Tag Archives: Endeavour Series III

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on CODA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

“Coughing better tonight” – The Wigan Nightingale

Russell Lewis on CODA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

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

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

RUSS:  I honestly couldn’t say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m also available for Children’s Parties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Will there be a cliffhanger?

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

DAMIAN: Will there be sandwhiches?

RUSS:  Always.

DAMIAN: What about wildlife?

RUSS:  Sheep may safely graze.

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

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

‘She should have been held.’

‘Perhaps she was.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And for Tootles…

“Bloody nice shoes”

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THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / No.26 / CODA

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

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

TIGER: Rubbish! – get off…

 

Far to go: Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with the Thursday children

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

FAR TO GO…

An exclusive interview with the Thursday children

Jack Bannon – Sam Thursday

Sara Vickers – Joan Thursday

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By Damian Michael Barcroft

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

JACK: Great thanks.

SARA: Very well, thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JACK: Cheers mate! All the best.

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

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

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on PREY

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

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

Russell Lewis on PREY

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Nope.  Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Oh – the former, certainly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Thanks very much.  Until next time.

~~~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 2810 / PREY

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

No scriptwriters were harmed during the making of this interview

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Arcadia: A mountainous district in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. In poetic fantasy it represents a pastoral paradise and in Greek mythology it is the home of Pan.

– Oxford English Dictionary

 

Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Arthur Octavius Prickard

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

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DAMIAN: ARCADIA was notable for many things of course, but perhaps some of the most significant aspects were the departure of Detective Sergeant Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) and the introduction of Woman Police Constable Shirley Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards). Were these two events connected?

RUSS:  Yes and no.  I had originally introduced Trewlove in FILM 1: RIDE in a much bigger way – she found the first body, which was not in the Ghost Train…  but that’s another story. However, with all else that was crammed into FILM 1, it was suggested that her introduction was dropped back to FILM 2.  So, it became a bit of an Emma Peel/Tara King handover.  One out, one in.

I was very sorry to lose Jack – but you play the hand you’re dealt.

DAMIAN: I’ve often bemoaned the fact that ENDEAVOUR has so many rich supporting characters but so little screen time to share with all of them. Indeed, characters such as Bright and Dorothea for example, often have their scenes trimmed or cut altogether. With this in mind, why add another regular cast member?

RUSS:  Well, Jack’s departure meant we were a Sergeant down in CID – and it seemed to be a good opportunity for Strange to start his climb up the greasy pole.  You lose Strange from uniform, and someone has to step in.  Thus, Trewlove.

DAMIAN: Has there ever been any pressure from either ITV or Mammoth Screen to make ENDEAVOUR more diverse in terms of creating characters or casting?

RUSS:  The network, like all broadcasters, quite rightly has a responsibility to make sure that life onscreen reflects and represents life off-screen – but they’ve never been prescriptive. 1967 Oxford is a very different place to 2017 Oxford – so we need to be true to that to a certain degree. To have replaced Strange in uniform with another bloke would have been a bit swapping like for like, and I thought it would be more interesting to see a young woman in the boysie atmosphere of Cowley nick.

I believe she’s brought a welcome new dynamic to the set-up.  Dakota’s just terrific, and it’s been wonderful to watch her become an integral part of the team.  But, in answer to your question, neither the network nor Mammoth asked me to add a woman to the line-up of Police characters.  Rather I felt it was an oversight on my part.   Even Carry on Constable depicted women in the Police Force – then it was a Force, now it’s a Service.  And if you go back even further you’ve got Joyce Grenfell’s immortal Ruby Gates in the St.Trinian’s series.

So, in part, Trewlove’s creation owes something to those characters.  I just wondered what might happen if we played it straight, rather than for laughs.  Shirley Eaton was the epitome of that kind of cool, capable and resourceful character across a multitude of British pictures from the period.  Ms.Eaton’s character in Carry on Nurse for example.

I know it’s the second time I’ve mentioned the series, and The Carry Ons may seem a curious well upon which to draw for a drama, but they’re a fascinating archive of little period details and social history.  Not the more rompy, period costume numbers, particularly, although they’re enormous fun — but certainly the first seven or so, up to Cabby.  And then the odd one here or there that looked at some aspect of British life or another.

Seriously.  If anyone wants to understand the British…  start with The Carry Ons.  All the oddities and preoccupations of our long island race are contained therein.  Class.  Sex.  The lavatory.

So, that’s sort of where Trewlove came from.  Not an Ice Queen – just nobody’s fool.  Smart as a whip, and as brave as you like.  I guess the other template, to a degree, is Betjeman’s Myfanwy.  ‘Ringleader, tomboy, and chum to the weak.’  And, of course, a bit of Sue Lloyd’s “Jean” from The Ipcress File.

DAMIAN: Protesters outside Richardson’s supermarket shout to end the illegal regime and freedom for Rhodesia reminding me that we’ve touched ever so slightly on politics before in our discussion of TROVE when I asked if you infuse any of the characters with your own personal politics and you replied “I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree”. I wonder if political events from last year such as Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump might make for a more intense “infusion” in the future?

RUSS:  Trump might be a stretch.  The audience might not believe such a character could exist in any credible world.  Besides, Tim Burton and Danny DeVito got there first with Batman Returns.  ’68 (if it happens) with Paris and Prague is already of interest, and probably goes some way towards answering your other point.

DAMIAN: If such recent events suggest voters on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly leaning more to the right of politics, doesn’t it make for an interesting dichotomy that film and television makers who, it could be argued, are supposed to represent and reflect their audiences are in most cases vocally to the left?

RUSS: No dichotomy at all for a politically correct, virtue-signalling, snowflake, Leftard luvvie, and fully paid up member of the metropolitan liberal elite such as myself.

The Right has more than enough media outlets to make the case for its interests.  If it falls to us, in the interest of balance, to do our bit as a loyal opposition, so be it.  But Right/Left is almost too simple a paradigm, and plays into the hands of those who seek to divide and rule.  Typically, across the last few decades, it’s been the Right that’s held sway and provided the pricks to kick against, but you’ll note we didn’t roll up our tents in ’97.  The divide is, as always, between justice and injustice; the powerful and the powerless.

At such a time, with extremism of every stripe on the march, it’s important to hold the line. To bear witness.  To question.  To challenge.  To give a voice to the voiceless, the ignored, the marginalised.  To stand with those who daily, in so many ways, both great and small, live the case for compassion and humanity.  If the best way we can do that is through a Wallace Beery wrestling picture, then, I promise you, it’ll be the best damn Wallace Beery wrestling picture you ever saw.

Just remember.  Kelvin MacKenzie wrote ‘The Truth’.  Jimmy McGovern wrote ‘Hillsborough’.

DAMIAN: Would it be fair to say that Detective Constable Morse is more liberal and Detective Inspector Morse more conservative or is this simply a reflection of the two periods in which they appeared?

RUSS:  I’m not sure about appeared.  That Endeavour’s backdrop is the middle through late 60s is more likely to be germane.  The Detective Chief Inspector never struck me as particularly conservative.

DAMIAN: And that’s all from Question Time this week, we now continue with our usual programming. In my research I found that there was a John Richardson who was an English Quaker minister and autobiographer. Did he have anything to do with the naming of the supermarket?

RUSS:  Would that we’d been so canny.  They ended up as Richardson because it was the nearest we could clear to Robertson (which was their original name – but wouldn’t clear because of danger of confusion with the Jam makers).  ‘So, here’s to you, Mrs.Robertson…’  &c. The story started out – in part – as a salute to Mike Nicholls and The Graduate.  And some of that survived.

DAMIAN: We spoke last week of your mischievous nods to future films and in ARCADIA we see packs of Frosties and adverts for cat food in the supermarket! Did you get permission to use Kellogg’s brands but not the Brekkies cat food or is there some hidden meaning behind the name Brecco?

RUSS:  I assume permission must have been forthcoming on the former, but not the latter.  Art and Design were responsible for stocking the shelves of Richardsons – so some mischief may well have been theirs.

DAMIAN: The first series was set in 1965, the second was 1966 so I’m wondering why both the third and fourth are set in 1967 – was it a very good year?

RUSS:  We quite simply didn’t get through all the ’67 stories.  More practically, I’m anxious not to run out of sky before we reach the end of the decade, which has always felt to me like the natural point to bring our part of the story to a close.  Also – the happy result of a two volume ’67 means that, should we return with ’68, then it will broadcast exactly 50 years after it’s set. And there’s something pleasing about half a century between then and now.

DAMIAN: Early in ARCADIA, the Thursday family share a box of chocolates in front of the television. Win, Joan and Sam can all be seen chewing with a guilty look on their faces as Fred asks who had the Savoy Truffle. Well, who was the culprit?

RUSS:  You know my methods, Barcroft.  Apply them!

DAMIAN: Yes Sir. In fact, it was a “Good News” box of chocolates! We’ve discussed your fondness for Horror, Western and Film Noir many times in our previous interviews but I think we’re yet to address your obsession with The Beatles (we’ll do Tony Hancock another time). Indeed, from the very beginning, hasn’t ENDEAVOUR been awash with references to The Fab Four?

RUSS:  The 60s are unimaginable without them.  I don’t know if it’s an obsession, but their output year by year has been very helpful in getting one’s head into the right place.  ’68’s ‘The Beatles’ a.k.a. the ‘White Album’ has already got me thinking about the way forward.  The clue lies in the liner notes, such as they are.

As for The Lad Himself – last week’s film originally had a slew of nods, but they bit the bullet. I’m sure they’ll come again.

DAMIAN: Naturally, there a lots more references as usual ranging from the aforementioned The Graduate, Raymond Chandler and John Bunyan (House Beautiful also a nod to LEWIS) but I was concerned by Max’s joke “the last of the red hot livers” a play on words of the Neil Simon play which didn’t appear until two years later. Shouldn’t there be a rule that characters don’t make references to cultural events that haven’t occurred yet?

RUSS:  Max was invoking Sophie Tucker – widely known as ‘The last of the red hot mamas’ – swapping out ‘mamas’ for ‘livers’ to reflect the state of deceased’s cirrhotic organ.  The joke, such as it is, works for a modern audience for its being – unintentionally on Max’s part – but a letter away from Mr.Simon’s play.  That said, as a phrase, ‘the last of the red hot… <insert your choice here>’ certainly had some currency prior to the play.

DAMIAN: ARCADIA featured one of the most thrillingly intense sequences of any ENDEAVOUR film thus far. Just before they find Verity and the bomb, Endeavour asks Jakes, “This time next month you’ll be riding the range – any regrets?” to which he replies “Life’s too short”. In comparison to both INSPECTOR MORSE and LEWIS, ENDEAVOUR puts our friends in peril on a much more regular basis and given that you’ve toyed with our nerves regarding Thursday’s possible demise in NEVERLAND and again if we count CODA, isn’t there a danger of you becoming the writer who cried wolf?

RUSS:  My impulse always inclines towards the fatal.  Damien Timmer is far more charitable. But one of these days the undertaker will be sent for…

We were all very fond of Little Pete (and even fonder of Jack) and thought it would be nice for the character if we gave him a happy exit – after all his childhood unhappiness.

DAMIAN: There must have been lots of night shoots on location for this film. I can think of lots of advantages and disadvantages for this but do they generally prove easier or more problematic for cast and crew?

RUSS:  Technically, it’s not problematic, but it does put a lot of pressure on the circadian rhythms of cast & crew.  Health & Safety and good working practices means that a certain amount of hours have to elapse between shifts, and so, if you’ve got a night shoot, or a couple of nights, then you can only slowly get the ship back on an even keel,  You claw back a couple of hours a day – or schedule them close to a natural break – a full day off.

DAMIAN: I presume you did your research and timed yourself running to see how long it would take to get to the phone box on Merton Street and the second rendezvous on New College Lane?

RUSS:  Naturally.  I also had a large sum of money in a briefcase as a handicap.  Nothing if not a Method writer.   And I always commit identical murders before sitting down to write each series. Just to make sure I get the details right.

DAMIAN: Marion Brooke (AMNOX) from MASONIC MYSTERIES makes an appearance in this film but wouldn’t it be even better if Endeavour bumped into Hugo De Vries one day?

RUSS: Each thing in its season.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see him sooner or later.

DAMIAN: You’ve written some cracking lines for Thursday over the years but his comments after visiting the hippy commune are priceless…

THURSDAY: Consider the lilies of the field? Come that old madam with me, and he’ll be considering my boot up his arse.

…ARCADIA sees Thursday becoming increasingly impatient, perhaps even intolerant, culminating in the dramatic showdown of CODA. Does his behaviour in series three mark a permanent shift in the dynamics of the relationship between Thursday and Endeavour?

RUSS:  I think we’ve always seen it as something organic.  We didn’t want it to become set in aspic, or predictably cosy, but rather something that evolves naturally out of events.  I think you’re already getting some insight onto their developing relationship in Series IV.

DAMIAN: It seems such a pity for Jakes to have left Oxford just as Endeavour and the audience were getting to know him. If Jack Laskey hadn’t signed on to star in the Canadian spy thriller X COMPANY, would we have had to wait much longer for the warmer Jakes?

RUSS:  No.  I don’t think so.  Like Bright’s relationship with Endeavour – they’ve been through a lot together, and if that didn’t change how they related to one another then I think it would be a bit repetitive to watch, and a bit unrealistic in terms of human behaviour.

DAMIAN: At the end of the scene in which Jakes helps Endeavour move into his new flat, we hear Ebben, Ne andro lontana from the opera La Wally by Alfredo Catalani, is this because, like Jakes, Wally decides to leave her home forever?

RUSS:  Wasn’t one of mine.  A wheeze of Mr.Pheloung’s.

DAMIAN: Other than this film, NEVERLAND was arguably the most revealing in terms of our understanding of Jakes’ character and backstory. This combined with his first name might suggest Peter Pan and Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks in Greek mythology which ties in with Jakes moving to Wyoming with his fiancee to work on her father’s cattle business. Add ARCADIA into the mix and we’re back to Greek mythology and a pastoral paradise – correct?

RUSS:  Again – yes and no.  ET IN ARCADIA EGO.  The notion that even in paradise Death stalks the land.  If memory serves, we originally wanted the Poussin, a.k.a., ‘Les bergers d’Arcadie’ to be the picture Endeavour saw at Bixby’s do in RIDE, but we couldn’t get clearance – copyright on images belonging to The Louvre, and they wouldn’t let us use it.  Perhaps because we were suggesting it was a forgery.  I can see how that might worry them, but to anything more sentient than a bowl of custard it’s sort of obvious that we’re in the business of pretend.  The Rijksmuseum was a lot more amenable.  But it’s mildly frustrating – and sometimes makes layering the puzzle a lot harder than one would like.  Things one would presume to be public domain that turn out not to be.

DAMIAN: Well, it was a lovely send-off at the Lamb and Flag with most of the gang together one last time but Jakes sees Endeavour pass the window outside. We know Endeavour is forever on the outside looking in, but why didn’t he go in for a pint?

RUSS:  A morbid dislike of ‘good-byes’ – formal and informal.  In his way, he’d become surprisingly fond of Jakes.

DAMIAN: And it was beautiful of Endeavour to give Jakes those premium bonds for his kid but I don’t think many in the audience would have fully appreciated how generous this actually was given the debt Endeavour is in (partly due to his late father’s gambling problems) which isn’t explored until CODA and doesn’t really come across at this point. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to convey this context to the audience sooner?

RUSS:  We’d been trying to crowbar in his paying off his father’s gambling debts since TROVE – but hadn’t been able to find space for it.  Revealing it in CODA serves the plot, but also gives insight into the essentially private and stoic nature of Endeavour’s character.  It’s something he hasn’t shared with anyone else.

Perversely, as a member of an audience when watching stuff, I find it quite enjoyable to have to retro-fit facts to what has gone before.  It gives a piece a bit more life in the mind of the viewer. I don’t think much would have been gained by knowing Endeavour’s straitened financial circs ahead of the Premium Bonds.  It would have made him even more of a martyr – something Shaun Evans is always keen to avoid.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

DAMIAN: Yes, I also teach my Grandmother to suck eggs in my spare time. Anyway, in addition to the scenes with Jakes, there were some lovely moments with Endeavour and Joan and I particularly liked her comments following their discussion of Jakes (who she briefly dated in series one) and his fiancee Hope…

JOAN: Out of all the people, who’d have thought? Love, I suppose. Don’t know until you meet the right one.

…and it’s beautiful to see that she can’t stop smiling around Endeavour throughout the entire scene. There was a lovely chemistry between the two from the very beginning but at what point did you decide that they’d fall for each other?

RUSS:  From the moment I had her open the door to him for the first time.

DAMIAN: Wouldn’t Thursday be pleased if his daughter ended up with a gentleman like Endeavour?

RUSS:  Would you?  He’s quite a difficult, haunted…  damaged character, isn’t he?  Brilliant detective, but emotionally…  something of a train wreck.  That early, formative loss.  See how deep the bullet lies.  They’ve been circling one another for two and half years.  Endeavour’s been denying his feelings – compartmentalising – for all that time.  Both of them, really.  Joan’s been intrigued by him from the off.   He’s not like anyone she’s met before.  Kind, and respectful, and lost, and brilliant, and emotionally guarded.  Dysfunctional in his way.  Jakes grabbed her arse.  Endeavour gave her his coat, and walked her home.

Sara Vickers is a wonderful actor, and a delight to write for.  She just got it right.  Nailed it every time.  Joan’s bravery, and intelligence, and utter decency.  All of it so beautifully understated. Her scenes will always have a very special place in my heart.

DAMIAN: Another delightful scene was Bright’s introduction to Trewlove who seems rather taken by her (“My door is always… well, if not actually open then not infrequently ajar”) – smirks all round from Endeavour, Thursday and Jakes. Does this scene together with his comments to Mrs. Robinson regarding her missing daughter (“Believe me, I do apprehend something of your anxiety”) and later revelations in PREY suggest he sees her as something of a daughter figure?

RUSS:  Anton has an almost preternatural grasp of what underpins much of Bright’s dialogue. There are things that he instinctively chivvies out – reading, quite literally, between the lines.  To watch him do his thing…  Never less than astonishing.  Riggers (Sean Rigby) wrote that being in a three-hander with Anton and Roger was like being at a masterclass.  They do create rather wonderful music together.

There have been some Bright things we were unable to include in SERIES 3 & 4…  As has proved with many of my deeper designs, perhaps the third knock will open the door.

DAMIAN: Green Shield Stamps and toys at the bottom of cereal packets, ARCADIA was affectionately nostalgic wasn’t it?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Being dragged around the local supermarket – with interminable stops for gossiping – is an overriding childhood memory.

DAMIAN: And was that an Eric Morecambe “Wha-Hey!” I heard when Sam finds the coveted Thunderbird 2?

RUSS:  You’d have to ask Jack Bannon.

DAMIAN: Now then, not wishing to make a song and dance about it, but you were rather miserly in your preview of last week’s film if I may be so bold. So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to compensate for that now and shower us with fascinating titbits about tonight’s film…

RUSS:  Well – since you mentioned The Beatles earlier…  Endeavour goes pop.  It’s a collision between two worlds – that of Endeavour’s generation and that of his parents.  What’s acceptable, and what’s not.  The Permissive Society – so called.  What would the neighbours say?  Vague shades of another INSPECTOR MORSE story – I’ll leave it to you to work out which. But it’s quite an oblique brushing of the shoulders – thematically.  Directed by Michael Lennox – who’s done something very special with it.  Rather not go into too many details.

But I had a lot of fun with Matt Slater putting together the songs for it.  The first is sung by Sharlette – who’s got a gorgeous voice, and is quite a find; and the other features the actors who make up The Wildwood.  We recorded it at RAK Studios (founded by Mickie Most in 1976) one Sunday in early-ish summer – and that was a high point.  Shaun came down.  And the Great Ziegler.  Enormous fun.

In retrospect, I wish we’d done ALL our ‘period’ non-classical music this way.  Watch this space. Or listen to it, more like.  Perhaps one day – when we get to the end — we’ll go back and retrofit the entire back catalogue.  Though that might mean we’d have to retitle ‘SWAY’.

DAMIAN: Last week you chose DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION and GREEKS BEARING GIFTS as your first two “Desert Island Dexters”. Can you tell us about your next two choices please?

RUSS:  This is far harder than it looks.  It was always a terrific show from first to last, but I think it’s generally agreed that it hit a real purple patch between S4 through S6, from which I could pick more or less any film.  However…  THE INFERNAL SERPENT- a great, dark, coil of a story by Alma Cullen.  Fabulous misdirection.  The central guest performances were just terrific – Cheryl Campbell, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, and Geoffrey Palmer.  And John Madden weaving his magic again.  As you know, we borrowed (pinched!) Geoffrey Palmer’s character from this for TROVE.  I hope Alma didn’t mind what we did with him.

And the first of a probably a few by the great Julian Mitchell.  (I can see I’m not going to get to cover all my faves.)  CHERUBIM & SERAPHIM features my dear friend Charlie Caine as the DJ. We’ve known one another since we were six — so I’m having that.  And, of course, it’s the story in which we meet Gwen and Joyce.  Anything that gives us a window on Morse’s past is always a favourite.  And this is one of those stories.  Unconventional in its way.  It could have been quite an easy misfire, Morse amidst the Rave scene, but Julian, as ever, proved a master of his materials and handled it with great insight and sensitivity.  Youth and age.  A story laden with melancholy and regret.

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THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / WPC734 / ARCADIA

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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The Endeavour Archives: An exclusive interview with Shaun Evans

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

SHAUN EVANS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHAUN: That’s right.

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

SHAUN: Er…yeah.

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

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

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

SHAUN: I think so.

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

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

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

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

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

SHAUN: Can I be in it as a guest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHAUN: I hope so.

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

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

~~~

coda~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Endeavour Archives: NEVERLAND also previewing CODA

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

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: E14KM

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to PC Banks

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

Part IV:

NEVERLAND

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

or

Do not forsake me oh my Pagan

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Yes, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS: No comment.

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

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

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

RUSS:  Yes – very much.

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

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

It was a Tufty Club world.

And then it wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coda

EPILOGUE

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: You’ll see Endeavour to the end?

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

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

Leave the gun – take the cannoli.

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

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

S0952~

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

~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

 

4Kx

The Endeavour Archives: SWAY also previewing PREY

NOTE: Please be aware that the following interview contains spoilers for SWAY (S2:03), ARCADIA (S3:02) and episodes of the original Inspector Morse.

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: 4KX

“A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, I’m told. But the lot of a policeman’s wife hardly gets a mention. But while I’ve been out running around, nabbing villains and generally playing silly buggers… the real brains of the outfit has made a house a home, raised two children, our children. Seen ‘em off to school each morning, clean and smart. And somehow, even with all that to do, there’s always been a hot meal for me when I get home. Twenty-five years ago I got the best bit of luck any man ever had. The toast is… my Win.” – THURSDAY

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Part III:

SWAY

With special thanks to JS Kirstie

~

DAMIAN: Last Sunday we said a sad farewell to Jack Laskey. Should Little Pete ever find himself in Oxford again, would you find a way to write him back in the show?

RUSS:  Jack is a part of the Team Endeavour family forever.  So, naturally, I’d be delighted to see Peter Jakes back in Oxford should the opportunity arise.

In real life – Jack’s playing the lead in a fantastic show which shoots in Canada called Company X – and its production dates cross very heavily with ours.  It was possible for him to shoot the first half of this series, but his representation let us know through Susie – our casting director – that he would not be available going forward.  I was broken hearted to lose him, as we’d barely scratched the surface.  But – happily, he survived! – and you never know..?  Faces from the past have a habit of turning up in Oxford.

sun1044DAMIAN: So SWAY, I really love this film. It’s up there with my absolute favourites FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, HOME and NEVERLAND. We all know that you have mastered the art of the “whodunnit” but like FIRST BUS, SWAY explicitly showcases your ability to juxtapose a detective thriller with beautifully written, character-driven romantic drama. The scenes between Thursday and his old war sweetheart Luisa Armstrong (played to heartbreaking perfection by Cecile Paoli), who haven’t seen each other in twenty years are just devastating. Here’s an example of what I mean:

THURSDAY: We were friends once.
LUISA: That’s the last thing we were. Friendship takes time. What did we have? Two months? Three? If that. There wasn’t room for friendship too.
THURSDAY: Don’t tell me. I was there. I remember everything. Everything. Every moment like nothing before or since. It’s here. Still. Forever. The scent of the pines. The sun on the water. So vivid. And you. All above everything, I remember you.
LUISA: Don’t.
THURSDAY: Your eyes.
LUISA: You can’t say these things. You can’t, not to me.
THURSDAY: I’ve no-one else to say them to.

sun1025sun1024sun1024a“I’ve no-one else to say them to” – still brings a tear to my eye! Of course, all this is particularly heartbreaking since Thursday and wife Win are about to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary! Aside from all the blood and guts, are you a bit of an old softy really?

RUSS:  Well – thanks.  I’m delighted you liked SWAY.  I’m very fond of it too. I once worked in an old fashioned department store, and I suppose Burridges grew out of that.

sun1049There’s also a terrific Avengers story ‘Death at Bargain Prices’ – from 1965, I think — that has Steed and Mrs.Peel going undercover at a big London department store; which – though heightened in dramatic terms, and a pretty long way from Endeavourland, was a great spur visually.

However, it was the Carry On team, and Norman Wisdom, I had in mind when I was putting it together.  I just wondered what would happen if you recast those almost stock characters // archetypes, and played them straight – rather than for comedy.  ‘Carry On Strangling.’

In my mind at least there was as much of Kenneth Connor’s frustrated ‘Phwoarrr!’ underpinning Joey Lisk as there was Michael Caine’s ‘Alfie’.  You can probably cast the rest with the remaining Carry On stalwarts yourself.

sun1042Anyway, there’s something about such places out of hours – when you’re doing a late night stock-take, say, or laying out stuff for a new display, or a sale – when most of the lights are out, and the escalators have been turned off…  The manikins in shadow…

sun1049aThat was my one regret about SWAY – no escalators!  But, swings and roundabouts…  And the really exciting thing (for a geek like me) is that the location we used for Burridges is the same store that appears in the opening scenes of the Boulting Brothers’ ‘TWISTED NERVE’ – with Hywel Bennett and Haley Mills…

And this is where it all all gets a bit Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  Because, it was Bernard Hermann who composed the grating whistling theme to ‘TWISTED NERVE’ — that Quentin Tarantino later rolled out in Kill Bill.  From Bernard Hermann it’s but a step to his frequent collaborator Mr.Hitchcock.  And the whole thing comes full circle via FRENZY through Billie Whitelaw and (good old Bob Rusk himself) Barry Foster, who both appear in TWISTED NERVE. The necktie strangler was clearly a cousin of the stocking killer.  And back to Morse via Barry Foster in ‘The Last Enemy’.  So…

sun1054By the way — Le Minou Noir was a gift of Camille Gatin’s – Producer on Series II — who, as you probably guessed, is French.   I think I’d originally gone for Le Chat Noir as a brand name – but we couldn’t clear it.  Though the logo survived.

An old softy?  I don’t know.  I suspect a natural aptitude for cruelty would be closer to the mark.

DAMIAN: If Luisa, after the “Fredo, hold me. Once. For what we were” moment hadn’t have told Thursday never to come back, would he have continued to see her in secret?

RUSS: “The ‘what if’ game’s no good to any bugger.”  I know what I think, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive.

sun1021asun1021sun1020DAMIAN: There’s a lovely moment in which Thursday gently touches Luisa’s hair as they part from their final embrace. Was this scripted or an improvisation from Roger?

RUSS:  I don’t think it was scripted.  It might have been a suggestion of Andy’s – the director – but it’s just as likely to have been something improvised by Roger.

He likewise improvised the front end of Thursday’s farewell speech to Jakes at the pub in ARCADIA – the one that invokes all the Cowboy film titles.  That was all Rog.  And rather marvellous it was too.   They were light on dialogue on the floor to cover a camera move that Bryn had in mind, and for some reason couldn’t reach me or Sam Costin – so…  Cometh the hour — cometh the Allam.

DAMIAN: Another gem of a moment occurs shortly afterwards. Thursday returns home, hangs up the hat and coat and just stares silently at himself in the mirror. Mrs Thursday offers him stew and dumplings and he looks away from the mirror and at her – a moment – but what was he thinking?

RUSS:  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

sun1018sun1019sun1019aHere’s this young man from cold grey old England and he finds himself literally parachuted in to this country of colour, dazzling sunlight and heat.  Sights, smells, tastes unlike anything he’s ever experienced before.  He’s living on his wits – death at his shoulder.  Hunted.  Running with the partisans.  Jeeping one step ahead of those who would kill him.  Aware that each day could be his last.  And he’s got Luisa working with him…

They were young.  Love and death.  Two faces on the coin of life.  The heart chooses.  I felt it made him human.  Had he known that she survived the massacre, he might never had come back to England.  But he didn’t – and so he came back and picked up the threads of his life. Made a go of it.  And it’s been a good life.  Win, and Joan and Sam.

sun1031I think that the realisation is there when he looks into the mirror.  This is who he is.

And it ties in to a warning from the Code that was drummed into us as kids when the 5th of November rolled around – “NEVER RETURN TO A FIREWORK ONCE LIT.”  Which was all of a piece with everything else that was going on in the story.  Strange on Patrol in civvies.  Endeavour and Nurse Hicks at the bus-stop, etc.

DAMIAN: Was Luisa’s fate always that which occurred on screen or were there other possibilities in your mind?

RUSS: (WARNING!  INSPECTOR MORSE SPOILERS FOLLOW!) No – it was always going to be a tragic ending.  The jumping off point was DEAD ON TIME – and the Morse/Susan Fallon axis. Lewis finding the cassette tape – and disposing of it.  I thought it might be interesting to turn that coat inside out – and make it Thursday who had the romantic history with a suspect.

sun1015In early drafts of SWAY, I think right up until the readthrough draft – ENDEAVOUR kept the contents of Luisa’s letter from THURSDAY.  Shielded him from the pain it contained.  As with Lewis and the cassette tape.  But Shaun wasn’t comfortable with that.  He didn’t feel he had the right to keep something like that from Thursday.  And so the final few scenes were rejigged to the version we went with.

SUN1014ADAMIAN: I don’t think I’ve seen Cecile in anything before, how did she come to be cast in the part?

RUSS:  Cecile was brought in by Susie Pariss.  And if you ever watched Bergerac you will certainly have seen her.  She was terrific.  Thought she invested the whole thing with great dignity and extraordinary depths of hidden sorrow.

sun1022DAMIAN: I understand that there is a cast read-through for all the scripts before filming begins, what was the reaction to the first draft of SWAY, particularly from Roger Allam?

RUSS:  I think Roger was pleased with it.  Something ‘meaty’ – as he’d describe it — for him to get his teeth into.  Read-throughs are typically our last chance to tinker with the script before its issued as a Shooting Draft.  They usually take place at the front end of the week between shoots – and I have until Friday to turn around any late thoughts or changes arising from the read.  Sometimes it’ll be a production thing – a location or a scheduling issue that’s not going to work for us.  But we always have the Network in attendance, and they point up any plot or dialogue things they’re not happy with – and likewise with Shaun and Rog.  We read the script through, then hunker down for a couple of post mortems.  One with the broadcaster – line changes, etc., points of contention – and then one with the boys.  The director sits in on both.

DAMIAN: Was there ever a conscious decision either by yourself or Roger that there should be a very Thursday-heavy film that explored his past in such detail?

RUSS:  Yeh – I’d wanted to see a bit more of Thursday’s past life.  It had been kicking around in the back of my head even on Series I – and I think I’d mentioned it to Rog even then.   I thought it would be interesting if we muddied the water a bit.  Filled in some of the blanks.   I like characters that are carrying some baggage.   Some folk got a bit cross about it – and thought his involvement with Luisa diminished him in some way.  I didn’t.  Clearly.

I think I mentioned previously – I didn’t want Endeavour – as a character — to be some sort of sexless, neutered, teenybopper fantasy that just held hands and recited Baudelaire over buttered muffins.  And it was the same with Thursday.  He’s lived a life.

SUN1014DAMIAN: As straight as a die. Decent. Unafraid. Those are your words to describe DI Fred Thursday. You once told me that you have known people with his qualities, could you tell us who they were please?

RUSS:  My old man – principally.  Fred Thursday’s war bears a more than passing resemblance to his.  Others of his class and generation.  His brothers.  Mining stock from the Valleys of South Wales.  Some great-uncles on my maternal side who fought in the Great War.  Lancashire Pals.  Signed up under-age.  Out of the mill and into the trenches.

sun1026DAMIAN: There’s a piece of music that plays throughout SWAY including a scene between Thursday and Luisa and the when Huggins tries to strangle his final victim. It took me a while to place it but I went through my John Barry collection and realized it was very similar to his music score for The Ipcress File. Is this an original piece by Barrington and if so, the Barry influence can’t be a coincidence surely?

RUSS:  I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast.  But Barrington’s not much minded to pastiche, so it seems unlikely.  I’m not sure if you’re talking about the ‘record’ that the killer puts on.  In the UK transmission that was Dean Martin’s version of ‘SWAY’ from which the story took its title, but we couldn’t get clearance for the International version, and that includes DVD and iTunes versions – so, it was substituted…  I’m pretty sure it was a library piece.

DAMIAN: Well, the piano has stopped and the beer has run dry, please tell us what you can about tonight’s film, PREY…

RUSS:   Hmm.  Past and future brush shoulders.  To which end I’m indebted to our Line Producer Helga Dowie for making sure we had the right location.  There’s a very loose connection to Joss Bixby’s ‘Belvedere Set’.  It’s quite a pastoral piece.  Not much more I can tell you on this one.   Except of course…  be afraid.

EndeavourPREY~

Every life holds one great love. One name to hold onto at the end. One face to take into the dark…
– Luisa Armstrong

1008Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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The Endeavour Archives: NOCTURNE also previewing ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #7

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~

With thanks to Hilary Bray

Camille Pleyel

and Wynnie Stoan

~

SO, last week I was telling you about the eleventh day of shooting and the first on location in Oxford for Series 3 – Film 1: RIDE. You’ll forgive me if I didn’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but I hope to rectify that now the episode has been broadcast.

Radcliffe Square was the first of the day’s three location shoots. Rehearsals and sound checks etc. were all well underway by the time I got there at 08:22. Remarkably, considering the scene only lasts just over two minutes in the final cut that you will have seen last Sunday, it took until 10:43 to get the required footage. But then, despite the promise of spring (12 April 2015), it was bloody cold and windy – so much so that they had to stop filming because Shaun’s eyes were watering. Indeed, I don’t think I ever expected to see Endeavour Morse jogging on the spot outside the Bodleian to keep warm.

However, in addition to the weather, cast and crew had to contend with various obstacles including unruly cyclists and a particularly angry delivery man – all determined on making a cameo appearance. It is testament to the good natured family atmosphere enjoyed by both cast and crew that they all remained so humorous and patient – although, since I’m posting this on a Sunday, I won’t reveal what Roger said when confronted by a group of snap-happy tourists hell-bent on a selfie or two.

Needless to say, a lot of cheese and pickle sandwiches were eaten that morning. Anyway, more of this later. I’ve also included a full transcript of the scene in question at the end of the following interview as there is a particularly lovely moment between Endeavour and Thursday which was sadly cut from the final edit. For now though, here’s the second part of an exclusive interview as we continue to explore series two while offering the odd glimpse of tonight’s film…

1052Part II:

NOCTURNE

DAMIAN: As with FUGUE (S1:02), the second film of series two also happens to be a horror/thriller story. Will tonight’s film ARCADIA continue the trend for series three?

RUSS:  The short answer is no.  There was a request to shake the Selection Box a little this time out — so that we didn’t get too predictable.  There is an ‘ENDEAVOUR does… (insert genre here)’ film amongst the four, but we have swapped the order around a little.

1100DAMIAN: We talked about your love of horror in one of our interviews last year and there are so many references again in NOCTURNE but would it be fair to say that THE INNOCENTS (1961), the work of M. R. James’ and the seventies GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS were particular inspirations for the mood and tone of this film?

RUSS:  All of those things.  PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK came up a bit too — in my discussions with the Director, such as they were.

1056DAMIAN: While we were doing our interview prior to the broadcast of NOCTURNE, you mentioned that the actual backstory regarding the Victorian murders sprang from a loose personal connection with the murder of Francis Saville Kent and an affectionate tribute to Dan McCulloch (producer of series one), could you elaborate on this please?

RUSS:  In the late 70s, I worked on a BBC dramatisation of the Constance Kent case which was shot in the West Country – as near as damn it to the original locations.  If I remember right – the cast had an anniversary supper – on the evening of the murder.

I suppose we were down there two to three months — across the summer.  Staying in various hotels.  One in the Quantocks had a touch of Fawlty Towers about it.  Not in the service – but in the 70s atmos.  Public telephone in the hallway – with a ‘hood’ for privacy!  This was an England where a glass of orange juice was often offered as a ‘Starter’.

Fawlty Towers’ ‘The Wedding Party’ with the flirty French guest who goes out in an evening to sample the delights of Torquay..?  Mad, but there’s something about the still, summer-night blackness beyond the entrance that absolutely nails what this hotel was like.

One of the locations we used was a house owned by a Headmaster at some school or other — I can’t remember where exactly — and, though a much smaller building, that had a feel of Shrive Hill House.  While the crew were filming outside, I had an explore of the servants’ quarters and attic.  It stuck in my head, and provided the jumping off point for Endeavour exploring the upper floors of Blythe Mount.

The tribute to Dan…    Well, he’s a Home Counties boy — and Dorking has some very pertinent personal associations for him.  It was a tease — the notion that he might end his days a hopeless rummy in a rooming house there.  In truth, I can think of no future for him that would be less likely.

1054DAMIAN: Morse tells us that “this place [Shrive Hill House/Blythe Mount School for Girls] is like a honeycomb; backstairs and concealed corridors…” which instantly reminded me of Poe, particularly the Corman film version of The Fall of the House of Usher (1960). While there’s an abundance of gothic elements and nods to the genre (note the Hammer Horror double-bill that gives Strange “the proper willies”) in some of your scripts, I thought that NOCTURNE, unlike FUGUE, was similar to The Hound of the Baskervilles in that it takes a detective famous for their logic and deductive reasoning and places them in an apparently supernatural setting which almost stretches the conventions of Morse to bursting point. While I, and I’m sure other “connoisseurs of the macabre”, loved every moment, were there any concerns that the audience might find it a little too Scooby-Doo?

RUSS:  I suppose it may have been a stretch for some, but I hoped we’d built up enough trust with the audience over the preceding films that they’d go with us.  Probably just me trying to have my penny and my bun.  But – for all the ghostly bells and whistles — we did try to play fair by the rules of the whodunit.

It’s interesting that you reference The Fall of the House of Usher.  Though Blythe Mount didn’t crumble into the tarn, in the original, early drafts of NOCTURNE, the school went up a raging blaze – Endeavour hunting for Bunty and the killer through the smoke and flames; an ending like so many Hammer Horrors – but, the director wasn’t keen.  So…

1055DAMIAN: Who is your favourite screen Sherlock Holmes by the way?

RUSS:  Oh – that’s hard.  Benedict Cumberbatch is doing great work, of course.  A Sherlock for the 21st century.  Modern and thrilling.

Perhaps it’s like the Doctor – every generation has its own Sherlock.  For someone of my years… Jeremy Brett is hard to trump.  One of Paget’s illustrations sprung to life.  I did see him and Edward Hardwicke do The Secret of Sherlock Holmes on stage, which was rather wonderful. But I remember when the first of the series went to air – JB’s brilliance notwithstanding, it was David Burke’s Watson that was the real great leap forward.  They redefined the relationship – after decades of a kind of ‘received’ performance from the what-what-what? school of Watson, David Burke restored his dignity.

Basil Rathbone was the Sherlock I grew up with as a kid, with the movies on re-run, so I’ve a great fondness for his portrayal.  That would have been the first Sherlock that properly registered with me.  Peter Cushing was terrific.

Blasphemous, perhaps, so say it softly, but I thought Robert Downey Jnr & Jude Law made a pretty decent fist of it in the two Guy Richie movies.  Jared Harris was a corking Moriarty.  And Eddie Marsan’s Lestrade…  On screen for all too brief a time, but not a second of it wasted.  But then Eddie Marsan’s work always has such integrity.  I don’t think he’s ever played a false moment.  You know – like Edmund Reid, or Fred Abberline – one didn’t become a Detective Inspector in Late Victorian London by being dull-witted.  I think you really feel that with Eddie Marsan’s portrayal.  That he could handle himself – intellectually and physically.

Nicol Williamson was interesting in The Seven Per Cent Solution, but a bit of a stressful watch. Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin’s Sigmund Freud, though.  Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin in anything.  Weirdly enough – it was Arkin’s turn in ‘Wait Until Dark’ I had in mind for the photographer in TROVE.  That sort of Paul Simon ‘do’?  A sort of… French Crop, is it?  But, sadly – the look fell by the wayside.

However…  ‘favourite’ Holmes…  I have a very special place in my heart for Christopher Plummer’s turn in Murder By Decree.  James Mason also gives a hugely entertaining old school Watson.  ‘You squashed my pea!’

Of course, like From Hell — it shadows the late Stephen Knight’s now much discredited hypothesis.  But the yarn spun, and the supporting cast…  Frank Finlay’s Lestrade; Donald Sutherland’s Robert Lees; Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir John Gielgud, and a cracking turn by David Hemmings…  together with a suitably creepy score and cracking production values, makes for an altogether irresistible two hours.   Great opening model shot of London skyline too.  If you haven’t seen it…  Great fun!

But he’s crime fiction’s answer to Hamlet, isn’t he?  It’s quite possible that the greatest Holmes may not have been born yet.

DAMIAN: I loved the moment when the author of “Plighted Cunning: An account of the Blaise-Hamilton murders”, Stephen Fitzowen (splendid Desmond Barrit), bangs on the door of the school and says in a very Lionel Grisbane sort of way, “Good Evening” which I almost expected him to follow with “I have returned…”. Was there a particular model for the character or an actor in mind to play him as you wrote the part?

RUSS:  Yeh – Desmond was great.  I think the stage direction in the shooting script featured an exterior establishing shot – which was Fitzowen getting out of a taxi, and framed in a halo of light from a lamp by the door – portable recording equipment in hand, standing in for Max Von Sydow’s suitcase.  But in the end – for scheduling reasons — this was never shot.

That whole sequence was intended to take place on a dark and stormy night.  Thunder. Lightning.  If you’re going to embrace the tropes..?  All or nothing at all.  But, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince the director to get behind it.  C’est la guerre.

1030The character was a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse – which featured a writer Owen Fitzstephan right at the heart of proceedings.   There was an adaptation of this in the 70s with James Coburn as ‘Ham Nash’, the Gumshoe; and everyone’s favourite troubled Jesuit — Jason Miller — as Fitzstephan (which was another happy connection.)

My memory is a dented and wonky sieve, but I think Fitzowen was originally several characters; including a trio of academics with an interest in parapsychology.  I don’t think I went as far as naming them Venkman, Spengler & Stanz, but that’s certainly what I was drawing on.  Just a bit of fun.  Seeing how they played out as dramatic characters, rather than comedic ones.  Sadly – due to space and budget – they ended up biting the bullet, and some of their material was grafted on to Fitzowen.

1036But he was a type, more than anything…  A touch of Ronnie Barker’s ‘Magnificent Evans’ in there.  Maybe even a bit of Ed Reardon.  Some of that… Neil Oliver is it?  The TV historian?  Some of that Celtic ‘WhooOOOOoo!’ in the delivery.  A chap, one suspects, who could invest even the most commonplace occurrence with a suggestion of the fey folk at work or the Gods at dice.  I’d love to hear him order breakfast.

It was a bit of a pig for poor old Des – especially the magic lantern show, which featured hideous amounts of unadulterated plot-spiel.  Lines like that are very difficult to get down – as there’s nothing to play off.  No cues.  But he did it wonderfully.

103310341035DAMIAN: Once again, this film features a plethora of cultural references including, in addition to those already mentioned, Lewis Carroll, Ian Fleming, Philip Larkin, Charles Perrault, P. G. Wodehouse and John Wyndham to name but a few. At what point do these occur to you, is it through the research and writing stage or do they forever reside within your consciousness rather like Simonides’ method of loci?

RUSS:  Mostly just flotsam and jetsam swilling around the cloaca maxima that serves for a mind.

DAMIAN: And is Plighted Cunning simply a reference to King Lear and, if so, was this used because of the story, like NOCTURNE, concerns themes of betrayal and justice regarding a father’s fortune?

RUSS:  I think – because I was drawing on the Murder at Rode (Road) Hill House – that I was trying to find a title that had an echo of Cruelly Murdered by Bernard Taylor.   That and Yseult Bridges’ The Saint With Red Hands – were our two main guidebooks to the case.  I think I was just trying to come up with a title that a rather florid character such as Fitzowen might have used, and it seemed to chime.  The Queens of the Golden Age plundered Shakespeare, so it felt right and fitting to follow their example.  One of those three in the morning decisions that’s hard to accurately recall after such a passage of time.

DAMIAN: I know you’re fond of walking, to what extent have your adventures manifested themselves into your scripts such as the Domesday Book (TROVE) and Holmwood Park Sanitorium (NOCTURNE) for example?

RUSS:  Quite a bit, I suppose.  You do see some odd things.  Long abandoned vehicles in unlikely places.   The caravans in NEVERLAND came from one I’d seen in a state of advanced disintegration.  It was on a regular route – and, over a couple of years, I just watched this thing gradually disappear.  Actually, when I first saw it, the caravan looked rather like the mobile home at the start of THEM!  Torn open.  Thankfully no fifteen foot ants came whiffling out of the tulgey wood.  But yes – I’m a sucker for the atmosphere of such places.

Holmwood Park first put in an appearance in LEWIS – Falling Darkness – and it seemed fun to fold it back into ENDEAVOUR in some way.  I think I read somewhere, or someone told me, about a place like Holmwood Park, not too far from Oxford, where undergrads that had burnt-out sometimes ended up.  A kind of proto-Priory.  Quite a lot of derelict medical facilities out there.  Nature reclaiming buildings.  Creeping decay.  Ruin.  Damp.  Fungi.  And there’s definitely a sense of frozen in aspic about some of them.  Time stopped.  Some of the larger sites – the staff social areas – clubs and canteens.  Press your nose up against the window and you can see cabinets still filled with old Darts trophies – shields and cups.  Round Robin Tennis fixtures – decades out of date.  Fantastic.

DAMIAN: There are close-ups of “Plighted Cunning” in NOCTURNE and we regularly see various shots of articles and clippings from The Oxford Mail. Given their detail and relevance to the plots, who actually writes these?

RUSS:  Sam Costin creates the text for these – and he’s an absolute genius at it.

10421041DAMIAN: Where are all the props such as Plighted Cunning and the autographed Rosalind Calloway LP (from FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK) stored?

RUSS:  In various prop-houses and storage facilities.

DAMIAN: How was Chopin’s Nocturne chosen?

RUSS:  It’s a favourite.  They’re all terrific, but something about the one we went with seemed to my ear even more eerie than its fellows.  And I thought if we could put that on a musical box…

DAMIAN: We talked about film noir last week so I was intrigued to discover there is actually a 1946 George Raft movie in that genre called Nocturne! – were you aware of this or is it just a coincidence?

RUSS:  It is just a coincidence.

DAMIAN: There are some lovely moments between Morse and Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) and there has been an obvious attraction and chemistry between the two since the first series. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see them destined for a bit of slap and tickle or perhaps I should say a bit of how’s your father?

RUSS:   It’s an interesting relationship.  And the chemistry is rather lovely to watch.  I do know exactly how it’s going to evolve, but more than that…  I can’t say.

1049DAMIAN: Another scene which I adore was between Morse and Max after the young girl Maud Ashenden is murdered. Max says to Morse, “Adults, one takes the rough with the smooth. But this… you find this piece of work, Morse. You find whoever did that. For me, all right? You find them…”. An absolutely beautiful moment in which Morse expresses sympathy but also genuine surprise at Max’s unusual lamentation for a corpse. Was this purely because it was a child’s death or were there possibly hints that there might be other reasons that it resonated with Max to such an extent?

RUSS:  I thought it would be nice to see another side of Max.  The typically sanguine and unflappable pathologist undone by the brutal ruin wrought upon poor Maudie.  And Jimmy Bradshaw played it – as always — to perfection.  I don’t have a lot of room to cast as much light as I’d like to upon those most intimately involved with Endeavour – mainly for reasons of time, and the demands of unspooling the plot, but I hope I can give some clues here and there as to what makes them tick.  Nice for the actors to have something to play, rather than simply offering ‘just the facts, ma’am.’

1046aDAMIAN: In the absence of you actually telling us anything about tonight’s film ARCADIA, can you please say something clever and cryptic instead?

RUSS:   Well, we’ve done the Manufactory; the Department Store; and so this is – to some small degree – our ‘Ladybird Book of the Supermarket.’ A key player from Morse’s later adventures puts in an appearance.  And we touch on Endeavour’s childhood connection to Quakerism.  One door opens…

ARCADIA~~~

101. EXT. OXFORD LOCATION PARK BENCH [Radcliffe Square] – DAY 5

ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY.

ENDEAVOUR: Didn’t you say that was Harry Rose’s business?

THURSDAY: Slots? In part. Harry Rose has been at it since the Devil was in short trousers. Oh — and it’s definitely Bixby by the way. Dr.deBryn was able to match his prints to a number of latents taken from the house. (digs out sandwiches) Right.

ENDEAVOUR: You’ve seen them? Cheese and pickle. The Belboroughs?

THURSDAY: All bar the tennis player. She stayed at the Randolph. The rest haven’t got a decent alibi between them for Bixby. Though your mate Anthony Donn says he was with Belborough the night Jeannie was killed. (a moment) You really think there’s a connection between Harry Rose and this bloke at the shooting gallery?

ENDEAVOUR: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just stumbling around.

THURSDAY: What you’re good at.

THURSDAY eats his sandwich – watches the world go by.

ENDEAVOUR: The first week I hardly slept. I didn’t know if I was going to be found hanged from the bars of the cell, or take a dive from the top walk. (off Thursday) Every night I expected to hear boots on the landing – the key in the lock – but nobody came by. A month. I didn’t know if you were alive or dead. That was the worst of it. No. Not quite. The worst was… Knowing it was my fault.

THURSDAY — appalled.

ENDEAVOUR: (CONT’D) I was too slow. My stupidity nearly left Mrs.Thursday a widow, and…

The thought is too much for him.

THURSDAY: I knew walking in to Blenheim Vale that I might not walk out. (That’s) The job, I suppose. Something bad like that? Sometimes you’ve to put all you are against all they’ve got. It was my decision. And I’d do it again without a second thought. Don’t ever blame yourself.

ENDEAVOUR: If I’d been quicker off the mark…

THURSDAY: You were there at the end. Nobody else. You had the chance to run. To look to your own neck. But you didn’t. You stood. A pinch like that, it’s not brain that counts. It’s guts. I won’t forget it. Ever. (a moment) You should eat something. You don’t eat enough. Here.

THURSDAY offers the other half of his sandwich. A moment — ENDEAVOUR takes it. Just two men, sharing a sandwich.

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE @ Damian Michael Barcroft

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE

Excuse the quality of some of these photos - I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Excuse the quality of some of these photos – I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Location2: Market Square

Location2: Market Square (11-13:50)

You just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

You can just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

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Filming began 16:32 and wrapped 18:30. A splendid day was had by all.

Interview and photos copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

All other images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen

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ENDEAVOUR SERIES III: Full & unedited foreword

ENDEAVOUR – SERIES III

Foreword by Russell Lewis

1967… Oxford – All Change!

Blame the World Cup.   Not the 1966 campaign of blessed memory — touched on in SERIES II’s ‘NOCTURNE’ — but Rio 2014.  Such was the amount of air-time annexed by the tournament that the resulting shunt left no room in the schedule for the next quartet of Endeavour stories.  So it is that we find ourselves — the best part of two years later — picking up the narrative threads.  After such an intermission, a short refresher might be in order.

Previously, on ENDEAVOUR

When last we saw them, Detective Constable Endeavour Morse was languishing in a prison cell, having been arrested on suspicion of murdering Chief Constable Standish; while Detective Inspector Fred Thursday – shot in the line of duty – was being loaded into an ambulance, his life hanging by the slenderest of threads.  Both events arose from their investigation of a conspiracy to conceal dark deeds at a former Boys’ Home – Blenheim Vale.

Some – most – of the audience who were kind enough to convey to me their views on the 1966 series seem to have enjoyed, albeit in a masochistic fashion, the suspense engendered by the cliff-hanger.  One or two were less enamoured of such a departure from convention, and were not slow to chide.  In my defence, at the time none of us foresaw that there would be such a long delay before the respective fates of Oxford’s Finest could be revealed.  Mea culpa.

So.  What happened next?  Well, given that Endeavour Morse eventually rose to become a Detective Chief Inspector, it ought not to come as any great shock that his duties with the Oxford City Police – destined to become Thames Valley in 1968 – were at some point resumed.  But as to the when, how and why of it..?  Such is the issue at the heart of ‘RIDE’, the film that opens the batting for the new run.

Not all the answers will come at once.  However, in ways both great and small, the fallout from Blenheim Vale is destined to cast a long shadow…

As for Thursday…  It’s a matter of record that Roger Allam has been photographed in Oxford wearing his familiar chapeau gris, and it would be dishonest to pretend that he hasn’t filmed some material for us.  But whether this material is set in the story present, or in flashback, or – indeed – a projection of Endeavour’s mind’s eye — ‘Morse & Thursday (Deceased)’ — remains to be seen…

It’s no mistake that the first words uttered in SERIES III are ‘Oxford!  All change!’ – for the world has moved on.   We have covered some distance since the single standalone film that reintroduced ENDEAVOUR to the world.  Now, as Easter 1967 arrives, colour is seeping into our canvas, turning a pencil grey Britain into something phantasmagorical.  Indeed, June will see BBC2 transmit the first television colour pictures in the UK, as its outside broadcast team covers the All England Lawn Tennis Association championships.

Change, then – in and on the air.

Most notably for #TeamEndeavour – again, courtesy of the beautiful game — the main change has been a shift in our production schedule.  This is the first series of ENDEAVOUR that we have shot during the summer – if the four soggy months between May and August 2015 can truly be said to qualify as such.

It’s been strange to find ourselves in such a season, for whether it was the long light of a cool English evening casting a golden glow upon Radford’s Brewery in ‘THE SINS OF THE FATHERS.’, or the shot (one of my favourites in all the films) of Morse & Lewis standing in a corn-field in ‘WHO KILLED HARRY FIELD?’, my memories of watching ‘Inspector Morse’ invariably involve a high summer landscape.

Context is all, but there is a line towards the end of D.H.Lawrence short story ‘The Man Who Loved Islands’ that has haunted me since I first read it, nearly forty years ago.  “ ‘It is summer,’ he said to himself, ‘and the time of leaves.’ “

So let it be for ENDEAVOUR…

The other major change on the Production side is that we have moved house.  Our last incarnation of Cowley Nick was contained in a rather imposing Victorian pile alongside the Thames in Berkshire.  Built for a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, it passed later into the hands of the family that owned the sprawling paper mill (now derelict) in the grounds of which it now stands.

The factory floor is where Endeavour’s flat and the Thursdays’ dulce domum resided.   The mill itself was a Health & Safety Officer’s nightmare – and bitterly, but BITTERLY cold.   Despite the heat from the lighting rig, Ice cubes were the order of the day.  Sucked on by the actors before a scene, lest their breath steam in the chill air and give the game away.  Cast and crew bore their discomfort personfully, but shed few tears to hear the mill had been earmarked for demolition and residential redevelopment (affordable homes for key-workers, no doubt).  Nevertheless, for the third time in as many series, we found ourselves homeless.

For SERIES III – we have been billeted in a former MoD/Tri-Services establishment.  Ghostly hints of its previous life abound.  A board greets visitors at the top of the stairs, and gives notice of the ‘DAILY TERROR THREAT LEVEL’.  Stuck forever now on ‘SEVERE’, the Production Team found it reflected their mood all too often.

Typically, the last five to seven days of any ENDEAVOUR shoot take place at our production base – where our standing sets reside.   The MoD site has a good number of large empty spaces – most notably the gymnasium – where the main CID offices of Cowley Police Station, and, also, Endeavour’s latest residence were constructed.

Elsewhere across the site – our brilliant design team have cannibalized, dispossessed and otherwise generally repurposed sundry rooms to create, amongst other key locations, Bright’s Office; cells and interview rooms.  One particular delight is that Max deBryn’s mortuary is now housed in the former canteen kitchen — the smell of gravy overtaken by the tang of formaldehyde.  To have let all those ready made white tiled walls go to waste?   That really would have been a crime.

1967, then.  The spring and eventual Summer of Love. It’s funny, Dan McCulloch – who produced the single and SERIES I, and who returns to the flight roster this time as Executive Producer – pointed out to me that each story in SERIES I was in one way or another about ‘family’.  SERIES II – again in retrospect – proved to be about ‘children’.  It is only in writing this foreword that I realise the four films here all deal to a greater or lesser extent with love, in all its guises, and disguises.

Part of my own prep (for which read ‘procrastination’ and ‘displacement activity’) for SERIES III involved assembling a number of ‘mood boards’ for each film – collages of photographs drawn from newspaper reports, brand designs, album sleeves, portraits, and stills from movies released across the year in question – visual aides-memoire, and things upon which once could draw for inspiration.

Staring down from my walls for the duration were – amongst others — Twiggy by Bailey.  Donald Campbell’s Bluebird.  Mary Quant.  A portrait of ‘Two sporting brothers’, also by Bailey.  Hendrix.   The original Factory Girl – Edie Sedgwick.  Terry & Julie – not crossing over the river, but in costume as Frank Troy and Bathsheba Everdene in John Schlesinger’s film of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’.  (Hardy, incidentally, a poet much beloved by Mr.Dexter.)   All, some, or none of whom put in an appearance in proceedings.

Yet, there, also, amongst the budding flower power and colourful joie de vivre, the portraits of three men.  Joe Meek.   Joe Orton.   Brian Epstein.  Each met an untimely and tragic end in 1967.  Had their deaths happened in Oxford – all three would have been investigated by Endeavour.  Their inclusion in the gallery served as a reminder that even in the middle of a Summer of Love one does not have to look far to find the eternal Ruffian on the Stair.

There is a further link in the foregoing to Endeavour and the Morse-verse – Con O’Neill, who memorably portrayed Joe Meek in “Telstar,” also played, equally memorably, Paul Matthews, scion of the Abingdon Gang, in the INSPECTOR MORSE film ‘PROMISED LAND.’  “They’re all villains.  The whole Matthews family.”

Without foreknowledge being requisite to enjoyment or understanding, compared to Series I and 2, there is probably more connective tissue that links ENDEAVOUR 1967 to INSPECTOR MORSE – and, indeed, LEWIS — than hitherto.   Characters and places – minor and major – are recast here, and viewed afresh through their younger selves.  Friends and foes.  The Mateys – as the fandom self-identifies — should have fun identifying familiar names.

Bigger.  Bolder.  Brighter.  Series III has – like Postman Pat – really ‘pushed the envelope’.  The ambitions set down in the scripts have been our most technically demanding to date – and yet under the stewardship of this term’s new Head Boy – Producer Tom Mullens – Production has risen to the challenge, and then some…

Music – always an integral part of the Morse universe – features here too.  We had hoped to use Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ in one sequence, but sadly his estate declined permission.  I’m told this was because the scene in question featured some recreational drug use…  ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.’

Of course, no consideration of 1967 could be complete without reference to four young men from Liverpool.  Indeed, The Beatles have been casting a shadow across Endeavour-world from the beginning.  ‘GIRL’ was titled for their single of the same name, and the world of pain in Lennon’s pre-chorus intake of breath – ‘still you don’t regret a single day.’  And the Traffic Warden present when a private investigator makes his vertical entrance in ‘TROVE’ – though getting ahead of ourselves – was likewise a nod to ‘Lovely Rita’.

Esteemed broadcaster and musicologist Paul Gambaccini said recently that he would direct anyone wanting a crash course in The Beatles to 1967 – a year that began with the double-A side of ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields’ (denied the Number 1 slot by Englebert Humperdinck’s “Please, Release Me” – those pondering Endeavour’s incarceration should hold that thought!); the release of “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; the global broadcast of ‘All You Need Is Love’; the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ EP – and the Boxing Day broadcast of its accompanying film; and the Xmas Number 1 of ‘Hello/Goodbye’.  As Mister Gambaccini observed – such an output would have been a career for many.  For The Beatles, it was twelve months’ work.

Our key text, then, in many ways, proved to be ‘Sgt.Pepper’ – ‘I read the news today, Oh boy…’

FILM 1: ‘RIDE’ (Directed by Sandra Goldbacher) features both ‘a lucky man who made the grade’, and, with its fairground associations, might just as easily have been titled ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr.Bright’ – for it is Easter, and the Bank Holiday funfair has pitched its tents on Cowley Green.  The Police investigate the disappearance from the Ghost Train attraction of a ‘clippie’ with the Town and District bus service.   And, of course, Harry the Horse dances the waltz.

Having looked at a manufactory in ‘ROCKET’, and the world of the department store in ‘SWAY’, FILM 2: ‘ARCADIA’ i(Directed by Bryn Higgins) is our Ladybird Book of the Supermarket.  Change – in Oxford and in the wider world beyond, as the Rhodesia Crisis – in the words of the late, great Jake Thackray…  ‘New UDI Washes Whiter…’ – and the British Trade Boycott provides some part of our backdrop.

Change also at Cowley nick.   Good fortune for some.  Ill luck for others.  Arrivals and departures.  Entrances and exits.  Amongst the former, ARCADIA marks the introduction of WPC Shirley Trewlove – played, delightfully, by Dakota Blue Richards — who makes a very welcome addition to the ranks of the Oxford City Police.

While in FILM 3: ‘PREY’ (Directed by Lawrence Gough) the Arab-Israeli Six Day War commands the attention of the world, ENDEAVOUR, together with the rest of Oxford’s Finest, has something else on his mind entirely.  A Scandinavian au pair has gone missing after an evening at Night School.  The resultant investigation brings Endeavour to Wytham Woods, and an adjacent country estate where he will brush shoulders with the future…

Our last story for this run is FILM 4: ‘CODA’ – (Directed by Ollie Blackburn) in which characters from two Inspector Morse films are brought together, and Endeavour is examined in more ways than one.  They say if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your intentions.  My original design was that SERIES III should begin and end with a funeral.  The best laid plans.  As things fell out, I did get my two funerals – albeit not the two I was expecting.   No wedding.   As yet.

One thing that does not change is the presence of Colin Dexter; who returns to make his traditional twinkling cameo appearance in each of the four films.  As sharp and erudite as ever, he always appears whenever we shoot in Oxford.  Of course, it could be a writer’s overactive imagination, but on such days – ‘Colin Days’ – it seems that all the cast and crew stand that little bit taller, shine just that little bit brighter, and strive to make their very best work even better.  Such is the ‘Dexter effect’.  Long may he continue to grace our efforts with his presence, for, as I think I’ve said before, an absence of Colin would be as unthinkable as the ravens leaving the Tower of London.

For those who enjoy spotting them, we have – as always – included our customary collection of intentional anachronisms and deliberate mistakes…  Answers on a postcard to the usual address.   B^)

I am – as ever – indebted to the talent, skill and creativity of an extraordinary collective of directors, cast and crew who once again spun my rough straw into something more; to the Maestro Barrington Pheloung; to Matthew Slater, who stepped admirably into the breech on ‘PREY’; to my fellow execs, the estimable Damien Timmer, & the redoubtable Dan MacCulloch; to Line Producer, the unsinkable Helga Dowie, who has been with us from the very beginning, and without whom…  And, finally, to our inexhaustible producer Tom Mullens, who bore the carnivore’s share of the heavy lifting with grace and good humour.

So it is that we take our leave of Endeavour — this time in June, at the turning point of the year.  “Hello/Goodbye” – The Beatles Christmas 1967 Number 1 — is yet to come, but its mood of one door closing as another opens, seems to have found expression across the entirety of the series, both in front of the camera – and behind it.

On which point, on behalf of all of #TeamEndeavour, I’d like to thank my brother-in-arms, Script Editor extraordinaire, Sam Costin.   After three series at Cowley nick, he has turned in his Warrant Card, and leaves Oxford (with a Congratulatory First) for pastures new.  At my side through thick, thin, and all too many late night conference calls, across each of these films his limitless creative genius has dug us out of more holes than it would take to fill the Albert Hall.  We shall miss him.

Whether we are, indeed, in the words of the Sgt.Pepper (Reprise) ‘Getting very near the end…’ rests, as always, with the audience and the Network, but I went along – as I tend to – for the last day’s shooting, and found myself between takes talking to Shaun Evans.  I happened to ask him which series of Endeavour had been his favourite.  Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, ‘This one.’   Who am I to argue with Morse?

I hope you enjoy the films.

Russ Lewis

November 2015