source: square mile by Lydia Winter
Endeavour star Shaun Evans is swapping the towers of Oxford for the bowels of a submarine in new drama Vigil. The Liverpudlian actor takes us inside his new role
“I DON’T HAVE a goal for success, I just want to lead a very full life,” says Shaun Evans, during our interview. “Success is a funny, silly thing.”
A funny, silly thing it may be, but if that’s Evans’ goal, he’s achieved it: an actor on stage and screens both large and small for more than 20 years, he’s also a photographer, a director, a writer, and more, contributing to several photography books.
We speak as Evans finishes up post-production on Endeavour, in which he plays a young Inspector Morse, and as Vigil, the highly anticipated BBC drama airs.
In Vigil, Evans plays Glover, a submarine’s coxswain with a seemingly friendly disposition that hides a darker truth. If you haven’t started watching Vigil already, it’s a must – with cliffhangers and tension galore.
Here, Evans tells us about his love of film photography, why he’ll never play the ukulele, and about his upcoming role as a far-right extremist in a play called The Manor.
First things first: do you like submarines?
I couldn't think of anything worse. I’ve never been on one, but I did speak to a couple of submariners before I started the job just to see what it was like. But no, it would not be my bag at all.
I get a little bit claustrophobic and I like the freedom to be able to walk and get some fresh air and get a cup of coffee, and the idea of being stuck in a place for a prolonged period of time is just my idea of hell. And there would be no plants!
You had us fooled… Tell us about Glover, your character in Vigil.
Glover’s role is between the officers and the guys aboard the submarine, the crew. When DCI Silva gets flown on, he gets put in charge of looking after her and being as accommodating as possible – to her, on the one hand, but also to his own job. He's trying to be protective towards whatever's happened on the submarine prior to her arrival and prior to the death as well.
But then, as the story develops you realize that actually he's got his own personal reasons for trying to keep her… not quite under tabs, but just keep an eye on her in the guise of trying to be friendly with her.
I thought Tom and the other writers did a great job of stringing that out so that each part and each character is intriguing in their own way – they've got their own little thing going on, you know?
What did you enjoy most about filming the project?
There's loads of things. At a time when so many things were stopping and we were being forced to stay indoors, to have a legitimate reason to leave the house and go and do your work, which you love – I felt doubly blessed.
Apart from that, I really enjoy being in Scotland, and meeting all new actors who I've not met before. Both the more established ones and the young fresher ones – I thought they were just terrific, enthusiastic and really up for it. It feels very much like an ensemble, especially in this case because we were all teammates on a submarine.
I love Scotland, and because of Covid, it ended up being a much longer stint than I would have expected so I got to really see it. Each weekend I would go out and take my car, so each weekend I'd go out and explore new places. I loved Glasgow, it reminded me of Liverpool, which is where I’m from.
What did you make of Liverpool losing its UNESCO heritage status?
It was so disappointing and not a big surprise. Some of the fucking hideous buildings that they threw up on the waterfront, which was beautiful.
You would think that there would be some rules that would mean that you're not sticking up these awful buildings that are only going to be there for thirty years next to this extraordinary Victorian and Georgian architecture.
What’s been your most formative role?
I don’t actually know if I have one – I feel luckier to have worked so much over the past 20 years. And to have done all different kinds of things, some better known than others, from TV, to directing, to producing. I feel really lucky that I've managed to stay in the game.
Each thing that I'm doing at the moment always feels the most challenging and interesting and intriguing, for better or for worse.
With acting, it goes from being very intense to knocking off and you're given the opportunity to settle and think, that was interesting.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
You're learning about a situation and you’re also learning to be more sympathetic to things that perhaps you wouldn't have been sympathetic to on the surface.
For example, I'm about to do a play at The National called The Manor, where my character is the leader of a far right extremist group. My hope is that it'll be really interesting, but I'm intrigued to grapple with that world and grapple with finding something sympathetic about that person. I haven’t started prepping for it yet, but I’m really interested in who this character might be. I don't know anyone like that; it's a world that kind of scares me, that idea of extremism.
I'm quite a harmonious person. I would always try and reach out to people that would be more of my inclination, and to be inclusive. So I'm intrigued and slightly scared by that world of separation.
The other thing I like about acting is that it goes from being very intense to knocking off and you're given the opportunity to settle and think, ‘that was interesting’.
So what do you do when you knock off?
I love the freedom of being able to put a backpack on. I'm a big photography fan, so I just get a backpack, take my camera and bag full of film and go to interesting places, and then come back and process the photos in my dark room.
I like feeling like I’ve done something, even if it's the simple act of taking pictures, going to a darkroom and making prints. I can hang it on my wall, or I can give it to a friend as a gift – I'm not saying that it's like fine art, by any means, but I still need to feel like I've achieved something. That's really important to me.
What have you photographed recently?
For The Holy Water Project, I went to Lourdes in France. I was intrigued by the original story – whether you're religious or not, it's an incredible place. I was thinking about the story of the apparition that appeared to this girl and told her to dig upon the spot and then on the spot the sacred waters appeared and had curative properties, if you choose to believe that.
It reminded me of when you’ve got the idea for a book or a story or a film – the way you hold that vision in front of you. I was having a cup of coffee and was equating the two, and then suddenly decided to go to Paris, and on to Lourdes and just do it.
Film or digital?
What I love about film is that you need to just be open to whatever is whatever you find while you're there, whether the light is good or bad, or whether it's an interesting place to see or not, but it makes you really look at a place.
It’s the same with directing, because you use different parts of your brain and you have a more of an overview of the story. But in that case you need a vast amount of resources.
That’s why shooting with film is very intentional, it's not an accident – I try to make it as basic as possible: one camera, one lens, film, no flash.
But I’m archaic like that – I've got a typewriter for when I write stuff. It makes you think about what you’re doing more. It's so easy to erase shit on your computer, and likewise with digital photography, it's so easy to fucking erase it, that I think there's something about going back to basic trains you to think differently.
Do you think that you're a perfectionist?
No, I don't think I'm a perfectionist, but I can't bear laziness or doing anything half assed, you know. If someone says, "that'll do" – I'm like, "it fucking won't do".
You’re involved in a lot of projects. Is there anything that you want to do that you haven't tried yet?
I'd certainly like to put a book together of images and words. But that doesn't feel massively unachievable. The contributions, slowly and surely to lots of different little books is a way of me trying to think about that.
What about music?
Oh fucking hell, I wish I could. I've tried the ukulele. the piano. I fucking tried it all and for some reason it just won't click.
What are you most proud of?
When I was young, I had terrible terrible asthma. I was in hospital all the time on drips. I actually don't remember mostly until I was about 11 or 12, so it was more trying for my family.
When I was 20 I was just splitting up with a girl and I decided to run a fucking marathon, man. It was really brutal, but I remember thinking, ‘that was good. I never thought I'd be able to do that, and I just did’.
What has been your biggest life fail?
I don't really see things like that. I have regrets about the ending of some relationships and friendships, but I do believe that everything leads us to the next point. That's why success is such a funny, silly thing…
Perhaps one of my regrets is that I haven't been as kind as I could've been. Sometimes we can be so obsessed with our opinion, our take on things, that you fail to see the others' takes on things. Sometimes I wish my own internal voice wasn't quite so loud and that I could create time to listen and understand.
But long as you can acknowledge it, then you can try to do better next time, try to be more generous and open, and ask more questions about people.
Where do you think you'll be in five years?
I’d like to be doing the same thing I'm doing now, but to be doing it more skilfully. Oh bloody hell, I've got a ways to go. I can definitely be a better actor and director, take better pictures.
For me, I don’t think I’m constantly moving towards this huge successful goal, but the goal seems to be a life which is very full, and a life which is very, hopefully long and packed with these things where some things will be better than others, but as long as I can keep getting better at them. That's how I would term success.
Ox In a Box
‘Morse is suffering' Shaun Evans on the new Endeavour Series 8 plus Morse's relationship with DCI Thursday, alcohol and Joan!
“It’s great to be back. We have all known each other such a long time, both the cast and the crew. So, it was good to get back and make sure everyone was OK. And for everyone to be doing their work,” Shaun Evans says.
As Shaun reprises his role as DS Endeavour Morse for three new compelling cases on ITV in Endeavour this Sunday at 8pm alongside Roger Allam as DCI Fred Thursday, he is obviously relieved to be on our screens once more, after filming was delayed by over a year due to Covid.
More than that, so many questions remaining unanswered for his millions of global fans; is Morse heartbroken after Violetta‘s death at the end of Series 7? Does he ever get together with Joan? How is his relationship with DCI Thursday now, what was it like directing himself again? And more importantly, how is DS Endeavour Morse?
“Morse is suffering. When we pick Endeavour up in February 1971 he is drinking too much, not coming into work, phoning in sick quite a bit. That’s what we see over the course of the whole season. That getting slowly worse.
“But a drink problem is only a manifestation of something else. It’s not just the booze. It’s everything. Then finding a release in booze. It’s too easy to explain something away as alcoholism. That’s not what we were reaching for with it. It’s actually about not being able to cope with life on life’s terms. It is incredibly complicated.
“I do think there is something really interesting in where we find him and how his misery manifests. There was more of a drinking culture then so it was much more acceptable. You could definitely hide it in plain sight,” Shaun says.
Does that keep things fresh for Shaun then, this eternal evolving of his character? “The challenging thing is always to try and take Endeavour to a new place, but without changing it completely from what we’ve done before,” he says.
Filmed on location in Oxford, the cast which reunited with Shaun and Roger for the eighth series include Anton Lesser as CS Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby as DS Jim Strange, James Bradshaw as Dr Max DeBryn, Abigail Thaw as Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday and Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday.
And having directed the first episode himself, Shaun is right in the thick of it. So where do we find our favourite TV detective when the series screens on ITV on Sunday night?
“The first film includes scenes of Oxford Wanderers playing a football cup tie match and then a replay. Because of Covid we couldn’t use lots of people for the crowd scenes. It’s difficult to fill a stadium as you might have done,” he says.
Presumably that was a massive obstacle? “In terms of the pandemic, it’s all difficult. There’s no two ways about it. If you think about the nature of the stories, there’s an intimacy even in the smaller scenes. So, you have to be able to get close.
“But what I would say is that it was our intention not to make the best thing under Covid restrictions, but actually make the best thing full stop.
“So in terms of the crowds, it just becomes very expensive, because getting a group of people, as many as possible, you will test them in advance and you’re asking them to self-isolate.
Which must have made it even harder to direct? “From a directorial point of view, you have to be very judicious about what you’re going to see and where, which is no harm to me because I’m really into preparation anyway,” he says.
“One of the wonderful things about it was, it just brought everyone together at the very beginning. How are we going to make this work while keeping everyone safe? It was a tireless effort from the crew. I have to take my hat off to them. It was also an extraordinary learning curve. That is one of the great things about directing and producing as well. You are certainly part of a team.
“It’s very clear to me in my mind what we’re trying to achieve and it was when I read the first script and then read the books. So, staying true to my own vision of it was important.”
And what of his relationship with DCI Thursday. Can that ever be truly healed?
“Things have been slightly fractious between them. Thursday was with Morse when Violetta died at the end of the last season so at the beginning of this series it’s more about concern.
“Thursday can cut him some slack but he sees that Morse is not turning in on time and when he is coming in he’s not presenting very well. Always looking a bit scruffy and stinking of booze.
“The balance is trying to do these things with a lightness of touch. The great thing about these stories is the audience get to see way more about Endeavour than the other characters do. They are always one step ahead of Thursday in a way, in terms of Morse’s personal life. I think it’s a slow dawning for Thursday over the course of the season.
“Russell Lewis has really done a great job with the scripts. Human beings are so complex. People want to label things and explain them away. But you can’t. One of the beauties of being able to do something long form like this where we return to it again year on year is that hopefully you have the opportunity to show that in a way that’s a little more subtle. That has always been the intention from us all.”
And what of Joan. Are they finally going to get together?
“Where we meet them at this point in the new series, because he’s made himself so vulnerable in the previous season, there’s a certain reluctance to be as open. There is more of a protective quality, a shield, that has grown over,” Shaun confides.
“Joan has seen Endeavour at his worst a couple of times now. There’s a choice to either continue on that path and go deeper or to feel embarrassed. You don’t want that person to keep seeing you at your lowest ebb. And so, you have a defense mechanism, you push them away, you antagonise them and put the focus on them. But only because he’s in so much pain.
“There is a balance because you’re making a TV show. The balance comes with the trade off between the detective story and all of those beautiful, lovely character elements. We all aspire to make them as truthful and as relatable and recognisable as possible. Then you put it against crime stories which just by their very nature have to be incredibly complicated.”
Which begs the inevitable question about Series 9 and whether it will go ahead? “That’s a decision for the whole team. As we have always done, we need to finish this series, take a look at it, take a view over what was done well, if there’s still a story to tell and if we all still want to tell it. So, we’ll see.
“You want to make it the best it can be. Tell the stories and do justice to Russell Lewis’ work and everyone else’s work. That spurs me on. Yes, it’s tiring. But anything worth doing is tiring. You’ve just got to get on with it. I love work. So, it’s all good.
“My hope is that by the end of film three we have really managed to drill down over the course of these three episodes into something interesting and what the response is like. To be honest, we will know then where we are with it.”
Endeavour Series 8 returns to ITV at 8pm on Sunday night.
by 1883 film
When I speak to actor Shaun Evans via Zoom in early August, any notion of having a standard question and answer interview is immediately thrown out the window.
After making our introductions, Evans says he’s interested in having a nice conversation, which I happily agree with, and thus we descend into a nearly hour-long discussion about several different topics while skirting around the main thing I’m meant to be asking him about: his acting career. Evans is charismatic, warm, and inviting, and we discuss our shared love of Donna Tartt, his passion for photography, and my desire to write a novel. Throughout our conversation Evans does discuss several of his current projects, including the upcoming BBC series Vigil as well as the eighth season of his beloved ITV/PBS drama Endeavour. But in between these tidbits he encourages me to follow my dreams and we laugh so heartily that it feels like I’m talking to a friend, not someone I’ve only just met.
Evans has been acting since the early 2000s and has had notable roles in films like Being Julia and The Scandalous Lady W. He’s about to start production on the new play Manor, a dark comedy that will grace The National Theatre stage in the late Fall. We begin the conversation with a question about his somewhat sinister character in Manor, and this is what unexpectedly spurs us on our looping journey for the duration of our chat.
He excitedly shares insight about his burgeoning career as a director and what it was like to film the intense thriller that is Vigil. Ultimately though, I ended up learning more about him as a person than as an actor, which is something I hope his fans will enjoy as much as I did. Yes, Shaun Evans is immensely talented—his quiet mannerisms and thoughtful acting choices immediately draw your attention. But, perhaps more importantly, he is a genuinely kind individual who leads from a place of dedicated wonder, which is what seems to be the key ingredient to his success.
1883 Magazine spoke with Shaun Evans about a medley of subjects including, but not limited to: bookstores in London, how Annette Bening helped shape his career, and the gratification of doing what you love for a living.
I wanted to ask, first, about your role in the new play Manor. Not a lot of information is available right now other than the announcement that it’ll be in production at the National Theatre in London. But what can you tell us about your character?
It’s a new play by a writer called Moira Buffini and it’s going to be directed by their sister, Fiona Buffini. I’ve not worked at the National Theatre before, but obviously I’ve seen an enormous amount of plays there and I’ve always been dying to work there. And so, they sent me the script and I was really taken with it as soon as I read it. In fact, I was like, Yes! This is fucking brilliant! [Laughs].
[Laughs]. That’s how you want to feel, though!
Yeah! That’s always a good sign! I was like, Yes, this is fucking great! It’s about, I would say, the state of the nation. In a very humorous and dark kind of way. The setup essentially is a manor house and the lady of the manor…it kind of…I don’t want to say Agatha Christie, but it’s that kind of vibe. And there’s an apocalyptic storm raging outside, and then people sort of descend upon this house to shelter from the storm, essentially. And then my character arrives with his cohorts and he’s the leader of a Far-Right extremist group. So he comes in and sort of turns everything on its head in a very interesting, mercurial, and fascinating way. What I particularly love about it from reading…because we haven’t really started on it yet…I love that it sort of speaks to where we are now. But in a way that’s in no way heavy handed. It’s actually incredibly light, incredibly funny, but also really dark, too. So hopefully it’ll be a good experience.
When you mentioned the Far-Right aspect of your character, it definitely felt like something that’s really relevant to our time right now. But it’s reassuring that it’ll be more of a lighter tone, because obviously we have a lot of heaviness surrounding that in the news.
I also feel like when you’re holding a mirror to things, there’s no point in doing it in a way that…well, not that there’s no point, but it’s my taste that if you want something really brutal, you can turn the news on. But if you want something to really touch people, you need to bring them in in a kind of humorous way, do you know what I mean? Make them laugh, then suckerpunch them. It brings a more interesting experience, a more theatrical experience, rather than a reflective experience, in a way.
You don’t want to start off with that severity because, like you said, you’re already inundated with those sorts of things in your daily life with the news. So, it’s better to have a slight of hand where you draw them in with the humour but then you’re like, Wait!
Yeah! Exactly. You should come along when we start. We start rehearsing at the end of October and it’s on in November/December, if you fancy coming along.
That would be amazing, I would love that!
I’ll make sure there are tickets for you.
Wow, thank you! That’s incredible. I’ve never been to the National Theatre, so I would love that. I’ve only been to London once so I’d like to plan a trip back.
Oh, fuck! I thought you were like in London and that you were just from Boston!
No, I wish! I would love to live in London but it’s actually incredibly difficult to get a visa to live in the U.K.
Oh, well you should still come over!
I was actually wanting to plan a trip because there are a bunch of bookstores in London that I really want to visit.
What bookstores do you want to visit?
I have such a big list! I’m a really big reader, and I only did the sort of tourist-y things the first time I went to London, so I want to make sure I hit all the bookstores this time around…see a show…
I love London because it has so much going for it. There’s always so much going on. Sometimes I think, God, I feel exhausted by this place but then I’m like…you can go and do anything. There’s so many amazing, interesting things you can do. And even little adventures as you walk down the street. I feel like London is such an awesome, alive place in many ways. But listen, I’m a big reader too, so what bookstores do you want to visit? And what are your favorite books? If I’m putting you on the spot, it’s okay.
[Laughs]. No, it’s totally fine! I definitely want to go to John Sandoe Books.
Ahhhhh, I used to live on that road! That’s my favorite bookstore in London!
That’s amazing! I’ve seen so many pictures and it looks so beautiful.
It’s the best. I love it. I love that place. Have you been to Shakespeare and Co. in Paris?
No, but that’s also on my list!
[Laughs]. Of course it is! But this [John Sandoe Books] is kind of cut from the same cloth. But John Sandoe’s is way less tourist-y. It’s just…rickety and magnificent. It’s a really fantastic place.
I love a rickety staircase.
Especially when they’re covered in books. Piled high with books.
I would probably have to spend eight hours there.
And all your wages! [Laughs].
[Laughs]. I would spend all my money.
And you’ll have to pay for your heavy luggage on the way back! [Laughs].
[Laughs]. I know! I’ll have to ship stuff out from London like, “Can I just pay hundreds of pounds to send these boxes back to the States?”
And they’ll be like, “You could have just picked it up on Amazon”.
It’s about the experience, though!
What I love about a place like that is when you get to know…I lived near there for about four years and then I moved, but what I love about old places like that is once they get to know you and sort of know your tastes, I kind of like that they’ll say Oh, this is coming out! I think you might like this! Do you know what I’m saying?
It’s better than Amazon saying, Hey you bought this book, you’ll probably like this one. It’s more personal, because a person can pick out the nuances of what you like.
Exactly! And even if you think the book is not good, or it’s not for you, I love being able to say that afterwards and actually be able to have a discussion with someone. You can be like, Thank you for recommending it, but I wasn’t so taken with it for this reason and then it becomes a weird book group. And that’s what I love about London.
You start a book club by accident because everyone overhears you talking about something.
Totally, totally! That’s cool, man.
What’s your favorite book?
What’s my favorite book of all time?
Of all time.
In my top three at least would be “One-Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez. What I love about it is…we share a birthday. Take from that what you will. [Laughs]. What I love about it is…I can come back to it anytime and pick it up again and find something new. And I also feel like when I read it that there’s no sentence which is spared. I feel like each sentence is like a wave that’s like crashing on the shore, and each one is adding to the next, and each one is building on the next and building on the one previous. So, when it comes to the end it’s like…it’s been a full experience…a really full on, incredible experience. I love it. It’s one of my favorite books. What’s yours?
Mine would be “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt.
Oh, she’s fucking amazing, isn’t she?
When you were describing all of that, that’s also how I feel about “The Secret History” because every detail matters. It seems like it wouldn’t because it’s such a dense book, but when you get to the end and you reveal everything, you realize that she just perfectly wrote everything so it all came together. And it’s immersive, and it’s creepy, and I love it. It’s my favorite.
I think she herself is kind of extraordinary. Have you read “The Goldfinch”?
Yes! Weirdly enough, I started with “The Goldfinch” and loved it, thought it was incredible, and then wanted to go back and read her other work. She has another book, “The Little Friend”, I don’t know if you’ve read that?
I’ve not read it yet!
It’s probably not as good as the other two.
That’s good to know actually. She’s such an extraordinary writer. I feel like…and this is so rare but so amazing when you do get it, but when you read something and you’ve felt everything there with those people. I was totally there, I was totally present. That is an extraordinary thing when you think about it, right? Someone has sat at their kitchen table or wherever they’re sitting…at their desk…and they’re just putting words on paper but it’s translated and makes you feel something and you go on an experience. And I feel like that with Donna Tartt. Her work is…I started to watch videos of her on YouTube…weird [laughs] but she takes years to write her books, doesn’t she?
She takes ten years to write them! Which is incredible. I wish that’s all I had to do — to be able to just take ten years to write a book and that’s all I had to do for money, for creativity, for life.
Do you write novels?
I’m trying. [Laughs]. Trying being the operative term. I’ve started, but it’s sort of a matter of making time for it, putting the work into it. I write for a living now, so sometimes it’s hard to do, like, journalism all day and then still feel creatively inspired to write for myself.
You have to do it. Because only you can. If it means setting your alarm at 5:00 a.m. and writing until 8:00 a.m. every morning before you have to start your day’s work, you’ve got to do it. Because life is short, and you don’t know what genius and brilliance is lurking away…that you don’t even know yourself, do you know what I mean? It’s so important to do your work. So, please do that.
I appreciate you saying that, thank you. I want to make the time for it because I want to grow old, hopefully, and not look back and think I should have done that because, what else am I doing with my time? What’s more important than doing what I want to do?
Totally. That’s why I think it’s important to get up super early and like, knick an hour or two hours or three hours for yourself where you’re like….make it your sacrosanct where you’re like, I’m not answering any phone calls, I’m not answering any emails, I’m doing my thing.
You do have to block the world out.
You have to be selfish! But I think it’s worth it because it’s your work, it’s important.
Thank you for saying all of that. And obviously that approach is paying off for you in so many ways, because you’re not just acting but you’re directing and producing, which I think is incredible that you’re able to pursue all these passions simultaneously. That must be rewarding?
It is, it is! It’s really rewarding. I feel incredibly privileged with it, you know? I also think as well the more you sort of…your role as a storyteller, as an actor, you realize…this is for me, anyways, but I realize my limitations. My limitations to tell the stories I can tell, just my physical limitations. And, so, it’s good to feel like you have the agency to tell stories that don’t depend on you being able to play the part but to have an overview of something. But also, more importantly, to have your opinion and your overview taken seriously. And then to realize yourself, Oh, I actually do want to do this, I do want to do these things and I feel like that goes across most things. I take a lot of photographs as well, and it’s like going back to what you were saying about writing, I think that is, for me, one of my times where I’m really selfish. If I’m not working, if I’m not doing my work, then I’ve got my camera, I’m in the darkroom, and I’m just making sure I’m doing it. Because it’s important. And similar to what you were saying about the writing, I feel like…that’s just me. If I don’t do that, it’s not going to happen. And also…nothing is dependent on this. I’m not trying to make a living off this, I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to make pictures that I think are interesting and capture a little bit of something in the world. That seems like a weird and sort of stupid waste of time to most people, but I think it’s one of the most important things.
Yeah, absolutely. Have you always been really interested in photography?
I have, actually. My first job was in a photography store when I was like fifteen. So, I’ve always been super…it’s always been analog though, never digital. And…yeah, I’ve always been into it. But recently I’ve printed like 20 years worth of images…some of them are just snapshots, but interesting, and others are much more abstract. What I like is to be able to take the pictures, go to the darkroom, and sit with them over a period of time, and then if you think they’re any good I can frame them and hang them on my wall or I can give them to friends. But I like that I’ve built up a community of photographers around me as well whose work I really admire, and we can share images and you can learn in that way. I learned from these guys, and ladies, and learned without the pressure of anything.
Do you still use only analog now? Or have you gotten into digital photography, too?
I’m actually more analog than ever, to be honest with you. I shoot one color and one black and white. I’m much more black and white now.
I love black and white photography!
Me too, me too! Because I feel like people look at black and white more closely than they do at color photography. There’s a degree of…I like many, many different types of photographs, but what I like about black and white is that I feel like it’s from my memory sometimes where I see images or from your subconscious, because they’re not as pin sharp as digital.
It’s a little imperfect because you’re paying attention to the details, but it doesn’t have to be as crisp or in focus. You can go with the flow of whatever you’re seeing at the moment.
Exactly. It can be natural, but you’re not trying to replicate life in a way. You’re just saying, this is what I see right now and things might be out of focus, but in a way that’s kind of a good thing. And also, I think with film, it leaves a little bit of room for like a bit of voodoo. There might be a light leak or something, which I always think is an interesting thing because then when you’re developing you’re like, Oh, bloody hell, I can see that! but it adds to it in a way and reminds me of a memory or a dream that I’ve had or something from my subconscious that doesn’t depend on being super sharp because it never really is. There’s something about it that I get a monster kick out of, yeah.
I think that’s incredible. I’d love to see the photos, I bet they’re amazing.
Some of them are cool. I mean, again, they’re kind of a bit abstract in a way. I went to France just before the lockdown and went to this place of holy pilgrimage where I just checked into a hotel…but again, this is kind of going back to what I was saying to you earlier about getting up early and doing your work as a writer, because I was just writing some stuff down and was like, It could be interesting to go to this place and check into a hotel and see. Because the story of it is that a hundred years ago, this girl…do you know the story of Lourdes?
No, I’ve actually never heard of it before.
It’s complex but…not that I’m a religious person, but I just find people interesting, you know? So, basically this girl was…I think she was sixteen, and she claimed to have had a vision of the Holy Mother who had told her to dig on a particular spot. And everyone in the village was like, Come on. But this apparition kept appearing to her, so she started to dig, and then on that spot a well sprung and then it became…she became a Saint, even though she died really early, and then from the spring, in the Catholic faith, people go to be cured. And so people believe that it’s got curative properties. So I thought it might be interesting to go to France and to take some photographs, collect the water from the spring, bring it back to the darkroom and then make the prints with the water, just to see. And then you’ve taken the physical elements of that space and tried to put them into your work and make them something else. And see what could happen.
I think that’s an incredible idea. Not only that you were going there, but that you were using the water from there as well.
Yeah, the physical elements of it. Last weekend there was this mountain climb in Ireland, so again it’s kind of spur of the moment so I went and checked into a hotel and there’s this mountain that people climb and it was even…like, Pagans used to do it. We’d climb at a place called Croagh Patrick, and sometimes people would even do it in their bare feet. And you get to the top of the mountain and depending on how the weather is you can either see for miles, or you’re sort of in the clouds and it’s white, it’s just a white out, and you’ve got figures moving around and saying prayers and laughing and joking. But it’s a very strange and unusual place. But again, I did the same—I took a bag of film with me, took my camera, took a bunch of photographs, and there’s a stream that comes down so I was like…Got my bottle of water, drank it, then filled it with water from the stream and came back and put that water in the dark room. So, I’m going into the dark room next week to see what comes of that. But I think it’s like…when I’ve got time where I’m not doing acting or directing, you have to pay attention to things and think, Oh that could be an interesting thing to go and do. Because you’re just doing your thing. And also, at the same time, I’m trying to train my eye so that when I’m coming back to storytelling…
You’ve got a different perspective. Because you’ve creatively opened how you’re viewing things.
Exactly, exactly. And also you’re doing your work but in a far less pressured way and more of a Let’s see what happens if we go on this journey sort of way. Which I really dig.
That must be helpful to you in terms of when you’re directing. Because now, when you’re looking through a lens and seeing how things organically come together, it’s probably easier, right? I know you have to stick to specific scenes and things when you’re directing for Endeavour, but…
Exactly. I think that’s the art of directing though is how you shoot those things. That is, for me, what separates it. It certainly adds to that. You should educate your visual eye. And the more work you do, the more you’re getting to know your tastes, what you actually feel about things, what you like and what you dislike and what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.
Everything you try isn’t going to be successful or give you that same fuzzy feeling when you’re like, Oh I’ve got something right!
For sure, for sure. I also think the great thing is you can balance it out. You’ve done your work, your photography work, and that’s just for you. But then you have to fit yourself to the project if you’re working as director, you have to be mindful of what the product you’re trying to make is. So, you can’t be like, I wanna do it all! It’s not going to work if you shoot it.
PBS is gonna be like, Yeah…I don’t know about all this. [Laughs].
Who said we’d let him direct?!
Put him back in front of the camera! It’s funny to hear you talking about photography like this because I actually interviewed Lauren Lyle and she was saying that when you guys were filming Vigil that she was doing a ton of photography on set and that it’s something she’s really interested in, too.
Our paths didn’t cross because I was only on the submarine in Vigil.
I know, I was very interested in that because when I spoke to her, she could say so little about what was going on. I was actually able to see a preview of the show thanks to the BBC, which was very exciting, but what was that like for you to film? It’s obviously an extensive cast but like you’re saying, you’re on the submarine so you’re completely separate from the cast on land.
I really looked at….you know, to be honest with you, it just felt really joyful. Coming from Endeavour where you’re wearing a lot of hats to come and do this, and be like, I’m simply going to come in and just do my acting work, and then I’m gonna leave. Like, I’m going to be part of this group but I’m not going to be. I’m going to take responsibility only for my work and be a part of a team rather than feeling like you have to lead something. So, I wanted to just enjoy the very simple act of acting, again, to be honest with you. And so, which is a joyous life, can be a joyous life. But, you have to feel free to do so. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed being part of the team on the submarine because it felt very much like a team, and also the part I was playing which, is the coxswain, he sort of stands between the officers and the crew in a way and sort of liaises between the two, he’s got to have a foot in both camps. I got to have a relationship with both the officers and also with the crew, and so that meant I got to hang with everyone on the submarine. And I was really blown away by everyone…by many, many things on production, but the young actors from Scotland who were more , ike, at the beginning of their careers, were so fucking ace and so full of enthusaism. It was just delightful. And to also work with the more established actors who were coming in, doing their work, and being brilliant. And the directors as well, it was nice to come in and watch…that’s the great privilege, and it’s rare too, to be able to watch the directors work. So, I can sit and watch them in a very easy way and ask them questions and see how they do things. How each different director does things. James [Strong] and Isabelle [Sieb] both of whom I admire as a director, who directed the first and second blocks. It was great to be able to see their work, you know?
It’s nice that they facilitated an environment where you could feel comfortable asking questions and why they made the artistic choices they made. It must be such an interesting filming experience because…it feels cramped, when you’re watching it. It feels claustrophobic on the ship.
The set was like that! It was like that. It was vast in a way that was incredibly detailed and enabled you to shoot in a very narrow and condensed, claustrophobic way, so it was an extraordinary set, so I have to pay tribute to those guys. But, to go back to the director thing. I would never ask them, Why did you do this? Tell me about it. Because, as a director, you don’t want to feel like people are breathing down your neck. So I would simply observe them.
You’re not like, What’s going on here? [Laughs]
[Laughs] Excuse me, before we go on, why are you doing that? Is that a wise choice?
They’re sweating, like Uhhhh…
And it’ll be my last job as an actor as well!
You’re getting fired from everything. Now you have to do photography full time because they’re like, This guy is overly excited…[Laughs].
[Laughs]. That’s me, jack of all trades, master of none!
The show feels tense when you’re watching it, so it’s nice to know it wasn’t that type of environment when you were filming it.
It feels very claustrophobic, and I’m a little bit claustrophobic anyways. But it feels that way, I think, which is what I imagine submarines do feel. So, it’s good, I’m glad that comes across. But, on set, I always think it’s important to have a laugh and to not feel pressured. You have to feel free in order to do your best work. You have to feel like you can have a laugh, do your thing, make mistakes, and hopefully something interesting will happen. If it’s a pressure cooker atmosphere, that won’t work.
Because then you’re going to feel like everything is being scrutinized, and you’re not going to feel like you have the creative freedom to play off someone in a scene. Or, someone might bring something to the scene that you weren’t expecting, and you should be able to react to that freely.
That’s the hope, right? That everyone will bring something. But you have to be open to receiving that. So then you can go, Oh that’s amazing and react to it. But if it’s pressured where it’s, Do this, stand there, say this, it can become a tedious thing and it wasn’t that way on Vigil, mercifully.
I always feel like my favorite scenes in movies and things are the ones that sort of feel unscripted, where someone is just playing off whoever they’re with. So, it’s good when you have the ability to do that in your own work.
That starts with the directors. And I completely agree. I always look for those and I think that’s the most interesting behavior, and one of the most interesting things to watch, if you just leave the camera on people and let them be actors and let them do their thing. Their own little thing, in their own private moment, where they can pretend they’re not being looked at, where it’s beyond scripted things. That’s where I think the non-verbal communication can reveal so much about our business. It’s kind of fascinating.
Do you feel like you have that same experience when you’re on Endeavour?
I think it’s always important to go through your script to highlight the, for me at least, to highlight the moments which are incredibly important for you from an emotional point of view, you know? Which may on the surface not seem that way, but actually where you can open up that doorway, and reveal something about the inner world of your character, rather than just getting on with the plot. I’ve always tried to make it my mission to do that both as an actor and when I’m working as a director as well, to try and make it that way because… on the one hand, you’ve got something where each scene needs to lead to the next in order for the plot of the story to work, but actually how we feel about each other, how I feel about a certain thing, the topic, how I feel about myself….All of those things are actually what are interesting to watch.
It’s the characters that make it and their interactions. I feel like as a viewer, it’s amplified when it feels real, like when it feels like somebody is really responding to something or you can see it just by a facial expression, how they’re responding to something. I definitely think your plot could be great, but if the characters aren’t sort of living in it and contributing to it, it’s not the same viewing experience.
I completely agree. I completely agree. And so, I mean with some filmmakers, you know, I’ve worked with some filmmakers. That is the style. But it’s not my taste. My taste is to, like…I want to see people doing things that I can, if not relate to, understand them on some level. And believe that they are that person, in that thing, having that experience.
When I watch certain actors perform sometimes, I’m just like, Oh, it’s that person. You don’t believe they’re the character and then it pulls you out of the experience.
I mean, it’s tricky. Very early on, I had the enormous good fortune of working with a terrific actor called Annette Bening. She is always alive when she works. The work is always incredibly alive. To me, and, and she’s different in everything that she does and so I always believe she is that person having that experience, you know? I think her work is extraordinary and I worked with her when I was in one of my first jobs actually, and that’s something to aspire to. That is what it means to be an actor.
She’s so convincing in everything. Even something like the way she’ll squint her eyes to emphasize something, you’re immediately drawn into it. You’ve focused on her.
Sometimes you watch movies and you’ve got movie stars who can be dazzling, and that’s not me, but that’s kind of cool, too. But I think Annette is kind of amazing. I don’t know how we got onto that, but it’s good. [Laughs].
[Laughs]. Well I was going to ask if there was a specific actor or performer who made you want to get into acting yourself, so that was good timing.
I think I was 21 or 22 when I worked with her. So, it was like my first year of working. And I remember thinking…I had so much to learn, to be honest. On that piece of work I thought, Wow, she’s so in control of her shit. Like, both as she conducts herself on set but also in her work, too. I thought that was really something. For you as a writer, is there anyone you see where you’re like, That’s exactly what I want?
Oh gosh. Yes, Joan Didion. That is the perfect career because she’s done everything. She’s done nonfiction, fiction, screenwriting, all things I’m interested in pursuing. There’s such an honesty to her work you would never mistake it for somebody else. Like you would read something and be like, Yeah that’s Joan Didion’s voice. Everything she does is incredible. She’s just authentic in who she is and how she views the world and that comes through in her writing, which I admire.
For sure, for sure, but I also think it is about sharpening your tools and making sure that every day, you’re doing your work. And so, you have your technical facilities which can serve your own true voice. Going back to what you were saying at the beginning, about the novel you want to write, and my photography work as well, it feels like those, all of them, it all adds to you being able to speak to your work.
I totally understand what you’re saying. Because if you hone your technical skills, you’re able to more easily express yourself through that medium. If I’m struggling to write a sentence, I’m not going to get out what’s in there.
Totally, exactly. And something that’s going to kind of hit people. And not just once, but repetitively, so every time you do your work, like what you were saying about Joan Didion, regardless of what the genre of work is, that each time you have the same profound effect.
I think that that’s all I would want. I would want to be the type of writer, like if you read something that I wrote, you would feel it, or you would feel like, Oh I’ve experienced that, I feel recognized. I think that would be…I wouldn’t care about anything else. I wouldn’t care if I made money from it, it would just be gratifying to know it spoke to someone.
Listen, I know that’s gonna happen. And I wish you all the best with that.
Thank you so much, I appreciate that. It’s nice to have the support and encouragement.
I’m sure. I’ve no doubt, no doubt. But, also, isn’t that a common thing even historically when you think of like, the French writers, they would be happy just eating a baguette in a garage as long as someone is like, That’s an amazing piece of work that you’ve done.
I feel like nothing else would ever compare to that. No amount of money or luxury. I wouldn’t want to be rich for the sake of being rich. I don’t want to sell out.
But you would be rich, that would make you rich, in a different sense.
[Points to chest] I’d be rich in here, absolutely. And that matters more than the bank account.
For sure. I completely agree. Oh, that’s exciting! I wish you all the best with that.
Thank you so much! I really do appreciate you. I’ll send you a copy of the book when I’m done writing it.
Please do! That’ll be great. I’ll buy it at John Sandoe’s!
[Laughs]. That would be incredible! Take a picture of it and send it to me like, It’s in John Sandoe’s! That would be perfect. I don’t want to keep you too long, but I wanted to ask about the new season of Endeavour. What can you tell me about it?
For sure. We finished it two weeks ago. Well, I finished all my post production on it two weeks ago. And I think it’s really…I’m really pleased with it. I think it’s not difficult, but it’s a challenge, when you do something repetitive to keep it new and fresh. My feeling was that this should be a sort of emotional turmoil that we can hit on in a way here which is a facet that we’ve not seen before. So I was very determined that we could incorporate that into it. And that’s not about necessarily shifting plots but it’s about how we tell the stories. So I directed the first one and then we had a terrific film two and film three director, and each of the stories is obviously separate but over it, you get to see where I am at in it, where Endeavour is at in the story. And I feel like we’ve been pleased with the way we’ve done that. My hope is that people enjoy it when they see it. But I think yeah, we’ve pushed ourselves to…I mean, apart from the whole COVID thing…I feel like we’ve pushed ourselves to make three very interesting, topical, and completely different visual films in this series. Yes, it’s been an amazing experience.
It’s nice that you were able to start it off by directing, and that you didn’t do anything so crazy that they just took the camera away from you. [Laughs].
[Laughs]. Quite the attempt! I chained myself behind the camera, so.
You’re like, I’m fine, I’m fine, I just needed to get it out of my system! [Laughs].
[Laughs]. All right guys, come on, please?!
[Laughs]. Totally throw your entire reputation away. They’re gonna be like, So, he’s gonna be recast for season 9…
[Laughs]. And could you lose our phone number, please? Trying to call them like, Hey, I’m Endeavour! And they’re like, Not anymore!
[Laughs]. Everyone can be replaced! You’re just muttering in your dark room like, I used to be an inspector once.
[Laughs]. Like, I much preferred photography anyway. As I just do some interesting self-portraits.
As long as you don’t cut your ear off, you’ll be totally fine! [Laughs].
Can you imagine?
Terrible, but hilarious.
[Laughs]. Terrible but hilarious, yeah!
Vigil starts on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on Sunday 29 August, continuing with episode two on the Bank Holiday Monday, 30 August, at 9pm. It will then continue on Sundays at 9pm through September
Endeavour will be returning to ITV this September
Manor will be at The National Theatre from November – more info and tickets here www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/manor
Interview Sam Cohen
Photographer By Pip
Grooming: Charlie Cullen using Benny Hancock
Styling: Way Perry at The Wall Group
Vigil - BBC Media Centre
Please tell us about Glover.
Elliot Glover is the coxswain on HMS Vigil. It’s a role that sits and liaises between the highest-ranking officers on board and the rest of the crew, so Glover has to straddle both worlds on the submarine. At the beginning of the series someone aboard the ship - and I won’t say who - needs disciplining, which is a job for Glover, and then a couple of hours later that person is found dead. As a result, a detective (Amy Silva, played by Suranne Jones) is flown aboard the submarine to investigate. The subsequent investigation by her unearths a whole world of simmering tension and hidden agendas.
In terms of Glover’s personal life, there’s not a lot I can say without ruining a few twists for you, but it’s safe to say he’s got a secret! When we meet him at the start of the series he’s onboard Vigil working away from his family - his wife and child - for 90 days, which could potentially turn into 180 days.
What made you say yes to the role?
Three things, really. I liked the script - it’s fast-paced, has loads of scale, and Tom Edge and the team have done a terrific job. The concept is so interesting, it’s essentially a locked-room murder mystery, in a way that we’ve not seen done before.
Additionally, I’m a big fan of the shows World Productions make, and I’d really admired James Strong’s work previously and knew him socially a bit, so was keen to work with him. Any one of these things would have been enough to get me interested, but all three combined meant Vigil was something I really wanted to be a part of.
As you say, Glover’s job sees him spend months on end aboard the submarine away from home. Could you cope?
I could not think of anything worse! Freedom is the best thing, right? The freedom to go and take a walk, get a cup of coffee, get away from people. The idea of not being able to do that or to even step outside to get a breath of fresh air? It is my idea of hell.
Did you do any research?
I spoke to some guys in the Navy who put me in touch with some submariners - one of whom was a Coxswain - and I spent a good bit of time chatting to them, to find out what their jobs entailed and what was required. Plus, importantly, to find out what kind of person is attracted to that role, because I think if you’re doing it 24/7 then there must be certain common traits or qualities required to do it well. I was intrigued by what the common elements might be, and I think the key one is that you really do have to get along with people.
For the coxswain especially, you have to be available to others - to be friendly, upbeat, able to rub along well with others - and definitely not a loner. There’s a real diplomatic quality required as well, in order to be able to straddle both worlds and liaise regularly between all ranks on board.
The submariners I spoke to were just really fun, interesting guys, and by speaking to them I got a sense of the camaraderie between them, and what it must be like to do that job.
I was really struck by the pride they all take in the work they do, too. The job they fulfil is not taken lightly, and I’m always interested in people whose life is vocational, whether artists or armed forces, for instance. I was really struck by that. Plus what it takes to be away from your family for that amount of time, voluntarily. You can miss so much while you’re away at sea - your kids being born, loved ones passing away, major life events.
On set we worked with an ex-submariner who would advise on the practical elements, such as where we’d stand. There has to be some artistic licence of course, but at the same time accuracy was taken seriously.
What was HMS Vigil set like to film on?
Incredible! The designer had done a terrific job, because it was huge in scale but the details were so incredibly specific and intricate. Working on it was fantastic. And, bearing mind that we started filming before Covid, by some miracle and a lot of hard work from the team we were still able to film on the set after filming resumed, in a way that makes it look like we’re still confined to tiny corridors with a huge crew.
I’ve really got to pay tribute to James Strong and Isabelle Sieb for that too. Having an amazing set is great, but you have to be able to shoot it in a way that’s imaginative and interesting, and they both did that. The idea that you can get a crane shot on a submarine is wild to me and I was so impressed. I was blown away by every department, but the design of the ship is extraordinary.
It was a fun place to work in every day, a real laugh. Everyone really bonded as a team in the same way that you’d imagine we would on a real submarine, without watering down their personalities. And that’s all of us across the cast, from the established actors to the younger ones early on in their careers. I was blown away with their enthusiasm. So yes, the design was absolutely terrific, but it’s also about how you shoot and inhabit the set as well. It’ll look great on screen.
Finally, why do you think people should watch Vigil?
It’s a fantastic story, well told. Simple as that!
Shaun Evans attended the British Film Institute Southbank premiere screening of the new BBC drama "Vigil" yesterday, August 23, 2021 in London. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Edith Bowman, Suranne Jones, Tom Edge and, of course, Shaun.
By Fiona Sturges for Financial Times
The ‘Endeavour’ star on his new series playing the young Morse, his directing stints and his role in the submarine-set crime thriller ‘Vigil’
When Shaun Evans agreed to star in the pilot for ITV’s Inspector Morse prequel, Endeavour, he assumed it would be a one-off; that was nine years ago. Last month, the actor finished work on the eighth series of the show, which one critic deemed as “comforting as cheese on toast”.
Endeavour — the title refers to the protagonist’s seldom-mentioned first name — follows the fortunes of the young Morse, a policeman and opera lover already displaying the dourness for which his older self, played by the late John Thaw, is famous. It’s a classy and engaging murder mystery steeped in nostalgia. Even now, Evans — who is also an associate producer and occasional director of the series — can’t believe they’re still making it.
“It’s totally unexpected but life is like that, and I’m glad it’s lasted so long,” he says. Endeavour is commissioned on a yearly basis, which means, on finishing one series, the cast and crew have no idea whether they will be making another. “That we keep getting invited back to make more I take as a good sign. As long as there’s still a story to be told, and we can push ourselves and improve what we’ve done before, I am happy to do more.”
It is mid-July when we meet at his agent’s office in Soho, London, which, as signified by the dead plants lining the windowsills, has stood empty since the first lockdown. Endeavour isn’t the only major series Evans has in the works. He is soon to appear in Vigil, a smart and tense new BBC crime thriller also starring Suranne Jones, Line of Duty’s Martin Compston and Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie.
It sees Jones’s police detective, Amy Silva, dispatched via helicopter to a submarine off the coast of Scotland to investigate a suspicious death on board. Evans plays Chief Petty Officer Elliot Glover, who is the ship’s coxswain and whose job is to facilitate Silva’s investigations while keeping the secrets of the captain and senior crew members.
Evans has long been an admirer of the series’ director James Strong, who also directed ITV’s Broadchurch and Vanity Fair. “It was a really great script and I was intrigued by the idea of a locked-room mystery where no one can get off or out of this space,” he says.
The irony of working on a series set on a submarine, a place in which people live and work at intolerably close quarters, was not lost on the cast and production team. They started work on the series in late 2019 but production was paused with the first lockdown, after which they had to rethink how particular scenes were shot.
By way of research, Evans visited a naval base in Liverpool. “I hung out with some mariners, and we chatted about the kind of traits that a person who has that role would have. You need to be affable, and be able to rub along with people. You’re away for 90 days at a time, so you need to be OK with that.
“My character has a wife and child but chooses to be away from them for a large part of the year, without being contactable. I say this without judgment, but it’s an interesting choice that I don’t think I could make.”
Evans, 41, is a friendly but cautious interviewee. Little is known about his early life beyond that he grew up on the outskirts of Liverpool and, after his A-levels, went on to study at drama school. My inquiries about his life as an actor are invariably greeted by long pauses, allowing him to find the correct words while not giving too much away.
He began his career in the Channel 4 comedy Teachers, alongside Andrew Lincoln, and subsequently appeared on the TV series Ashes to Ashes, Whitechapel and Silk and, on the big screen, The Boys From County Clare, Being Julia and Telstar: The Joe Meek Story.
He has never had a career plan, and still doesn’t. When I ask “where do you see yourself . . . ” he butts in and says “I don’t” before I can finish the sentence. He doesn’t look at reviews and doesn’t read interviews either. “No offence,” he adds. “But I don’t want to be made self-conscious. I want to be free, and not feel weighed down [by what others think].”
What I do learn, on the occasions we veer off the topic of his work, is that he is a music fan — he likes John Grant and Teddy Thompson — and a big reader. When I mention that I recently read Sea State, Tabitha Lasley’s book about oil riggers, whose lives aren’t that different from submariners’, he diligently takes down the title. Evans does a bit of writing of his own on the side, as well as photography, though he is clear that these projects are for himself and not for public consumption.
He puts the enduring appeal of Endeavour down to the quality of the stories and the capacity of the viewer to engage with Morse’s character. “There’s something about telling a story in a long form that’s satisfying. You can do so much more with that than a 90-minute film, which comes and goes. The idea of seeing six years of someone’s life, I find that fascinating. I want to help shape that character. That’s the luxury that’s afforded to me in sticking with the series for so long.”
Evans says he deliberately didn’t watch Thaw’s Morse, as he wanted to come to the character fresh. He did, however, read the books on which the series is based. He and the author, Colin Dexter, who died in 2017, were close friends. Previously a teacher, Dexter had the idea of writing a crime series while holidaying in Wales in the 1970s — “and then he got a Biro and an A4 pad and just wrote it. That always blows my mind,” Evans says.
Dexter was closely involved in casting for Endeavour — “it was clear that if they didn’t find the right person [to play Morse] then it wouldn’t happen” — and vetted the early scripts, written by Russell Lewis, who also created the Morse spin-off series Lewis. “The things that he would say about the script were always the things that were troubling me too,” Evans adds. “I felt a real kinship with him.”
Storytelling, as opposed to fame or acclaim, is what drives the actor. “Everyone’s got their own brilliant little story, right?” he says. “That’s what keeps me engaged, the idea that there are so many stories and so many ways to tell them.” It is this that has led him to pursue a parallel career as a director. Before he began directing episodes of Endeavour, he worked on BBC hospital drama Casualty.
“I harangued them to give me a job. I did one episode and then, on the next break from Endeavour, instead of taking an acting job, I went back to do some more,” Evans says. “I really wanted to learn my trade . . . I don’t want to be limited by just being an actor, and by that I mean I want to be able to tell stories that don’t depend on my acting limitations. As an actor, you can feel stymied. You’re always waiting for someone’s permission to do your work.”
Does he think he will move into directing permanently? There is a long pause. “I’ve got a couple of things that I’m developing that I can’t talk about as I don’t want to jinx them,” Evans replies. “But I’m happy to be a gun for hire and act in a job if I think I can bring something to it. Ultimately, you want to feel like your work is your work. So if I’m given the opportunity to create, then that’s what I’ll do.”
‘Vigil’ begins on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on August 29; ‘Endeavour’ returns to ITV in September
Shaun Evans will be in Manor, a darkly comic new play by Moria Buffini, from 16 Nov at the Lyttelton Theatre. He will play Ted, the charismatic leader of a far-right organisation.
For more information visit:
Endeavour star Shaun Evans is in great spirits as he flips between acting and directing on location in Oxford for gritty drama series
By ANDREW BULLOCK FOR MAILONLINE
Filming is underway for the newest season of Endeavour - the Inspector Morse prequel series.
And filming in Oxford on Sunday saw star Shaun Evans acting in and directing scenes.
The eighth season got back to work after a COVID-19 delay recently, set to air later in the year.
Shaun, 41, was in high spirits as he chatted to the rest of the cast and crew on the historic Oxford streets before putting on a stern display in character for the scenes.
He wore his Inspector Morse costume - a dark trench coat over a shirt, tie and slacks.
He donned a mask when off-camera, seen hanging out by the equipment and chatting to the crew.
There were actresses on set, in 1970s ensembles, looking stoney-faced in the gritty scenes.
Another actress was seen strutting along in a mini-skirt, passing by a flaming barrel.
Shaun plays the titular character, a younger incarnation of the legendary Inspector Morse, made famous by the late actor John Thaw, who played the role from 1987 until his death in 1999.
Shaun told PBS about the delay in the current series last year: 'The world’s such a strange place at the moment. There is a plan for there to be a season eight - we should have been shooting that now, really.
'But already it’s been pushed back until next year, which, to be honest, I think is a blessing.
'First and foremost, we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to return and do any more, especially at this late in the game.
'So the fact that it has been pushed until next year only gives us more time to perfect [it], which can only be a good thing.
'But yes, in short, there will - fingers crossed, God willing, all being well - be a season eight!'
Indeed there is, as the hive of activity in Oxford demonstrated on Sunday.
Shaun Evans will star in the new BBC Radio 4 Drama "Marais and the Soul of the Termite". Shaun plays the naturalist and poet Eugene Marais in Mike Walker's play about bereavement and "the bigger picture". It's directed by David Morley and it will be broadcast on the 9th January 2021.
More information: Marais and The Soul of the Termite
Will there be a Season Eight of Endeavour?
Well, the world’s such a strange place at the moment. There is a plan for there to be a Season Eight—we should have been shooting that now, really. But already it’s been pushed back until next year, which, to be honest, I think is a blessing. First and foremost, we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to return and do any more, especially at this late in the game… so the fact that it has been pushed until next year only gives us more time to perfect [it], which can only be a good thing. But yes, in short, there will—fingers crossed, God willing, all being well—be a Season Eight.
What are you most looking forward to, once you’re able to start making Endeavour again?
For me, it’s such an immersive experience, the whole thing, from start to finish, because I produce it and also direct it, and obviously, I’m in virtually every scene. The whole thing is immersive, and even when we’re not shooting, I’m cutting together the episode that I’ve directed, or we’re talking about story for the next one. And that’s what I love, really. I’m looking forward to seeing the people, the family that we’ve created that’s both in front of and behind the camera, and being able to really pick apart—with people who are often times much brighter than I—what the best way is to tell these stories in the most satisfying way.
Because when the six or seven months that the job takes, is done and I emerge back into the world, I always feel that I’ve really learned something from experience. Sometimes you learn things from your own shortcomings, or having made [mistakes], and that’s as incredible. So every facet of it is so involved that I really look forward to it, to just jumping right in. And then obviously having fun while you’re acting on set. That’s joyous.
Find out Shaun Evans’ take on where Endeavour Season 7 leaves off, the operatic, unattainable love story, the fate of his character, and the joys of filming and directing in Venice.
Right before our very eyes, Morse is changing from a generous, principled young adult, into a more cynical, hardened man. Can you talk about his journey over time?
One of the terrific things about long form TV is that you do get to stay with the character and see them evolve, and allow them to evolve, as well. What’s unique about this situation is that because we know where this character ends up, we have an ending point that we have to work towards. One of the joys for me and the rest of the team is how we plot that, how we navigate that course from a coming of age story, [and] turn this fresh faced, green, young man into the character that people know and love from the previous series. So how you do that, whilst also making it satisfying, so that this whole series and set of stories can also stand alone, if that be so?
It’s about relationships, really: your relationship to the job and your level of acceptance that this is where you are, this is the person you’re going to be for the future. You’re not going to be leaving Oxford—you’re a policeman, you’re a detective, and so embrace that, but all of what that includes, as well: dealing with people who are dead, who are being killed. And then also, your relationship with your peers, especially with Thursday, who is something of a father figure to him—how that changes as the character himself grows and becomes a man. It’s also that thing where you see your parents as fallible. You see the mistakes that he’s made and instead of biting your tongue, you call him out on it. And perhaps there’s a little bit of arrogance and egotism on his part, as well. You have all of those things to play with, and we’ve tried to apply a little more, strip away a little more, each year, until we’ve come to an ending point. And that’s nice, to be able to feel like you’ve evolved, or that the character is evolving. It’s good.
What’s it like to return to the character of Morse for a new season? Does he feel familiar, or do you have to start all over again?
To be totally honest with you, every time I start a job, I always think, “Oh no, I don’t know what I’m doing!” And then I end up panicking, and reading a load of acting books and thinking, “I actually don’t know what I’m doing.” This is a common thing. Throughout the year, we have a chat with the writer and the other execs about where we’re going to find him this year, what was good about the year previous, what we could build upon, what perhaps, didn’t work quite so well from the previous year. We’re constantly having conversations about it, and I find that oftentimes, one little kernel of something, part of a conversation, or even part of a relationship within the stories that we’ve told, something about that will strike a match, and then I’ll start to build how we’re going to proceed around that.
For example, in this season we have a character called Violetta, and how that character came into being and what she represents came out of a conversation between the rest of us about what facet of Endeavour we’ve not shown yet, what box have we’ve not ticked yet. So what kind of woman should she be, and what role does she fulfill for him on his journey? Out of that conversation, sometimes you mirror things in your own life, and then we begin to build around it. I’m a big one for going through the story again and again and again because for me, it’s all about the story.
So my point is that when it comes back, it always feels fresh. If it doesn’t feel fresh for me, then we probably shouldn’t be coming back to make this, because what are we going to do? We’re only going to be rehashing stuff we’ve done before, right? Or I’ll be rehashing stuff I’ve done before. It’ll become turgid and boring…For me, the job is fully immersive because it’s the whole six months of your life. You’re invested in it. And each scene wants to be better than the one previous, and so each time it feels new and exciting and like it needs to engage a slightly different part of my brain, or a different part of your emotions, than it did the year previous, or in any of the stuff that we’ve done. That’s by design, but also, that’s what makes me keep coming back.
With regard to Violetta, what was that box that hadn’t been ticked yet?
Well, the beauty about Joan Thursday, I suppose, is that she is attainable. For one reason or another, she isn’t for Endeavour, but she’s the girl next door. Whereas what we’ve not had is [someone] who is not “the one that got away,” but is the one that you kind of can’t believe that you had, for those five minutes, anyway—that person in your life who’s a big star, or has got something sort of otherworldly, almost like a goddess, in a way. The unattainable, like really unattainable. And it’s something that’s operatic, as well.
Because we were doing three episodes for the first time, rather than four, we thought it would be nice to have someone who goes over the whole three episodes, and within that three-act structure of the film, something quite operatic happens. So where do you meet her? You meet her on New Year’s Eve, in Venice at the opera…And where does the relationship end? It ends in the same place a year later exactly.
Also, our composer and the writer wrote an opera to go with it, which was then translated into ancient Italian. Then in Oracle, the episode that I directed, we got some opera singers to learn it and to perform it. We staged the opera and shot it and shot our relationship to the opera, both where we meet and then again, a year later when our relationship comes to an end. So that’s kind of what I was saying earlier—it’s like, “Okay, you’re coming back, so how are you going to raise the stakes? How are you going to make it more interesting?” Not interesting for interesting’s sake, but what is interesting about Endeavour. When you think about him, you think about ale, you think about opera, you think about crosswords, that logical mind, that poetic mind, solving problems. So how do we pull out those things and make them more incredible than they could have been? That’s what we tried to achieve this year with this season.
It was an incredible experience, both as an actor and as a director, just being involved with the story, as well. To have the ideas, to write your own opera (which is only a small part of the story, but one that informs the whole fiber of it, all of the connective tissue is informed by it), and then to have the ability to do it—find a theater, find opera singers, stage it, shoot it, and then do a crime story alongside it? It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.
Would you ever do it again like this, with one single over-arching story?
No, I don’t think so, because so many great detective shows do that in such an elegant and interesting way, where the crime story goes over the whole series. We just wanted to try it, to see what it was like. And I think was good, but I feel like we’ve done it now. One of the beautiful things about this job is that each [episode] is like a self-contained film. They’re shot individually, so each director gets their own time with their story. They bring their own DP and cinematographer on board, and get their own cast, so that each one should feel like its own unique thing. The thinking behind it is that each one should feel fresh and individual, like a little individual gift. And should feel different, because each director brings their own particular sensibilities to the stories…I do think that there’s a beauty in each director not having to pay too much attention to what’s gone before, or what comes after, and where their story fits with that, of course, within the emotional stories of the returning characters.
But it’s nice to have something which is self-contained, which is set up in the first one, and paid off in the first one as well. Because I think it’s gratifying for the people who are making it, but also, hopefully, gratifying for the audience as well. “Oh, of course, it was him—that’s how he did it; that’s why he did it; and that’s how they caught him.” There’s something about being able to satisfyingly tie that up in 90 minutes.
What was it like filming in Venice?
Oh my God, it was insane. You know when you’re just like throwing ideas out there, where you’re just like, “What if we start New Year’s Eve, in the opera house in Venice?” Like, where would be a really cool place, blue sky thinking, to do this? And then to actually to have the opportunity to do it—I was completely blown away.
We shot all of the first episode, we wrapped on the Tuesday night, and I flew out to Venice first thing Wednesday morning. Because I was directing the episode, just four of us, a very, small crew, went out, as there was no sound recorded. We had two Italian fixers there, but essentially, I put my tuxedo on, picked up the camera and the box of lenses with the lads, and we would just go to the locations that we’d decided. It was full of tourists, so we’d just say, “Do you mind waiting there for two minutes while we just do this?” I’d shout, “Action,” walk through, and just try and get as much material as we had. And so we spent three days essentially doing that, knocking off the locations ourselves. Usually if you’re making a TV show, it’s quite a big unit that goes around with you. With this, it was really enjoyable to have a really small crew, and do your work in a very free and relaxed way.
Venice is an extraordinary place. It sort of defies belief—you slightly can’t believe it until you see it, and even then, it’s like, “Wow, is that just water there? This is crazy.” But what I love about it is, it’s so many little nooks and quite small alleyways, teeming with people, and then all of a sudden, all of the people have gone. And you’re there alone. And the light is reflecting off the water on to these walls. And it becomes like a weird sort of, slightly mystical place. There’s something about it which I think is incredibly special and not chosen at random really, for a murder story, especially when you’re thinking about water and the subconscious, and what exists beneath. There’s something about Venice which, I think, is unsettling in a really good way.
The heartbreaking letter that Morse writes to Joan as he’s going back to Venice brought to mind that scene in the Season 1 episode Fugue, where Thursday tells him, “Go home, put your best record on, loud as it’ll play. And with every note you remember that’s something that the darkness couldn’t take from you.” Is that what Endeavour, at its core, is about, these two men struggling to resist the encroaching darkness, each in his own way, as they try to find the truth?
In a way. I guess on one level, both of these guys have chosen this path, this career, but on another level, the fates have decided it for them. If you take a step back, the fates have decided that these are the guys to save the day. And what does that mean? How do you deal with that? I suppose Thursday’s trying to say, “This is awful, where we see the worst in humanity, and you have to have something which is beautiful, which saves you from that.” And he’s telling him his way of dealing with it. Now what could be interesting is if, over the course of the stories, the thing which saves you from it begins to get decayed as the story develops over the seven seasons, as is the case with Thursday, if you think it’s his family. You have to lose everything, in a way, to gain it. So in short, yes is the answer to your question, because there’s seven seasons, and it’s all, in a way, based on that.
When the curtain goes down at the end of Season Seven, where do you think that those two are with each other?
Well, as with everything, there’s always two answers to every question. If you look back in any of the books or in the previous TV series, the character of Thursday is never mentioned, obviously, because he’s an original creation of [writer] Russell Lewis’. Part of our duty is to give us a reason why Morse of the later incarnation never mentions this mentor of his. So Thursday has to do something, or there has to be a fissure in the relationship, where he’s never mentioned again. We’re coming to that point now, I think, and we’ve been slowly, slowly building towards it.
But then in terms of their actual relationship, what you see over the course of it is that Endeavour is being his own man now. He’s no longer going to be the bag man or the can lad for someone. If there’s a problem, then he’ll say it and call you out on it, however unpopular that is—sometimes without thinking it through, which to be honest, for me, is a really great trait, one that I really admire. And sometimes he makes a mistake and is rude and egotistical. But nonetheless, he’s being honest and calling out what he sees as poor policing, or poor judgment of character. So that’s where we find them, what you think is the end of their relationship throughout this story.
But when push comes to shove, at the complete end of it, there is only one person that he can rely upon, and that is Thursday. And he wants him to think well of him. Likewise with Thursday—for all him saying everything that he’s said about Endeavour, that he thinks he’s better than everyone, that he looks down on his nose at people—he would still jump on the train and go to Venice and save him, if he can, just to make sure that he’s okay. So even if they’re not speaking or their relationship is really fractious, within the context of our stories they only really have each other. Well, that’s the thing actually—Thursday doesn’t; Thursday has his family, but Endeavour doesn’t have anyone else. And in a way, that’s what’s poignant and quite painful about it, I think—that after all this time and all these dalliances with different girls, actually, there is no one.
Part of the tragedy of it is how much he’s pushing Thursday away, the only person who he’s got close to, really. What says about his character, this person who doesn’t want people close, and who doesn’t even want people to call him by his first name—I think that speaks volumes. I remember thinking that at the very beginning as well…that actually there’s something comfortable about not allowing people to get too close. What kind of person, what wounds does that person have? is what I thought at the very beginning. That’s what has informed a lot of this journey over the past few years.
Find out all about Endeavour Season 7 from Shaun Evans himself as he shares details about Endeavour’s new love interest, the operatically high stakes, and an amazing, new element to the season in our exclusive interview! What else do you need to know about the new season? Look no further!
A New Love Interest: Violetta
“The beauty about Joan Thursday, I suppose, is that she is attainable. For one reason or another, she isn’t for Endeavour, but she’s the girl next door. Whereas what we’ve not had is [someone] who is not ‘the one that got away,’ but is the one that you kind of can’t believe that you had, for those five minutes, anyway—that person in your life who’s a big star, or has got something sort of otherworldly, almost like a goddess, in a way. The unattainable, like really unattainable. And it’s something that’s operatic, as well.”
Higher, Even Operatic, Stakes
“It’s like, ‘Okay, you’re coming back [for a seventh season], so how are you going to raise the stakes? How are you going to make it more interesting?’ Not interesting for interesting’s sake, but what is interesting about Endeavour. When you think about him, you think about ale, you think about opera, you think about crosswords, that logical mind, that poetic mind, solving problems. So how do we pull out those things and make them more incredible than they could have been? That’s what we tried to achieve this year with this season. “Because we were doing three episodes for the first time, rather than four, we thought it would be nice to have someone who goes over the whole three episodes, and within that three-act structure of the film, something quite operatic happens. So where do you meet [Violetta]? You meet her on New Year’s Eve, in Venice at the opera…”
An Actual Opera
“[Endeavour‘s writer] Russell Lewis wrote an opera to go with it, which was then translated into ancient Italian. Then in [Season 7’s first episode] Oracle, the episode that I directed, we got some opera singers to learn it and to perform it. We staged the opera and shot it… “It was an incredible experience, both as an actor and as a director, just being involved with the story, as well. To have the ideas, to write your own opera (which is only a small part of the story, but one that informs the whole fiber of it, all of the connective tissue is informed by it), and then to have the ability to do it—find a theater, find opera singers, stage it, shoot it, and then do a crime story alongside it? It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.”
A Mystical Location: Venice
“Filming in Venice—it was insane. You know when you’re just throwing ideas out there, where you’re just like, ‘What if we start New Year’s Eve, in the opera house in Venice?’ Like, where would be a really cool place, blue sky thinking, to do this? And then to actually to have the opportunity to do it? I was completely blown away… “… It’s an extraordinary place. It sort of defies belief—you slightly can’t believe it until you see it, and even then, it’s like, ‘Wow, is that just water there? This is crazy.’ But what I love about it is, it’s so many little nooks and quite small alleyways, teeming with people, and then all of a sudden, all of the people have gone, and you’re there alone. And the light is reflecting off the water on to these walls, and it becomes like a weird sort of, slightly mystical place. There’s something about it which I think is incredibly special, and not chosen at random, really, for a murder story—especially when you’re thinking about water and the subconscious, and what exists beneath. There’s something about Venice which, I think, is unsettling in that way, in a really good way. And I feel like it’s not unlike Oxford inasmuch as you can point the camera anywhere and it looks beautiful. It just looks extraordinary wherever you turn your eye. So it was an amazing experience.”
Endeavour's series 7 finale delivers high drama, tragedy, bitter grief and stunning visuals. Spoilers ahead in our Zanana review...
Gem Wheeler - Den of Geek
There’s a frost in the Oxford air, glimmering on the college quads as another year draws to a close. For long-time Endeavour viewers, though, it’s another chill that’s of more concern. The previous episodes of this brief seventh series have seen a growing froideur between Morse and Thursday: two friends we once thought couldn’t be parted, come hell or high water. Well, the former – or a vision of it, at any rate – has made its appearance. Turns out that a spate of unsolved, barely connected murders might do what a corruption scandal never could.
St Matilda’s College is the last bastion of all-female education in the University, but that might soon change. Much to the fury of Magdalena Byrne (Marianne Oldham), her academic colleagues are holding a referendum on male membership of the college. It’s a controversial topic, but no amount of protests – or Dr Byrne’s insistence that St Matilda’s student body is at risk, threatened from without by the ravening beasts of the opposite sex – can hold back a push for parity. When she drops the stereotyping, bringing up the hard fact that only five Oxford colleges permit women at all, it’s hard not to see her point. Another towpath murder, followed by a mysterious accident within the bounds of her sanctuary, doesn’t do much to soften attitudes on either side.
Zenana is the culmination of an unusually serialised run of episodes for Endeavour. A number of plot threads have been developing throughout the series, all of which untangle themselves satisfyingly in this final story. Behind the eerie, spotlight-grabbing towpath slayings that have monopolised both the headlines and the police’s attention, another mystery has been brewing.
Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw, always a welcome presence) has been busily investigating a spate of recent ‘accidents’ in the city and its environs. She’s absolutely convinced that something sinister is behind these fatal mishaps. They are, after all, bloody silly ways to die. Morse, a little sceptical at first, is fully on board with her theory by this stage, but Thursday won’t credit it. The stage is set for a vicious bout of recriminations that only Max DeBryn’s unfailing dignity can, all too briefly, shut down.
It’s an episode of high drama, tragedy, and bitter grief for a number of our friends at Castle Gate. A spark of hope for the Brights is snuffed out in the cruellest way imaginable when Frazil’s suspicions are proved to be correct. If you come away from every episode of Endeavour thinking how bizarre it is that the dry colonial martinet of its first series has somehow ended up becoming one of your favourite characters, then Zenana will both confirm Lesser’s brilliance, and remind you of how far Bright’s come since those early days. Those precious domestic scenes with Mrs Bright (Carol Royle) make the end so much more heartbreaking. We don’t even need to be told how much he’s lost. Endeavour might get the operatic tragedy, but he’s not the only one to lose a lover.
And on that note, after a series filled with lots of bawdy jokes worthy of one of the lighter opera LPs in Morse’s collection, the question’s been answered. This is a tragedy, not a comedy, after all. When the ‘supernatural’ mystery of the towpath killers – yes, there was more than one – has been solved, it falls to Morse to work out who’s been profiting from the other deaths, Mrs Bright’s very much included. Ludo and Violetta are up to their necks in guilt, and only one man can bring them in. It’s a painful bit of foreshadowing. Morse’s propensity to fall for doomed women won’t end here, as we know all too well. Back to Venice it is, for the final act in a bloodsoaked narrative.
Kate Saxon’s direction and James Moss’s cinematography make this a suitable ending to a visually stunning series which piles on the nerve-jangling tension in its action scenes to the very end. What lingers in the mind is the tension between characters, and some superb acting. The entire cast is given plenty to get their teeth into, from Evans and Allam in some wincingly brutal altercations as festering resentments start to erupt, to Sean Rigby and James Bradshaw as Strange and Max observe their friends’ deteriorating relationship with horror. Matthew Slater’s score, as usual, brings out an even deeper layer of emotion.
Where to in series eight, then? Well, that letter from Morse to the absent Joan hinted that his heart might not have been completely turned by Violetta’s charms. As for his friendship with Thursday senior, the last scene said it all. The McNutt era isn’t upon us just yet…
Race tensions are rising and a friendship falls under strain in part two of Endeavour's seventh series. Spoilers ahead...
Gem Wheeler - Den of Geek
The dramatic ending to Endeavour series seven’s eerie opener has left us in a strange position. Morse – along with most of his colleagues – believes that they’ve got the towpath murderer safely in custody. Thursday thinks differently, and we know he’s right. Not that Oxford’s finest don’t have quite enough to preoccupy them as another tangled web of crimes reveals itself. As an election draws near, tensions are rising in the city thanks to far-right agitators led by Martin Gorman (Jason Merrells) and racially motivated violence between rival gangs of youths is becoming an issue. Belonging is a consistent theme here, from the confused identity of half-Polish Gary Rogers (William Allam) to the feelings of alienation experienced by the younger members of the Sardar family, whose Bengali heritage means different things to them all. It’s a powder keg waiting to ignite, and Morse, as ever, is there to witness the grim aftermath.
The strange disappearance of deliveryman Mr Aziz (Raj Awasti) is the first in a series of puzzles that draw Thursday’s and Morse’s attention to the staff of The Jolly Rajah, a popular Indian restaurant. When the poor man’s body is discovered by Morse at one of the addresses on Aziz’s round, the investigation steps up a gear. The property’s owned by TV chef Oberon Prince (Neil Roberts), but he’s nowhere to be found. The police draw a blank with the dead man’s employers, too. Restaurant owner Uqbah Sardar (Madhav Sharma, in an affecting performance) is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he’s living with dementia and in denial about its impact on his memory. Unease is building in his family, with discord increasing between doctor Farook (Sia Alipour) and brother Salim (Shane Zaza), who’s starting to concern his wife Nuha (Hiftu Quasem) with his mysterious behaviour.
Trouble’s also brewing between Morse and Thursday. It’s becoming apparent now, as we inch towards a future we’ve already seen, that there’s a reason why Thursday disappears from Morse’s life. The possibility of corruption might not have been able to shatter an alliance of mentor and pupil that once seemed gold-plated, but disaffection just might corrode it beyond restoration. There’s still affection and loyalty between them, but Morse is avoiding their cosy evenings in the pub, and Thursday’s noticed. He’s lost in his own thoughts more often than not now, to Win’s concern, and even Frazil’s picked up on Fred’s lack of enthusiasm for a job that once took up most of his waking thoughts.
Morse is still pressing on with redecorating a house that it’s hard not to think of as old, filled as it already is in our minds with echoes of the life to come. For now, though, light fills a living room denuded of its paper: the ghosts of its previous, tragic occupants seemingly at their rest. Morse’s even starting to move on from his doomed love for Joan Thursday, as we see in a brief conversation with Win. But the light is followed by deep shadow, and never more so than when Morse reluctantly finds himself crossing paths with college acquaintance Ludo and the woman we now know to be Ludo’s wife, Violetta. Despite our man’s best efforts, Violetta’s determined not to leave their passionate Venetian tryst to memory. Tragedy is on its way in next week’s finale, it seems. In the moment, all is bliss.
Shaun Evans did a superb job of setting up this three-act drama, and director Zam Salim takes up that baton with finesse in ‘Raga’. That title, incidentally, refers to a pattern of notes in Indian classical music. How appropriate for a show renowned for its haunting theme tune, composed by the great Barrington Pheloung, who passed away last summer aged just 65: a bitter loss indeed.
Matthew Slater’s music captures this episode’s dramatic heft with typical grace, as James Aspinall’s cinematography lends some strikingly tense sequences a noirish depth, clashing pleasingly against the stark sunshine of Oxford’s days. Once again, the episode tackles timely concerns. The past may be another country, but they don’t, it turns out, do things all that differently from us. Rebecca Saire’s fine depiction of crushing grief is a particular highlight in a series always blessed in its supporting cast, as it is in its main players.
It’s not all bleak, though. The advent of wrestling and TV cookery shows leaves plenty of opportunity for Russell Lewis’s sharp script to make some cheeky nods, including the juxtaposition of two names that leave even the unflappable Morse blinking. The marvellous Anton Lesser sells one gag about food critics with a deliciously pregnant pause.
Comedy or tragedy, then? We’ll find out soon enough.
On 23rd November last year, Shaun Evans was a guest at the 32nd Foyle Film Festival. Shaun joined the guest panel of "Shorts to Features" leading a brilliant discussion on acting for the screen.
Shaun Evans kicks off Endeavour series 7 in style both in front of and behind the camera. Spoilers in our review of Oracle...
Gem Wheeler - Den of Geek
It’s the dawn of a new year. A new decade, in fact. Yet, the more things change, the more they remain the same. The cold light of early morning brings with it a gruesome discovery, as the corpse of barmaid Molly Andrews (Lucy Farrar) is found not far from the pub where she worked. Accusing fingers are soon pointed at her boyfriend, Carl Sturgis (Sam Ferriday), but something doesn’t quite add up. Max DeBryn is unable to say for certain how Molly’s neck was broken, which doesn’t improve Fred Thursday’s mood. Years of murder cases are starting to take their toll on him, as he gloomily tells Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw). Even more troublingly, the cumulative effect of such human misery seems to be having an impact on his performance as a detective.
Something’s missing from this picture: or rather, someone. We find Endeavour Morse in Venice, enjoying the sights of La Serenissima, not to mention some more visceral pleasures. Only Morse could make two weeks’ leave into a romantic sojourn worthy of an opera. Three guesses as to which cultural pursuit Morse has been partaking in, by the way. Is it too much of a spoiler to say that you won’t be needing two of them?
A passionate encounter with the glamorous Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas) leaves our man lovelorn and wistful on his return to work, haunted by flashes of sensuous memory. The only thing Endeavour’s stripping off in
Oxford is faded wallpaper. When an old college friend returns to his life – Ludo (Ryan Gage), charming, urbane and Italian – the atmosphere shifts again. Comedy or tragedy? We’ll see how this particular opera plays out in the next two episodes, but that opening sequence doesn’t exactly promise laughs.
The lure of a TV career uncovers a nest of vipers within Oxford’s scientific community, as various contenders vie for a role as presenter. Young researcher Naomi Benford (Naomi Battrick) stands out against her colleagues, sneering misogynist Dai Ferman (Richard Harrington), downtrodden Jeremy Kreitsek (Reece Ritchie) and the condescending Professor Blish (Angus Wright). Her success, and her colleagues’ poisonous resentments, set off a chain reaction that leads to a horrible tragedy. What does all this have to do with a sex pest, the towpath murder, and the strange visions experienced by barmaid Jenny Tate (Holli Dempsey)? A certain tension builds between the jaded Fred and a frustrated Endeavour as hints of incompetence are dropped. Could it be that even Morse hasn’t quite grasped the full span of this supernaturally tinged mystery?
After his triumphant directorial debut on the show last year, long-time Endeavour viewers will have been quietly crossing their fingers for Shaun Evans to get behind the camera once again. Oracle sees him do double duty for a second time, and it was worth the wait. Spectacular shots of Venice, drenched in vivid atmosphere, swim back into view in flashback as Morse returns to an
Oxford of bleak beauty tinged with loss. The murder scene, framed against a chilly January morning, is all the starker for this contrast. A stolen love affair and a lingering regret, all summed up by Morse with a quiet, “Oh, you know…” when Thursday asks how his jaunt abroad went. Couple this with Bright’s protracted grief as he watches his sick wife (Carol Royle) try everything in her search for a cure, and the scene is set for a powerful run of episodes. With the help of a mordantly funny script by writer Russell Lewis, Evans has proved that he has Morse’s measure.
After a deep dive into the changing mores of the Swinging Sixties over the past six series, Endeavour has reached a new decade. 1970's Oxford is that bit harsher and more cynical than we’ve seen it before, but how could it be otherwise after the near-disaster that hit the city’s finest at the end of the previous run of episodes? Cinematic references to Don’t Look Now abound, and not just in the use of Venice as a location. The supernatural element is conveyed with a frisson of genuine horror worthy of M. R. James, while these disconcerting elements of the story are grounded by the more mundane – if no less distressing – sexism ingrained in Dr Benford’s sad fate. Questions of power, agency and spiteful revenge call forward to crimes that are, sadly, still very current. It’s an intriguing mix that kicks off this all-too-brief seventh series in style.
Shaun Evans is back as a young Inspector Morse in the seventh series of ITV hit Endeavour. The actor, who also directed the first episode, talks to Georgia Humphreys about the importance of challenging himself.
Since it first hit our screens in 2013, detective show Endeavour has become hugely popular.
Which is no surprise really, considering it's a prequel to Inspector Morse - the beloved ITV crime series starring the late John Thaw as the titular character.
Now in its seventh series, Endeavour sees Shaun Evans play a young Morse - who first appeared in novels by British author Colin Dexter - alongside Roger Allam as DCI Fred Thursday.
In the first episode, it's New Year's Eve 1969. Normal order has been resumed and the team are back together at Castle Gate CID.
However, the events of the past year have left their mark, and we can expect old friendships to be challenged, while new relationships blossom.
Here, Liverpudlian Evans, 39, tells us more.
How would you sum up series seven of Endeavour?
This is the shortest one we've done - there's only three films this time. There's way more connective tissue between them, so while you can watch them all individually, you can see them as a three, as a proper series.
The main thrust of the story, it's less 'story of the week' and more an ongoing narrative, which is the nucleus of the separation between myself and Thursday.
Endeavour is a very enigmatic character, isn't he?
I think that's a good thing, though. It's a fallacy that we know everything about someone. That's why it always makes me laugh when actors say, 'I know everything about this character' - I just don't see that.
I still surprise myself some of the things I do. I think, 'What were you thinking?' And your work as an actor should be the same. There should be a degree of holding something back.
You recently re-read the books the show is based on. What did you take from that?
The characterisation in the books is terrific. You have way more liberties with books than you do with a screenplay or with film or TV series, so how you plot the clues can be done in a way that you can't in the visual medium.
There's something about that cryptic mind, which is into solving crossword puzzles but, likewise, seeing the clues to a murder and it being the same part of the brain. It was that that I was thinking about going into it again this time.
Endeavour hasn't been very lucky in love. We were hoping this series he might get a break...
But where would be the fun in that? I think what's great about Violetta [played by Stephanie Leonidas] in this series... She's a character we haven't seen before in Endeavour, someone who's completely unobtainable and the 'other', in as much as she's quite wealthy and flies around the world seemingly, and is incredibly enigmatic on the one hand, but then is very available on the other hand.
By the end of this series, my hope is that she occupies a very distinct and unique place in the history of this character, which makes him the person that he becomes. She's a very definite stepping stone on the way to that.
How has your preparation changed from when you first took on the role?
Well, you don't want to be complacent as an actor. This is an amazing job in many ways, but there's also a danger that you become lazy with your work. So I've always tried to push myself, to be producing or to be directing and to be doing things alongside and in conjunction with this. Part of that is not making it too easy for yourself, so you're not just playing yourself.
That's why it was important, for me personally, to read the books again, and be like, 'I'd forgotten that' or 'I missed that' or 'That's interesting'.
You've got to stay engaged in it, otherwise I won't get anything out of it myself, and then the whole job would have been a waste, is the way I see it.
You directed the first film of this series. Is it difficult directing yourself?
Yeah, that can be a challenge. But I like a challenge, first and foremost. And it's interesting, because my opinion of acting and characterisation within a story has changed because of having an overview as a director.
It's challenging from a time-wise point of view. But, if you prepare and you've got a good team, then you can achieve anything.
Directors can come in and they have an overview of the story, but I've been in it for a long time and so that brings with it a fresh perspective. At this stage, I think that's a good thing.
It's a long-running show with a strong visual identity. How do you put your own spin on it?
Each director brings their own DP [Director of Photography]. They have their own unique story, so they bring their own cast as well, and they are encouraged to make it as much about them as is possible. So, the stories can have a similarity, but there is - hopefully - no house style with this show.
When I watch it back, I can always see the director's personality in it, just by the things that they laugh at, the things that they're interested in story-wise, the plot, things that are important to them or not, and how that relates to a visual language.
Endeavour returns to STV, tomorrow, 9pm
The star of Endeavour dislikes opening up. Ben Dowell tries to crack the case
The Times - Ben Dowell
Shaun Evans’s Endeavour Morse is a winningly decent man prone to drinking good bitter, watching tragic opera, solving crimes and — at least over the course of the 27 films broadcast so far — never finding love. In short, and rather pleasingly, he’s pretty much exactly like the older version played by John Thaw in Morse.
Both series are premier ITV shows, classy whodunnits steeped in elegiac wistfulness. Yes, the narrative is driven by the search for who bumped off whom, but over the eight years Endeavour has been on air, there has been an intriguing narrative thread examining police corruption and Masonic penetration in the (fictional) Oxfordshire police of the time. Whatever happens we can take comfort from the knowledge that if there’s one good man, it’s young Morse, even if he’s not always easy to understand.
So far we have followed him alongside his boss and father figure, Roger Allam’s no-nonsense DCI Fred Thursday, for most of the 1960s; the new seventh series starts on New Year’s Eve 1969 on the cusp of the grim 1970s. It has been slow progress towards an inevitable end. In 2000 John Thaw’s Morse had a fatal heart attack in the quad of an Oxford college, dying in hospital after cracking his last case in an episode called The Remorseful Day.
Young and old, Morse famously won’t let people into his heart and life. And when it comes to Evans, the bright Liverpudlian who stars as his youthful iteration, it’s all too tempting to draw parallels between the policeman and the actor who plays him.
He is certainly thoughtful and understated when we meet in a quiet room at the ITV headquarters. And boy, does he try not to let you in; I lost count of the times he stood up to pad around when he found a question tricky, often pausing to lean against the wall and look skywards.
“Oh my God, 45 minutes,” he says with a pained smile when I tell him how much time we have. “Intense.”
It’s hard to imagine a person less keen on giving interviews. Why is that?
“I think two things.” He pauses before continuing. “The likelihood of me divulging something to someone I don’t know is very slim, right? It’s not the kind of person I am. The second thing about it is the more people know about you the less willing they are to align with you as an actor when you play a part. And the work is enough for me; it’s its own reward. I don’t need...” He pauses again. “The bollocks that comes along with it can be distracting to your work and it’s that that I am quite guarded against.” Nice to meet you too.
Evans is reluctant to even confirm certain details about his early life, although he doesn’t contradict me when I say I understand that his dad worked as a taxi driver and his mum as a hospital care worker. “It was me who chose to go into this job, neither of them did,” he remarks, not unreasonably. “So it would be unfair.”
Evans, 39, seems to have had a settled early life, winning a place in the sought-after state school St Edward’s College on the outskirts of Liverpool. He acted in school and proceeded happily though the National Youth Theatre, eventually enrolling at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and getting his acting break as the French teacher John Paul Keating in the Channel 4 comedy-drama Teachers in 2002.
He seems proud of his home town, rather sweetly calling Liverpool “the pool of life”. So did he, I ask, have a happy childhood? “F*** off! Of course it was happy,” he says, flashing the kind of huge smile the Big Bad Wolf gave Little Red Riding Hood.
I don’t mention his four-year romance with the pop star Andrea Corr, which is the only relationship of his that we know about (it ended about 2006). I have been warned off personal questions in advance and his manner suggests that I would be wise to follow that stricture.
He’s a handsome man, I tell him, which draws a friendly smile. I lightheartedly add that there’s a sizeable contingent of mums at my daughter’s primary school who find him desirable. Another silence. I am starting to explain that if you google “Shaun Evans” the first sentence that comes up is “is he married?” but he interrupts before I can finish the sentence. “Don’t even tell me,” he says, with an agonised laugh.
He doesn’t read interviews or critics and says he probably won’t read this piece.
He wants, he keeps reminding me, to talk about the work; something he takes so seriously that he has started directing episodes as well (he directs the opening episode of the new series and did one for the previous series).
“Ultimately, I am the judge of my own work; I know that sounds very grand. To be honest I try not to intellectualise because the work is more interesting if I don’t. You try to be as instinctual as possible... I ask the opinions of the people I respect.”
In the previous series, pre-publicity pictures of his character’s new moustache went viral. It sounds like the kind of thing that would have irritated him, but he claims that wasn’t the case and says that the facial furniture (which is gone for the forthcoming series) wasn’t a piece of frivolity denoting the move towards the 1970s. No, it was modelled on the one sported by August Strindberg, that dourest of playwrights.
In any case, the new three-episode series is determined not to play to stereotypes and preconceptions about the grubby, grimy, strike-ridden, sexually careless, slightly corrupt, mustachioed 1970s. He describes the episodes as having an “operatic” acts structure, in keeping with the musical passions of its hero.
Evans is more revealing when he talks about politics, an inevitable area of discussion given we meet the day before polling stations open for the December general election. Before he decided to become an actor, he had considered studying history and politics at university, and he still takes a keen interest in the subject.
He’s not a Tory, he says, “not a fan” of Boris Johnson and is unhappy with the way the world is run. “It’s not just the US; it’s something that’s also worldwide. [But] things are happening. Younger people are getting involved and having more of a say.”
One suspects he was a Corbyn fan and voter (although he won’t say where he is planning to land his cross) and in hindsight there is something rather poignant about his optimism before the Labour wipeout that came to pass. “I think something wonderful IS about to happen,” he says. (Unless he really is a Tory.)
There is at least one journalist he does admire. “Emma Barnett is f***ing brilliant, isn’t she?” he says. “She’s so impressive, funny but also direct. I think she does a great job.”
As for his plans for Endeavour, he can’t promise another series next year, insisting it is commissioned on a year-by-year basis, and suggests that there could be an end in sight. As with the departure of Corbyn, though, it’s not happening straight away. The writer Russell Lewis (another man not keen on giving much away in interviews) said last year that he has a planned end in mind — “there is a terminus, our own Remorseful Day” — and confirmed he won’t take Morse into the 1980s (the decade when we first met Thaw’s Morse, in 1987).
And what does Evans think? “We’ve come this far down the road and I want to finish it in a way that’s decisive and does it justice,” he says.
But fans of Morse’s immediate boss, the beautifully dour and decent Thursday, may need to shut their ears. Fans have always noticed that Thursday is not referenced in Colin Dexter’s Morse stories, but DS Strange — played by James Grout in Inspector Morse and Sean Rigby in Endeavour — is. The creators of Endeavour clearly have something up their sleeve for Thursday, a man whose decency was compromised by his flirtation with the Freemasons in earlier episodes. Before the series draws to a close, is the great man going to do something so terrible and disillusioning that older Morse never speaks his name again?
“Oh, it’s gotta be!” says Evans. “Haven’t you been paying attention? Dramatically it’s got to be something bad.”
Well, I have been paying attention, I want to answer. It’s why I asked the question. But I don’t.
Evans hopes to continue directing and slightly balks when I ask if he could do that full-time. “Why can’t you do both?” he says, which is also a fair point. His eyes light up when I ask him about his photography work. You get a real glimpse of the passionate and likeable man that people who work with him constantly describe.
“I’m a photographer on the sly. Black and white, mainly. I’ve been taking pictures since I was 15. The first job I ever had was in a camera shop when I was 16 and the first proper camera I bought was when I was 20. I just do it for myself. If people like it, that’s cool.”
He seems reluctant to even say what his subjects are. “They’re people... not portraits,” after another long pause. “It’s another manifestation of telling stories. My hope with it is that they are enigmatic images that draw you in and, when placed in a sequence, can tell a narrative that perhaps wasn’t there at the beginning.”
So even his hobby is enigmatic. Now why is that not a surprise?
The new series of Endeavour starts February 9, ITV, 8pm
Endeavour's Shaun Evans doesn't discuss his private life; and doesn't do small talk. 'Life's too short - let's do something interesting,' he tells Paul Kirkley.
Shaun Evans has never seen Inspector Morse. 'There's never been time,' says the actor, who plays the younger version of John Thaw's grumpy detective in Morse prequel Endeavour. Added to that, he didn't want to 'slavishly do an impersonation of someone else. But it's nice to feel part of something that's good and loved,' he adds of the show's distinguished pedigree. 'Nice to feel that I've added to it.'
Indeed he has: a sizeable hit since its launch in 2012, Endeavour has traced Sergeant Morse's bumpy journey through 1960's Oxford, solving a string of satisfyingly baroque murders under the watchful eye of veteran DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam). Now the latest series finds Morse ringing in a new decade by investigating the death of a young woman found on a towpath in the early hours of New Year's Day, 1970.
Shaun has also directed the opening episode - his second time behind the camera on the series. 'I've been directing for about five years now,' explains the 39-year-old in his soft Liverpudlian accent. ' I learned my trade on Casualty for a couple of years. I'm never one to sit on my laurels. You want to be pushing yourself, and for it never to feel too easy. You want to keep yourself interested, and therefore interesting.'
Although Shaun hints that Endeavour is approaching its endgame, an eighth series has already been confirmed, by the end of which he will have played Morse in more films than John Thaw. Another actor who's been on board since the start is Abigail Thaw - John's daughter - as Oxford Mail editor Dorothea Frazil. Did it feel important to have her blessing?
'It was never as heavy-handed as that,' he says. 'It was an unusual situation for both of us at the beginning, because we're just actors who've been employed to do a job. It's everyone else who brings that baggage to it. When we made the first one, they flew myself and Abbie out to LA to do publicity, and gave us money behind the bar. So we spent three days getting drunk, and having a laugh. Now Abbie's one of my greatest friends. Likewise with Roger.'
Unusually for a leading man, Shaun - a former member of the National Youth Theatre whose first regular TV role was in Channel 4's Teachers - tends no to take on other acting jobs between each series of Endeavour. That's partly because he's been easy earning his director's stripes, but also because he prefers to spend his six months off travelling, reading, taking photographs and generally expanding his horizons.
'I've always been interested in lots of things,' he explains. 'I love travelling. I'm interested in not being a slave to being an actor, but in trying to find my own personal route to a full life.
'I'm not just an actor sitting by the phone or having a smash-and-grab time doing all the work he can. I actually pay attention. I'm interested in the literature of Japan, or whatever. It's gratifying, at the end of the year, to say: yeah, I did that, I played that part, I directed that, I took all those pictures, I visited a new place I'd never been before... That, to me, is a full year, and a life fully lived. That's what gives my life meaning - not just pretending to be someone else.'
At one point during our conversation, Shaun refers to Morse as 'a truth seeker' - something you feel could equally apply to him. Born in Merseyside to a working-class Northern Irish Catholic family, he gained a scholarship to Liverpool's prestigious St Edward's College - early evidence, perhaps, of a restless, enquiring mind? 'Yeah, maybe,' he considers. I'm just hungry for things, you know? Always have been.'
His dad was a taxi driver and his mum worked in a hospital. Weekend points out that Morse's dad was also a taxi driver. 'Yeah,' he says. 'I'm reluctant to talk about that, though. Only because I made the choice to do this job. My family didn't. So I don't think it's cool to... I mean, it's not a big deal but...'
What he's politely - if a little awkwardly - trying not to say is 'mind your own business.' Because while Shaun is warm, convivial company, he also guards his privacy fiercely. His relationship status has never been up for discussion (although we know he dated singer Andrea Corr for four years in his twenties) and the word that tends to crop up in all profiles of him is 'enigmatic.'
'Why am I going to divulge the most intimate details of my life to a stranger?' he asks. 'And wouldn't I also be shooting myself in the foot? Because the more you know about me, my life and where I come from, the less you're going to believe in the story I'm telling. ' (For a while, he was even reluctant to let viewers hear his native accent, lest it break the spell.)
Presumably he’s baffled by the age of social media over-sharing? ‘I just think people might live to regret it,’ he shrugs. ‘We evolve, why would you make all your mistakes public?’
Would it be fair to say he’s quite intense?
‘I am intense,’ he nods. ‘But only because I can’t bear small talk. We have such a short time in the world. Let’s do something interesting.’
It’s an approach that makes him an unusually fascinating interviewee: almost entirely devoid of the usual airy platitudes these occasions demand, he appears to want to make every word meaningful.
‘I try to,’ he says. ‘I’m just trying to be honest, to let you get something out of this conversation. Equally, I want to get something out of it as well. I want you to leave with something,’ he adds, with a smile. ‘But I don’t want you to leave with something I don’t want to give you.’
Shaun partly based Endeavour’s voice on a young Michael Palin, who, like Morse, moved south to Oxford during the 1960s.
Kevin Whately called time on his own Morse spin-off, Lewis, because he was reluctant to exceed Thaw’s tally of 33 episodes, but Shaun doesn’t feel they should be ‘restricted by numbers’, arguing: ‘ it should be story led, not number led. When we feel we’ve put an end to this in a way that does justice to the work we’ve done, then it’s time to cal it a day.’
Shaun’s desire for privacy doesn’t extend to being rude to people in the street. ‘You should always be gracious,’ he says. ‘Hell, I do it all the time. I didi t the other day to Cathy Newman, from Channel 4 News. She didn’t have a clue who I was, but I totally fanboyed her. I love Channel 4 News!’
By Michael Pickard - Drama Quaterly
As Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour returns for a seventh season, star Shaun Evans talks to DQ about keeping the detective series fresh, avoiding impersonations and stepping into the director’s chair.
In the beginning, it was a single drama commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse. But eight years later, prequel series Endeavour is now back for its seventh season, continuing the story of the young Endeavour Morse’s early days as a detective in Oxford.
Shaun Evans returns in the title role, once again joined by Roger Allam as DCI Fred Thursday for three new films again written by Russell Lewis, taking the characters into a new decade, the 1970s. Episode one, Oracle, sees Endeavour taking in the new year at an opera house in Venice, while Thursday is convinced he has found the man responsible for a murder on an Oxford towpath.
New acquaintances and old friendships make themselves known, while a contentious college project develops into a fatal battle of the sexes.
The ITV drama – coproduced with Masterpiece in the US – may have been on air for eight years, but the limited number of episodes each year means Evans feels the series is as fresh as ever.
“We’re lucky because we only generally have four in the season, and this time it’s even less,” he says. “In a way that gives you more scope and because you’ve got a bigger gap between seasons it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly at the coalface. You can go away and do something else and then come back. That makes it easier, but also knowing there’s a shelf life [for the series] and that there is an end point focuses the mind. The great thing, though, is if the viewing figures are good enough, they’ll invite you to come back. It’s not taken for granted.”
With an eighth season already commissioned, the drama is now rapidly catching up to the original Morse series and it seems likely ITV will take Endeavour to its conclusion, however close that might be to the original series, which ran between 1987 and 2000.
“Having read the books [by Colin Dexter that inspired the original Morse series], that was my starting point of where the character was at the very beginning. But now, I feel like it’s got its own life,” Evans says of the prequel. “My only duty really is to finish the story we’ve embarked upon. To be honest, I think we’ll leave a big enough gap. There will be something like a 10-year gap before Morse starts, so I don’t feel too constrained by that.”
From the outset, the actor says he wanted to avoid any constraints put on Endeavour by the original series, particularly when it came to how he would portray the actor, who was originally played by the late John Thaw.
“When we first started I said I didn’t want to do an impression, otherwise what’s the point? I’m not doing any creative work then,” he says. “Fortunately it’s snowballed and so my intention is, if we are going to continue, to continue in that vein, to just keep doing my work and doing the work I’m proud of and bringing immediacy to the role if I’m acting it or a dynamism to if I’m directing it, so I can sleep at night. Beyond that, it’s not my decision.”
The current trend in television drama is for stories to play out over eight or 10 hours, with just as much investment in character development as there might be in the plot driving through the series. With a restricted number of episodes and a crime to solve in each one, does Evans feel he’s able to dig deep into Endeavour’s own personality?
“What I have discovered to be interesting is the plot-versus-character aspect of it and negotiating that,” he says. “For example, what I enjoy now is the flexibility of whether something is implausible or unlikely. There’s the flexibility of going, ‘Okay, that could happen’ and how do I get this character from scene A to scene B in a way that’s as believable and as immediate as possible, even though it may be slightly implausible. That is the nature of this job, rather than me creating a character. So the whole experience has really made me rethink what I think about acting for the screen and what that is moving forward.”
As a producer on the series as well as the leading actor, Evans is constantly in touch with the ‘family’ behind the scenes, whether that’s series creator and writer Russell Lewis or the production team at Mammoth Screen. “We’re all speaking throughout the year so it there’s something that needs our attention, we’re already talking about it anyway. And by the end of each season, we’re all more or less on the same page about going, ‘That didn’t work so well, but that was really good.’ For better or worse, it’s a constant conversation, which is a really unique and joyous way to be working.”
Evans is now adding directing to his list of duties and with three episodes of BBC medical drama Casualty under his belt, he made his directorial debut on Endeavour with an episode on season six. Now in season seven, he repeated his dual role on the first episode, Oracle.
“I’m not going to lie and say I was a kid running around with a 16mm camera,” Evans says of his directing pedigree. “I wasn’t, but from the get-go I was always more interested in doing as much as I can and being as broad as I can. I was glad when I was given the opportunity.”
He got his first break on Casualty, where series producer Erika Hossington invited him on to the show. “She did some due diligence and called around, heard that my heart was in the right place and then gave me the opportunity,” he recalls. “I prepared like a motherfucker and went and did it. The great thing for me at least about doing that rather than making a short film as a transition [into directing] is there’s something that focuses the mind when, yes it’s a machine, yes in six months time this will be out and people will see it, but also you’re surrounded by paid professionals who can sniff out if someone doesn’t know what they fuck they’re doing.
“For me, it’s better to learn under a little bit of pressure. It was an amazing experience in that respect. I started to learn about scenes and covering scenes. It was nerve-wracking for the first day or so but you’ve got to have a thick skin and be like, ‘Okay, I wasn’t so great at that. I’ll learn for next time.’”
He went on to direct three episodes of Casualty before filming 2019’s Apollo episode of Endeavour. “That was a really good experience and then they asked me to do it again. We also have a shorthand together now, myself and the team, because we’re friends and because we’ve made so many of them. I understand the tropes of this kind of story so I’m not wasting time there. I also have a shorthand with both the returning crew and the cast, so it makes it very efficient.”
Oracle opens with shots across the Oxford skyline and above rooftops, with atmospheric images of haunting woods and fog-covered bridges and canals. These are cross-cut with pictures of Endeavour attending the opera in Venice, where an elaborate performance – created purely for the series – is taking place on stage. There are also shots taken through windows, framing characters in different ways, while the camera, rarely still, is often moving with characters as they walk through crowds or waiting for them to approach from afar.
Evans says directors on the show, which is distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, are encouraged to be “as bold and as different” as they can to make the film their own, rather than relying on a directing blueprint.
“I storyboard it for myself in a very rudimentary way and then I make a list of things I want to see and the backgrounds I want to see and where I imagine things will take place, and then throw it out, and then start again,” he says of his preparation process. “You have to build to be able to destroy but that’s part of the nerves. I want to be the one with all the answers, as a director should be. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone in that role falter and flounder. It’s most effective when that person is most decisive and has a clear goal and is confident enough to be open to better suggestions. That’s what I’ve noticed by working for 20 years.”
For Oracle, he also enjoyed the opportunity to film in Venice, where he and a skeleton crew spent just a few days collecting what they needed.
“When you’re working on a TV show, it’s a huge circus that comes around but it’s great because you have all of that support,” he says. “But we wrapped on the Tuesday and then me and three others went to Venice on Wednesday, so we were shooting it in a very different set-up. There’s much more of a guerrilla style then. I flew out on Wednesday morning, looked at the location Wednesday afternoon and then we started shooting Thursday so you’re open to the TV gods to give you what you need and then you make it. It’s as simple as that.
“After being in the pressure cooker of being on a TV set, there’s something very freeing about just being in this place with a camera and a small team and knowing what you need, with just very rudimentary equipment. There’s something about that I found really engaging that I hadn’t done before, either on Casualty or Endeavour.”
Evans says what’s great about directing versus acting is that you can learn to become a better director, while acting is more instinctive and intuitive. He has also learned that, behind the camera, both preparation and an openness to other people’s ideas are key.
In addition, “experience is all,” he notes. “Don’t be precious. Go and do a show just to have hours. That was my take on it. You can learn even on a job you know is not your ultimate goal, but you’ve started on the journey and you learn some things. And work begets work as well. There’s no point you being aloof, sitting in the house until you get your big opportunities to make your film. If you’re out there busy grafting, then you’re learning something and people are talking about you anyway, and you’re not becoming stale. That would be my last thing that goes for anything. That’s a skill to be learned.”
The actor says he would eventually like to direct something he had written himself, adding that he’s “ambivalent” to whether that be a film or on television. “My hope is I’m in all of this for the long haul, so you can just keep that keep getting better and not just have one film that you want to direct or one part that you want to play,” he adds. “To get better at your work would be my goal.”
So, '70s Morse - are we going to see you all running about in flares, yelling, "Shut it, you slags"?
Absolutely not! [Laughs.] I think there's always an expectation for something set in this era to be like The Sweeney, so we wanted to be different. It's more dark, sombre, melancholy - all of those words.
What cases are Morse and co getting stuck into this season?
We're entering a new time, and the women's lib movement features quite heavily in our first episode. There's this female scientist who's getting short shrift because of her sex, even though she's the brightest person in the room. It's a lot about a woman's place in society, which is resonant now. Episode three follows a similar theme, as students at a ladies' college face the prospect of having men join them. In the second one, there is a lot about migration and a politician who's stoking racial hatred, which again is very timely. So, we're dipping into all those kinds of worlds, and it's really interesting to draw those parallels. Of course, we have all the crime stories and the relationships, but what was going on at the time socially offers so much, too.
Now, in the opening shot of episode one, we see you covered in blood. Should we be worried?
Well, our intention is to leave you heartbroken... [Laughs.] No, only in the sense that we are very close to the end of the whole thing now, so there has to be something that leads our Morse character to become the Morse character we know from the later series and books. Saying that, we do hope there will be an, "Oh f**k, I didn't see that coming" moment.
We also see Morse with a new lady...
That'll be because he's lost that moustache! Yes, he meets this woman while he's at the opera in Venice on New Year's Eve, and she's this unattainable goddess type, so he's blown away. But that's all I can say...
And what about his relationship with Fred? That's a bit up and down...
Oh, Fred is always up and down. But things between them get to the worst they can be now. In the books and later TV show, Fred's character isn't mentioned, so we have to decide why. If that character has been as instrumental as he is through our iteration of the Morse story, then we have to do something so big, it means he is never mentioned again.
"They're incredibly technical."
BY DAN SEDDON AND JO BERRY - DIGITAL SPY
Endeavour's Shaun Evans has revealed the art of shooting sex scenes, and admits they're nowhere near as awkward as you might think.
The actor and director recently sat down with Digital Spy to talk all things season 7 and we thought we'd mention one particular moment featuring Stephanie Leonidas' Violetta, which focuses on the atmosphere more than what's going on under the sheets.
On this unique love scene, Shaun reflected: "Well, to be totally honest with you, they're super easy because they're incredibly technical. I mean, it's a very PG love scene in this one, but in the ones that I've done just as an actor, they're incredibly technical because you want be very specific movement-wise.
"Whereas with this, the joy of this one, which I was directing, was Stephanie was so game and so up for it and had such an idea of what she wanted to do," he claimed.
"What I was more interested in was creating the atmosphere between the two of us, because it wasn't about, you know, actually having the sex," Shaun added.
"It was about what this person makes this person feel and she just nailed it."
Endeavour will return to ITV on February 9.
The ITV detective drama will incorporate storylines dealing with issues ranging from sexual harassment to immigration
Radio Times - By Flora Carr
Endeavour star Shaun Evans has revealed that that the upcoming seventh series of the ITV detective drama will cover various timely topics — including a scenario inspired by the #MeToo movement.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, the actor (who plays the young Endeavour Morse) and director was asked for his thoughts on the timeliness of various plotlines in season seven, including one about a male character who misreads signals from a female co-worker.
“Yeah of course, it’s not by accident. It’s intentional [the timely plotline], it’s not a coincidence,” Evans said. “I don’t want to say it’s a comment, but I think these stories work best when there is a reflection of what’s going on now. There’s a lot of women’s lib stuff. And the guy who misreads the signals… and how she’s [the female character] sort of dismissed in that situation. Then in the second [episode], there’s a lot about immigration and immigrants.
“None of these things are accidents, [we] try and do them with a lightness of touch, not heavy handed,” he added.
Asked whether he was directly inspired by the #MeToo movement, Evans (who directed the season’s first episode) said: “Well I mean it’s so in the ether at the moment – and rightly so – that I think yeah, of course, of course.”
Endeavour series seven premieres on ITV at 8pm on Sunday 9th February
And why some hardcore Morse fans might take issue
BY JOE ANDERTON AND JO BERRY - DIGITAL SPY
ITV's Endeavour has been slowly ticking in the background of the television landscape and, wouldn't you know it, it's gone and reached its seventh series!
The Inspector Morse prequel is finally reaching the 1970s, the decade before the original series is set, and there's plenty for fans to get excited for.
Speaking exclusively to Digital Spy, actor Shaun Evans talked about what he is most excited for viewers to see.
"I think the relationship with Violet builds and builds and builds, and it's that which I'm interested in. That relationship builds while the one with Thursday deteriorates."
Shaun isn't just acting in the show but is also directing episodes, including the Venice-set first episode of the seventh series. He stated that while that job comes with budget and technical challenges, he actually enjoys that since it challenges him to think more creatively.
He also admitted that the first episode contains a love-making scene that is generally quite mild, but some hardcore Morse fans might think is a bit racy considering the character.
Previously, Evans and Endeavour creator Russell Lewis told us that they "always thought we'd probably stop in the '60s' and while they have an endpoint in mind, they'll go for as long as there is demand.
Endeavour will return to ITV on February 9
ITV Press Pack
Endeavour is back for a seventh series. How does it feel to be slipping back into Morse’s shoes? Do you find it easy to get back into the role?
It’s fantastic. I’m really delighted and grateful that there’s an appetite for it, so I’m very happy to be back and continue with the story. I never want it to be too easy to return to the character, so this time before we started again, I actually went back to the books and read some of them again. I wanted to remind myself what I found initially engaging about the character and incorporate that as much as I could into it this time. It allowed me to think about it in a slightly different way and not make it as easy for myself.
Where do we find Morse at the beginning of the new series?
The new series starts on New Year’s Eve, 1969 and we find Morse in Venice where he’s gone to see the opera. He’s put down roots in his life, bought a flat and made the decision to stay in Oxford as a Police Officer, which is quite monumental for him. With that, brings a load of baggage in so much as starting a romance with someone, starting new friendships and ending older ones or calling people out on their actions. He’s very much being his own person when we find him at the beginning of the series.
We also see him doing up the flat himself, which is a nice touch.
Yes, I really liked that. The producer and production designer did a great job there as we stripped all the walls in the first episode, in the second one they’re all bare and in the third one, they’re wallpapered. That’s a place that we keep revisiting, so they had to keep doing it as other productions were working in the house as well. I’m really pleased that we’ve shown that part of his life, and it feels symbolic of where he’s at.
We can see that the moustache has gone - did you miss it or were you ready to say goodbye?
You forget about it, to be honest! One of the great things about doing something long-form is that you can show people’s little fads and changes. It was just an idea that we had and ran with. There was talk of us having a scene with him shaving it off, but it just felt surplus to requirements.
What was it like filming the scenes in Venice for Film 1? How did you approach this as director of the film?
It was incredible and very refreshing, because when you’re working on something like this, there’s usually a big unit which travels around with you which is great and a massive support. However, going to Venice, there was just four of us with very different camera equipment and a different way of getting the shots. There was something about that which was incredibly invigorating, particularly after the more traditional way we’d been telling the story. To be carrying the camera equipment myself, stopping people myself and doing the scene, felt quite guerilla-esque, which wasn’t something I’d done before - either as a director or as part of the show. There
was something about it that I found very refreshing and interesting.
Was there a particular reason why Venice was chosen?
It’s sort of similar to Oxford in a way, and is comparable with the towpaths and the water aspect featured in the series. There’s also something incredibly romantic and timeless about Venice. It’s almost an impossible city and there’s such a mystique around it, which wouldn’t have been the same in another city.
Did you feel it was important to explore a new location in the series?
I think so. We’re very lucky that we’re afforded that luxury now. It’s important to not keep doing things in the same way, and we’re always trying to push ourselves so you start thinking: Why not Venice? Why not New Year’s Eve? Why not the opera? There’s something about that which is good and I love the appetite from ITV and the team to embrace those challenges and make the most of them.
You touched upon the fact that we do see some romance for Morse this series. What can you tell us about this?
He meets this woman at the opera, and given that they’re both away from home and it’s New Year’s Eve, they start a romance. There’s something unattainable about this woman. This isn’t the person he’ll be settling down and making dinner with. It’s really useful in the history of his girlfriends and lovers that there’s something that’s not mundane - in fact, it’s the opposite. That’s what she represents. She is something completely different.
As you say, the series opens on New Year’s Eve, moving from the 1960s to 1970s. Do you feel there’s a marked change with the characters moving into a new decade?
It’s a gradual thing, but there is an evolution for all of the characters as the times are changing. What’s going on at the time means that there is a shift, but it’s a slow thing.
There feels like there’s been a social shift, with politics coming to the forefront and the dawn of women’s liberation. How is this touched upon during the series?
It’s interesting because - and this is what Russell Lewis is great at - that time is so rich, not unlike now in fact, that if you just dig a little bit and see what was actually going on, it’s a great backdrop to some of these stories. You can sort of acknowledge that we haven’t come miles away now in terms of our attitudes towards immigration, women’s rights, equal pay etc. I find that so interesting, and I think the show works best when it does that, in a very subtle way of course. It’s not
a hard-hitting political show, but it’s important to pay attention to what was going on at the time as it offers you so much.
Morse also strikes up a new friendship with a man called Ludo. Would you say they bond over a shared interest in the finer things?
Absolutely. Like the woman who Morse meets in the first episode, he’s different and there’s something about him which is not the mundane; not the everyday. It’s a financial thing, but also to do with his aspirations about things - his travel and experiences bring so much to the table has not been brought before. There’s an undercurrent of something that he brings - Ryan Gage (who plays Ludo) delivers that so well - and you’re not really sure whether this is good or bad.
What effect does this new friendship have on Morse’s long standing friendship with Strange?
Ludo and Strange would never be friends, but Endeavour contains both within him. The day to day drudgery of the work that they do can be incredible, but then there’s this aspirational urge in Endeavour for art, opera, music, travel and literature which he doesn’t get at work. So, Ludo and Strange represent two different parts of him.
I also think he’s wise enough to keep them separate. He’s not inviting Strange in for a drink, saying he and Ludo will really get along. He knows they won’t get on, so he might as well keep it separate. Perhaps what both the woman he meets at the opera and Ludo represent is something he’s been thirsting for since he left Oxford University - that kind of intellectual rigour.
How would you say that Morse and Thursday’s relationship has changed after the events of last series? There seems to still be tension between them…
It’s interesting, because in the later books and the Inspector Morse TV series, Thursday is never mentioned, so we need to give a reason for that. Something begins to happen which is irreconcilable, and we’re seeing the beginnings of that now as this series goes on. I think familiarity breeds contempt. I think both of these guys have been in each other’s pockets for many years now and they’re just getting on each other’s nerves. In their way of doing things, they can’t see the wood for the trees with the other and are starting to fail to see the positives.
You once again directed an episode of the series. Are you embracing pairing acting and directing?
It was awesome. I felt like I learned so much last time and was desperate to come back and put it into practice. I felt way more confident as well this time. I love directing because, whereas acting’s quite elusive in its way, - there’s no real right or wrong - with directing, it’s a skill that you can learn how to be better and more economical in telling the story. I really like being able to improve.
How did you balance doing both roles (actor and director) simultaneously?
Just being super prepared and knowing exactly what you want and need from a scene, as well as having to be open to things. It’s also important to ask for help. You rely a lot on your cast and the crew, but if you’re clear about what you want and what each scene is about, then anything is possible I think. There’s no time to find out on the day, but that really appeals to me - I like to know what I’m doing and then do it.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got lots going on! I’ve got a new TV show for next year with a director I’ve been dying to work with for ages, so I’m looking forward to starting that, and then I’m also adapting a book.