By JAMES RAMPTON - Sunday Express
SHAUN Evans returns as the young Inspector Morse in a brand new series of Endeavour.
Between scenes, Roger Allam is siting in a freezing cowshed in the remotest part of the Oxfordshire countryside, discussing ITV's new drama Endeavour. It begins a full series this week afer a hugely successful pilot last year, which atracted an audience of 8.2 million, making it the most watched single film on any channel in the last five years.
The actor admits that he initially had concerns about making this prequel to the enormously popular Inspector Morse, which starred the late John Thaw in the title role.
"When we made the pilot, I was worried that people would say, 'Never go back. Morse should be untouchable'," says Roger, who plays the fatherly Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, mentor to the young, troubled detective Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans).
"But fortunately they did like it. So here we are in this lovely cowshed in Oxfordshire. The sheer glamour of it takes my breath away!"
Roger, who has also featured in The Tick Of It and Parade's End, goes on to assess why Endeavour struck such a chord.
"Audiences really liked the father-son relationship between Morse and Thursday. They also connected with Shaun's magnetic sense of an inner life. He brilliantly conveys Morse's internal turmoil," he says.
"You get the sense this man is someone who's been hurt and uses his learning as a defence against that hurt and against his sense of failure because he didn't complete his education."
The new series also stars John Taw's daughter, Abigail, as the feisty journalist Dorothea Frazil, and Sean Rigby as the young PC Strange (a character played as an older man by James Grout in Inspector Morse).
When a young secretarial student is found dead at home in the frst episode, Morse jeopardises his relationship with Thursday by refusing to accept the preliminary diagnosis of "heart atack".
Shaun says that while paying tribute to the original, the producers of Endeavour hope to create a completely self-sufficient drama.
"I feel incredibly grateful that the response to the pilot was enough to allow us to do more," he adds. "But now everything is up for grabs. I don't want us to feel like we can rely on a ready-made audience. It is our duty to tell the best story in the best way we can."
Abigail concurs that Endeavour must be an entirely new proposition.
"I didn't worry about tarnishing the memory of the original, because this is set in the 1960s when Morse was still a young man. If they had remade the original series, I would have felt odd. I would have had a problem geting my head around that. But exploring the story before the original makes it something completely fresh."
Shaun adds, "If you read the books, you know that Morse is a troubled, unhappy character who ultimately dies alone. What is interesting is portraying how we travel from this point to that point. You can't get there if everything goes smoothly for him. He has to find life difficult.
"Look at the pilot. There you have a chap who lost his mum very early on. He then meets a girl who rejects him, before he meets another woman he has a crush on from far away. But again it doesn't work out. As a result, it's hard for him to be open to a relationship."
Endeavour, on which the original Inspector Morse novelist Colin Dexter acts as a consultant, contains the sort of ingenuity we have come to expect from this character.
For example, Abigail explains her name."Frazil means a kind of ice. So Dorothea Frazil is 'D. Ice', or 'Thaw'. If you look for them, there are a lot of crossword clues in Endeavour!"
Roger is lucky enough to have appeared in an episode of Inspector Morse - Death Is Now My Neighbour, in 1997 and fondly recalls working opposite the great John Taw.
"John was a lovely man," says Roger. "I was really inexperienced in front of the camera at the time, and it was very instructive to watch someone so incredibly at ease."
Refecting upon what her late father might have thought of Endeavour, Abigail says, "The series is a strange paradox for me. It's only happening because dad is not around. I'd love him to be here to help and make me laugh.
"Dad would appreciate this show. He'd say to us, 'Great work, you lucky things!'"
Endeavour, Sunday April 14, 8pm, ITV