Three Day Week. Blackouts. Joining the EC. Oil crisis. ‘75 Referendum. That summer. Jubilee. Winter of Discontent. And then the great misfortune. But across it all – ‘The Troubles’ – as we euphemistically call them. Like a running sore. Blood and dirty protests and hunger strikes and Long Kesh, and knee-capping, and tarred and feathered, and Guildford and Birmingham, and Balcombe Street, and the Disappeared. All of it seemingly played out against the World in Action theme tune. Beyond that – the ever present threat of nuclear annihilation. But I wouldn’t want you to think it was all fun and laughter. The New Economics Foundation – a think tank that does such things – looked into it, and, having looked into it, came to the conclusion that, based on an index of social, economic and environmental factors, 1976 was the best year on record for the quality of life in Britain. I think that The Good Life and Fawlty Towers landing the year before, and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin being broadcast in ‘76 (Rising Damp and Porridge were also running) may have had something to do with it. Perhaps it’s all down to Leonard Rossiter.

But there certainly was a sort of confidence in the air. Abigail’s Party was almost upon us. What market-research nodes and New Labour would later distill as an ‘aspirational’ mindset. We touched upon it a bit in APOLLO [S6:E2] with that Lotus Eater swinger set. An internationalism seemed to be in play. The uptake in foreign package holidays was really getting into its stride.  Jeux Sans Frontieres – which we also nodded to. A sense that we were part of something different and that different was exciting. Beverly’s penchant for Demis Roussos is on one level wildly funny – but as with putting the red wine in the fridge, we are being invited to laugh at her pretentions towards the cosmopolitan.

You’ll also notice around the middle of the decade that ads for things like Campari – ‘Were you truly wafted here from paradise?’, Martini and Cinzano were suddenly everywhere. The Cointreau Christmas ad. All of this spoke to an exoticism – a world beyond our shores. Britain was on the up.

DAMIAN: And looking back at First Bus to Woodstock right up to the end of series 6, were there any historical, social or cultural events that you would have liked to have squeezed in from 1965 to ‘69 but weren’t able to for some reason or another?

RUSS: The death of Hancock. On one level I’m sorry we didn’t mark it – but on another… in our through a glass darkly world, I like to think The Lad Himself is still out there, the fictional Anthony Aloysious St. John Hancock, sometime actor, and general chiseller. There was a grain of hopeful, canine optimism in Galton & Simpson’s version of Hancock that somehow eluded the real man. Well – there’s booze for you. Don’t do it, kids.

HRH PRINCE CHARLES (Voice over): “I, Charles, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and truth I bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks.”

DAMIAN: Why was it important to include the investiture of Prince Charles?

RUSS: It’s a memory. My old man was from the Valleys, and was in Wales for his annual fortnightly family visit/holiday at the time of the Investiture. He brought me back a Welsh flag. We had a commemorative mug, too, that I remember. In terms of the design – it’s a handover, isn’t it — or a least the foreshadowing of one. Though one imagines Endeavour has a lot shorter wait to come into his estate than the Prince of Wales.

DAMIAN: As with many aspects of the country at the moment, opinion seems divided regarding the Royle Family. Do you think a character like Endeavour is less likely to be sympathetic towards the monarchy than, say, Thursday or Bright?

RUSS: Well, I think we’ve seen Bright’s starry-eyed encounter with Princess Margaret [ROCKET, S1:E3]. And there would have been a deference hard-wired into Thursday, I suppose. Endeavour – ambivalent at best.

STRANGE: Back to the day-job, then. That was quite nice while it lasted. Bit like the good old days.

ENDEAVOUR: Which were they? Remind me.

DAMIAN: The delightful little social or cultural references in your scripts often resonate with people who personally remember the 60s or 70s and PYLON has quite a few but what really struck a chord with me was simply ‘Mrs. KIRBY pops three fish-fingers under the grill’. Can you describe the smells coming from your kitchen during the late 60s or early 70s?

RUSS: As you know, my domestic arrangements were singular — so the kitchen was more redolent of the Long Weekend. Another slice of gravy, anyone? Our kitchen was a death trap. Health and Safety… just wasn’t a thing. That I am here at all is pure luck. Smells coming from the kitchen? Boiling lard. Seriously. Boiling lard. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet with Endeavour — but the rise of the DEEP FREEZE, so beloved of serial killers, is on its way. Whole livestock carcasses. WHY? Oh, it was a bargain, was it? Suddenly, a dead sheep is on the premises – dismembered and resembling something reclaimed from the tundra permafrost. Arctic Roll? You’re darn tootin’.

INT. ENDEAVOUR’S FLAT/SERGEANTS HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST – DAY 2

Above the shop. It’s seen better days. Some drinks later.

STRANGE: So, what’s the Blues all about?

ENDEAVOUR: CID closed a month after I got to Woodstock. Budget. It was uniform or nothing.

STRANGE: You could’ve gone elsewhere.

ENDEAVOUR leaves that possibility hanging – unanswered…

DAMIAN: Since Endeavour left that possibility hanging, could you perhaps answer on his behalf please?

RUSS: Of course, he couldn’t. He had unfinished business.

… ENDEAVOUR: What about you?

STRANGE: You know me. I’m doing alright.

ENDEAVOUR: There was a piece in the Gazette about an Inter-Departmental something or other.

STRANGE: The Inter-Departmental Forward Strategy Steering Committee.

ENDEAVOUR: Steering what exactly?

STRANGE: Resources. Man-power. It’s a sort of ‘quasi-managerial anticipatory role.’

The management speaks rolls trippingly off the tongue, as from one to the manner born…

DAMIAN: Sometimes a figure of fun but always a thoroughly decent and dependable chap. The beautifully written transition from the Strange in GIRL (S1:E1) to the one we see in THE DEAD OF JERICHO is happening so gradually and subtlety but to what extent are his advancements attributable to the Lodge or his own good character and hard work?

RUSS: I’m enormously fond of Riggers and of all that he’s brought to Strange. He’s a fearsomely good young actor. I’ve seen him on stage, and I can tell you, with Strange we barely scratch the surface of what he can do. Yet we may, Mister Frodo – yet we may. As with all our company, we’ve been enormously fortunate — and I really do admire and respect young Mister Rigby. He’s an absolute gift. His level of preparedness and professionalism… Anybody out there would be lucky to work with him. We see a lot more of Strange in Endeavour, of course, than we ever saw of Jimmy Grout in Inspector Morse. And that’s given us the opportunity to feather in some history beyond that in the series or in the novels. I think he’s hugely able, and that we’ve barely begun to tap into his talents as a copper and a detective. The Lodge has its part to play — but Strange is no fool trading on a funny handshake and an apron. 

STRANGE: (lightly) Seen the old man?

ENDEAVOUR: I called the house a few times. Left messages.

STRANGE: I’d’ve told ‘em where to stick it.

ENDEAVOUR: Would you? (they both know STRANGE wouldn’t) Division doesn’t like losing police officers.

STRANGE: Full Disciplinary, though? Busted down a rank? It wasn’t right. (a moment) And we’re still no nearer to finding who did for George.

ENDEAVOUR: ‘We’? I’m here. You’re there. He’s at Castle Gate. Mister Bright at Traffic. There isn’t a we – not any more – nor likely to be.

STRANGE: We said…

ENDEAVOUR: You said. (beat; off STRANGE) I don’t blame you. Heat of the moment. Like the last day of school. Solemn oaths and giddy declarations. ‘We happy few…’

STRANGE: I meant it.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sure. (beat) But that’s not how it turned out. It’s never how these things turn out.

WIDE – two old friends, coffee table between them – the width of an ocean.

DAMIAN: You know, I increasingly find myself siding with Strange and other supporting characters rather than Endeavour. Indeed, like Strange, I’m often ‘baffled and appalled’ by his attitude. Another example would be the vicious way he mocks Joan’s attempts to improve herself in APOLLO (S6:E2). Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t this a bit of a problem considering he’s the main character?

RUSS: Well, with Joan, of course — ‘If he can’t have her, he must hurt her.’ It’s a mess. What can I tell you? But, in the example you mention, it’s a man putting off the dread hour. If we’re going to look at it in terms of the wretched paradigm, this is the ‘Refusal of the Call to Adventure.’ Barf! There’s a scene with Max that didn’t make the cut – that you’ll have read [this will be included in another interview], where again, Endeavour is really doing his best not to be dragged back into the fray. He’s bleeding. Fancy’s death is chewing him up. He doesn’t want to be the hero that the universe is demanded he becomes. And so he’s dismissive of Strange’s overt camaraderie.  We’re back to Bogart — ‘I stick my neck out for nobody.’

ENDEAVOUR at his ablutions. The face that looks back in the mirror is one he hardly recognises. Emotional permafrost. The only clue that this is still our ENDEAVOUR is a wounded look in his eye, for which there is no balm.

DAMIAN: Does Shaun ever have reservations regarding the likeability of his character or does he relish exploring the deep complexity of Endeavour?

RUSS: I always imagine it to be the latter.

EXT. SERGEANT’S HOUSE/WOODSTOCK POLICE OUTPOST

Dusk. ENDEAVOUR walks STRANGE over to his car.

STRANGE: Well, then, matey.

ENDEAVOUR: Let me know next time. I’ll bake a cake.

STRANGE turns for his car – and then turns back.

STRANGE: Oh, I saw Joanie. Said to say hullo if I ran into you.

ENDEAVOUR lets the conversational ball drop.

STRANGE: (CONT’D) Started in as a trainee with the Welfare. So, I suppose it all works out in the end. (turns at his car) We shouldn’t let it go — what happened to George. (off ENDEAVOUR’s indifference) Don’t you care?

ENDEAVOUR: Would it make a difference?

DAMIAN: Tell me about Joan’s new job and the introduction of Viv?

RUSS: I think I’ve said before that I’m deeply invested in her journey – Joan and Win, actually – representing, as they do, two generations of women – a mother and daughter at a hinge of history. And again with Dorothea Frazil – very much a woman in a man’s world – taking a claw-hammer to the glass ceiling. On one level – with the coppers being coppers there’s a danger that it turns into something very blokey. If you’re going to try to paint in some social history beyond the whodunitry, then why would you exclude the greater half the population?

And – again, as I’ve said before – having put Joan through some difficult experiences, it felt right to have her reclaim agency over her own life. Her life, her rules, her way. She’s had quite enough of blokes for the time being, thank you very much — now it’s about her. Her wants and needs. I’d always seen her as someone with a lot to give to the world — and it seemed right that she would move into Welfare – particularly Children’s Welfare – right at the point that people’s need for that service was expanding. There was a show in the early 70s called Helen, A Woman of Today which had that Aznavour hit, ‘She’ as its theme tune. It starred Alison Fiske and Martin Shaw – and was really ahead of its time in the way it put a woman at the centre of the drama, and explored the story from her point of view. Hugely important show. So, there was that, and then an afternoon show with Stephanie Beacham called Marked Personal about the ‘Personnel’ department (HR nowadays) of a large business. Again – that had, in the phrase du jour, a ‘female-centric’ approach. Within These Walls – the Women’s Prison drama with Googie Withers and Mona Washbourne – was also contemporary with these, and clearly made some kind of impression. I suppose all of this fed into how Joan is developing. It seemed like a rich area for us to explore, and I’m sure will prove so. You know, Sara Vickers is just an amazing talent, and I love to write for her. It’s always a thrill to see her work – so intelligent, so sensitive. Enormously grateful to her.

DAMIAN: I’m sure we’ll talk about Thursday in a lot more detail in another one of our interviews but for now, I was wondering if the Clemence subplot was always a part of his backstory or created specifically for this film?

RUSS: I think it was always something at the back of my mind. That because much of his work would have taken place while we still had capital punishment, he would have helped send people to the gallows. Also, in terms of all that followed, combined with the situation he’d found himself in courtesy of Charlie, it undermined him further still.

EXT/NT. 13 JUBILEE ROW – NIGHT XI (FLASHBACK – 1954)

Night and rain. A trench-coated DETECTIVE SERGEANT THURSDAY crosses from CID CAR parked outside – past UNIFORMS and into a house.

Blood spatter up the walls.

In the back parlour – A WOMAN lies dead in a pool of blood. It’s a pretty squalid environment. UNIFORMS, PHOTOGRAPHER, the usual paraphernalia. A flash gun goes off.

Near the body – a PLAYPEN in which a TODDLER (2) stands in a romper suit – bawling its eyes out. THURSDAY reacts — heartstruck. He sweeps the child up from the PLAYPEN, and carries him out.

CUT TO:

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/POLICE STATION – NIGHT 3

ENDEAVOUR: Who killed his mother?

THURSDAY: His father. Philip Clemence. Commercial traveller. Knocked out brushes – door to door.

ENDEAVOUR: He go down for it?

THURSDAY, a moment — darkness here.

DAMIAN: Darkness. You know, I can’t help but think that Thursday’s backstory regarding his younger days in the army and subsequent formative years in the police would make a great film in it’s own right.

RUSS: Only if – as with Sam Vimes and John Keel – Roger could act as mentor (for a while at least!) to his younger self. But yes — when we all turn our warrant cards, I have half an idea to explore Thursday’s London career, but not as a television piece.

INT. GALLOWS – DAY X2 (FLASHBACK – 1954)

PHILIP CLEMENCE’s hands are pinioned by PIERREPOINT. White cloth back goes over his head.

CLEMENCE: I didn’t do it. I’m innocent. Thursday!

PIERREPOINT pulls the handle…

DAMIAN: Pierrepoint was the famous hangman who exectued hundreds including the Acid Bath Murderer and the Rillington Place Strangler as well as more contentious executions such as Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley. Is the latter point the reason you reference him in the script and, if so, why wasn’t this made more explicit in the film?

RUSS: It was there more as a grace note.

Albert Pierrepoint (1905-1992)

EXT. MAX’S HOUSE – DAY 6

ENDEAVOUR on the doorstep. MAX opens the door — wearing a cook’s apron, and with a knife in hand, he looks as if he’s just stepped out of his mortuary.

MAX: (re: the knife) Nothing sinister. I was just getting a seedcake out of the oven.

DAMIAN: Nothing sinister is another Russ-ism – you often say that, you know? Anyway, I loved this scene and was thrilled to finally catch a glimpse of Max’s house and I thought both the baking and his love for gardening was a great insight into how he manages to keep his two worlds at a safe distance.

MAX: Have to give it [the seedcake] half an hour to cool. Well – this is a first. (re: drinks) Splash more?

MAX knocks up a Whisky Mac – scotch and ginger wine over ice.

ENDEAVOUR: Been here long?

MAX: Eight years? Yes. Eight years. Don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest. How d’you know where I live, by the way?

ENDEAVOUR: You’re in the book. (re: the house and garden) Nice.

MAX: I’m fighting a war of attrition with the greenfly over the tea-roses. Not very successfully, it must be said. But, yes – as a spot I’m rather fond. (a moment) Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?

DAMIAN: Later in the scene, Max says that ‘I shan’t flatter myself it’s altogether a social call…’ and I was wondering – as is the case in the original Colin Dexter novels – if we will see the point in their relationship where they do actually socialise together?

RUSS: Yes, Jimmy lost out a bit here, insofar as there was an Endeavour taking his leave of Max scene that followed on which I’d thought was quite important [again, this will be included in a later interview]. A spur to Endeavour’s flanks – or at least a prick to his conscience. Perhaps one day we’ll include all the outtakes in the definitive, all our sins remembered, DVD collection. It felt right – Max acting as Jiminy (Jimmy) Cricket to Endeavour’s little wooden boy.

I’m sure we will get to see them socialise more at some point — should we last that long. But in terms of this run of films, it was as much about underlining Endeavour’s own rootlessness at that point. His lack of somewhere to call his own — which would eventually bear fruit at the other end of the run.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the first film of series 7, ORACLE?

RUSS: Well, I realised that with all the other things that had to be taken care of in ‘69, I hadn’t gone out of my way to particularly dial up the Scare the Bejesus Meter, and thought those that care for such might have felt left out. So… With that in mind, and as they used to say in the comics, A Happy New Year to All Our Readers.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews by following me on twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: MADELAINE LEECH

An exclusive Endeavour interview with production designer Madelaine Leech

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: When did you first become aware of the art of production design and was there a particular TV show or a trip to the cinema that fired your imagination?

MADELAINE: Maybe I was just a slow starter but it took me a while to realise there was such a thing as production design. I always loved rainy Sunday afternoons when a black and white film would be shown on BBC2. I hated Wimbledon as this slot would be replaced by boring tennis, unless it rained. My favourite films were 1930s, 40s , 50s at home drama so there never “appeared” to be any design, they just were. But one of my favourite films is Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit. I loved the story and even more the design and sound of the equipment he uses to make the thread. So I think this is the one which subconsciously fired by imagination. The results and dressing after each bomb blast always amuses me.

Art direction by Jim Morahan
Alexandre Trauner worked with many great directors but one of mine and Madelaine’s favourite films was this collaboration with Billy Wilder.

DAMIAN: Are there any production designers that have inspired you over the years?

MADELAINE: I love the work of Alexandre Trauner. And Ken Adam with his sets for James Bond are fantastic. 

Dr. No was the first of Ken Adam’s seven stunningly designed Bond films which largely influenced the style of the entire series
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
Diamonds Are Forever
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker

DAMIAN: You’ve worked in various different genres but what kind of project really gets you excited to the point where you can’t stop thinking of ideas?

MADELAINE: Drama. It all begins for me from the characters in the script. I start to imagine what type of home or environment would they have created for themselves. Or what outside factors have influenced that person.

DAMIAN: And you’ve also worked as a set decorator, art director and, of course, production designer. Can you tell me a little bit about your training and at what point you realised that this was the creative discipline for you?

MADELAINE: I went to Art College and studied Interior Design. I knew it wasn’t the career for me but worked designing pubs, hotels and offices for about two years. Then in the 1980s, like many people, I was made redundant. I wondered why I was trying so hard to get into a job I found very slow. So I turned my attention to designing for TV. I was lucky enough to get a job in the BBC design department. From that moment, I have loved every minute in this industry.

DAMIAN: Your many impressive credits include another detective series, Vera, do you have any favourite productions that you’ve worked on or consider to be particularly instrumental in your development as a production designer?

MADELAINE: One of the jobs I am most proud of, other than Endeavour of course, was a single drama about Shirley Bassey. A designer’s dream to be able to follow a character over many years. We started in the 1930s and ran through till the 1960s. I loved the amount of research which was required into a real person but also giving me the freedom to interpret her personality. It was a fun job. 

DAMIAN: How did you come to work on Endeavour?

MADELAINE: I had wanted to design Endeavour… well… forever really. I love the show. A little bird had told me Paul Cripps was moving on so I asked my agent to push for an interview. I was seen by the Line Producer and the Producer and I was very, very lucky to be successful.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has had various previous production designers: Pat Campbell did First Bus to Woodstock, followed by Matt Gant, Anna Higginson, Anna Pritchard, Alison Butler and the aforementioned Paul Cripps worked on the previous two series. Perhaps unlike some other aspects of film and television making, would you say from your own experience that art departments offer more opportunities regardless of gender?

MADELAINE: Yes, it does seem like that. Which is a very good thing. I think they do go for just the best person for the job rather than gender.

DAMIAN: Did you look at their work as part of your research or for reference before you started your own designs and is it more challenging to take over from previous artists or more artistically rewarding to start from scratch?

MADELAINE: Yes I did. Endeavour has its own style and I did my research and looked at all the previous designers work. One thing that struck me was the volume of graphics required so I knew from the start I needed a strong graphics department.

I enjoyed fitting in with the previous designers work and as each film introduces new storylines, you still get the opportunity to put your mark on it.

Colour mood board
Original location
The finished set

DAMIAN: Compared to most TV dramas, would you agree that Endeavour is especially ambitious in that each different film has its own unique look and feel?

MADELAINE: Yes, I do agree. It works really well as each episode has a different Director and Director of Photography so they manage to achieve this very successfully I think.

DAMIAN: I know from meeting Paul and Russ and my subsequent interviews with them both that there was a lot of discussion regarding the look and feel of last year’s new CID set and how it would evoke the themes of alienation, change, guilt and paranoia. Without giving too much away, what do you consider to be the main themes of series seven and how do your designs reflect them?

MADELAINE: We have continued these themes in this series too. But also added deceit and decay. I believe we have achieved the decay rather well with wall treatments, colours and  textures.

DAMIAN: What was the most challenging set to design of the three films this year?

MADELAINE: Again without saying too much, the story travels abroad on this series. I had to recreate some of these lands far away within the Watford area. We had two amazing location managers. So with their help I think we have succeeded in making the audience believe they are not in the UK.

DAMIAN: Considering series five had six episodes, you had it easy didn’t you?

MADELAINE: I take my hat off to all the cast and crew who worked on series five. We only did three but yes it was very hard work. But worth it and a lot of fun. Many of the crew return each year and I can see why. They are a very friendly, hardworking and professional team.

DAMIAN: I was born in the seventies so I’m especially curious to see how the look of Endeavour has evolved this year. Now, I’ve mentioned this many times to Russ but one of the productions that I relate to most strongly in terms of the visual look and “smell” of the seventies is Hitchcock’s Frenzy. It’s something that I can’t quite describe but, despite the fact that it is obviously about a serial killer, it remains the one film which resonates with me and has visual echoes of my own childhood. Funny thing, when I asked Russ to give me an example of a film that visually echoed his first memories, he said 10 Rillington Place! – dare I ask what yours might be?

MADELAINE: I love 1970’s films and TV now but in my youth I was definitely into much older films. I would love films like Hobson’s Choice. Saying that, Far from the Madding Crowd (1967 version) was a favourite to be watched over and over.

Hobson’s Choice
Far from the Madding Crowd. DAMIAN: I like the red curtains very much.

DAMIAN: We obviously got a glimpse of Endeavour’s new home in the last series which fans know from the original Inspector Morse series. To what extent do you think you have put your own personal spin on this while also remaining faithful to how it looked when the show was first broadcast in 1987?

MADELAINE: When preparing for my interview I looked at the Inspector Morse programmes with  special interest to his house. I decided the best way was to start from the end and work back. Again the location manager on series 6 was very clever in finding a house that had the feel of the original. Morse’s living room was a pale baby blue which I felt was wrong for the younger man. Due to Russ’ script and the feeling of decay and the fact that the squat which he had bought at the end series 6 had been covered with graffiti I decided strip back the walls but keep the many layers of wallpaper. It looked great and Russ even changed the action to suit the design.

DAMIAN: Madelaine, thank you very much indeed.

MADELAINE: Thank you. I love your website, it really helped me when I was researching to get to work on Endeavour.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2019: Russell Lewis Part I

Cavendish, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Cowley anymore…

THE PROLOGUE

1969: It is a new year; a new era for Oxford’s finest. A new unit base houses the set of the new police station where both old and new characters have been gathering since just before 8am in readiness to shoot scenes for Film 1 of the sixth series of Endeavour. Oh, and of course, Endeavour is sporting a new moustache.

It’s the 21st day of shooting for this film although it’s the 44th in total thus far as Film 2 was shot beforehand. Unlike my previous visit to unit base which was in Beaconsfield last year and its location safe to disclose as it would be used for the final time to make way for the redevelopment of the property, I’d better not reveal where we are this time. However, I can tell you that filming today at the impressive Thames Valley Police Station set are interior scenes in various individual offices as well as CID and the lobby with an equally impressive roll call including Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser, Simon Harrison, Richard Riddell and Colin Tierney who plays a character called ACC Bottoms.

Bottoms! Despite various attempts, Anton gets the giggles every time he has to say the name ‘Bottoms’ and after one particular take, Shaun and the rest of the cast and crew are treated to him doing impressions of Frankie Howerd. Now, if you’ve never heard Anton Lesser, the great RADA-trained actor and former associate artist of the RSC, do Frankie Howerd while in costume as Reginald Bright, then you’d better hope and pray that ITV/Mammoth Screen include the outtakes on a DVD release one day as evidence of this most momentous of moments in television history.

Putting such titters aside, in many ways ‘69 is a new beginning for the series and yet, one can’t help but feel -my glass eternally half empty- that this might just be the beginning of the end. Shaun Evans seems to be increasingly interested in directing while Roger Allam is in constant demand across film, television and theatre. Besides which, would Endeavour really be the same show that we have come to know and love if it were set during the seventies?

I can think of no one better to ask than the man who devised the show and has written every one of its 27 episodes, please join me in paying attention to the man behind the curtain – the wonderful wizard of Oxon – Mr. Russell Lewis…

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SLAUGHTERHOUSE

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

DAMIAN: Russ, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Endeavour has millions of worldwide fans who would be absolutely devastated if the show were to end any time soon. However, realistically, how much longer can it go on for?

RUSS:  I don’t think there’s a danger of running out of stories — but for various reasons it’s probably safe to say that we’re closer to the end than the beginning.  There’s a little way to go yet, but, for better or worse, we are starting to say goodbye.

DAMIAN: Could the show still work if set during the seventies?

RUSS:  I don’t see why not.  I’d always thought ‘69 was a natural terminus – but my long term partner in crime Damien Timmer [executive producer and co-managing director of Mammoth Screen] has always felt that we could move into the early 70s quite happily.  He’s usually right about such things. So we shall see. There’s something that appeals to me in leaving things a little ragged at the edges.

DAMIAN: Why was Film 2 shot before Film 1, don’t you usually shoot in chronological order?

RUSS:  Well — it’s no great secret, now – but Shaun Evans directed FILM 2, and that needed to shoot first so he had time to prep the film.  He couldn’t have prepped his film if he was busy shooting FILM 1.

DAMIAN: And why has Endeavour grown a moustache this year?

RUSS:  Mmm. I hope this will become clear in the watching. I’d seen Shaun do Miss Julie/Black Comedy at Chichester a few years ago — he sported a tache and, I think, a little soul patch, goatee number — and that look stuck in my head.  There may also – subconsciously – have been some wish to reflect the change from the lovable mop-tops of the early part of the decade to the altogether hairier gentlemen striding across the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road.

People change hair styles – hair colour – try a beard for a while – all the time. You might keep it a month or two – or a year or so, and then change your mind, and move on to something else.  It didn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility that it’s something he might have tried. It seems odd to me that – when it comes to their look — all fictional characters should have to be set in aspic.  That’s their look in Series 1, and that’s what they look like through to Series whatever. Particularly as Endeavour’s always been about a young man becoming an older man. We change – we evolve. So should characters.  It shouldn’t just be confined to the clothes somebody wears. Endeavour’s wardrobe – Thursday’s Wardrobe – Strange, Joan, Dorothea, Win — their clothes are subtly updated as each year rolls by.

But as I say — there’s a deeper reason for it too.

DAMIAN: I thought that last year’s scripts were arguably the best example so far of you structuring the various story and character arcs across the series. Do you think this might be because you knew that all the events had to lead up to the end of Oxford City Police and Cowley station, you had to write out two of the main characters, you had an extra two films to work with than usual, or simply that you’re becoming a more skilled screenwriter?

RUSS: Thanks – that’s very good of you to say – I think.  It was nice to have a larger canvas – so one could let things breathe a bit more.  We always know where we’re going to end up each Series – but the changes at the end of 1968 were perhaps seismic.

DAMIAN: Let’s focus on MUSE, the first episode from series 5 which in addition to the usual abundance of assorted cultural references, showcases an impressive knowledge of art including works by Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Now, I hope we know each other well enough by now that you won’t be offended when I mention that you didn’t receive the best education. Indeed, your days at school were rather sporadic (transcendental apex predators and suchlike) and I don’t think you ever went to college or university. However, it’s immediately obvious to anyone speaking to you in person or reading your scripts that you are undoubtedly an extremely knowledgeable and cultured man. I’m sure the internet has proved invaluable for research but you have to know what to put in the search engine in the first place (for example you wouldn’t just come across Weibermacht/Power of Women or something relevant to the theme of sexual hierarchy by chance) so where does all this knowledge and culture come from?

RUSS:  The only thing of which I’m acutely aware are the vast gaps in that which passes for the things of which I have a rudimentary grasp.  I always read a lot. One book begets another. Something catches one’s interest – and one reads around the subject. But like most con-men, frauds, bluffers and lawyers, I have a nose for knowing how to find things that are useful to my purposes.  And across 5 & 6 I’ve been aided and abetted by Amy Thurgood – who has a very fine story mind, and is very good at chivvying things out that we can press into service.

DAMIAN: You originally wrote a beautifully detailed and wonderfully epic opening for MUSE set in Russia featuring the Romanovs and Bolshevik soldiers. Did you not anticipate that all this information could be more economically conveyed to the audience in a slideshow lecture as it appears in the broadcast version?

RUSS:  Ha! Sometimes things are not realised to quite the degree one would wish.  The lecture was a late additional pick-up. But in intention at least there seemed to be a interesting parallel between 1918/1968 and knowing it would transmit in 2018.  Revolution, political upheaval, extremism of one sort or another in the air. A sense of some sort of history repeating. Prague, &c.

DAMIAN: As most Endeavour films do, MUSE begins with scenes intercut with the opening title cards which often serve to set up the story, its various subplots and characters but I was particularly intrigued with two juxtaposing scenes of the aforementioned lecture on the Fabergé egg (called ‘Innocence’ also known as ‘Nastya’s Egg’) and the demise of Oxford City Police. In addition to the more obvious parallels with the call girls and exotic dancers, was the egg also a deliberate way of symbolising the end of innocence for Endeavour and his colleagues at Cowley or a foreshadowing of new life and rebirth into Thames Valley?

RUSS:  The egg arose from wanting to include the fate of the Romanovs.  I had a dig around some of the missing eggs – and those commissioned and undelivered at the time of the Revolution — and it felt like we had the wriggle room to arrive at something meant for Anastasia.  The parallel between what had happened to her, the issue at the heart of the matter, and Artemisia Gentileschi. All of these things felt complementary – connected in some way. The Me Too Movement. Where we’d left Joan at the end of 1968.  All of that was in my mind. I wanted to do a collect the set serial killer type number — but I didn’t want to add to the long catalogue of dead women as entertainment. I think with the exception of SWAY, where it was germane to what we were about, we’ve always tried to be an equal opportunity slaughterhouse.

DAMIAN: Given that we’ve touched on the subject of James Bond so many times in our previous interviews (indeed, there’s another reference in MUSE with the Maurice Binder style of projected images onto the women at the party), might I be forgiven for thinking of Roger Moore in Octopussy every time the Fabergé egg is mentioned?

RUSS:  Yeh — it was absolutely Maurice Binder, and specifically From Russia With Love I’d had in mind.

But the idea of these images projected onto a woman’s body seemed in keeping with the general theme of the piece.

The Thomas Crown Affair
The Thomas Crown Affair

The Male Gaze, etc. We were playing around also with The Thomas Crown Affair.

MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair
MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair
MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair

INT. GYMNASIUM – NIGHT 1

Boxing match. Two AMATEURS knock seven bells out of each other for the entertainment of a roaring crowd. Blood and resin.

RINGSIDE — EDDIE NERO (50s), a small town big cheese who saw too many George Raft movies. Flanked by ICE CREAM BLONDE brasses, and a COHORT of arm-twisters and jaw-breakers, EDDIE seems to live every punch; ducking and weaving in his seat, regretful that he’s not the one in the ring dishing it out.

With his bared teeth, and goading, ‘Have him!’, EDDIE’s relish of the violence borders on the edge of something carnal.

DAMIAN: We’ve often seen rather polite and cultivated villains across Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, so I’m wondering if the creation of a character like Eddie Nero, combined with the following description early in the script for MUSE: ‘The decade has turned. The promise of the Summer of Love withered upon the vine. Comedown faces. Sour. Sallow. Tired.’, is evidence of you attempting to paint a more bleak and gritty portrait of Oxford than we are usually accustomed to?

RUSS:  I think we’ve always tried balance the ivory tower/college side of things – which is Endeavour’s world – with Thursday’s slightly more grounded world of cops and villains.  But, yes – looking at period material – newsreels, cultural material – I certainly picked up on a sense of comedown after ‘67. Hope deferred. Paradise indefinitely postponed. The Garden of Eden become rank with sedge and weeds.  The aspiration was a beautiful thing, though it took one hell of a beating – Vietnam; Doctor King; Bobby Kennedy. For a long time it’s felt as if – to borrow a phrase – ‘John Doe has the upper hand.’ The Man. The Establishment. Lately, the gangster states.  Call it what you will. But the dream endures. The reverses are painful, but temporary. ‘All you fascists bound to lose.’

DAMIAN: Didn’t Emperor Nero also have a gym?

RUSS: Up at the Golden Palace?  I don’t think he used it much.

DAMIAN: Personally, one of the highlights of series 5 were the scenes between Endeavour and Strange sharing a flat together. A beautiful example from this film would be Endeavour trying his best to focus on his Times crossword while Strange is reading a tabloid newspaper and slurping tea from the other side of the breakfast table. All a bit Morecambe and Wise wasn’t it?

RUSS:  We were going for Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (1968) throughout.

DAMIAN: How did you come up with the wonderful idea of Strange playing the trombone?

RUSS:  It seemed his natural instrument.  

DAMIAN: Thursday was shot at the end of the second series and the third picks up months later after all the drama of his recovery and the reaction of his family happens off-screen, similarly and also off-screen, Endeavour discovers Joan is pregnant and asks her to marry him at the end of series 4 but months later, we learn in MUSE that she ‘slipped’. Would it be fair to say that you’re better at creating dramatic and emotional cliffhangers than you are at resolving them in an equally dramatic and emotional way?

RUSS:  Mmm. Well — that would be one way of looking at it.  My feeling is that a lie agreed upon – that Joan ‘slipped’ – says a deal more than a plonky, ‘well – this happened, then that happened.’  There are months of story between series — things to which we’re not privy. I find it more interesting to offer glimpses and clues, and give the audience room to draw their own conclusions.  Back to Thursday’s ‘not every question gets an answer.’ Life more often messy than coming with pat answers and tied up with a bow. Things like that… life experiences are an ongoing thing. Part of us.  There isn’t a moment where a line is drawn. Things fade – but it’s a slow, soft fade. But each to their own.

EXT. LONSDALE/QUAD/CLOISTERS – NIGHT 1

Quiet and still. Nothing stirs. Moonlight over the chimney stacks and towers. A shape takes substance. THE SHADOW.

A FIGURE IN BLACK — night’s dark agent, in balaclava and rope soled shoes, moves with feline stealth across the cloister…

Dr.ROBIN GREY, (40s), crosses the quad with the MASTER. He glances upwards, and reacts to something o.s. [off screen]

ROBIN: Good Lord. Master…

MASTER: Ho, there! You! Up on the roof!

THE SHADOW — spotted, turns and melts into the darkness.

DAMIAN: ‘Night’s dark agent’ and ‘melts into the darkness’. I think the more I do these interviews, the more elusive your intentions and motivations become. Are you being genuine or is there a certain sense of irony when you write stuff like this or simply trying to evoke pulp fiction, spy novels and other genres such as your references to the Pink Panther movies elsewhere in the script?

RUSS:  It’s important to convey to everyone what I’m trying to invoke – an atmosphere; a vibe – to spark their imagination, and to do it with a certain economy.  So – I guess that’s where such things come from. It’s not the job of the writer to fill the screenplay out with Camera Directions or block the scene on the page — and to do so is looked on pretty dimly by those wearing the Von Stroheim pants and hunting boots.  But what one can do is suggest mood and describe the action as elegantly as possible. The golden age of Pulp writers were brilliantly economical, so maybe the pulp thing comes from that. You know, real estate on the page is at a premium. We’re not describing every location or character in minute detail — so we have to present thumbnail sketches of whatever it might be.  And hopefully that gets across to the director what one’s about – and the Heads of Department – and will set their motors running. Then, as we get closer to the first day of principal photography, we get together for a tone meeting or two, and everyone presents what they’ve drawn from the text – costume, design, hair and makeup.

You have to be prepared to be flexible – I’ve probably said it before — a location falls through, or actors’ availability changes due to unforeseen circumstances, or the schedule means you can’t get a scene – so you might have to conflate a couple of things.  What I’m saying is unless it’s specific to the plot, you might not be able to realise everything that’s on the page, but so long as what is substituted is true to the intent and the tone of the original design… Which is why those little florid, mauve passages of stage direction can be useful.

It’s as much To Catch a Thief as anything else – but, yes, the shadow of the Lugash Diamond looms large.  I think something we’ve done across the various series – and something that I find an interesting and enjoyable process – is recasting something conceived elsewhere as light or comedic in intention into something darker.

DAMIAN: It’s interesting that Endeavour mentions Simon Templar in reference to the Shadow. Do you happen to know the title of the book in which Templar made his debut?

RUSS:  Not offhand.  But having googled it, I can see why it would amuse you.

DAMIAN: Small things Russ, small things. In addition to perhaps foreshadowing the relationship between Morse and Lewis, was the creation and one of the primary functions of George Fancy to die and thus set up a chain of events that will be followed up in series 6?

RUSS:  George Fancy served a number of purposes – but you’re correct about an early incarnation of the Morse/Lewis dynamic.  We thought it would be interesting to see how Endeavour took to the role of mentor that came with his slightly more senior rank.  There was also a wish to give Dakota Blue Richards/Trewlove something to play beyond her more familiar role, and a fitting departure. We only got the word that Dakota didn’t want to do any more on the day we wrapped Series 4.  It seemed a shame that Trewlove wouldn’t get to say goodbye properly — so Damien Timmer and self had tea with Dakota and outlined what we had in mind. Thankfully, she was agreeable. Series 5 was very much about saying so long to Shirley.

DAMIAN: I loved the editing in the scene between shots of Endeavour reaching to unveil the bedsheet under which is the decapitated body of Simon Lake and Thursday reaching for the silver platter covering the severed head. Was it a dramatic or financial decision not to show any graphic detail or simply a matter of taste?

RUSS:  A matter of the Watershed.  Though we run from 8pm to 10pm — we are bound by the strictures of Ofcom for the whole running time as we start before 9pm.  The mind of the viewer can always be relied upon to come up with something more horrific than we would be able to present to them on screen.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the reaction at the readthrough to The Berserkers and what they did to the pig’s head centrepiece at the Shiplake Chase Hotel?

RUSS:  There may have been a certain amount of laughter.  Likely of the hollow variety.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the first film of series 6, PYLON ?

RUSS:  Things have changed.  The death of one of their number, the end of Cowley, the decade guttering to a close…  it all seems to mark a certain end of innocence. For us, too. ‘68 was the end of the Second Act.  Endeavour was notionally mid-twenties when we began – knocked about a bit, but still with something of the puppy about him.  Eager. Optimistic. Hopeful. For all his protestations to the contrary, the murder of George Fancy affected him deeply. We have, I think, said goodbye to the boy.   

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Producers Neil Duncan & John Phillips

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Interview

Producers Neil Duncan & John Phillips

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Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

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DAMIAN: I think readers will have a pretty good idea of what most of the key creative team do on Endeavour such as the writer or director, but what exactly does the role of a producer entail?

NEIL: The producer primarily works alongside the director (and the heads of each department), working together to bring the writer’s vision to the screen. You often have to work within the limitations of the budget creatively, so the show maintains its production value without too much compromise. As producer you’re ultimately responsible for the day-to-day management of the whole process, from casting right through to the final mix and delivery of the episode.

JOHN: Yes, Neil has summed it up well. Essentially we’re responsible for the show coming in on budget and schedule and to a creative standard everyone expects.

Just checking the walls, dear. Neil during a FILM 6 recce (location scouting) ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: Neil, you worked on EastEnders for two years as script editor and then became one of the producers by 2007. What were you doing prior to this and how did it lead to Albert Square?

NEIL: EastEnders was my second script editing job – before that I worked on River City, where I started as trainee script editor. Prior to that I worked as a researcher for factual programmes, and before that I was an archivist at the BBC.

DAMIAN: Between 2007 and 2012, you also worked as script editor on The Bill, New Tricks and script editor, script executive and later producer on Skins. What did you learn from those early experiences in television?

NEIL: Too many to mention! Soaps (and continuing dramas) are fantastic training grounds. Script editors on these shows learn to develop scripts quickly, it really sharpens your instinct for story and how to fix problems within individual scenes or across the overall structure of the script. Skins was a very collaborative and creative show to work on, so I was able to get involved in other areas of production, such as the edit and the sound mixes. I also got to work with actors for the first time, which I love doing. After that experience I was hooked. The main things I learned were – trust your instincts, and have fun.

DAMIAN: And you worked as series story producer on the second series of Fortitude – what the hell was that show all about because I’m still scratching my head?

NEIL: Well stay tuned because a third and final series is in the pipeline!

DAMIAN: In comparison to a regular producer, what is a series story producer?

NEIL: A story producer works with a writers room, developing the stories across larger volume series, e.g. Fortitude had ten episodes with a larger ensemble of characters compared to the usual six part series. Larger volume shows with bigger budgets often use several writers, working together in the room, and the story producer tries to corral all the ideas together while honouring the lead writer’s vision.

©John Phillips

DAMIAN: And John, you started in the industry by making short films from 2010 to 2013, served as production associate on Lip Service, and then like Neil, worked on various TV shows as script editor such as M.I. High (development script editor), Doctor Who (assistant script editor and later script editor), Midsomer Murders (script editor), Our Zoo (script editor) and The Job Lot (script editor/script executive). Again, this is potentially confusing to the layman so could you explain what a script editor does and clear up the differences between this and development script editor and script executive?

JOHN: I actually started in the industry before that. I was a runner first and then kind of fell into production at Kudos, who, at the time, produced great shows like Ashes to Ashes, Spooks and Hustle. My heart was always in scripts though! But to answer your question a script editor works closely with the writers and execs to help develop the stories. From helping to develop storylines and character arcs to giving notes and getting involved in logistical planning, it actually varies a fair bit from job to job. Every writer works differently and you have to adapt to their needs and ways of working.

DAMIAN: What was it like working on something as huge as Doctor Who which I think was during Matt Smith’s time in the TARDIS?

JOHN: It was a wonderful experience and I was very lucky. I worked with fantastic writers like Steven Moffat (obviously), Mark Gatiss, Neil Cross, Neil Gaiman, Steve Thompson. Some of the best screenwriters out there! Plus I think it was an exciting period in Doctor Who history.

DAMIAN: Then you must have worked very closely with Moffat who, in addition to Doctor Who, was also showrunner, writer and executive producer of Sherlock. How on earth do you think he managed to juggle both projects for so long?

JOHN: Ha. God knows, you’ll have to ask him! He’s an incredible writer and brain though who can deliver an amazing first draft of something and he just has this incredible capability of juggling so much.

DAMIAN: John and Neil, since you’ve both worked as script editors and gone on to produce, would you say that script editing is a good way of getting into producing and was this part of your cunning plan all along?

JOHN: Yes definitely. Traditionally there’s probably two classic ways of moving into producing and that’s either going the script editing route or up through either production managing or assistant directing.

NEIL: Yes, absolutely. It’s very much a traditional path in the UK television industry. Some producers come from a production background, but most of the producers I’ve worked with are ex-script editors.

DAMIAN: When I’ve done interviews with actors, writers, directors or composers etc. in the past, I’ve always asked them which artists in their particular field inspired them but I don’t imagine it’s quite the same with producing is it?

JOHN: Probably not as I don’t think you can call us producers artists and at the end of the day it is artists that inspire! I definitely moved into TV because of writers and directors I admired as a kid. The likes of Jimmy McGovern and Paul Abbott in TV to directors like David Lynch.

NEIL: Not quite. For me, the joy of this job is getting the chance to work closely with those same writers, directors and actors whose work you’ve admired, and helping create the conditions that allow them to do their best work.

Behind the scenes shot from FILM 2: CARTOUCHE ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: How did you both get the job of producing such a prestigious project as Endeavour?

NEIL: I’d worked with Tom Mullens (Exec Producer) on EastEnders, so we already knew one another from back then. I had a couple of meetings with him and Damien Timmer (Exec and CEO at Mammoth Screen), and that was that.

JOHN: It was thanks to Damien Timmer who I had a general meeting with and we just hit it off. He then introduced me to Tom (Exec) and Russ (writer) who took a punt on me.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has become not only a well-oiled machine but also something of a family. Indeed, often collectively referred to as Team Endeavour, many of the cast and crew have been around since the beginning. With this in mind, was it difficult or nerve wracking when you joined and can you describe your first day on the job?

JOHN: I felt it had a healthy mix of people who had done it from the beginning and new blood that Neil and I brought in. Having talented HODs (Heads of Department) already attached, terrific people like Helga Dowie (line-producer) who has done it since series 1, was a real blessing too.

NEIL: I was a little apprehensive, but everyone was very nice and welcoming from the start. I think my first day involved being driven to various art deco cinemas by location manager Alex Cox, who is very much part of the Endeavour family, and whose patience and generosity helped me find my feet.

DAMIAN: Were you previously fans of Endeavour and were either of you familiar with Inspector Morse or Lewis?

NEIL: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t watch Lewis but remember watching Inspector Morse with my family and have loved Endeavour from the pilot onwards.

JOHN: My family loved Morse and I remember it as a kid although I wasn’t an avid fan. However I thought Endeavour was so charming and elegant, always beautifully written and well crafted. I felt very lucky to be offered the opportunity to work on it.

DAMIAN: It seems quite a unique situation here and one that I haven’t come across before; John, you produced films 1, 3 and 5, while you Neil, produced films 2, 4 and 6. Why split the films between two producers and how was it decided who would produce which films?

JOHN: Endeavour is a challenging show and the ambition is to make features on a TV budget and schedule! And this series they were making six rather than the usual four so I think the execs felt it would be too much for one producer. I was hired before Neil so it was through default really why I produced the opener.

NEIL: Endeavour is a tough show to produce, in that it requires a lot of involvement in getting the details right. If one producer was working across six films, they wouldn’t be able to give each one the attention it deserves. John started on the job before me, so the order of our films was due to circumstance more than anything.

DAMIAN: Retrospectively, do either of you wish you’d have been able to swap any of the films you worked on?

NEIL: I always loved film 3 from the first draft onwards, and thought Jim Field Smith was an inspired choice of director for the show. But I’m immensely proud of each of the three films I worked on and the people who helped make them possible.

DAMIAN: But isn’t the last film of each series always the most dramatic and exciting for example?

JOHN: I loved the finale script as your series arcs all come to a natural conclusion and I just thought there were some beautiful, memorable moments in there (I won’t give you any spoilers, sorry!).

NEIL: You do get to bring serial storylines to a climax in the final episode, but this means you get less time to spend with the story of the week, so it’s give and take.

Behind the scenes shot from FILM 2: CARTOUCHE ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: I’ve discussed this in great detail with Russ and what should be a fairly simple process (writer writes script, actors learn their lines and director points the camera in the right direction) usually ends up becoming unimaginably complicated to anyone outside of the television industry. For example, in preparation for this interview, I asked Russ the very simple question do the cast see the script prior to a read-through, and are the scripts hand delivered or simply emailed to the actors. His response, as always, was typically detailed and, indeed complex, but I hope readers will find it quite illuminating:

“Shaun and Roger get scripts at early draft stages. Readthrough/Shooting Drafts usually go out electronically, and then in hard-copy, as we’re usually very close to the wire. Scene Nos., are locked before the read — and usually Pages are locked too — so that further revisions (colour coded – starting with Pink; Blue etc.) can be slotted in without having a knock on to the rest of the script. Sometimes Shaun and Roger will feed back early — but it’s more just a case of them having something early. More recently, they haven’t looked at it until just before the Read.

So — if there’s time — we’ll do a 1st Draft (circulated to Production – so they can start location hunting/casting etc..); and then a Tech Recce Draft, which will be a 1st Revision, with early notes actioned as best as possible. Sometimes with ‘place holder’ fixes, until the right solution is hit upon.

Tech Recce — Director visiting locations with Heads of Department to work through technical challenges, requirements — usually occupies, TUES/WEDS/THURSDAY in the final week before shooting. I attend the post-Tech Recce on THURSDAY afternoon, and we spend a couple of hours working through the proposed shooting schedule; ironing out any areas of difficulty, identifying anything we can fix on the page to make the shooting go more smoothly.  Anything we can drop to ease shooting etc.

That Friday/Saturday/Sunday, I will be working on the ReadThrough Draft for delivery Monday.

After the Read — there’s a lengthy post mortem/Notes session, often at Mammoth [Screen] Towers, with Network representatives; Shaun & Rog; Damien Timmer [Executive Producer and Joint Managing-Director of production company Mammoth Screen], Tom Mullens [Executive Producer], script editor – this series Amy Thurgood; self; producer(s) attending — where ‘notes’ are given. Everybody pitching in – and offering thoughts on how it can be improved. Changes requested. Any production issues that need to be addressed – unavailability of locations/props/‘heavy days’ where more is scheduled at a location than can possibly be realised in a working day. Can the scenes be relocated elsewhere? Can they be cut? Amalgamated elsewhere?

The time available before turning over on Day 1 is 12/24 hours, usually the former.  We have been starting shooting Thursday/Friday this time around. So, if you can make sure the first 2/3 days stand up (don’t require changes), and get any notes affecting scenes shooting across these days out by around lunchtime on the day before shooting, then you buy yourself the weekend to address anything outstanding, or requiring more thought – often ‘story’ things.

So – the week we start shooting usually looks like this…

MONDAY – Deliver & issue Readthrough Draft.

TUESDAY – Readthrough 10:30 through to around 12:30 — apres ski at the Black Lodge 13:00 to whenever.

WEDNESDAY – Deliver any changes affecting DAY 1, 2, 3 – ish.  (This will usually require working through the night TUES, and getting it in by early doors/mid-morning for issue to All Departments & Cast.)

THURSDAY – DAY 1 shoot — Script Dept (self & editor on phone for any crunchy bits) will be continuing with revisions arising from the apres ski.

FRIDAY – DAY 2 shoot — Script Dept — as above.

SATURDAY — Script Dept — more of the same…

SUNDAY — Script Dept — more of the same…  Often, late Sunday evening, further thoughts from cast will come in.

MONDAY – DAY 3 shoot — deliver ‘Shooting Draft’.

It is standard that the script will be further revised during production – for many reasons. Usually we try to get as much of this out of the way in the first week as possible — but circumstances beyond our control, often mean further changes right through the shooting schedule. Weather – across S5 – has been a swine; meaning we haven’t always ‘made the schedule’ – achieved all the ’strips’ on the callsheet for the day. Rescheduling the scenes we were unable to shoot = robbing Peter to pay Paul. So other scenes will be dropped, amalgamated etc. across production.”

Wow, really quite astonishing. Can you describe at what point you began work on series five and take us through the process, difficulties and challenges outlined above by Russ from your own perspectives as producers?

NEIL: When I started on the series, Russell had delivered a first draft of film 2 and shooting was just about to begin on film 1. Some of the challenges as producer include – getting the guest cast booked in time for the start of the shoot (as characters can be added or cut as the drafts develop) or getting locations in place before the tech recce (locations can be added or cut and are often very specific). All of which is standard stuff – the job is easy compared to the heavy lifting Russell has to do on each film. You just have to be flexible in your thinking.

DAMIAN: It must be extremely stressful. First of all, how do you cope on something as big as Endeavour and, secondly, since you’re both relatively new to producing, did either of you ever have any doubts you were up to it?

NEIL: We had the support of our crew, our exec producers and most importantly our line producer Helga Dowie. So it never felt overwhelming to me as it was a team effort.

JOHN: When you work with terrific people it makes your life easier and there are some great minds on Endeavour. Producing is a tough gig though, no doubt about it, and you make personal sacrifices to be a success, but at the end of the day we work in a brilliant industry and are lucky to do what we do.

DAMIAN: Series 5 was a long shoot. Do you know exactly how many days you worked and how many (completely uninterrupted) days you had off to relax during this time?

NEIL: I honestly can’t remember, it’s all a bit of a blur!

JOHN: I have no idea now but it was long! I had a couple of days off in the middle because I got married but that was it really. I’m lucky my wife is incredibly supportive and understanding!

DAMIAN: Did you ever look to each other for support or simply a sympathetic ear when things got tough?

JOHN: Definitely. Producing can be quite lonely and it was brill to have Neil there to ask advice or just have a general moan to.

NEIL: Yes, it was definitely useful having another producer to lean on every now and then.

DAMIAN: What makes a good producer?

NEIL: I think in the long term it’s about adaptability – every show is different, and every production company is different. As a producer you have to be able to move between jobs and find a way to get the best out of people while working within the rules or expectations of your employers (i.e. the production company and the channel).

JOHN: Neil’s hit on a very good point. You have to be adaptable in this game as he’s absolutely right, every show is different. I think you also have to be a people person; as a producer you’re managing a lot of different people and personalities.

DAMIAN: What makes you a good producer?

JOHN: Ha, I don’t know if I am! You’ll have to ask the people I’ve worked with!

NEIL: I don’t think I’m there quite yet.

DAMIAN: Do you have a favourite film from this series and which was the most difficult to work on?

JOHN: I genuinely like all of them for different reasons! That’s part of the success of Endeavour, each film is creatively quite different and there’s elements to each one I really love. The most difficult to work on was definitely the opener as there’s a lot of expectation and pressure on making it right. Plus I was new to the show, fairly inexperienced too, and personally I felt I grew stronger as a producer after each film so for me, looking back, I found that one the most challenging.

NEIL: I think film 3 is excellent. Film 4 was a real challenge – we had to split the army base over 4 different military locations and the weather was very unkind to us.

DAMIAN: What was the single most difficult aspect to producing Endeavour or producing in general?

NEIL: The travelling was difficult. Endeavour is filmed across quite a large geographical area. Because locations are so important to the show, we had to do lots of driving on recce’s and during the shoot itself. I spent a lot of time stuck in motorway traffic jams.

JOHN: Making everyone happy, perhaps. You can’t always do it! Filmmaking is an art, an art that happens to have been turned into a successful business but it’s still subjective. What one person likes another might not and sometimes as a producer it’s tricky to navigate through that when you have a writer, director, exec etc preferring different things. Luckily 9 times out of 10 we were all in agreement though!

DAMIAN: Do you think you’ll stick to producing now or are there also other areas you’d like to explore?

JOHN: I love producing, so definitely. I also love development and I’m working on a few of my own ideas which, when they are ready to take to market, I’d love to attach a writer and follow through to delivery. That would be the dream.

NEIL: I’m happy producing – it’s a good time to be doing this job as there’s lots of opportunity and growth in TV drama at the moment.

DAMIAN: John and Neil, thank you both very much indeed.

JOHN: Thanks. All the best.

NEIL: Thank you Damian.

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