Tag Archives: James Grout

30 YEARS OF MORSE ONSCREEN

An exclusive celebration

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

For Colin…

Our love to you and your family.

~

INSPECTOR MORSE and I were both first introduced to this world in 1975. While the conception of our favourite detective in a little guest house in North Wales, halfway between Caernarfon and Pwllheli, on a rainy Saturday afternoon is well documented, details surrounding the circumstances in which I was conceived remain somewhat more elusive and I’m happy for them to remain so. Sometimes it’s best not to ask. I share a couple of other things in common with Morse – a passion for classical music and booze for starters. Sadly though, this is pretty much where it ends as I’ll never be able to compete with his stunning intellect but here’s what I do know – thanks to Colin Dexter’s masterful grasp of the crime and detective genre, Morse and his faithful companion, Lewis, are the best and only true rivals to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

However, there’s room for another odd couple in this prestigious list of honours – Endeavour and Thursday. But how did we get from Inspector Morse to Endeavour via Lewis? Well, it has been a long televisual thirty-year journey which began on the 6th January 1987. During this period, some of the finest actors, screenwriters, directors and producers have all worked tirelessly not only to keep Colin’s creation alive, but also create some of this country’s greatest and most iconic television shows. Perhaps it is as simple as that. Maybe.

Some years ago and feeling very sorry for myself, I was standing outside a bank withdrawing cash from the hole in the wall when a bird defecated on me. Please stay with me. Just when I thought the day would never get better, someone approached me – I’ll never know who it was or even know the person’s name – but the individual didn’t point and laugh or steal my money, no – the elderly lady took a tissue from her handbag and gently wiped the offending substance from my jacket while I stood there like a helpless child. A small act of kindness but one that I’ll never forget. And, like Endeavour observed, inspired by Rosalind Calloway’s performance of Un bel dì vedremo, it restored my faith in humanity in its own little way and I myself also saw that there was beauty in the world. True, the news and the media, particularly of late, often remind us how dark and troubling the world is, and yet there really is beauty in the world isn’t there? If only we know where to find it or at least take the trouble to look. Indeed, one good day, we will see.

One of the places we are almost certain to find beauty is Oxford and I don’t just mean its architecture and dreaming spires. No, whether it’s the Oxford of Inspector Morse during the 80s and 90s, the more contemporary Oxford inhabited by Lewis and Hathaway, or the one we are currently enjoying now in 1967, you’ll find beauty in all of these because they have characters with integrity; men and women who will always do the right thing – even if occasionally they do the wrong thing for the right reasons – you can depend on them and their moral code. As with life, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a villain every week or so, but for every stinker, you’ll also find a handful of decent men and women – people with honesty, complete incorruptibility and maybe even a spare tissue for a stranger.

Perhaps then, in addition to the ingenious creative cast and crew who have worked on Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour over the years, this is why they and Colin Dexter’s work endure. We watch the screen in the corner of our living rooms each week and not only see the decency of Endeavour, Thursday, Bright, Strange, Max, Trewlove and Dorothea et al., but we also see the respectability and potential within us all. A glorious widescreen high definition vision of our better selves.

And speaking of ingenious, I asked members of the Endeavour team to join this celebration of thirty years of Morse on our screens. This is what they told me…

ED BAZALGETTE

Director ~ GIRL

‘Never underestimate the audience’ – one of the first things you learn when you start working in TV, it could have been invented for the Morse/Endeavour audience. Since 1987 that audience were treated to scripts that teased and tantalised, beautifully drawn characters leading them up blind alleys, into dark corners, stories that stretched their minds, challenging them to think logically and laterally. In its time Morse became a national treasure, a much loved institution that had seen so many great stories, wonderful writers and directors.

When the call came to direct the first Endeavour of series one it was an easy decision but a tough task. We were making the prequel, stepping back in time to the crimes, cases, loves and losses that would be the making of Morse: the early years of the man who was one of the most popular characters in British television. The backdrop to this was the world of Oxford in 1965. So many period dramas had seemed to fetishize the time they were set but looking at the 60’s British films I liked, the incidental background detail was just that – the cars, clothes and interiors weren’t always front and centre, and that was exactly the feel I wanted for the world of Endeavour. Not everyone had beautifully tailored three button mohair suits, cars weren’t gleaming and routinely polished – our world had to reflect that kind of detail. Of course it could still be beautifully observed and atmospheric!

Russell Lewis refined his splendidly cryptic layered script and I researched the background. The script featured an Oxford secretarial college, I traced down people with memories and stories of the ‘Ox and Cow’ – the nickname of a well known college at the time. An early 20th century shopping parade in Ruislip became the location for the post office run by Wallace and Derek Clark in the script – after a lot of digging I found a photograph of the parade actually taken in 1965! I rifled through old family photo albums for trace elements of 60s life.

Directing the opening film meant casting many of the characters who have gone on to inhabit the Endeavour films with such well observed performances. Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and James Bradshaw had already been established in the pilot episode. Anton Lesser came aboard and was wonderful from the moment he became Chief Superintendent Bright, a beautifully realised portrait of a man from ‘another world another class. One which by 1965 was already slipping out of memory and into history’. His subtle rhotacism, and the reference in the stage directions to Field Marshal Montgomery hit the tone of a man out of time perfectly. Jack Laskey as Jakes and Sean Rigby as Jim Strange made up the rest of the core cast. On the morning of Sean’s audition I arrived first thing for some early meetings and bumped into him a few streets away. Hours before his allocated time he was pacing the neighbourhood being Jim Strange. I knew we had our man. And the guest cast for GIRL were wonderful too: Jonathan Hyde, Olivia Grant, Luke Allen Gale, Mark Bazeley, Jonathan Guy Lewis and Sophie Stuckey.

Each day’s rushes brought new delights and sitting in the edit afterwards I felt we had something very special. It all worked but one detail bugged me. The opening shot – a high view of Broad Street shot from the Cupola of the Sheldonian theatre – looked flat and empty. All the reference photos from the 60s show it packed with cars. Our shot had about six. With each viewing it looked emptier. I started to obsessively research vintage car clubs and eventually found one who promised they could access up to 30 period cars and motorbikes. Too good to be true? It felt like a long shot but before dawn on a freezing Saturday in January I went back to Broad Street to find well over almost 40 period perfect cars waiting. And they all looked right – not shiny and sparkling but properly used and lived in. In the briefest of windows between sunrise and Oxford waking up we got the shot. That was pretty much it, but not quite. The final memory was going to the recording of Barrington Pheloung’s score. Could there be a more appropriate venue to complete the first Endeavour film and recreate the sound of 1965 than Abbey Road studios?

JAMES BRADSHAW

Dr. Max De Bryn

Growing up in the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and having a keen interest in brilliantly told detective dramas, Inspector Morse was essential viewing in our house. Proud that he had attended the same educational establishment as the writer of these wonderful stories, my Dad would turn to me without fail, at the end of every episode and say, ‘Colin Dexter went to Stamford School, did you know that?’

And now thirty years on, I am very proud and honoured to be working with a fantastic team of cast and crew, who have created a whole new set of brilliant stories, inspired by Colin Dexter’s Endeavour Morse.

Russell is such a wonderful writer and every time I receive a new script, I never cease to be impressed with his sheer skill and mastery at story-telling. Every character is so finely drawn, and as an actor, I am personally grateful for the all those wry and pithy witticisms from Max De Bryn (far cleverer than I could come up with) and an education into the fascinating world of 1960s forensics.

I always enjoy working with Shaun very much, he is such a talented and generous actor, and I remember the first scene we filmed where Morse first meets Max. I think it was the first day of filming and I remember going home thinking what a great day, and feeling that I was part of something special.

And whether I’m learning my lines as I stroll by the river and through the local cemetery, trying on bow-tie and cardigan combinations with the Wardrobe Department, researching ‘occipital fractures,’ or having a good natter with Abigail at the read through, it’s always a delight working on Endeavour.

SAM COSTIN

Script Editor ~ Series I – III

It’s difficult to disentangle my experience working on Endeavour with my own entry into working in television generally, an opaque and boggling industry at the best of times, as they both naturally coincide and overlap. I had stumbled into a job working in development with Mammoth Screen not long after graduation, having previously mimbled about (very vaguely, one hastens to add) in arts journalism. I had been writing about cinema as an adolescent, then as a student. Strutting ingrate that I was, when by chance I saw a graduate script editing position advertised online. I assumed that the critical skills required to analyse a completed product were transferable to that which had yet to be made. I had much (read: a bucket load) to learn.

I’ll always be grateful that having blithered on no-doubt incoherently about The Singing Detective and Cathy Come Home in their old Rathbone Place offices, Damien, Rebecca, Preethi, Michele and the rest of the Mammoths first hired me on a provisional basis, and then – gasp, pant – continued to hire me for an extended period of time. I had greatly admired previous productions such as Christopher and His Kind and Margot, and other highlights (The Best Possible Taste, Parade’s End) were cresting on the horizon. I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I lived in permanent fear of being metaphorically defenestrated for getting things wrong and making ridiculous mistakes. As it was, I made several, but I was allowed to develop, grow and find my creative feet; a luxury rarely afforded and something for which I remain thankful.

Eventually I was asked to script edit the first series of Endeavour – an ask I took extremely seriously. I’d seen the Pilot film at a screening, and then again when it was broadcast in early 2012. I knew nothing of the production process and my memories of the first series are something of a blurred jumble of learning curves and mad panics, with producer Dan McCulloch exhibiting Job-like patience as I learned the ropes.

All this time later, the job remains a relentlessly amorphous one, with Wilder’s famous dictum about directors – “….must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.” –  bearing some vague application. In this particular case it became a process of best serving and protecting the special alchemy and deliberate architecture of Russell Lewis’ screenplays, works that are often astonishing in their adroitness and cine-literacy, as well as honouring the lineage and internal continuity of the Dexterverse that had preceded them. Across three series, every film was its own different working experience, with Russell as the constant, the details of which would fill pages too innumerable, exhaustive and personal to fully expound upon here. But the show became my morning, my day, my evening, my night; my weekday, my weekend. My life.

Endeavour Morse sustains as a lasting spoke of British cultural iconography, regardless of specific iteration, because he appeals to the best of us. So it is with some pride that I got to call his cockeyed caravan at Oxford City Police, however briefly, a home. May he, and all those who ride with him, endure.

IRENE NAPIER

Make-up Designer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

I’ve always been a huge Morse fan. I’ve seen all of them at least twice. Which is why, when Colm McCarthy, director, called to say he had a new project, I got very excited. I had just finished working in London so I arranged to see Colm and Dan McCulloch, producer, in town before I left to drive back up to Scotland. I’m glad to say the meeting went well and Dan called the next day to tell me I was first on board on Endeavour. And as they say, the rest is history. I love doing Endeavour it always has fantastic scripts, courtesy of Russell Lewis, with great stories and many challenges. I think I’m the only crew member who’s done them all. Which is a huge honour. The core cast are all fantastic! When I travel down from Scotland to start a new series it’s like a lovely feeling of coming home and meeting up with old friends.

I never had the chance to work on Morse so this, for me, is a fantastic opportunity. We’ve had great directors and fantastic guest artists. The casting is always spot on which makes my job so much easier. With Russell’s scripts, each character is finely drawn but there’s always scope for me to add little twists. We’ve had many stunt doubles, always a challenge! In Ride we had one character playing five different characters including a twin. On this series I particularly enjoyed Canticle where we had to create a 1960’s pop band. We added many bits and pieces of hair and wigs to those boys to get an authentic look. Doing 1960’s is great fun, lots of Carmen Rollers used! One of the great things about it is, the production is really well run. We don’t do ridiculous hours and we get to go to Oxford, which is a real  treat. The crew all love to come back which just shows how much everyone loves it. It’s fantastic, for me, to be part of such an iconic production.

SEAN RIGBY

Detective Sergeant Jim Strange

Despite The Dead of Jericho first airing nearly two and a half years before I was born, it would be impossible to grow up during the Nineties and not be aware of Inspector Morse‘s immense popularity.

Towards the end of filming the first series of Endeavour, I got the cast to sign an omnibus of the first three novels to present to a long-time family friend, neighbour and self confessed Morse fanatic back in Lancashire. When I gave it to her, she had tears in her eyes. I think that’s the first time it truly hit home just how much this iconic programme means to people.

We all have to start somewhere, and I had the incredible fortune of taking my first steps as a professional actor in the formidable shoes of James Grout. Even now I still pinch myself. My working days are spent with wonderful scripts and the finest actors and crew you could find. What more could you ask for?

It is a tremendous honour to be a small part of Inspector Morse‘s enduring legacy.

Long may it continue!

MATTHEW SLATER

Composer

1987; BMX bikes, Michael Fish telling us it was only going to be a bit windy, back when there were only five billion of us on the planet, but more importantly the year Morse hit our screens.  Of course, we didn’t know E. Morse was indeed Endeavor those decades ago. I can remember the press and public interest surrounding that enigma for years with vigorous speculation and conjecture.  Being a thirteen-year-old teenager, I can also remember the television set being switched over regardless of what was on the other side.  The cast, the stories the music – it was something new and gripped the nation by the millions.  I don’t know whether it is an urban myth or not but I read at its peak some nineteen million viewers tuned in and during the ad breaks, the National Grid had to go into overload as so many kettles were being switched on simultaneously.

Back when cop shows were all guitars, brass and funk, Morse was something different.  Refined, classical and considered.  Barrington Pheloung’s theme and approach to the series was something clearly integral to the success and longevity of the characters.   Had someone told me as that thirteen-year-old that not only would I get to work on the original Morse series, but then Lewis into Endeavour, and to then finally have the honour of composing for the series in its thirtieth year, I’d have said they were utterly mad.

Being asked to become part of such a well-loved, talented and established team of actors, producers and crew is like being asked to become part of a huge, friendly family.  Shaun Evans and Roger Allam’s onscreen chemistry is equally as strong as John Thaw and Kevin Whately’s.  The entire series from start to where we are now has been brilliantly cast.  So many of the world’s finest actors have passed through the hallowed doors into the world created by Colin Dexter that I don’t think there has ever been such a vast and venerated cast list in the history of entertainment.

I felt a huge responsibility in writing the music for the thirtieth year and can only thank Tom Mullens, Damien Timmer and all at Mammoth for putting their trust in me.  Working with Russell Lewis’ brilliantly engaging new characters and stories has been a privilege.  Being involved for twenty years myself, whilst the prospect was daunting, I felt a natural and familiar comfort immersing myself into the world of one Endeavour Morse, or perhaps more befittingly…

— — .-. … .

ABIGAIL THAW

Dorothea Frazil

2017 comes around and I had no inkling it was 30 years since Morse first crossed our TV screens. Perhaps that’s a credit to the Endeavour series that we’ve become so immersed on our characters and our own program. Suddenly I am in the thick of the “30 years” thing and I can’t believe it was so long ago that it all started.

But I remember thinking, while waiting to shoot my first scene of Series 4 on some beautiful quad, that being in Oxford is a pertinent reminder of my father for me. It brings me back to him with a jolt; the colleges, the streets, the Randolph Hotel, the Ashmolean. Strange because I lived there as a child long after my parents divorced so I’ve rarely been there with him. But the character of Morse is so ingrained in that golden stone and the legacy (although I hate that cliched word) is quite sobering. Staring round at this wonderful, talented crew and actors, there to tell the stories of Inspector Morse’s crime solving… I mean, how extraordinary is that!

Thank you Colin Dexter and thank you Dad for giving Morse a corporal existence and everyone for continuing to make it happen: Damien, Russell, Kevin who drives you to the set happy and rested, Shaun with all that weight on his slender shoulders that he carries effortlessly… The list is very long. And then I stop thinking about it because if I didn’t I’d be overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to do my job!

Having James Laurenson in the first episode was a treat and it was lovely to hear his stories of that very first Morse; the uncertainty of whether it “had legs”. But for the rest of the time I don’t think about “Morse” or “Dad”. I look across at my fellow actor and I think, Hello Endeavour, or Hello Thursday, and when the camera’s not rolling I’m having a jolly good laugh; or putting the world to right over a custard cream and a tepid cup of tea; or trying to remember my lines and not bump into the furniture. Or trying to look as though I drive a 1960 Triumph with exceptionally stiff gears every day of my life…

And I love Dorothea. I fall for her more with each series. Russell thinks up all sorts for her, some make it to the final cut and many don’t but I know they’re there and they help me fill her out. Russell graciously allows me to feel I have some input into her development as I email him with the odd thought but I have to admit, he’s the puppet master. And I love the glimpses we get of her private life. Her friendship with Endeavour is touching and particularly comes to fruition in this series. Not to give anything away! She’s a lonely soul much like her Morse compatriot. But she’s got such gumption and life force. She can be utterly charmless when she wants to be which is rare in playing or being a woman. Something men take for granted. I wish I was more like her in many ways. But not at the witching hour after a scotch too many. Or those dark hours before dawn. I doubt she’s a stranger to the Dark Night of the Soul.

Whatever other job I do during the year, there is nothing like the thrill of a fresh new Endeavour script arriving, the comfort of all those familiar faces working for the same thing, making it as brilliant and enjoyable as possible. Putting on Dorothea’s rather uncomfortable clothes and pointy bra and drowning in a sea of Irene’s (Napier) hairspray, I’m plunged back into “Ah yes, I know this. Hello, girl. Cheers.”

DAMIEN TIMMER

Executive Producer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

Back in 1995, as a relatively fresh faced young script editor working at Central Films, the drama dream factory run by the legendary Ted Childs, I had the great fortune to be assigned to the Inspector Morse one off THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS. This was a huge event at the time; the first Morse film for a couple of years, after THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS had apparently ended the series (with John Gielgud amongst the cast!!) back in 1993. It was a career highlight for me – working closely with the great director John Madden, being in the orbit of Colin Dexter, and actually getting to see John Thaw on set in our Wytham Wood location.

The most important relationship was with the writer, one Russell Lewis. At the time Russell was the rock star god of writers; a young man who had The Midas Touch. Everything he wrote was a huge, monster smash – KAVANAGH QC, SHARPE, CADFAEL. He was the most modest man I  had ever met, but also  genuinely the cleverest; this extraordinary collision of huge (if not mammoth) erudition with this great story brain; an innate understanding of how to hook in a big audience with a well told tale.

Adapting THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS was a complex puzzle, as the (wonderful) novel presented many challenges. I got to know Russell’s brain well over that long summer, and it was a massive learning curve for me. He was my hero.

We worked again shortly after this, on a new series for Carlton called HEAT OF THE SUN, a series of adventurous detective yarns set in Happy Valley Kenya in the 1930s. Originally conceived for Kevin Whatley, at the eleventh hour it became a vehicle for Trevor Eve. A documentary series stole the title just before transmission, and the show was (unhappily) renamed UNDER THE SUN. Beautiful scripts, but the production process was a slightly bruising experience, stretching everyone involved to the limit. But my admiration for Russell’s brain grew yet further. The joy of reading his stage directions! Such nuanced scripts, packed full of allusions to all manner of things, both sacred and profane! The show was so expensive to make it didn’t return, but it put me slightly more on Russell’s radar, so I was happy!

In 2006, the idea of a Morse tribute film looking at what happened to Robbie Lewis after THE REMORSEFUL DAY emerged. I was then at London Weekend Television, and was having a development brainstorm with Julie Gardner, now Queen of All Drama, who was also working in the department. ‘Can Kevin Whatley ever play another TV detective?’, she asked plaintively. I had my eureka moment – ‘would he ever return to play Lewis? Just one last time?’. Russell said it was a good idea, and set to work. Ted Childs was approached, and Christ Burt came on board. Kevin was sceptical, as was Colin Dexter, but great work from Russell persuaded them that this would be made with integrity. The single was a huge success, achieving a rating of 11.3 million, a huge number even back then. Many more films followed. The dynamic between Lewis and Hathaway – forged by Russell’s brain – delighted audiences for many years. Thirty three stories were told – the same as Inspector Morse.

The notion of doing an origin film to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse was one Russell Lewis, Michele Buck and I had discussed for some time. As huge fanboys of the original series, we were excited by the notion of glimpsing Morse in his early years. But was this a spin off too far? I was convinced that it deserved to be made when Russell offered up the title. Of course! ENDEAVOUR! From that point on, the show had its own unique identity. It exists in the world of Inspector Morse, it *is* Morse, but it is also, uniquely, Endeavour. We never talk about Morse in script meetings; we only ever refer to him as Endeavour.

Casting the young Morse was key, of course. Shaun Evans had appeared in the first episode of Monroe, a hospital series Pete Bowker had written for ITV with James Nesbitt. He was a last minute substitution after another actor had pulled out. We were discussing the script of Endeavour at the same time as were editing Monroe, and I kept thinking there was a soulful quality about this young actor which made me think of Russell’s Endeavour Morse. He had something of a fallen angel about him; his face conveyed such sadness, such intelligence, such warmth. And those eyes! With hindsight one marvels at the madness of trying to cast the young John Thaw! What were we thinking of? But to Shaun’s great credit, the first Endeavour film won many accolades from critics and fans, many of them focusing on the brilliant performance at the centre of it, but also the chemistry between Shaun and Roger Allam. Thursday, of course, is integral to Endeavour. That first script originally had Joan and Win, and Strange also made an appearance – all later cut for length. Only Bright and Jakes were missing. I think this goes to show what an extraordinary grasp on this world Russell had from the very beginning. Why is Thursday called Thursday? Why does Joan exist? I have never asked Russell, but knowing his mind and how it works, ‘Thursday’s child is full of grace…’ am sure is part of it. He had it all mapped out! I’m certain he had that extraordinary last scene between Endeavour and Joan at the end of series 3 mapped out when he first wrote the original pilot; he’s always had a very clear sense of how the lives of Thursday, Strange, Morse, Joan etc will play out over the ENDEAVOR years. That’s the thing that sets the show apart from Morse and Lewis; Russell Lewis’ role as sole author. Morse had extraordinary writers (Anthony Minghella! Julian Mitchell! Daniel Boyle!), and there was a thrill in seeing different talents take up the challenge of writing for Colin Dexter’s great creation. But in Endeavour *everything* comes from Russell’s brain. This is highly unusual in the world of returning detective drama, and I think it’s the thing that elevates Endeavour. The complex mythology extends each year. It’s a world where everyone shops at Burridges, follows the tennis career of Elva Piper, listens to recordings of Rosalind Calloway. Russell pays constant tribute to the world of Morse which lies ahead, but he also slowly builds up one of the most detailed and credible fictional worlds on modern television. Everything is to be found in this slice of 1960s Midlands life. Endeavour’s adventures take him to the world of Lonsdale and the other Oxford colleges, but also to the wider world – much more than Lewis did, and possibly more than Morse did.

Endeavour, forged by Russell, helped by Dan McCulloch, Colm McCarthy and many other wonderful directors, Sam Costin, Helen Ziegler and many others over the years. And special mention to Helga Dowie, our inestimable Line Producer. We are blessed that Sheila Hancock makes  a special appearance at the end of this 30th anniversary, in one of our very favourite films yet. Big kudos to director Jim Loach for making something so special. The camaraderie on Endeavour really is one of the most striking things about it; Russell, Shaun, Roger and everyone else all going the extra mile, knowing they are making something a little special. Knowing some of Russell’s plans for future stories I genuinely think the best is yet to come!

SARA VICKERS

Joan Thursday

Being an actor can be a lonely road. Jobs come and go, people come and go. So to enter into the world of Endeavour and Morse, is like a little haven. Meeting up with the loveliest cast and crew year after year, it’s a privilege to be part of it.

And to get to play sassy Joan Thursday to boot, I’m pretty chuffed with that.

A massive congratulation to everyone who has made Morse the huge success that it is. Long may it continue!

Happy 30th Birthday Endeavour Morse! x

HELEN ZIEGLER

Producer ~ Series IV

What makes Endeavour so special, is that each film invites you into a different world, from the spooky slipper baths and thinking machines, to the hedonistic life of pop stars, a haunted hospital and a nuclear power station. In each film, Russell creates these sublime and utterly different stories which intertwine actual events, issues and personalities with thrilling plots. He effortlessly clashes together both obvious and hidden layers of references to history and the arts, and of course ways to celebrate the 30th anniversary.  So many that even when working on the show you relish trying to work out all the secrets of the script!

I have too many great memories to pick just one. What could be better than exploring the hidden secrets of Oxford, creating a man versus machine competition, following Roger and Shaun in a boat as they seek Nick Wilding through the fog, or shivering as they run through the dark corridors of a deserted hospital, watching dancers tirelessly perfect their rainbow moves and getting to press the big red button on our set for the nuclear power station!

Ultimately, the best memories come from the people, the Endeavour family, the passion, dedication and the many many laughs. Working with such incredible talent both on and off screen was a constant inspiration for me, and it is an experience I cherish.

~

Remembering those who were there in the beginning with the very first Inspector Morse and are no longer with us:

JAMES GROUT

Chief Superintendent Strange

NORMAN JONES

Chief Inspector Bell

KENNY MCBAIN

Producer

ANTHONY MINGHELLA

Screenwriter

ALASTAIR REID

Director

PETER WOODTHORPE

Dr. Max De Bryn

and

JOHN THAW

Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse

~

I would like to thank everyone who was kind enough to contribute to the article above and all those who have done interviews with me over the past few years – especially Russell Lewis. If you ever find yourself in the back of an ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation – he’s the only man to call out for!

Also, I spoke earlier about people of good character and morals. Well, I save my final thanks to someone with more integrity, principles and goodness (not to mention patience!) than anyone I have ever met – my Kirstie. I love you x

~

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

 

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part II

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Rex De Lincto ~

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

ACT II

“GIRL”

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

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

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

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©itv/MammothScreen

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©kippa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Curiouser and curiouser!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

S2-FILM2: 'Nocturne' ©itv/MammothScreen

S2-FILM2: ‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

~~~

THE INSIDE STORY

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

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

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

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

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

Morse meets Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright. Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Sean Rigby

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

Sean Rigby

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Anthony Sayer ~

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

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

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

"I'm Strange" ©itv/MammothScreen

“I’m Strange” ©itv/MammothScreen

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

S1-FILM2: 'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM2: ‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

James Grout, right, with John Thaw

Say cheese! – the original Morse and Strange ©itv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S1-FILM3: 'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM3: ‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

strangehome1

S1-FILM4: ‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft