TOTAL TV GUIDE - by Natalie Tambini
Shaun Evans slips into the room, full of smiles, his gentle Liverpudlian accent filling the air.
“It’s real!” he grins, as Total TV Guide marvels at his bristling moustache. “Try pulling it off! I don’t mind the ‘tache, but my family aren’t too keen.”
This series is set in 1969, and the facial hair is just one of many nods to a pre-Seventies theme as the Inspector Morse prequel returns. Shaggier hair and flares abound. Gone is the cosy Cowley police station – closed at the very end of the last series – with Endeavour (Shaun) and his former bosses Thursday and Bright demoted and split up. So does this sixth season feel like a reboot?
“To a degree,” says Shaun. “It gives everyone new conflict to play, which is the name of the game, and the new set is completely different. Often we have picturesque Oxford, and introducing brutalist architecture with hard edges and concrete brings a new dynamic to it. So does having two new bosses at the top of the tree.”
The last series ended with a real shocker – the death of DC George Fancy. The hunt for his killer continues through this four-part run, although it begins with Morse back in uniform and stuck out in the countryside, doing his rounds in a panda car.
“At first I was like, ‘God, this ****ing car, where’s the Jag?” smiles Shaun, 38. “But it’s good for the story for Endeavour to feel slightly humiliated.”
While Bright is on traffic duty, Thursday’s plans to retire are scuppered. He’s dropped down to DI and is in a concrete CID building with two unlikeable bosses – a freshly promoted DCI promoted Ronnie Box and his sidekick DS Alan Jago.
Does Thursday embrace the moustache and the flares? “Good Lord, no!” smiles Roger Allam, 65, who plays him. “There was a discussion about a wider tie, but I resisted that. People, especially of that generation, don’t say, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to change everything about my appearance.’ Indeed, it’s quite the opposite.”
As the plot opens with the cast members at different locations, both Shaun and Roger missed working so closely together with the regulars. “I’ve enjoyed this series less, to be honest,” admits Shaun. “It’s like we’re all passing ships, which I find a bit dissatisfying.”
Storylines include a killing in a picturesque-postcard village inspired by classic children’s shows Trumpton and Camberwick Green, a dead astrophysicist, a missing girl and a murdered librarian. The run has been reduced from last year’s six episodes to the usual four, and the second – themed around the Moon landings – is directed by Shaun.
“I thought that it might be trickier than it was, but I had shorthand with the cast and crew so that made it surprisingly efficient,” he says. “I want to feel like I’m continuing to do new things and not feel stale. You have to push yourself creatively.” So did any of the regulars take the mickey? “No! Thankfully. They were all incredibly supportive.”
Shaun is heavily involved in his character’s development, and with a new love interest popping up this season, he admits he’d like Endeavour to have a night of passion with ex [??] Joan, to end that storyline.
“Or maybe they begin a relationship and one of them says it’s not what they want. But everyone’s got an opinion!”
By the end of this run we find Endeavour in the house where he lives in Inspector Morse (not the actual house, as that has since been redeveloped). So is Endeavour becoming more like the damaged Morse we know? “We’re putting in the footings,” says Shaun. “We are coming to the end, so we have to start making a nod towards that. To be honest, you never know whether Endeavour will be recommissioned. The writer and the executive producer have an overview for it, but it’s always prudent to finish a series in a way which is satisfying, so if it is your last one, you don’t go, “Oh, s***, I wish I’d done this or that”.
Notoriously private, how does he cope with being recognized?
“I’m lucky, it rarely happens. I have a simple, quiet life. Also, the Endeavour audience are perhaps not people who would be up in your grill.
People say you’re cagey, like you have something to hide. I really don’t. I just value my private life, because if I don’t have that, I won’t be able to work. There’s very downtime when filming, so when you’re surrounded by people for long periods, it’s nice to have time to yourself.”