SUNDAY POST Written by Bill Gibb
IT has become one of ITV’s biggest hits, an annual staple that’s sold all over the world.
But Shaun Evans, star of Endeavour, has told us he can’t believe it’s still going strong as it begins its sixth series tonight.
“I really didn’t think I’d still be here,” admitted Shaun, 38. “You never know in television, so I feel very lucky.
“At the end of each series we never take it for granted that we’re going to be back.
“So if we’re fortunate enough to get recommissioned, we sit down with a cup of tea and have a chat about what’s good, what’s bad and if there’s still a story to tell.”
The series is the second spin-off from the hugely popular Inspector Morse, played so memorably by John Thaw.
Kevin Whately spent years as Lewis, Morse’s former sidekick, set in the present day.
And Endeavour is all about the young Morse, making his way through the ranks in the 1960s.
Although he plays the title role, Liverpudlian Shaun insists he can’t feel the weight of expectation on always having to come back lest the whole thing wouldn’t happen.
“I honestly don’t think like that and it’s important not to,” said Shaun.
“Work as an actor can be few and far between and it should be a joy.
“I want to feel that when I come in each day and I can’t have the responsibility of anyone else’s living.
“I don’t think other people think like that either.
“But I know the lead actor can set the tone for everyone and I think that’s incredibly important.
“I’ve been on sets where I’ve had less to do and the atmosphere hasn’t been great.
“I know the environment that works best for me and for other people is to be serious about the work but still have a laugh.
“It’s a team effort rather than one person calling all the shots.”
This new series begins in 1969, following the dissolution of Oxford City Police and the merger with Thames Valley Constabulary at the end of the last run.
It means the old team have been scattered, with Endeavour reluctantly settled into a sedate way of life at an isolated countryside outpost and his boss DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) also uncomfortable in his new position.
Hanging over all, still, is the tragic unsolved murder of DC George Fancy.
One of the big things viewers will notice is a change of look for Shaun, who sports a very-60s ’tache.
“Of course I grew it, it’s not stuck on,” laughs Shaun.
“I actually had a beard when we started filming, so I just shaved that off and then didn’t look in the mirror for six months.”
There are four very different investigations this time round, all reflecting the period and with the moon landings as the backdrop for one.
Some of the attitudes of the times are quite shocking and Shaun says he’s glad they are highlighted and not shied away from.
“The writer does a very good job of showing the things that, rightly so, we’d find unpalatable now.
“But it doesn’t feel ham-fisted or that you’re getting a moral lesson.”
Shaun gets behind, as well as in front of, the camera this time as the director of one of these four new episodes.
“I’ve been doing that for a few years but Endeavour is the first time I’ve directed something I’m in,” said Shaun, who also has a role as a producer.
“I think the key to it is just being as prepared as possible. You’ve got to do your homework and you’ll know how you want to do it.”
And with no guarantee that the show will return, he always has other possibilities on his radar.
“If other jobs come up, Endeavour have been really good at accommodating it,” said Shaun.
And he reckons he knows at least one reason for the series’ enduring appeal.
“I think we all like the idea that everything will be all right in the end,” he adds. “Something terrible happens but it’s OK, it’s going to get sorted.”
Endeavour, ITV, tonight, 8pm.