Tag Archives: Russell Lewis Screenwriter Endeavour

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART III

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

EXT. CHIGTON GREEN/POST OFFICE/ROAD – DAY 1

The CHIGTON GREEN CLOCK – telling the time. Never too quickly. Never too slowly. Telling the time for Chigton…

A SIGN for: “CHIGTON GREEN” Here the green. There the duckpond. Shops. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Fishmongers. Post Office.

Well-tended houses and gardens. Garden gnome – fishing…

CONFECTION (S6:E3)

Trumptonshire: Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton

DAMIAN: This opening to CONFECTION was filmed with idyllic shots of the quaint village including a white picket fence adorned with red roses and the overture ends with Farmer Bell shooting Mandy-Jane with a shotgun. I wasn’t quite sure if I was watching Endeavour, an episode of Trumpton or David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. What mood were you and the director going for with this?

RUSS: Um… I think the picket fence was Leanne’s choice, as were the red roses. The Lynch probably more in her mind than mine – but I loved what she did with it. My only regret is that we ended up with the Roy Orbison and not her first choice. I love Roy Orbison — but the other track she ran with almost through to lock was a bit more kitsch and camp and torchy. A vocalist in the Kay Starr tradition… ‘Accused of stealing kisses, I’m guilty of the charge…’

DAMIAN: Preceding the scene where Endeavour meets Isla Fairford for the first time, you write that he ‘takes a moment – soaks up the atmosphere’ of the village which represents ‘a world and a life he left behind’. Not only is Isla obviously very attractive, but to what extent is Endeavour also attracted to the “notion” or “idea” of her and, rather ironically of course, the innocence she might represent in his longing for simpler times or the fact that he ‘grew up somewhere just like this’?

RUSS: What we were reaching for was a dull ache in his heart for somewhere – and more specifically – “someone” to call his own.

DAMIAN: Regarding the character of Isla, your script references Middlesex, a poem by Betjeman, with the following quotes: ‘Fair Elaine, the bobby-soxer, fresh complexioned with Innoxa… well-cut Windsmoor… Jacqmar scarf of mauve and green’. What was it about this poem that resonated with the character of Isla?

RUSS: Well — we were smashing together Christie, Trumptonshire, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in our creative Hadron Collider… and, you remember those wonderful illustrations across the opening of the Hickson Miss Marple?

The characters feel very late 40s through 50s. Actually – a touch of Long Weekend in there also. Mayhem Parva preserved in aspic. But there’s something sly about the eyes of all of them. And the Betjeman seemed to chime very happily as a short-hand for the kind of young woman she presents to the world. I think also – there’s a tiny echo of Barbara Shelley in Village of the Damned. Maybe a bit of Truly Scrumptious too. We were playing around a little with a Christie classic.

DAMIAN: In the Endeavour and Isla duck pond scene you write a line of action in the script that reads ‘One lonely heart lurches towards another.’ Obviously deceiving the audience is part of the game in murder mysteries but in reference to the cast and crew, do your scripts always tell the “truth” about a character or is there an equal objective to surprise those at the readthrough as well?

RUSS: Not the readthrough so much, as anyone’s first reading. By the time we get to that – most people are familiar with it. You want to convey in the stage directions the same experience the viewer will have when they see it for the first time. Physically and emotionally.

DAMIAN: The scenes ends with Endeavour asking Isla out on a date: ‘Look, I’m not really in the habit of, uh… – I just wondered if – perhaps – you’d care to go for a drink somewhere later… (a moment) With me.’ Is this supposed to be ironic considering Endeavour is exactly in the habit of falling for and attempting to romance wrong’uns?

RUSS: I think it reflects where he is at that point in his head. He’s not firing on all cylinders. He’s wounded emotionally. And a part of him has a fantasy of turning his back on the fight. Isla and her little boy are like a ready made, off the shelf family. He’s a weakness for those he perceives as vulnerable – so, of course, he’s drawn to her. Having failed to save his mother, he is compelled to try to save everyone else. As if in doing so, he might bring her back. It’s a nonsense – and childlike magic thinking, and I’m sure it’s all subconscious. But there’s a truth to the psychology of it.

ENDEAVOUR: I met someone. She’s got a kid. A boy. Five years old. It could be – I don’t know – something. (off STRANGE) Why not? Everybody else gets a shot – why should I be any different?

STRANGE: Because you are.

ENDEAVOUR: What if I don’t want to be? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? Something to come home to.

STRANGE: I wouldn’t know. Some day. Maybe.

DAMIAN: Isn’t it about time for a strange bedfellow?

RUSS: Ho ho. Well — we’ve seen him on a date, haven’t we? I think he gets by. But there’s nobody special at the moment.

Back in NOCTURNE (S2:E2)

INT. THURSDAY’S OFFICE/POLICE STATION – DAY 4

ENDEAVOUR with THURSDAY…

THURSDAY: What’s this you were with Shepherd’s daughter at the pub?

ENDEAVOUR: It was just a drink.

THURSDAY: She’s a suspect. Christ, what’s the matter with you? Bat their lashes and you’re just…

ENDEAVOUR: I’ve got a life.

THURSDAY: Not on duty, you haven’t.

ENDEAVOUR: I wasn’t on duty.

THURSDAY: It shouldn’t matter. A copper’s a copper – first, last and always.

ENDEAVOUR: And where’s that got you?

THURSDAY – a kicked dog. Torn between shame and the urge to lash out. ENDEAVOUR instantly regrets the shot.

DAMIAN: Thursday lost all the money he lent to his brother, Charlie, there’s the marriage breakdown, the death of Fancy and then, of course, there was also the demotion. Was it the misadventures in his home or work life that was the final straw?

RUSS: I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at? In Thursday crossing the line? Oh – I think all of those things. He’s in a mess.

INT. PUB 2 – NIGHT 3

BOX: After the way they’ve treated you? I wouldn’t treat a dog like that. Christ, you must’ve noticed a change in your pay-packet? And you’ve still got a wife and kids to feed. (off THURSDAY) What’s next? They put you out to grass on some nothing job like old Reg? A man’s got his dignity, Fred – or he’s got nothing. Doesn’t make you a bad copper. Just makes you a smart one. Go on. Take the missus out this weekend. Treat her.

THURSDAY breaks. He reaches out – takes the envelope, and puts it into his pocket. BOX relieved.

BOX (CONT’D): Blimey. A minute there, you had me giving it two-bob, thrupenny bit.

THURSDAY: You and me both.

BOX: To be fair. I was no different the first time. Second time, you barely feel it. After that, it’s all gravy. Go on, then. Get ‘em in.

THURSDAY – his soul forfeit.

DAMIAN: As you are very well aware, fans have wondered about Mrs. Bright for years now. Years! So, wasn’t it a little cruel to the devoted curious that we finally meet her when she’s dying of cancer?

RUSS: Mmm. Rules of drama, old man. Come in as late as possible, get out as soon as you can.  It’s always been a case of how much screentime we have available.

INT. DINING ROOM/BRIGHT’S HOUSE – NIGHT 1

MRS. BRIGHT, (54), a great Society beauty, and the Deb of the Year in 1934, sits at the table – distracted. BRIGHT enters – bearing something lovely for her supper – which he sets before her.

BRIGHT: You are good to me, “Puli”.

DAMIAN: Why does she call him Puli?

RUSS: From their time in India. It means Tiger. For obvious reasons.

DAMIAN: Indeed. The scene in the film ends with ‘Oh ‘Puli’. I don’t think I’ve been a very good wife.’ and with a beautifully reassuring smile, Bright replies ‘No man ever had a better.’ In the script he has an extra line, ‘Is there… something you want to tell me?’ Either way however, and I thought he actually knew she was seriously ill before this, did you consider it more dramatic for the audience to learn about it from his conversation with Max rather than his wife?

RUSS: No – this was the moment she told him. I’d imagine the cut was more to do with timing. I think the question from Bright was possibly a case of crossed wires. Given their history, when she says ‘I don’t think I’ve been a very good wife,’ his immediate lurch would be the thought that she has committed some indiscretion, not that she’s about to tell him her number is up.

INT. MAX’S CLUB – DAY

MAX waiting. BRIGHT makes his way through the crowd. MAX stands to greet him.

MAX: Chief Superintendent.

BRIGHT: Doctor. It’s very good of you to meet me.

MAX: Not at all. What may I get for you?

BRIGHT: Oh – er… A brandy, I think.

MAX attracts the attention of a passing waiter.

MAX: Albert. A brandy, if you would.

WAITER heads off.

MAX: (CONT’D) They do quite a decent spot of supper.

BRIGHT: Excellent. Excellent. I’m sure.

MAX: Now – how may I be of service?

BRIGHT: I may rely on your discretion. As a medical man.

MAX: Always. Please. Speak freely.

BRIGHT: My wife has been diagnosed with cancer of the lungs. Inoperable, according to the specialist. She’s scolded me for an optimistic fool, but I wonder if you might recommend anyone from whom one could seek… a second opinion.

MAX: Well, there’s no better man in England than Sir Julian Fitzalan. I know him slightly and would be happy… (off BRIGHT’S reaction) Chief Superintendent?

BRIGHT: Julian is my wife’s specialist…

DAMIAN: I thought this scene was perfectly written, shot and performed – certainly one of my favourites from series 6. The scene heading in the script simply states ‘Max’s Club’ and I was wondering where and what this might be?

RUSS: Well — thank you. There’s a few Gentlemen’s Clubs in Oxford – but I think we were sort of leaning towards Frewen’s as a model – which is St.Aldate’s. Yeh — it was lovely to be able to have Anton and Jimmy share a two hander. And, of course, they both played it to perfection. There was a fair bit of weeping from certain hard-bitten crew members when the scene was shot, so that was a good sign.

DAMIAN: I’m presuming from the dialogue that this is the first time that the two have met outside of work -excluding funerals and suchlike- and we know from the scene in the garden at Max’s home that he and Endeavour don’t socialise either. Has Max not got anyone?

RUSS: Max’s private life is for the moment a closed book. It would be lovely to put some flesh on the bones. We saw a little more of Max in this run — his home, his club.

DAMIAN: Endeavour lost his father, Cyril, in HOME (S1:E4) but they had a troubled relationship and unlike two little boys I know extremely well, he wasn’t fortunate in having a special bond with his grandfather. However, he did have Thursday and that family unit of Fred, Win, Joan and Sam represented the happy home that Endeavour never had. Throughout series 6 Endeavour is ‘sickened’ by an ‘unrecognisable’ Thursday, never more so when he sees him drinking and smoking (a cigarette!) at the Indian restaurant with the Droogs. Endeavour suppresses the evidence in the suitcase that would have implicated Thursday in the conviction and hanging of the wrong man in the Clemence case at the beginning of series 6 – would he have done the same by the end of film 3 or the beginning of 4?

RUSS: Yes – I don’t think their friendship is thrown away as quickly or easily as that. Thursday in his way is punishing himself for Fancy. He hates himself because he blames himself for Fancy’s death – every bit as much as Endeavour blames himself — and I think the temptation with Box has to be viewed through that lens. It’s an act of self-harm. Almost as if he wants to be caught and punished for something. Anything that will bring an end to his torment.

The cigarette… He’s also feeling like yesterday’s man, and – I think you asked me in an earlier Q&A about why he puts away his pipe after glancing through to Box and Jago. Well — they’re the coming men – younger, The Sweeney in waiting… and they’re all on the tabs. Thursday suddenly feels his pipe is perhaps old fashioned. If he’s going to run with this mob, he’d better start fitting in. But I don’t think Endeavour gives up on him – or ever would entirely. There’s too much between them.

Endeavour is hurt and confused by Thursday’s uncharacteristic behaviour. Rog was adamant that he didn’t want Thursday’s crossing of the line to be a ruse or a wheeze – a wink to the audience – in order to get the bad guys – which is probably the line I would have erred towards. But it was just as important to me that he came to his senses of his own will.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sorry about the Disciplinary. You deserved better.

THURSDAY: I don’t know about that. Anyone should answer for what happened to George Fancy, it’s me. I was in charge.

ENDEAVOUR doesn’t know where to go with this THURSDAY.

ENDEAVOUR: Well – good luck with it, anyway. (a final throw of the dice) If you – fancy a drink some time..?

THURSDAY: Yeh. Yes, we, uh – we must do that.

Offered with all the conviction of one who has no intention of doing any such thing. Worse – they both know it.

PYLON (S6:E1)

DAMIAN: Why couldn’t Thursday reach out to Endeavour?

RUSS: It was important to illustrate that the relationship had changed. That they were no longer the happy few, the band of brothers from Cowley. And that was true with all the relationships. Bright – sidelined. Strange – making his way up the greasy pole. Endeavour and Thursday estranged. It was important that the audience shared in their pain.

ENDEAVOUR: My report. Syringe is in the bag.

THURSDAY: I’ll see the Guv’nor gets it.

ENDEAVOUR: Anything?

THURSDAY: Early days. You know how it is.

Seeing ENDEAVOUR in CID is more ‘yesterday’ than THURSDAY can bear.

PYLON

DAMIAN: ‘Yesterday’, hardly a coincidence given your frequent Beatles references and the aptness of some of the lyrics…

Yesterday,

All my troubles seemed so far away,

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh I believe in yesterday

Suddenly,

I’m not half the man I used to be

There’s a shadow hanging over me

Oh yesterday came suddenly

…but why did you want ‘Mad About the Boy’ playing at Thursday’s home?

RUSS: It just helped edge Thursday into the idea that perhaps he was losing Win too. If she was going off to ballroom with another man, and playing Mad About the Boy on the radiogram…  It all played into his lost equilibrium.

DAMIAN: You described Endeavour as the little wooden boy (in reference to Max acting as his conscience in the garden scene from APOLLO) in one of our previous interviews and after Isla is arrested in CONFECTION, you write that Endeavour ‘casts a look back at the house. Shepherd and Henry [Isla’s five-year-old son] in the window. Another unhappy little boy.’ Do you sometimes think of Endeavour as a little boy?

RUSS: Not particularly — but it’s a large part of what made him, isn’t it? There was a much bigger spat between Isla and Endeavour at the car — a literal spat, insofar as I think Endeavour got a faceful of saliva – along with some very damning words from her.

But Henry — felt very much like an echo of his own history.

DAMIAN: You’re very perceptive but circumspect regarding melancholy childhoods aren’t you?

RUSS: ‘I am not I; thou art not he or she; they are not they’ There’s a fair bit of mud to dredge. Long closed rooms and deserted galleries on the upper floors. But no more than anyone else, I’m sure. It would be a mistake to draw any particular conclusions from it.

DAMIAN: All of the previous film titles of series 6 were self explanatory but why DEGÜELLO?

RUSS: You know my fondness for Westerns. At one point – the night before the gunfight – which I’d intended to be a much larger set piece – at the Four Winds quarry – I had Thursday singing along with Dean Martin on the turntable – ‘My Rifle, My Pony and Me.’ from Rio Bravo.

It was a much bigger build up for all of them. Long dark night of the soul stuff. But ‘Degüello’ as you know was a bugle call ordered by Santa Ana at the Siege of the Alamo. I believe the more or less literal translation is ‘cut throat’, but it’s a signal that ‘No quarter’ is to be given. That the fight will be to the death, and that no prisoners will be taken.

EXT. CRANMER HOUSE ENTRANCE – DAY 2

SANDRA emerges into a world of swirling grey dust.

She gasps what seems to be her last breath – and collapses out of frame…

…into ENDEAVOUR’S arms.

ENDEAVOUR looks up the tower. Shocked. Traumatised.

DEGUELLO (S6:E4)

DAMIAN: Although Newham is mentioned, I couldn’t help but think of the Grenfell Tower tragedy during the Cranmer House disaster, especially with the casting of the mum and her young daughter. Indeed, your script specifically states they are ‘Afro-Caribbean’, was this on your mind too?

RUSS: I was working very late the night Grenfell happened and had the TV on for company. I remember seeing the first phone camera footage coming in, and it was clear straight away that it was an utter catastrophe which would result in terrible loss of life. We’ve all seen fires – but I don’t think any of us had ever seen anything to compare with that. Not here. The only thing that springs to mind is the R101 Disaster. Something that was instantly beyond human agency to contain. Watching it, one couldn’t comprehend that there could be such a conflagration without some sort of accelerant. And, of course, we know now that it was the cladding – without which it would never have gone up the way it did, or spread so rapidly or so fiercely. That this was happening in the heart of the capital…

So… But that wasn’t the inspiration, although, obviously, it certainly coloured one’s approach.  We’d considered developing a story that drew on Ronan Point the previous year, but then Grenfell happened and it wouldn’t have been at all appropriate. But I think the level of civil indifference and arse-covering by all responsible parties – which is still being covered – concerned with Grenfell fed into our story. Essentially, people died because money was deemed to be more important than their lives. They died because they were less well off than their neighbours. Because they were held to be of small account. One has to be careful what one says and writes about it because the Inquiry is ongoing and criminal charges may follow. But, to borrow a lawyerly phrase, if ‘one takes oneself out of this case’ and talks in more general terms… It does feel as if one has been hearing the phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ for the majority of one’s adult life. Meaningless hand-wringing and lip-service contrition. It’s interesting to compare the wholly unbelievable pack of lies some professional villain will offer from the dock with the elegant and expensive sophistry of corporations and government at national and local level. The latter groups would likely not consider themselves as in any way comparable to the former — but in the end if comes to down to this. They are both lying to avoid responsibility and consequence.

In part, when people like those in Grenfell die, they do so because successive governments – with the connivance of a sympathetic press – have sold the lie that we can have a functioning and safe society without having to pay for it. It’s forty years we’ve been chasing this illusion. The asset stripping of the UK plc. Of course — some people have done very nicely out of it. But they’ve always done very nicely, thank you very much. I think we had Thursday nod to it years ago. ‘It’s the same the whole world over, it’s the poor what gets the blame, it’s the rich what gets the pleasure, ain’t it all a blooming shame.’

DAMIAN: Indeed. Let us move on. Marvellously nefarious performance but I thought the character of Jago was terribly underwritten. I obviously understand why now but would it have been possible to develop him further so we knew a little bit more about him without giving the game away?

RUSS: Anything is possible, and we could have gone further in drawing him out, but I think we quite liked all the attention being on Box, with Jago appearing as not much more than his side-kick, only to invert that power dynamic at the last.

DAMIAN: Tell me about your original idea to include a flashback to the snooker hall with both Fancy and Jago and why it wasn’t filmed?

RUSS: I thought it might have helped the audience – but it wasn’t practical for a number of reasons.

DAMIAN: ‘Surprise, you couldn’t see me for Box’. Was Jago’s line improvised because it isn’t in the script?

RUSS: I would imagine that to be the case. I’d intended a much bigger shoot out – but the best laid plans, etc.

Once Upon a Time in Oxford

Four guns speak almost as one. BOX shoots JAGO. JAGO shoots BOX. ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY shoot JAGO. BOX and JAGO go down – JAGO mortally wounded. ENDEAVOUR kicks JAGO’s gun away, and watches the light die in his eyes – while THURSDAY sees to BOX.

BOX: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave you to it.

THURSDAY: I know.

BOX: Who’d’ve thought…

DAMIAN: In contrast to what was scripted, isn’t the scene as shot and edited rather more ambiguous?

RUSS: Is it? I’ll take your word for it.

DAMIAN: And, despite what both you and Simon Harrison told me in our interviews last year, he did redeem himself after all?

RUSS: We lied.

DAMIAN: Was this always part of his journey as planned from the beginning?

RUSS: There’s a certain amount of development as you watch some relationships and performances across the early films in a run.

DAMIAN: Why was series 6 the right moment to introduce the house we know from Inspector Morse?

RUSS: Well — the whole series he’s been looking for somewhere to call his own, after all the various flats and dossing in the office. But we also know he’s not exactly loaded — so somewhere that had been a squat with an unhappy history… there goes the neighbourhood. It felt organic that he might have come into his long term home by such means. He is forever surrounded by ghosts.

INT. LIVING ROOM/SQUAT – DAY 2

DULCE DOMUM sprayed on the wall… STRANGE’S attention lands on the graffito.

STRANGE: (mispronouching it, natch) Dulce domum.

ENDEAVOUR: Sweet home.

STRANGE casts an eye over the wretched state of the place.

STRANGE: No place like it.

DEGÜELLO

DAMIAN: What was the idea behind the Jag on the scrapheap which was then restored to its former glory by the end?

RUSS: It reflected where Endeavour and Thursday were at the start of the run — and, again, it felt right that the black Jag be restored to Endeavour by the end. Something put out for scrap – dismissed and disregarded by all for the next bang up to date thing — that felt very much like Endeavour. And like the house – it’s a hand me down. Something wonky in some way. But his affection for the Jaguar… looks set to be lifelong.

DAMIAN: ‘I hope this will become clear in the watching’ you told me when I asked about the moustache last year. Did it become as clear as you would have liked or would you have preferred the following not to have been cut:

ENDEAVOUR: You. I thought I knew who you were – but this past year, I barely recognise you.

THURSDAY: Nice tache. (which brings ENDEAVOUR up short) You’ve never been one to follow fashion. So, what’s that all about?

ENDEAVOUR: Seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t know. Maybe it’s like Nicholson. Living with something you can’t put right.

THURSDAY: George, you mean?

ENDEAVOUR: I couldn’t stand to wake up every day and look at the man in the shaving mirror. The face that’d… let him down. I thought… if it was someone else staring back, I could forget it. If it didn’t happen to that face – I could fool myself it never happened at all.

THURSDAY: Perhaps we’ve all been hiding one way or another. From ourselves. From each other. From George. You’ve always given me too much credit. I’m not what you think.

ENDEAVOUR: Yes – you are.

THURSDAY: Nah. I’m just an old flatfoot with too many miles on the clock.

ENDEAVOUR: What’s going on? This isn’t work. This is something else.

THURSDAY: I took a wrong turn, and it cost me. But I can see a chance now to set things straight.

DEGÜELLO

RUSS: Mmm. Again – I think this was a request. The boys – Shaun and Rog – asked for something which explained it. So, I wrote this exchange for them. Which, when they read it, they thought was too self aware.  Sometimes – less is more.

DAMIAN: Endeavour tried to forget the death of Fancy and Thursday took a wrong turn. In contrast, both Bright and Strange refused to be bribed and the latter never gave up on trying to get justice for Fancy. To what extent were Bright and Strange the real heroes of series 6?

RUSS: I think it was about the quartet – getting the band back together, overall. But, yes. It was lovely to strike those notes with Bright and Strange. And they were both hugely important. I don’t think one should imagine that Endeavour or Thursday had given up. Endeavour wouldn’t let it rest, either. They were both… winded, I think is the best way to look at it. What happened to Fancy hurt them both deeply — and knocked them back. They each have their strengths and weaknesses – but that’s what friends are for, isn’t it? When you stumble, they make sure you don’t fall. The reaction to it all was quite extraordinary though. People were getting quite cross that one had made them suffer for so long. But that had to be. If we’d just shrugged off Fancy’s death by the end of the first reel – it would have been pretty unsatisfying. By the time we got to the end, hopefully the audience had been on a credible emotional journey with them all.

DAMIAN: I’ve asked some of the cast this same question but I wonder what your take will be: albeit only temporarily, do you think the moral downfall of Thursday suggests that all bets are now off and anything is possible for the future of the show and its characters in terms of what the audience thinks they are ethically capable of?

RUSS: Yes, perhaps.

DAMIAN: What can you say about the last film of series 7, ZENANA?

RUSS: Er… There’s an advisory referendum… Lady Matilda’s college is exploring the notion of going co-ed. That’s the jumping off point. The good end happily and the bad unhappily. Or something like that.

DAMIAN: Will series 8 be the last adventure?

RUSS:  Nothing is written.

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you can remember much about our very first interview back in 2014 but I said it surely can’t be a coincidence that so much of your work features the police and detectives and you replied that ‘it’s mostly coincidence.’ Well, I was delighted to hear that you’ve scripted a new TV series and I was wondering what it was about?

RUSS: A very old friend from school – Andrew O’Connor – who amongst his manifold achievements has been responsible for Peep Show, and in the theatre is intimately involved in the Derren Brown shows – got in touch. He asked me if I’d be interested in adapting the tremendously successful Roy Grace novels by Peter James for television. They’re a very different kettle of fish to my Oxford adventures — leaning more towards thriller / procedural territory.  And they’re very much Peter’s stories. But they have a distinctive identity – set in Brighton. Grace is an interesting modern copper. They’re contemporary – which is something I haven’t done for a while. John Simm is playing Grace. So… Watch this space. More anon, no doubt.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed… oh, there was just one more thing. I know you’re familiar with the Cake Paradox but let me ask you about the Sandwich Dilemma. You’re having lunch at the Thursday house and Win has made a variety of sandwiches to show off her Monday to Friday range. However, you and a friend arrive a little late and there are only two sandwiches left: the cheese and pickle or the sandwich she makes for Fred on a Wednesday. Now, you’d really like to have the cheese and pickle but that would only leave the Wednesday Special for your friend and he or she might reveal the much discussed filling to the world! Which do you choose?

RUSS: The Wednesday Special, of course. 

DAMIAN: See you down the road?

RUSS: Until then.

We leave Russ there with his Wednesday Special, the weight of the world on his shoulders and the fate of Oxford’s finest in his hands. And what lovely hands they are too. ROLL END CREDITS.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2020: RUSSELL LEWIS PART II

An exclusive Endeavour interview with writer/deviser/executive producer Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Special thanks to Stephen La Rivière

INT. VENDING MACHINE AREA/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

BRIGHT at his solitary repast – nosing through a newspaper with an APOLLO HEADLINE. THURSDAY arrives.

THURSDAY: Giving the canteen a miss today, sir?

BRIGHT: I was just… uh… (re the Apollo headline) Extraordinary thing.

THURSDAY: Yes, it is. Hell of a thing. Brave as you like. I was a boy when Alcock and Brown crossed the Atlantic. Everybody said that couldn’t be done. Fifty years on, and it’s the moon.

BRIGHT: ‘Man’s reach’, Thursday.

DAMIAN: Russ, what do you remember of July 1969?

RUSS: My chief recollection is peering at a black and white TV and trying to make sense of the images thereon. Was the touchdown beamed back live – or is my mind playing tricks? The pictures were quite difficult to process for my young mind. Quite abstract. Oblique views of the lunar surface.

But there was a great air of excitement about it all. My maternal grandmother was as old as the century, and it’s mad to think her life encompassed both the Wright Brothers first powered flight, and then – sixty-six years later – she was still alive to watch men walk on the moon. Quite staggering. Having seen Alan Tracy do his thing in Thunderbird 3, one might have been a bit blasé about it, assuming that – ‘well, of course, the moon is nothing special. Thunderbird 3 goes there all the time.’

E/I. THE MOON/SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

The surface of the moon. Pockmarked with craters. Buzz Aldrin’s ‘Magnificent desolation.’ The blast of deceleration rockets – and a spaceship descends to the surface.

The space-ship crashes in a tremendous explosion… A moment – and a couple of STAGEHANDS enter frame with fire extinguishers to put out the flames… WIDE – and we see the MOON is a model set.

DAMIAN: The second film of series 6, APOLLO, was something of a love letter to Gerry Anderson and the Supermarionation style of filmmaking. Can you tell me what shows like Thunderbirds and Stingray meant to you as a child?

RUSS: I guess, along with the films of Ray Harryhausen, they furnished my imagination. I would have watched them in black and white, I suppose – first time round. Like most of the country, not having a colour TV. But, yes, I was completely in thrall to the worlds created in each of those shows.

DAMIAN: Also, some of the puppets such as Lady Penelope and Marina were strangely alluring to young boys weren’t they?

RUSS: Marina, perhaps. Lady Penelope… not so much. As a child I found her rhotacism a bit off-putting. I was fascinated by the imagery in the end credits of Stingray – across the “Marina” theme. Exquisitely shot. These felt like images that could have come from a big budget, high production value movie. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the mood and imagery for Pulp’s Hardcore video has been a bit of a touchstone across the last couple of Series — which in turn took its inspiration from a coffee table book called Still Life edited by Diane Keaton (yup!) and Marvin Heiferman. I’ve got a pretty battered copy, but it’s filled with stills and publicity shots from Hollywood movies between 1940 and ‘69. There’s something very strange and staged about those shots – oddly lifeless and artificial — and often sinister, in a kind of David Lynch/Twin Peaks way. There’s something about the kind of world that they’re trying to depict which rings utterly hollow. They’re what the mind of someone who has lived an unsophisticated life imagines the sophisticated life to be. Do you know what I mean? It’s like what children imagine a King’s life to be. Ice cream for breakfast, lunch and supper, delivered on silver salvers by periwigged flunkies in buckled shoes – illustrated by Quentin Blake.

And… this does get back to Marina and Lady Penelope, I promise you… In the UK, there was that same brittle Soho glamour abroad after the war. Telephone accents. Ruth Ellis. It’s there in Betjeman’s Song of a Nightclub Proprietress — that piss elegance that pretends to something it isn’t. Del Boy Trotter’s ‘Bonnet de douche’. That’s probably a bit unfair on Del Boy – but Hyacinth Bucket is close to the mark. And I think that’s certainly true of Lady Penelope. It’s a suburban imagining of the aristocracy. Ha! You remember that scene with Jane Fonda in Klute where she goes and monologues the fantasy of the old gentleman in the Garment Factory. He’s come from the old country, and the fantasy is all about Fonda’s trip to the gambling tables of Monte Carlo, it’s all dripping with Euro decadence and the ‘pagan’ feelings stirred in her by some older man in the casino. And it’s a fantastic scene – but again, it’s that level of pretence. It’s no accident Lady Penelope ends up in Monte in The Man from MI.5. And that’s there in the Marina montage as well. Candles melting in a Chianti bottle. A vision of glamour that most of us could only dream about in the UK. But it was bogus. Ersatz. Rank Charm – as they say.

DAMIAN: You visited filming at Twickenham studios for a couple of days and I believe the first was with Shaun directing the human actors. You’ve obviously known Shaun for a long time now but what he is like as a director?

RUSS: Thorough. Prepared.

DAMIAN: Did the two of you have any significant creative differences on this film?

RUSS: Not that I recall, specifically. But what goes on tour…

DAMIAN: Shaun’s first foray into directing was a couple of years ago now, do you think he always had ambitions to direct an episode of Endeavour and why do you think he wanted to direct this particular film?

RUSS: Well – he didn’t want to open the batting – first time out, and the only film available to him to direct was the second in the run.

DAMIAN: Have you ever thought of having a go behind the camera?

RUSS: I’m already insufferable enough.

DAMIAN: Not you, sir. The second day of filming at Twickenham involved the puppet sequences. Now, I’ve often tried to get you to pick a favourite child and you always refuse. However, you must have something of a special soft spot for this film?

RUSS: I enjoyed the puppets very much. Getting up close and personal with Stephen La Rivière’s wonders. His team is fantastic, and I could happily spend the rest of my days doing nothing but working with them. What I adored was that it took me back to making my own 8mm stop-motion films as a kid. Then – Action Men were my cast, brilliantly poseable for animation – but it was in essence ‘bringing one’s toys to life.’ And there was an element of that with the puppets and the vehicles. Obviously, compared to the budget they’d had on the commercials they’d done, we could offer nothing like the same resources — but, clearly, when they’d been doing their Thunderbirds at 50 films, I don’t think they were awash with money, which brings me to my point — they have retained a very healthy sense of make do and mend, and most importantly, the only thing that matters is what’s in the frame. Does it tick all the rules boxes? No. Does it work? Does it look fantastic? Absolutely. That chimed very happily with my approach to making things. I adore sleight of hand. The movie and TV magic. What you thought you saw, you did not see.

He and they have such a genuine reverence for the original way of doing things, and a touching affection for those who broke that ground first time around… Having David Elliot and Mary Turner on the floor – and seeing Mary manipulating the puppets from the ‘Bridge’ over the set, as she had done for Anderson nearly sixty years ago… For those of us to whom such a moment might mean something… It was extraordinarily moving.

DAMIAN: Is this why you chose this film to make your first and only onscreen appearance?

RUSS: First do no harm. It was Stephen’s idea. And it kind of fed back into the make do and mend approach. At first, I think, we’d built the cut to the human hand into the story – and explained it in dialogue as part of the plot. There was a lot more about guns and blanks and live rounds early on, as a way of explaining why more than one person would have tested positive for firearms residue. But there we are. I was always very conscious as a kid of the cut to the live human hand pulling a lever or pushing a switch – and I think I wrote about that in the stage directions. Geraldine – Stephen’s colleague at Century 21 Films – had an offcut of material left over from Renton and Crater’s costumes – literally, a fragment of cloth, perhaps with a bit of braiding, was it? – and I was sewn into that to create a bit of cuff. Just enough to deceive. The ONLY thing that matters is what’s in frame. And away I went. A career in hand modelling beckons… And not a moment too soon.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the atmosphere on set with Stephen La Rivière and Century 21 working their magic?

RUSS: Well, as I think I’ve mentioned, it meant a lot. To be on the floor with Stephen and his team, and of course David and Mary. Really was amongst the happiest days I’ve spent on the show. That the shoot took place during the heatwave merely added to the fun of it. The studio – with the lights blazing – was stifling. We were the Alec Guinness Bridge on the River Kwai ‘Sweatbox’ Re-Enactment Society. As the late, great Neil Innes said when I saw him play at the Marquee some forty years ago, ‘The sweat’s running down the cheeks of my arse like juice from a rhubarb tart.’ But if I could spend the rest of my days doing that… it would be no contest.

DAMIAN: You mention Barry Gray’s music in the script and his contribution to the Anderson productions can’t be overstated. Any particular favourite themes or songs?

RUSS: Stingray is sensational. And I’m very fond of Joe 90.  The organ line is marvellous. I also like the vocal version of Captain Scarlet by The Spectrum – who supposedly performed it (or mimed to it) on The Golden Shot. I’d love to know if there was any truth in that. The vocalist to my ear always sounds like Ray Brooks – who narrated Mister Benn. Marina is a stone cold classic. The mighty Thunderbirds theme. But with a lot of these, it’s the incidental music that haunts the mind. Some of the stuff on The Uninvited – the strange Thunderbirds story set around a pyramid.  Madly, I always feel like I catch echoes of it in some of the arrangements in The Specials early work — Ghost Town in particular – those brass stabs, and the flute figure always sound very Thunderbirds to my ears. Barry Gray’s music did so much of the heavy lifting in terms of mood and scene setting. In much the same way that our own Barry – and now, of course, Matt Slater – bring so much to Endeavour. Their music has saved our blushed more times than I can remember.

DAMIAN: Was it the idea to incorporate the Apollo 11 moon landing or the Supermarionation aspects of the story that came first?

RUSS: Oh – the Moon Landing. It would have been a natural exit point for the series as a whole – as the pinnacle of human achievement.

INT. SOUNDSTAGE/HEAVISIDE STUDIOS

A puppet Moonbase. Consoles with winking lights. The HERO of MOON RANGERS – square jawed MAJOR.ROCK RENTON in a scene with X1 the ANDROID (a ROBOT), LUNARA – one of the Moon People; and COLONEL CRATER, crusty old patriarch.

COLONEL CRATER: Barbara’s not only my daughter, Major, but she’s also a renowned Astro-Physicist in her own right.

MAJOR RENTON: I warned her not to go, Colonel. Now, she’s out there somewhere on the dark side, with only thirty minutes of oxygen left.

COLONEL CRATER: Don’t blame yourself, Rock. She was determined to get that space-flu vaccine through to the miners at Station X19…

DAMIAN: Tell me about creating these characters, the choice of names and if you needed to do much research or does hokey dialogue just come naturally?

RUSS: They were kind of Stingray-ish, really, weren’t they? Alliterative for Troy Tempest/Rock Renton. The name Renton had stuck in my head for fifty years — I think there was a character called Rod Renton in either Secret of Zarb or The Terror of Tiba – these little books I had when I was a kid. Spitfire Books. I’m not sure if they were for younger readers or just pulpy – but they were all genres… cowboy, war, adventure… and the pair in question were sort of secret agenty. The kind of story where each of the buddy-buddy heroes had alliterative names.

DAMIAN: Note the book logo – Tigers were everywhere in the 60s.
RUSS: I think the chap in the fez and robes on the cover fed into stage directions for supporting artists at Bixby’s party in RIDE. We just added the horse-hair fly-swatter. A shilling!  Money well spent.

And Crater was a version of Commander Shore from Stingray. What we were reaching for with Moon Rangers though was a show that had already passed its sell-by date. Anderson had moved away – with Captain Scarlet – from the larger headed marionettes of the earlier productions to more properly proportioned puppets. And it was important for us that our studio – Heaviside – was still flying the old flag – that it was slipping behind the times. I know Stephen La Rivière has much greater affection for the Stingray/Thunderbirds era puppets. And I do see his point. While Scarlet and Joe 90 were much more realistically proportioned, it was at a cost of what could be done. The puppets in those two shows ‘walk’ or move far less than those in Thunderbirds and Stingray. You’ve got Lieutenant Green on his slidey chair – and Colonel White behind his rotating desk. They’re much more static. It’s a choice. You feel the later shows, including The Secret Service from 69 – which was half live action, half puppetry – were consciously trying to shake off their origins. I liked the darkness of Scarlet a lot, and I’d dearly love to find a way to deliver a version of it — but the artistry and scale of Stingray, together with the hopeful message of Thunderbirds, really makes them the yardstick, and what people tend to think of when they think of Century 21. The particular gait of the puppets, which has been providing comedians with much mileage for over half a century. News recently came through of the death of Alan Patillo at the age of 90. Writer and director for many of Anderson’s shows – his work was quite remarkable. In tribute, Stephen tweeted a link to the climax of The Perils of Penelope. Really — it’s a masterclass in suspense. Absolutely brilliant. A sequence of which Hitchcock or Spielberg would be proud.

DAMIAN: Jeff Slayton, CEO of the fictional Heaviside studios, describes Moon Rangers as a sort of ‘Bonanza in space’ which, of course, reminded me of Star Trek. Now, you often mention the Prime Directive whenever I ask a question regarding Endeavour’s past – typically with reference to Susan Fallon. I obviously understand that the Prime Directive in Star Trek means that Starfleet personnel are forbidden from interfering with the natural development of alien civilisations but can you clarify what is meant when you use it in reference to the Morse universe?

RUSS: It’s [also] Doc Brown’s warning to Marty, isn’t it?  We can’t do anything in the past which might change the future.

DAMIAN: Will Susan Fallon ever appear in Endeavour?

RUSS: Well, she sort of already has. She is standing in the group of mourners at her father’s funeral. We just didn’t pick her out or have her see Endeavour, as it felt that might undermine what they have to say to each other in Dead on Time.

LAZARETTO (S4:E3)

DAMIAN: Of course, APOLLO wasn’t all puppets and explosions, and although we’ll discuss some of the key moments regarding Endeavour and Thursday when we conclude our discussion on the themes of alienation, change, guilt and paranoia next time, I wanted to highlight two of my favourite scenes in this script. The first continues from where we began earlier at the vending machine:

THURSDAY: All well, sir?

BRIGHT: A sobering thing to discover so late in life that one is considered a fool.

THURSDAY: Not you, sir.

BRIGHT: Oh, yes. I’m under no illusion. I am a figure of ridicule. To be openly mocked and scorned. (off THURSDAY) This Pelican! — is an albatross around my neck. Someone even mentioned it to Mrs.Bright at Canasta the other evening. People laugh at me behind my back, and even to my face.

THURSDAY: More fool them. Seems to me we’re in the business of keeping the Queen’s Peace and preserving life and limb. This campaign of yours – you’ll probably never know how many lives you’ve saved. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe – by the time it’s done.

BRIGHT: I’ve always been able to rely on you. Well — I must meet a representation from the Oxford traders. Up in arms over parking restrictions.

BRIGHT goes. THURSDAY watches after him.

DAMIAN: Wonderfully played by both actors but Anton’s pause after ‘I’ve always been able to rely on you’ and the poignant look on his face was so moving and beautiful. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but this is the sort of scene, maybe because it doesn’t involve Endeavour or drive the mystery plot forward, that might easily have been deleted in the earlier days of the show. However, I’m confused as to why the following brilliant “best not go there…” scene which does feature Endeavour was not filmed in its entirety and much of the really insightful dialogue not included. Was this simply because of our old enemy screentime or a creative difference perhaps?

INT. CID/NEW COWLEY POLICE STATION

THURSDAY and BOX in BOX’s office. ENDEAVOUR and JOAN keeping an eye on FLORA and MATTHEW — sister helping her brother with his drawing on a blotter. JOAN at the window – eye on the glimpse of moon in the darkened sky.

JOAN: Mad to think there’s people up there. Right now. That someone could have looked out of the window like this and thought – ‘Right. We’re going there.’

ENDEAVOUR: “This was the prized, the desirable sight…” (off JOAN) Sorry. Being clever again. It’s always occupied the human imagination. Understandable, I suppose. But strange, all the same.

JOAN: Strange?

ENDEAVOUR: That something so far away and seemingly out of reach could bear so great an influence on one’s life. Even when you can’t see it. It’s still there. (best not go there…)

RUSS: It was shot. Shaun didn’t care for it and asked me to write another scene – which is the one that was broadcast.

DAMIAN: Finally, what can you tell us about tonight’s film, RAGA?

RUSS: The 1970 General Election is a backdrop. All in Wrestling has a part to play. Greeks Bearing Gifts had a notional influence upon it. It features an Indian restaurant, so probably best avoided by those who bleat about ‘Political correctness gone mad.’

DAMIAN: Just one more thing; you’re having tea with a friend and there are two cakes left on the plate – a large one of a kind you very much like, and a smaller, dry looking one. Which do you choose?

RUSS: Neither. I’ve never been fussed about cake.

DAMIAN: Please yourself.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

Stay up to date with all my latest Endeavour cast and crew interviews via twitter @MrDMBarcroft

So, Russ is a hand model now is he? Hmm…

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Series 5 Set Report: Part II

PREVIOUSLY…

We meet at the train station where the tannoy system blasts out its arrivals and departures but, as I notice his car parked and waiting for me outside the booking office, all I hear is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2…

DAMIAN: Morning Lewis, much in? Oh, before I forget, Dolly Messiter sends her regards. Now then, tell me a little bit about Endeavour HQ and how long you’ve been based there.

RUSS: We’ve been at a place called Wilton Park – a former Tri-Services Language School in Beaconsfield – since Series 3 — so… three years, more or less.  Our standing sets – Cowley nick; Strange and Endeavour’s flat; the Thursday house; mortuary, &c. — are housed in a couple of buildings.  The gymnasium – having the most floor space – taking the lion’s share. However, our current home is now being redeveloped so – should we return – we’ll be looking for a new base to house those sets…

If you the missed the first part of this set report you can catch up with it here: Set Report Part I

~

195: PART II

An Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Set Report

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

Walking into the main building, we soon find ourselves standing in what was a large gymnasium and there are various clues providing evidence of its previous purpose including a retractable basketball goal suspended from above, a climbing wall to the left, some wooden gym benches scattered about and a sad, solitary pommel horse looking rather lost and out of place among all the camera and lighting equipment that has been set up for today’s shooting of the final episode of series 5 on this penultimate day of filming.

In the centre stands what looks similar to, at least in its approximate dimensions, a mobile home but one made of wood and propped up by various coulisses or flats. The entrance is fitted with two wooden doors with aquatex or minister-type glass windows but as we open them to walk inside, this almost surreal scene soon becomes much more familiar upon seeing the corridor complete with noticeboard warning, quite poignantly and with a sense of foreboding considering a certain future remorseful day, excessive drinking can cause serious illness.

Taking a few steps further along the corridor and then turning right, there’s a locker marked “evidence” and a crime board behind with various mugshots. I am, of course, now standing in CID, Cowley Police Station, the home and heart of Endeavour with its writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis.

Strange’s desk

You might want to pay particular attention to the names listed here.

DAMIAN: That’s Strange’s desk in front of us, Endeavour’s to the left of his and Thursday’s office behind that. Although I now realise that Bright’s office is in a completely separate building in real life, where do you imagine it to be in your head and in relation to where we are now?

RUSS:  Around the corner.

DAMIAN: When you’re writing a scene at home, and let’s use Thursday’s office as an example, do you see a computer screen splashed with courier font or do you actually see Roger Allam, his fedora hanging on the hatstand next to him and all the little details such as the pipe stand, lighter and ashtray?

RUSS: That’s the devil of a question. Because it’s really ‘how do you write a scene?’  It’s difficult to describe something instinctive. And also tricky to describe a process one doesn’t analyse in the moment without sounding absolutely crackers. You’re in the Twilight Zone. A sort of disassociated mental state. The physical act of moving fingers over keys is more or less unconscious. I can hear Rog being Thursday, or Shaun being Endeavour in my mind’s ear. There’s probably two or three points of visual focus — the screen; a space about a foot in front of one’s head – midway between the eyes and the screen; and maybe off to the side. One of the things said about lying is that people look to the right when constructing a falsehood, or look to the left when recalling an actual event. Writing a scene – you’re creating something fundamentally untrue, but you have to believe in it to make it credible.  So… I said it was hard to describe — you’re working in an arena of feeling, rather than something you see in your mind’s eye. You feel the scene – from each character’s point of view. Slipping between one and the other or however many of them there are in the room. You’re all of them at the same time — and still in control of directing what they say and do.  So – as I’m writing a Thursday line, I’m already aware of what Endeavour will say in reply – and back to Thursday, and so forth. But the process is a kind of conscious and focussed dreaming. A performance – of sorts. Private – mercifully – and it would be very boring to watch. But a performance all the same. You just attack it line by line. Get it down. Some scenes write themselves — others…  it’s pulling teeth.

I’ll let the characters run on. Find out what they’ve got to say. You might write a speech of half a dozen lines until you find the thing that character’s really trying to say. Often it’s the thing you’ve been fighting against letting them say. Because – in the end, they’re all extensions of one’s personality – aspects of it at least. And that’s what you’re resisting. Exposing yourself – emotionally. All those places one would sooner not go. You have to dredge them up and put them on the page.

As I’ve said before, most of the time it’s the other guy that slips behind the wheel. The dark passenger. He’s the real brains of the outfit. I just do the typing. None of which is helpful, I’m sure.  So – apologies if this isn’t a particularly illuminating answer to your question, but it’s not something I think about overmuch.

The closest comparison I can make is to a jazz solo. It’s an extended improvisation that happens in the moment. There’s technique and experience behind it — but one has to transcend all that, forget it almost, not reach for the riffs that live in muscle memory and fall easily under the fingers — you have to reach for something new, and make it truthful. Speak from the heart, not the head.

You probably won’t find this stuff in McKee.

DAMIAN: It sounds like I’m taking the Michael but I’m genuinely not, do you ever explore or experiment with a line, perhaps particularly some of Thursday’s magical idioms, by saying them aloud to yourself before writing them?

RUSS: Rarely. You develop an ear, I suppose. It helps perhaps that I came to it from the other side of the camera. You know by experience and instinct whether a line will play or not. It’s in your bones. But you don’t need to say it aloud — you can hear the intonation and phrasing – the beats and stresses – the music of the line – in your head. It’s something I remember doing as a kid – I think all kids do it. Play acting. Who wants to play Lost In Space? Or Land of the Giants. I’ll say this — and then you say that. I certainly remember that being part of the playground. Those breaktime visits to Bucks Fizz’s ‘Land of Make Believe.’

Elementary writing and direction, perhaps. You see them do it with toys – playing with dolls and GI Joe or Action Man or whatever — they have them ‘talk’ to each other. That’s either something from life, or something they’ve seen on the box. The toys recreate a scene. This one says this — that one says that.  And the thing being mimicked is expanded upon with a new line or a bit of business. Doubtless that’s an evolutionary mechanism that serves a developmental process – learning and experimenting with language – playing with thoughts and emotions. Now the dolls are fighting, now they’re being friends.

Spielberg was right. If you ever got down to floor level with your toy soldiers, closed one eyed, and look at a battlefield from the perspective of one of those toy soldiers — that is instinctive directing, and probably cinematography too. That impulse. Or perhaps children are just certifiable. The walls between fantasy and reality – magic thinking – seem very thin at that age. Maybe those that work in a creative line hang on to some part of that. At least they keep a key that opens the door to that world.

DAMIAN: I’m presuming that directors don’t just turn up improvising where to put the camera but rather that there is a certain amount of shots that are planned in advance. Therefore, I wonder if directors get to see the set beforehand because the design and setup would exclude certain shots such as a continuous “walk and talk” from here to Bright’s office for example?

RUSS: Oh – absolutely. Directors typically come on with five weeks Prep, across which time — if they’re not already familiar with the show — they’ll acquaint themselves with the topography of the standing sets. I would think 75% of what we do is not at base, though. Which is where the various Recces and Tech Recces are invaluable. You should talk to our directors – get the skinny first hand.

DAMIAN: CID in particular, with all its wonderful props, must be one of the most frequented rooms inside your memory palace. I wonder if, in some peculiar way, it almost feels like home?

RUSS: It’s a fun place to visit – but I wouldn’t want to live here. I guess, a bit — maybe. It’s a performance space. Cast and crew have done wonderful work here. So it’s special for those reasons.

DAMIAN: What it’s like hearing your script back for the first time at a readthrough, do the actors really get into character and is it you who reads the scene headings and action?

RUSS: I love seeing everyone on the day — lots of hellos and how d’you dos — and it’s a privilege to hear them give life to the words. Sometimes if they’re in a puckish mood they’ll have a bit of fun with a line here or there. It’s lovely to hear this or that thing get a laugh in the room – cause you know – you’re playing your stuff to a pro crowd that knows a thing or two. But – there’s always a but – for reasons I’ll spare you, it’s always a very tough day. There’s a lot riding on it. A lot of money has been committed to making it – and a similar investment of time and hard work is resting on whether you’ve done your job properly. You’re usually only a couple of days from shooting – so it’s crunch time.

Either our sainted Casting Director Susie Parriss reads in the action, or the 1st AD for that particular film. You won’t always have a full cast. So some actors will ‘read in’ for other characters — which can be fun.

The seating plan is a bit like that for a Wedding. You’ve got a rectangle of desks around which sit the cast, execs, director, drama heads from the network, &c., and then chairs running around the walls – where the HoDs and their teams are – press department, runners, Production. About fifty to seventy people maybe.

Back in the gym, various members of the crew are now gathered together around a playback monitor to watch the CID scenes about to be shot and also to bask in the glow of a portable heater which has been brought in to combat the November chill. It’s a scene reminiscent of children sitting around a campfire listening to ghost stories and there’s sweets too – courtesy of hair and make-up designer, Irene Napier.

DAMIAN: Irene, is it true that you are one of the very few members of the crew to have worked on every single episode of Endeavour?

IRENE: Yes. Apart from the powers that be.

DAMIAN: That’s quite an achievement and rather something of an honour isn’t it?

IRENE: Yes. Quite often when a new producer takes over they take on a new crew, so I must be doing something right!

DAMIAN: You’ve actually been a fan of Morse since the original show began in 1987?

IRENE: Yes.

DAMIAN: Any favourite episodes that spring to mind?

IRENE: Goodness, I’m not sure. They’re all good.

DAMIAN: And what about Endeavour, do you have any particular favourites?

IRENE: ROCKET, SWAY, RIDE, CANTICLE, and CARTOUCHE.

DAMIAN: You’ve worked on many projects throughout the years including Monarch of the Glen, Rebus, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Bad Girls, Jekyll, Wire in the Blood, Garrow’s Law, Holby City, Shetland and One of Us to name but a few. A lot of your CV is made up detective and crime dramas so I’m wondering if you have a particular fondness for the genre?

IRENE: Not really it was just the way the work came in.

DAMIAN: Also, more than a few of these just happen to be set in Scotland! Hardly a coincidence I shouldn’t think?

IRENE: I actually live in Edinburgh!

DAMIAN: Yes, I know. And then you went to India!

IRENE: [Indian Summers] Was actually shot on Penang in Malaysia. We were there for six months. It was an amazing experience, but very hard work.

DAMIAN: Is travelling a significant factor in your decision to take on a project because they can involve working quite long hours can’t they?

IRENE: Sometime it’s a factor. It depends where you go. You don’t always get to see much of the country because of the hours.

DAMIAN: I also notice you worked on the ill-fated sequel to The Wicker Man but it did feature Clive Russell who I’ve interviewed for Ripper Street and Christopher Lee in a cameo role. What were these two great gentlemen like on set?

IRENE: Yes, that was quite a shoot! I didn’t, sadly, get to meet Christopher Lee as they shot that in London much later. But I’ve known, and have worked with, Clive many times over the years. Lovely man.

DAMIAN: And one more project you’ve worked on that I must ask you about before we move onto Endeavour is Rillington Place which I thought was very good indeed. What was the atmosphere like on that particular dark and dank project?

IRENE: It was as dark as the shoot.

DAMIAN: So, Endeavour, tell me how you got the job in the first place?

IRENE: I’d worked with director Colm McCarthy before and he suggested me to producer Dan McCulloch and we met and he gave me the job.

DAMIAN: What do you think it is that makes Endeavour so successful and well loved?

IRENE: I think the writing is wonderful and the cast are amazing.

DAMIAN: I’m always struck by the friendless of the cast and crew whenever I visit the set but there’s also an almost family bond between them as well isn’t there?

IRENE: Yes. That comes from the top and Shaun and Roger go out of their way to make sure everyone is welcomed and looked after.

DAMIAN: To what extent do you collaborate with Russ, the directors and producers, as well as people like the costume designers to get the right look for all the characters?

IRENE: We all work very closely together. Sometimes what’s written isn’t always possible, due to casting so we all collaborate to get it as close to what’s wanted.

DAMIAN: I imagine you’ve had quite a few stunt doubles over the years, are these a particular challenge from your point of view?

IRENE: Yes but they’re usually shot sympathetically to help us out.

DAMIAN: Abigail must be fun to work with, how would you describe Dorothea’s look?

IRENE: She’s a joy. I’d say it’s a casual look as befitting a working woman of the time.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the average day on set including what time you have to be here in the morning?

IRENE: We usually arrive at 6.45am in time to set up for the artists calls at 7.00. Then we sometimes all go on set, depending on how many artists there are, or someone will stay back to get the next wave ready. The day continues like that.

DAMIAN: How does it work then, do you do the make up for the main cast one by one in their individual trailers?

IRENE: We have a large make-up truck, set up with all our kit so that everything is on hand.

DAMIAN: Some of the cast must be a little grumpy first thing in the morning. Who’s often the grumpiest?

IRENE: They’re all a joy.

DAMIAN: Presumably you have to stay on set throughout the day?

IRENE: I go back and forwards to the truck, depending on what we’re shooting.

DAMIAN: I notice your bag full of sweets that you keep sharing with everyone. Given the fact that you’ve worked on Endeavour since the very beginning, do you have a certain motherly quality about you especially towards the younger and less experienced members of the crew?

IRENE: It’s always nice to have a little treat. Probably have a bit of motherly care.

DAMIAN: Irene, thank you very much indeed.

IRENE: You’re welcome.

The actors are now emerging from the green room and I hear that cough again followed by a clearing of the throat. Roger Allam doesn’t simply walk onto a set, he charges like a man on a mission. I’ve seen him before but once again, I’m reminded of a director whose work I’ve admired enormously over the years, the great Elia Kazan, a proponent of Method Acting alongside Lee Strasberg and director of such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, On the Waterfront and East of Eden. In his acclaimed autobiography, Kazan writes “‘Why are you mad?’ My wife asks me that, seems like every morning. Usually at breakfast, when my face is still wrinkled from sleep. ‘I’m not mad,’ I say. ‘It’s just my face’.

And so it is with the imposing Roger Allam whose face cannot help but emote absolute intensity and a certain level of ferocity – and that’s before the cameras start to roll – it’s just his face. This is a man you can really believe would have your cobblers for a key fob if you did anything to upset him. Of course, and in complete contrast, everyone tells me – cast and crew alike, that he’s an utter joy to work with and has a wicked sense of humour. Maybe he’ll crack a joke or two later but I won’t be banking on it any time soon.

Shaun Evans also walks by with the usual spring in his step. It’s almost jaunty. As though each step or two forward is a prelude to a little dance number. He immediately starts laughing and joking with the crew. This is the third time that I’ve witnessed him filming and he’s always like this. I like to imagine him as something of a Flâneur as he saunters and strolls around saying hello to everyone. Shaun shows a genuine interest in everyone he meets and has a keen ear for accents and dialect. On the occasion of our first meeting, for example, he instantly knew I was from Stoke. Indeed, chip-eaters all of us, Liverpudlian and Stokie accents are not all that dissimilar in some respects.

And good God man, it’s Anton Lesser! I don’t know if, in addition to Endeavour, you’ve seen many of his other great screen performances such as the Archbishop of Canterbury in The Palace, the Duke of Exeter in The Hollow Crown, Prime Minister Attlee in A United Kingdom, Sir Thomas More in Wolf Hall and, of course, another Prime Minister, this time Harold Macmillan in The Crown and Qyburn in Game of Thrones – two of the biggest shows on the planet right now – but he really is every bit as mercurial and enigmatic in person as he is on screen.

As the three of them discuss their next scene in CID with the director, Russ and I chat to Dakota Blue Richards who’s also just arrived on set. She’s wearing a beautiful long camel coat which the costume designer, Mary-Jane Reyner picked up at a vintage shop in Brighton. Also, having decided to go back to her own natural hair colour before shooting began, Dakota’s also wearing a wig. Indeed, the wig and the cut of the long coat combined, she gives off a cool blonde femme fatale vibe as though she’d stepped out of a Film Noir movie from the 1940s or 50s. We talk about a project that I’d better not mention here just yet but you can read my (previously posted) interview with her here.

We join some of the cast and crew round the monitor to watch as the CID scenes are recorded. Producer Neil Duncan (see previously posted interview) tells me, presumably in reference to the way I’m dressed, that I’d make a good CID officer. He doesn’t offer me a part though. Shame, because I’m sure I’ve heard the name DI Barcroft somewhere before. Talk then turns to what’s on today’s menu (I think I told you about the Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetable Burrito and chips!) and Lewis Peek (see previously posted interview) asks Russ what the difference is between Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie. I resist the temptation to add that an easy way to remember Shepherd’s Pie is to recall a line from Dr Lecter: ‘You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won’t you?’

After lunch we visit the art and props department which strikes me as something of a cross between Q’s workshop and the North Pole. This is the magical place where the elves make pretty much everything we see on screen that can’t be sourced from an antiques fair or car boot sale. So every time you see a tax disc in the car window, various police photofits or framed photos on someone’s desk, a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of booze, various letters and newspapers (the articles still need to be written even if you can’t make out way they’re about on screen) and even carrier bags, all these props need to be made by someone and this is where you’ll probably find them.

When he’s not driving around in a bus with the heads of department and key crew during what they call a “tech recce”, scouting every single location or joining his team for shopping trips to buy furniture and furnishings, you’ll also sometimes find production designer Paul Cripps here too. (see previously posted interview) Various artists have contributed to the design of the show over the years so while sets including CID, Max’s mortuary and the Thursday house will pretty much remain the same each series, every new set that we haven’t seen before including the Crossroads Motel (I used to love Benny Hawkins), interiors of the Roxy Cinema, Endeavour and Strange’s shared maisonette, these and so many more all need to be designed, actually built from scratch and then furnished.

Although I’m not allowed to try any of them on, we pass through the costume department on our way to somewhere very special indeed. If the art and props department is where all those wonderful artefacts are designed and made, this is their graveyard where they are laid to rest and kept just in case they ever need resurrecting again in the future. It’s either an Aladdin’s cave of interesting and curious delights if you’ve poured over every single detail of the show as I’ve done for the past few years, or a sixties jumble sale if you’re not quite so obsessive.

Once again however, time is of the essence as all these treasures are being packed away into boxes and the scene will soon resemble the closing shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indeed, misquoting Indiana Jones ever so slightly, I say to Russ, as I also did to Paul Cripps, that all this stuff belongs in a museum. He then shows me something that truly does belong in a museum or gallery at least…

Some of you may recall a piece I wrote last March as a tribute to Colin Dexter in which I mentioned that I missed out on meeting him by a mere 24 hours. Well, Russ rifles through a stack of large framed pictures and shows me the portrait of Colin that was on the wall of Dorothea Frazil’s office at the Oxford Mail. I suppose this is as close as I’ll get to the great man. In contrast to the rest of the day’s excitement, this is a reflective and beautiful moment albeit one touched with much poignancy.

DAMIAN: That evening with Colin at the Randolph Hotel where the two of you met to discuss doing a one-off special prequel to celebrate the silver anniversary of Inspector Morse must seem like a very long time ago now?

RUSS: Perhaps – I don’t know. The older one gets, things that happened a decade ago feel like they happened yesterday. So…

DAMIAN: Having Colin’s feedback and input for at least the first couple of series, do you ever stop to wonder what he’d have to say regarding the scripts as you write them now?

RUSS: That way madness lies. We don’t have him beside us any more. I just try to stay true to what we originally set out to do — which was to fill in the blanks.

DAMIAN: When was the last time you saw or spoke to Colin?

RUSS: At Blenheim – appropriately enough. It was where my association with his creation began, as the palace features very heavily in The Way Through the Woods. Me, Shaun and Dan McCulloch did a Q&A with Colin as part of a literary festival held there. And afterwards we spent a very happy hour or so in the cafeteria with him – talking poetry mostly. Passers-by stopped at the table to wish him well. He was in his element. Not in the best of health – but twinkling brightly, as always. And then it was time for him to go. So — the last image I have of Colin is of him taking Shaun’s arm for support as he made his way to a waiting car. It sounds like a movie cliche, but that’s how it was. The creator and the youngest incarnation of his creation, arm in arm for one last time. To the end. Dolly back, and… Fade out.

We’re now outside the main building having a smoke again and there’s another fellow also here wearing a fetching maroon tank top. I walk over to him, shake his hand and say, ‘Hello, matey’. Really rather embarrassing, I know, and yet I find I can’t help myself. He looks at me as though I’ve been let out for the day with Russ acting as my primary caregiver but after a gentle reminder that I’m the chap who did an interview with him a few years ago, he seems to breath (an ever so slight) sigh of relief. The character of Strange has evolved quite a bit since my first interview with Sean Rigby back in April 2014 so we discuss some of the most significant changes.

DAMIAN: In terms of how Strange has developed, the first thing that springs to mind are the events towards the end of NEVERLAND (S2: E4). While I appreciate that he was someone, at that stage of his development at least, who was more of a conformist and rule bound, isn’t it still unforgivable that he hesitated for so long and initially chose to follow ACC Clive Deare’s orders rather than help his friends Endeavour and Thursday at Blenheim Vale?

SEAN: I think unforgivable may be a tad extreme. Strange made the right decision in the end and, hopefully, that is what counts most.

DAMIAN: I think that part of the reason that Strange is such a fascinating character is that he’s often got this deadpan and almost innocently oblivious quality on the one hand (indeed, you described him as having something of the Auguste clown about him in our original interview) and yet, we’ve also seen a more cunning, calculating and complicated side to him with regards to climbing up the ladder in recent years haven’t we?

SEAN: Yes and I think that is all part of Strange becoming a more rounded character as the story progresses. It’s something we’ve seen with all the supporting characters, the duality of their personalities. Bright being impulsive and heroic. DeBryn’s heart and sombreness. Those are the two examples that spring to mind most readily.

DAMIAN: As someone who has been wanting to learn more about the background and personal lives of characters such as Bright, Max and, indeed Strange, I was delighted to see that Russ has finally written some scenes for you that shed some light on this at last. Is this something you’ve also pushed for?

SEAN: I’m not really the pushing sort. “You know what this needs? More of me!” It has been fun exploring how Strange inhabits different spaces, certainly. We all want to know what people get up to behind closed doors and what’s in their shopping trolley.

DAMIAN: Indeed, I was greatly amused and delighted to learn that in the first film of this year’s run that Endeavour has moved in with Strange and although they’re not quite sharing a bed together, isn’t their unlikely partnership beginning to resemble Laurel and Hardy or Morcambe and Wise?

SEAN: We had a great deal of fun filming those scenes. I don’t think their cohabitation will ever reach the harmonious heights of Morcambe and Wise making breakfast together though.

I’m not sure who would be who. I do have short, fat, hairy legs so make of that what you will.

DAMIAN: What’s with the trombone all of a sudden?

SEAN: Ah, the trombone!

DAMIAN: Do you play?

SEAN: Not in the slightest. I used to play the cornet as a kid but I am reliably informed by my parents that I was utterly pants. I had a good whack at the trombone regardless. I produced a sound akin to an asthmatic goose being sat on.

DAMIAN: I absolutely loved the scene in ARCADIA (S3:E2) when Strange, once again, completely genuine but oblivious gives Endeavour the James Last album. Since you’re a young lad, do you even know who James Last is and appreciate how funny it is to give it to someone like Endeavour?

SEAN: I made myself aware after reading the script and I can’t say it lingered on my iPod long afterwards. No offence intended to any James Last fans out there. Shaun is hilarious in that scene, like a young boy unwrapping an itchy jumper from his Gran on Christmas morning.

DAMIAN: And isn’t it fantastic moments like these that economically sum up almost everything we need to know about Strange and his polar opposite relationship with Endeavour?

SEAN: Absolutely. They find each other, for different reasons, quite hard to figure out at times.

DAMIAN: Naturally Endeavour turns his nose up at the gift and in the same episode, when the two are at the pub, he also complains about the pint Strange has got him for being too cloudy and also mocks him for drinking Double Diamond lager. Endeavour is really very unkind towards Strange isn’t he?

SEAN: Yeah, the ungrateful git. It is true to life though, isn’t it? When we feel at odds with the world, or hard done by, we take out our frustrations on those closest to us. Morse’s options are fairly limited in that regard.

DAMIAN: How do you think the relationship between the two has developed since Strange was first introduced in GIRL (S1:E1)?

SEAN: It’s certainly had its ups and downs. There’s more of a shorthand between the two. Not too much, mind.

DAMIAN: And we must mention Strange’s legendary tank tops which he seems to wear regardless to weather conditions as though his mother still dresses him. Is it fair to say he’s a bit drab and frumpish before his time?

SEAN: I think that would be entirely fair to say. The swinging 60’s really passed Strange by where fashion is concerned. Probably where everything else is concerned too!

DAMIAN: Is the maroon tank top his particular favourite?

SEAN: As it’s probably the least flattering of the lot I’m going to say yes.

DAMIAN: In a fantastically tense scene between two men with such loyalty and respect for each other, Endeavour doesn’t approve of Strange punching the informant Bernie Waters in CODA (S3:E4). Do you think that Strange is much closer to, and influenced by the methods of Thursday than Endeavour could ever be?

SEAN: I think by dint of his intellect and abilities, Endeavour stands alone. That’s not to say that there isn’t a great deal Morse can’t learn from Thursday, but he certainly has a few more avenues available to him when it comes to an investigation. Strange is going to take all the help he can get.

DAMIAN: Finally, and I’m not sure who told me this although it was probably Russ, is it true that you regard performing in scenes with Roger Allam and Anton Lesser as masterclasses in acting?

SEAN: I think that was in reference to one particular scene, series 3 if memory serves, where they’re both having a bit of a hoo-ha in Thursday’s office. I had to come in towards the end of the scene and deliver a bit of news of some sort. From rehearsals to the last take I had my nose pressed against the glass in total awe of the pair of them. Not just the acting but the way they communicated with each other, from one actor to another. They both had the goal of making the scene the best it could be, playing together in the purest sense. Ask any actor worth a sniff and they’ll tell you that there is nothing more thrilling than that.

Obviously, apart from that one particular scene, they’re both normally crap.

DAMIAN: Sean, thank you matey!

SEAN: A pleasure!

It’s late now. It’s getting dark and Russ reminds me that I have a train to catch so I’d better shake a leg. There’s been a last-minute alteration to the shooting schedule and so the order in which some of the scenes are shot have changed which means everything will run slightly later than planned and I won’t get to speak to some of the other cast now. However, there might just be time for one more hello and it’s funny because you’d think that with all the questions I’ve asked various members of the Endeavour cast and crew over the years, that I would be more than capable of answering a very simple question myself. Not so.

Russ has arranged for me to have a photo with a hero of mine; a gentleman who asks in that rich and aristocratic voice of his, ‘With or without glasses? – Do you want me as Bright or as Anton?’ I’m flummoxed! Perplexed! Discombobulated! They say never meet your heroes and they’re probably right. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, rather the chances are, if you’re anything like me at least, that you’ll make a complete arse of yourself. After the longest pause in Anton’s lengthy career, I finally make my decision. Without the glasses because, of course, Lesser is always more.

I bid farewell to this wonderful and magical place. Indeed, throughout the day, people have asked if I’m enjoying myself and I’ve given the same response each and every time: it’s like Disneyland to me. Walking back to the car, I consider that must make my host Uncle Russ – grand master and architect of all this beautiful madness.

DAMIAN: Executive producer and managing director of Mammoth Screen, Damien Timmer, isn’t with us this time (perhaps another bout of plot vertigo) but to what extent do the two of you keep in touch throughout the shoot when he has so many other hit shows to oversee including Victoria and Poldark?

RUSS: He is a man of seemingly inexhaustible energy — so, yes — he is across every second of Endeavour. Every story choice. Every creative decision. His level of care for all his creative offspring never ceases to amaze.

DAMIAN: I’m sure it will prove fruitless to ask you about 1969 and the possibility of a sixth series. So instead, can you take me through the process of what usually happens with Mammoth Screen and ITV immediately after a series ends and their decision to commission another?

RUSS: In the beginning, at least after the pilot, which got a green light for going to series the day after transmission, it was a case of see what the figures were. The same as any other show, pretty much. As ever – our future is in the hands of the network, and it’s for them to make any announcement on 1969.

DAMIAN: Have you made plans beyond Endeavour and thought about what you’d like to write when the show does end?

RUSS: KBO as Churchill used to say. Turn the ‘FOR HIRE’ light back on the taxi. There are a number of things in development. Who knows? I’ve been enormously fortunate and had a decent run — far more than a bear of very little brain could have hoped to dream.

But I’m certainly eyeing the light. There’s only so much play left in the day. Whether one’s innings ends in a declaration or the umpire calling stumps remains to be seen. Either way, the pavilion awaits. Quite right too. Get out of the way of the up and comers. Can’t wait to see what they’re going to do.

DAMIAN: What can audiences expect from this final film of series 5?

RUSS: We’re going back to school. Having looked at a Girls’ school in NOCTURNE — this time we’re having a look at a Boys’ public school.  Endeavour gets to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. A window onto another possible life that’s been half in his mind for a while.

There’s a sense of change in the air — and with half a century since the end of the Great War, we’re bringing some of the underlying themes of 1968 to a close.  Fifty years further on, I think it struck all of us just how much we’re still asking the same questions about ourselves. Questions of national identity, and our place in the wider world. Post-imperial – post-colonial – post-industrial – post early for Christmas. Much in which to take pride. Much of which to be ashamed. But one post survives. The post war dream.

When the chips are down, and backs are to the wall, I think you’ll always see us at our best, and catch some glimpse of Thursday’s Generation – a generation that gave so much, and asked for so little. I believe that still lives on in the inhabitants of these islands. Though it’s sometimes hard to see, there is – and will ever be – more that unites us than divides us. Like the denizens of Cowley nick, we stand or fall together.

DAMIAN: Since Endeavour HQ has been based here for the last few years, to what extent are you nostalgic or sentimental considering they’ve already started packing things away and Team Endeavour will never be based here again?

RUSS: It’s just a ramshackle, rather eccentric, collection of buildings. The people make it what it is. It’s been a tremendously useful space – in terms of production – and has saved our bacon more times than I can remember. Pick-ups; sleight of hand; poor-man’s process; reshoots. There’s very little of it we haven’t disguised, repurposed, or otherwise pressed into service.

But – working in this industry – as I think anyone would tell you – farewells are hard-wired into the process. There is always something of the rag-tag-and-bobtail army of vagabonds and strolling players to it. You come together for short periods of time and operate at a madly high level of intensity and concentration. And then it’s over. You fold up the tents and move on. But it’s like that every day – wherever we are. We use every second of available time — right down to the wire. As cut off time looms into view – there’s a lot of looking at watches to make sure we don’t go over and incur huge costs. So when we do wrap – it’s straight into striking sets, and organising the breakdown and loadout of kit.

Across the last days of a series — as each of our principal characters finishes their filming, there’ll be an announcement of “that’s a series wrap for Caroline, or Sara, or Abigail or Anton” – and the tradition is that cast and crew will give them a round. Of applause, obviously. Not the full metal jacket variety. Just to show appreciation for their hard work.

I don’t come out a lot — though I think on this run, I’ve probably been out more than on any other; usually as chaperone to interested parties. But I always try to find a moment – usually at lunch or before we’ve turned over – to stand alone on the set and just absorb some of the atmosphere. That ‘early morning madness’ of the ‘magic in the making’. ‘Whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways’ I’m all too familiar with.

At the end of a run, when the 1st AD announces – ‘That’s a Series Wrap’ – you hug your comrades hard – and maybe you’ll see them again, maybe you won’t, but you carry them in your heart and mind always. It’s interesting – circus and fairground folk never say ‘Goodbye’ — it’s always ‘See you down the road.’

A ramshackle, rather eccentric, collection of buildings or not, I still find it sad to think that this place will soon be demolished and turned into an housing estate. Time and tide wait for no man but I’d like to think that a plaque will be installed here one day and perhaps this love letter to the show will suffice until then. Despite the melancholy however, I don’t get over emotional, it’s just that I have something in my eye – bit of coal dust I expect. And, as Russ drops me back at the train station, I hear Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 once more.

See you down the road…

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Series 5 Set Report

We meet at the train station where the tannoy system blasts out its arrivals and departures but, as I notice his car parked and waiting for me outside the booking office, all I hear is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2…

DAMIAN: Morning Lewis, much in? Oh, before I forget, Dolly Messiter sends her regards. Now then, tell me a little bit about Endeavour HQ and how long you’ve been based there.

RUSS: We’ve been at a place called Wilton Park – a former Tri-Services Language School in Beaconsfield – since Series 3 — so… three years, more or less.  Series 1…  the name of place escapes me, because I’m getting old – but series 2 we were in a derelict paper mill at Taplow in Bucks that had a substantial Victorian house attached, that was lived in by the owners when the place was in operation — and was built for a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

At Wilton Park our standing sets – Cowley nick; Strange and Endeavour’s flat; the Thursday house; mortuary, &c. — are housed in a couple of buildings.  The gymnasium – having the most floor space – taking the lion’s share.

However, our current home is now being redeveloped so – should we return – we’ll be looking for a new base to house those sets.

Up until 1968, oddly enough, an impressively grand house used to stand on the site before it was sadly knocked down and replaced by a rather unattractive fifteen-storey accommodation block which was then the tallest building in Buckinghamshire and not entirely dissimilar to the one we found Joan hiding in last year.

Although it’s quite a short drive from the station, it’s long enough for me to find great amusement in the fact that I’m about to arrive armed with my usual laundry list load of questions when it was here that the War Office also used the place as an interrogation centre for Nazi prisoners of war. Indeed, some of its notable “guests”  have included Deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, no less. Russ may well sympathise after all my frequent interrogations of him over the years – I mean the interview techniques and not the Nazis obviously! No, like a certain famous archaeologist, he hates those guys.

The car stops next to the security guard at the gate who looks exactly how you probably imagine them to appear, or at least that’s how they always seem to look in movies. Surprisingly, and perhaps also a little disappointingly, there’s no secret password like “swordfish”, or “vesper”, and instead, Russ merely says… well, I’d better not say but it really wouldn’t be too difficult to guess. And so, as simple as that, the chap raises the barrier and we drive through.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Wilton Park – or as I like to call it, Endeavourland…

~

195: PART I

An Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Set Report

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

It all looks ordinary enough to begin with although it does remind me of the sort of place you’d expect to find Jon Pertwee during his largely earthbound adventures back in the early seventies when he’d reverse the polarity of the neutron flow every other week or so. Indeed, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart can’t be far away. However, as we walk closer to what I’ll refer to as the main building which houses Cowley CID, those vans and lorries start to appear everywhere rammed full of wires, lighting and a multitude of machines with lots of twiddly bits.

Filming is already well underway by the time we arrive and so writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis, makes me a coffee and we grab a quick smoke while waiting outside. Quick being the operative word because no sooner have we managed a mere few drags, than two bells dramatically sound and the red light above us is switched off heradling ‘CUT’ (all access points onto the studio floor are lit and alarmed. Just one bell rings and a red light goes on for ‘ROLLING’).

Walking over and into another building opposite the main one, we are greeted with a rapturous round of applause which is really rather lovely. Maybe it isn’t just Kirstie who reads these interviews and articles after all. But, alas, it doesn’t take me long to realise the clapping isn’t for me or even Russ for that matter. No, James Bradshaw has filmed his last scene of the series as Dr. Max DeBryn and so we quickly go over to him before he leaves.

Now, back in April of 2014, I did an interview with Jimmy in which he told me that he celebrated getting the part of the much-loved pathologist by going straight to Marks and Spencer to treat himself to a nice pudding. Well, of course, it’s only natural that I’ve been wondering what the pudding actually was during these intervening years, and so, in an utterly delightful moment that I’ll cherish forever, no sooner do we say hello and shake hands than he instantly remembers and tells me what it was. And so, I can finally reveal that the pudding was in fact a rather large Raspberry Royale!

Taking our leave of Jimmy, who I like to imagine is about to retire for the day with a gin and campari at the Gardeners, we explore his mortuary where the attention to detail is utterly astonishing with various medical equipment everywhere including microscopes, test tubes, jars and bottles containing all sort of wonders, various labels on cabinets and draws such as “Laryngoscope anterior commissure” (no, me neither), books like The Concise Home Doctor, Minutes From the General Medical Council and Grant’s Method Of Anatomy – By Regions Descriptive And Deductive (originally published in 1965). Additionally, of course, we have Max’s famous brown medical bag which you’ll always see him carrying when examining bodies at the scene of a crime.

I would have very much liked to introduce you to Shelly Acton who, according to the label, died 30th March 1968 at 09:45 from a catastrophic cervical fracture, but, when I open the door to one of the refrigerated boxes in the mortuary, there’s literally no body there and you just see what’s on the other side of the wall. It’s all smoke and mirrors as Russ often tells me.

Moving onto the next part of the building takes you to the interior of the Thursday household but Win’s not home. Unfortunately, Caroline O’Neil finished filming her scenes yesterday which is a shame because I really wanted to ask her what she makes for Fred’s sandwich on a Wednesday. I desperately try to find some clues in the kitchen but, since the crew are in the process of packing everything away in boxes, the only evidence that remains is a lonely half a loaf of bread left behind on the cutting board.

I have a quick look round the dining and living room which are adorned with the various family photos we’ve seen throughout the years and finally walk up the stairs to have a look at the bedrooms. Except there aren’t any bedrooms and the staircase just leads to nowhere. Smoke and mirrors again but small wonder Fred and Win look so tired sometimes.

Walking around the place it’s obvious that everyone is tremendously busy and visibly tired. After all, at 195 days and counting, this has been the longest shoot of any of the series thus far. And yet, talk to any of the cast and crew of Endeavour and their unreserved passion and enthusiasm for the show soon becomes apparent. One such person is the thoroughly good script editor, Amy Thurgood.

DAMIAN: Amy, can you tell me a little bit about your background, your interests in film and television and how you got into the industry?

AMY: Of course! Well, I’ve always been an avid reader and TV watcher – much to my parents’ concern, I’m sure! – so when the time came to work out what to do with my life, storytelling was always going to be a big part of it. While I was doing my English degree I produced a lot of theatre, so when the opportunity came up to do an MA in film and TV producing, I jumped at the chance. It was only then that I realised that the job I wanted to do – working with writers and creating stories, script editing! – actually existed. From that MA I got my first job as a runner at a TV production company. I worked for an actors’ agent for a while, then moved into drama development, learning the ropes of working with writers and scripts – and rose through the ranks from there!

DAMIAN: Why script editing though?

AMY: I think that’s a question most script editors ask themselves everyday! It’s essentially as close as you can get to writing and creating stories, without being an actual writer. I mean, there’s also a million other things you’re dealing with everyday, but that’s the best part.

DAMIAN: What qualities do you think a good script editor must possess?

AMY: I think the biggest misconception about script editing is that it’s just about making changes to the script. Phil Gladwin captures it best I think – you’re a “conciliatory diplomat, evil politician, surgeon, best-friend, appointed heavy, hit-man, administrative genius”; and that’s on top of having to be acutely aware of how story works, how scripts translate to the screen and how any changes affect everyone else on set. So people skills, problem-solving, attention to detail and stamina – you’ll be working long hours on production – are essential.

DAMIAN: Can you tell me more about what a script editor does by using examples from your work on the fifth series of Endeavour and working with Russ?

AMY:  Well, every show you work on will have different demands – depending on your writer, your genre, your format. In terms of Endeavour, after creating script schedules and initial research, my job properly kicks in when Russ is planning the stories for each film. We talk a lot about interesting motives, contexts, cultural and historical references, and then developing into plot.

In QUARTET (Film 5), we talked about the state of Britain in 1968, its politics and it’s relationship with Europe, and it’s culture at that time, which informed the story. In COLOURS (Film 4) we found a news article about a real-life protest at a hairdressing salon, which inspired the themes that permeate the episode. Then once Russ has written a first draft, we (Russ, myself, producers Neil and John and execs Damien and Tom) talk about how to move it forward – Russ and I will jump on the phone and bash through their thoughts to work out how to best translate them into the story.

We’ll do that with all the drafts until we get to the readthrough, where I’ll sit nervously hoping I haven’t missed any typos (that’s right, proofreading too!).  Repeat until we get to shooting script (the version used while filming) – when any changes we make will usually be informed by more practical things – changes in location, actor availability, weather. In ICARUS (Film 6) we tweaked some action based on the locations we were shooting in. It’s those changes that we issue on different colour paper which you might have seen in people’s scripts. Then as well as working with Russ, I’ll be liaising with the other departments and the actors to make sure they’re kept informed of changes, and answering any script-related queries they might have! Repeat for 6 films, then sleep.

DAMIAN: And what’s Russ like to work with?

AMY: Wow, such a diva! No, actually nothing could be further from the truth. Russ is an absolute gem, a total gentleman and incredibly generous with his time and talent. His brain works in such brilliant ways, and the stories and solutions he comes up with are always a joy to watch unfold.

DAMIAN: When those dreadlines loom, Russ has told me all about his “Dark Passenger” taking over during extended periods of sleep deprivation which can sometimes last for forty-eight or even seventy-two hours until he writes ‘ROLL END CREDITS’! During such dark times, does this also result in your head hardly touching the pillow?

AMY: Well I get significantly more sleep than Russ does! But yes, if I know he’s pulling one of his long stints I’ll be constantly on email and phone – just available in case he needs anything. To be honest though, that’s my choice – he would never expect me to do that, but I think if he’s emailing a question at 3am, better to respond sooner than later and help him move forward with things!

DAMIAN: The shoot for this series lasted over nine months! Is it a really tough job at times?

AMY:  In all honesty – yes, but every show I’ve worked on is tough! Endeavour is one of the most fun and rewarding shows I’ve been involved in – everyone is genuinely lovely and we all get on brilliantly – but making TV isn’t glamorous. It’s long hours, usually in cold places, drinking instant coffee out of recyclable cups! It’s those times when you really do become one big family – we all want to make it the absolute best it can be, so we all help each other with lots of laughter and on-set chat. It’s the old childbirth analogy I guess – you forget the hard bits when it’s over, and then you just want to do it all again!

DAMIAN: Do you have to travel a lot or do you stay in Oxford while shooting on location and near Beaconsfield when filming at headquarters?

AMY: To quote Ariel, I like to be where the people are, so I’ll be with the crew on set whenever I can. It means I can anticipate issues before they arise and make sure we’re ahead of the game on any script changes we might need to make. That involves a fair amount of travelling about; I live in London so – aside from when we stay in Oxford for the city-based days we have – I spend a lot of time in my little car! To be honest though, that’s a personal choice – not every script editor does it, and sometimes the lure of a warm office over a cold set can be quite tempting!

DAMIAN: One of your early credits in the industry was working on Primeval.  Did you ever cross paths with Jimmy Bradshaw back then?

AMY:  Sadly not! We were shooting that series in Dublin, and I was based in the London HQ, so unfortunately we never got to meet in person. Jimmy is absolutely brilliant – a consummate professional and a lovely man – and we never had him eaten by a dinosaur, which is quite an achievement! (in Primeval obviously, not Endeavour!)

DAMIAN: Could have been eaten by a tiger though. Anyway, another more recent TV show you worked on just before Endeavour was in fact Call the Midwife and the two have been known to be in direct competition with each other on Sunday nights. Where would your loyalty lie regarding the remote control?

AMY: Endeavour, of course! I’m still friends with a few people at Midwife though, and we did have a little joke about being in competition last time we met up! Midwife is hugely successful and rightfully so; it’s similar to Endeavour in the scale and ambition it has, but I think – despite the similar period – they are two very different shows. We can both exist in the same world!

DAMIAN: Were you a fan of Endeavour before you started working on the show?

AMY: I actually was – a huge fan! I grew up watching Inspector Morse, so there was always that appeal. I love shows that you can really dig into – and Endeavour is so multi-layered, you could watch it 4 or 5 times over and still be picking up things you’ve never noticed before. And – as you’ve noted from my time on Midwife – I do seem to have quite a thing for the 1960s! I’m waiting for someone to write a show about a fireman in the 1960s, just so I can complete the emergency services trilogy.  Russ and I had also worked together many years ago (when I was a development coordinator) so I’d always kept an eye out for his work.

DAMIAN: Was there any particular research you needed to do either about the history of the show and its characters or regarding Oxford in the sixties?

AMY: As I came to Endeavour from Midwife, I already had a good steer on the history and atmosphere of the 60s, which was a massive help. And already being a fan, I felt pretty confident in the backstories of the characters. The big bits of research on Endeavour mainly centre around the worlds we find ourselves in – for example, when we visit the army barracks in COLOURS, that’s a world we haven’t seen before, so we did a huge amount of research into the environment, the uniforms, the protocol. We found a brilliant military advisor who had actually been in an army barracks in 1968, which was incredibly helpful! In terms of Oxford, searching through newspaper archives are an absolute goldmine – as I mentioned, it was there that we found references to the hair salon protest that inspired events in COLOURS.

DAMIAN: Because everyone has been so busy for so very long on the show, do you think that sometimes people forget to enjoy it and are there ever moments when you think, hey, I’m working on Endeavour!?

AMY:  It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of making the show, but it’s always when we’re in Oxford that it really hits you. There’s always such massive support from the public when we’re shooting there, people who are genuinely excited that they’re watching Endeavour being filmed; and it does remind you that there’s a big audience out there who are really looking forward to the finished series!  And then of course, when it goes out on ITV, and I get text messages from people watching it. That’s always nice too!

DAMIAN: Why do you think Endeavour continues to be such a success and so well loved around the world?

AMY:  I think it goes back to what we were saying about it being multi-layered – there’s so much satisfaction to get out of watching every episode – from the Morse nods, to the cultural references, and then the joy of watching an investigation unfold and trying to spot the culprit. Endeavour Morse has always been a wonderful character, and seeing what Shaun brings to it – it feels fresh and new but still the character we love – is a massive draw for the audience. Russ’s (and Roger’s!) creation of Fred Thursday just makes a perfect pairing – and I now can’t imagine a Morse universe without him in it!

DAMIAN: What’s been your favourite episode or at least the one you’re most proud to have worked on?

AMY:  I love every film equally! But if you’re pushing me to choose – I love PASSENGER (Film 3) because I love the world; I loved it from the very first draft. That quintessential English summertime, mashed up with the dark world of greed and murder. And I thought Jim Field Smith and Jamie Cairney did an amazing job of bringing it to life. I also love COLOURS –because Russ and I worked so hard on the story, characters and the research – so it’s hugely satisfying to see it come to life! But then QUARTET was so interesting to film; I’ve legitimately never laughed as hard as the day we filmed the Jeux Sans Frontieres sequence!

DAMIAN: The aforementioned producers on this series of Endeavour, Neil and John, told me in my interview with them that they both previously worked as script editors with the plan to move onto producing one day. Is this something that you’re also interested in?

AMY: It’s definitely an area I’m interested in. Many script editors do move on to become producers, and I think it’s due in part to the skills you need to successfully script edit – there’s a lot of crossover. And working with Neil and John was a brilliant experience which enabled me to learn so much more about producing. So hopefully one day – but I’m not quite ready to let go of the scripts just yet….!

Before we leave this section of the complex, and rather confusingly since the main CID set is housed in the opposite building, we come to the office of a horse of quite a different colour – one Chief Superintendent Bright. Some people find excitement in exotic holidays while others get their kicks from adventure sports but, for me at least, this is about as thrilling as it gets as I have a go at sitting in Bright’s chair behind his great desk and rifle through the various accessories and nic nacs – and look, the famous horse head ornament in the window…

Having a look through Bright’s book collection, I find an edition of Los Premios Nobel de Literatura which dates from 1964 and contains works by Saint John Perse, Andre Gilde, Karl Gjellerup, Gerhart Hauptmann, Ivo Andric and John Steinbeck. This seems more to Endeavour’s taste than Bright’s, but again, it’s the astonishing period detail that impresses most. Oh, and quite appropriately given some of Anton Lesser’s impressive previous credits, there’s one or two books by Dickens.

DAMIAN: Russ, all these sets, props, costumes, the various sound and lighting equipment – not to mention the vast army of cast and crew, are all here because you sit at home writing words like ‘INT. COWLEY GENERAL. MORTUARY’, ‘INT. THURSDAY HOUSE’ or ‘INT. POLICE STATION. BRIGHT’S OFFICE’, and then all these talented artists and craftsmen work tirelessly to create your vision. Five years in and everyone seems to take it all in their stride but do you ever just pause and appreciate what a tremendous gift this is – a gift that you’ve shared with millions of fans around the world?

RUSS: If there’s a gift – it’s the one that we’ve been given as programme makers. The opportunity to continue to explore a world created by Colin Dexter, and brought so memorably to life by the original production team – cast and crew.

DAMIAN: There’s a scene heading from your script to HARVEST that simply reads ‘EXT. OXFORD – DAY 1’ and then, ‘Skyline. A vision that never fails to thrill…’. When you visit the sets like today or take a trip to Oxford to see filming on location as I know you do from time to time, do you feel a special connection to the great city of dreaming spires and do its vistas indeed never fail to thrill?

RUSS:  It’s hard not to fall in love with the place. We’re terribly spoiled as we get to shoot in lots of areas that in the normal course of events would be out of bounds to many.  So – that’s lovely, and – again – a ridiculous privilege.  

And the people of Oxford have been enormously kind to us.  Very generous, understanding, and patient to a fault, as we return each year to make life difficult for them by closing roads, and otherwise making a general nuisance of ourselves.  

Happily, we’ve made some truly wonderful friends here, who come out and see us when we’re shooting. Amongst whom, I must mention Julia at Happy Cakes – a local baker – to whom cast and crew are deeply indebted. It’s as close as I’ll get to being a member of the TMS team. The days are long – the weather often grim – and the restorative powers of Julia’s extraordinary creations have always been a miraculous boost to morale on many a wet and bitterly cold shoot. I’d go so far as to say that they’ve helped get us over the line on more than occasion.

DAMIAN: Isn’t Oxford and all of this something of a magical playground for you?

RUSS: It’s a tremendous sandbox. Oxford is madly photogenic. I love it in all its moods. But it occupies a relatively contained number of days out of the shooting schedule on each film. One to four days – with two or three being about the average. We probably do a week – sometimes a little over at base — and all points of the compass for the rest of it.

DAMIAN: You have the power to decide who lives or dies, who will experience great joy or deep sorrow. For far less modest and humble screenwriters (and I bet there are a few out there!), wouldn’t they see it as an almost God-like power of creation?

RUSS: It’s my name on the byline, but there’s a lot of moving parts. From each according to their gifts. I don’t refer to it as Team Endeavour for no good reason.

Things will be kicked around until everyone is happy with them. Compromise and reciprocity. Win some, lose many. Stay limber.

DAMIAN: I’ve only really known two screenwriters and both are vastly different in their personalities and styles of writing. It’s undoubtedly hard for you to be objective on the subject but would you say there are certain characteristics or personality traits that many scriptwriters have in common?

RUSS:  Raging egomania and a propensity for violence.  The latter – usually unexpressed. In all seriousness, anyone who ever went the distance has my affection. What do we have in common? A haunted, thousand yard stare, probably. And ‘War Stories’. Get a bunch of writers together — decades ago, we used to organise our own non-corporate annual get together – “The Usual Suspects’ Christmas Jamboree” – and talk very quickly turns to War Stories. What happened on this or that show. Who got fired from what and how. The laughter born of recognition. Because we all know that sooner or later the joke’s on us. The old gag about the Actress who was so dumb that she slept with the Writer to get on in the business still stands.  

We’re hired guns is the bottom line. Sellswords. I always come back to that line at the end of The Magnificent Seven — ‘Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.’

DAMIAN: When I think of screenwriters, I’m often reminded of those as portrayed in some of the classic Film Noirs such as Humphrey Bogart as Dix Steele from In a Lonely Place or William Holden as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Are you ever amused by how the media depicts its own screenwriters?

RUSS:  The truth is much closer to Barton Fink.

DAMIAN: Have you been in the business that long that you’ve lost the ability to appreciate the romantic notion of a screenwriter?

RUSS:  I don’t think I had any romantic notion to lose.

DAMIAN: Filming today is for the last film of the series but this piece will be posted on the day that FILM 5 will be broadcast. Tell us what we can expect from the penultimate episode, QUARTET?

RUSS: Thrills and spills. Games without frontiers. Hard to describe without giving the game away, but Endeavour finds himself in very murky waters. Geoff Sax – who directed NEVERLAND – returns to the flight roster. I think he had fun with it.

We head back over to the main building to have a look around CID before the main cast are called to the set. I hear familiar voices from behind the door of what I now realise is used as a green room. One such voice in particular with a cough or two followed by a frequent clearing of the throat is especially unmistakable…

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

Coming up in part two of this exclusive set report, and in addition to exploring CID, we’ll also visit the costume, production and props department as well as chatting to some more of the crew, and, perhaps we’ll say hello to one or two of the cast.

~