By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News
While the third season of “Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour” is set in 1967, young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse is more interested in opera, poetry and ale instead of the period’s psychedelics and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
While Shaun Evans, who plays Morse, did research into the era, he is “not sure how beneficial it is, because I think this is a character that is very much out of joint with his time.”
Evans took time between takes while shooting Season 4 of “Endeavour,” which is a prequel to the long-running “Inspector Morse” series that starred John Thaw as the police detective in his later years.
Based on the Colin Dexter novels, the original series ran for 33 episodes over 13 years until 2000. Owing its popularity, it spawned an initial spin-off starring Kevin Whately that was based on Morse’s assistant. “Inspector Lewis” ran for nine seasons and 33 episodes until 2015.
But Lewis was going to retire at some point, and in 2012 ITV filmed the pilot for “Endeavour” with Evans as the young Morse, assigned to the Oxford City police.
The character, a lonely soul, is a former student at the prestigious university there, but never completed his degree, giving him a complicated relationship with a number of the townsfolk.
The 36-year-old Evans is from Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles, and sounds as intense and taciturn as his character. When asked to describe Morse, he says: “It’s kind of like being asked to describe yourself. That’s hard to do, especially when I’m in the middle of filming like now.”
The actor’s performance, though, has certainly won over fans and critics as the series created by Russell Lewis, who wrote for “Inspector Morse,” digs into the enigma that is the police detective as well as offers complex mysteries.
When Season 3 starts, life is difficult for Morse. He had been suspended from the force after a scandal rocked the department and left his boss, DI Thursday (Roger Allam), hospitalized with a bullet wound. Though cleared, a somewhat bitter Morse holes up in a cabin outside of town, chopping his own wood and seemingly at a loss over whether he should remain with the department. But when the body of a young woman is found near his cabin, he finds himself back on the case.
Even if his character isn’t suited for the era, Evans thinks 1967 is a good fit.
“I think it benefits a story like this because it’s before technology. So it’s about someone working something out with their brain rather than the technical shows we see nowadays. It lends itself to the traditional mystery.” (Season 4 will also start in 1967.)
The actor also finds the fashions of the time fun, and while “not so much a car person” really enjoys driving the show’s vintage Jaguar (The elder Morse played by Thaw famously drove a red Jag). “I like things that are well-built and well-made,” he said.
That seems to describe his attitude toward the making of the series. Though Thaw was long identified with the role of Morse, Evans drew his inspiration from Dexter’s novels instead.
“I didn’t go into this with the idea of just trying to please the existing audience,” he says. “My intention was to get as many new audience members as possible. Plus, like any piece of creative work, it has to be brand-new, and you don’t want something hanging over its head.”
The new season, which Evans calls “our best on so far,” consists of four movie-length episodes, and the actor stays involved in the making of “Endeavour” as much as he can.
“There is really one writer and one executive, and we are in story meetings throughout the year,” he says. “I’m in the majority of the edits as well. So I try and have as fully rounded a picture of the shows as possible. I want it to be the best it can be.”
Though “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis” had long runs, Evans isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I take it on a season-by-season basis, to be honest with you,” he says. “I think we all do. We’re just interested in doing good work and fulfilling our potential.”