Falsely accused Endeavour Morse was last seen languishing in a prison cell after being framed for murder. But fans of the hit ITV drama needn’t despair – Shaun Evans is back on the case for a third series beginning this evening. Here, the actor talks about life as the Oxford detective, why Morse has endured for four decades and what the future holds…
So what has brought you back to Endeavour for a third series?
I didn’t feel like we should have left it where we did last time. It would have been odd. As a viewer, I would have been dissatisfied to have left it there because you’d have only been telling half the story. Luckily enough, we had the opportunity to come back to do some more and I think the stories are really good – particularly the final one. It goes along at a lick. It’s a bank heist but it’s also a love story. And it’s heartbreaking. I think it’s great and it ends in a really satisfying way.
The character of Morse has now been around for 40 years – why has he endured?
A good story well told will stand the test of time. And if you throw in an unusual character – someone who is in a world but not of that world – then that’s intriguing.
The original series of Inspector Morse did episodes in Australia and Italy – would you like to do an overseas Endeavour?
Well, they keep telling me that the character is going to Spain. But I can take myself to Malaga. I’m joking, but I’m being honest too. There is a Spanish idea, but I’d want it to be right. I don’t want this job to be a jolly or something that we take for granted and phone in. There are so many variables to that kind of thing: would the locations be as good? Or the actors? Granted, it would be a laugh to go away with Roger Allam, but would it serve the show?
Does Endeavour Morse become more like you as the series goes on?
I think that’s a danger, definitely. The more comfortable and confident you get with something, the easier it could be to be less diligent about creating a character. But then you’d be taking shortcuts that you might not have done three years ago. So I try not to be complacent about it. I want to be even more diligent than I was when I started. But I admit that it’s a tricky one.
Having a two-hour slot for a drama seems like a privilege these days – do you worry that viewers’ attention spans could be too short to cope?
I don’t worry about it at all. I feel like the work we’ve done so far has been very good. Some have been better than others – as would be the case. But I feel pleased with it. Now if audiences change and they feel that the episodes are too long, boring or complicated, then we’ll just stop. That’s OK.
But I’ve seen some crime dramas that try to tell the story in an hour and, for me, it just doesn’t work.You’re tyring to set up a killer, set up a world, solve it in an interesting or dynamic way and put in some character stuff as well. It’s nigh on impossible to do in an hour. I don’t think you can do it in a satisfying way. That’s my impression as an audience member.
Fans would be up in arms if you decided to stop Endeavour!
No. I don’t think that’d happen. It’s just work. And they’d just fill it with something else. There’ll be another brilliant show.
I think you’d make an ideal Doctor Who – would you like to play that role one day?
I’ve never seen it! I think Matt Smith is a brilliant actor. And David Tennant also. But it just wasn’t my thing growing up and I feel like I’ve missed it now. I was in Moscow a few months ago and someone asked me about Doctor Who. And she thought I’d make a good Master. So if you’re offering me a part, then I’ll play the Master.
What about playing James Bond?
Well, everyone wants to play James Bond, right? He always gets the girl at the end. And in the middle. And at the beginning, come to think of it. But I think that Daniel Craig would be a tough act to follow. He brings something really interesting to it.
Do you ever look at contemporaries like Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne and think, ‘I’d like top billing in a Hollywood movie’?
I know both those lads and I like them. But I never really think of my career like that. Of course, you want people to see your work, but I’m not interested in being the next so-and-so. It doesn’t attract me. Mainly because it’s short lived. It’s better to keep working and do interesting stuff.
So being a big Hollywood star isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
I don’t know. I suppose if you had enough clout to guarantee finance for a story you wanted to tell, then that would be a good thing. From a business point of view. But I don’t spend my time being envious. There are so many variables in all that bollocks! When you desire fame or fortune – which are ephemeral things – you’re building your house on sand, aren’t you?
Do you have a dream project that you’d like to do?
I’d love to do something about poets or photographers who have done interesting things and left an impression on their portion of the world. Someone like the American photographer Walker Evans. Or the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
So what’s next for you?
I’m purposefully having some time off. I’ve been busy and I’d like a bit of time to read some books and just study. I want to educate myself on writers, photography, filmmaking and poetry. I’m very lucky that I’ve now got enough money to have a bit of time to myself and study. I’m very lucky to be in that position.
Endeavour returns tonight on ITV at 8pm