As Endeavour returns to our screens on Sunday night, it’s all going on. Morse has developed a drinking problem, the IRA have started their bombing camping and DCI Thursday, as played by Roger Allam, is holding it all together.
Not that it’s been plain sailing for him either over the previous seven series, but that’s the delight of Endeavour – the characters develop over time, warts and all, as the drama unfolds around them.
“I don’t think Thursday realises how bad Morse’s drinking problem is at first”
Picking up in Oxford in February 1971, it’s all change for Thursday and Morse at the start of the new series. “Morse is in a bad place, Allam concedes. “Then again, Fred made a serious mistake a couple of years ago when he was drawn into corruption and things got very bad with his wife Win. Now he’s back on an even keel.
“I think that’s a true, sincerely and honestly felt thing that we make mistakes and we should have a chance to get back on the straight and narrow.
“THROUGHOUT THIS SERIES MORSE IS IN SOME CRISIS”
“Throughout this series Morse is in some crisis. Violetta died in his arms at the end of the last series, so he is in a very bad away. He is drinking too much and that starts to affect what he is doing. But no-one speaks about it until it is really necessary to do so.
READ OUR SHAUN EVENS INTERVIEW HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/morse-is-suffering-shaun-evans-on-the-new-endeavour-plus-morses-relationship-with-dci-thursday-alcohol-and-joan/
So how does Thursday react? “I don’t think Thursday realises how bad Morse’s drinking problem is at first. It was a drinking culture then and Morse has always drunk, ever since they introduced him to the notion in the pilot episode. But it’s now very serious. It’s whisky during the day.
“But Thursday is always defensive of Morse and perhaps tries to put to the back of his mind any concern, anxiety or worry about how he is. But, as the series progresses and Morse misses days at work it just becomes too much to ignore.”
Not that things are all plain sailing in Thursday’s world either: “Things are OK between Fred and Win at the beginning of this season. But the big difficulty is that their son Sam is serving in Belfast with the Army, which is dangerous.
“In the last episode of this series a lot of the feeling that Win has buried about Sam being in the Army comes out. So things are bad between them.”
“there’s something very reassuring about playing a long running TV character”
As for his fractious relationship with his daughter Joanie, Allam says: “Things have been rocky between them. But the big crisis around her leaving home and Fred’s resistance to that seems to be over. That’s a thing lots of parents and children can feel. The need for young people to get away and the anxiety on the part of the parents.”
And yet Allam too grew up in the 70s, so did the first episode really resonate with him? “It is a different world today compared to 1971. I guess that’s always the same between the generations. My parents both came from poverty economic backgrounds.
“Now I look around and if you have economic well-being today you are surrounded by endless stuff. All of those kind of things would also have an impact on Thursday’s generation if they could see it today.
“Fred grew up in the East End of London and fought in the war. So he can easily resort to fighting and violence”
But wasn’t 1971, when the first episode it set, a turning point for Allam? “I went to Manchester University the year after 1971. That was a big change for me. I was doing something I absolutely loved and it completely expanded my horizons. The only thing I was sure about was that I wanted to be an actor.
“Then again, back in those days I had a grant and my fees were paid. In 1975 I came back from university £10 overdrawn. My parents thought that was absolutely awful. I think they saw the workhouse down the road for being £10 overdrawn.
But don’t be foiled. DCI Thursday also has a dark side that surfaces now and again, especially in the fist episode.
“That scene is just saying, ‘Hello, here I am.’ ” Allam laughs. “Fred grew up in the East End of London and also fought in the war. So, he can easily resort to fighting and violence.
“People had witnessed terrible things and probably done terrible things. Fred fought in the Italian Campaign, the Battle of Monte Cassino. There would have been killings in that terrible battle. Some of it face-to-face in hand-to-hand combat. You are looking in someone’s eyes. It’s something that is always within you which, again, makes the access to violence in Fred easier. But it is also locked up and hidden from view.
“You would be beaten at school. A stranger in the street could smack you on the head if they thought you were doing something wrong. I remember that feeling”
“It also means in Fred’s case, and lots of people’s cases I’m sure, that ordinary life and family life can keep it at bay. And if that is under threat it seems more terrible and has a more violent response.
“I think lots of people had post-traumatic stress. I remember when I was younger, adults having recourse to violence. You would be beaten at school. A stranger in the street could smack you on the head if they thought you were doing something wrong. I remember that feeling.
“But men at that time did not express their emotions so readily. Very internalised and locked up. Especially people who had been through the war. The actual experience was something that wasn’t really talked about. The same applied to my grandparents and the First World War.”
All of which Allam uses when Thursday’s nuances appear. So what’s it like playing such a beloved and long running TV character?
“I have found it surprisingly interesting. The longest time I’d played characters before has been in long runs on stage, whereas Endeavour goes on over years and you pick the character up again
“I do get recognised a fair amount. I’m lucky in that I’m not at a level of fame where it becomes a pain in the backside”
“There’s something very reassuring about playing a long running TV character. With the hat and the pipe and certain lines that Russell Lewis writes, it’s an easy step to get back into that character. It’s readily available to you. So that’s very interesting as well.
Does playing in such a globally successful series impact on his private life though? “I do get recognised a fair amount. I’m lucky in that I’m not at a level of fame where it becomes a pain in the backside.
“But travelling around on public transport as I generally do, people come up to you and it’s usually to say something really nice about your work. That can make your day a whole lot nicer if someone has taken the trouble to say something nice to you.”
So it must have been frustrating when the pandemic delayed filming for over a year?
“We were the first ones to be picked up in the autumn of 2020,” Allam explains, “which meant filming of the new series of Endeavour was delayed until 2021. “So it was lovely to start again and to see everyone.”
All helped by his fellow actor and director Shaun Evans who directs the first episode in Endeavour Series 8. How was that? “It works, I have to say, tremendously well. He moves from behind the camera to in front of it with the greatest of ease,” Allam concludes.
“But then Russell’s scripts are very special. He has created a wonderful set of characters who have gone through all of the series. And a wonderful world with the relationships between them which are very rich.”
Endeavour Series 8 returns on ITV on Sunday night at 8pm