Tag Archives: Russell Lewis

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.

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on CODA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

“Coughing better tonight” – The Wigan Nightingale

Russell Lewis on CODA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

~

Remembering Graham. My Grandfather, mentor and friend.

~

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

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

RUSS:  I honestly couldn’t say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m also available for Children’s Parties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Will there be a cliffhanger?

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

DAMIAN: Will there be sandwhiches?

RUSS:  Always.

DAMIAN: What about wildlife?

RUSS:  Sheep may safely graze.

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

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

‘She should have been held.’

‘Perhaps she was.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

And for Tootles…

“Bloody nice shoes”

~

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / No.26 / CODA

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

~~~

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

TIGER: Rubbish! – get off…

 

Far to go: Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with the Thursday children

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

FAR TO GO…

An exclusive interview with the Thursday children

Jack Bannon – Sam Thursday

Sara Vickers – Joan Thursday

~

By Damian Michael Barcroft

~

DAMIAN: Jack and Sara, thank you so much for talking to me about Thursday’s children. How are you both?

JACK: Great thanks.

SARA: Very well, thanks.

DAMIAN: Sara, obviously water and swimming pools featured quite heavily in the first episode this year but what’s this I hear about you performing ROMEO & JULIET in a swimming pool?

SARA: Seems there’s plenty of drama to be had in a swimming pool and plenty deaths for that matter. We did a site specific theatre piece in Victoria Baths, Manchester, for HOME theatre. Juliet’s tomb was in the first class men’s pool. It took days to fill with water and was decorated with floating candles and flowers. Quite a sight. Although one performer did fall in during a show… the atmosphere may have suffered slightly on that occasion.

DAMIAN: And Jack, I’ve recently done interviews with Gillian Saker and Jonathan Barnwell, and you are yet another actor to work on both RIPPER STREET and ENDEAVOUR. What can you tell us about your time in Whitechapel?

JACK: It was certainly very different to my time in Oxford tends to be. In Oxford I keep out the way, mind my own business, whereas in Whitechapel I was in the thick of it. I play a drunken, incestuous fishmonger… who says I don’t have range?!

DAMIAN: Looking through your CV Jack, you’ve worked on FURY starring Brad Pitt and THE IMITATION GAME with Benedict Cumberbatch no less! What were those two projects like to work on?

JACK: They were both fantastic projects, a real experience for me! I’d never done a feature film before so it was kind of a baptism of fire. Weirdly I had the first round of auditions for the two films on the same day along with an audition for KIDS IN LOVE an Ealing studios film which I ended up doing too… I only wish I knew what day of the year it was, I could line up as many auditions as possible on that day every year!

DAMIAN: I think one of your first screen credits was on a show called SHADOW PLAY back in 2004 and I noticed that Helga Dowie worked as line producer on that and later produced both LEWIS and ENDEAVOUR amongst other things. Did this connection have anything to do with you getting the part of Sam?

JACK: Yes!! What an eager eye you have. As far as I’m aware it had no bearing on me getting Sam. You’d have to ask Helga. I remember recognizing the name when I started ENDEAVOUR and it was my mum who made the connection. However I’ve never spoken to Helga about it… I doubt she’d even remember me from SHADOW PLAY – I was 10!!!

DAMIAN: Sara, and how did you get the part of Joan?

SARA: I auditioned for Joan during casting for film 1 of the first series. After a couple of meetings, I was told the Thursday family had been written out. Luckily they were back for film 2 and off I went for another meeting. I remember the day I got the part. I hadn’t been out of drama school all that long and I was serving champagne at a catering event. I thought I need to be drinking this stuff right now – not serving it!

DAMIAN: Were either of you familiar with the world of Colin Dexter before ENDEAVOUR, had you seen any of the original INSPECTOR MORSE or LEWIS?

JACK: My grandparents have always enjoyed it and I’d seen bits and bobs…it’s great being at the start of the Morse journey.

SARA: I was familiar with the shows and had watched the odd episode but never seen a series right through. Luckily ENDEAVOUR precedes all that work, so maybe it’s better not to know too much!

DAMIAN: Other than ENDEAVOUR Sara, I suppose you must be most recognized for your work on another detective series SHETLAND with Douglas Henshall who I admire greatly as an actor. What’s he like?

SARA: Dougie is fantastic to work with. He is always experimenting with numerous options of how a scene can be played, he would never pin anything down until he absolutely had to. I really admire that element of endless creativity within the technical confines of filming. He is constantly questioning and unearthing and has a real fire in his belly… perfect qualities for playing a detective.

DAMIAN: And you’ve worked on two Matt Smith projects, BERT & DICKIE and the phenomenally successful THE CROWN. Tell us something about your experiences working on those?

SARA:  Well BERT & DICKIE has a special place in my heart as it was my first TV role as a professional actor. I got to work with fantastic people and play a headstrong Scot called Margaret Bushnell. Playing a real person brought another dimension to the work. I met Margaret’s daughter at the screening who luckily welcomed my interpretation of her Mum. In THE CROWN I played another real person, Crawfie the Queen’s nanny. It was fascinating diving into her story, as it was quite the scandal.

DAMIAN: Filming for ENDEAVOUR involves a lot of scenes around the table in the Thursday home but Jack, is it fair to say you usually do most of the eating?

JACK: Haha yes!! From the first scene we ever shot where we are eating beef stew I decided Sam was a big eater – growing boy and all, although I think I remember we were about to break for lunch, it had been a long morning and I was just hungry so I shoehorned in some character ‘choice’ so I could gorge. Props weren’t too happy having to top my plate up every take but they get their own back when it’s an eating AFTER lunch and I can’t fit anything in. From that first scene on Sam always seemed to have something in his mouth, you’ll have to ask Russ if that’s deliberate, I hope so, it’s a nice running theme I think.

DAMIAN: What are Roger Allam and Caroline O’Neill like as your onscreen parents?

JACK: They’re brilliant. Every day is fun when we’re all together. The fact we get to meet up every year and chat about what we’ve been doing etc. – it’s like a real family.

SARA: The best. Win is a caring, loving, yet don’t mess with me kind of mum. I reckon Joan and Sam have both pushed their luck over the years and not gotten very far! Fred is an overprotective, straight down the line kind of Dad. But can you blame him in his line of work!? There is a lot of love, laughter and warmth in this family. Perhaps that is why Endeavour is drawn in.

DAMIAN: Roger is one hell of an actor and a pretty formidable presence on set, were either of you nervous filming your first scene with him?

JACK: I was nervous to meet him what with it being my first TV job for years and being a fan of his but once that first handshake at the read-through was out the way it was brilliant. He’s absolutely hilarious, the nicest man and most generous collaborator. Every set should have a Roger. He also occasionally helps us get into the era with little memories of his childhood which is great.

SARA: Funnily enough I felt very at ease filming with him. For one, he is a total joker. What a dry sense of humour he has. He also has a real grounding quality. As soon as we start we know what world we are in. The family naturally orbit around him. Very much the traditional British family in that sense.

DAMIAN: Sara, there’s a beautiful chemistry between Joan and Endeavour which I think really began to shine during HOME from the first series. The writer, Russell Lewis, told me that from the moment he had her open the door to him for the first time in FUGUE, he knew that Joan and Endeavour would fall for one another. Did you have any idea back then what Russ had planned for the characters?

SARA:  I’ve been very much on a path of discovery, along with the audience! Directorial wise, especially in those first few episodes, I had been steered towards light hearted flirtation and friendly teasing, and things seem to have grown from there. It’s wonderful to play a character and then have things grow from moments created on set.

DAMIAN: How would you describe Joan’s attraction to Endeavour?

SARA: Good question. I think Joan is very intrigued by Morse. She is not one for the ordinary and Endeavour appears to be everything out of the ordinary. They have something they can’t put their finger on. But surely that’s the best kind attraction, the indescribable.

DAMIAN: I admire you commitment to the role because it must be terribly difficult to pretend to fancy Shaun Evans.

SARA: It’s a real tough job. Thank God he’s a nice person.

DAMIAN: And Jack, I loved that moment in PREY last year when you express your faith and admiration for Thursday (Sam: This with work… Whatever it is, you’ll get him. THURSDAY: Will I? Sam: Of course. You’re my dad). I wonder if there is a sense with Sam that he feels the need to gain respect from Thursday by following in his footsteps by joining the army as he did before becoming a copper?

JACK: Sam definitely looks up to Fred and seeks his approval. It’s also something very much of the era I think, he would never say as much but quietly he does, we all do, still, a bit don’t we? It’s a good job Sam likes Morse otherwise he might be a bit irritated by this young bloke taking a lot of Fred’s ‘mentoring’ energy away if you could call it that…

DAMIAN: There was another tender moment that I loved at the bus stop when Sam and Thursday say their goodbyes as he leaves for the army although it was a very quiet and restrained send-off with so much that seemed left unsaid. I asked Russ about this and why Thursday couldn’t have given Sam a hug to which he replied, well, it was the sixties. What are your thoughts on this?

JACK: Well, male relationships were different then. A father son relationship will always be an odd thing I think. In that scene I saw it as all the other wanted to say was ‘I love you and I’m proud’ but they just don’t it’s all very ‘jolly good, look after yourself.’ I loved that scene, it was a rare moment of just Sam and Fred without the girls chatting away and a rare foray out the house for Sam!

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you’ll remember this Jack but there’s a moment from ARCADIA where, upon finding the coveted Thunderbird 2 toy in the cereal box, you give an Eric Morecambe-like “Wha-Hey!” Again, I’ve asked Russ about this and he told me to ask you so presumably it wasn’t scripted?

JACK: It was scripted! I hadn’t deliberated referenced Eric Morecambe but if you think it works then yes, thank you, it was most definitely intentional…

DAMIAN: The relationship between Joan and Sam is also lovely to watch but how do the two of you get on off-screen?

SARA: We get on very well and have good laugh as the kids! We can go through a whole series without meeting any of the guest cast. So it’s a darn good thing we are mates. Sometimes it feels like we are filming our own show… The Thursdays!

JACK: She’s horrible. Really, really horrible. (She’s bloody brilliant and I wouldn’t want anyone else playing my sister) As Sara says, we are a little aside to the plot a lot of the time so it’s just us hanging out which I kinda like… watch out for ‘The Thursdays’ it will be great, although Sam can’t be eating all the time in that, I’d end up 20 stone!!

DAMIAN: What would you say the two of you share in common with your characters?

JACK: I love food and recently bought some ‘shoe trees’ because I also believe if you look after your shoes they’ll look after you…or whatever the quote is…

SARA: We both have a soft spot for the good guys.

DAMIAN: And finally, what have you both got lined up next?

JACK: I’m about to start rehearsals for a play at the Hampstead theatre and look out for my Scottish accent in The Loch and Clique two new series on ITV and BBC respectively which will air in a couple of months! Oh and ‘The Thursdays’ hopefully!

SARA: A new year…..who knows…hoping it’s something exciting!

DAMIAN: I’ll be watching with interest. Thank you both very much indeed.

JACK: Cheers mate! All the best.

SARA: Thanks Damian. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series four.

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

JIM LOACH: An exclusive interview with the director of tonight’s ENDEAVOUR

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Jim Loach – Director

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~

DAMIAN: Hello Jim and thanks for this. Quite understandably, and for rather obvious reasons, you never originally intended to become a director. However, would you agree that even very early on in your career, you still clearly felt compelled to tell stories in some form or another?

JIM: I guess. I mean I was always telling stories – most of them quite tall, and they often got me into trouble!

DAMIAN: So, having studied philosophy and worked in news and current affairs, why did you then decide to actually become a director after all, and perhaps even more to the point, although I can appreciate the link between this and your recent projects, why did you leave campaigning journalism to work on soaps such as Coronation Street and Hollyoaks?

JIM: Well my heroes were people like John Pilger and Paul Foot and the great Don McCullin. I wanted to be a heroic journalist, and so documentaries and current affairs was an incredibly exciting place to find myself. Plus I was lucky enough to be making documentaries for World in Action, which was the iconic current affairs show at the time. At Granada television, there was kind of an understanding that you could move from World in Action to Coronation Street – directors like Michael Apted had done it. And by then I’d admitted to myself I wanted to make drama, so they let me have a go on the Street.

DAMIAN: I wonder if forging your own identity as a director was an important issue for you, and if so, were you therefore ever tempted to stay clear of projects that one might, rather simplistically, describe as films with a social conscience?

JIM: I’m still working it out, I think. I mean it’s probably no secret  it’s something I’ve struggled with at times, but I kind of don’t think about it too much anymore. You know there’s some things that are easy to pass on because they’re just too close to my Dad, but generally I’ve kind of made my peace with all that. I just follow my gut, and do the things that I’m passionate about. People write what they write, think what they think, it’s not for me to try and control. Mostly it’s OK.

DAMIAN: And given that identity was a central theme in both Oranges and Sunshine (2010) and Life of Crime (2013), do you think this is what attracted you to two these projects?

JIM: Yeah I guess. Plus I liked the characters in both, and I wanted to see them on screen. Identity is always fascinating to me – who we are, what makes us who we are, I think all drama can be reduced to this, in a way, because it’s the essence of the human condition isn’t it ?

DAMIAN: To deal with Oranges first, was the impetus behind the film to explore the person, Margaret Humphreys, or the issues her work raised?

JIM: Well I came across the story and I just was amazed and shocked by it, and really wanted to make the film.  The fact that an incredible woman was at the centre of the story, with her own dilemmas, just made it stronger to me. So it was both those things really, in tandem. I thought there was something very primal about the idea of children being separated from their parents, and the story had very visual elements – so I knew pretty much straight away I wanted to make the movie.

DAMIAN: Who approached Margaret [above] and what was her initial reaction to making a film based on her memoirs?

JIM: I went to see her, and she was pretty wary. For good reasons, which I fully understood. Maybe I just wore her down, I don’t know! Margaret is a very close friend now, and I’m so fond of her.

DAMIAN: Like someone such as myself asking their subject interview questions such as those found here I suppose, how does a writer or director get to the truth about a real person they are making a film about without becoming manipulative or exploitative?

JIM: I think you just tell the truth, as it seems to you in that moment. Honestly I don’t see it as any more complex than that. When we made Oranges, we didn’t want to be mawkish or sentimental, and of course we felt a huge responsibility to the real people involved, to make sure they would be OK. But at the end of the day we also had a responsibility to make a film that connected with a wide audience.

DAMIAN: Emily Watson gives yet another extraordinary performance in this film. Using Emily’s portrayal of Margaret as an example, can you tell us a little bit about your method of working with actors in terms of research, exploring characters, rehearsals and possibly improvisation?

JIM: With that film, Emily spent some time putting in what I call some building blocks for the character…. where she went to school, college, where she’d met her husband, where she worked, that kind of thing. I think working out the stuff that’s before the events in the film is most important, rather than rehearsing scenes from the script. Emily and I worked together very intuitively, I think. Not too much chat, we’d set the scene up as truthfully as possible and then just start shooting – always very long takes, not too much cutting. There was a lot of emotional content to every scene, so we didn’t want to hinder that in any way.

DAMIAN: In many ways, both Margaret Humphreys and Denise Woods, the character in your three-part police drama Life of Crime, share quite a few similarities don’t they?

JIM: Well they’re both very strong women, not to be messed with!

DAMIAN: What do Oranges and Life of Crime say about our society when the relationships between the husbands and the lead female characters in these two stories are severely challenged, or ruined in the latter case, because of their work as crusaders for truth and justice?

JIM: I think the private cost of public duty is a great dramatic dilemma – it’s a circle that can’t ever really be squared, although it doesn’t stop anyone trying.

DAMIAN: Hayley Atwell who played Denise Woods is probably most famous internationally for her appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe such as Captain America and Agent Carter. How did she become involved with Life of Crime?

JIM: I love her work and we met up and talked it through. It was a tough shoot, and Hayley turned in a brilliant performance.

DAMIAN: Obviously an actor will audition for a part but how does a director usually get chosen for a film or television project?

JIM: Well there’s a difference between the projects you have developed yourself, and those that are sent to you. I like both, but it’s a different process. If it’s a script you’ve been sent – you have to audition, like everyone else! But I tend to be quite careful, you have a sense of where your zones are, material-wise, if you know what I mean. And my agents tend to only send me stuff they know I’ll respond to.

DAMIAN: And can you describe how and why you think you were approached for ENDEAVOUR?

JIM: I was really keen to get back into British television, as I’d been away for a long time. And I met Helen Ziegler, our supremely talented producer, and we talked it round the houses. For me, it’s always a combination of the material, the writer and the producer that makes me want to get involved.

DAMIAN: So you get the job, you read the script and then, because I’m fascinated by the whole process, I wonder what happens next – can you take us through your approach to directing tonight’s ENDEAVOUR, HARVEST?

JIM: Well we started with a brilliant script of course. Without that you really haven’t got anything. But then I loved the elemental feel of it, and the very pagan, ritualistic story, set against the modernity of nuclear power. So that central conflict seemed very cinematic, and like a representation of Morse’s inner conflict. So together with the brilliant Ed Rutherford, our director of photography, Alison Butler, the designer and Charlotte Mitchell our costume designer, we developed the visual plan for the piece. We wanted to use lots of low, direct light straight into the lens, flares and all that… we wanted a kind of ethereal, ‘other worldly’ feel, where anything is possible.

DAMIAN: In terms of camera angles and setups, do you ever wish you’d have approached certain scenes differently when you see the rushes of during the editing process?

JIM: Shall I lie ? Yeah, course. You’re constantly confronted with your mistakes, but you learn to try to work in a way that enables you to cut them out! It’s when you’re stuck with them you’re in trouble. But then again, you’ve got to take risks I think – playing it safe isn’t really an option. No guts, no glory, I reckon.

DAMIAN: I don’t know if you’re a fan of ENDEAVOUR or INSPECTOR MORSE, but do you think it is a help or a hindrance if directors are “Morse literate”?

JIM: I think you can do it either way. I don’t personally like to get too hung up on what’s already been done, and the references and all that are cool, but I’d personally prefer to leave them for the audience. You kind of have your own thing going on, and you want to develop that.

DAMIAN: There are often many revisions to the script throughout the shooting of ENDEAVOUR, can you describe your collaborative process with the writer Russell Lewis?

JIM: Russ is an exceptionally talented writer and a pleasure. Basically he told me what’s going to happen, and then I got on with it! We had a lot of fun, and he’s a very collaborative writer, full of ideas. When everyone sat and pondered, he’d go out for a crafty smoke – and come back with the solution.

DAMIAN: I know that Shaun Evans has a very particular view and insight into his character, often sharing his own opinions regarding the motivations of Endeavour etc. At what point would you say that most of his queries are resolved, during pre-production or while shooting?

JIM: Well anytime really. Anytime is fine with me, so long as it’s post coffee. We talked all of the time, throughout the whole process. Inevitably a lot of stuff gets worked out as you shoot, because the whole thing has come to life then, and the questions become more urgent and real, in a way. Shaun has a brilliant eye for the detail, which is important because ultimately he’s the guy that’s got to tell us what’s been going on. I loved watching him from the camera.

DAMIAN: And with a cast of such a high calibre as ENDEAVOUR, isn’t it a little daunting to direct actors who know their characters inside out and have been performing them for some years now?

JIM: Not daunting no, because actors are actors, you know? The process is the same. You’re all searching for the the truth of the piece, and looking to stretch yourself creatively.

DAMIAN: As opposed to projects such as ENDEAVOUR, would you say you enjoy more creative freedom when directing your own films which might be described as a little more intimate or personal?

JIM: In a way, yes, I mean on my films you kind of have complete freedom, because you are the originator of the project. But then I have to say the producers gave me a lot of creative freedom with this, which was really brilliant. It’s exactly what you want from producers really – encouraging you to go for it, to have the courage of your convictions. So creatively it was very rewarding, and I’m very proud of the result.

DAMIAN: Each ENDEAVOUR film has had a different director (apart from FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK and HOME which were both directed by Colm McCarthy), is there ever a sense that directors are expected to remain consistent to a particular style or are directors free to put their own visual stamp on their episodes?

JIM: The producers told me to put my own stamp on it. There’s no ‘house style’. They want you to do your thing. So that was a big reason to get involved.

DAMIAN: Would you say that you have a particular visual style?

JIM: Oh god, you know it’s not always easy to articulate, because it’s sort of intuitive, it’s a part of you. It’s a reflection of how you see the world, people, relationships, your aesthetic tastes, your hang ups – absolutely everything. I mean, I would say definitely yes – but that’s probably for others to judge…

DAMIAN: Which film or television directors do you admire?

JIM: So many. Cassavetes was my hero, the Dardennes, Winterbottom, Lynne Shelton, David O’Russell. So many. I think I’m probably influenced by everything I see, in some way – I guess we all are.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about your new film Measure of a Man which I believe is due to be released sometime this year?

JIM: It’s a classic American coming of age film, about an overweight kid, who just wants to fit in. It’s a film I’d wanted to make my whole life really – I think it’s a genre that American independent cinema does so well – and Stand by Me has been a film that I’ve always loved. I wanted to make a movie with more of a smile on its face, just lighter in tone – I thought it was time to have some fun. So there’s a lot of humour, but I think it’s a story that anyone can connect with, because we’ve all felt like an outsider at some point. Judy Greer, Luke Wilson, Donald Sutherland star alongside young Blake Cooper, who is incredible.

DAMIAN: And what is the legendary Donald Sutherland like to work with?

JIM: He’s deadly serious about the work of course, and tonnes of fun also, so it’s a good combination. I think he’s the most technically accomplished actor I’ve ever worked with, and he found an extraordinary emotional connection to the character. He’s done something quite special in Measure of a Man, and I can’t wait for people to see it.

DAMIAN: Your next film after that is another collaboration with screenwriter Rona Munro. What is it about her writing that you find so engaging?

JIM: Rona writes dialogue which is so beautiful, and so true, and we adore working together. I think we see the world similarly, which is important, and balance each other quite well, except she’s much cleverer than I am. I hope we can get to make another film soon – we have a script ready. But first I’m going to be making a film called The Panopticon – it’s a fantastic script by Jenni Fagan, adapted from her own novel. It’s set in Edinburgh, and a really special project.

DAMIAN: I notice that many films these days, particularly those with a relatively small budget, have many production companies, distributors and financiers credited in a list almost as long as its cast. How difficult is it to get your feature films made and into cinemas?

JIM: It’s hard, and getting harder, but others are better placed to say why. I just want to be able to raise enough money each time to make the films I want to make.

DAMIAN: What do you think you’d be doing now if you hadn’t decided to become a film and television director?

JIM: Ha, God knows! Centre midfield for arsenal?!

DAMIAN: Well I’m glad you did, particularly when you direct projects with such honesty and integrity. And I must say, I much prefer to see you directing in Oxford as oppose to Weatherfield. You know, I remember seeing Russ as a child and he kept a sick pigeon in a box at the bottom of his bed until it was well again. I wonder if you had any birds as a child – a kestrel perhaps?

JIM: HA! No birds, but we did have a cat called Fanny. Don’t ask why…

DAMIAN: Jim, thank you very much indeed and all the very best with all your future work.

JIM: Thanks!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis on PREY

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

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

Russell Lewis on PREY

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Nope.  Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Oh – the former, certainly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSS:  Thanks very much.  Until next time.

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THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES / 2810 / PREY

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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

No scriptwriters were harmed during the making of this interview

Charlotte Mitchell – An interview with ENDEAVOUR’s Costume Designer

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Charlotte Mitchell – Costume Designer

LAST SEEN WEARING

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: How would you describe Dorothea’s look?

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIAN: Charlotte, thank you very much indeed.

CHARLOTTE: Thank you Damian, great questions!

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

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