By Caren Clark - TV Times
Shaun Evans and Roger Allam on the challenges ahead for their Oxford detectives as the series moves into 1968
'I'm working undercover as a teacher, I'm surprised you recognised me!', chuckles Shaun Evans as TV Times catches up with him - not very well disguised in a suit and tie! - as he films scenes for the fifth series of Endeavour at a manor house in Buckinghamshire.
The lavish building is doubling up as a school and 37-year-old Shaun's newly promoted Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse is pretending to be a schoolmaster to investigate a missing teacher.
After six years of playing the prickly young detective in the 1960s-set Inspector Morse prequel, Shaun's enthusiasm is undiminished and that, he says, is due to the strong bond he shares with co-star Roger Allam, 64, who plays Endeavour's upstanding boss, DCI Fred Thursday.
As Roger also joins us to chat about the six-part series, it's clear the feeling is mutual. Here, they tell TV Times about their vital chemistry and the changing times ahead...
What do you love about working with each other?
Shaun: I think Rog is just brilliant, bright and committed. I couldn't do it without him.
Roger: Yes, I don't think I'd have done the show without Shaun. We keep each other sane and manage to be serious about it but also have fun. Shaun is in most scenes but he keeps up a wonderful energy and he is incredibly courteous and kind to everyone and that is lovely to be around.
The series has now moved to 1968. What does the year bring?
Shaun: It was a year of change and that connects to the stories because the Oxford City Police is closing down and merging into Thames Valley, which is the end of an era. They each receive a letter later saying where they are going to be posted and they could be scattered to the four winds, so it is like the carpet has been pulled from under them.
Roger: Thursday is quite reluctant about the merger. The corruption in the force has been cleared out and they are a group that is good and decent and works together well, but it feels like the new Thames Valley will be something bigger and less containable.
Is Thursday's daughter, Joan (Sara Vickers), part of both their lives now she is back in Oxford?
Shaun: Endeavour still holds a torch for Joan so he hopes she will change her mind about him but there is some other romance in store... There are intimate scenes but it's a family show on a Sunday night so you are not going to see me rolling around with my kit off!
Roger: For Thursday, Joan is around but finding her own way so he is dealing with that. It feels like the whole world is separating away from him because his son, Sam [Jack Bannon], is in the army and Endeavour has more independence these days so they're not together as much and he misses him.
We also meet Fred's brother Charlie this time, don't we?
Roger: Yes, Charlie owns a warehouse and does some import and export and he needs help financially from Fred. They have a good relationship... to begin with! Phil Daniels plays him and it was great because we were together about 30 years ago at the RSC. He was my neighbour in the flat above me and later we were neighbours again in Stoke Newington, so I have known him a long time.
Shaun: I only had one scene with Phil but he plays the part brilliantly - he is awesome.
Endeavour is finally a sergeant now and is mentoring his own protégé, DC George Fancy (Poldark's Lewis Peek). How does he feel about that?
Shaun: He is disappointed that things haven't really changed now he is a sergeant, so at first he deals belligerently with being a mentor. But later, he thinks, 'If I'm going to be in charge of someone, I'm going to make sure they're the best that they can be.' He is a pretty tough taskmaster when it comes to it!
This is the fifth series. How long do you think it can continue?
Roger: I think there is a desire for another, whether there is more than that I don't know...
Shaun: It has got a shelf life and the trick is to leave before everyone is sick of you! We'd like to do more but we need to see where the story is going or if it has been told but it will be a mutual decision to end. It is an amazing job and a gift and I feel very lucky. It is intense and challenging but I love that and wouldn't have it any other way!