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Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on CODA


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”



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…


Far to go: Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with the Thursday children


Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017


An exclusive interview with the Thursday children

Jack Bannon – Sam Thursday

Sara Vickers – Joan Thursday


By Damian Michael Barcroft


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

JACK: Great thanks.

SARA: Very well, thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JACK: Cheers mate! All the best.

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

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

The Endeavour Archives: NEVERLAND also previewing CODA

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


Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to PC Banks

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

Part IV:


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


Do not forsake me oh my Pagan

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


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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Yes, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS: No comment.

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

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

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

RUSS:  Yes – very much.

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

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

It was a Tufty Club world.

And then it wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: You’ll see Endeavour to the end?

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

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

Leave the gun – take the cannoli.

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

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


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


Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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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.


“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:


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.


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

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