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.