Life of Wylie
THE latest TV puzzle starts with a crossword. Plus a flashback to the young detective being shot at the end of the last story. Endeavour returns to ITV on Sunday for a second series of the Inspector Morse prequel. It’s May 1966 and the young Morse (Shaun Evans) is on his first day back at work at Oxford City Police with Det Insp Fred Thursday (Roger Allam). But doubts remain about whether the Detective Constable is fully recovered from his ordeal. “The light’s gone out of him,” Thursday tells his wife.
There are four 120-minute films in the new series, which again pays respect to John Thaw’s Morse while continuing to carve its own place in television history. The first episode guest stars Beth Goddard as Labour Parliamentary candidate Barbara Batten.
Alongside Jonathan Coy, Pooky Quesnel, David Westhead, Jessie Buckley and Liam Garrigan. With John Thaw’s daughter Abigail Thaw returning as newspaper reporter Dorothea Frazil and Anton Lesser as Chief Supt Reginald Bright.
The new series further explores the relationship between Endeavour and Thursday, while revealing more about the latter’s background. There’s a taste of romance for the young detective on his journey towards becoming the older, lonelier Inspector Morse. With a first glimpse of his lifelong conflicts with organisations like the Freemasons.
I went along to the London media launch of Endeavour 2 earlier this month. A screening of the first episode and later series highlights. Followed by a Q&A with Shaun Evans (Endeavour Morse), Roger Allam (Det Insp Fred Thursday) and Russell Lewis (Writer & Executive Producer). During which Shaun spoke about that romance, studying the voice of Michael Palin rather than John Thaw and much else besides.
You can read my edited transcript below.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the late John Thaw many times over the years, including during the early days of Morse in the late 1980s. And my main thought during the Endeavour series two preview screening? Just how much he would have loved it.
Endeavour returns to ITV at 8pm on Sunday (March 30).
Q: (From me) We know that the relationship between Thursday and Morse obviously develops in this series. Do you want to talk a little about how it develops. Also I gather in the third film, we learn a bit more about Thursday’s past? I don’t know how much you can say about that?
Roger Allam: “Well it develops, I suppose, because this series starts off with Endeavour coming back to Cowley station, having been wounded at the end of the last series – and also the death of his father at the end of the last series. So I think there’s concern on Thursday’s part about whether he’s going to be up to speed, match fit, as sharp as he was. Because as imaginative as he was in the right way…in the way that I think attracted Thursday to begin with, about Endeavour…that here was someone who had a particular way of working which wasn’t usual in the police but it would be a very good ability to have in your police station, in your squad of men. To have someone with that imagination and intelligence. So there’s concern to begin with about whether he’s going to quite get back to that and some anxiety around there. And even those comfortable little pegs that you have, those everyday things like those jokes – he always knows what is in my sandwich…so there’s anxiety both trivial like that but fun and also larger. And then, of course, he gets back and it’s fine.”
Shaun Evans: “I think also you’ve got in this as well…as it develops they flip. At the beginning you have the Endeavour character thinking, ‘Is this the right place for me? Am I in the right job?’ But by the end of the fourth one it’s Thursday who’s questioning whether he’s in the right place, whether he has a future. So there’s like an about face from both characters. I think that’s what’s interesting as it develops. That you see that they need each other in order to move forward.”
Roger Allam: “And in film three, as well, I suppose Endeavour finds out something about Thursday’s past. Something specific about Thursday’s past which I can’t, alas, reveal to you now, (laughter) that adds very much to his knowledge of Thursday as well. So as you go on in time, like you do with anyone, they’re finding out more about each other.”
Russell Lewis: “I think that what we didn’t want to do is just let it fall into a too comfortable relationship. That it became predictable, week in, week out, how they were going to be with one another. So it’s the stronger for it, that it’s not just rubbing along like an old married couple. They’re constantly finding out things about each other.”
Q: Endeavour has gone back to work and is almost learning again. Is that nice for you to almost go back to a blank canvas?
Shaun Evans: “Yeah. It’s funny because obviously you’ve done it before but it has to be brand new and you have to find all of those things again. So, yeah, this time I was going back for this first one – you’re re-evaluating your role in it and what the stories are as they develop. And also, one of the great things about this is it’s constantly evolving. And even while we may have done one there’s still things that need to be finished on the ones that come prior to it. So it is a funny, constantly evolving thing. And yeah, you are learning. I’m learning doing it. So it’s good that that’s reflected in it.”
Q: Grown-up drama to bring Freemasons in as well. Do we go further into that. The tension at the police station between those who are and those who aren’t?
Russell Lewis: “Yeah, we do. It’s canon really. Morse’s relationship with that fraternity. And we thought it would be interesting to look at that a little across these stories.”
Q: Roger – Thursday seems to have many lines of wisdom in every episode. Do you have any favourite lines from this series?
Roger Allam: “I can’t remember any from this episode now. There are a lot. Not necessarily to do with wisdom but certainly in the way that Russell writes for Thursday, which is a slightly older generation way of speaking. They’re lovely to play and I find them deeply charming, to me, personally. Because Thursday is roughly around the age of my father, I would guess. He would have been born around about the same time as my father. Maybe my uncle, maybe his younger brother, who was also, curiously, called Fred. That way of speaking…London…lower working class thing, I have great love for. So I like that. Not just the wisdom but that way of speaking is a way, I think, of recapturing that time.”
Russell Lewis: “Very much he’s drawing on my own father…fundamental decency of his class and putting him into Thursday a little.”
Q: Shaun – how would you define the way in which Endeavour’s working method was different to other police inspectors? What makes him attractive in the way he works?
Shaun Evans: “Great question. I think there’s an imagination and an intuitiveness. But also an intelligence. He’s probably not particularly well suited to being a policeman but to that cryptic way of working things out. I think that’s what sets him apart from others. I would say.”
Q: Shaun – because you’re a young man, do you find it a problem to throw yourself back into the Sixties and the way people used to act as police officers in those days, entirely different to today?
Shaun Evans: “Whenever you take a job, if it’s set in a different period it gives you an opportunity to learn a little bit more about it. I think specifically for this, I don’t think the character is particularly in tune with his time. So how people are behaving in the Sixties isn’t that so important for me, to copy the mannerisms of that, if you know what I mean? But I think that for any job it is only really ever an opportunity for you to see that new…if it’s set in a new place, in a new time…People did have those attitudes. You just have to trust that. You have to trust that in the writing. Sometimes you think, ‘That’s perhaps a little sexist’ or whatever. But you have to trust that it’s there in the writing. And it is. Again, it’s just an opportunity to think, ‘Oh God, look how far we’ve come in that respect.’ In some ways.”
Q: Shaun – did you go back to looking at the old Morse and John Thaw or..?
Shaun Evans: “No, I didn’t. I didn’t think that would be useful for this. Because when the scripts arrive you have to depend largely upon your imagination to recreate something. That’s not to do down anything that’s gone before. It’s only with the greatest amount of respect. Plus if I’m going to sit here and talk about something I want it to be something that’s come from me versus something that’s been a copy of something else. So, no I didn’t. Perhaps I should have.” (laughs)
Q: Shaun – could you summarise Endeavour’s state of mind at the beginning of this episode?
Shaun Evans: “At the beginning, when we return, it’s been four months since losing his dad and being shot. He’s been seconded to another station and he’s had a bit of time out of work. The first day back is the first day of this film. So you see him coming into the station, sort of brand new, not feeling a hundred per cent. I hesitated to say ‘post-traumatic stress’ but along the lines of being in deep shock and probably needing a little bit more time off. But that’s where we find them at the beginning. The interesting thing about that is that then you have a crime which occurs and it needs to be solved. He needs to solve it in a particular way to get himself back. And needs to be back in this groove in order to heal himself, in a way. I think that’s where we are at the beginning. I don’t want to spoil it but when you get to the end it’s in a very different place. By the end of the fourth film it’s in a very different place in terms of his relationship both to Thursday, to the job, to the station and to himself as well.”
Q: How are we going to see the relationship between Morse and Monica develop?
Shaun Evans: “That’s an interesting one. In a way I wish, and I think we all do as well…you could dedicate a whole film, or a large portion, to who this person is and how they relate, especially to a woman. But we just haven’t got the time and there’s so much other stuff to fit in. How it develops though, which I think we’ve achieved in this, is a relationship begins to blossom. Ultimately we know, having seen them and knowing that this guy (John Thaw’s Morse series) dies in the end on his own. So it’s not going to work out. But I think that creates a certain amount of conflict and drama. By the end of it, I feel like she’s probably slightly more keen than he is. In the third one we get to see that as he’s slightly fallen in love with her, his work is suffering. And so then – off screen – you have to make that choice. ‘How can I have both? And if I can’t have both, which one will I choose? Will I choose a happy relationship and try to emulate Thursday and his wife? Or will I go down another path?’ All of these subconscious as well. But that’s at least what we’ve attempted to achieve in both the third and the fourth (film) and as it progresses.”
Russell Lewis: “I think it weighs quite heavily on him, his great intellect. There’s a warning giving to him in Fugue, in the second film of the first series by the villain, which is, ‘That to be intelligent is to always be alone.’ And I think across this run of films there’s almost a push from him to try and reach for normality, to fit in, to be a regular guy. And given his nature we know that’s something that, although he’s going to strive for, it really does go against his better nature, which is solitary and thoughtful. But he’s certainly reaching for that, in places across these four.”
Q: It’s difficult to imagine any other actors playing Morse and Thursday. What was the point when you both knew that you had the key to playing your characters?
Roger Allam: “Listen…when you put on a hat and smoke a pipe and, to some extent, wear a coat and stuff like that, it gives you a feeling of the period, which is one thing. And another thing is that it gives you a habit. Often those tiny things can be like a kind of portal into something else about the character. They’re not the character but they become like a sign of the character, in a way. And they’re very, very helpful. It would be foolish to deny. Also they’re very enjoyable to play with. Once you feel at home…for Thursday, I think it’s very different for Endeavour, but for me and Thursday, once you feel at home with those things, once you feel comfortable, you feel like you’re wearing the clothes of the man and you can go further in from there.”
Shaun Evans: “I think the feeling of ownership comes and goes. You attack each day and each scene in a script as best you can. Sometimes you think, ‘Oh yeah, I achieved what I set to do there more than I did yesterday,’ or whatever. I think it’s an ongoing thing. But then by the same token, we’ve made nine thus far with the same creative team. And so you hope you’re starting to get into a groove a bit more. But it still feels like it comes and goes, to be honest. For me, at least.”
Q: Shaun – what does Endeavour’s version of romance looks like? Will we see him get quite romantic?
Shaun Evans: (Laughs) “I actually think that’s a question for Russ, more than it is for me. What Endevour’s idea of romance would be.”
Russell Lewis: “Well, he’s a well read man. But I think it’s the disconnect between his own family life, which was fairly unhappy and I don’t imagine there was a great deal of romance going on in the Morse household, to the ideals of romantic love that he’ll have read about and studied, doing grades. So it’s almost like a Haynes Manual to life, really. That this is how things are meant to be, according to the books. And I think there’s a falling short for anyone that tries to make life conform to that written ideal. But, yeah, he’s a romantic.”
Roger Allam: “It’s obvious though, isn’t it? He’d stay in, they’d read Henry James aloud whilst listening to Tannhauser. It’s the perfect romantic evening.” (laughter)
Q: Were there little Mad Men references in there at all?
Russell Lewis: “Might have been. I think that we have a lot of fun with hiding things across all the films, to a greater and larger extent. Some you are meant to catch first time around and some…they’re just a little added bonus, really, as a kind of nod to…because we can’t set you a crossword at the start of each film, we hide little clues to other things that hopefully inform the drama and fun of it across the four. But well spotted.”
Q: Shaun – you said you didn’t watch the Morse tapes but you read the books. You’ve got the voice exactly right…
Shaun Evans: “I listened a lot to Michael Palin, who was from the north and went to Oxford and was alive around that time. I imagine his voice would be…that’s how I imagine the voice to be. So I listened more to that versus trying to capture something else. Only because it’s easier to get Michael Palin’s voice as well. I don’t know why. I’m glad that it works.”
Q: Are you planning for Endeavour to run for years like Morse?
Russell Lewis: “Well it’s very much down to how long the audience wants to see them and very much down to Roger and Shaun for how long they want to remain as Endeavour and Thursday. But yes. There’s never going to be a shortage of stories to do because each year we move on and draw on the events of real world, in one way or another, and pull those through the Endeavour filter. So we’re never going to run out of ideas. But it really is very much down to the audience.”
Q: Shaun – Endeavour takes quite a hiding in this first one. Is there more of that to come throughout the series and did you incur any real injuries?
Shaun Evans: “I didn’t incur any real injuries. But yes there is more to come. There is more to come for both of us, in fact. A bit of fisticuffs. I like those scenes because it’s so different from the rest of the stuff that we do in these stories. I do like them, just the pure physical stuff. It’s good.”
Q: (I started so I finished): Two questions: I don’t know where it was filmed, but was filming the underground river scene particularly memorable? And I know there’s an episode including the 1966 World Cup Final, which I think Morse isn’t bothered about at all. Does that go against the grain for you in real life, Shuan, or not?
Shaun Evans: “It’s underneath Finsbury Park that place and it’s an incredible…”
Roger Allam: “It’s extraordinary.”
Shaun Evans: “Isn’t it? It’s a Victorian reservoir but cavernous and so well designed.”
Roger Allam: “Just under the park. It’s like this huge cathedral. Vast. It’s amazing.”
Shaun Evans: “Yeah, definitely one of the highlights. Football? Yeah, I can take it or leave it. I’ll go to the game occasionally but I’m more into boxing than I am into football. So, not too much of a stretch.”