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