Endeavour: Shaun Evans – “I’m getting better at the opera but no better at the crosswords”

As the ITV drama returns, we talk to its lead actor about Morse's passions and why the detective is destined to remain an outsider in the Oxford police force

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Endeavour Morse is back and, as Shaun Evans explains, he’s as cerebral and complex as ever. Here, the actor talks about the challenges the young Oxford detective faces during his four new cases:

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In the pilot, we saw Endeavour on the verge of resigning. So is he destined to remain an outsider in this new series?
Yes. His mind works in a specific way, which is useful for solving crimes, yet being in Oxford and in the police force is not the best environment for him. But I don’t think he would know what would be best for him – some people are just like that though, aren’t they? Slightly out of joint wherever they go. Whatever he was doing it would never be perfect.

What do you think has made him turn out this way?
Well, there are those in life who can experience things and just deal with them and move on. Others can’t and they can become quite melancholic, pensive people and that’s what makes this particular person interesting. He’s lost his mum, he has a funny relationship with women and a strange relationship with his dad, to his education in Oxford and therefore to his place in the world.

That’s an engaging thing to watch and certainly one of the interesting things about the part for me. When I read Colin Dexter’s original books, I thought it was very telling that Morse only allows people to call him by his surname. He’s saying that he doesn’t want personal, first-hand relationships with people. It’s fascinating that he’s got everyone at arm’s length.

We get to meet PC Strange in the opening episode, who Morse fans know will eventually overtake him and become his boss. What does that say about Endeavour’s character?
Endeavour isn’t someone who is immediately destined for greatness. If you really pay attention to the story, you’ll see that we’re drip fed things about his past that offer clues about the nature of his character. And then in the last episode, Morse has to go back to his family home to see his dad. I don’t want to spoil it, but his dad is on his deathbed and you get to glimpse the relationship that Endeavour has with his stepmother, his sister and his father. In the last half hour of that final episode, there’s a very clear indication of why this person is the way he is. It suddenly makes sense.

How good is your knowledge of crosswords, opera and classic cars?
I’m getting better at the opera, but no better at the crosswords. I’m a good driver, though – I won’t have it said that I’m not! It’s a beautiful car to drive, temperamental like all good things are, but so well made. It’s one of the great things about playing a character from this time period. The suits are well made, the cars are beautiful – everything has just got a good quality about it.

Would you do another series of Endeavour if it were offered to you?
Yeah. It’s a lovely job, but what I’m not doing is being complacent about this series. So I’m not really thinking about more episodes. I feel like I’ve fulfilled the task I was charged with. They gave me four scripts and I’ve done everything in my power to bring them alive. And that’s the same for everyone – the writer Russell Lewis, the directors, the cast. We all put a lot of energy and effort into it. So I hope that it gets a good audience and that it’s well received. But I’m not going to ask for anything more at this stage. 

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Endeavour begins tonight on ITV at 8pm