En­deav­our­ing to crack Morse code

Ac­tor Shaun Evans vows to play the enig­matic young po­lice in­spec­tor his way, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

ELE­VI­SION ex­ec­u­tives love a known com­mod­ity, which makes it nearly im­pos­si­ble to keep a brand­name char­ac­ter down, even when he’s dead. So, it’s not sur­pris­ing to see the re­turn of the late, great In­spec­tor Morse, played for more than a decade in 33 episodes by ac­tor John Thaw, who died in 2002.

But this new Morse is not a re­make; it’s a pre­quel that goes by the char­ac­ter’s first name: En­deav­our.

Es­sen­tially a pilot episode for a new se­ries of In­spec­tor Morse mys­tery movies set in the 1960s as the char­ac­ter embarks on his ca­reer as a crime­solver, En­deav­our will air in Aus­tralia on Chan­nel 7 and re­gional af­fil­i­ate Prime7.

It in­tro­duces the young Morse, played by ac­tor Shaun Evans ( Whitechapel), who faints in the au­topsy room and loves cross­word puzzles and opera – even in his youth.

Nov­el­ist Colin Dex­ter, who cre­ated the In­spec­tor Morse char­ac­ter, came up with the back­story for Morse, and Rus­sell Lewis, cre­ator of the Morse spin-off In­spec­tor Lewis, wrote En­deav­our, which of­fers some ex­pla­na­tions for the char­ac­ter’s quirks.

Morse and his Ox­ford po­lice col­leagues in­ves­ti­gate when a 15-yearold girl goes miss­ing. Morse teams up with vet­eran In­spec­tor Thurs­day (Roger Allam, The Queen) and meets pathol­o­gist Dr Max DeBryn (James Brad­shaw, Brideshead Re­vis­ited).

‘‘You won’t make much of a de­tec­tive if you’re not pre­pared to look death in the eye,’’ DeBryn tells a queasy Morse.

Abi­gail Thaw, the daugh­ter of John Thaw, has a cameo as a news­pa­per edi­tor who aids Morse in what be­comes a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘‘Have we met?’ the edi­tor asks young Morse, who doesn’t re­call the woman. ‘‘An­other life, then,’’ she replies.

Thaw ac­knowl­edges there might be some viewer scep­ti­cism about re­vis­it­ing the Morse char­ac­ter with­out her fa­ther, but com­pares it to stage re­vivals of clas­sic shows.

‘‘It’s some­thing that I of­ten thought about as well: ‘Why are they go­ing back to that prod­uct?’ But some peo­ple were say­ing that it’s some­thing that you do a lot in theatre. You al­ways rein­vent some­thing or a char­ac­ter or a pro­duc­tion,’’ she says.

‘‘Some­thing that works, you try it out again. You re­work it. You bring other peo­ple in be­cause it’s known and it’s loved and there’s more to fathom. It’s not say­ing there’s no op­por­tu­nity for some­thing new. It’s say­ing this is a very loved prod­uct. We can do this newer, fresher, and still have some­thing that was ob­vi­ously very much loved.’’

For his part, Evans is ex­cited by the chal­lenge of play­ing a young Morse.

‘‘When I read the books, I thought here you’ve got a char­ac­ter who has reached his midlife: He’s never mar­ried, seems quite un­happy in the choices that he’s made in his life and in his gen­eral in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple,’’ he re­calls.

‘‘And so for me, I thought, ‘God, that’s in­ter­est­ing. I won­der how we can get him at the be­gin­ning of that’.’’

To pre­pare for the role, Evans read the Morse books to learn about the char­ac­ter be­fore he watched any of the films that starred John Thaw. He did not set out to mimic Thaw.

‘‘I think that enough time has elapsed in or­der for us to do some­thing fresh, whilst you also have to give a nod to what’s gone be­fore and please those au­di­ence mem­bers,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant to do some­thing which you can hold your own head up high and say, ‘Yeah, this is my piece of work’.

‘‘In or­der for me to have copied a walk or a talk or cer­tain man­ner­isms, I wouldn’t have felt like I would have done it jus­tice.

‘‘I was very clear about that at the be­gin­ning as well with the ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers and the writ­ers, to say, ‘Look, if that’s what you want, then you’ll get some­one bet­ter than me to do it’. And so, yeah, for­tu­nately we were all on the same page about it.’’

En­deav­our: Sun­days, 9.30pm, Seven, Prime7.

En­deav­our star Shaun Evans

Abi­gail Thaw

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