Tag Archives: First Bus to Woodstock

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.

~

Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

~

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

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

RUSS:  I honestly couldn’t say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m also available for Children’s Parties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Will there be a cliffhanger?

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

DAMIAN: Will there be sandwhiches?

RUSS:  Always.

DAMIAN: What about wildlife?

RUSS:  Sheep may safely graze.

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

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

‘She should have been held.’

‘Perhaps she was.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

And for Tootles…

“Bloody nice shoes”

~

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.

~~~

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

TIGER: Rubbish! – get off…

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

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

– Chapter Twelve of Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Russell Lewis on RIDE

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

~

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Mustn’t grumble, dear fellow.

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

RUSS:  The usual blend of apprehension and excitement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– RIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  I can’t tell you who did it.

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

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

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

RUSS:  Classically unconventional…  or perhaps unconventionally classic.

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

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

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

RUSS:  They might.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Until then.  Thank you.

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 3529 / RIDE

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

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

The Endeavour Archives: An exclusive interview with Shaun Evans

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

SHAUN EVANS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1352

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

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

1109

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

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

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

SHAUN: That’s right.

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

SHAUN: Er…yeah.

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

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

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

SHAUN: I think so.

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

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

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

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

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

SHAUN: Can I be in it as a guest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHAUN: I hope so.

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

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

~~~

coda~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Endeavour Archives: 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

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

 

 

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis – Part IV

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Viscount Mumbles

and Rowsby Woof

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

~

EPILOGUE

~

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

Russ: You and me both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for watching.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

– A. E. Housman

~

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

James Bradshaw

Barrington Pheloung

Sean Rigby

Amanda Street-Shipston

Abigail Thaw

and

Russell Lewis

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange takes his Police Sergeant Examination Paper.

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Barrington Pheloung

BARRINGTON PHELOUNG

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Papageno ~

MORSE is the loneliest of men. However, despite numerous doomed relationships and tragic love affairs, often overshadowed by the ghosts of girlfriends past, he does have one constant companion which is his music. In addition to being a devoted listener of BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 (although this is mainly to catch every episode of The Archers and the occasional Desert Island Discs) and Classic FM, Morse has an extensive library of LPs which highlight his many musical heroes including Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, and not least Rosalind Calloway, to name but a few.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Since 1987 to the present day, music has featured so prolifically and prominently throughout the original Inspector Morse, Lewis and now Endeavour, that it is also inconceivable that every single note has been the responsibility of just one man. Indeed, in addition to composing all the original music for the three series, he has also arranged all the classical pieces and various “source music” that you hear in each and every film which are performed under his supervision. It is, therefore, a true honour to present this exclusive interview with one of my musical heroes, Mr Barrington Pheloung.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Barrington, you were first approached to write the music for the original series back in 1985 and I believe your first brief was to compose a theme that epitomized Morse’s cultured and cryptic mind while simultaneously capturing his melancholy nature. You did this with one of the most memorable and iconic television themes of recent times, expressing various aspects of the character with music that is both beautiful and yet haunting. Can you describe the complex character of Morse?

BARRINGTON: Morse had an incredibly cryptic mind (as do I finishing off The Guardian crossword – only two to go) but Kenny McBain and Anthony Minghella who wrote the first screenplay wanted me to explore the complexity of this character. He loved cryptic crosswords and classical music and therefore he was very close to my character.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: For all his intelligence, Morse is rather inarticulate when is comes to communicating – especially with the fairer sex. To what extent would you agree that your music expresses the emotions and psychological makeup of Morse that are often implied rather than ever explicitly stated?

BARRINGTON: Less is always more. Morse is not inarticulate but slightly fumbling when it does come to his relationships with women.

DAMIAN: I hope you’ll forgive my lack of professionalism when I confess that I’m a huge fan of your work and own every Morse album that has ever been released. One of my favourites is The Passion of Morse, which in addition to the majestic Sinfonietta in MorseThe Morse Suite, also features some of your other work including Bach Sarabande, Cello Suite from Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bach Keyboard Concerto, Partita from The Politician’s Wife and Fantasia For the Little Prince. I really do recommend this album to both Morse completists and also those who might like an introduction to your other prolific work which has encompassed various film, television and theatre projects over the years. However, the main reason for highlighting this is because you mention in your sleeve notes for the album that some of the pieces, including the Morse track, are very personal and as much about you as they are about the film characters. Would it be too much of an intrusion to ask you to elaborate on this?

BARRINGTON: Every piece of music that I have written in my life has been based on my life and my own close family connections. Therefore I take this very seriously as an obligation.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You share more than a few of our favourite detective’s pastimes don’t you?

BARRINGTON: Yes I enjoy a pint at the pub and I certainly love chess and of course the cryptic crossword although Morse does The Times and I do The Guardian.

DAMIAN: Inspector Morse introduced the now familiar two-hour format for TV films and I’m wondering if it is true that the creative choices and stylistic features such as the use of slow camera pans were specifically designed to accommodate long sections of the beautiful music?

BARRINGTON: Our (Minghella and Kenny McBain) incentive was to try and produce a feature film rather than a television episode. Therefore, I was given much more scope to create longer sequences of music.

DAMIAN: You’ve said that you found it somewhat daunting when you were first asked to write the music for Lewis – why?

BARRINGTON: It was that I simply didn’t know where else to go. However, Kevin Whately’s character was so powerful and strong that I believed we had a new way to go and I even wrote him his own theme.

DAMIAN: The writer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, seems to take an active interest in all aspects of production beyond simply writing the scripts. Obviously much of the music that is used frequently relates to certain plots and characters such as in First Bus to Woodstock (Un bel di from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and the character of Rosalind Calloway) and Fugue (perhaps most notably the inclusion of Verdi’s Otello in finding clues to track down the serial killer, Dr. Daniel Cronyn aka Mason/Gull). I’m wondering at what point in the production do you become creatively involved and to what extent the musical choices are discussed with Russ?

BARRINGTON: Endeavour, Morse and Lewis has always been a subjective choice. Sometimes by directors, sometimes by producers and writers but ultimately I’m given the final choice and more often than not, these are the works that I have conducted many times before.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Unlike much television and cinema, where the scores are often used to compensate for the lack of dramatic and emotional depth, your music is chosen carefully and selectively which results in a far more potent contribution to the overall meaning of both the story and its characters. For as much as audiences love and remember the soundtracks, the music is actually used rather sparingly isn’t it?

BARRINGTON: Yes indeed – less is more; always.

DAMIAN: Like Russ, you do enjoy to play rather cunning games with audiences in which you often tease us with various clues but also a few red herrings. Can you give us a few of your favourite examples?

BARRINGTON: On many occasions I have given red herrings in Morse code pertaining to the killer i.e. she did it – he did it.

DAMIAN: Although not as prolific as Colin Dexter’s cameos, you have also made a couple of appearances in the original series, how did this come about?

BARRINGTON: Indeed I have made many appearances on film because I was requested to be on set as the conductor/producer of the music and therefore I was just there.

DAMIAN: I can’t think of another composer who has written the music for a franchise with such longevity and you must be one of the few people to have worked on every single Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour film. What’s the secret behind keeping the music fresh for both the audience and you as a composer?

BARRINGTON: Very simple, if I can’t think of an original theme or to keep a way to keep my music new then that will be time to give up.

DAMIAN: You did a concert at the Royal Festival Hall back in 1991. Is there a chance you might perform again in this country as I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would be thrilled to hear the Morse theme performed live?

BARRINGTON: I would love to as soon as I am asked.

DAMIAN: One final question. I must ask why, a man of your musical talent, is also running a lawn mower repair service?

BARRINGTON: I do indeed repair both my mowers here and in Australia where I have a 30 thousand hectare mountain however, I don’t repair anyone else’s mowers!

DAMIAN: If Russ is the brains behind young Morse, you are his heart and soul. Your music continues to enrich our understanding of the character and its been an absolute privilege to do this interview. Thank you very much indeed Barrington.

BARRINGTON: Thank you and may god bless.

~~~

Special thanks also to Amanda Street-Shipston of DNA Music Ltd.
www.dna-music.com
For more information about the composer, please visit his website:
http://www.pheloung.co.uk/

The final Endeavour film of series 2 is tonight at 8 on ITV

barry01

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

~~~

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

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

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

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

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part II

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Rex De Lincto ~

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

ACT II

“GIRL”

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

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

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

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©itv/MammothScreen

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©kippa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Curiouser and curiouser!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

S2-FILM2: 'Nocturne' ©itv/MammothScreen

S2-FILM2: ‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

~~~

THE INSIDE STORY

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

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

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

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

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

Morse meets Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright. Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Sean Rigby

Please note that this interview was originally posted April 6, 2014 during the series two run.

Sean Rigby

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Anthony Sayer ~

DAMIAN: Endeavour boasts an impressive cast of characters and while I adore every single one of them, I’m particularly fascinated by Police Constable (later Chief Superintendent) Jim Strange and pathologist Max de Bryn. Perhaps this is because they are both somewhat intriguing characters who frequently appear in both Colin Dexter’s novels and the original Morse television series. Yours is a very understated and subtle performance made all the more remarkable considering this was your first professional job in television after graduating from LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). Can you tell us how you landed the part?

SEAN: I graduated from LAMDA in July 2012, and like most drama school graduates, was hunting for a regular job at the time. A friend of mine sent me an email telling me that he had been up for a part in something called Endeavour. He didn’t think he was right for it, but thought that I might be. I contacted my agent and requested that they get me an audition, but they had reservations about whether I was old enough to play the part. Luckily, they decided to take a punt, and got me an audition with Susie Parriss, the Casting Director.

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

"I'm Strange" ©itv/MammothScreen

“I’m Strange” ©itv/MammothScreen

My first audition with Susie was, without a doubt, one of the worst I have ever given. I wore the black three piece suit I had worn to my graduation, shaved off my beard, and slicked back my hair in a vague attempt to look like a 1960’s policeman. It was a roasting hot August day and it’s safe to say that I was sweating cobs. I got completely lost on my way to Susie’s house and had to ring a friend of mine to get on google maps and give me directions. If you had been around the area that day you may well have seen a proto-Strange frantically sprinting through the streets of Wimbledon. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, hair all over the place and severely out of breath. I went in, sat down with Susie, and promptly set about forgetting all my lines, mumbling and sweating even more. It was a complete disaster and I resigned myself to the fact that I had utterly blown it.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

For some reason, a week later, I got a call from my agent saying that Susie would like me to come in and read with her, Ed Bazalgette [Director] and Dan McCulloch [Producer]. That went much better, and the week after that I was called in to read with Shaun [Evans]. I had been told by my agent that this would be the last round of auditions. Susie asked me to come and audition for the part of DC Gray in Lewis in the meantime.

The next day, whilst sitting on the tube in Barons Court (right outside LAMDA), I got a call from my agent telling me they had “Good news and bad news. Which would I like to hear first?”. I requested the bad news to which my agent replied “Well, you can’t do Lewis!”. I leaped off the tube and performed an impromptu Irish jig on the Barons court platform.

DAMIAN: Can you remember which section of the script you were given to audition with?

SEAN: If my memory serves correctly it was the section of Girl where Morse discovers the Golf Cheese and Chess Society.

DAMIAN: I understand that you did a great amount of research after you were cast as Strange but you had never actually seen Inspector Morse before the audition. I’m wondering what were your initial thoughts on the character from reading Russell Lewis’ script?

SEAN: There’s a no nonsense style in the way that Strange communicates. I suppose that’s what struck me initially.

S1-FILM2: 'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM2: ‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It must have been greatly exciting to read through Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, finding various clues and making notes on all of the characters and their relationships. What were the most revealing pieces of the puzzle?

SEAN: It’s a very difficult thing to quantify, really. The relationship dynamics between Morse and Strange in Endeavour and Inspector Morse are at once vastly different and very similar. The most illuminating part of reading the books was discovering the world in which these characters operate. I had to quickly consume a body of work which Morse fans the world over had taken years to savour; as much as I wanted to find out every detail to inform my performance, I wanted to read the books in a respectful and appreciative way, not just cram as if for an exam.

DAMIAN: There are some wonderful insights into Strange’s family life in As Good as Gold (lovely moments in which he celebrates his birthday over a glass or two of Macallan while he proceeds to bore Morse with nostalgic musings on his grandchildren), did you also manage to take a look at the short stories as well?

SEAN: I must confess that the short stories are still unopened on my bedside table, but I will make a start on them very soon indeed. To echo my previous answer, I am cautious about ‘bingeing’ on Colin Dexter’s writing. It deserves pacing and appreciating, much as Strange would approach that Macallan!

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: This is the clincher: like Morse, both Russ and I have copies of Moriarty’s Police Law (1965, Eighteenth Edition) which was required reading for any police officer taking their Sergeant’s exam – but do you have a copy?

SEAN: I shall have to come clean and say that I do not. Strange would not be impressed!

DAMIAN: We simply couldn’t discuss Strange without acknowledging the great and much missed James Grout who played the role from 1987 to 2000. Strange’s Christian name was never mentioned in either Dexter’s novels or the original TV series so it was a lovely tribute that the character was finally named Jim in his honour. To what extent has James Grout’s interpretation of the role influenced your own?

SEAN: James Grout was an incredible actor. It’s as simple as that. He gave Strange effortless authority laced with a genuine kindness. I’d like to think that Strange in the 1960’s is very much trying to find himself. He is very sure of where he wants to go in the world but is still unsure of his footing within it.

James Grout, right, with John Thaw

Say cheese! – the original Morse and Strange ©itv

DAMIAN: Strange is a Southerner and you are Northern lad, was is difficult to incorporate James Grout’s voice in addition to the accent into your own vocalisation?

SEAN: Well, James Grout was from London and you can certainly hear that in his accent. However he was a classically trained actor and that accent seemed to have been softened over the years. I decided that Strange might have a more pronounced London accent in the early days as it would be softened eventually from years in the Oxford police force.

The accent can be tricky at times. There a few occasions where I get quite tongue tied with some of the vowels and slip back into my native Lancashire.

DAMIAN: James Grout gave a beautifully judged performance that managed to encompass a great amount of comedy but this never detracted from his absolute gravitas and authority. It was a stroke of dramatic genius that Russ chose to reverse this by having Morse start out as Strange’s superior in the first film of series one (Girl) but by its end (Home), Strange, unlike Morse, has taken his Sergeant’s exam – will series two see the beginnings of the inevitable development of their shift in power?

SEAN: Perhaps a more pronounced shift in their already differing priorities.

DAMIAN: Of course, it is rather ironic that Morse is perhaps directly responsible for the eventual promotion since it was he who recommended Strange to serve as Acting Detective Constable in his absence when he takes some time off to his visit his ailing father (Home), might Morse regret planting those “little acorns”?

SEAN: He may regret his decision from time to time, yes!

DAMIAN: Surprisingly, it’s not Robbie Lewis with the honour of being Morse’s longest-serving friend – it’s actually Strange – a thirty-five year sentence! Morse and Max meet for the first time in First Bus to Woodstock before your character is introduced but Max is described as suffering a stroke early on in Inspector Morse and is replaced by Dr Grayling Russell in Ghost in the Machine (Max dies in Dexter’s novel, The Way Through the Woods) whereas both in print and on screen, Strange is with Morse right up until the tragic end of The Remorseful Day. Can you describe your own interpretation of the often antagonistic relationship between Morse and Strange?

SEAN: I think there is a mutual admiration between the two. Strange is equally impressed and frustrated by Morse’s intellect. Likewise, Morse perhaps finds Strange’s dependability endearing whilst being irritated by his reluctance to bend the rules. I think they have a quiet patience for each others’ shortcomings.

S1-FILM3: 'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM3: ‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: There were some lovely moments in Rocket which I thought were quite revealing about Strange: Morse mentions that there is a new Bergman playing at the Roxy cinema and Strange automatically assumes it is a new Ingrid rather than Ingmar Bergman film and also the proud moment when he appears (looking very dependable!) in the Pathe newsreel footage of Princess Margaret’s visit. Strange is not very cultured but he can be quite pompous can’t he?

SEAN: There is something of the Auguste clown about Strange at times. He has a confidence in his own abilities and an acumen which can lead him to make some fairly humorous gaffes.

strangehome1

S1-FILM4: ‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: The books and original series give the impression that Strange is somewhat under the thumb of his wife. Hopefully he is a little more fortunate than Morse when it comes to matters of the heart, will there be any forthcoming romantic liaisons for Strange that we can look forward to?

SEAN: Strange does dip his toes into the dating world. The results? We shall have to wait and see…

DAMIAN: You’re a great actor playing one of my favourite characters and you’ve been as good as gold – I think you deserve a chocolate biscuit or two! Thank you Sean.

SEAN: Cheers matey! I shall certainly enjoy a few! Perhaps a couple of Garibaldi’s (my personal favourite).

The name's Strange, James Strange... YESH! ©itv/MammothScreen

The name’s Strange, James Strange… YESH! ©itv/MammothScreen

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft