Tag Archives: Russell Lewis Screenwriter Endeavour

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

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195: PART II

An Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Set Report

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

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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.

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