Endeavour: Roger Allam – DI Fred Thursday is Morse’s surrogate father

As the Inspector Morse prequel returns for a full series, we speak to the man charged with keeping the young detective in line

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Being the boss of Endeavour Morse isn’t an easy task and can even involve a fair amount of stuntwork. Here, actor Roger Allam talks crime, police partnerships…and rooftop fistfights:

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So what is DI Fred Thursday’s working relationship like with Endeavour in this new series?
Thursday is his tutor, his friend and surrogate father. He wants Endeavour to get on in the police force – he thinks he’s a great presence to have in the police station because he’s not like anyone else. But Endeavour suffers a setback in the first episode, which means that he can’t remain Thursday’s bagman. So there’s an ongoing story about how Thursday tries to get him back, while also still trying to give him a good grounding in solid police work.

Is Endeavour destined to remain an outsider, though?
Very much so. He was an outsider at university because he came from a working class background and he’s now an outsider in the police because he seems to be more intellectual than those around him. It’s the key to his character, really.

And will be seeing more sides to Thursday’s character in these new episodes?
We see more of Thursday’s family – his wife Win and his two children Joan and Sam. What Thursday has is the warmth of human love and affection that Morse lacks. You also see how Thursday tries to leave all the nastiness and police work at the threshold of the front door, but at one point that family life does come under threat.

Yes, we get to see Thursday himself in jeopardy during episode two – can you tell us what that was like to film?
Yes, there’s a rooftop fight! I loved all that. There was a stunt double for a fall, but most of it was me, I have to say. It was fun to do – gruelling because it was pretty cold and we were up there for two days getting the scene, but it’s a really good moment.

What do you think works so well about the police partnership of Thursday and Endeavour?
It’s the classic set-up – two men, one older and one younger. One a tutor and a father to the other, but also learning from the younger man. I think crime dramas in general are so successful because they allow us to look at many of the terrible things that people do to each other for often quite surprising reasons. So there’s a vicarious pleasure that comes with that, but also in seeing the efforts of the detectives who attempt to solve the crime. It’s important that we witness people trying to make things better. And if we have a detective who’s also troubled, sensitive and has his own cross to bear, then it makes the whole thing more complex and interesting.

How important is the period setting to the series?
Well, with the 1960s, there was this sense of a new beginning thanks to Wilson’s “white heat of technology” speech and the getting rid of the old Conservative aristocracy. But you also had the past being kept alive by the arguments of what people fought for in the Second World War. So you’ve got quite a complex make-up there, which we’re trying to represent in the series. It’s certainly not misty-eyed about that decade. You get a hint of the “Swinging Sixties” through what we see of student life, but the stories do have this slightly edgy, downbeat feel.

And is there the possibility of further series of Endeavour following this one?
Yes, there is an option for another series and I’d be extremely open to do it. I think the plan would be to film in the autumn if it were to go ahead. 

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Endeavour returns this evening at 8pm on ITV