Get your detective shoes on and join Endeavour Morse in his earlier days in the mystery business. Set in Oxford in 1967, follow Endeavour and the Oxford City Police CID as they take on a number of investigations, keeping you on your toes. Shaun Evans (Endeavour Morse) takes the time to chat about his role and what we can expect.
Check it out:
How does it feel to be back? Do you enjoy returning to the character?
It’s great. I do really enjoy it. I’m very lucky to be able to finish a series and then have the option of coming back, so I can see if there is room for improvement. It’s very satisfying to be able to do that.
What compels him to work as a policeman?
Working out puzzles; working out something that no one else can see in an intuitive, imaginative way. He finds that quite satisfying.
What can we expect from Season 3?
This is the first time we have shot Endeavour in summer so it looks and feels lighter, but the stories are still quite dark. We’ve had brilliant actors and characters throughout these last few years like Sean Rigby, Anton Lesser, and Sara Vickers, and this series everyone gets their moment. We’ve only seen small parts of their stories so far but now it all starts to come together. We couldn’t have done that previously, you need to build in order to break your heart.
What is your favourite film from this series and why?
The fourth film is my favourite. It’s a really good story and it’s really well told. There’s a lot going on in it, not just one thing, but many things and diﬀerent layers of stories coming together. It’s a really satisfying, heart-breaking story with a terrific cast.
Season 3 is set in 1967. What diﬀerences has that brought and do we see any historical moments from that era?
We start to see the psychedelic 60s of drug culture and free love. It’s important to bring those elements into the story because it’s what was going on at the time. These aren’t documentaries, it’s an amazing world to set a drama in and explore. These stories work best in the world that we’ve created for the drama. In the 60s so much was going on, it’s sort of infinite, the pool that you can draw from. So when we create it really well, that’s when the story’s really engaging.
What is it about the character of Morse that audience’s love?
It’s an oddity isn’t it? This is a young man who’s into opera, into crosswords, and yet is in a world in which that isn’t really indulged. His mind works in a very specific way. But if you were to put that character in a story that wasn’t well told or well-constructed then people wouldn’t be fascinated or engaged by it. There’s no separation, the character works because the stories work. When the stories don’t work, the character doesn’t work. It works as a whole, not as individual pieces.
Have you enjoyed playing Endeavour this series?
There’s certainly been moments where I’ve thought, ‘this is an incredible job.’ There was a moment shooting at midnight and they’d decorated one of the colleges, we all had tuxedos on, and there was a band playing, and an orchestra; it was an amazing moment. I find it incredibly satisfying and gratifying.
We get to roam through the streets of Oxford at one/two o’clock in the morning, it’s fun! It’s also a great team of people.
The Actor, 35, is back on our screens in the 1960s as a young Inspector Morse in Endeavour. But his passions belong to an earlier generation.
Endeavour is back and he’s in the psychedelic 1960s. Is that an era that intrigues you?
I’m more interested in the decade before. I’m fascinated by the beat poets – Neal Cassidy, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac.
Would you like to play one of them in a drama?
If I had the choice it would be Jean Genet, the French writer who spent most of his life in prison. Or Jean-Paul Sartre. No, no...Arthur Rimbaud. He was a 19thcentury French poet who had the most incredible life. His letters are fascinating: he wrote all this amazing poetry, stopped writing really young, had his leg amputated and was dead by the age of 37. Poetry’s my thing. But I’d better stop rambling on because I’m going to sound like a pretentious w****r. Can you make me not sound like a pretentious w*****r?
I’ll do my best! What was it like returning to Endeavour ?
This is the first job where I’ve come back to the same character, It’s not necessarily any easier, you have to approach it as if it was the first time. What I love is that the show is an education. I knew next to nothing about classical music before starting. I’m no expert but it has given me an appreciation for Chopin, Debussy, stuff like that.
You play 18th century bounder Sir Richard Worsley in The Scandalous Lady W, who spied on his wife having sex. Was it fun playing the villain?
He’s a ‘bounder’ but there was more to that story than met the eye. Why was Richard the way he was? Was his wife complicit or meeting him halfway for her own ends? There’s more in the story than you could tell in one film the ménage a trois element, the relationship between Richard, Lady W and his friend (her lover) George, that could have been another film on its own.
If you could choose to live in an era of history, which one would it be?
I’d like to live in Wong Kar-wai’s version of 2046. I realise it’s fictional but that would suit me, speeding around a neon city on trains, whispering secrets into trees. Yeah.
Acting can be intense. What do you do to unwind?
With the risk of sounding like Judith Chalmers, I like to travel....being somewhere new. No phones or computer, seeing how other cultures live, how they have their coffee, or what music or food is popular, how they cook, what they believe in.......I love all that.
What is funniest thing that’s happened to you on set?
Oh man, recently enough – by the way this won’t sound funny but I’m starting to laugh thinking about it – I was in a circus tent for a scene on Endeavour, and it’s a scene where we’re summing up why the villain has done what he’s done. Anyway I don’t know happened but I couldn’t get my words out, and I could hear Roger (Allam, co-star) giggling next to me and see his shoulders moving silently up and down out of the corner of my eye...Before I knew it, I was in pieces. It was the end of the day and everyone in the crew was cold and tired, so that feeling of knowing you’ve got to pull it together makes it even worse, doesn’t it? I suppose you had to be there.
Chasing fame is a national pastime. Do you think actors need to keep a certain distance to do their job convincingly?
I do but it’s a balance because there is a responsibility to do a certain amount of press to publicise whatever it is you’ve made, and contractually you are obliged to do that. You want people to see the work you’ve done. So you have to find a middle ground of ticking that box without revealing so much about yourself that audiences find it difficult to believe you playing another part. But I’m still finding my way.
What keeps you motivated?
To be surprised is a good thing. People are endlessly surprising, don’t you think? Someone surprised me this morning. But I don’t think I should expand on that.....
Do you have any recurring dreams ?
I do but, no offence, I’m not going to share them with you. Dreams are personal, they should stay private.
SOLVING clues as crack detective Endeavour Morse has earned Shaun Evans heaps of praise. Yet the actor is quite an enigma himself.
By DAVID STEPHENSON - SUNDAY EXPRESS
Like his famous detective character Endeavour Morse, Shaun Evans is something of an enigma. It’s not that the 35-year-old actor won’t reveal anything, it’s just that he’s careful with his choice of words, often pausing mid-thought to make sure he’s saying exactly what he means. What is clear though is that ITV couldn’t have found a better actor to play the young Morse, in both talent and presence.
Shaun works extremely hard, respects his audience and has a high level of professionalism. For instance, he’s keen to say he would rather not continue making this popular prequel unless both the cast and the audience “are engaged”.
We’re engaged all right. His performance has been widely praised, unlocking a vulnerable side to Morse – through the writing of Russell Lewis – that was barely explored in the original series.
While he’s anything but an over-sharer, shunning Facebook and Twitter, Shaun doesn’t hesitate to say he’s delighted with series three of Endeavour, which comprises four feature-length films.
“It’s really good,” he says, in ITV’s central London headquarters. “It means we’ve had longer to work on the scripts, and that sort of thing.” Does it mean you can do more work on your performance I suggest (not that he needs it).
“We talk about it constantly during the year when we’re all on different things, just so you know where the stories are kind of at. It means there’s more time for it to percolate, which is always a good thing.”
Life is very different for Morse at the start of this series. He’s living in a wooden shack, outside Oxford, suspended from the force, filling his time darning his own socks and chopping wood, like a man who has never used an axe before. In fact, he behaves like a completely different character.
“Well, that’s how it should be,” says Shaun. “Because he’s not a police officer, he’s exploring a different side of himself. My feeling was that his indecision should be reflected in his whole look – the hair, clothes, everything. Even the way he walks. Everything has to keep moving forward in Endeavour, otherwise it will stagnate.”
Details of Morse’s posh student background are also revealed for the first time, via his old Oxford pals. Shaun says: “It’s like a limitless bag of tricks [for the writer]: ‘Oh, here’s an old don now!’ It’s a great device when used well. I think Russell uses it very well and it works best when this whole world is created for an audience.
“Each episode is quite self-contained like that – different worlds. The first one is all these grand stately homes and characters. Lots of luxury cars.” Morse appeared to have his head turned a little. “Well, I think he is thinking, ‘I’m suspended and I’m not going to be a policeman any more.’ He’s been shot at and stabbed. If it happened to me I’d change my job!”
Shaun, who grew up in Liverpool, has Irish parents. His father was a taxi driver and his mother was a health care worker. In his teens he decided on an acting career and his rise has been effortless. What was it that inspired him?
“I couldn’t say,” he admits. “It just sort of popped into my head from nowhere. I didn’t really go to theatre either. I just thought, ‘I think I will do that.’ That’s why I feel quite lucky that it’s always been quite clear to me what I should do.”
He attended St Edward’s College, a Catholic school on Merseyside, where he won a scholarship. “It was very academic, but quite musical,” he says. “I was going to do history and politics at university and then I thought, ‘Nah, I’ll do this!’” So he took himself off to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London when he was 18.
After stage work, he won TV roles in dramas such as Teachers, Silk and Whitechapel. And recently, he appeared in The Scandalous Lady W, a bold performance which involved him looking through his bedroom keyhole at his wife while she was with other men.
When did he realise that he could make a career of acting? “It’s hard to describe, but I never thought I could make a career out of it. And I still really don’t. You know, sometimes you earn a lump sum, sometimes you earn nothing.
I think it’s a falsehood to think you can have some kind of plan. Acting isn’t like that, it’s more vocational I think. The question I ask myself more is, ‘Can I survive doing this?’ Sometimes you have to do jobs in different places just to make ends meet. It’s a strange of way of life in that respect.”
He admits that acting in Endeavour has been a learning curve for him. “It’s really proved how key the writing is to everything. It’s a very different task. In each episode, you have to create the atmosphere and someone has to die. A crime has to be solved in an interesting manner, and you still need to say something about the characters. That’s very difficult to do in just an hour on TV, even 90 minutes. So if the writing isn’t what it should be, the episode falls on its backside. But Russell is just brilliant at doing this – he really is.”
As an actor, Shaun says he feels less challenged now. “I feel I know the character now and for five months while we’re filming I know this is my whole life. The challenging thing is not the acting now. I sort of understand how he works and thinks. We’ve made 13 of these productions now, so if I didn’t know it, there would be a problem. The challenge is welcoming other actors and directors into this world, and making them feel comfortable with it.”
He must have a terrific sense of achievement with the success of the series so far? “Well, yes in a way, and I’ve been lucky to be able to do film and theatre work, too. It’s just down to scheduling. Who knows if we’re going to do any more of these [Endeavour]. We’re busy from May to September with this and anything else has to fit in with that.”
We’re certainly getting more romance in this series than we did in the original Morse, and I ask Shaun about the kiss in the preview of the show that I saw. “Was there?” he asks coyly.
“Oh, yes, there’s a bit of smooching.” And Monica, the nurse from the last series, is she going to be playing a part in the story? “She is there, but no, she doesn’t make a reappearance in that sense. But that’s about it really. We move on.”
He had his own romantic entanglement with singer Andrea Corr for four years after they met on the set of the film, The Boys From County Clare. They broke up in 2007.
As Shaun takes care not to publicise his private life, I ask him how he now likes to spend his time off set. “I’m a big reader,” he says. “And I take a lot of pictures, do a lot of writing. Same as everyone else. But I do a lot of work.”
Would he like to write an episode of Endeavour? “No I don’t think I could. They’re too dense and it would take too long to do.”
Morse does have his antsy moments. I wonder if Shaun has poured any of him his own personality into the role? He pauses. “What, like lacking direction, do you mean?” he asks. Then continues, “No, I’m very lucky. I always had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Sometimes, you get a little muddled. No, I’m very clear about things.”
Indeed he is. Now that Lewis has gone, the coast is clear for Endeavour to last a decade it seems. What about another 10 or 15 years of the series?
“Never say never,” he says. “I can speak for the whole team that when we began this whole thing our intention was to make something really good. Then we had the good fortune to make another four episodes. So if you are invited to make another series – and there are no contracts by the way – you get to review, ‘Are we achieving what we set out to do?’ Are we bettering ourselves?
Are these scenes better?’ And I suppose, ‘Do we still care as much about it,’ including the audience.
I would be reluctant to continue beyond the point where either the audience or we were not engaged in the series. So if they want more, and we’ve got more to give, never say never, and it could go on and on.”
Endeavour is on ITV tonight at 8pm.
By Katrina Schollenberger - The Lady
Back as the young Morse and his mentor, Shaun Evans and Roger Allam tell Katrina Schollenberger about their real-life relationship and what's ahead for Oxford's finest
The year is 1967, the height of the Swinging Sixties, and Detective Constable Morse has been suspended from duty after being framed for murder. Having retreated to a quiet lakeside home, he is wallowing in self pity and anger, uncertain of his future in the Oxford City Police. Meanwhile, his colleague and mentor Detective Inspector Fred Thursday is back on the force with bullet fragments still lodged in his lung after being shot months earlier.
As we saw last week when the third series of Endeavour began, the young Morse, played by Shaun Evans, attempts to piece his life back together, mingling with old college acquaintances and trying to fit in with their lavish life styles. In the series opener, however, trouble continued to stalk Morse, with the body of young bus conductress, Jeannie Hearne, found in the Oxfordshire countryside close to his bolt hole. The episode airing this Sunday, titled Arcadia, explores a mysterious illness that not only kills a young housewife but sends half of Superintendent Bright's troops home on sick leave. Endeavour, whose investigation into the illness leads him to a family owned supermarket, unravels a history of management rivalries as well as family issues for the CEO of the store, Leo Richardson. The episode is full of dark themes and hypocrisies that Endeavour brings to light and when death befalls Richardson's family, it's up to the young detective to uncover those behind the killings.
'At the beginning of the first episode it felt like it was all broken apart', says Roger Allam (Thursday). 'I wanted to go and find him because [Endeavour's] been treated badly. There's a continual change between those two. As the relationship develops, it's as much him looking after me as me looking after him. It can be quite a difficult relationship, certainly as the series progresses. But it's a rich and rewarding and nurturing one as well.'
The fictional detectives' closeness is mirrored by that of Allam and Evans in real life. 'We look after each other in a similar way', says Allam, 'as colleagues and as friends. We're constantly discussing how to make a scene work, if it needs a little change, what's going on.'
Evans describes the time in which the new series is set as an era of 'psychaedelic drug culture and free love.' Returning to a 'Sixties mindset' proved challenging for the cast, particularly on location. 'You keep having to think and be reminded that "none of this was there",' says Allam. 'It wasn't easy to ring people up. You had to get to a call box. People didn't even have necessarily cars. I remember about that period my parents moved to a street of small houses in Putney, and there were about three cars. Nowadays I could walk down that street and it's completely lined with cars. One forgets all that.'
Much of the first episode of series three, Ride, was filmed in opulent mansions, complete with classic cars. Evans reveals that the shoot involved three residences belonging to the Rothschild family. The location budget isn't tight, it seems. Evans acknowledges a danger that 'it becomes all about glorious stately homes, and not about the story', but says, 'I think we strike a good balance.'
Surprisingly, the crew film very little in Oxford, apart from exterior shots of buildings and cobbled streets. Evans describes filming in the city as 'brilliant, but too brief. I love Oxford. I love being there. I love the atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately we only get to do a few days there per film.'
The new series features some dramatic developments for the main characters. DI Thursday crosses boundaries, becoming violent with offenders - Allam explains that his injury has made him 'suddenly aware of his own mortality' - while Endeavour is caught up in a heartbreaking love story. The actors agree that the last episode, Coda, is one to watch out for. It centres on a bank robbery with hostages and ends, as Evans puts it, 'in a dynamic place.'
So, is there a future for Endeavour after this series? "The completion of the circle is when it goes to the audience and you see whether it still engages and entertains', says Evans. 'We're not reinventing the wheel, but I do want a certain standard, because the audience deserves that. The whole team try to keep their eyes on that. If there's still a demand, and we still feel the story can go somewhere without repeating ourselves, if we can still attract brilliant directors and actors and if there's still a story to be told for this character, for these characters, then we'll continue, I think.'
By Sarah Selwood - TV Times
Our fingernails are bitten and our nerves are in tatters. How could the makers of ITV period crime drama Endeavour leave us on tenterhooks for nearly two years with that shocking finale to the second series?!
In the episode Neverland, which aired on 20 April 2014, offbeat DC Endeavour Morse unearthed corruption within the top ranks of the Oxford police.
But his investigation took a very sinister twist, and we last saw him languishing in prison after being falsely accused of the murder of Chief Constable Rupert Standish (Derek Hutchinson).
As if that wasn't enough, Endeavour's beloved senior officer DI Fred Thursday's (Roger Allam) life was left hanging in the balance after he was shot in the chest by corrupt Assistant Chief Constable Clive Deare (James Wilby).
So, when TV Times was invited to visit the cast during filming for series 3, which begins this week, we were delighted to see both Shaun and Roger back pounding the Oxford beat!
The new series comprises four episodes and the action has moved to 1967. Here, we take Shaun, 35, and Roger, 62, in for questioning about what happens next...
Hello, Roger - you're back! We were worried about you, especially after Thursday said in Neverland: 'I was born a copper - and I'll die one, I expect...
Roger: Ah, were you? The first time I read the script for that episode, I thought: I'm only signed up for two series; maybe they're covering themselves here!' But I soon knew I'd be coming back - it was made clear they wanted a big cliffhanger between that series and this.
Where do we pick up the action?
Shaun: Three months have elapsed, and Endeavour has just come out of prison and is suspended from his duties. When I picked up the character after he was shot in the series one finale, he was in a slightly post-traumatic state of mind, but this time it's more ambivalence towards the force. So he's got back in touch with some very decadent and wealthy friends from Oxford university days - the characters borrow heavily from The Great Gatsby - and is now staying in one of their cabins by a lake to reassess his options. He's going to parties every night. But then, on the way to one party, he sees the body of a dead girl and is like, 'Oh God! It's the idea that you can't escape your destiny.
And how is Thursday doing after the shot?
Roger: A bit of the bullet has remained inside his chest. It makes him cough and he's been told it could get him at any time because it could work its way to his heart. So he's got that sword hanging over his head.
Episode two sees Dakota Blue Richards join the cast as courageous Pc Shirley Trewlove. What can you tell us about her character?
Roger: Trewlove and Morse are kindred spirits. She's another oddball - an unexpected person to be working for the police.
Shaun: She's the first woman Pc we've had. Endeavour first meets her when he's investigating the case of a man burnt to death in his bed in a flat. Shirley's been talking to the neighbours and it's immediately clear to him that she's very bright, articulate and as smart as him. It's funny because, a couple years ago, I met Dakota at a work thing and was immediately struck by her. She was slightly irreverent and honest, which was really refreshing. Every time I look at Trewlove, I remember that first meeting.
Does her surname suggest romance is on the cards for them?
Shaun: Yes. her surname is interesting. I don't know what it means but thus far there's certainly no romance. She's just a brilliant part of the team.
Creator and writer Russell Lewis has again put subtle nods in the script to Inspector Morse and Lewis. In episode three we meet a young Philip Hathaway [Rob Callender], whom Lewis fans will know is the dad of DS James Hathaway [Laurence Fox]. Do you enjoy these references?
Shaun: For me, my intention when I was given this amazing job was to please the existing audience but try to take it somewhere new. I don't have a massive knowledge of Lewis or Morse, and I try to take each story as it is. So I understand that aspect of it pleases fans and I'm more than happy to do that, but if it doesn't fit in with the story, it would become a problem. It has to be carefully done in a very subtle and delicate way, which it always is.
Given all that Endeavour has been through so far, would you like him to have some happiness one day?
Shaun: It's funny because I get a few letters saying, 'It would be nice to see him smile every now and then!' And I think, 'Would it? Or would it stop being interesting then?' The only way would be for him to be really happy for a short time and then to have that snatched away from him. [Shaun bursts out laughing as he comes up with a storyline idea.] He could meet someone, fall head over heels and then perhaps she gets killed!
Er, moving on... So, finally, Roger, is there another cliffhanger ending in store for Thursday, or will you definitely be back if a fourth series gets the green light?
Roger: [Chuckling] Should it be comissioned again, I'd be delighted to come back!
As Morse returns, the star of the hit ITV drama reveals what's next for his career
By David Brown - Radio Times
Falsely accused Endeavour Morse was last seen languishing in a prison cell after being framed for murder. But fans of the hit ITV drama needn't despair - Shaun Evans is back on the case for a third series beginning this evening. Here, the actor talks about life as the Oxford detective, why Morse has endured for four decades and what the future holds...
So what has brought you back to Endeavour for a third series?
I didn't feel like we should have left it where we did last time. It would have been odd. As a viewer, I would have been dissatisfied to have left it there because you'd have only been telling half the story. Luckily enough, we had the opportunity to come back to do some more and I think the stories are really good - particularly the final one. It goes along at a lick. It's a bank heist but it's also a love story. And it's heartbreaking. I think it's great and it ends in a really satisfying way.
The character of Morse has now been around for 40 years - why has he endured?
A good story well told will stand the test of time. And if you throw in an unusual character - someone who is in a world but not of that world - then that's intriguing.
The original series of Inspector Morse did episodes in Australia and Italy - would you like to do an overseas Endeavour?
Well, they keep telling me that the character is going to Spain. But I can take myself to Malaga. I'm joking, but I'm being honest too. There is a Spanish idea, but I'd want it to be right. I don't want this job to be a jolly or something that we take for granted and phone in. There are so many variables to that kind of thing: would the locations be as good? Or the actors? Granted, it would be a laugh to go away with Roger Allam, but would it serve the show?
Does Endeavour Morse become more like you as the series goes on?
I think that’s a danger, definitely. The more comfortable and confident you get with something, the easier it could be to be less diligent about creating a character. But then you’d be taking shortcuts that you might not have done three years ago. So I try not to be complacent about it. I want to be even more diligent than I was when I started. But I admit that it's a tricky one.
Having a two-hour slot for a drama seems like a privilege these days - do you worry that viewers' attention spans could be too short to cope?
I don’t worry about it at all. I feel like the work we’ve done so far has been very good. Some have been better than others - as would be the case. But I feel pleased with it. Now if audiences change and they feel that the episodes are too long, boring or complicated, then we’ll just stop. That’s OK.
But I've seen some crime dramas that try to tell the story in an hour and, for me, it just doesn't work.You’re tyring to set up a killer, set up a world, solve it in an interesting or dynamic way and put in some character stuff as well. It’s nigh on impossible to do in an hour. I don’t think you can do it in a satisfying way. That’s my impression as an audience member.
Fans would be up in arms if you decided to stop Endeavour!
No. I don't think that'd happen. It's just work. And they'd just fill it with something else. There'll be another brilliant show.
I think you'd make an ideal Doctor Who - would you like to play that role one day?
I’ve never seen it! I think Matt Smith is a brilliant actor. And David Tennant also. But it just wasn’t my thing growing up and I feel like I’ve missed it now. I was in Moscow a few months ago and someone asked me about Doctor Who. And she thought I'd make a good Master. So if you’re offering me a part, then I’ll play the Master.
What about playing James Bond?
Well, everyone wants to play James Bond, right? He always gets the girl at the end. And in the middle. And at the beginning, come to think of it. But I think that Daniel Craig would be a tough act to follow. He brings something really interesting to it.
Do you ever look at contemporaries like Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne and think, 'I'd like top billing in a Hollywood movie'?
I know both those lads and I like them. But I never really think of my career like that. Of course, you want people to see your work, but I'm not interested in being the next so-and-so. It doesn't attract me. Mainly because it's short lived. It's better to keep working and do interesting stuff.
So being a big Hollywood star isn't all it's cracked up to be?
I don't know. I suppose if you had enough clout to guarantee finance for a story you wanted to tell, then that would be a good thing. From a business point of view. But I don't spend my time being envious. There are so many variables in all that bollocks! When you desire fame or fortune - which are ephemeral things - you're building your house on sand, aren't you?
Do you have a dream project that you'd like to do?
I'd love to do something about poets or photographers who have done interesting things and left an impression on their portion of the world. Someone like the American photographer Walker Evans. Or the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
So what's next for you?
I'm purposefully having some time off. I've been busy and I'd like a bit of time to read some books and just study. I want to educate myself on writers, photography, filmmaking and poetry. I'm very lucky that I've now got enough money to have a bit of time to myself and study. I'm very lucky to be in that position.
Endeavour returns tonight on ITV at 8pm
Endeavour's having a wobble: As the Morse prequel returns, the young detective is reassessing his life...and so is Shaun Evans, who plays him
By TIM OGLETHORPE FOR THE DAILY MAIL
When we last saw him, Endeavour Morse was languishing in jail at the end of the second series of the acclaimed Morse prequel in 2014.
He’d been framed for the murder of Chief Constable Rupert Standish after the brilliant young detective had unearthed corruption at the heart of the Oxford City police force. His immediate boss DI Fred Thursday was in trouble too, his life hanging in the balance after being shot in the chest.
It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that both Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, who play the crime-fighting duo, are back on the streets at the start of this third run of the show, which is set in 1967.
Admittedly Thursday has the fragment of a bullet lodged in his lung which could kill him at any moment, but he’s back on duty.
‘Endeavour’s out of jail but suspended from the force pending an inquiry,’ says Shaun, 35, in a Liverpool accent far broader than Endeavour’s.
‘He’s been in touch with some friends from his Oxford University days and he’s staying in a cabin by a lake owned by one of them, reassessing his options. He’s fallen into company with this wealthy group of young people and he’s starting to think, “Maybe I’ll do this instead, hang out with these rich people rather than be a policeman.” But then he spots a dead body on the way to a party – and that’s when he becomes involved in police work again.’
The body belongs to a young bus conductress, Jeannie Hearne, who was last seen at a funfair the previous evening. The investigation into her murder leads to the very people Endeavour’s been hanging around with, mysterious playboy Joss Bixby and a couple of socialites, Bruce Belborough and his beautiful wife Kay, a woman Endeavour finds an instant connection with.
Endeavour has enjoyed plenty of dalliances with women over the past two series and this one is no different. There’s a new police officer working at the station, Shirley Trewlove, and there are hints that they might become more than just colleagues. And in one of the later episodes Endeavour enjoys a Mrs Robinson moment when an older woman tries to seduce him.
Throughout it all Endeavour remains largely unemotional, a loner who seems perfectly happy living in the middle of nowhere as the series opens. ‘There’s an air of mystery about him, he keeps himself to himself,’ says Shaun, who likes to keep his own personal life close to his chest too.
The son of a taxi driver and a health worker from a family with its roots set firmly in Northern Ireland, he had a four-year relationship with Andrea Corr of the Irish pop group The Corrs after the couple met while filming a movie in Ireland in 2003. Since then he’s kept his private life firmly under wraps.
‘I like to keep that side of things to myself,’ he says, ‘although it’s more to do with making sure I’m convincing on screen rather than not wanting to let people know about the ins and outs of my life. You need people to believe in you as a particular character and go with you and that’s easier if viewers aren’t thinking about you, the person.’
What we do know is that he makes a habit of going travelling when he’s finished each series of Endeavour. He visited Vietnam and Cambodia after the first two series and he was back in south-east Asia earlier this year after completing series three.
‘I loved it. It gave me a chance to get away from everything,’ he says. ‘I’d stay in a really basic place one night for something like £3, and then a more expensive place the following night. I was away for months and I really enjoyed it.’
The trips provide an escape after five intense months on Endeavour. ‘The programme takes up 20 weeks of the year, from 5am to 8pm every day. The stories are often in a state of flux so I have to be there all the time to stay on top of what’s going on, especially when I’m welcoming guest stars. I have to know my lines well in advance which means learning them during the evening, so Endeavour is with me constantly – I can’t get rid of him at any point during filming.’
Shaun could conceivably carry on as Endeavour for years. Given that John Thaw didn’t start playing the more mature version of the character until he was 45, Shaun could feasibly have another decade or more to explore the younger Morse.
‘That depends on the audience,’ he says. ‘However pleased we are with the work we’ve done on this new series, the audience may think otherwise, they may think standards have fallen and that they don’t want to see any more. I’d be disappointed if that happened, but we’re very much in their hands. This is arguably our best series yet, though, and the last story, Coda, is the best episode we’ve ever done. It’s a really engaging story that revolves around a bank robbery and an especially grisly murder. It’s terrific.
‘But being typecast is a bit of a concern. It’s a tricky one and I try not to think about it too much. Endeavour has a level of audience that makes it slightly easier to be seen for parts and other jobs do come slightly easier now than they did, because people know me from playing Endeavour.
But I hope it hasn’t typecast me, I hope this is a stop on the journey of my career and not the last station.
‘To be honest it would be good to know when Endeavour is going to end. I think we should decide we’re going to make a finite number of new episodes and stick to it. It would be set in people’s minds and it would give the whole team a direction to move towards.
'I think we should pick a year, a great year to finish, decide on the relationships Endeavour is going to have on the journey towards that point and then go for it.’
Endeavour returns tomorrow at 8pm on ITV.