Tag Archives: Russell Lewis

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2019: Russell Lewis Part IV

Library of a lunatic

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

INT. POLICE STATION/CORRIDOR/CID – DAY X (FLASHBACK)

BRIGHT alone in the corridor. He steels himself, comes along the corridor – and enters CID at the THURSDAY OFFICE end.

BRIGHT: If I might have everyone’s attention.

THURSDAY emerges from his office. UNIFORMS arrive.

BRIGHT (cont’d): As you know, since the merging of City and County – together with our sister constabularies to create Thames Valley, the future of Cowley Police station has been in the balance. I have this day received news from Division. The station is to be reduced to a skeleton staff by the 24th of the month and will close – permanently – at midnight on the 31st. Details of future placements will be sent to each of you in due course.

Looks amongst the troops… ENDEAVOUR, STRANGE, FANCY and TREWLOVE — thunderstruck.

BRIGHT (cont’d): Meantime, I know I can rely on each of you to discharge your duty with the same professionalism I have come to so admire these past years. That is all. Carry on.

DAMIAN: And so with ICARUS, it was the end of Bright as we have come to know and love him?

RUSS: Indeed. Again, I think, in the earliest drafts, I was going for a Christmas/December film. Hence the 24th. And… again, this was shot down.

DAMIAN: You know, you had a good thing going here: the CID set, in a similar way to the Rovers Return or the bridge of the Enterprise perhaps, felt almost like a second home for both the characters and the audience – we felt comfortable and liked meeting there with the characters and the actors who play them, and had an almost unprecedented -for a detective mystery TV show at least-  magical chemistry. And yet, in name of progress, you take away our comfortable place and split up the family, casting them to the four winds. It’s certainly brave creatively but was it also a little risky?

RUSS: Five series. We could have kept it going unchanged indefinitely, I suppose.  But it felt with the historical end of City Police and our move from the base we’d occupied for Series 3, 4 & 5, that it was time to burn everything to the ground.  And Fancy – of course. That was key. And that arose from Dakota’s decision to leave. So… All of these things felt like major changes. And they reflected the year – 1968 – turbulence at home and abroad.  Closing the station and breaking up the band felt the right thing to do.

DAMIAN: ‘Don’t run boy!’. You’ve told me in the past that you were in and out of education as a child, and also there was a kind teacher who was supportive of your writing. Looking back at your education, or lack thereof, how do you think it shaped the bespoke writer and purveyor of fine manuscripts we have all come to so admire these past years?

RUSS: Lack of formal education. It just wasn’t something on the cards for someone of my socio-economic background – or, as we used to call it in old money, class.  My family were of a generation that thought you only went to University if you were going to be a Doctor or a Lawyer. College – we didn’t really have a notion of at all.  And attending ‘The Academy of Eyes and Teeth, Love’ from 3 to 16, er… its own grasp of higher education was pretty non-existent. I had an on-set tutor for a couple of years, and that was quite intensive and useful — but under employment/educational law you were only obliged to do three hours of proper schooling a day.  No science. Dreadful really. Appalling. But you play the cards you’re dealt, don’t you? I was a very early reader – and I suspect that made up a lot of the shortfall. But it was for the most part reading without structure or design. The library, the library, the library. The library was a palace of wonders.

So – yeh…  No proper education to speak of. Just the natural low cunning native to my class. That may sound facetious, but it’s not entirely. I suppose the way it shaped the writing – to return to your original question – is that nobody in a position of academic authority ever told me that such and such was not the way to do something.  Equally, the flipside is that nobody ever said that such and such was the way to do something.  I suppose it’s why I’m skeptical about the “You Too Can Have a Screenplay Like Mine” snake-oil salesmen.  You have to find your own way to it.

But I digress. Look — I’m not proud of a lack of formal education, but I’m not ashamed of it either.  Hard to be proud or ashamed about something over which one had no control. It’s just a thing. It made me hungry to know stuff — maybe more hungry than if it had all just been laid out before me.  There’s something thrilling about knowing how things work. Whatever it might be. Oh – so this bit of the world fits together with that bit of the world, &c. I just find that beguiling. A puzzle without end.  You’re never going to solve it, but each new bit of information deepens your understanding. We have such a short time in existence. So much to know — so little time. And so much of the stuff I’ve picked up along the way has been through work.  You know — you do Sharpe or Hornblower or Cadfael and you want to make a good job of it, you’d better start reading around the subject, bone up on it as if preparing for an exam, try to get a handle on the minds and manners of the period. Do your homework.  Always. That’s the great joy. My library looks like the library of a lunatic. Things that have no business sitting beside one another – a history of the Delta Blues beside the mechanics of an 18th century sailing ship, and surmounted by a book on poisons. Looks like we got ourselves a reader.

DAMIAN: I take it you’re familiar with the 1968 film, if ?

RUSS:  Yes, indeed.  Huge admirer of all things Lindsay Anderson.  The spirit of Mick Travis has infused quite a bit of Endeavourland along the way.  Sam Costin [script editor] and me had some fun with Lindsay Anderson stuff across the first three series.  Little nods here and there. Funnily enough – only this week I’ve caught up with an old grognard, the great muso Jeremy Stacey, and we got to talking about when we did Giles Cooper’s play  Unman, Wittering and Zigo for Radio 4 in the late 70s, with Gawn Grainger playing Mr.Ebony – we were about 15 or something. There’s a fabulous film of it with David Hemmings and the late and lovely Tony Haygarth – who I was blessed to work with on Between the Lines.  And Carolyn (Survivors) Seymour too, before she left for the States, plays Hemmings wife.

Answering this – I realise that I worked with both Hemmings and Carolyn. I did a TV play with Carolyn in the early 70s – written by my hero John Hopkins whose The Offence – directed by Sidney Lument – had a major influence on the vibe of Endeavour ‘69.  Only Connect! My Round Britain Quiz/Panini Sticker life. The ‘boys’ though are a hoot. You’ve got Michael Kitchen in there – Lord is it now? Lord Cashman? Fabulous atmos. And great sleight of hand with the school. Like ours, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster. The exteriors here – the interiors there. So – that got drawn on a bit, as did The History Boys; Jennings; Dead Poets Society…  anything with that boys’ school thing going on. Having done the girls’ side with NOCTURNE, it felt like it might be fun to do the boys.

if…. (1968)
ICARUS

DAMIAN: The headmaster at Coldwater asks if he plays sport and Endeavour replies with the lie, cricket. I wondered if this was your own personal preference in sport or a nod to the other Lewis?

RUSS: Cricket would always be my personal preference — but I went for Cricket because we were shooting in the winter, and the story was set in the winter, and Endeavour would think it a good wheeze to offer up a proficiency in a summer sport, in the hope of avoiding any physical exertion whatsoever.

DAMIAN: And isn’t it funny to see Endeavour finally at the chalkface because I asked if you thought he’d make a good teacher in one of first interviews and later, of course, he confides in Monica with a moped that he’s considering leaving the police to teach?

RUSS:  Yes — that certainly played back to his conversation with Ms.Hicks.

DAMIAN: Bright has a line of dialogue ‘The local Detective Inspector and his bagman lost their lives last weekend in a road traffic accident with an articulated lorry’. Knowing the extent to which you plan your future stories and character subplots ahead, I was worried this might be a sly foreshadowing of events yet to come or am I reading too much into things again?

RUSS:  Not every question gets an answer.  There are things you might infer.

TREWLOVE: Just the one bed, I’m afraid.

ENDEAVOUR: I can take the couch.

TREWLOVE: Don’t be ridiculous. How’s that going to look if anyone comes knocking?

Off ENDEAVOUR: What can Trewlove be suggesting…?

DAMIAN: What was Trewlove suggesting?

RUSS:  One would imagine a bolster being involved.

INT. ROSE COTTAGE/LIVING ROOM – NIGHT 4

ENDEAVOUR listening to one of IVORY’s LPs. TREWLOVE paints her toenails.

TREWLOVE: They say – that – when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. Do you think that’s true?

ENDEAVOUR: Grim topic for someone painting their toenails, isn’t it?

TREWLOVE: I told you. I like grim. What should a girl talk about, Morse? Ponies? Kittens? Boys?

ENDEAVOUR: I saw your boy this afternoon. He’s got it into his head that us being shacked up here is the perfect opportunity for a torrid affair.

TREWLOVE: But you’re not my type. Oh, Lord. I told him not to get too serious.

ENDEAVOUR: I thought you liked him.

TREWLOVE: I do. He’s desperately sweet. But, we’re both young. We’ve got to put career first right now. Haven’t we?

ENDEAVOUR: A career’s not going to hold you at three in the morning when the wolves come circling.

TREWLOVE: Do they come circling? Morse?

ENDEAVOUR: It’s late. I’ve got to make my bath. I think, if I found someone… All this wouldn’t matter a damn.

DAMIAN: I can’t quite believe I’m actually going to ask this in light of our Casanova debate, but one of the things I regretted about Trewlove’s departure was the fact that we would never get to find if they would or wouldn’t. I’d argue that there was a mutual attraction from the very beginning but had she stayed another year or two, would they have ever got together do you think?

RUSS:  It was something we were keen to avoid.

DAMIAN: Despite protests to the contrary, isn’t Endeavour exactly her type?

RUSS:  Opposites attract.

DAMIAN: I think they would have made a very fine couple but I was less convinced by her attraction to Fancy. Lovely as he was, would a girl like Trewlove really have had much interest in such a dope?

RUSS:  Because the people who should  be together always end up together, don’t they?  

DAMIAN: Was Endeavour jealous of their relationship or did it simply remind him of his own loneliness?

RUSS:  I don’t think he was jealous of them at all.  Your latter point – possibly.

DAMIAN: Did Endeavour like Fancy or not?

RUSS:  I think Fancy grew on him.  But perhaps more important than whether he liked him or not — he felt responsible for him.  And Endeavour would blame himself for not having protected him.  Also, I suspect that deep down he fears Fancy was in some way trying to impress him. After their last unhappy conversation… Of course Endeavour is going to take all the sins of the world, and the loss of Fancy onto his shoulders – for all his protestations to the contrary.

EXT. SNOOKER HALL – NIGHT 5

Police vehicles. In the lee of the entrance, ENDEAVOUR — shocked to his core – he struggles a smoke to his lips, but his hands are trembling too hard to light it. DOROTHEA…

DOROTHEA: Here.

She lights his smoke. Their eyes meet over the flame.

DOROTHEA (CONT’D): Is it true?

The answer in ENDEAVOUR’s – wounded, thousand yard stare.

DAMIAN: Again, I’ll understand any frustration you might have in my asking the following question given our last interview in which I was complaining about him smoking but why doesn’t Endeavour smoke in the filmed version of this scene?

RUSS:  You’d have to ask Shaun and Gordon [Anderson, director].  I’ve no idea. They thought better of it on the floor, presumably.

THURSDAY: I can’t have you pair shooting up the town like it’s the Wild West. Somebody’s going to get hurt…

DAMIAN: Since I know you’re a fan of Westerns, so you will have undoubtedly seen the famous cinematic versions of the Wyatt Earp story such as My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?

RUSS:  Yes, indeed.

DAMIAN: And the audience are all waiting with bated breath for the big shoot out?

RUSS:  Uh huh.

DAMIAN: So, while I appreciate Endeavour is not a western and Fancy is certainly no cowboy, you sustained a tension throughout six episodes regarding Eddie Nero and other violent rival gangs, and then the anticipated resolution to this which happened to be a bloody shootout occurs offscreen!!! Surely Fancy, and indeed Lewis Peek deserved a better send off than this?

RUSS:  Well — you have a choice, don’t you?  You either experience the discovery with Endeavour, Thursday and Strange — or you show it, and put the audience ahead of our heroes. Finding out what has happened to Fancy at the same time as his comrades felt the more shocking, brutal and cruel option. I would contend that if you’d known Fancy was in the thick of it, then the moment wouldn’t have had such an impact.  I’m more drawn to subverting expectations anyway, and would likely have gone for the least obvious, and most awkward, crunchy option.

DAMIAN: I did like that when Bright asked if Fancy’s family had been notified, Strange replies ‘Devon, Sir. Local boys’re dealing.’ That was an especially nice touch wasn’t it?

RUSS:  One for Lewis.  We loved and do love him.  It’s never easy coming in to something knowing that you’re going to be put to the sword at the end of the run.  It was very hard for him, and I did feel for him – but one had to see it through.

A Devonshire Lad

INT. POLICE STATION/BRIGHT’S OFFICE – DAY 6

BRIGHT and TREWLOVE. The end of all things…

BRIGHT: I had hoped to see you as the first female officer in Cowley CID, but our loss is the Yard’s gain. You will do great things there, I’m sure. Great things.

TREWLOVE: Thank you, sir.

BRIGHT: We shall all miss you. I don’t suppose there’s anything one can say..? I’m so frightfully sorry.

TREWLOVE: George was happy here, sir. He particularly admired you.

BRIGHT: His regard was poorly placed, I fear – and woefully served.

TREWLOVE: It wasn’t your fault, sir.

BRIGHT: No, well… The investigation will decide where any blame must fall. (he offers his hand) Good luck, Constable.

TREWLOVE: Thank you for always looking out for me.

BRIGHT: It has been… a privilege.

Trewlove exits.

DAMIAN: It’s typically quite proper for Bright to express his affection for her with a simple handshake but Trewlove could have given him a hug goodbye surely?

RUSS:  She could.  If they’d wanted to go that way on the floor they would have done.  As the cigarette moment outside the snooker hall shows, Director and cast will sometimes take things their own way.

DAMIAN: Well, back to the noble question of whether to hug or not to hug again I’m afraid, after the touching scene where Joan cooks dinner for Thursday because Win has left…

THURSDAY: Whatever went on with you last year… It’s none of my business. I shouldn’t’ve interfered. But it’s what fathers do.

JOAN: It’s what you do.

THURSDAY: I can’t help that. You’re my little girl. Apple of my eye. Always have been. Since the moment you came into the world. Always will be. But it’s your life. I just miss you being in mine. This past twelve months…

JOAN: Oh, Dad.

…the script, albeit not in the filmed version, ends the scene with ‘Hugs’. I remember chastising you for not having Thursday hug Sam as he left for the army and you said something about men of the period being more reserved in the way they show affection, so is it only OK for Thursday to hug his daughter or does he love Joan more than Sam?

RUSS:  I’m not quite sure how you get to that conclusion – but no, he doesn’t love Joan more than Sam.  But I’d probably contend that fathers and daughters in the period are marginally more likely to hug than fathers and sons.

DAMIAN: I appreciate that Endeavour is obviously the main character but wouldn’t Trewlove have wanted to say goodbye to Bright last and wouldn’t it have been better for her to have her final scene with him in a kind of Wizard of Oz/’I’ll miss you most of all’ sort of way?

RUSS:  As Adam West was purportedly fond of telling Burt Ward, ‘The show is called – Batman.’

DAMIAN: The farewell between Endeavour and Trewlove appears as scripted but the following really lovely scene was sadly trimmed due to running time:

THURSDAY waiting. TREWLOVE enters. A moment between them.

THURSDAY: If there was anything I could’ve done. If I could take it back. Me for him.

TREWLOVE: He wouldn’t’ve wanted that. They’ll need you now more than ever. Someone’s got to see them through.

STRANGE comes through.

STRANGE: Off, then, Shirl? Look after yourself, love.

TREWLOVE: You too, Jim.

STRANGE: (off TREWLOVE’S hug) Now, then. You’ll set me off. (a moment) He was a good lad.

TREWLOVE: I know. Look out for Mister Bright. Be kind to him — if he’ll let you. Well…

With a backwards wiggle of her fingers in parting, she exits into the corridor.

DAMIAN: Time, it’s your old archenemy I know, and you’ll undoubtedly find this a vexing question, but Trewlove really did come into her own during series five and I wonder if Dakota would have wanted to leave at all if she was given the material she had last year?

RUSS:  Yes — we shot it, but it didn’t make the cut.  Regrettably. Broke our hearts to see her go, but we were never going to hold on to DB.  Sail on, Silver Girl.

EXT. BRIGHT’S HOUSE – DAY 6

30s Mock Tudor. BRIGHT – in civvies – trimming his privets. He sees: ENDEAVOUR.

BRIGHT: Morse. Good heavens.

CUT TO:

INT. BRIGHT’S HOUSE – DAY 6

Decorated in Late English Desperate vernacular. Oh, chintzy-chintzy cheeriness, half-dead, and half-alive… Between the wars. Punkah-Poona-on-the-Hill. BRIGHT ushers ENDEAVOUR in.

BRIGHT: Mrs. Bright is out, I’m afraid. Bridge circle. I think. May I offer you a drink? I generally have a lime-juice and gin about now.

ENDEAVOUR: Thank you, sir.

BRIGHT: Yes. Well, I’ll just go and, er… wash my hands.

BRIGHT exits. ENDEAVOUR takes in his surroundings. BRIGHT’s life arranged in photographs around the walls. The young subaltern in India before the war. Wedding pictures. Simla…

On a side-board a few framed photographs of a young girl. Babe in arms – toddler – scowling Prince Valiant haired tomboy in khaki shorts. A smiling HOUSE SERVANT looking on. And then… nothing. A sepia promise of beauty; unrealised.

BRIGHT: Dulcie. Our daughter. Sweet little thing.

Behind BRIGHT’s eyes, a world of painful memory. The sudden descent into fever. Tubercular meningitis. The Doctor ‘Up-Country’. A terrible week-long suffering. Nothing to be done. A woman, deranged by grief, howling in the night. All of it contained in the one simple phrase.

BRIGHT (CONT’D): The Tropics.

As well to argue with God. BRIGHT falls to fixing drinks.

BRIGHT (CONT’D): So what’s this all about?

ENDEAVOUR: Ballistics prove George Fancy was shot by someone who got away from the Snooker Hall. His killer is still at large.

BRIGHT: Well — presumably that will be passed to the investigating officer.

ENDEAVOUR: He was our colleague.

BRIGHT: And we will mourn him. I’m on indefinite leave. It’s out of my hands. Nothing to be done. Not what one would wish, but there we are. (brings DRINKS across) Your very good health. Fresh lime, you see. That’s the trick of it.

ENDEAVOUR frustrated. BRIGHT in some private hell.

DAMIAN: Private hell. A world of painful memory. All bloody good meat and potato stuff that actors love to play with and explore. And yet, it’s been a long time coming and I know that the confines of screen time has been a source of frustration for Anton Lesser. While I understand the reasons for this, what I don’t understand is why, apart from a initial letter you wrote to him outlining Bright’s past (the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein inspiration and Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song: ‘Six o’clock news… lime juice and gin’ to name but a few examples), why you haven’t shared information on Bright’s future. In fact, Anton was completely unaware of many of the character developments for Bright over series five and six until he read them in the scripts. Rather than risk key players losing interest in their parts and possibly leaving the show, why don’t you share all your extremely detailed and insightful plans for the characters with the actors who play them?

RUSS:  Because plans change.  Having marched Anton up the hill only to march him back down it a couple of times now — I’m reluctant to tell anyone anything that’s in my design just in case it doesn’t happen.  But believe me – every line, every scene an actor loses in production or in the cut… it’s tough – because you feel for them, and you wouldn’t have written the scene if you didn’t feel it warranted inclusion.

Look – here’s how it works.  You write a thing. People ask for additional material for a multiplicity of reasons.  You write the requested material. And as often as not, the stuff you care most deeply about – the stuff that made you want to tell that story that way in the first place gets squeezed out by the new material.  That’s just how it is. There’s a lot of moving parts. A lot of people asking for changes to plot or character beats. It’s your job to square the circle. You hold on to what you can – salvage the rest. If you can’t take a creative punishment beating every day…  then you’re in the wrong business.

INT. POLICE STATION/CID – DAY 9

CID stripped bare. THURSDAY in his office, boxing his last bits. ENDEAVOUR and STRANGE watch removal men cart off the last FILING CABINETS. BRIGHT enters. ENDEAVOUR – reacts.

ENDEAVOUR: Sir?

THURSDAY emerges from his office.

BRIGHT: That’s the last of it, is it?

THURSDAY: Yes, sir.

BRIGHT: Well. I just stopped by to wish you all good luck.

A MURMUR of ‘Thanks’ from ENDEAVOUR, THURSDAY and STRANGE.

BRIGHT (CONT’D): When I arrived here three years ago, I had such high hopes. What an ignominious end I have led you to. I shall resign, of course.

THURSDAY: Sir…

BRIGHT: I failed him. I failed my men. The station gone. My brightest and best cast to the four winds. And all is brought to ruin.

Cometh the hour. The one true friend…

STRANGE: Bollocks to that.

THURSDAY: Sergeant…

STRANGE: No, sir. I won’t hear it. We might be down, but we’re not out. Not yet. Not by a long chalk. I’ll be damned if this is how it ends. We’ll have justice for him, sir. Whatever it takes.

THURSDAY: Jim’s right, sir. They can call us Thames Valley till the cows come home, but wherever we wash up, we’re City men – each one of us. To our boots. To the last.

BRIGHT: So few.

ENDEAVOUR: Enough to give him justice.

THURSDAY: We’ll find the bastard, sir.

BRIGHT: Your word on it.

THURSDAY: My oath.

STRANGE: And mine.

They look to ENDEAVOUR.

ENDEAVOUR: For George.

DAMIAN: Honestly, if I could have only risen from my sofa, stood up and joined the four musketeers there and then… Rousing stuff indeed. I was a little confused though, why is Strange ‘the one true friend’?

RUSS:  George Fancy’s.  Jim Strange was fond of the lad.  There is something very straight about Jim Strange.  He might not have the book learning, but when the chips are down, he’s the one man you want to see coming round the corner.

DAMIAN: Will all the mystery surrounding George’s death be resolved by the last film of series six and what can you say about Degüello?

RUSS:  Yeh – I’d hope so.  I can say almost nothing about Degüello.  

DAMIAN: You say almost nothing. Any fragrant ladies? Plot vertigo perhaps? Nothing, really?

RUSS:  There was something that we thought about for ‘68 – but for reasons which will become clear, we didn’t do it.  But it is an ending.  For good or ill.

INT. POLICE STATION/CID – DAY 9

ENDEAVOUR alone. He looks to FANCY’S desk.

FANCY (VOICE OVER): Your desk. Sorry. I was told to wait. Fancy…

TREWLOVE (V.O.) There is a woman under the uniform, Morse. Just not a stupid one.

JAKES (V.O.): Wotcher!

Ghosts fled. ENDEAVOUR empties his drawer. A the bottom — his PHOTOFIT of JOAN from (Series 4). A moment on ENDEAVOUR. He exits CID.

DAMIAN: I liked this very much. Why was the scene changed to Endeavour instead simply taking a moment and then turning the light switch off and leaving CID in darkness?

RUSS:  I’d refer you to the answer I gave some questions ago.   My original ending for S5 was very different, and among the greatest regrets is that I could not carry the day.

DAMIAN: You’re not going to elaborate further on this very different ending that was among your greatest regrets?

RUSS:  An Endeavour Joan moment.  More I cannot say. But it was a beautiful thing.  At least, I thought so.

DAMIAN: You mentioned in our first interview this year that there was no danger of running out of stories and that Damien Timmer feels that the show could move into the early seventies quite happily. And, if the network want another series -they will have almost certainly made up their mind  by the time this interview is posted- you won’t be hanging the Winchester over the fireplace or turning in your tin star just yet?

RUSS:  As you know, I’m bound to silence by fearful oaths.

DAMIAN: When we do say goodbye to Oxford’s brightest and best for the final time though, and regardless to other shows you write -you will do great things, I’m sure- would you be happy to be known and remembered as the chap who wrote Endeavour?

RUSS: Don’t imagine I’ll be remembered at all – by any apart from those who know me.  And quite happy to be forgot.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed. See you down the road?

RUSS:  See you down the road.

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2019: Russell Lewis Part II

LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE

CARTOUCHE & PASSENGER

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

DAMIAN: You were surprised I liked CARTOUCHE. Why exactly?

RUSS: I thought you might find it too frivolous – too knowing.

DAMIAN: I’ve tried a couple of times in the past to get you to tell me what your favourite episodes are but without much success. Since you’re unlikely to budge on this, perhaps you might instead at least acknowledge that some episodes are more important than others?

RUSS:  I don’t know if I’d agree with you over importance.  To borrow from Marge Gundersson, ‘People always need the little stamps.’

DAMIAN: Let’s look at it from a different perspective then; would you agree that it is unlikely that ITV, Mammoth Screen or yourself would wish to open or close a series of a highly respected Sunday-night detective drama with an episode featuring a mummy on the rampage in Oxford?

RUSS: I would. But while we probably wouldn’t open or close a run with a CARTOUCHE like number, if the entirety of the series followed suit then things might get a little samey.

INT. ROXY/CINEMA SCREEN – DAY 1

In darkness. A crackly, repeating MORSE CODE signal.

— .–. …

Onscreen: Black and white art-deco 1930s FILM LOGO — ‘MAMMOTH PICTURES STUDIOS’ wrapped around a spinning globe topped with a radio antenna sending ‘lightning bolts’ into the ether. An airship circumnavigates the sphere, against the rotation of the planet.

MUSIC of a distinctly Egyptian theme BEGINS… Black and White — TITLES against shifting desert sands. “MERIAM C. DENHAM presents EMIL VALDEMAR in THE PHARAOH’S CURSE” “Screenplay by W.P. Mayhew” “Directed by Von Mayerling.” &c.

DAMIAN: The original description for the Mammoth Pictures Studio logo was more reminiscent of the old RKO and Universal Pictures from the late twenties and early thirties and significantly different from the screen version. At what point did you have the ingenious idea of actually using a mammoth?

RUSS:  When we couldn’t clear the original homage.  I think I’ve mentioned before the legal minefield of clearance.

DAMIAN: It’s not actually Cavendish though is it?

RUSS:  Doubtless an antecedent.


Production designer Paul Cripps designed and built the Mammoth Pictures Studio logo; basically carving an iceberg from poly, bought a Mammoth which he then painted and sprayed. The background was also painted and then he simply stuck both the iceberg and mammoth on a turntable.

DAMIAN: This treasure must surely be proudly housed safely behind glass at Mammoth Screen?

RUSS:  Like the Anglia knight?  Alas. I haven’t seen it around the office.  

Brings back memories.

DAMIAN: I think I get that W.P. Mayhew was the drunken writer in Barton Fink, (Max) Von Mayerling was the silent movie director turned butler from Sunset Boulevard but is Meriam C. Denham a composite of King Kong director and producer Merian C. Cooper and the Carl Denham character from the same film?

RUSS:  Full marks.

DAMIAN: And accompanying those opening film credits, we hear Matthew Slater’s music score. Now, Matt has been doing a fantastic job as composer for most of the last couple of years or so -I think PREY was his first full score?- but CARTOUCHE was simply stunning wasn’t it and almost indistinguishable from a big Hollywood film soundtrack?

RUSS:  Matt’s an extraordinary talent, and his scores are a joy.  His work has spared our blushes on many an occasion.

DAMIAN: There’s been some great scores for horror and fantasy films such as Max Steiner’s work on King Kong, music for the Universal Monster Cycle of the 30s and 40s by composers like Paul Dessau, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner and Franz Waxman, in addition to the various artists, perhaps most notably James Bernard, who scored the Hammer films. I’m wondering if you listened to any of these while writing CARTOUCHE or discussed them with Matt as reference points because there’s definitely a Hammer influence in his score isn’t there?

RUSS:  Yeh, we talked about Waxman, and James Bernard.

DAMIAN: It’s perhaps no coincidence that amongst Valdemar’s credits, Buddy and Louie Meet the Pharaoh is mentioned because of all the various costumes and makeup designs for the character over the years, the one in CARTOUCHE most resembles the one in (Budd) Abbott and (Lou) Costello Meet the Mummy. Was this slightly low budget design the look you were going for?

RUSS:  Kind of.  The Hammers also started to look a bit ragged – no pun intended – very quickly. It was meant to invoke something of a B-picture, knocked out very quickly, and on a limited budget.  But Andy – our director – had a lot of fun with it.

DAMIAN: Despite having the most iconic makeup design, I’ve always found Karloff’s The Mummy to be a little slow and stagey much like Dracula as opposed to more cinematic masterpieces from Universal such Bride of Frankenstein, and actually much prefer Hammer’s The Mummy. Do you have a favourite?

RUSS:  A favourite Universal or a favourite Hammer – or a favourite Mummy?  I’m with you on Bride all the way.

DAMIAN: I meant a favourite Mummy. In comparison to other gothic literary characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Jekyll and Hyde etc., the Mummy is possibly the least interesting and I just wondered from a writers perspective, which film you thought provided the most engaging characterisation?

RUSS:  Bubba Ho Tep.  I suppose the first two Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz Mummy pictures. And of those two, the second probably gives you the biggest window on Imhotep’s history, doesn’t it?  But – let’s be frank – as a franchise, it’s never been particularly deep, has it? I don’t think I mind the Karloff as much as you do.  It is pretty slow, but it does set down all the key lore. Probably the least said about the latest incarnation the better.

Boris Karloff in The Mummy (1932)
Christopher Lee in The Mummy (1959)

DAMIAN: After the success of individual horror character franchises such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, Universal created a shared universe for these classic monsters. Now, considering that these films are meant to follow on from each other, it’s rather bizarre that Lionel Atwill is cast in so many and yet plays completely different characters including Inspector Krogh (Son of Frankenstein), Doctor Theodore Bohmer (The Ghost of Frankenstein), the Mayor (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), Inspector Arnz (House of Frankenstein) and Inspector Holtz (House of Dracula). Regardless, with the nod to his name in the script and the character with the one arm, why has the memory of Atwill endured perhaps more than other supporting Universal character players such as my personal favourite, Dwight Frye?

RUSS:  I think – as you say – it was probably Atwill’s presence in so many different incarnations that guaranteed his immortality.  Ah – Dwight Frye. Will Dwight Frye make you Frye of Dwight?!

Lionel Atwill
Dwight Frye in this magnificent publicity still for Dracula (1931)

DAMIAN: I suppose in a similar vein to the Carry On films and other beloved institutes, Universal and Hammer had a repertoire of supporting roles players which we don’t quite see to the same extent in contemporary productions. Do you think that, in always striving to prove their versatility and avoid typecasting, it’s a pity we no longer enjoy character actors in the same way anymore?

RUSS:  Well, a Hammer never really felt like a Hammer without the appropriately named Michael Ripper, did it?  I just don’t think we make things the same way. The world changes. But I’m very grateful we’ve still got all those wonderful films, and those regular faces to enjoy.  

Michael Ripper who possibly appeared in more Hammer films than any other actor.

DAMIAN: And the Hammer Horrors featured many glamourous scream queens such as Valerie Leon and Ingrid Pitt but Veronica Carlson must still be a favourite who you mentioned in one of our early interviews and gets a nod in CARTOUCHE as Veronique Carlton. In your opinion, why is she the epitome of the 60s Hammer and British Horror scream queen?

RUSS:  I think it’s that she pulled off that extraordinary back to back double in ‘68 and ‘69 with the Count and then the Baron.  Dracula Has Risen from the Gravy — and Frankenstein Must be Dismayed.

Veronica Carlson
Veronique Carlton

DAMIAN: Apart from Bela Lugosi who died in 1956, which of the iconic horror actors would you have liked to have cast as Emil Valdemar if CARTOUCHE was actually made in the year in which it was set?

RUSS:  Well — we were thinking about Bogdanovich’s Targets a lot – which was a big jumping off point for the story.  So – it was Karloff the Uncanny, all the way. It would have had to be someone British and old enough to have served in the Great War.

Targets (1968) Boris Karloff is so scary he even makes himself jump.

DAMIAN: As always, there’s so many references in the episode such as Fu Manchu, the Corman/Price cycle and Poe more generally, that we can’t possibly discuss them all, although I thought the nod to Lauren Bacall (Betty Perske/Persky) was particularly lovely because she was actually a theatre usher in real life wasn’t she?

RUSS: Exactly that.

An early photo of Betty

DAMIAN: It was wonderful to see Thursday in such a (rare) good mood reminiscing about the cinema of his childhood although I was less impressed with Endeavour’s response – is he only interested in watching Ingmar Bergman films and -much later in life- Last Tango in Paris?

RUSS: Colin didn’t really give us much of a steer on his cinematic interests.  But Endeavour’s recollection of Saturday Morning Pictures are mine. I’m not sure if it made the cut – but his invocation of Dante made Damien Timmer chuckle, which always pleases me.

DAMIAN: Yes it did, something about all that screaming in the dark. However, for someone who consistently shows such a reverence in their writing for classic cinema, I’m somewhat surprised and confused by such negative recollections of Saturday Morning Pictures. I would have thought you would have more in common with Thursday than Endeavour in this regard?

RUSS:  Endeavour’s recollections are perhaps not unsurprisingly my recollection of the one and only trip I made to the Granada, St.John’s Hill for Saturday Morning Pictures. I can still hear the screaming.

DAMIAN: Starting with Carol this series, Endeavour begins his Casanova phase which I had a few problems with and hope to debate in a future interview, however, can you not think of a nice young lady to introduce to Strange for a change?

RUSS:  Well — we have seen him out on a double-date with Endeavour – to a Horror Double Bill appropriately enough.  Well — I look forward to discussing Endeavour’s Casanova phase. A one night stand with the least appropriate young woman imaginable – and a meaningful few months with Claudine, of whom he had hopes.  Some Casanova phase. Surely such Homework would warrant, ‘Must try harder!’ in the margin?

DAMIAN: And speaking of other halves, Bright is eating alone in the restaurant because his wife is otherwise engaged yet again! Come on now Russ, this is getting quite ridiculous unless Reginald has perhaps buried her under the patio or keeping her well-preserved mummified corpse in the fruit cellar?

RUSS:  It’s been quite fun keeping people guessing about Mrs.Bright.  We shall see.

DAMIAN: Towards the end of the episode, Charlie says ‘You’re the best of us, Fred’, to which Thursday replies, ‘The best of us never came home’. Earlier, when reminiscing about Saturday morning matinees as a child, Thursday mentions to Endeavour that he’d go in first and then ‘spring the window in the Gents for Chas and Billy’. Can you tell us more about Billy, presumably the youngest of the three Thursday brothers, or is this perhaps something you might elaborate on in a future story?

RUSS:  There is a story that tells us more about Billy – but whether we will get to make it is doubtful.  The exchange rate has taken a bit of a hit since I first had it in mind — and probably rules it out.

DAMIAN: You make the parallels between ex-Detective Sergeant Ronald Beavis and Endeavour quite explicit with similar characters traits and shared interests including a passion for opera; the two even have the same Rosalind Calloway performance of La Traviata LP – oh, just out of curiosity, why were you so specific in the script that the record not have her image on the sleeve?

RUSS:  Was I? I think I just wanted to avoid the LP Endeavour had signed in the very first film also being owned by Beavis. As if it were the ONLY Rosalind Calloway recording in existence.

DAMIAN: Anyway, after leaving the museum at the end of the episode, there’s a discussion of the parallels between Beavis and Endeavour and Thursday says ‘he’d no family to keep him on the straight. Lot to be said for family’, to which Endeavour replies, ‘What if you don’t have one? Is that how you finish your days? Alone in some two-bob kip with nothing but a bottle for company?’. Thursday ends the discussion with, ‘That was his future. Not yours. You’ll make better choices’. First of all, does Thursday really believe this, and secondly, would he, if not really approve, then reluctantly give his consent -at this particular moment in time at least- if such choices included Joan?

RUSS:  I don’t think there’s any reason for Fred to think Endeavour won’t make better choices.  His first thought would be of Joan’s happiness. If being with Endeavour made her happy, then I’m sure Thursday would be behind her all the way.  

DAMIAN: Of course, we know how it ends for Endeavour, but the way the scene is written suggests that he does too. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that loneliness is a subjective experience. For someone like Endeavour with all his emotional baggage and psychological damage, his loneliness and estrangement might foster a self-defeating attitude in that the more he marginalises himself, the more his protracted loneliness intensifies, and becomes increasingly difficult to break free from such a mindset that negatively influences his perception of relationships making him more pessimistic as to their outcome (as might be the case with Joan or Susan Fallon for that matter). To what extent would you agree with all this and has Endeavour -again, at this point in the story- accepted his fate or is he simply just a miserable sod?

RUSS:  No – I don’t think he’s accepted his fate at all at this point.  Did he ever? He always seemed optimistic when pursuing romance. In this instance, I think Endeavour was rattled by finding some similarities with Beavis – primarily, the music – and beyond that, the want of family.  And, of course, he was an ex-copper.

DAMIAN: And so without further delay or cancellation, we arrive at possibly one of the most beautifully shot films of this or any other series of Endeavour. You’ve often found inspiration from poetry during the conception and development of characters such as Thursday (Henry Reed’s Lessons of the WarNaming of Parts in particular) and Bright (Betjeman’s Subaltern’s Love Song), so I’m wondering if there’s any deeper significance to your inclusion of WH Auden’s Night Mail in PASSENGER beyond the theme of trains?

RUSS:  Well – all credit to Jim Field Smith and DoP Jamie Cairney.  For my part, it was just an early memory of a re-run of the 1936 documentary that ends with the verse.  The British Documentary Film Movement is an endless source of wonder and inspiration. But ‘Night Mail’… probably melts a bit into the train journey in ‘I Know Where I’m Going’. Trains – particularly the old steamers – have an innate air of romance, mystery and – for our purposes – danger.  That ‘The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations’ makes the list of ‘These Foolish Things’ is no accident. The Orient Express. The Blue Train. The 4:50 From Paddington. All aboard!

DAMIAN: Interestingly, Auden was addicted to the crime genre and had some very particular opinions about it which shaped the poem, Detective Story, and an essay on the subject, The Guilty Vicarage, in which he makes a series of observations while deconstructing the Whodunit formula including the discourse between good and evil, the ethical and eristic conflict between Us and Them and the dialectics of innocence and guilt, while also identifying its five essential elements: milieu, victim, murderer, suspects and detectives. Perhaps even more than Sherlock Holmes’ more cosmopolitan and diverse Victorian London for example, I wonder if it’s milieu that’s particularly applicable to the Morse Universe if we view Oxford as a kind of garden of Eden in which the various sins don’t necessarily attract evil to the city, but instead reveal the evil that already inhabits the dreaming spires hiding under the gown of piousness and respectability?

RUSS:  ‘As the milieu told its tale…’  I think much of Auden’s take on the Whodunit applies particularly to the Golden Age and the notion of Mayhem Parva.  It probably starts to break down when applied to Bay City. Oxford as a Garden of Eden? I guess I’m with you about the frailties of human nature residing there already – rather than something that arrives with an interloper.  (Though that may change…) But no more or less than any other town of a like size. Don’t be fooled for a moment by the architecture. Or by the trappings of academe. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. A juicy and coveted Chair is just as likely to be pursued, as is the wife or daughter of another don. Clixby Bream come on down! That’s one of the many things Colin did so well in the novels. And he knew that world better than most. Where abideth man, there abideth sin.  

Richard Briers as Sir Clixby Bream in the original Morse: Death is Now My Neighbour

DAMIAN: And perhaps Endeavour represents this loss of innocence more acutely than either Inspector Morse or Lewis ever did?

RUSS:  Yes, I think that’s fair to say. We have a much younger protagonist. And a romantic to boot. He was always going to have much further to fall. But I think that one of the things about his older incarnation is some part of that hope still remains. That’s what lends it its melancholy. And, of course, it’s what redeems him.

DAMIAN: One aspect of Auden’s musings on the detective story that certainly can’t be applied to Endeavour is that the characters are not changed in or by their actions. Indeed, reflecting on the heartbreak and misery frequently bestowed upon Endeavour and Joan for example, how far are you willing to go in putting your loyal and loving audience on a downer?

RUSS:  Does it bring the audience down, do you think?  One of the great, unlooked for delights of writing this thing has been charting the push and pull of those binary stars. Who knew?

I don’t know about putting the audience on a downer, but how far am I willing to go with telling that story?  All the way. Always.

EXT. JOAN’S FLAT/ROOF – DAY

JOAN clambers up through a skylight onto the roof. ENDEAVOUR follows. By the time he’s out and into the daylight, with the resultant queasiness of realisation that he’s up high. JOAN is at the edge, looking out over OXFORD.

JOAN: It was the view I fell in love with.

ENDEAVOUR’S POV: JOAN against a backdrop of magic hour Oxford – a sky of pink and pearl.

ENDEAVOUR: Yes.

A world contained in a single word. If his heart were to stop now, it would be enough. To die in the moment of perfection. Like…

ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Cherry blossom.

His whisper lost on the breeze.

JOAN: You can’t see from there. Come closer.

ENDEAVOUR: This is as close as I get.

And it is. And ever will be.

ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Come back now.

And it is. And ever will be.

JOAN: Scared of heights?

ENDEAVOUR: Not heights. Just falling…

DAMIAN: Fans may occasionally debate the merits of certain plot points and the motivation of various suspects or perpetrators but there can be little doubt that scenes such as this clearly demonstrate your transcendent and unrivalled talent for consistently writing characters in a detective drama that we all care about so very deeply. Knowing that you will almost certainly deflect the compliment in your now familiar self-effacing and reticent maner, I challenge you to give me an example of just one other detective drama written for TV that consistently delivers both the mystery and emotion of Endeavour.

RUSS:  I don’t watch enough to have a representative sample upon which to draw. But, I think if all we were doing was constructing a puzzle for the audience to solve, it would be a very dreary exercise.  A much bigger conversation probably, but, ‘Why write at all?’ Why tell stories? It’s about making a connection, isn’t it? One heart speaking to another. I think if you’re going to do it at all, then you have to be prepared to go all in.  The audience can sniff out fakery at 500 yards. You might be dressing something up in slightly different clothes, or presenting it at one or more remove — but the initial impulse – the thing you’re having these characters saying – has to come from something real.

The plot and the whodunit are hugely important – but it’s the emotional beats that I suspect will outlast the conundrum. “All the feels”, as I believe the young people have it.  Like the man said, “Nobody goes home whistling the scenery”.

DAMIAN: And then you almost go and spoil it all by following such a beautiful scene by having Claudine appear and Endeavour lighting a cigarette for her which I have two problems with: firstly, although I understand that one of the functions of the scene was Joan wanting to introduce Endeavour to someone who might look after him, doesn’t the smile he gives Claudine show his instant attraction to her despite having literally just walked away from Joan only seconds earlier and somewhat undermine his passion and love for Joan and all the pink, pearl and cherry blossom?

RUSS:  C’est la vie, mon vieux.

DAMIAN: The second aspect was Endeavour lighting her cigarette; why would he even be carrying a lighter when he doesn’t smoke? – yet!

RUSS:  You will recall Thursday’s advice to Trewlove concerning cigarettes.  We forget now – in these more health conscious times – the social connection and conviviality that was part of the theatre of nicotine.  “Cigarette?” was a great ice-breaker. An instant connection. For a detective dealing with those who have witnessed terrible things – to be able to offer a cigarette to someone ‘in shock’ was considered at the very least an act of kindness.  Likewise – in interview, with a suspect or indeed the guilty party – the bestowal or withholding of tobacco – is a tool in the box. For Endeavour to be tootling about without a box of smokes would be a bit of a shortcoming.

DAMIAN: In response to my question in our last interview regarding how much longer the show could continue, you said that there’s a little way to go yet, but, you are starting to say goodbye. Therefore, given there’s a few other characters from the original series yet to make an appearance, I wonder if there’s still time to see Endeavour and Susan Fallon reunited and if so, is there even enough room for yet another doomed relationship – I mean how many great, ill-fated loves can one man have?

RUSS:  I think it unlikely we’ll see Susan Fallon.  The Prime Directive is all. Yet another doomed relationship?  Well — given where we found him in ‘87 and left him at the end of century, one might argue that ALL his relationships were doomed.  How many great, ill-fated loves can one man have? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Enter — DI RONNIE BOX, (30s), a young thief-taker, and DS PATRICK DAWSON, (30s), a mordant, humourless, career copper – a young Kenneth Colley.

BRIGHT: Ah. Perfect timing.

DAMIAN: Why now in this particular episode and what does Dawson’s relationship with Box say about his character here and in his future incarnation?

RUSS:  There is perhaps more to tell on that score.  We shall see if room is available.

DAMIAN: Unlike the antagonist DS Peter Jakes who audiences eventually began to warm to, there can’t be any such redemption for a character as despicable as DI Ronnie Box can there?

RUSS:  Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?  

DAMIAN: Was his introduction here planned to set up the character (and storylines) as a regular for the sixth series?

RUSS:  Box certainly played into the evolution of the Sixth Series.

DAMIAN: I think we may have spoke about the use of clichéd and stereotypical archetypes before and how they can be both useful -especially in detective stories in terms of misdirecting the audience- but also dangerous for a writer. In retrospect, do you think that a stuttering trainspotter who still lives with his mother was a bit much?

RUSS:  Clearly not.  One might as well be hung for a sheep.  The major story here concerned… well – it’s not possible to set down what it concerned without spoilers.  But, one thing that did horrify me was a suggestion that one was presenting a character on the autistic spectrum.  I’d grant ‘English eccentric’ and ‘flawed and malignant personality’- but when it comes to autism nothing could have been further from our intentions.  A moment’s thought about that – given some of the things we’ve done elsewhere in the show – and I’d hope anyone would realise that, if such was indeed our intent, then we’d never engineer such a crass depiction.

DAMIAN: Did you ever have a train set?

RUSS:  I did. Hornby.  But like South West Trains, I could never get it to run properly.

DAMIAN: Some lovely cultural references again in this episode such as Norborough Station (60s Avengers) but I would have put money on nods to The Signal-man or Brief Encounter – did I miss them?

RUSS:  We are ever constrained by what can be delivered.  I had wanted to use the original location for The Signalman – but it lay far beyond our reach.  ‘Hallo! Below there!’ Brief Encounter… I don’t know if it made the cut – but I’m pretty sure we’ve nodded to ‘taking books back to Boots’ elsewhere.

DAMIAN: I could have understood Bates Motel (indeed, there’s a slight reference: ‘Twenty-four chalets, twenty-four vacancies’) but bloody Crossroads Motel! You’ve given us countless tales that witness your fanaticism for Tony Hancock, Carry On films and The Beatles but why on earth would you even think of paying homage to such a decrepit piece of soap opera history?

RUSS:  Damien Timmer is very fond of Crossroads, and was very keen to honour it. Lest we forget, when Miss Diane left Kings Oak, she tipped up in… of all places…  a certain city of dreaming spires. Easy to knock, of course — but it once commanded huge audiences, and the viewing nation hung spellbound on the fate of Meg and Sandy and Jill, and all the rest

But as always with Endeavour, one might imagine it to be A Crossroads, rather than necessarily THE Crossroads.  We rationalised it – kind of – thus, that once, perhaps, Hazel Adair and Peter Ling had taken a wrong turn on a lonely highway and ended up at our Crossroads, which had in turn inspired them to create their Crossroads.

You are right about Bates Motel, of course.  In fact, I think in the original iteration of the script there was an extended night driving sequence for Endeavour before he arrived.  Alas, time and budget, and poor man’s process, wait for no man. But I clearly thought it would have been funnier if we’d laid in a longer build-up to the reveal of his destination.

DAMIAN: And a certain Mrs. Turtle is referenced in the script and briefly seen on screen at the reception desk who looked remarkably similar to Ann George. Like Veronica Carlson, please tell me she wasn’t another one of your boyhood crushes?

RUSS:  I worked at ATV in Brum for some time in the early 70s — and we would often see the stars from Crossroad in the canteen, or heading into studio.  Ann George was quite glamorous in a furs and bling way – but, no, she never caught my imagination in quite the same way as Miss Carlson.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the second film of series 6, APOLLO?

RUSS:  Er, well — Shaun’s directed it.  And a very fine job he’s done, too.  William Goldman’s advice was ‘Give the star everything.’  So – I hope the moon will suffice. Seriously – it’s quite spooky the way it worked out.  Of all the films in all the series in all the world that he could have directed…

I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about it at a later date, but we were blessed to be joined on this film by Stephen La Riviere and his wonderfully talented team at Century 21.  He brought with him some absolute pioneers of British film and television. So, for a couple of days, our pretend past reached out across half a century and joined hands with those who had lived the real thing.  It also marks (and will remain) my only onscreen appearance in Endeavour, and proves that sometimes one’s childhood dreams really can come true.

Damian and Russ meet for their very first interview at a Japanese Monster Convention

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.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part IV

EXT. WOODS/GINGERBREAD HOUSE – DAY 1
Late afternoon. ENDEAVOUR makes his way through the woods. At last, he reaches, an ancient dwelling that seems to have grown out of the earth itself. Mossy. ENDEAVOUR comes to the door. A raggedy broomstick leant against the wall. ENDEAVOUR knocks.
ENDEAVOUR: Hello? Miss Chattox?
ENDEAVOUR pushes open the door. Darkness…
ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Good afternoon. My name is…
ENDEAVOUR reacts to something out of view — backs away.
The business end of a single barrel SHOTGUN emerges from the gloom…
DOWSABLE (O.S.): Morse. That’s your name, isn’t it?
… the weapon held steadily in the hands of the formidable DOWSABLE CHATTOX, (80s).
DOWSABLE (cont’d): Morse. I’ve been expecting you.
– HARVEST (P.35 Readthrough Draft)

THE OTHER PLACE

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

With Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

With thanks to Rosemary Woodhouse

~

DAMIAN: And I’ve been expecting you Mr… Lewis. Way through the woods indeed! Anyway, who had the wonderful idea to cast Sheila Hancock?

RUSS: It’s been a twinkle in our eye for some time.  But the 30th Anniversary seemed to be the right time.  It probably took us that long to pluck up our nerve.

DAMIAN: Did you meet her at any point?

RUSS:  I’ve met her before – but not during the shoot.

DAMIAN: Chattox? A nod to the Pendle Witch trials?

RUSS:  Indeed.

EXT. BRAMFORD MERE
DOROTHEA: Good morning, Miss Chattox. Dorothea Frazil. Oxford Mail. I interviewed you a few years ago, about your battle with the Power Station.
DOWSABLE: I remember you.
DOROTHEA: Still fighting the good fight, I see.
DOWSABLE: If you mean they haven’t seen me off yet, then, no – they haven’t. Nor will they.

DAMIAN: Please tell me this scene was actually filmed and still exists somewhere?

RUSS:  I’m not sure it was shot.  There was a lot of what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over on this one.  I think I only became aware of what hadn’t been shot after the event. Our time with Sheila was quite contained – and this may have been a casualty of the schedule.

DAMIAN: I found HARVEST to be a game of two halves; the latter had something of The China Syndrome about it but it was the former element that I was particularly taken with involving Morris Men and their Horse and Fool which evoked films such as The Wicker Man. We’ve spoken more generally about the horror genre before but what specific influences from what we now term “Rural” or “Folk” Horror might we see in HARVEST that contributed to that strange and yet curiously British and creepy atmosphere?

RUSS:  Well – obviously – as you’ve identified – The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man

S4:E4 Harvest

Above photo kindly provided by Charlotte Mitchell

But also Robin Redbreast and a bit of Nigel Kneale’s Beasts.  There were a couple of Brian Clemens’ Thriller that played with that ‘something nasty in the woodshed’, thing.  One that featured an old family friend John (Juan) Moreno – who you’ll probably know best as Bond’s contact, Luigi Ferrara, in For Your Eyes Only.  Cloven hoofs a go-go.

Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast

DAMIAN: Also possibly relevant to HARVEST, to what extent would you agree that Professor Bernard Quatermass is the single most important and influential character in British Science Fiction?

RUSS:  Did he pave the way for a certain Gallifreyan?  Quite possibly.  The TV Quatermass casts a massive shadow – but most of it even before my time.  Quatermass and the Pit is a classic — but until the Euston Films/John MIlls version – what was that?  ‘79-ish? – he was more a character one got second-hand from memories of the previous generation.

Andrew Keir in Hammer’s third adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s work, Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

DAMIAN: Many great actors have played Quatermass over the years but who would you say gave the definitive screen performance?

RUSS:  I liked Andre Morrell, but probably Andrew Keir — the TV and film incarnations in Pit — which is probably my favourite story.

INT. THURSDAY HOUSE. HALL/LIVING ROOM – NIGHT 1
Onscreen – black and white: a rangey Dennis Hopper-alike, at the wheel of an open top car on a lost highway. Poor Man’s Process with much over-steering of the wheel.
NARRATOR (V.O.): Meet Edwin Brewster, age thirty-five. Occupation, drifter. A nobody from nowhere, about to make an unscheduled stop in a town not found on any map.
WIN watches TV — not taking it in.
NARRATOR (V.O.): For he has entered a dimension that lies somewhere between sleep and waking. Dream and nightmare. Life and death. It’s a region we call, ‘The Other Place.’
Opening sig for ‘The Other Place’ – theramin and surf guitar.

DAMIAN: You could have made up any TV show and yet you chose something reminiscent of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Why?

RUSS:  It seemed fun to do.  And played into the overall theme.  Originally – the American couple were a nod to a particular Ira Levin novel that came out in ‘67.

I think there was more material to do with them trying for a baby…  So between them, and the paganism — we were setting up a blind to what was really going on.  The Other Place thing was just underlining that deceit.  But – yes, it was our salute to Rod Serling – who casts a giant shadow.

DAMIAN: What’s your all-time favourite episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits?

RUSS:  Too many to choose from.  I like deserted town stories – so Where Is Everybody? – the Pilot, I believe – would have to be up there. And Stopover in a Quiet Town also falls into that category.

Where is Everybody?

Much of The Avengers has a similar vibe.  A lack of Supporting Artists in the background lends everything a slightly surreal and dreamlike quality.  How much of that was a budget call which dictated a creative decision, I don’t know — but in my memory at least – it seems very much a part of the the show’s DNA.

E/I. ENDEAVOUR’S FLAT. BASEMENT – DAY 3

ENDEAVOUR is fingerprinted. SCENE of CRIME dusting for prints. TREWLOVE, back in uniform, fingers along ENDEAVOUR’s mantel — finds the photograph of ENDEAVOUR as a boy with his mother.
STRANGE: Little toerags. Sorry, matey.
ENDEAVOUR: One of those things. We see enough of it.
STRANGE: Yeh, but you’re one of our own. What d’they nick?
ENDEAVOUR: Radio. Record player. My signed Rosalind Calloway LP. Beside that there was nothing worth taking.
STRANGE: Why they smashed the place up.
Amongst the wreckage — STRANGE spies, the JAMES LAST LP he bought for ENDEAVOUR as a house warming present. He picks it up, slips the LP out of its slipcase. Vinyl intact. STRANGE exhales — relieved.
STRANGE: Least this one made it.
ENDEAVOUR: Small mercies.

DAMIAN: While Lewis was obviously mischievously joking when he asked Morse in the original series if the piece of classical music he was playing in the car was Andrew Lloyd Webber (a beautifully played moment), Strange is completely genuine and oblivious with regards to James Last and isn’t it fantastic moments like these that  economically sum up almost all we need to know about him and his polar opposite relationship with Endeavour?

RUSS:  I suspect their differences are why they get on – in their fashion.  Strange makes much more of an effort with their friendship than Endeavour.  He’s clearly fond of him – and there’s admiration too, for his abilities.  A thoroughly decent cove is old Strange.  And the one man you’d want to see coming round the corner if you were ever in a tight pinch.

DAMIAN: If someone asked me if Endeavour would have a picture of his mother I would have, obviously incorrectly, said absolutely not. And yet, there it is in his flat following the burglary, a photograph of Endeavour as a boy with Constance. I thought Endeavour was almost in denial about his past so why would he want to have this sitting in a frame on his mantlepiece?

RUSS:  I think it was put there as it was something he recovered from the wreckage and didn’t want to lose.  The plan would have been to put it away again once he’d got the place straight. As you say – it’s something that would have been laid up.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Sometimes we reach to the back of a darkened drawer only to catch our fingers on a forgotten knife.

DAMIAN: Of the many scenes that never made it to the final cut, was it particularly painful to lose Sam’s return home which obviously resulted in him not appearing in the entire fourth series?

RUSS:  Yes.  We all love Jack B., and miss him around the homestead.  But story is always king — and the plan had always been to reflect the changing times by way of the Thursdays changing family circumstances.

DAMIAN: Not that she isn’t genuinely sorry and traumatised, but was there ever a sense for you as a writer, or perhaps between Shaun and Sara in playing the scene, that Joan was using the Wessex Bank robbery and the death of Ronnie Gidderton as an excuse to leave Oxford and escape the conventions and expectations of an almost predetermined life that she’s only half in love with?

RUSS:  Mmm.  I’m probably a bit more inclined to take her at face value.  I don’t think anyone realised quite how deeply Ronnie’s death affected her.  She held herself utterly to blame.  It was too much for her.  She had to get away – but I think the self-imposed exile was also her punishing herself.

EXT. OXFORD – DAY
WIN and SAM on their day out.
WIN: Well, that was nice.
SAM: So, what do you fancy for this after?
WIN: Oh, I don’t mind. You pick. I am glad you’re home, Sam.
SAM: I know.
WIN: I wouldn’t want you to think I wasn’t. Just… with everything.
SAM: She’ll come home. You’ll see. You know Joannie.
WIN: Stubborn. Like her father. You take more after me.
SAM: Well. Some of us have got to be sensible. Right?
SAM slips his arm through WIN’s and they tootle off…

DAMIAN: If Joan does indeed take after her father as is stated in this cut scene, does this perhaps foreshadow even more dark times and trouble ahead?

RUSS:  I wouldn’t want to give anything away.

DAMIAN: I thought when I first watched it that there was something about the production design that reminded me of early the Bond films and then there it was in the script when I read it; your description of the Bamford Goldenrod Reactor Building as ‘A Ken Adam fantasy of gantries and walkways towering high above the floor.’

In addition to Fleming obviously, the cinematic Bond owes so much to people like John Barry (for the sound if not composition of the Bond theme – not to mention eleven glorious music scores), Peter Hunt (the innovative editing style and later direction of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and the fines tastes and style of director Terence Young. Visually speaking however, isn’t Ken Adam arguably one of the most significant contributors to the 007 series?

RUSS:  Yes.  Absolutely.  He’s a bit of a touchstone for us — and gets another run out in this series.

DAMIAN: We’ve touched on Bond many times, but remarkably, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you who your favourite Bond is…

RUSS:  Easier to pick a favourite Bond movie.  Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale is the best of the modern era.  Certainly my favourite of his to date.  There’s been some great set pieces in the others – but, come on, Mads Mikkelsen for a villain, and Eva Green delivering arguably the most fully realised female character in the franchise.  (Dame JD’s ‘M’ notwithstanding.)  But – you know – it had pretty incomparable source material to drawn on.  Consequently, it felt more faithful to Fleming’s original vision than anything for a long time.

And yet…  It’s a dead heat for me with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  With Lazenby’s sole outing maybe just edging it by a period nose.  John Barry’s sublime score.  Dame Diana Rigg.  Telly Savalas turning in the best Blofeld of the classic period.  (Apologies to Donald Pleasance).  Ilse Steppat’s Irma Bunt.  Gabriele Ferzetti.  Piz Gloria.  The set pieces – the various ski chases and bobsleigh sequence – are sensational.  It’s just a first rate adventure/thriller that can be enjoyed on its own terms.  I’m a sucker for snow.

The first three Connerys are pretty sacred.  But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Goldfinger’s blockbuster success set the template in concrete – which is a bit of a pity.  Dr. No very much a period piece now.  From Russia With Love is a great spy movie, and felt very much its own thing.  After Goldfinger, you can pretty much follow the bouncing white dot at the bottom of the screen, knowing exactly how it’s going to unfurl.  I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but a good number of them thereafter seem locked into the tramlines.  The only place left to go is bigger.  It starts to creep in with Thunderball, and by the time of You Only Live Twice it’s just massively overblown.  Which is probably why OHMSS felt so refreshing – like the reset button had been hit.

The least said about Diamonds Are Forever the better.  Great theme song – but otherwise very hard to love. There’s a sourness about it that leaves a nasty taste.  Maybe it’s that much of the main section of the film has a Las Vegas setting.  It’s suddenly vulgar – reeking of stale cigar smoke and a gambler’s desperation – in a way it never had been before.  Bambi and Thumper. Plenty O’Toole.  Eek…  A sign of the changing times.  Tricky Dickie in the Willard Whitehouse, and Watergate just around the corner…

I suppose Ernst Stavro Blofeldd had to be grafted on as the stories were shot out of sequence, and there had to be a pay-off for the ending of OHMSS, but I always preferred the fate of Dr. Shatterhand in the novel of You Only Live Twice.

I guess that’s one of the things I like so much about 007’s latest incarnation.  He bleeds.

DAMIAN: I agree with regards to OHMSS which I personally believe to be the best and certainly the most stylish of the series. I’m a huge fan of Lazenby’s 007 and think he did an amazing job especially considering it was possibly one of the most difficult roles in cinema history to take on after Connery. However, for me, he’s in joint first place with another underrated Bond – the magnificent Timothy Dalton. Yeah, his two entries weren’t the best (although I greatly admired the grittiness of License to Kill) but he’s possibly the greatest actor to play Bond. And there’s just something about his look – those eyes – which is how I imagine Bond when I read the novels. Personally, I think they should leave the current franchise alone and simply adapt all of Fleming’s original stories almost word for word, set them in their proper period of the fifties and sixties and adopt the style of From Russia With Love. That said, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson seem to be doing OK without my input.

Anyway, back to Endeavour and the power station, in the script Blake turns to find Endeavour ‘frozen to the stop — staring down between the latticed steps to the ground, floors below’:

BLAKE: Constable.
ENDEAVOUR: Heights. I can’t bloody move.
BLAKE: Vertigo, is it? Poor chap.
DOROTHEA comes across.
DOROTHEA: Just shut your eyes and take my hand. Come on. One foot in front of the other.

Freudian nightmares aside given the circumstances in which she was cast, am I completely wrong is suspecting that Dorothea is attracted to Endeavour – just a little bit?

RUSS:  Hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think any of us look on their relationship that way.

DAMIAN: You occasionally recycle scenes that don’t make the cut for future films so, and as much as I would love to because it’s quite a revelation of sorts, I won’t describe it in detail – let’s just call it the lime-juice and gin scene – please tell me you have plans to revisit it?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Yes. Most of these scenes we’re talking about are character moments — and they’re always the ones to suffer in the cut.  I repurpose and redeploy some of them – not out of general indolence – but because they’re important, and shed a light on our heroes and heroines. Plots can change – but the characters still have the same baggage.  And it’s nice to see some of that from time to time.

DAMIAN: What can you tell me about FILM 4: COLOURS?

RUSS:  Not much.  Part of its genesis was a news report that turned up in research – concerning a hairdressers in Oxford.  It seemed to fit with our theme for ‘68.  Turbulent times.  Elsewise – there’s a collision of worlds.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed.

RUSS:  You’re welcome.

~

BRIGHT: Oh – there was one more thing. I have this day received a letter…

[The following scenes appear as originally written in the readthrough draft intercut with those between Endeavour and Joan in hospital which are pretty much how we saw them in the broadcast version and so not included here]

EXT. THURSDAY HOUSE
THURSDAY at the kerb. TAXI there. WIN in the back seat.
WIN: Come on, Fred. We’ll be late.
THURSDAY: Just give him another five minutes.
SAM comes out of the house.
SAM: He [ENDEAVOUR] can’t make it.
THURSDAY: What d’you mean he can’t make it?
SAM: That was him on the phone. Something’s come up.
THURSDAY: I’ll give him ‘Something’s come up’ when I see him.
SAM: Go on. Good luck.
THURSDAY get in the TAXI, which pulls away. SAM watches after them…

EXT. LONDON. THE MALL

A BLACK CAB drives up the MALL towards BUCKINGHAM PALACE.
BRIGHT (V.O.): I am instructed to inform you that Her Majesty The Queen has graciously approved the award of…

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE. AUDIENCE CHAMBER

A gloved hand pins the GEORGE MEDAL to THURSDAY’S breast.
BRIGHT (V.O.): …the George Medal to Her entirely well-beloved subject Detective Chief Inspector Frederick Albert Thursday for Special Services in Defence of the Realm…

EXT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE

THURSDAY and WIN outside the palace.
BRIGHT (V.O.): Given the circumstances details pertaining to the award will be neither cited in the Gazette, nor entered into the public record.
WIN inspects the medal.
WIN: ‘For Gallantry’. Get you.
THURSDAY: Fancy the pictures? As we’re here. There’s a Lee Marvin at the Gaumont.
WIN: War, is it?
THURSDAY: Pie n mash after, if you play your cards right. I might even let you take me home.
THURSDAY slips his arm through WIN’s and they head off.

DAMIAN: Every week I’ve tested your patience by asking why such and such a scene was cut but again, this is even better than what we saw onscreen isn’t it?

RUSS:  What can I tell you?  We’re always up against it for time.  I think in this instance we did shoot this sequence — but it didn’t make the cut.  I write them pretty much to length — and then there’ll be requests for additional material — something that’s not landing just so that needs help, or something that hasn’t been realised quite as well as we envisioned — and the original stuff gets squeezed out.  Perhaps one day — when we get to the end — we’ll look at them again, and do definitive, unexpurgated cuts.  Or at least package together all the out-takes – and moments that didn’t make it.  You have to be careful though — the tone of something can change hugely in the edit.  Structure too.  And some of them wouldn’t bear the reintroduction of those excised scenes.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part III

DAMIAN: Russ, before we start the interview, I’ve been thinking that we’ve mentioned The Beatles, Tony Hancock and Carry On films quite a bit over the years and perhaps, well, maybe we should mention them a little less from now on. Would that be alright Russ?

RUSS: As you please.

~

INT. COWLEY GENERAL – NIGHT 1 (22.56)

Night lit. An empty corridor. One bulb flickers.

Mantovani’s Strings playing ‘Charmaine’ fills the air. The sickly sweet scent of putrefaction in three-quarter time.

We float through the deserted galleries.

Operating theatre. Instruments laid out ready for use.

Another empty corridor. A staircase. SIGNS point the way to…

HOUSE OF PAIN

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

With Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

With very special thanks to Gilbert Taylor

& Denys Coop

~

DAMIAN: The exterior shots of Cowley General Hospital looked remarkably familiar, where might we have seen the location before?

RUSS:  Ho ho.  Well, it’s Maidenhead Town Hall – which, as some eagle eyed viewers correctly deduced, was the hospital exterior in Carry On Doctor, Carry On Again Doctor – and I believe appeared briefly in Carry On Camping.  Sadly, the frontage has had a bit of a make-over in the intervening years – so we couldn’t have ambulances pulling up outside, but enough of it survives that it’s still recognisable.

DAMIAN: I had terrible trouble with my ears as a child and was in and out of hospital on regular occasions throughout the late seventies and early eighties so on the one hand, I recognise the kindness, good humour and cheerfulness of kind doctors and nurses, the saucy winks and ding dong mentality of some of the male patients evoked so wonderfully in your script, but what particularly resonates is that dreaded moment when visiting time is over, Mum has to leave you with just a kiss, a copy of the Beano and the ‘obligatory grapes in a brown paper bag’ to see you through the long night ahead. Then, lights are replaced with shadows and strange, unfamiliar noises – much humming and distant footsteps constantly marching back and forth. We recently spoke about department stores as palaces of wonder and delight, but also of those inherent dark corners and backstairs worlds. It’s the same with hospitals isn’t it?

RUSS:  Absolutely.  Yes – Battersea General – long gone – was my childhood house of pain. Known by locals as the ‘Anti-viv’ or ‘Old Anti’ — because it was against animal experiments/vivisection. Pretty building. 1890s. Sort of Italianate style. Right by the Park. Closed in the early 70s.  But yes — hospitals after dark…  can be quite spooky.  I’d like to have included a few more of those empty corridors for atmos — but the schedule was very tight.

DAMIAN: We see Nurse Monica Hicks return briefly in this film but, as we’ve mentioned in the past, the potential of her character was never really fully explored. So it was with some interest regarding female characters on the show, that in my interview with Dakota, she said that ‘When I first auditioned for Endeavour I was sent an episode to read in which Trewlove had only four lines. I was promised that the character would grow and develop into one of the gang as the series went on’. To what extent do you think you’ve succeeded in keeping this promise?

RUSS:  Jim Strange’s move across to CID left us without a uniform presence – Bright notwithstanding.  But obviously Strange was much more a rank and file foot-soldier – whereas Bright is brass.  So – in all honesty – there was no need to have a regular uniform constable at all.  We could have had a roster of rolling PCs – but it’s nice to have some continuity, a recurring character the audience can readily identify.

In terms of plot – as often as not it’s uniform who are first on scene.  One can either have their findings as reportage via one of the CID regulars, or first hand from a uniform.  I was interested in looking at a woman’s place in a pretty boysie environment, hence Trewlove.

If you consider INSPECTOR MORSE and then LEWIS there were very few recurring characters beyond the central duo.  With ENDEAVOUR we have around ten.  Screentime across 89 minutes is at a premium, so all our characters have to punch above their weight, always.  I try with all of them to provide a moment or two in the sun – as the story allows.  I think the affection in which Trewlove is held by the audience suggests that she has punched through.

DAMIAN: Dakota also said that she ‘didn’t know anything about the character – what sort of a person she was, where she came from or where she might end up’ and that ‘Trewlove was something I had to figure out on my own’. Given the delightful detail in which you’ve previously talked to me about some of the influences and inspirations for Trewlove, why didn’t you share these with Dakota?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Those details are useful from a casting point of view — and inform what I put on the page.  Beyond that, it’s for the director to convey to the actor what they want from a performance — hopefully in service of the writer’s intent, which is something we’ll have discussed before they get on the floor.  Beyond that — I’m always available to discuss further if there are things an actor is bumping on in the script.

The whole notion of ‘character’ – not to be confused with ‘back-story’ – is a much bigger conversation – and one we don’t really have room to go into it here.

DAMIAN: I loved the warmth and beauty which you gave to the scenes with Trewlove watching over Bright at the hospital but what was Anton Lesser’s reaction to being confined to bed and unconscious for most the episode?

RUSS:  He took it lying down.

Anton is a joy to write for.  His instincts are flawless.  He just gets it.  Every time.  I don’t think he’s ever baulked at a line, or a situation we’ve put him in.  The greater the artist, the smaller the ego.  Any and all vanities set aside in service of the drama.  He just brings his A Game – as they say.  Every day.  I don’t think he has a B-Game.  You just sit back, and watch, and delight and revel in his greatness.  And he’s a great sense of fun – and not a little mischief.  There’s a lot of laughter – particularly at read-throughs.  So – yeh…  Hearing he’d agreed to play Bright was one of the better days at the office.

DAMIAN: I’ve been banging on about wanting to see Mrs. Bright for some time so it was somewhat frustrating to learn that she was away on a trip during his stay at hospital. Wouldn’t this have been the perfect opportunity to introduce her character?

RUSS:  I’d refer you to my earlier answer.  At 89 minutes — there is only room for so much anything.  We already had to reduce some of Caroline’s material, and a whole strand for another guest character.  Bolting on Mrs.B would have meant even more would have been lost. Each thing in its season.

DAMIAN: Bright seems unimpressed when Library Trolley Lester says he might be able to get him a copy of Lady Chatterly. Since you’ve denied audiences a peek into the Bright residence, I wonder what sort of titles might occupy his bookshelves?

RUSS:  Until returning to Britain from the colonies, the Brights have always been on the move – so I don’t imagine the library to be extensive.  Mostly non-fiction up Bright’s end of the bookshelf.  Guides to some of the places he’s lived in.  A long cherished Scouting For BoysCoral Island; Treasure Island; some Sir Walter Scott, and a bit of Henty.  His reading material a counter-weight to Mrs.B’s Bloomsbury end.  No euphemism intended.

DAMIAN: There’s more than a whiff of Black Narcissus about this film. In addition to some of the names (Dr Powell and Sister Clodagh) the script calls for a chapel/high place: ‘Locationally dependent… either a stairwell void, exterior or rooftop’. Putting either budget or available locations aside, what exactly did you originally envisage and were the colours somewhat reminiscent of the great Jack Cardiff in your mind’s eye?

RUSS:  Well — you’ve put your finger on it.  Black Narcissus definitely underpinned our intentions with Lazaretto.  I think early drafts had it finishing on the roof.  In terms of colour, it would have been lovely to invoke the climax of that picture, but you have to be guided by what’s available – and, of course, the choices of the director and the DoP.  It goes back to the earlier point about character.  I could slather on detail in stage directions and make things madly specific, but to be so prescriptive would be profoundly unhelpful to Production.  Better to give them the ‘idea’ of what I’d like and leave it to the Location Manager’s talent, skill and expertise to offer a range of options.  It always comes down to this – What is necessary to deliver the beat?  They found the tower stairwell — and that served very well.

DAMIAN: Long before the likes of Merchant Ivory Productions in the 80s and Richard Curtis in the 90s, to what extent do you think those Powell and Pressburger films first truly defined (at least for audiences abroad) British identity during and immediately after World War II?

RUSS:  That’s a good question. To a degree, I suppose. I’m probably less interested in what it says about how we were seen abroad, than in what they were saying about how we saw ourselves at the time.  One of the many admirable things about the Archers productions is that they were made for a mass audience. There’s never any talking down – or a hint of pulling in of their ambition because they think a section of the audience won’t ‘get it’.

Art for all – and no one left behind.  I suppose it’s a bit Fred Kite to put it in those terms – all those fields of wheat and ballet in the evening – but look at The Red Shoes.  I think there’s an element – as with some of the MGM musicals, but it seems all the more pointed with the Archers – of emerging from a black and white world of wartime newsreel horror to something giddy and vivid with colour.  You know, it’s there in A Matter of Life and Death — but it just seems to explode once the war is over.  ‘Life finds a way.’

DAMIAN: Funny, but if someone asked me about British identity or film images and cinematography that closely matched my own first vivid impressions of the country and memories of childhood, I’d say, for some very strange reason or another, Hitchcock’s Frenzy every time.

Yes, it’s an odd choice because it obviously evokes Hitch’s childhood in the East End and not my own in Stoke, and yet, there’s just something about the cars, clothes and the general colour and “smell” of it all that resonates deeply; something strange and unsettling bubbling under the surface. Eyes watching.

Now, I know I seem to be continuously obsessed with questions regarding your childhood but, as I hope readers will agree, they do help to inform our understanding of your writing. So, given that you clearly draw upon them time and again in Endeavour, can you please try to give me an example of a film that visually echoes your first memories?

RUSS: 10 Rillington Place.

That’s not quite as facetious as it sounds.  There were still bits of London that bore signs of The Blitz.  Little areas that were still very ‘Hue and Cry’.  Around ‘70, we shot bits of Sunday Bloody Sunday in Spencer Park – about five minutes away from where I grew up.  So I can always stick that on.  There was a sequence in that (spoiler alert) where something happens to the family dog.  Shooting on location, we used a squat as a base for wardrobe and make-up.  I have a strong recollection of Afghan coats, pachouli oil and dope.  It was all very ‘Withnail’ – so that’s another touchstone.  The Art Direction – like everything else about Bruce Robinson’s masterpiece – is just superb.  Bits of Blow Up.  Weirdly — but not more weird than any of these, I suppose — the first series of Catweazle catches lightning in a bottle.  Essence of ‘69.

Some aspects of Pete Walker’s ouvre make for a terrific time capsule.  The opening of Frightmare – that features Andrews Sachs very briefly – is Battersea Park, where I spent a lot of time as a boy.  And the Susan George picture Die Screaming, Marianne – which I think also features Barry Evans — has some good London stuff.  But going back to Withnail — one of the many things it absolutely pins down is just how bloody cold and damp it was.  Britain before Central Heating was the norm.  Now, it’s underfloor heating.  Then, you’d wake to ice on the inside of the window panes.

DAMIAN: We finally see Joan Thursday in Leamington Spa which seemed a curious choice of location. Would this have anything to do with a certain by-election which took place there in The Thick of It?

RUSS:  No.  It just struck me as somewhere interesting for her to wash up.  Rog had reservations that we wouldn’t have found flats such as she was living in — but a bit of digging turned up some not dissimilar.  There are, of necessity, some blank pages which cover how she got there, but it was as much to do with her ‘fancy man’ as anything else.

DAMIAN: I’d like to highlight some of the following scene between Endeavour and Caroline Bryce-Morgana as it appears in the script:

ENDEAVOUR: You know, it’s hard to believe you’re anything to do with Susan at all.
CAROLINE: She’s a romantic. Like her father. That same streak of pity for life’s not-quite-up-to-its flows through her veins. Still. You cured her of that. I suppose I should be grateful. She never loved you, Morse.
ENDEAVOUR: ‘If equal affection cannot be…’
CAROLINE: Oh. Poetry. I’d forgotten that particular affection. The last refuge of the emotionally incontinent. You think you have a monopoly on feeling. Well, you don’t. I feel things too. Just as much as you. More so, perhaps.
ENDEAVOUR: What do you feel, Caroline?
CAROLINE: Real things. The things that dragged us out of the primordial slime. That make us strong. Pride. Anger. Resentment. Jealousy. Hatred.
ENDEAVOUR: That’s called grief. When you speak to Susan, give her…
CAROLINE: Oh yes? Giver her? Give her what? Your love?
ENDEAVOUR: Condolences. I was going to say. Give her my condolences. Whatever you think of me, I’m sorry he’s [Mr Bryce-Morgan] dead. Truly.
CAROLINE: I wish you were dead. You’ll die, Morse. You’ll die old and alone. And no one will give a damn.

Although I understand why she’s so hurtful in this particular scene, why exactly does she hate Endeavour so much in the first place?

RUSS:  I think she resented his coming between her and Susan.  Some mother/daughter relationships can be unhealthy.  Controlling,  Caroline felt she had married…  unwisely, and was to a degree attempting to rectify her own mistakes by managing her daughter’s life better than she felt she had managed her own.  Endeavour was potentially a spanner in the works.  She had to see him off.

DAMIAN: Described as a young Joanna David in her mid-late 20s, we see Susan for the first time (her “appearance” in First Bus to Woodstock obviously doesn’t count) at her father’s grave, I wonder if you originally had any plans to introduce her properly in the following film or films?

RUSS:  We’re mindful always of the Prime Directive.

DAMIAN: There are also various other mourners mentioned in the script including William (a young Richard Pascoe) and Henry Fallon, and curiously given we’ve already had a parrot in the film, a manservant with an eyepatch! Who’s that then?

RUSS: A young McGregor!  Who else?!

DAMIAN: Just time for one more question before I leave to catch my train, can you say something about Film III: Passenger?

RUSS:  Our Ladybird Book of the Railway.  The jumping off point was the Varsity Line which ran between Cambridge and Oxford, and its closure at the end of 1967.  Interestingly, it was one of the few closures that didn’t arise from the Beeching review.  It appears it had simply become more practical for passengers travelling in either direction to use London as a nexus.  So – that was the grit in the oyster.

I’ve got a thing for lonesome stations, and old branch lines.  Blame The Signalman, amongst others, I suppose.  Tickets, please!

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part II

Will the reader please cast their eye over the following lines, and see if they can discover anything harmful in them?

EXT. OXFORD COLLEGE. QUAD – DAY
The topless towers of Oxonium. Not a cloud to spoil the view.
TILT DOWN to BIRD’S EYE VIEW – wet flagstones… rain.
Coloured umbrellas pass below. A song and dance number begins. An ‘Outside Broadcast’ for a ‘Light Entertainment Special’ featuring MIMI, a chanteuse. HUGE STYROFOAM LETTERS spell out her name. DANCERS in coloured RAIN GEAR splash their way around the quad as…
MIMI: Like summer tempests came my tears, love, when I learned you’d been untrue. But after rain must come a rainbow. So, until then here’s what I’ll do…

PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH!

(or Les infortunes de la vertu)

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

Composed and conducted by Damian Michael Barcroft

Lyrics by Russell Lewis

~~~

With thanks to Lorenz Milton Hart and Richard Charles Rogers

& Matthew Slater for the images of RAK Studios

~

DAMIAN: I remember the day well and, of course, that bloody song – talk about involuntary musical imagery! And good God, wasn’t it hot?

RUSS:  Extremely.  The dancers in their plastic macs, sou’westers and good quality rubber boots had my sympathy.  As did Sharlette – our wonderful vocalist.  But yes – perhaps our most blisteringly hot shooting day since we began in 2011.

DAMIAN: Aside from Tiger-gate, was opening an episode of Endeavour with a pop song and dance routine one of the most bold and surprising creative decisions thus far?

RUSS: Ha!  Always with the tiger.  It wasn’t for me.  Like Mister Walken – I’m a hoofer at heart. The sequence began as a salute to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, and evolved from there.

DAMIAN: I’ve said this before but you’re a very modest fellow, often frustratingly so for the purposes of these interviews, but let us simply assume, for the benefit of this piece, that you are indeed a VERY accomplished and successful screenwriter. The songs you wrote for CANTICLE, particularly ‘Make Believe’, were extremely catchy and, if we didn’t know better, genuinely sounded like a popular hit from the period. So, at what point did you feel confident as a lyricist and discover these hidden musical talents?

RUSS: Well – like the man said, I’ve a lot to be modest about.  As a youth I used to weep in Rod Argent’s Keyboard Shop on Denmark Street.  The usual teenage thing – bands; song-writing; colour me Les McQueen.  That particular creative muscle hasn’t been exercised for a long time, but if one has any facility for that sort of thing – it’s a bit like riding a bike.  And, of course, I was very fortunate to have Matt Slater on hand to do the heavy lifting.

DAMIAN: Are you familiar with another song entitled ‘Make Beileve’ from Show Boat?

RUSS: I haven’t seen Show Boat for decades.  I landed on that for a title as it was a massive hidden clue and a pointer towards the dangerous delusion at the heart of the matter.

DAMIAN: Wouldn’t it have been a bit naff and possibly even embarrassing if the songs weren’t up to scratch, and if that had been the case, would you have had someone else rewrite the material or perhaps scrap it all together?

RUSS: Seeing as much of the story depended on a credible soundtrack, I can’t imagine we’d have scrapped it. We just had to apply ourselves.

DAMIAN: Matthew told me you wrote some sections of the song in the script but then he asked you to write more verses to help him complete the music which you both did in about thirty minutes? Thirty minutes! This can’t be true can it?

RUSS:  I think it was about that.  We were clearly dragging our feet that day.

DAMIAN: And is it really true that two actors during one of the playback scenes were trying to Google one of the songs to see who originally wrote it back in the sixties?

RUSS:  I did hear that this was the case.

DAMIAN: You visited the recording of the songs at RAK Studios, what was it like to hear your lyrics performed alongside a rhythm section, brass and strings?

RUSS: Enormous fun. Like Abbey Road, it’s a place with an incredible history.  So – hugely exciting. The place was packed.  Sharlette; the boys from The Wildwood; Shaun came down; Helen Ziegler [producer]; Michael Lennox, the Director.  And I was there with my son James.  All of us cluttering up the control room – getting under the feet of the engineers, &c.  It was a very special day.  And in the middle of all the madness was Matt Slater – keeping his head and getting on with business. It was a privilege to see him working, as always.  Whatever madness we’ve thrown at him over the last couple of series, he never fails to deliver all we’ve asked for, and always a great deal more besides.

©Matthew Slater

©Matthew Slater

©Matthew Slater

DAMIAN: Did you celebrate with Rum, Scotch and Coke?

RUSS: I would refer you to Endeavour’s opening line in First Bus to Woodstock.

DAMIAN: In addition to Tony Hancock and those bloody Carry On films, almost every set of our interviews contain some mention of The Beatles. Can you remember when they split up and were you one of those fans who retreated to their bedroom in tears?

RUSS: I would have been seven – so…  unlikely.

DAMIAN: And what about when Zayn left One Direction?

RUSS:  I’m still mourning Geri’s departure from the Spice Girls.

DAMIAN: Do you listen to much modern music and what was the last album you purchased?

RUSS: I listen to all sorts of things.  iTunes tells me my last purchase was a movie soundtrack that was in heavy rotation during the writing of MUSE.

DAMIAN: The first few films including First Bus to WoodstockGirl, Fugue and probably quite a few more since feature typewriters and very particular mention of typefaces (a Smith Corona Deluxe Electric typewriter and Elite Number 66 typeface in Canticle) is this yet another example of your curious fascinations?

RUSS: A writer’s pre-occupation.  I started on type-writers.  Rewrites were a particular treat. Change a word or a line – re-type the entire page.

DAMIAN: Again, and far too many to mention them all, there are lots of literary and cultural references but I’m especially intrigued by connections to The Wind in the Willows which feature in CANTICLE. Is Kenneth Grahame’s classic a particular favourite?

RUSS: Published only six years before all the old certainties were blown to hell by the Great War, there’s something about its prelapsarian idyll that seems to connect with the back to The Garden innocence of the flower-children.

And the tragic death of Alistair, a.k.a. ‘Mouse’, the Grahames’ only child, while up at Oxford, to whom The Wind in the Willows had first been told as a bedtime story, lends another layer of connection.  It doesn’t take much detective work to get from there to The Piper At the Gates of Dawn.

DAMIAN: And there’s some interesting narrative parallels with Cherubim and Seraphim from the original series isn’t there?

RUSS: Very much so.  I think Morse’s comment to Lewis about his never having taken recreational drugs still stands. Endeavour was poisoned with hallucinogens.  I draw a distinction.

DAMIAN: And finally before we move on from the references and nods, are you an avaricious consumer of the Marquis de Sade’s work?

RUSS: Essential bedtime reading.

DAMIAN: Let’s now talk about some of the characters. Given his dislike for hippies and Germans, the fact that he won’t even hug his own son in public as he leaves for the army and generally displays certain personality characteristics that are probably out of touch even in the sixties, isn’t it somewhat surprising to find that Thursday has such liberal views on recreational drugs and homosexuality?

RUSS: It didn’t strike me as particularly liberal.  He states that he smoked hash as a fact, and that it didn’t do much for him.  That’s hardly an endorsement.  He upholds the law that he’s obliged to uphold.  I think the war probably put a lot of things into perspective for him.  When you’ve looked death in the eye, you tend not to sweat over the small stuff.  Judge not.

DAMIAN: Thursday has a difference of opinion on homosexulaity in an unfilmed scene in which Strange says that ‘poofs’ are ‘not right’ and ‘neither use nor ornament’, to which Thursday replies ‘We had one in the platoon. North Africa. Harris. Bravest man I ever knew… Sniper [shot him at] Second El Alamein. I closed his eyes. Brave to the last. If he’d made it back to Civvy Street, I might’ve had cause to nick him. And that can’t be right. Comes down to it, we all bleed red’. Is it realistic that a soldier would have been openly gay during WW2 or is this something the chap simply told Thursday in confidence?

RUSS:  If you’ll forgive me – there’s a danger of overthinking this.  I can’t imagine it was a conversation that ever took place.  There’s nothing new about don’t ask, don’t tell.  It was an assumption made, I’m sure, based upon Harris’s demeanour – as right or wrong as that might seem to us now.  Had Thursday served with…  I don’t know…  our own Charles Highbank – the window dresser from Burridges, played by best beloved Adrian Schiller – it’s somewhat unlikely Thursday would have mistaken him for a raging heterosexual.  There’s really no more to it than that.  But I think the important thing here is that such experiences – living cheek by jowl with a man, sharing the same foxhole – would have made Thursday, and others, question the orthodoxy – and indeed the law – that invited – if not required – them to view such men with suspicion and contempt.

DAMIAN: Were Strange’s comments cut for fear the audience might find them offensive?

RUSS:  Never.  No – for length.

DAMIAN: Is there sometimes a certain danger that television is rewriting history and is it convincing that most of the main characters of period dramas happen to share the contemporary views of the people who write them?

RUSS: Which is why I had Strange express the views I did.  Had it made the cut, it would have given some of the more predictable period context to offset Thursday’s view.

DAMIAN: I’m not sure if you’re allowed to say but to what extent was Mrs. Pettybon based on Mary Whitehouse?

RUSS:  Mrs.Pettybon was a composite – much like The Wildwood.  The inspiration was Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) – Joe Orton’s alter-ego – guardian of public morals — created in the 50s long before Mrs.W came to public prominence.  What we were looking to present was a type, of which Mrs.Whitehouse was perhaps the most well known – but she was certainly not alone in her crusading.  It was an attitude one was holding up for inspection, rather than an individual. As I’ve possibly mentioned before, ‘67 saw the death of Orton, Brian Epstein and Joe Meek.  This, together with the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, as a result of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, was in my mind when I started developing the story.

The packaging of a certain kind of manufactured rock and roll band – the management keeping wives and girlfriends out of the picture, so as not to puncture the myth of their potential romantic availability to the young fandom, lest it affect record sales, &c, was also a building block.  The morality of that deceit seemed worth examining – just as much as the moral soapboxing of Mrs.Pettybon.

You know – we’re in the whodunit business, and the notion of a bigger, darker – at least for the period – secret, beyond that being presented on the surface, is key.

But the other big jumping off point was in thinking about whether it would be possible to murder someone without killing them.  If you change their personality, their cognitive abilities, irreversibly – say through spiking them with hallucinogens – it could be argued that the person they were beforehand has effectively been – for want of a better term – ‘murdered’.  The period certainly contained enough ‘acid casualties’ to make it something worth exploring.

DAMIAN: Were the OCD characteristics displayed by Mrs. Pettybon such as the extreme scrubbing of her hands a bit much and didn’t she run a slight risk of becoming something of religious caricature?

RUSS: Out, damned spot!  She did drive her husband to suicide – so she had something to be guilty about.  How does one depict someone who is a religious caricature? The point is that she wasn’t genuinely religious at all. The dissonance between her professed faith and her eagerness to cast the first stone seemed to me vast and obvious.  There was an exchange which we lost from the final cut between Mrs.P and the band’s manager after their appearance on Julian Calendar’s show.  It seemed to my mind to sum up what she was about.

MRS.PETTYBON: Is our car here?
ENDEAVOUR:
 Yes, yes, it’s, er… A taxi.
MRS.PETTYBON: What happened to the nice car that brought us?
RALPH: 
That’s showbusiness, Mrs.Pettybon.
MRS.PETTYBON: I’m not in showbusiness.
RALPH: 
Actually, dear, you are. Boys.
RALPH loads his charges into the TAXI.

She was a fame hungry charlatan who would turn up to the opening of an envelope.  That was the point.  The only appropriate response is ridicule and derision.

DAMIAN: Her daughter, Bettina, is yet another character who has something of a crush on Endeavour, what do you think makes him so attractive to women – especially those who might best be described as vulnerable or troubled?

RUSS:  That he looks remarkably like Shaun Evans possibly has something to do with it.

DAMIAN: Why were references to Bright’s spasms of pain deleted from this and the previous film, surely their inclusion would have made the events of the next film more dramatic and less out of the blue?

RUSS:  Length – again – very likely.  What can I tell you?

DAMIAN: There were two beautiful moments that appeared in the script but sadly didn’t make it on film as originally written: the first has Thursday hold the hallucinating Endeavour gently rocking him back and forth as he calls out ‘Fred?’, to which Thursday replies: ‘That’s right, son. That’s right. It’s Fred. You’re safe now. I’ve got you.’ I’m sure this would have elevated an already great scene to one of the most touching in the entire series so why cut it?

RUSS: On the day, that was the way it went on the floor.

DAMIAN: The second is the corned beef scene in the hospital at the end of the film which originally began with the following ‘ENDEAVOUR – a whiter shade of pale. Somewhere between this world and the next. An angel’s wings brush his cheek. A pair of soft lips find his own’ and Joan says off screen ‘Look after yourself, Morse.’ Again, this is beautiful so why lose it?

RUSS: As with the previous.  ‘Ask me no more…’

DAMIAN: So, while CANTICLE revealed your flair for lyrics, what can you tell us about CARTOUCHE and what new tricks or talents might you still have hidden up your sleeve?

RUSS:  Hmm.  I don’t know about new tricks.  Just an old dog’s selection of fire-sale novelties, gee-gaws and bagatelles from a well-travelled sample case of deceit and legerdemain.  Umm… What can I tell you about CARTOUCHE…  Tonight’s late-night double-feature examines – amongst other things — the fading grandeur of the local flea-pit.  Other aspects of the story were a sobering reminder that all too often the more things change, the more they stay the same.  So…  Two for the Circle.  And don’t forget your popcorn.

DAMIAN: Will there be any more singing and dancing in this series?

RUSS:  Some.

~

‘Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose.  It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them—avoid them as you would a pestilence.
A Literary Nightmare by Mark Twain
~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Producers Neil Duncan & John Phillips

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Interview

Producers Neil Duncan & John Phillips

~~~

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~

DAMIAN: I think readers will have a pretty good idea of what most of the key creative team do on Endeavour such as the writer or director, but what exactly does the role of a producer entail?

NEIL: The producer primarily works alongside the director (and the heads of each department), working together to bring the writer’s vision to the screen. You often have to work within the limitations of the budget creatively, so the show maintains its production value without too much compromise. As producer you’re ultimately responsible for the day-to-day management of the whole process, from casting right through to the final mix and delivery of the episode.

JOHN: Yes, Neil has summed it up well. Essentially we’re responsible for the show coming in on budget and schedule and to a creative standard everyone expects.

Just checking the walls, dear. Neil during a FILM 6 recce (location scouting) ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: Neil, you worked on EastEnders for two years as script editor and then became one of the producers by 2007. What were you doing prior to this and how did it lead to Albert Square?

NEIL: EastEnders was my second script editing job – before that I worked on River City, where I started as trainee script editor. Prior to that I worked as a researcher for factual programmes, and before that I was an archivist at the BBC.

DAMIAN: Between 2007 and 2012, you also worked as script editor on The Bill, New Tricks and script editor, script executive and later producer on Skins. What did you learn from those early experiences in television?

NEIL: Too many to mention! Soaps (and continuing dramas) are fantastic training grounds. Script editors on these shows learn to develop scripts quickly, it really sharpens your instinct for story and how to fix problems within individual scenes or across the overall structure of the script. Skins was a very collaborative and creative show to work on, so I was able to get involved in other areas of production, such as the edit and the sound mixes. I also got to work with actors for the first time, which I love doing. After that experience I was hooked. The main things I learned were – trust your instincts, and have fun.

DAMIAN: And you worked as series story producer on the second series of Fortitude – what the hell was that show all about because I’m still scratching my head?

NEIL: Well stay tuned because a third and final series is in the pipeline!

DAMIAN: In comparison to a regular producer, what is a series story producer?

NEIL: A story producer works with a writers room, developing the stories across larger volume series, e.g. Fortitude had ten episodes with a larger ensemble of characters compared to the usual six part series. Larger volume shows with bigger budgets often use several writers, working together in the room, and the story producer tries to corral all the ideas together while honouring the lead writer’s vision.

©John Phillips

DAMIAN: And John, you started in the industry by making short films from 2010 to 2013, served as production associate on Lip Service, and then like Neil, worked on various TV shows as script editor such as M.I. High (development script editor), Doctor Who (assistant script editor and later script editor), Midsomer Murders (script editor), Our Zoo (script editor) and The Job Lot (script editor/script executive). Again, this is potentially confusing to the layman so could you explain what a script editor does and clear up the differences between this and development script editor and script executive?

JOHN: I actually started in the industry before that. I was a runner first and then kind of fell into production at Kudos, who, at the time, produced great shows like Ashes to Ashes, Spooks and Hustle. My heart was always in scripts though! But to answer your question a script editor works closely with the writers and execs to help develop the stories. From helping to develop storylines and character arcs to giving notes and getting involved in logistical planning, it actually varies a fair bit from job to job. Every writer works differently and you have to adapt to their needs and ways of working.

DAMIAN: What was it like working on something as huge as Doctor Who which I think was during Matt Smith’s time in the TARDIS?

JOHN: It was a wonderful experience and I was very lucky. I worked with fantastic writers like Steven Moffat (obviously), Mark Gatiss, Neil Cross, Neil Gaiman, Steve Thompson. Some of the best screenwriters out there! Plus I think it was an exciting period in Doctor Who history.

DAMIAN: Then you must have worked very closely with Moffat who, in addition to Doctor Who, was also showrunner, writer and executive producer of Sherlock. How on earth do you think he managed to juggle both projects for so long?

JOHN: Ha. God knows, you’ll have to ask him! He’s an incredible writer and brain though who can deliver an amazing first draft of something and he just has this incredible capability of juggling so much.

DAMIAN: John and Neil, since you’ve both worked as script editors and gone on to produce, would you say that script editing is a good way of getting into producing and was this part of your cunning plan all along?

JOHN: Yes definitely. Traditionally there’s probably two classic ways of moving into producing and that’s either going the script editing route or up through either production managing or assistant directing.

NEIL: Yes, absolutely. It’s very much a traditional path in the UK television industry. Some producers come from a production background, but most of the producers I’ve worked with are ex-script editors.

DAMIAN: When I’ve done interviews with actors, writers, directors or composers etc. in the past, I’ve always asked them which artists in their particular field inspired them but I don’t imagine it’s quite the same with producing is it?

JOHN: Probably not as I don’t think you can call us producers artists and at the end of the day it is artists that inspire! I definitely moved into TV because of writers and directors I admired as a kid. The likes of Jimmy McGovern and Paul Abbott in TV to directors like David Lynch.

NEIL: Not quite. For me, the joy of this job is getting the chance to work closely with those same writers, directors and actors whose work you’ve admired, and helping create the conditions that allow them to do their best work.

Behind the scenes shot from FILM 2: CARTOUCHE ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: How did you both get the job of producing such a prestigious project as Endeavour?

NEIL: I’d worked with Tom Mullens (Exec Producer) on EastEnders, so we already knew one another from back then. I had a couple of meetings with him and Damien Timmer (Exec and CEO at Mammoth Screen), and that was that.

JOHN: It was thanks to Damien Timmer who I had a general meeting with and we just hit it off. He then introduced me to Tom (Exec) and Russ (writer) who took a punt on me.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has become not only a well-oiled machine but also something of a family. Indeed, often collectively referred to as Team Endeavour, many of the cast and crew have been around since the beginning. With this in mind, was it difficult or nerve wracking when you joined and can you describe your first day on the job?

JOHN: I felt it had a healthy mix of people who had done it from the beginning and new blood that Neil and I brought in. Having talented HODs (Heads of Department) already attached, terrific people like Helga Dowie (line-producer) who has done it since series 1, was a real blessing too.

NEIL: I was a little apprehensive, but everyone was very nice and welcoming from the start. I think my first day involved being driven to various art deco cinemas by location manager Alex Cox, who is very much part of the Endeavour family, and whose patience and generosity helped me find my feet.

DAMIAN: Were you previously fans of Endeavour and were either of you familiar with Inspector Morse or Lewis?

NEIL: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t watch Lewis but remember watching Inspector Morse with my family and have loved Endeavour from the pilot onwards.

JOHN: My family loved Morse and I remember it as a kid although I wasn’t an avid fan. However I thought Endeavour was so charming and elegant, always beautifully written and well crafted. I felt very lucky to be offered the opportunity to work on it.

DAMIAN: It seems quite a unique situation here and one that I haven’t come across before; John, you produced films 1, 3 and 5, while you Neil, produced films 2, 4 and 6. Why split the films between two producers and how was it decided who would produce which films?

JOHN: Endeavour is a challenging show and the ambition is to make features on a TV budget and schedule! And this series they were making six rather than the usual four so I think the execs felt it would be too much for one producer. I was hired before Neil so it was through default really why I produced the opener.

NEIL: Endeavour is a tough show to produce, in that it requires a lot of involvement in getting the details right. If one producer was working across six films, they wouldn’t be able to give each one the attention it deserves. John started on the job before me, so the order of our films was due to circumstance more than anything.

DAMIAN: Retrospectively, do either of you wish you’d have been able to swap any of the films you worked on?

NEIL: I always loved film 3 from the first draft onwards, and thought Jim Field Smith was an inspired choice of director for the show. But I’m immensely proud of each of the three films I worked on and the people who helped make them possible.

DAMIAN: But isn’t the last film of each series always the most dramatic and exciting for example?

JOHN: I loved the finale script as your series arcs all come to a natural conclusion and I just thought there were some beautiful, memorable moments in there (I won’t give you any spoilers, sorry!).

NEIL: You do get to bring serial storylines to a climax in the final episode, but this means you get less time to spend with the story of the week, so it’s give and take.

Behind the scenes shot from FILM 2: CARTOUCHE ©Neil Duncan

DAMIAN: I’ve discussed this in great detail with Russ and what should be a fairly simple process (writer writes script, actors learn their lines and director points the camera in the right direction) usually ends up becoming unimaginably complicated to anyone outside of the television industry. For example, in preparation for this interview, I asked Russ the very simple question do the cast see the script prior to a read-through, and are the scripts hand delivered or simply emailed to the actors. His response, as always, was typically detailed and, indeed complex, but I hope readers will find it quite illuminating:

“Shaun and Roger get scripts at early draft stages. Readthrough/Shooting Drafts usually go out electronically, and then in hard-copy, as we’re usually very close to the wire. Scene Nos., are locked before the read — and usually Pages are locked too — so that further revisions (colour coded – starting with Pink; Blue etc.) can be slotted in without having a knock on to the rest of the script. Sometimes Shaun and Roger will feed back early — but it’s more just a case of them having something early. More recently, they haven’t looked at it until just before the Read.

So — if there’s time — we’ll do a 1st Draft (circulated to Production – so they can start location hunting/casting etc..); and then a Tech Recce Draft, which will be a 1st Revision, with early notes actioned as best as possible. Sometimes with ‘place holder’ fixes, until the right solution is hit upon.

Tech Recce — Director visiting locations with Heads of Department to work through technical challenges, requirements — usually occupies, TUES/WEDS/THURSDAY in the final week before shooting. I attend the post-Tech Recce on THURSDAY afternoon, and we spend a couple of hours working through the proposed shooting schedule; ironing out any areas of difficulty, identifying anything we can fix on the page to make the shooting go more smoothly.  Anything we can drop to ease shooting etc.

That Friday/Saturday/Sunday, I will be working on the ReadThrough Draft for delivery Monday.

After the Read — there’s a lengthy post mortem/Notes session, often at Mammoth [Screen] Towers, with Network representatives; Shaun & Rog; Damien Timmer [Executive Producer and Joint Managing-Director of production company Mammoth Screen], Tom Mullens [Executive Producer], script editor – this series Amy Thurgood; self; producer(s) attending — where ‘notes’ are given. Everybody pitching in – and offering thoughts on how it can be improved. Changes requested. Any production issues that need to be addressed – unavailability of locations/props/‘heavy days’ where more is scheduled at a location than can possibly be realised in a working day. Can the scenes be relocated elsewhere? Can they be cut? Amalgamated elsewhere?

The time available before turning over on Day 1 is 12/24 hours, usually the former.  We have been starting shooting Thursday/Friday this time around. So, if you can make sure the first 2/3 days stand up (don’t require changes), and get any notes affecting scenes shooting across these days out by around lunchtime on the day before shooting, then you buy yourself the weekend to address anything outstanding, or requiring more thought – often ‘story’ things.

So – the week we start shooting usually looks like this…

MONDAY – Deliver & issue Readthrough Draft.

TUESDAY – Readthrough 10:30 through to around 12:30 — apres ski at the Black Lodge 13:00 to whenever.

WEDNESDAY – Deliver any changes affecting DAY 1, 2, 3 – ish.  (This will usually require working through the night TUES, and getting it in by early doors/mid-morning for issue to All Departments & Cast.)

THURSDAY – DAY 1 shoot — Script Dept (self & editor on phone for any crunchy bits) will be continuing with revisions arising from the apres ski.

FRIDAY – DAY 2 shoot — Script Dept — as above.

SATURDAY — Script Dept — more of the same…

SUNDAY — Script Dept — more of the same…  Often, late Sunday evening, further thoughts from cast will come in.

MONDAY – DAY 3 shoot — deliver ‘Shooting Draft’.

It is standard that the script will be further revised during production – for many reasons. Usually we try to get as much of this out of the way in the first week as possible — but circumstances beyond our control, often mean further changes right through the shooting schedule. Weather – across S5 – has been a swine; meaning we haven’t always ‘made the schedule’ – achieved all the ’strips’ on the callsheet for the day. Rescheduling the scenes we were unable to shoot = robbing Peter to pay Paul. So other scenes will be dropped, amalgamated etc. across production.”

Wow, really quite astonishing. Can you describe at what point you began work on series five and take us through the process, difficulties and challenges outlined above by Russ from your own perspectives as producers?

NEIL: When I started on the series, Russell had delivered a first draft of film 2 and shooting was just about to begin on film 1. Some of the challenges as producer include – getting the guest cast booked in time for the start of the shoot (as characters can be added or cut as the drafts develop) or getting locations in place before the tech recce (locations can be added or cut and are often very specific). All of which is standard stuff – the job is easy compared to the heavy lifting Russell has to do on each film. You just have to be flexible in your thinking.

DAMIAN: It must be extremely stressful. First of all, how do you cope on something as big as Endeavour and, secondly, since you’re both relatively new to producing, did either of you ever have any doubts you were up to it?

NEIL: We had the support of our crew, our exec producers and most importantly our line producer Helga Dowie. So it never felt overwhelming to me as it was a team effort.

JOHN: When you work with terrific people it makes your life easier and there are some great minds on Endeavour. Producing is a tough gig though, no doubt about it, and you make personal sacrifices to be a success, but at the end of the day we work in a brilliant industry and are lucky to do what we do.

DAMIAN: Series 5 was a long shoot. Do you know exactly how many days you worked and how many (completely uninterrupted) days you had off to relax during this time?

NEIL: I honestly can’t remember, it’s all a bit of a blur!

JOHN: I have no idea now but it was long! I had a couple of days off in the middle because I got married but that was it really. I’m lucky my wife is incredibly supportive and understanding!

DAMIAN: Did you ever look to each other for support or simply a sympathetic ear when things got tough?

JOHN: Definitely. Producing can be quite lonely and it was brill to have Neil there to ask advice or just have a general moan to.

NEIL: Yes, it was definitely useful having another producer to lean on every now and then.

DAMIAN: What makes a good producer?

NEIL: I think in the long term it’s about adaptability – every show is different, and every production company is different. As a producer you have to be able to move between jobs and find a way to get the best out of people while working within the rules or expectations of your employers (i.e. the production company and the channel).

JOHN: Neil’s hit on a very good point. You have to be adaptable in this game as he’s absolutely right, every show is different. I think you also have to be a people person; as a producer you’re managing a lot of different people and personalities.

DAMIAN: What makes you a good producer?

JOHN: Ha, I don’t know if I am! You’ll have to ask the people I’ve worked with!

NEIL: I don’t think I’m there quite yet.

DAMIAN: Do you have a favourite film from this series and which was the most difficult to work on?

JOHN: I genuinely like all of them for different reasons! That’s part of the success of Endeavour, each film is creatively quite different and there’s elements to each one I really love. The most difficult to work on was definitely the opener as there’s a lot of expectation and pressure on making it right. Plus I was new to the show, fairly inexperienced too, and personally I felt I grew stronger as a producer after each film so for me, looking back, I found that one the most challenging.

NEIL: I think film 3 is excellent. Film 4 was a real challenge – we had to split the army base over 4 different military locations and the weather was very unkind to us.

DAMIAN: What was the single most difficult aspect to producing Endeavour or producing in general?

NEIL: The travelling was difficult. Endeavour is filmed across quite a large geographical area. Because locations are so important to the show, we had to do lots of driving on recce’s and during the shoot itself. I spent a lot of time stuck in motorway traffic jams.

JOHN: Making everyone happy, perhaps. You can’t always do it! Filmmaking is an art, an art that happens to have been turned into a successful business but it’s still subjective. What one person likes another might not and sometimes as a producer it’s tricky to navigate through that when you have a writer, director, exec etc preferring different things. Luckily 9 times out of 10 we were all in agreement though!

DAMIAN: Do you think you’ll stick to producing now or are there also other areas you’d like to explore?

JOHN: I love producing, so definitely. I also love development and I’m working on a few of my own ideas which, when they are ready to take to market, I’d love to attach a writer and follow through to delivery. That would be the dream.

NEIL: I’m happy producing – it’s a good time to be doing this job as there’s lots of opportunity and growth in TV drama at the moment.

DAMIAN: John and Neil, thank you both very much indeed.

JOHN: Thanks. All the best.

NEIL: Thank you Damian.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part I

PROLOGUE

From Burslem to Beaconsfield

I’d always lived in and around Stoke-on-Trent while Kirstie resided in Uttoxeter. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly proud “Stokie” but, and despite the occasional unflattering cultural references to Stoke in shows such as The Likely Lads and Steptoe and Son – not to mention Prince Philip’s alleged description of the city as ghastly, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about it either. However, not long after we’d met while studying Media together at a college in neighbouring Burslem (or Bursley as Arnold Bennett renamed it in his Five Towns novels – some of you may recall the 1952 Alec Guinness film, The Card, based on a story by the author set and largely filmed on location in Burslem), she told me with no small measure of relish, and a slightly annoying air of superiority, that people like me in Stoke were generally known to people like her in Uttoxeter as “Chip eaters”. Well, I’d never heard of such a phrase before but later discovered the Urban Dictionary definition is as follows: ‘Common person, usually resident in one of the lesser-developed cities such as Liverpool who likes to eat chips for/with every meal’. Good “evans” – I hope this doesn’t mean everyone from Liverpool!

I protested that I didn’t even like chips that much, but as always – or at least more often than not, Kirstie was right and sure enough chips do seem to feature heavily in memories such as me, as a little boy, sitting on a wall eating a bag of chips in Llandudno (strangely enough, Alec Guinness’ character, Denry Machin, in The Card also enjoys holidays in Llandudno) with my Mum, Nan and two uncles who were more like older brothers since my Mum fell pregnant at a relatively young age. Two divorced and single cash-strapped Mums trying to raise us boys as best as they knew how but what marvellous stories they told us there including how Lewis Carroll (there’s a little Oxford connection while you wait patiently for me to get to the point) would visit the young Alice Liddell at her holiday home on Llandudno’s West Shore and, during those ‘happy ramblings’, saw a white rabbit hastily hopping along the beach which allegedly (it’s never been proven that Carroll ever even visited Llandudno and local historians continue to argue about it to this day) inspired that most wonderful of adventures.

Another happy memory, some years later and now almost a teenager, I met up with my Dad one Christmas Eve and he gave me a card with some money in it. I was rich!!! Well, at least for a few hours because I then went shopping and spent most of it that same afternoon buying horror videos from Woolworths. A new film on VHS usually cost £9.99 back then but you could get twice as many in the budget Cinema Club range at a bargain £4.99 such as old classics like Roger Corman’s The Fall of the House of Usher and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Most, but not all of the money because I decided that for my very first independent visit to a restaurant, and I did feel ever so grown up, I would treat myself to the finest meal in town! So, there I sat alone and really rather pleased with myself, in the grand cafeteria of British Home Stores eating chips and beans surrounded by some delightful old ladies sucking cigarettes and slurping tea.

Today, and I promise to get to the point now, I couldn’t be further away from The Potteries or sadly neglected and now lost department stores because I’m in Beaconsfield at the headquarters of Team Endeavour hobnobbing with the cast and crew. But, as we shall see,  not all that much has really changed and I’ve simply swapped delightful old ladies with delightful television-makers sucking cigarettes and slurping tea. However, I’m here specifically to meet with writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis, and to make a start on my annual batch of Endeavour interviews once more. It’s a cold Autumn morning and the penultimate day of filming. I haven’t met with Russ since one lovely summer’s day in 2016 so we have a lot of catching up to do and I have many questions to ask him regarding the making of series five as well as our usual analysis of films from the previous series.

Turns out that Russ has one or two questions of his own: what time does filming break for lunch? (about 12:45) and what’s on the menu? (Shepherd’s pie or vegetable burrito both served with various sides – including chips!). Now, I can’t have the Shepherd’s pie because I don’t eat meat and I’m not very adventurous with food so I ask what the vegetable burrito is all about. Wise and wonderful man that he is, Russ tells me it’s probably, rather than quite obviously, a Mexican wrap filled with vegetables but he says it in such a nice way so as not to make me feel stupid for asking such a ridiculous question. Russ actually goes for said vegetable burrito. Me? Well, remembering Kirstie’s remarks all those years ago, I certainly don’t want to appear to be a “common person” in such esteemed company and as we stand in line watching Roger Allam walk away with his Shepherd’s pie and Anton Lesser just a few feet in front of us in the queue (he also has Shepherd’s pie – I don’t know where Shaun Evans has gone but perhaps, like Endeavour, he doesn’t eat all that much) I consider following in the footsteps of my mentor, but no, I stay true to myself -an unadventurous vegetarian who doesn’t particularly like vegetables- and stick to what I know; I do, of course, simply have chips.

And, as Russ and I sit here talking about Endeavour, canteen food, and childhood trips to Woolworths, I smile and wish she was here to share this little moment with me because Kirstie was right after all and I know that this will prove to be another happy memory…

…served with chips!

DAMIAN: Do you wish you’d have had Shepherd’s pie or are you happy with the vegetable burrito?

RUSS: I like to live on the culinary edge.

DAMIAN: There’s something comforting about canteen food isn’t there?

RUSS: Yes – I’ve always had a weakness for it.  Not that I’d compare the fare magicked daily by the battalion of chefs de cuisine in our field kitchen to canteen grub.  One of the things I’ll most miss due to the cultural vandalism visited upon BBCTVC at White City is its sundry canteens. There was a lovely one at ATV Birmingham Studios in Broad Street – back in the day.  And also at Elstree – now home to Walford Square – when it was an ATV base.  (You’ll recognise it as Harlington-Straker Studios in Gerry Anderson’s UFO.)

Long term guests of Her Majesty might disagree, but there is something comforting in communal eating.

DAMIAN: What restaurants and shops do you remember from your childhood – are they similar to my favourite haunts such as BHS and Woolworths or are they a bit more posh like Burridges?

RUSS:  Posh?  Sarf London?  I suppose Arding & Hobbs up the Junction had a certain piss-elegance.  It was probably the prototype for Burridges – in my fever dreamscape.  Palaces of wonder and delight.  Wooden stepped escalators.  Lifts that still boasted lift operators.  But I’m aware of dark corners also.  A sense that behind the public façade there was a backstage, backstairs world.  Unsettling, and vaguely malevolent.  Department stores after lights out…

We did have a Woolies, of course.  Pick ‘n’ Mix.  A coin-operated launderette at the top of the road.  And on the other side of the street, there was an ironmongers cum haberdashers called Cato’s (One for the classicists.  And Pink Panther fans) that hung its wares around the doorway.

A supermarket that probably inspired Richardson’s called ‘Frosts’ – which, thinking about it now, gives me a shiver.  The strange associations a child’s mind makes – with the limited information available to it – had tied it into ‘Jack Frost’; a faintly demonic figure in my imagination…  ‘Wrap up warm or Jack Frost will get you.’

Toyshops, of course, loom large in memory.  I’m surprised they haven’t turned up yet.  Russ’s on Battersea Rise was the favourite.  More of a model shop.  This was where I got most of the Aurora ‘Glow in the Dark’ Universal Monster kits from – which you’ll recall feature a bit in Salem’s Lot.  Sun blanched Airfix mornings.  The faintly orange tang of a certain brand of model glue.  Jumpers for goalposts…

Otherwise, I remember when this was all fields.

DAMIAN: There’s a reference to buying records from Woolworths in the second film of series four which obviously resonated and made me think back to the first singles I purchased from there as a kid such as Diana Ross’ Chain Reaction, Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet (the David Lynch film had just been released) and, erm, I’m ashamed to admit, Anita Dobson’s Anyone Can Fall in Love. I was only eleven at the time but I must confess to having an enormous crush on Angie Watts. Do you remember the first records you bought as a kid?

RUSS: I remember Lily the Pink by The Scaffold being the first 45 in the house. LP-wise it was Sparky’s Magic Piano, and Sparky & the Talking Train.  Magic Piano probably explains a lot.  It’s deeply disturbing.  An anxiety dream committed to vinyl.

Mostly it was family 78s – though.  Played on the radiogram.  Tennessee Ernie Williams.  Slim Whitman.   Eddie Calvert.  Rosemary Clooney.  Frankie Laine.  Doris Day.  Kathy Kirby maybe. Much fun to be had for a kid in playing them at the wrong speed.

I think I might have had to explain to [Helen] Ziegler [producer] about 78s.  How to feel old, Part.1318.

At some point I acquired ‘Back Home’ by the 1970 England World Cup Squad.  But the first record I bought – a double LP – unsurprisingly, was The James Bond 10th Anniversary Collection.  A selection of John Barry cues from the first seven Bond movies.  I got it from Readings For Records on Lavender Hill.  And it cost the princely and unimaginable sum of £3.65.

Before that the only other LP in the house was Hits ’68 – a knock-off of the year’s hits by the unoriginal artists.  A lunatic collection of covers — ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ by Alan Price sitting cheek by jowl with ‘Cinderella, Rockefeller’.  And, of course, ‘Congratulations’ – our Eurovision entry.   There’s a Tom Jones hit on there too – which stood me in good stead for this year’s adventures.

Dear Diary…

DAMIAN: In addition to reminding us of happy afternoons in Woolworths, you’ve recreated a wonderful, bygone age and your scripts are full of nostalgia that viewers of your generation, and even people like myself born a decade or so later, will recognise with references to things like post-swim kids clutching cups of hot Bovril, women reading ‘Titbits’ magazine, men drinking Double Diamond, the tin bath in front of the fireplace, the “Necessary” at the bottom of the yard, back parlours kept for “best” and marvelling at a colour television for the first time – quite lifelike! To what extent is all this an evocation of your own family experiences and childhood?

RUSS: Well – due to family circs – I’m part of a demographic raised by people of a generation at one remove from one’s birth parents.  People who remembered the Titanic going down, the Great War, and – as I’ve mentioned before – the man who was good enough to give me a surname, did his tin-hatted bit in the ‘second go-round.’  So – through them – all that was very present and incredibly vivid as I was growing up.  The hoary old joke I’m given to trotting out is that I didn’t know the war was over until I was twelve.  An exaggeration – but not by much.

The Larkins (TV series 1958-64)

Here Come the Huggetts (1948 film)

DAMIAN: I think it was in one of our first interviews that I made the observation that series one was all about family. However, since then, I now realise that this goes much deeper as the series progresses. As we know, and in the absence of a loving family of his own, Endeavour finds solace in the Thursday family of Fred, Win, Joan and Sam. Additionally, we also witness his professional family of Bright, Strange, Max, Trewlove and Dorothea. Very sadly, you seem hellbent on ripping all this apart don’t you?

RUSS:  Things change.  I think if we’d frozen the Thursdays in aspic, and turned them into an Oxford version of The Larkins, or Here Come the Huggetts, that it would have been dishonest. The social change convulsing the rest of country had to affect them.  Joan and Sam had to grow, and find their own way.  And the same with Endeavour’s colleagues.  Nothing lasts…

THE DARK PASSENGER

AN EXCLUSIVE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL LEWIS

PART I: GAME

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

With thanks to Darcy Sarto, Katie Driscoll & Inigo Jollifant

~

‘Early evening over dreaming spire and cupola. Gargoyle and pediment dissolve softly into shadow. Faces in stone. Blind eyed. Choked with ivy. Stare out from the walls of a hidden FELLOWS GARDEN.

Sheldonian Square deserted. Backs and lanes – empty. July – 1967. The ‘Long Vac’. A landscape without figures. Melancholy. Haunted. Secret.’

– Excerpt from the opening page of GAME (1st draft)

~

DAMIAN: So, Sam is still away in the army, Joan has been gone for two weeks and now Win is either out at work cleaning or attending keep fit classes leaving poor old Fred home alone when he’s not coppering. Like Endeavour, couldn’t we have enjoyed some respite from the ‘orrible murders and basked in the warmth and happiness that came from peering into the Thursday household just a little bit longer and isn’t there a real sense that all this change is happening far too quickly?

RUSS:  Not for us, I don’t think.  Three story years – four/five years in real-time.  I hate to drag you back to the Fab Four again, but they’re a pretty good yardstick for the pace of change. From Help! and Rubber Soul in ’65, (from which we took GIRL), to Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour in ‘67 is one hell of a journey.

Perhaps if we’d known exactly how many series we were going to make from the outset, we might have paced things slightly differently, but you play the hand you’re dealt, and do the best with it you can.

There is a method to the madness.  A gradual, slow but relentless, turning of the screw. Whenever we take our leave of Endeavour, hopefully we’ll have laden him with enough emotional baggage, and provided enough signposts, that our understanding of the Chief Inspector he is destined to become is enriched.

DAMIAN: Series four opens with the following and in the first draft of your script for GAME you go into great detail describing the music and its sound: ‘Strange, unearthly music… Slender rods of GLASS, droplets of water beaded upon them. The drops tremble and fall into darkness… We are looking at, and listening to, a pair of cristal Baschets, one of which is a bass incarnation of the instrument… A small chamber concert. A duo onstage perform Gnossienne No.1 [changed to No.3 by draft four], by Erik Satie. Looking and sounding like nothing on earth, the ethereal tones are created by the players running wet fingers over tuned glass rods. The resulting vibrations are thus amplified and broadcast through the mouths of a trio of conical resonators of ascending size… a reservoir of water at the front of each instrument, into which the musicians dip their fingers’. Why was this piece and the particular way in which it was performed so important?

RUSS:  Er…  I won’t come out of this very well, but I’ve carried lifelong an unhealthy obsession with a Programme for Schools and Colleges from the 1970s called Picture Box.  It was presented for the most part by Alan Rothwell, who cued and introduced a filmed section.  However, what stayed with me – and a generation of school bunkers-off – was its opening credits.  Youtube will see you right — should you wish to become likewise troubled [see link here].  The accompanying music had this other-worldly fairground vibe – and thanks to the internet, I was finally able to track down how it had come into existence.  The cristal baschet was invented in the early 50s by a couple of French brothers – les freres Baschet, no less — who created sound producing sculptures and, also, new musical instruments, including the inflatable guitar!

The instrument was initially deployed in the field of avant-garde musique concrete.  The Picture Box theme was lifted from an album by a pioneer of the instrument – Jacques Lasry – that came out in 65, called Structures Sonores.  And the track in question is called ‘Mánege’.

Matt Slater managed to track down a couple of baschet players in France, where else!, (they’re madly rare – baschets, not French people) and we brought them and their extraordinary instruments across, and recorded them playing the Satie live.  Tough parts for baschet players I’m told.

Amazing bits of kit to look at – properly space age and ‘way out, man’ – while at the same time weirdly organic, and absolutely dependent for their sound upon the use of that most vital ingredient for life…  water.  Quite beautiful in their way.  They felt very right for a series that was looking at new technologies.  And particularly for a story that played with the idea of the ghost in the machine.  The baschets are acoustic, but look as though they shouldn’t be.

There was something pleasing in making a visual connection between the reservoir the players use to wet their digits, and the sacrarium in the church into which our second unfortunate dips her fingers.  Another ghost in the machine – albeit one altogether holier.

DAMIAN: You often mention a variety of actors, characters or general cultural references in the description of your scripts which audiences obviously never get to see. Indeed, GAME contains the following: a white haired boffin from a 50s B-Movie (Professor George Saxon), a Spencer Tracy of a Priest (Father Linehan), the shoulder of his Norman Bates corduroy jacket (Clifford Gibbs), a young Gordon Jackson (Broderick Castle) and a forty-something John Wyndham by way of Dirk Bogarde (Dr. Bernard Gould). Do you do this to help the casting director, to aid the actors in visualising their characters or simply for your own amusement?

RUSS: Probably a bit of both.  It’s a short-hand for Susie Parriss – our saintly Casting Director – as often as not.  A type. I tend to go for deceased actors because invoking the living as a template can be unhelpful.

DAMIAN: For those in the cheap seats, The Beatles references continue to be ever present but we’ve covered this before and will probably touch upon them slightly again when we discuss CANTICLE but I did promise the reader last year that we’d get to the bottom of your Tony Hancock fixation one day. Well, now seems as good a time as any…

RUSS:  Well, Hancock’s place in the British comedy firmament – chiefly through the happy serendipity of his association with Galton and Simpson – is unassailable.

More practically, I’m not sure it’s a fixation as much as a very handy snapshot of social pre-occupations of the time.  Steptoe & Son is another.  No accident they were both written by Galton & Simpson – praise them with great praise.  Comedy – perhaps more so than drama – draws on relevant contemporary figures and anxieties its audience will recognise for humorous effect.  It’s by its nature acutely ‘observational’.

Despite your sensitivity re: Clement & LaFrenais’ pot-shots at Stoke, one can probably learn more from The Likely Lads – and Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads – about the state of the nation, and particularly the North East, at the time, than one could from three years at Lonsdale reading social history.

So – though Hancock was getting very near the end, and had split with Galton and Simpson some years earlier, some of those mid-late 50s and early 60s things still had currency. I’ve said before that it seemed to me the mid 60s still had one foot in the 50s.  And, as you’ve rightly deduced, there’s more of a whiff of The Missing Page about GAME.

A pleasing connection that brings all full circle is that our own Susy Kane has played Andree Melly in Neil Pearson’s brilliant radio recreations of The Missing Hancocks, with Kevin McNally giving a truly extraordinary performance as ‘the lad himself.’  Utter joy.

Susy Kane in Nocturne and recording The Missing Hancocks below

DAMIAN: And there’s also a bit of Bond again with the Russian chess player (and Trewlove mentions the Kronsteen variation) but was it difficult to write all the jargon and various moves or did you consult an adviser?

RUSS:  Mmm.  No – I was familiar with most of it, but we did consult an advisor to make sure there were no unintentional howlers – as against the intentional howlers we include for those who like to truffle out such things.

DAMIAN: You told me last year that you wanted to explore Harold Wilson’s ‘White Heat of Technology’ in GAME. Was this in some way used to signpost the changes ahead for this and the next series and also why was the original nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey changed from H.E.L.420 (the Heuristic Electronic Logician or HEL for short) in the original draft to Joint Computing Nexus/J.C.N/Jason?

RUSS:  Well – HEL was a place holder until I’d come up with something better.  How true it was that 2001 went for HAL because IBM wouldn’t let them use their company name (so Kubrick and Clarke just shifted everything forward by a letter) I can’t say – but we followed the example. And Jason’s not a bad name for a crazed serial killer, is it?

DAMIAN: Thursday, particularly when he’s in a bad mood, will occasionally ask Endeavour to drop him at the tobacconist/newsagent as he does in this film and says he’ll walk to Cowley Police Station from there. Is the shop the one that can still be found on Holywell Street opposite New College?

RUSS:  There’s a couple he patronises.

DAMIAN: This has been bothering me for a while so can you confirm where exactly is Cowley Police Station and how long would it actually take Thursday to walk?

RUSS: It would depend on his pace.  And the demands of the story.

DAMIAN: And can you confirm what Thursday has on his Wednesday sandwich?

RUSS:  Yes, I can.

DAMIAN: Oh! In the scene with the now surely classic line ‘This one’s as ripe and runny as a rancid Roquefort’, Endeavour asks Max where he stands on love. Now, initially I just took their exchanges including ‘Love and fishing. Sooner or later it all comes down to the same thing. The one that got away’ as simply a reference to Joan. However, having read the slightly longer scene in the original draft with more Housman quoted, I’m wondering if Max is also referring to his own lost love?

RUSS:  I think ‘And one was fond of me, and all are slain’ made it through to the final cut. Further I would not wish to go.  Jimmy Bradshaw delivers it so beautifully, and his performance says far more than I could on the subject.

DAMIAN: Let’s move onto Kent Finn. One of his crime novels is called ‘Just For Jolly’ and as you know, I have a keen interest in the Whitechapel Murders – was this a nod to our friend Jack?

RUSS:  Of course.  Jolly being the nickname of his detective – Jolliphant — we just had a bit of fun playing around with made-up titles for his back catalogue. I think we had about a dozen or so in the end, which were required for the Art Department to mock up his other novels.

The following images, which have never been seen before outside of the production office, were created by the brilliant graphic designer Katie Driscoll and I’m extremely grateful to her for letting me show them here.
Below is an unused cover which favoured a more film noir photo look but then Katie decided to go down the route of painted pictures as it was thought that all the Jolly books should have a matching style when they were seen together at the book signing. However, the photo style one was dressed into Kent Finn’s house as though it was an earlier edition of the book so although it wasn’t really seen it was built into the story for the art department.

DAMIAN: Kent’s house is a menagerie of curiosities including the stick men, the death mask painting (L’Inconnue de la Seine), the wine collection and his various memorabilia related to his fiction. Do these objects, and indeed Kent himself, hold a wider significance to Endeavour beyond GAME?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Remains to be seen.

DAMIAN: I actually thought Kent was by far one of the most interesting new characters introduced in this series. You describe him as ‘a brooding inkslinger clinging to his thirties by a fingernail… [his fandom as] an Oxford equivalent of James Ellroy’s ‘peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps’…” and on seeing Dorothea, “A flirty, lupine smile plays roguishly about his lip… is the kind of crap line that belongs in one of his novels’. However, I was disappointed that someone as wise and perceptive as Dorothea would get involved with such a man. Can you explain the extent of their relationship comparing the various drafts to what we finally saw onscreen?

RUSS:  That’s a tough one. I think it was very early days in whatever it was that might have been between them, but that Dorothea would very soon have seen through him.  As for his fandom – I think we ended up with a more staid and traditional readership.  Though, of course, what goes on behind the net curtains of his devotees is another matter.

RUSS: And as exciting as the chase and subsequent car crash was to watch, I’m wondering in retrospect if seeing Dorothea in the role of damsel in distress was also a little disappointing as oppose to giving her something more empowering to do?

RUSS:  Hmm.  Well – that’s not what we were trying to do.  I think what’s key is that she fought back; she got free and started strangling him with his own rope.

DAMIAN: Continuing with the theme of water in the film, I think fans will be fascinated to learn that instead of the car engulfed in flames, your original idea was to have the car and Dorothea submerged in water. What can you tell us about your original idea and the reason it was changed?

RUSS:  One has to cut according to the cloth.  Water seemed to suit – thematically.  There was a lot of back and forth in production meetings, but in the end one has to be pragmatic.

DAMIAN: And so series five is almost upon us. Whose idea was it to extend the run from the usual four films to six?

RUSS:  The audience has often expressed a wish for more than four stories, and the Network felt the same.  We were happy to oblige.  But it places huge demands on the principal players’ time and precludes them from doing anything else with their year.  I think that should we return it would be in our more usual quartet format.  That frees up the actors to do other things. Theatre.  Film.  Other telly.  And – with Shaun – to wear his directorial hat.

DAMIAN: You see I worry about you Russ and I’d now like to speak to the dark passenger you mentioned to me last year – a Dexter of quite a different colour perhaps. You’ve told me that writing sometimes becomes an out of body experience and the choices made therein almost subconscious. Additionally, you say that there’s no sleep until you write ‘ROLL END CREDITS’ which sometimes means you don’t sleep for forty-eight or even seventy-two hours and it is during these times that your dark passenger appears. This can’t be very healthy for Russ can it?

RUSS:  I can’t speak for Mister Hyde, but for my part – it’s a case of needs must.  You do what you have to.  One of the few comforts of social media is seeing other writers posting in the dead of night – or, having just typed ‘The End’ or its equivalent, crawling hand over hand up the wooden hill.  So, you know you’re not the only living boy in Crazyville.  But it’s interesting to track the gradual mental unravelling and disintegration that arises from such extended periods of sleep deprivation.

DAMIAN: I mean you’ve spent the best part of the last five years on this show and sometimes filming a series can take up to nine months during which time you’re usually doing rewrites between finishing the script for the next film. I’m just wondering if and when you can switch off. Indeed, I’m reminded of Peter Pan in which Barrie writes ‘You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming… That’s where I’ll be waiting’. Are you able to leave Endeavour, Thursday and Co. at the keyboard or do you take them to bed with you where they constantly wait in that place between sleep and awake?

RUSS:  Switching off isn’t really an option.  As for them haunting my dreams, it depends how much trouble I’m having.  If there’s a particularly tricky conundrum that got my waking mind occupied, as often as not the answer will come in the dead of night.  I think I read somewhere that anything less than three hours sleep makes little or no difference to one’s physical/mental state, and one might as well forego sleep altogether.

DAMIAN: It’s a new year – out with the old and in with the new! This series will be broadcast exactly fifty years after it’s set so what can we expect to see in 1968?

RUSS:  It’s a most turbulent year – and that makes its way into most of the stories in one way or another.  We see the arrival of a new character at the nick – the young George Fancy, played by Lewis Peek.  And that gives us something new to play with.

Funny – I’d not thought of it before – but I suppose could be described as ENDEAVOUR’s White Album; insofar as it’s longer than anything we’ve done before.  And I think I remember something in the liner notes for that particular artefact about it being a ‘New Phase’ Recording. I suppose the song that informs much of what we’re about is ‘Revolution’.  Paris.  Prague.  All flows from that to a greater or lesser degree.

The exact half-century was often sobering.  On the one hand, how far we’ve come – but, all too often, how far we haven’t.  One didn’t seek parallels, but, with even the most cursory overview, they come thick and fast, and to have ignored them would have been remiss.  With 1968, perhaps more so than any other series, it felt in many regards a serious case of plus ça change.

DAMIAN: We began by talking about how the family dynamic changed during the last two series but reform also seems to be the key theme for series five as well doesn’t it?

RUSS:  Yes – I think one of the scene directions for an early moment in tonight’s film suggests that we are into the comedown from the Summer of Love.  Everything feeling a little shop soiled.  Hung over.  Soured.  November will see Cream’s farewell gig at the Albert Hall.  An electric performance – but Ginger, Clapton, and a white-faced Jack Bruce – certainly as captured in Tony Palmer’s footage – seem the antithesis of a certain, unthreatening, ‘bring ‘em home to meet your Mum’, madcap, mop-toppery that defined the earlier part of the decade.

It’s a little over a year until Danny the Drug Dealer will bemoan the fact that they’re ‘selling hippy wigs in Woolworths.’  But there is already an air of disillusion and discontent abroad. And that’s manifested to some degree at Cowley nick.

DAMIAN: For now Russ, thank you very much indeed.

RUSS: A pleasure, as always.

~

ROLL END CREDITS

30 YEARS OF MORSE ONSCREEN

An exclusive celebration

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

For Colin…

Our love to you and your family.

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

ED BAZALGETTE

Director ~ GIRL

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

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

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

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

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

JAMES BRADSHAW

Dr. Max De Bryn

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

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

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

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

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

SAM COSTIN

Script Editor ~ Series I – III

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

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

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

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

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

IRENE NAPIER

Make-up Designer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

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

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

SEAN RIGBY

Detective Sergeant Jim Strange

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

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

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

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

Long may it continue!

MATTHEW SLATER

Composer

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

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

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

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

— — .-. … .

ABIGAIL THAW

Dorothea Frazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIEN TIMMER

Executive Producer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SARA VICKERS

Joan Thursday

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

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

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

Happy 30th Birthday Endeavour Morse! x

HELEN ZIEGLER

Producer ~ Series IV

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

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

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

~

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

JAMES GROUT

Chief Superintendent Strange

NORMAN JONES

Chief Inspector Bell

KENNY MCBAIN

Producer

ANTHONY MINGHELLA

Screenwriter

ALASTAIR REID

Director

PETER WOODTHORPE

Dr. Max De Bryn

and

JOHN THAW

Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse

~

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

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

~

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