Tag Archives: Jim Strange

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on CODA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

“Coughing better tonight” – The Wigan Nightingale

Russell Lewis on CODA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

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

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

RUSS:  I honestly couldn’t say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m also available for Children’s Parties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Will there be a cliffhanger?

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

DAMIAN: Will there be sandwhiches?

RUSS:  Always.

DAMIAN: What about wildlife?

RUSS:  Sheep may safely graze.

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

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

‘She should have been held.’

‘Perhaps she was.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

And for Tootles…

“Bloody nice shoes”

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THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / No.26 / CODA

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

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

TIGER: Rubbish! – get off…

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on PREY

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

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

Russell Lewis on PREY

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Nope.  Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Oh – the former, certainly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Thanks very much.  Until next time.

~~~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 2810 / PREY

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

No scriptwriters were harmed during the making of this interview

Charlotte Mitchell – An interview with ENDEAVOUR’s Costume Designer

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Charlotte Mitchell – Costume Designer

LAST SEEN WEARING

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
Images copyright © Charlotte Mitchell/Mammoth Screen

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DAMIAN: Hi Charlotte and thanks for doing this. Can you tell us a little bit about what made you want to be a costume designer please?

CHARLOTTE: Hi Damian, I left art college with a degree in knitwear from Central Saint Martins and after a brief stint working in the fashion industry I decided to change my career into costume design. It suits me better as I prefer creating varied looks which depict a time in society showing a person’s class, a historic time or a feeling of emotion. Fashion is creatively far more narrow and restricted by sales.

DAMIAN: Even early on in your career you worked on some iconic television shows such as AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT, TORCHWOOD and DOCTOR WHO including arguably one of the best written by Steven Moffat, BLINK, which featured the first appearance of the Weeping Angles and an early screen role for Carey Mulligan. What would you say you learned most from those early experiences in the industry?

CHARLOTTE: Wow you have done your research and yes I’ve done my time! I am lucky to have gained so much valuable knowledge from the incredible shows I have worked on. I started out working my way up in the costume department, I wanted to get a broad brush stroke of information on how to design and work with incredible talent and challenging scripts. I assisted some amazing designers who are credited for the above shows and their knowledge is invaluable. I learnt you should always listen and absorb what is wanted, then you can take that information and push it further. Working under someone with great experience teaches you that.

DAMIAN: And you worked on another Steven Moffat production some may have heard of, the original pilot for something called SHERLOCK! What was that like in the days before anyone had any idea that SHERLOCK, or indeed Benedict Cumberbatch, would become such a phenomenon?

CHARLOTTE: It was great fun! We all new it was going to be special it had the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss touch. Establishing the new characters in a modern world was a challenge and finally lead us to the ‘the Sherlock coat’. I hope you haven’t missed the red button holes, I painstakingly sewed them on the original myself, but I’m sure there have been many remakes of that coat since!

DAMIAN: In compiling these questions, I thought a lot about the costume designers and their films that have had an impact on me over the years such as THE MALTESE FALCON and CASABLANCA (1941 & 1942: both by Orry-Kelly), VERTIGO (1958: Edith Head), BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967: Theadora Van Runkle), BLADE RUNNER (1982: Michael Kaplan), BATMAN (1989: Bob Ringwood) and BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992: Eiko Ishioka). What cinema or television would you say has inspired you most over the years?

CHARLOTTE: I am constantly inspired. I wouldn’t say I have been inspired more or less by any one production. It depends on what suits the story I am working on and how the director wants to shoot it. I feel I am most inspired by real life looking at a person’s social background, their job and age without stereotyping, it’s weirdly harder than you think. Also colour is so important to me and how it works in its environment so for this I admire Wes Anderson and Almodovar, and even Hitchcock, but this then becomes highly stylised so it’s what you take away from their films.

DAMIAN: How many of the costumes for ENDEAVOUR are off the peg and how many are specifically tailor-made for individual actors?

CHARLOTTE: For the main cast they are made. Each one of the suits for our detectives are tailor made by an incredible tailor I know. He is in his 70’s and made suits in the 60’s so still has all the original blocks to use for his pattern. I tweak some of them to help flatter the modern body but on the whole they are as they would have been made. For the background and guest cast I buy from vintage shops and hire from numerous specialist costume companies. Sometimes I can’t find the perfect thing so I have something made.

DAMIAN: In the cases where the clothes are designed and made by you, is it a problem finding the accurate and authentic materials for the period?

CHARLOTTE: Most fabrics now are breathable which is a good thing. Back in the 60’s there was a lot of nylon and most of my actors don’t like wearing it, so I find authentic looking fabrics, but tend to stay away from the real thing. I am a great believer in also using modern clothes and remodelling them or styling them to look correct. There are so many clothes in the shops which give the correct 60s feel and yet aren’t falling apart like a vintage piece might be! In episode 1 Tessa Knight’s denim coat is from a high street shop. It looks fresh like it should. As if she’s just bought it. Finding the perfect original coat for her didn’t work, they all looked to ‘period’, they looked like a costume where as the denim coat looks real.

DAMIAN: How do you approach researching the period and how long might this take per episode or series?

CHARLOTTE: It starts off with a discussion on the tone the director wants to give the episode. Is it going to be colourful? Is it going to be worn in? Is it going to be super polished? Then I start looking at old fashion stills to pull out key silhouettes for each character. I will then reference photography, film and art, and to make sure it’s real, look back at archive footage from the same time. To be honest it’s constant research, as I am always getting new ideas which send me down new interesting paths.

DAMIAN: In addition to the research, to what extent do you think your own personal tastes and styles have an influence on what we eventually see the actors wearing onscreen?

CHARLOTTE: Yes my own tastes definitely influence what you see. I like everyone on screen to work well together from the background to the main artists so I consider what colour costume will sit well with what. I prefer clean lines and less fuss over frills and pattern. Then if I do use anything more fussy it’s always against a neutral or clean silhouette. Haha, my own style is very simple lines and minimal pattern so yes.

DAMIAN: Would you say you spend the most time collaborating with the writer, Russell Lewis, the directors or the actors in terms of making creative decisions?

CHARLOTTE: It works as a joint collaboration but it is in this order: director, actors , Russ. Haha. Basically Russ has final say, but he is always very easy to please!

DAMIAN: Can it ever be frustrating that hair and makeup is a different department in that it prevents creative control over the complete visual design of characters?

CHARLOTTE: No it’s good to have that separation. Myself and makeup discuss where I am going with the costume and then makeup take it from there. I love seeing what makeup bring to the character and sometimes I make more changes once I see the end result. It’s all an organic process.

DAMIAN: If we didn’t know Endeavour as well as we do, and instead simply observed him from a distance, what do you think we could be able to learn from his clothes and the way in which Shaun Evans wears them?

CHARLOTTE: He’s an old man trapped in a young person’s body so there is a correctness about him. He is very rarely seen without a tie, so when he is it makes a subconscious impact on the audience. However he’s not vain, he is practical.

DAMIAN: Personally, I like the look of Thursday best with his great coat and fedora. Where is his hat actually from?

CHARLOTTE: Thursday has two hats. One is new and very beautiful but I don’t think it has the 60s look and the other is a beautiful slightly more beaten original. We used the original one in series 4 which came from a vintage shop. It has a narrower brim and a slightly higher crown. It’s actually late 50’s early 60’s as is Thursdays style, so I like that it looks a bit more faded. You have hit the nail on the head the newer one from series 3 looks like a fedora with the wider brim not a trilby… now I’m just being pedantic!

DAMIAN: And Jim Strange, is it fair to say he’s a bit drab and frumpish before his time?

CHARLOTTE: Absolutely! He’s heading towards the Jim Strange of the 1980s Morse with his thick rim glasses. He’s a bit crumpled and his suit is ill fitting. I love that he wears a tank top what ever the weather.

DAMIAN: James Bradshaw is so wonderfully eccentric as Dr Max deBryn, you must have enormous fun with his character?

CHARLOTTE: He’s fab isn’t he? When you have such a male heavy cast all wearing suits it’s hard to make a different look for each one, so his eccentricity helps me. He has an old fashioned style making poor James look many years older than he is with his button thru cardigans and his bow ties.

DAMIAN: We’ve yet to see Chief Superintendent Bright relaxing at home, what do you imagine he’d be wearing?

CHARLOTTE: It has been designed. He is a more tidy version of Max deBryn. He would always wear a bow tie too.

DAMIAN: How would you describe Dorothea’s look?

CHARLOTTE: Abigail has the most amazing figure! She is wonderful to dress. She has to show an element of power dressing yet she is still an attractive woman. In the 60’s women would been look down on if they didn’t wear skirts in the office, and even though she is the boss so could flaunt these rules there are standards she likes to keep up! She has a silhouette of the early 60’s due to her age and formality which is a joy to design.

DAMIAN: Which of all the characters in ENDEAVOUR do you find the most challenging to design for?

CHARLOTTE: Usually the guest characters as you never know what you are going to get.

DAMIAN: And finally, if we look at the BAFTA winners for film costume designs in the last decade: MAD MAX (Jenny Beavan), THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Milena Canonero), THE GREAT GATSBY (Catherine Martin), ANNA KARENINA (Jacqueline Durran), THE ARTIST (Mark Bridges), ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Colleen Atwood), THE YOUNG VICTORIA (Sandy Powell), THE DUCHESS (Michael O’Conner), LA VIE EN ROSE (Marit Allen), I think it’s fair to say that these are indicative of voting trends within the academy which clearly favour period or fantasy productions. And yet, I can’t help feel that in a way, isn’t creating ordinary, everyday costume designs for productions with contemporary and more mundane settings equally, if not more difficult, particularly in order to avoid clichés and stereotypes?

CHARLOTTE: Yes, yes! Everyone has an opinion on the modern and mundane. There’s many more voices to convince. Those designers you mention also do the mundane and achieve great results too but it is not acknowledged in the same way. In fact it was whilst I was pulling costumes from the costume hire company for ENDEAVOUR I came across Michael O’Conner competing for the same items. Whether you are on a TV show or large feature film we are all fighting together over the same items! It’s great fun who you find at the costume houses.

DAMIAN: Charlotte, thank you very much indeed.

CHARLOTTE: Thank you Damian, great questions!

Charlotte (left) and the ENDEAVOUR costume team © Charlotte Mitchell

~

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

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

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

– Oxford English Dictionary

 

Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Arthur Octavius Prickard

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  You’d have to ask Jack Bannon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / WPC734 / ARCADIA

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.

Please remember to check out of the hotel and settle any bills before coming to work.*


* Mrs Cravat, your cheque is in the post.

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 INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

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

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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©itv/MammothScreen

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©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

~~~

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

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

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

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

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

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

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

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

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: James Bradshaw

Please note that this interview was originally posted April 13, 2014 during the series two run.

JAMES BRADSHAW

Exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Uncle Bob and William Dunn ~

Morse and Max enjoy Gin and Campari at the Gardeners…
‘Poor sod… Do you ever think of death? Mors, mortis, feminine – remember that?
‘Not likely to forget a word like that, am I? Just add on “e” to the end and…’
The surgeon smiled a sour acknowledgement of the point and drained his glass. ‘We’ll just have the other half. Then we’ll get back, and show you round the scene of the crime again.’
‘When the body’s out of the way?’
‘You don’t like the sight of blood much, do you?’
‘No. I should never have been a policeman.’
‘Always turned me on, blood did – even as a boy.’
‘Unnatural!’
‘Same again?’
‘Why not?’
‘What turns you on?’ asked the surgeon as he picked up the two glasses.
‘Somebody from the Oxford Times asked me that last week, Max. Difficult, you know – just being asked out of the blue like that.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I said I was always turned on by the word “unbuttoning”.’
– Colin Dexter, The Secret of Annexe 3
'First Bus to Woodstock' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘First Bus to Woodstock’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: As we’ll discuss shortly, the friendship between Morse and the pathologist, Dr Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn, is a rather unique one compared to other characters in either Inspector Morse or Endeavour, but first James, please tell us how you got the part?

JAMES: I received a call from my agent to say they had emailed the script over for a meeting the following day with Susie Parriss [Casting Director], Dan McCulloch [Producer] and Colm McCarthy [Director]. I had a good read and picked out a couple of scenes. I had a memory of Peter Woodthorpe’s Max from the Morse series, and as soon as I started reading Russell’s [Lewis] script, I thought ‘Now, I’d like to get this.’ I like to do as much preparation as possible, and I like to look right, sound right, and smell right, so I made sure I had the scenes off the page, and went in dressed in a smart suit and thick framed glasses. I didn’t look at any ‘Morse’ footage immediately before, as I didn’t want to do an impression of Peter’s Max, and I also felt that the character was so well drawn in Russell’s script, and Max’s mannerisms and demeanour came through very clearly.

I think I may have been a little conscious of Max’s air of eccentricity in the first reading and came across as somewhat theatrical, but Colm, who is such a brilliant director, said ‘It’s ok, it’s all there, you don’t have to push it.’ We tried it again, everyone seemed happy, and I was told by my agent that I had got the part about four days later. That was a lovely afternoon when I got that call, I went straight to Marks and Spencer and treated myself to a nice pudding.

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Lewis and Strange may have had longer friendships with Morse, but it is with Max that the detective finds the most in common as they are both on the same cultural and intellectual wavelength. How would you describe their relationship?

JAMES: They have such a wonderful connection and I think that is there right from their very first encounter. Max is most definitely ‘nonconformist’ in attitude and approach and I think he recognises that in Morse. There is also a shared appreciation of highculture, and Max loves Morse’s familiarity with the poetry and Latin that Max is so fond of espousing. There is certainly a lot of mutual respect there, and always warmth and affection, even when they’re having the odd little snappy moment. Max is also certainly not averse to the odd tipple or two.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Like Morse, is it fair to say Max is something of an outsider as he doesn’t really seem to fit in does he?

JAMES: There is an eccentricity to Max, and a flamboyant persona, which is probably a useful device for steering clear of emotional attachments. He is certainly highly regarded for his professional capabilities and I imagine in his leisure time, he is great fun at local wine-tasting events and bridge evenings, provoking amusement in some and bafflement in others with his odd mannerisms and turn of phrase. However, he might have many acquaintances, but very few real friends, and I think this has been a common theme throughout his life.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: So is Max a lonely chap or does he, with the possible exception of Morse, simply prefer his own company most of the time?

JAMES: I think he is quite a lonely chap who doesn’t always take care of himself as much as he should, probably over-indulging at times in his fondness for rich food and expensive claret. He is obviously very intelligent, and hugely capable at his job, underneath the prickly exterior, he has great warmth and humanity, but when it comes to close, emotional ties, he’s just a bit lost. He only feels real affinity with those he recognises as outsiders like himself.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

It was 4.30 p.m. before the fingerprint man and the photographer were finished, and before the hump-backed surgeon straightened his afflicted spine as far as nature would permit.
‘Well?’ asked Morse.
‘Difficult to say. Anywhere from sixteen to twenty hours.’
‘Can’t you pin it down any closer?’
‘No.’
Colin Dexter, Last Seen Wearing

DAMIAN: Max made his literary debut in the second Morse book, Last Seen Wearing (1976), and appeared in most of the novels until he died of coronary thrombosis in The Way Through the Woods (1992). He’s described as being hump-backed, having little respect for the police but is passionate about food, drink and indeed blood – he’s also a world authority on VD! Other than that, there is little information about him – I wonder if you have your own personal backstory for Max that helps to fill in the gaps for you as an actor portraying him?

JAMES: I always look at the text first, the original novels, and Russell’s screenplays for information about the character. I find this is always the best source of interpretation and provides those clues as to Max’s character and motivations.

Colin Dexter is from Stamford in Lincolnshire and by coincidence, so am I. We had a lovely chat at one of the read-throughs about the beautiful and historic town, and I discovered subsequently that there was a surgeon operating at Stamford Hospital around the 1950s named Doctor Du Bruyn. Apparently he was quite a local character, a man of brilliance and eccentricity, and I would love to ask Colin, next time I see him if he was in any way an inspiration, when writing the character of Max.

'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: One of my few gripes with the original series is that I felt they squandered the potential of the Max character by only having him appear in the first seven (of thirty-three) films. This is especially the case when one considers that they replaced him in the third series with Dr Grayling Russell who is also ultimately written out anyway as the producers must have realised that it was not a good idea to have a regular series character as a reoccurring love interest for Morse [Sorry Monica!]. However, his relatively sparse appearances were memorable thanks to Peter Woodthorpe’s masterful performance. What do you think of Peter’s interpretation of Max?

JAMES: I think I mentioned, I found a picture of Max on the internet and remembered him from the original series, but that had been a several years before, and I deliberately did not watch footage of Peter Woodthorpe’s performance before going in for my interview, as I wanted to play the role as written in the script, and very much keep away from doing an impression. After the pilot had gone out, I did watch some of the older episodes featuring Peter Woodthorpe, to give me a flavour of those wonderful mannerisms and body language he used as Max. It was fascinating finding out about Peter, he was a hugely versatile actor, and had done some ground-breaking work including the very first production of The Caretaker. I was also lucky enough to talk to some actors who knew and had worked with him.

Peter as Max ©itv

Peter as Max ©itv

Morse leaned forward and whispered in the dying man’s ear: ‘I’ll bring us a bottle of malt in the morning, Max, and we’ll have a wee drop together, my old friend. So keep a hold on things – please keep a hold on things! … Just for me!’
– Colin Dexter, The Way Through the Woods

DAMIAN: I only wish the original series had managed to incorporate Colin’s touching farewell scene between Morse and Max – two rather emotionally inarticulate men perhaps trying to find the words to express what their friendship means to each other one last time. Do you think this foreknowledge of their respective fates informs your own and Shaun’s performance as Max and Morse, perhaps adding an extra layer of poignancy and understanding?

JAMES: I always try to think of what has happened to the character beforehand rather than what will happen in their future, but it is a beautiful touching scene and I think that poignancy and understanding runs right through their relationship from their first meeting. I remember when we shot those first scenes, I think it was the very first day of shooting on the pilot episode, and it felt like the connection between these two outsiders was there right from the start. It helps that Shaun is a very focused, talented, and generous actor. It is just so lovely working with him, because the energy between the characters feels so right.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Russ provides Max with some wonderfully macabre yet humorous dialogue and there is also the matter of the copious but obligatory autopsy-related jargon – is it difficult to get all the terminology right in the relatively short scenes?

JAMES: I love Russell’s writing, some of Max’s lines are just delicious! The autopsy-related jargon is an education. I always make sure I know which part of the human body, I am referring to. I have a good mate in the medical profession who can always be called upon to help me out with that stuff. And he is very particular on the pronunciation.

DAMIAN: While we’re on the subject, I must ask if it is true that you learn your lines in a cemetery?

JAMES: Yes, there is a beautiful church close by the river, near where I live and I trot down there of a morning and walk through the adjoining cemetery. It is wonderfully peaceful, and an ideal place to go over the lines. I can try them out all sorts of ways with varying degrees of emphasis and there aren’t many other people walking around the cemetery at that time, so I don’t have to worry about getting curious looks. I get right into it, I really am in my own, little world when I’m walking through there.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: I really love Max’s dress sense, do you help to choose his wardrobe – perhaps picking out the odd bowtie or two?

JAMES: We have brilliant costume designers and wardrobe people on Endeavour. I had a vague idea about tweeds and bow ties and they just got it so right.

'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You wear glasses yourself, was it difficult to find the right pair for Max?

JAMES: I remember saying to the costume designer that I’d seen a pair of glasses that Arthur Lowe had worn in the Sixties (As Mr Swindley from Coronation Street, not Captain Mainwaring) and the style seemed just right for the time and the character. I found some examples on the internet, and they came back with the perfect frames.

'Home' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: In my interview with Abigail Thaw, she mentioned a spin-off series, “Dotty and Max” – please tell us more…

JAMES: Haha!! I love Abigail, she is wonderful company and a terrific actress, and I always look forward to seeing her at the read-throughs, she has such a brilliant sense of humour and we always have a laugh together. We both said one day, isn’t it a shame that Dotty and Max never meet. And then we began to invent a rambling, fictional tale about Dorothea and Max. ‘I wonder if they’re related, well there are similarities…’ that kind of thing. I think we imagined them constantly bickering, swigging gin and becoming slightly psychotic.

'Trove' ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Trove’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You’re a fantastic Max; you honour both Colin’s creation and indeed, Peter’s take on the role while simultaneously making it your own. Thank you very much indeed for this interview James.

JAMES: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for asking me.

~

Many had known Max, even if few had understood his strange ways. And many were to feel a fleeting sadness at his death. But he had (as we have seen) a few friends only. And there was only one man who had wept silently when the call had been received in his office in Thames Valley Police HQ at Kidlington at 9 a.m. on Sunday, 19 July 1992.
– Colin Dexter, The Way Through the Woods
Nocturne ©itv/MammothScreen

‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

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 ~

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