By Katrina Schollenberger - The Lady
Back as the young Morse and his mentor, Shaun Evans and Roger Allam tell Katrina Schollenberger about their real-life relationship and what's ahead for Oxford's finest
The year is 1967, the height of the Swinging Sixties, and Detective Constable Morse has been suspended from duty after being framed for murder. Having retreated to a quiet lakeside home, he is wallowing in self pity and anger, uncertain of his future in the Oxford City Police. Meanwhile, his colleague and mentor Detective Inspector Fred Thursday is back on the force with bullet fragments still lodged in his lung after being shot months earlier.
As we saw last week when the third series of Endeavour began, the young Morse, played by Shaun Evans, attempts to piece his life back together, mingling with old college acquaintances and trying to fit in with their lavish life styles. In the series opener, however, trouble continued to stalk Morse, with the body of young bus conductress, Jeannie Hearne, found in the Oxfordshire countryside close to his bolt hole. The episode airing this Sunday, titled Arcadia, explores a mysterious illness that not only kills a young housewife but sends half of Superintendent Bright's troops home on sick leave. Endeavour, whose investigation into the illness leads him to a family owned supermarket, unravels a history of management rivalries as well as family issues for the CEO of the store, Leo Richardson. The episode is full of dark themes and hypocrisies that Endeavour brings to light and when death befalls Richardson's family, it's up to the young detective to uncover those behind the killings.
'At the beginning of the first episode it felt like it was all broken apart', says Roger Allam (Thursday). 'I wanted to go and find him because [Endeavour's] been treated badly. There's a continual change between those two. As the relationship develops, it's as much him looking after me as me looking after him. It can be quite a difficult relationship, certainly as the series progresses. But it's a rich and rewarding and nurturing one as well.'
The fictional detectives' closeness is mirrored by that of Allam and Evans in real life. 'We look after each other in a similar way', says Allam, 'as colleagues and as friends. We're constantly discussing how to make a scene work, if it needs a little change, what's going on.'
Evans describes the time in which the new series is set as an era of 'psychaedelic drug culture and free love.' Returning to a 'Sixties mindset' proved challenging for the cast, particularly on location. 'You keep having to think and be reminded that "none of this was there",' says Allam. 'It wasn't easy to ring people up. You had to get to a call box. People didn't even have necessarily cars. I remember about that period my parents moved to a street of small houses in Putney, and there were about three cars. Nowadays I could walk down that street and it's completely lined with cars. One forgets all that.'
Much of the first episode of series three, Ride, was filmed in opulent mansions, complete with classic cars. Evans reveals that the shoot involved three residences belonging to the Rothschild family. The location budget isn't tight, it seems. Evans acknowledges a danger that 'it becomes all about glorious stately homes, and not about the story', but says, 'I think we strike a good balance.'
Surprisingly, the crew film very little in Oxford, apart from exterior shots of buildings and cobbled streets. Evans describes filming in the city as 'brilliant, but too brief. I love Oxford. I love being there. I love the atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately we only get to do a few days there per film.'
The new series features some dramatic developments for the main characters. DI Thursday crosses boundaries, becoming violent with offenders - Allam explains that his injury has made him 'suddenly aware of his own mortality' - while Endeavour is caught up in a heartbreaking love story. The actors agree that the last episode, Coda, is one to watch out for. It centres on a bank robbery with hostages and ends, as Evans puts it, 'in a dynamic place.'
So, is there a future for Endeavour after this series? "The completion of the circle is when it goes to the audience and you see whether it still engages and entertains', says Evans. 'We're not reinventing the wheel, but I do want a certain standard, because the audience deserves that. The whole team try to keep their eyes on that. If there's still a demand, and we still feel the story can go somewhere without repeating ourselves, if we can still attract brilliant directors and actors and if there's still a story to be told for this character, for these characters, then we'll continue, I think.'