An exclusive Endeavour interview with James Bradshaw

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

DAMIAN: Our friend Dr Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn proved resilient to much of the culture and fashion of the 1960s but what are the chances of him succumbing to disco fever during the new decade?

JAMES: Well, I really can’t see Max going full Saturday Night Fever, but there are a few nods to 70s fashions starting to appear. Watching some of the news footage and TV shows from the early 70s, I noticed that everyone seemed to have long hair. Even serious politicians like Edward Heath had pretty impressive sideburns, so I did make a conscious effort to grow my hair. I told Russell I was aiming for a Rodney Bewes style bouffant. Viewers of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads will understand.

The wonderful ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ (1973-74) with James Bolam and Rodney Bewes (right)

I don’t think we are going to see Max strutting his stuff at the local disco, but there are hints in past episodes that he enjoys popular culture, in particular the Eurovision Song Contest, so I could imagine him happily tapping his feet to Mary Hopkin and Clodagh Rogers.

DAMIAN: What do you personally remember of the 70s; any key historic social, political or cultural moments that defined the decade for you?

JAMES: I was interested to read up on some social history about the early 70s before we started filming. It was certainly a time of much unrest and political upheaval, I mean, its incredible to think of the three-day-week happening today.

I was born in 1976, so my memories of the 70s are pretty vague, but I do remember some of the TV from that time, Tom Baker as Doctor Who, and Larry Grayson’s Generation Game. And Butterscotch Angel Delight was a culinary favourite. We moved house, and that was during the week of the 1979 election, so I guess that was a memory of quite an important political event.


ENDEAVOUR on the doorstop. MAX opens the door — wearing a cook’s apron, and with a knife in hand, he looks as if he’s just stepped out of his mortuary.

MAX: (re: the knife) Nothing sinister. I was just getting a seed cake out of the oven.


DAMIAN: I was disappointed it wasn’t a rather large Raspberry Royale! Are you yourself fond of seed cake?

JAMES: I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten seed cake. I am quite partial to date and apple flapjack. And Raspberry Royale is always a winner!

DAMIAN: And what about a Whisky Mac?

JAMES: I’ve been teetotal for years, but I’m sure Max enjoys a tipple, Whisky Mac, a few bottles of wine over meals, and gin and tonics down the pub.

DAMIAN: I’ve been asking Russ why we can’t see more of the good doctor’s home and personal life for years, so, like me, you must have been delighted to see Max’s house in the script?

JAMES: Oh yes, I was!

DAMIAN: And albeit only his doorstep and garden thus far, is it how you imagined Max’s home to be?

JAMES: I always had an idea that Max lived somewhere peaceful and aesthetically pleasing, that offered sanctuary, so when I saw the cottage and the beautiful location, I thought it was just wonderful.


A trug and a kneeler by well-tended flowerneds. Birdsong and the hum of drowsy bees. ENDEAVOUR amidst the floribunda – a long drink in hand. MAX comes out bearing a freshly baked seed cake, which he pops on the table.

MAX: Have to give it half an hour to cool. Well – this is a first. (re: drinks) Splash more?

ENDEAVOUR returns to table – MAX knocks up a Whisky Mac – scotch and ginger wine over ice.

ENDEAVOUR: Been here long?

MAX: Eight years? Yes. Eight years. Don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest. How d’you know where I live, by the way?

ENDEAVOUR: You’re in the book. (re: the house and garden) Nice.

MAX: I’m fighting a war of attrition with the greenfly over the tea-roses. Not very successfully, it must be said. But, yes – as a spot I’m rather fond. (a moment) Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?

DAMIAN: Don’t you think that both the passion for baking and his love of gardening was a great insight into how Max manages to keep his work and personal life at a safe distance?

JAMES: I loved playing those scenes. They were written so beautifully, and I think the niceties that Max has cultivated in his home life are encapsulated in that line, ’Something has to be lovely, doesn’t it?’

DAMIAN: Later in the scene, Max says that ‘I shan’t flatter myself it’s altogether a social call…’ and as we discussed in our first interview, Max and Endeavour have much more in common with each other than many of his other associates and are both on the same cultural and intellectual wavelength. So, isn’t it a pity they don’t socialise more and why do you think that is?

JAMES: I am sure work permitting, they do socialise. And more so, as they get to know each other over the years. It would be nice to see them enjoying a few drinks and a chat down the pub.

DAMIAN: The following is the how the scene originally ended in the script but was unfortunately cut:

ENDEAVOUR takes his leave…


MAX: Any time. (a moment) Look, I’ve got to ask. What are you doing? Stuck out in the middle of nowhere?

ENDEAVOUR: Minding my business, mostly.

MAX: Are you? It was a bad go with George Fancy. Bad for everyone. The break up of Cowley on top of it. (off Endeavour) Somebody’s got to rally the troops.

ENDEAVOUR: But not me. Not me. Not this time. So, don’t ask.

MAX: They’re broken, Morse. I can put bodies back together again – but hearts..?

ENDEAVOUR: There’s not enough vinegar and brown paper left, Max. Not to fix us both. I can’t do it.

MAX: Then all really is lost.

DAMIAN: I asked Russ about this scene and he told me he thought of Max as acting as Jiminy Cricket to Endeavour’s little wooden boy. What are your thoughts on this and do you, like the other members of the principal cast that I’ve interviewed, find it frustrating that many precious scenes with so much insight are often cut?

JAMES: Jiminy Cricket? I like that!! Yes, I do remember that scene and I thought there was a lovely poignancy in those lines. It’s a shame it was cut but there are always going to be limitations with screen time, and storyline takes priority. You can’t take it personally, its all part of the process.

DAMIAN: And speaking of scenes getting cut – shall we dance?


MAX working – swabbing down the slab. Humming a happy hum. Footsteps off – JAGO together with GOG and MAGOG [McGyffin’s heavies] – who are in poor CID mufti.

JAGO: Evening, Doc. Got a request from the Yard to transfer this Binks body to London.

MAX: Hollis Binks?

JAGO: That’s him, aye.

MAX: I assume you’ve got your Home Office 127 (b) chitty – which authorises transfer from my keeping.

JAGO: Oh, yeh, Doc.

MAX: In triplicate and counter-signed by a magistrate?

JAGO: It’s all in order. (the penny drops) There is no 127 (b) chitty, is there? Doesn’t exist.

MAX: Alas. (a nod to GOG and MAGOG’s footwear) And if those muddy boots have ever seen Hendon, then I’m Carmen Miranda.

MAX takes up a blade from his tray.

MAX: (CONT’D) What does exist, however, is a Number Four scalpel and a lifetime’s experience of wielding it. So. Shall we dance?


DAMIAN: It’s such a shame that this was cut because I would have loved to have seen Max “dance”.

JAMES: Yes, I remember that scene, I thought Richard Riddell was terrific as DS Jago, he brought a real menace to that role, so I was looking forward to squaring up to him in the mortuary. I remember there were a few changes on that script, and sadly it was cut before we started shooting.

DAMIAN: Again though, isn’t it scenes like this that reveal different layers to your character as I never would imagine Max to be quite so brave as to stand up to three bad guys?

JAMES: Oh, I don’t know about that, I think that underneath that sanguine exterior there is real moral fibre and a very steely resolve. His job requires a strength of character, and I don’t think Max would go down without a fight.


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

MAX: Chief Superintendent.

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

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

BRIGHT: Oh – er… A brandy, I think.

MAX attracts the attention of a passing waiter.

MAX: Albert. A brandy, if you would.

WAITER heads off.

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

BRIGHT: Excellent. Excellent. I’m sure.

MAX: Now – how may I be of service?

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

MAX: Always. Please. Speak freely.

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

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

BRIGHT: Julian is my wife’s specialist…


DAMIAN: I think this is one of my favourite scenes from the last or any series; written and performed to perfection.

JAMES: I’m so glad you enjoyed that scene, I thought it was beautifully written too, and working with Anton was a delight. Not only is he kind, witty, and wise, he has a wonderful generosity of spirit, which I think is priceless for an actor. And Leanne Welham directed that scene with such sensitivity. When you have days like that, you learn so much, and it really is an absolute privilege.

DAMIAN: The audience can infer that he doesn’t socialise with Bright any more than he does with Endeavour. Has Max got any friends to go out with?

JAMES: I am sure he has a varied social life, I imagine he plays Bridge and goes to concerts but as for real friendships, they are few in number. I imagine he would enjoy a platonic friendship with Dorothea, I could see them making regular trips to the Oxford Playhouse and enjoying saucy jokes and several large gins in the pub.

DAMIAN: You said in our first interview that ‘there is an eccentricity to Max, and a flamboyant persona, which is probably a useful device for steering clear of emotional attachments’. Would you say this extends to, and excludes, any sort of love life?

JAMES: Yes, I think so. There is no mention of a romantic partner and he lives alone. There was a scene in a previous film where Max was asked about the possibility of a recently discovered fatality being suicide, and I remember Max’s line, ‘Love’s very popular. The want of it. A broken heart.’ There was a lovely quote from Housman, and there was a real poignancy to that scene. I wondered instinctively if Max had perhaps had a brief love affair a few years previously which had ended unhappily.

ENDEAVOUR: Twenty-seven. What a waste.

MAX: Oh, he’ll have had his reasons, I expect. Love’s very popular. The want of it. A broken-heart.

MAX zips the remains into a rubber shroud — nods the MORTUARY MEN to cart the body off on a stretcher.

ENDEAVOUR: Where do you stand with all that?

MAX: Suicide?


MAX: Early in the day for metaphysics, isn’t it?

MAX holds ENDEAVOUR’s gaze a life-time long.

ENDEAVOUR: I’m sorry, it’s none of my business.

ENDEAVOUR looks upstream – embarrassed. MAX’s eye is set on some far distant country where falls not hail…

MAX: ‘And one was fond of me: and all are slain.’

ENDEAVOUR’s tongue – never far from Housman – finds the closing line.

ENDEAVOUR: ‘Ask me no more, for fear I should reply.’

MAX – a wry smile.

GAME (S4:E1)

DAMIAN: You also mentioned that both you and Colin Dexter hail from Stamford in Lincolnshire and you later discovered that there was a surgeon operating at Stamford Hospital around the 1950s named Doctor Du Bruyn. Did you ever find out more about him and if he was the inspiration for Max?

JAMES: I found out quite bit of information about Doctor Du Bruyn. Apparently Max was based on him and also a consultant who worked in Peterborough. As I mentioned before, Doctor Du Bruyn was very well known in Stamford, and those who remember him, say he was much respected and well liked. I even have a photo of him in a book called Stamford Memories.

DAMIAN: And finally, do you still learn lines in your local cemetery?

JAMES: Of course! Preparation is everything in the acting game, so as soon as the script comes in, I’m straight down to that cemetery and learning the lines.

DAMIAN: James, thank you very much indeed.

JAMES: Thanks Damian.

NOTE TO THE READER: James told me during our first interview that he treated himself to a nice pudding from Marks and Spencer when he landed the part of Max. Curious ever since, James finally revealed to me at the previous Endeavour unit base that the pudding was a rather large Raspberry Royale!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2020

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

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