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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: SWAY also previewing PREY

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

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: 4KX

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

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Part III:

SWAY

With special thanks to JS Kirstie

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EndeavourPREY~

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

1008Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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The Endeavour Archives: TROVE also previewing RIDE

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #47A

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to:

Anthony Aloysius St John

Sam Costin

& George Gathercole

PROLOGUE:

‘BACK TO WORK’

12 APRIL 2015: It’s early Sunday morning and my special “K” and I are driving through Oxford. For me, having never visited before, but knowing the city so well from literature, film and, of course, television, it’s a surreal and dreamlike experience. To give you an inkling of my exhilaration, we pass The Eagle and Child where I like to imagine J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis still sitting there conversing over drinks in the Rabbit Room. And, speaking of rabbits, who can explore Oxford without thinking of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Liddell family? However, I’m not writing on behalf of the Oxford Tourist Board, and if I mention our excitement as we also drive past the Randolph Hotel, it might serve to tip the reader that I’m here on police business and I’ll surely get to the point sooner rather than later.

Today is the eleventh day of shooting for the first film of Endeavour series three but the first on location in Oxford. I arrive at Unit Base where the cast and crew have set up camp for the duration of the Oxford shoot. It’s neither glittering nor glamorous, indeed, it is after all, just a car park and one may be forgiven for believing they are about to witness the setting up of a car boot sale for the day rather than the production of a major ITV drama. However, there are one or two clues that I’m in the right place: a vintage AEC Renown double-decker bus circa 1967 (reg. FWL 371E) and just behind it, various location vehicles and trailers – some of which brandish the likeness of the Mammuthus primigenius.

It is now precisely 08:00 and I meet script editor Sam Costin who is enjoying his breakfast until I disturb him (Sam has script edited every single Endeavour film thus far and really does know where the bodies are buried!). As we make our way to Radcliffe Square, the first of the day’s three locations, Sam asks me if Russ has told me anything about today’s shoot. No. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. I wouldn’t ask although it was obvious what he was referring to and surely everyone who’d seen the shocking events of the series two grand finale was wondering the same thing.

Both Sam and K smile. In trying to take everything in, I must be the last to notice and can’t see the wood for the trees – an army of technicians and artists: art department and props, assistant directors, cameramen, grip, sound and make-up (hello Irene!) all busy blocking my view until magically disappearing as rehearsals come to an end and cameras roll…

Oxford’s finest back to work. And I was too! Last year I had the privilege of interviewing the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, to discuss all the films from the pilot up to the end of series one. I’m very pleased and proud that these exclusive interviews will continue as we explore the second series while offering the odd peek into what to expect from the third

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

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

© Damian Michael Barcroft

© Damian Michael Barcroft

PART I:

‘TROVE’

DAMIAN: Russ, the first series was broadcast between 14 April – 5 May 2013 and the second from 30 March – 20 April 2014. Why has series three taken so long to reach the screens?

RUSS:  Blame the World Cup.  Rio 2014 knocked the TV schedule out of shape, and meant we weren’t able to go into our usual production/broadcast slot.  So – you’ll have to excuse me if my recollections are even more unreliable than usual.  Production began on Series II almost three years ago now – and I would have started writing them even before that.  Apologies in advance.

DAMIAN: How did Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor help inspire the story for Trove?

RUSS: They took part in an OUDS [Oxford University Dramatic Society] production of Marlowe’s ‘DOCTOR FAUSTUS’ – and the Oxford City Police were charged with looking after them. Early drafts had Strange and Jakes on protection duty – making sure nobody ran off with Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond ring.  The opening sequence was intercut with the play in performance. ‘Stipendium peccati, mors est.’  I’d planned to have Endeavour trading Shakespearean quotations with Burton in the pub, but given when we shot, we just couldn’t make the timeline fit convincingly. DOCTOR FAUSTUS was on in… February, I think – and we weren’t shooting until Spring.  Leaves on trees, etc.  So… It had to go. But, the theme of the play, the notion of an unholy bargain – what price a soul? — survived.

DAMIAN: There’s a visual reference of their visit to Oxford that still survives the cut?

RUSS: When the Barbara Batten by-election posters go up, you might just glimpse a Playbill on the wall…

DAMIAN: It must have been a painful tug on the old purse strings to open the series with a parade through Oxford celebrating 900 years since our islands fell beneath the Norman Yoke, what were the logistics of closing Broad Street and were there a few raised eyebrows from the money men?

RUSS: They weren’t too highly raised. The Mammoths wanted something eye-catching for the opening. And 1066 to 1966 seemed too happy a coincidence to ignore. Probably all the rest of it – the Wolvercote Horde, etc., was spun from that. 1966 seemed to be very much about Britain re-assessing its identity, and its place in the world. A touch of Neo-Victorianism/Edwardianism for the Dedicated Followers of Fashion.  Adam Adamant Lives!

We shot on a Sunday, so as not to disrupt Oxford too much.  We had a good number of supporting artistes, but – as with the crowd scenes in ROCKET — a lot of it is smoke and mirrors.

1308DAMIAN: So it’s May 1966. Four months have passed since the end of series one in which Morse has been “counting paperclips at County” and Thursday has a spring in his step as Morse finally returns to Oxford City Police. How much of this episode, or indeed the whole of series two, existed in your mind as you wrote the final draft of HOME and what, if anything, changed along the way?

RUSS: When we got to the end of Series 1, we didn’t know if there would be a Series 2. We never do. It’s all about the figures. I think we got the official word from the Network quite some time after HOME went out. I suspect I had some of it in mind. I’m afraid that isn’t a terribly helpful or illuminating answer. It’s just difficult to recall after such a passage of time. I’m sure three years doesn’t sound very long, but TROVE is eight films ago. These things occupy every waking thought for the duration of production, but as soon as it’s done I’m afraid most of it tends to get wiped from the memory banks to make room for the next.  Either that or the mind tends to forget pain! Perhaps we should do our Series 3 Q&A when we get to the end of this one!

But, for what it’s worth, I think – should we come back for a Series 4, and assuming stuff doesn’t get vetoed – that I’ve already got all the stories for that run, and possibly the one after, already fairly well nailed down.  Which is probably tempting fate, and now we’ll be ignominiously cancelled and cast into outer darkness.

1313DAMIAN: While discussing the story arc for the first series in one of our previous interviews, you said that you absolutely know how Endeavour will end and that the final scene is actually already written. You also stated that you have certain key points mapped out for all the major characters. I’m wondering if that end is still the same and if any of the aforementioned key points appeared in series two?

RUSS: Certainly – I’ve got the way-points mapped out. And the end is still the same. Series 2 – what were the way-points? Well – Morse & Monica. A ‘proper’ relationship. The first glimpse of the Brotherhood. Thursday’s past – which I’m sure we’ll get to when we look at SWAY. Some have made this new series. Others haven’t. There was one reveal that was written for this series, but which, in the end, we couldn’t schedule. It’ll keep. Other things…  some of the events in this series were decided by things happening off-screen – artistes’ availability in the main. Again – blame FIFA.

09520951DAMIAN: Strange takes his Sergeant’s exam at the end of series one and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that he was on his way to becoming the Chief Superintendent we know and love from the original series. However, you quickly establish that he failed by “three lousy points” early in TROVE. Was this the original plan or did you reconsider his timeline and think it was too early for his first promotion?

RUSS: No – it was the original plan. More of which will be revealed… It would have been too easy – and too obvious – to have Strange take the Exam at the end of Series 1, and attain his stripes – purely on merit — by Series 2. The scene between Strange and Endeavour in the pub – a man can’t serve two masters – was key, really.

1318DAMIAN: We’ve spoken at length about the influence of and your passion for the horror genre in the past with particular reference to FUGUE. In TROVE however, there were a few moments in which I was reminded of the old noir films and literature such as the work of Chandler, Hammett and the Bogie movies but was there the particular and more British influence of Graham Greene and his Brighton Rock or The Third Man in mind while writing TROVE?

RUSS: It was very much ENDEAVOUR does noir. So far as we can. It’s something I’ve tried – with various degrees of success and failure – to nod to across the show, as it’s a genre of which I’m hugely fond. The lonesome highway with the gas station/motel is pure Americana. Equal parts Hopper and James M Cain. I think the original stage directions had a fizzing neon sign, and Jim Reeves on the Jukebox/Radio… but in the end… Budget.

1320The thing with a straight whodunit is that it can teeter over into becoming just a dry puzzle – a mental exercise with very little heart or emotional heft.  “Where were you on the night in question?”  And that’s fine if you’ve got a grey afternoon with a Golden Age novel – you can go back and forth, flicking through the pages, checking out a character’s alibi, seeing if their story stands up – but for something you’re watching, it’s got to have – for me at least – some kind of drive and forward momentum.  It’s got to be ABOUT something. It’s got to have a story.

13251327As for Graham Greene…  I’d be very pleased if anything we did came within hailing distance of his greatness. The Third Man is a touchstone – Roger Allam is a massive fan too.  It wasn’t Rosalind Calloway by accident.

But yes – I was after a very noir feel with TROVE – the world of the Private Eye; untrustworthy cops; dodgy show-business types, &c..

Roger in search of Harry Lime!

Roger in search of Harry Lime!

DAMIAN: Morse tells us he doesn’t vote in this episode but I wonder if you’re ever tempted, after a glass of Blue Nun perhaps, to infuse any of the characters in Endeavour with your own personal politics?

RUSS: Alas, no Nuns for me – Blue, Red, Singing or otherwise.  I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree.

DAMIAN: If there was one disappointment I had with this series, it was that I was sorry not to see more of Morse’s flat from the first series. It was dank, melancholy and a little oppressive – very Miss Havisham but on a budget and perfect for young Morse. Why did you decide that it was important for him to be in new lighter and more spacious digs for series two?

RUSS:  I think it was principally a matter of logistics/location availability.  But also, I needed him to be somewhere he could run into Monica across the hallway. And I don’t think we had that option in his first place. There’s an ebb and flow in Endeavour’s fortunes. Sometimes he’s ahead.  As often as not, he’s behind. One thing that didn’t make the cut in Series 2 was the notion that his father had left quite considerable gambling debts – and that Endeavour was paying them off out of his wages, a bit at a time.  However – it does get a bit of a nod this time out.

0956DAMIAN: Apart from Adele Cecil (Judy Loe) in the Inspector Morse episodes Death Is Now My Neighbour and The Wench Is Dead, Nurse Monica “with a moped” Hicks (Shvorne Marks) is the only other onscreen and ongoing relationship for Morse thus far. What’s the connection between Morse and Monica that was perhaps missing from his previous romance with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy) in ROCKET?

RUSS: I think Alice had an idea of Endeavour. An ideal. The one she couldn’t have. And then – once she’s had her heart’s desire, she probably realized that he wasn’t the man she’d made him in her mind. Monica just saw him as who he was; a man – and a rather damaged one at that. She found him at a low point, and helped get him back on his feet.

DAMIAN: Matthew Copley-Barnes (from the Inspector Morse episode The Infernal Serpent played by Geoffrey Palmer) features in TROVE this time played by Jamie Parker. When a character from the original series occasionally makes an appearance in Endeavour (fans will also remember The Last Enemy’s Alexander Reece in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK for example), are they under contract to play them again should their services be required in future episodes?

RUSS: No – alas – the guest players are brought on board for one film at a time. Obviously, we’d go back to them if at all possible. I wouldn’t want to recast. So if they weren’t available, or felt disinclined to come back, then I’d have to rework the idea. It’s something I’m sure we’ll do at some point – it was mooted on this new series – as I’m keen to develop the idea of our Oxford as a living place, where you’re quite likely to bump into people you’ve met before, but in the end we just ran out of sky. Also – as with I.M. – some of our guests are already proving to be the leading lights of the next generation. So, I suspect getting some of them back would be a tougher go – second time around.

1352DAMIAN: It can’t be easy to cast a young Geoffrey Palmer or Barry Foster, do you have any input or preference as to who plays these characters?

RUSS: Some. And probably not so much as a megalomaniac would find agreeable. Susie Parris – our Casting Director — pulls off wonders and miracles for us. The budget allows about 22 speaking rôles per film, including our regulars – and Susie manages to find maybe forty to fifty actors per series that make the cut. You can probably multiply than number by anywhere between two to ten, depending on the part, to get a rough estimate of the number of actors that audition – or, as they call it nowadays, ‘interview’. I don’t know how Susie does it – short of being an actual angel. The patience of Job. How she puts up with us…

As for casting heritage characters. It’s walking a tightrope a lot of the time. It can be tricky when it comes to acknowledging Morse’s future history. People want to feel they’re doing ‘something new’ or breaking fresh ground. Directors have enough to think about without my relentless fanboi gripes – and actors don’t want to do an impression, or some sort of received performance. So…

For me, and I suspect for a section of the fandom — the devil is in the detail. Some you win. Some you don’t.

I’m never left in any doubt that too much of what could be perceived as fan-service might alienate those who have come to Endeavour on its own terms. So that’s something else one has to try to navigate. But I’ve never approached it with the notion of – ‘Oh, this will please the cognoscenti’. Rather it’s there are characters from IM that caught my imagination as a viewer that I’d like to see in different circumstances. Some of them can be quite slight encounters. The merest brushing of shoulders.  If I had ENDEAVOUR having stories with these characters of such weight that they couldn’t possibly forget one another over the intervening 20-odd years, then it would be doing a retroactive disservice to IM. Hopefully there’ll be some audience members who were too young for IM first time round – and Endeavour will lead them to the source of all good things. If they then arrived and were asking themselves – ‘Why doesn’t Morse remember this person?’ or ‘Why is that character pretending not to know Morse?’ then I’d have failed.

As it is – I think with all the characters we’ve deployed, we’ve respected that Prime Directive. At the end of TROVE – Thursday tells Endeavour that Copley-Barnes had told him he would ‘remember him’ – and Endeavour responds with something along the lines of  ‘A vainglorious fool like that? Somehow, I doubt it.’ And I don’t think that Copley-Barnes would have remembered Endeavour. Far too self absorbed to keep a lowly Detective Constable in mind for twenty-five years.

Copley-Barnes was Alma Cullen’s wonderful creation, and played to perfection by Geoffrey Palmer. So – he was just too fascinating a monster to resist getting out of the dressing up box.  As it was, Jamie Parker – who I’d seen play Hal to Roger Allam’s Falstaff – had just been working with Geoffrey Palmer, and so grabbed the challenge with both hands, and a certain amount of relish. Despite all the foregoing – and for good or ill, Series 3 probably features — in terms of heritage characters and conceits — far more connective tissue to IM than the previous two.

DAMIAN: Morse makes some powerful enemies in TROVE and Strange is initiated into a certain ancient fraternity. Will there be more secret handshakes in the future?

RUSS: They haven’t gone away. But I think they’ll be a little less overt in their machinations going forward. Licking their wounds, probably. Biding their time.

DAMIAN: We’ve previously talked about the use of music in the show and I know from my interview with Barrington Pheloung that he doesn’t care much for Wagner! Indeed, because of this, Wagner was sidelined in the original Inspector Morse in favour of Mozart. However, you told me that “time will cast ever darker shadows upon his heart, and that will be reflected in his evolving musical taste”. Will Wagner finally get his just desserts on the turntable?

RUSS: I would hope so.

DAMIAN: What more can you tell us about tonight’s episode?

RUSS: Not much. It’s Easter Bank Holiday. And a funfair has come to town. It’s a whole bunch of notions – some drawn from the period, some not – hurled with wild abandon into the Endeavour blender. But it’s a very different story shape to anything we’ve done before. It started with Donald Campbell, and Bluebird… I had a relative who was there on the fateful day. And one hydroplane led to another. The 60s has most definitely arrived, and I guess it struck me at some point that the Psychedelic Age had something in common with another Age altogether. That there were fascinating parallels. From there it just kind of grew…

DAMIAN: And can we look forward to any “fragrant ladies”?

RUSS: Always. This first half of ’67 probably features a surfeit of them.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed.

RUSS: A pleasure, as always.

RIDE

~

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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis – Part IV

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Viscount Mumbles

and Rowsby Woof

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©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.

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©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

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©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.

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©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.

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©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.

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©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.

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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