THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #47A
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016
Images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen
An exclusive interview
by Damian Michael Barcroft
With thanks to:
Anthony Aloysius St John
& George Gathercole
‘BACK TO WORK’
12 APRIL 2015: It’s early Sunday morning and my special “K” and I are driving through Oxford. For me, having never visited before, but knowing the city so well from literature, film and, of course, television, it’s a surreal and dreamlike experience. To give you an inkling of my exhilaration, we pass The Eagle and Child where I like to imagine J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis still sitting there conversing over drinks in the Rabbit Room. And, speaking of rabbits, who can explore Oxford without thinking of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Liddell family? However, I’m not writing on behalf of the Oxford Tourist Board, and if I mention our excitement as we also drive past the Randolph Hotel, it might serve to tip the reader that I’m here on police business and I’ll surely get to the point sooner rather than later.
Today is the eleventh day of shooting for the first film of Endeavour series three but the first on location in Oxford. I arrive at Unit Base where the cast and crew have set up camp for the duration of the Oxford shoot. It’s neither glittering nor glamorous, indeed, it is after all, just a car park and one may be forgiven for believing they are about to witness the setting up of a car boot sale for the day rather than the production of a major ITV drama. However, there are one or two clues that I’m in the right place: a vintage AEC Renown double-decker bus circa 1967 (reg. FWL 371E) and just behind it, various location vehicles and trailers – some of which brandish the likeness of the Mammuthus primigenius.
It is now precisely 08:00 and I meet script editor Sam Costin who is enjoying his breakfast until I disturb him (Sam has script edited every single Endeavour film thus far and really does know where the bodies are buried!). As we make our way to Radcliffe Square, the first of the day’s three locations, Sam asks me if Russ has told me anything about today’s shoot. No. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. I wouldn’t ask although it was obvious what he was referring to and surely everyone who’d seen the shocking events of the series two grand finale was wondering the same thing.
Both Sam and K smile. In trying to take everything in, I must be the last to notice and can’t see the wood for the trees – an army of technicians and artists: art department and props, assistant directors, cameramen, grip, sound and make-up (hello Irene!) all busy blocking my view until magically disappearing as rehearsals come to an end and cameras roll…
Oxford’s finest back to work. And I was too! Last year I had the privilege of interviewing the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, to discuss all the films from the pilot up to the end of series one. I’m very pleased and proud that these exclusive interviews will continue as we explore the second series while offering the odd peek into what to expect from the third…
DAMIAN: Russ, the first series was broadcast between 14 April – 5 May 2013 and the second from 30 March – 20 April 2014. Why has series three taken so long to reach the screens?
RUSS: Blame the World Cup. Rio 2014 knocked the TV schedule out of shape, and meant we weren’t able to go into our usual production/broadcast slot. So – you’ll have to excuse me if my recollections are even more unreliable than usual. Production began on Series II almost three years ago now – and I would have started writing them even before that. Apologies in advance.
DAMIAN: How did Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor help inspire the story for Trove?
RUSS: They took part in an OUDS [Oxford University Dramatic Society] production of Marlowe’s ‘DOCTOR FAUSTUS’ – and the Oxford City Police were charged with looking after them. Early drafts had Strange and Jakes on protection duty – making sure nobody ran off with Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond ring. The opening sequence was intercut with the play in performance. ‘Stipendium peccati, mors est.’ I’d planned to have Endeavour trading Shakespearean quotations with Burton in the pub, but given when we shot, we just couldn’t make the timeline fit convincingly. DOCTOR FAUSTUS was on in… February, I think – and we weren’t shooting until Spring. Leaves on trees, etc. So… It had to go. But, the theme of the play, the notion of an unholy bargain – what price a soul? — survived.
DAMIAN: There’s a visual reference of their visit to Oxford that still survives the cut?
RUSS: When the Barbara Batten by-election posters go up, you might just glimpse a Playbill on the wall…
DAMIAN: It must have been a painful tug on the old purse strings to open the series with a parade through Oxford celebrating 900 years since our islands fell beneath the Norman Yoke, what were the logistics of closing Broad Street and were there a few raised eyebrows from the money men?
RUSS: They weren’t too highly raised. The Mammoths wanted something eye-catching for the opening. And 1066 to 1966 seemed too happy a coincidence to ignore. Probably all the rest of it – the Wolvercote Horde, etc., was spun from that. 1966 seemed to be very much about Britain re-assessing its identity, and its place in the world. A touch of Neo-Victorianism/Edwardianism for the Dedicated Followers of Fashion. Adam Adamant Lives!
We shot on a Sunday, so as not to disrupt Oxford too much. We had a good number of supporting artistes, but – as with the crowd scenes in ROCKET — a lot of it is smoke and mirrors.
DAMIAN: So it’s May 1966. Four months have passed since the end of series one in which Morse has been “counting paperclips at County” and Thursday has a spring in his step as Morse finally returns to Oxford City Police. How much of this episode, or indeed the whole of series two, existed in your mind as you wrote the final draft of HOME and what, if anything, changed along the way?
RUSS: When we got to the end of Series 1, we didn’t know if there would be a Series 2. We never do. It’s all about the figures. I think we got the official word from the Network quite some time after HOME went out. I suspect I had some of it in mind. I’m afraid that isn’t a terribly helpful or illuminating answer. It’s just difficult to recall after such a passage of time. I’m sure three years doesn’t sound very long, but TROVE is eight films ago. These things occupy every waking thought for the duration of production, but as soon as it’s done I’m afraid most of it tends to get wiped from the memory banks to make room for the next. Either that or the mind tends to forget pain! Perhaps we should do our Series 3 Q&A when we get to the end of this one!
But, for what it’s worth, I think – should we come back for a Series 4, and assuming stuff doesn’t get vetoed – that I’ve already got all the stories for that run, and possibly the one after, already fairly well nailed down. Which is probably tempting fate, and now we’ll be ignominiously cancelled and cast into outer darkness.
DAMIAN: While discussing the story arc for the first series in one of our previous interviews, you said that you absolutely know how Endeavour will end and that the final scene is actually already written. You also stated that you have certain key points mapped out for all the major characters. I’m wondering if that end is still the same and if any of the aforementioned key points appeared in series two?
RUSS: Certainly – I’ve got the way-points mapped out. And the end is still the same. Series 2 – what were the way-points? Well – Morse & Monica. A ‘proper’ relationship. The first glimpse of the Brotherhood. Thursday’s past – which I’m sure we’ll get to when we look at SWAY. Some have made this new series. Others haven’t. There was one reveal that was written for this series, but which, in the end, we couldn’t schedule. It’ll keep. Other things… some of the events in this series were decided by things happening off-screen – artistes’ availability in the main. Again – blame FIFA.
DAMIAN: Strange takes his Sergeant’s exam at the end of series one and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that he was on his way to becoming the Chief Superintendent we know and love from the original series. However, you quickly establish that he failed by “three lousy points” early in TROVE. Was this the original plan or did you reconsider his timeline and think it was too early for his first promotion?
RUSS: No – it was the original plan. More of which will be revealed… It would have been too easy – and too obvious – to have Strange take the Exam at the end of Series 1, and attain his stripes – purely on merit — by Series 2. The scene between Strange and Endeavour in the pub – a man can’t serve two masters – was key, really.
DAMIAN: We’ve spoken at length about the influence of and your passion for the horror genre in the past with particular reference to FUGUE. In TROVE however, there were a few moments in which I was reminded of the old noir films and literature such as the work of Chandler, Hammett and the Bogie movies but was there the particular and more British influence of Graham Greene and his Brighton Rock or The Third Man in mind while writing TROVE?
RUSS: It was very much ENDEAVOUR does noir. So far as we can. It’s something I’ve tried – with various degrees of success and failure – to nod to across the show, as it’s a genre of which I’m hugely fond. The lonesome highway with the gas station/motel is pure Americana. Equal parts Hopper and James M Cain. I think the original stage directions had a fizzing neon sign, and Jim Reeves on the Jukebox/Radio… but in the end… Budget.
The thing with a straight whodunit is that it can teeter over into becoming just a dry puzzle – a mental exercise with very little heart or emotional heft. “Where were you on the night in question?” And that’s fine if you’ve got a grey afternoon with a Golden Age novel – you can go back and forth, flicking through the pages, checking out a character’s alibi, seeing if their story stands up – but for something you’re watching, it’s got to have – for me at least – some kind of drive and forward momentum. It’s got to be ABOUT something. It’s got to have a story.
As for Graham Greene… I’d be very pleased if anything we did came within hailing distance of his greatness. The Third Man is a touchstone – Roger Allam is a massive fan too. It wasn’t Rosalind Calloway by accident.
But yes – I was after a very noir feel with TROVE – the world of the Private Eye; untrustworthy cops; dodgy show-business types, &c..
DAMIAN: Morse tells us he doesn’t vote in this episode but I wonder if you’re ever tempted, after a glass of Blue Nun perhaps, to infuse any of the characters in Endeavour with your own personal politics?
RUSS: Alas, no Nuns for me – Blue, Red, Singing or otherwise. I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree.
DAMIAN: If there was one disappointment I had with this series, it was that I was sorry not to see more of Morse’s flat from the first series. It was dank, melancholy and a little oppressive – very Miss Havisham but on a budget and perfect for young Morse. Why did you decide that it was important for him to be in new lighter and more spacious digs for series two?
RUSS: I think it was principally a matter of logistics/location availability. But also, I needed him to be somewhere he could run into Monica across the hallway. And I don’t think we had that option in his first place. There’s an ebb and flow in Endeavour’s fortunes. Sometimes he’s ahead. As often as not, he’s behind. One thing that didn’t make the cut in Series 2 was the notion that his father had left quite considerable gambling debts – and that Endeavour was paying them off out of his wages, a bit at a time. However – it does get a bit of a nod this time out.
DAMIAN: Apart from Adele Cecil (Judy Loe) in the Inspector Morse episodes Death Is Now My Neighbour and The Wench Is Dead, Nurse Monica “with a moped” Hicks (Shvorne Marks) is the only other onscreen and ongoing relationship for Morse thus far. What’s the connection between Morse and Monica that was perhaps missing from his previous romance with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy) in ROCKET?
RUSS: I think Alice had an idea of Endeavour. An ideal. The one she couldn’t have. And then – once she’s had her heart’s desire, she probably realized that he wasn’t the man she’d made him in her mind. Monica just saw him as who he was; a man – and a rather damaged one at that. She found him at a low point, and helped get him back on his feet.
DAMIAN: Matthew Copley-Barnes (from the Inspector Morse episode The Infernal Serpent played by Geoffrey Palmer) features in TROVE this time played by Jamie Parker. When a character from the original series occasionally makes an appearance in Endeavour (fans will also remember The Last Enemy’s Alexander Reece in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK for example), are they under contract to play them again should their services be required in future episodes?
RUSS: No – alas – the guest players are brought on board for one film at a time. Obviously, we’d go back to them if at all possible. I wouldn’t want to recast. So if they weren’t available, or felt disinclined to come back, then I’d have to rework the idea. It’s something I’m sure we’ll do at some point – it was mooted on this new series – as I’m keen to develop the idea of our Oxford as a living place, where you’re quite likely to bump into people you’ve met before, but in the end we just ran out of sky. Also – as with I.M. – some of our guests are already proving to be the leading lights of the next generation. So, I suspect getting some of them back would be a tougher go – second time around.
RUSS: Some. And probably not so much as a megalomaniac would find agreeable. Susie Parris – our Casting Director — pulls off wonders and miracles for us. The budget allows about 22 speaking rôles per film, including our regulars – and Susie manages to find maybe forty to fifty actors per series that make the cut. You can probably multiply than number by anywhere between two to ten, depending on the part, to get a rough estimate of the number of actors that audition – or, as they call it nowadays, ‘interview’. I don’t know how Susie does it – short of being an actual angel. The patience of Job. How she puts up with us…
As for casting heritage characters. It’s walking a tightrope a lot of the time. It can be tricky when it comes to acknowledging Morse’s future history. People want to feel they’re doing ‘something new’ or breaking fresh ground. Directors have enough to think about without my relentless fanboi gripes – and actors don’t want to do an impression, or some sort of received performance. So…
For me, and I suspect for a section of the fandom — the devil is in the detail. Some you win. Some you don’t.
I’m never left in any doubt that too much of what could be perceived as fan-service might alienate those who have come to Endeavour on its own terms. So that’s something else one has to try to navigate. But I’ve never approached it with the notion of – ‘Oh, this will please the cognoscenti’. Rather it’s there are characters from IM that caught my imagination as a viewer that I’d like to see in different circumstances. Some of them can be quite slight encounters. The merest brushing of shoulders. If I had ENDEAVOUR having stories with these characters of such weight that they couldn’t possibly forget one another over the intervening 20-odd years, then it would be doing a retroactive disservice to IM. Hopefully there’ll be some audience members who were too young for IM first time round – and Endeavour will lead them to the source of all good things. If they then arrived and were asking themselves – ‘Why doesn’t Morse remember this person?’ or ‘Why is that character pretending not to know Morse?’ then I’d have failed.
As it is – I think with all the characters we’ve deployed, we’ve respected that Prime Directive. At the end of TROVE – Thursday tells Endeavour that Copley-Barnes had told him he would ‘remember him’ – and Endeavour responds with something along the lines of ‘A vainglorious fool like that? Somehow, I doubt it.’ And I don’t think that Copley-Barnes would have remembered Endeavour. Far too self absorbed to keep a lowly Detective Constable in mind for twenty-five years.
Copley-Barnes was Alma Cullen’s wonderful creation, and played to perfection by Geoffrey Palmer. So – he was just too fascinating a monster to resist getting out of the dressing up box. As it was, Jamie Parker – who I’d seen play Hal to Roger Allam’s Falstaff – had just been working with Geoffrey Palmer, and so grabbed the challenge with both hands, and a certain amount of relish. Despite all the foregoing – and for good or ill, Series 3 probably features — in terms of heritage characters and conceits — far more connective tissue to IM than the previous two.
DAMIAN: Morse makes some powerful enemies in TROVE and Strange is initiated into a certain ancient fraternity. Will there be more secret handshakes in the future?
RUSS: They haven’t gone away. But I think they’ll be a little less overt in their machinations going forward. Licking their wounds, probably. Biding their time.
DAMIAN: We’ve previously talked about the use of music in the show and I know from my interview with Barrington Pheloung that he doesn’t care much for Wagner! Indeed, because of this, Wagner was sidelined in the original Inspector Morse in favour of Mozart. However, you told me that “time will cast ever darker shadows upon his heart, and that will be reflected in his evolving musical taste”. Will Wagner finally get his just desserts on the turntable?
RUSS: I would hope so.
DAMIAN: What more can you tell us about tonight’s episode?
RUSS: Not much. It’s Easter Bank Holiday. And a funfair has come to town. It’s a whole bunch of notions – some drawn from the period, some not – hurled with wild abandon into the Endeavour blender. But it’s a very different story shape to anything we’ve done before. It started with Donald Campbell, and Bluebird… I had a relative who was there on the fateful day. And one hydroplane led to another. The 60s has most definitely arrived, and I guess it struck me at some point that the Psychedelic Age had something in common with another Age altogether. That there were fascinating parallels. From there it just kind of grew…
DAMIAN: And can we look forward to any “fragrant ladies”?
RUSS: Always. This first half of ’67 probably features a surfeit of them.
DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed.
RUSS: A pleasure, as always.
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