If he can’t have her, he must hurt her…
Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019
DAMIAN: For the first few years at least, although it was always wonderful when Joan did pop up, she’d only make the occasional appearance opening the door for Endeavour and they’d flirt while he waiting for Thursday, that sort of thing, but now, well, you’ve become an integral part of the show and your character is now inseparable from the Morse mythology. To what extent were you aware of this, were there little clues in the scripts along the way or was it simply a lovely surprise?
SARA: I think at the beginning, there was no intention to have Joan as prominent a part of the show as she has grown to be (Russell may disagree with me here!). The Thursday family seemed to, in my mind, play the role of fleshing out Fred’s story, helping paint the picture of a family man. And for Morse, the Thursdays were a reminder of everything he was missing – family and companionship. But as the series progressed, there were clues that all the Thursdays were destined for bigger standalone stories. I remember very vividly reading one of the stage directions in HOME [S1:E4] where Morse walks Joan home, the stage directions eluded to a longevity between the characters. But nothing is ever a certain, things change, so every time I read the scripts, there is always an element of surprise.
DAMIAN: You mentioned in our previous interview that the directors of the early episodes often steered you towards light-hearted flirting and friendly teasing. I’m wondering if more recent directors now use words like melancholy, mournful and crestfallen?
SARA: Working with lots of different directors is a joy, they bring different energies and qualities to the world we are creating. There has been a bit of a leaning toward melancholy but I’d say it’s a natural progression due to storylines and character ‘baggage’ rather than a steer.
DAMIAN: Russ is very good at setting up grand and dramatic cliffhangers such as the one to series four where we discover Joan is pregnant. I wonder then, given it’s frequently the case that the opening to the following series is set months later, if you find it a little disappointing that you don’t get to explore the immediate aftermath of such scenarios as an actor?
SARA: I would have loved to have played some of those juicy moments!
DAMIAN: I found the rooftop scene from PASSENGER (S5:E3) to be one of the most beautiful and powerful of any series of Endeavour. Can you tell me a little bit about shooting the scene with Shaun?
SARA: Jim [Field Smith, director] was wonderful to work with.The film he created was visually stunning and had real heart. I discussed the scene with Shaun first off. It’s always nice to make sure we are on the same page. Jim allowed us to be free with our thoughts and choices which worked for us as Shaun and I tend to just see what happens in the moment. It was a beautifully simple scene that just lifted off the page.
DAMIAN: It was just so beautifully written by Russ and the two of you played the scene to perfection but why do you think Joan then tried to set Endeavour up with Claudine?
SARA: As I’ve just said, Shaun and I tend to have quite a bit of chat before we tackle a scene. This sometimes involves us scratching our heads as to why they don’t just get together (yes, we can get as frustrated as the audience!). I remember reading the scene in the readthrough. I was sat next to Abigail Thaw, she turned to me and said, ‘she’s testing him’. That thought played on my mind. Would he be willing to go with someone else? Could he be happier with someone else? I think it goes part of the way explaining the Claudine situation. I also think it has to do with trying to make a fresh start, trying to move on. That doesn’t always mean it’s right or not fraught with emotion.
DAMIAN: Given that he’s only just left her up there on the roof seconds previously, do you think that Endeavour’s immediate attraction to Claudine when he lights her cigarette somewhat undermined his feelings for Joan then?
SARA: The fact that he instantly hooks up with Claudine, doesn’t bode well for Joan and Morse being star crossed lovers! But then we have to wonder why it’s so immediate and why it is indeed with Claudine. It screams of someone whose been burned. But then I reckon I’m pretty biased!
DAMIAN: And then when Claudine leaves him, we have the scene from QUARTET (S5:E5) where they are standing outside her flat and she invites him in for coffee. Was Joan really inviting Endeavour in for something more than coffee so soon after his break up with Claudine?
SARA: This one is certainly up for debate… In my mind, it’s come in for coffee and sort this out once and for all! I think his decision not to come in gives her the impetus to draw a line, which is why we then see her refuse his offer.
DAMIAN: There was another lovely scene which was cut but some of the dialogue was reused again for this latest series and will hopefully find its place this time but doesn’t it reveal Strange to be a much more sensitive, perceptive and insightful man than anyone gives him credit for?
SARA: Sadly this scene is again, cut from the series. We couldn’t film it due to my other commitments.
DAMIAN: In the scene from APOLLO (S6:E2) why do you think Endeavour is so mocking and seemingly resentful of Joan trying to better herself with a career and becoming more cultured?
SARA: We loved filming this scene, a new side of their relationship to explore. Russ’ stage directions read ‘if he can’t have her, he must hurt her’. But for Joan, it’s no less hurtful for that! Using his intellectual superiority is a low blow and fairly uninventive for Morse.
DAMIAN: What was Shaun like to work with as a director?
SARA: It was weirdly the most natural thing. Nobody knows our story better, so to have him in control was the easiest of transitions. I knew he would do a fantastic job, his sets were warm and inclusive, and his passion, creativity and drive was there in abundance. The only thing I missed was our chats between takes. Being number one on the call sheet and directing doesn’t leave much time for nattering.
DAMIAN: I’m obviously not asking for any details but how far ahead do you know what Russ has planned regarding Joan and Endeavour?
SARA: Well we know there will be no white wedding, no surprise there. Russ has hinted he’s already written the final encounter, but what happens between then and now is anyone’s guess.
DAMIAN: Thursday obviously loves Win and his kids deeply but I suspect he also loves Endeavour as a trusted fellow police officer, a friend and perhaps even a surrogate son in light of the death of Cyril Morse back in HOME (S1:E4), and yet while I suspect Win might approve, given Endeavour’s forlorn and morose nature, I wonder how Thursday would react if they ever became a couple?
SARA: I’ve always thought he would be nothing but pleased. Morse is as dependable as they come and Joan’s energy could help balance out those darker moments.
DAMIAN: I asked in our first interview how you would describe Joan’s attraction to Endeavour and you said, ‘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.’ I wonder if your view has changed at all since then and the extent to which recent character developments for both Joan and Endeavour have made their relationship more describable or perhaps exactly the opposite?
SARA: Their feelings are much deeper for each other due to all they’ve been through, but in that process, so much more complicated. Perhaps now, they know too much…
DAMIAN: Sara, thank you very much indeed.
SARA: Thanks Damian. Always a pleasure.