Return of the unlikely detective

Liverpool-Irish actor Shaun Evans gets questioned by Shelley Marsden about the new series of his hit detective drama Endeavour

Shaun Evans gave ITV a huge hit as the edgy new embodiment of a young Inspector Morse in 2012 detective series Endeavour.

He’s shown his talent with brilliant roles in The Take, in Silk alongside Maxine Peake and as the menacing Ian in The Last Weekend.

But the one to have catapulted him to fame in Britain is as the fledgling Morse, a tormented and brilliant soul trying to find his way before he becomes the grumpy old Oxford policeman we all knew and loved.

Inspector Morse ran for 13 years and spinoff show Lewis lasted for seven series, so there were some big boots to fill. But when Endeavour, which Morse geeks know is the detective’s rarely-used first name, first broadcast in January 2012 to mark the 25th anniversary of the first episode of John Thaw’s Inspector Morse, it attracted 8.2 million viewers – making it the most popular single film on TV in the last five years.

What was meant to be a one-off became a series, and now it’s back again, for four feature-length episodes, each film is made with a different director, and we return to the sharp suits and pastel mini-dresses of 1960s Oxford.

But straight off the bat, Shaun tells me the last thing he or the show’s creative team wanted to do was to start getting complacent about that success (“You always wanna push forward, get a bit better, don’t you?”).

In season two opener Trove, it’s May 1966 and we find Endeavour in a pretty sorry state. The last time we saw him his father had died and he’d been shot, so he’s clearly been coming to terms with  what happened and, after a four-month absence from duty, is still a little frayed around the edges.

“When viewers see him, it’s his first day back with the force, the first time the lads see him and he’s in a fairly vulnerable state”, says Shaun warmly in his distinctive brogue, brimming with an enthusiasm that’s not so evident in his moody character.

In the midst of his mental turmoil, Endeavour is immediately thrown into a brain-tease of a case that only he can unravel. During a street parade, a man falls to his death from a council building. The dead man has multiple identities, but Endeavour works out who he is – and that this suspected suicide is not all it seems.

This time round, as well as the gripping mystery, there’s a richer exploration of character, which extends to the relationships between the lads at the station. Endeavour himself is a complex bloke. His conceit is that he should never have ended up in the police. He’s too intellectual, too cultured and aloof to fit in.

A tortured bright spark, Shaun’s Morse also gives the iconic character a bit of sex appeal, something I suggest to the actor, to his amusement.

“Haha, I don’t know about the last bit but yeah, he’s all of those other things”, says Shaun, “and none of them best suited to his place of work, but it’s just another great way of showing conflict.

He’s not in his natural environment and he knows it, but he can clearly do some good while he’s there.

“I like the idea of somebody working somewhere where they’re really out of step. That’ must be a lot of people, right? Or everybody, sometimes!”

Endeavour’s not a man that’s particularly in touch with his time. When you think of the 60s, some amazing changes were happening, in terms of women’s liberation, sex, race relations, but

Endeavour isn’t necessarily typical of a young man in the UK at that time, which makes him all the more intriguing.

Shaun appreciates that frisson: “From an external point of view, the audience gets to see this stylish period world being created.

“You can go wild within these little worlds we try to create, like the World Cup aspect for example, but it’s always filtered through the eyes of this rather insular detective who isn’t really swept up in any of it.”

For the full interview, see the Irish World newspaper (issue March 29 2014).

Endeavour, is on ITV on Sundays.


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