Roger Allam reprises his role as DI Fred Thursday alongside Shaun Evans as DS Endeavour Morse, for three new compelling cases written and created by Russell Lewis.
Filmed on location in Oxford the strong ensemble cast reunited with Shaun and Roger for the eighth series includes Anton Lesser who returns as CS Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby as DS Jim Strange, James Bradshaw as Dr Max DeBryn, Abigail Thaw as Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday and Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday.
The year 1971 has just begun and any hope of light duties quickly vanishes as the team, still reeling from the events of the past year, are summoned to investigate the most challenging of cases so far.
Endeavour’s struggle with his inner demons reaches fever pitch, exacerbated by love, loss, and guilt weighing on his mind. All the while, the team find themselves right back in the thick of it as crime in Oxford takes on a scale bigger than ever before.
The team’s first case gets off to an explosive start as they investigate a college bomb with possible links to recent IRA threats. Meanwhile, a death threat to Oxford Wanderers’ star striker Jack Swift places Endeavour and his team at the heart of the glitz and glamour of 1970s football, exposing the true cost of success and celebrity, and with it, a deep-rooted division that is soon reflected much closer to home.
The cases keep coming and for Endeavour the blows keep landing as he finds himself investigating the murder of a local cabbie and family man whilst Endeavour’s own past makes a surprise visit.
Before the year ends, Endeavour and Thursday find their relationship strained further when Thursday locates information proving Endeavour’s problems have caused him to miss a major clue in a case. Things for the team take an interesting turn when they find themselves working separately to solve the murder of a college don. But when Endeavour finds himself in a desperate situation, Thursday races against time to save him.
Interview with Roger Allam
Q (Ian Wylie): What was it like to finally start filming series eight after a delay of over a year?
“We were due to start filming in the spring of 2020. But it rapidly became clear that it was going to delay. The first thought was of a delay until September of that year. Then it became clear that wasn’t going to work either. There were a lot of series already being made that were halted. So, a queue developed and they were the ones to be first picked up in the autumn of 2020. Which meant filming of the new series of Endeavour was delayed until 2021.
“The pandemic and lockdown did strange things to one’s sense of time. Sometimes if felt as though days rushed by. And other times it felt as if everything had just stopped. Which it had. It was lovely to start again and to see everyone.”
Q: We return to Oxford in February 1971. Where do we find Thursday and Morse’s relationship at the start of the new series?
“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. Which becomes more apparent as this new series goes on. He is drinking too much and that starts to affect what he is doing. As is the way of these things, especially in those days, it’s all ignored. No-one speaks about it until it is really necessary to do so.
“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.
“Thursday says that after the events in Venice, Morse walks a step slower and is a bit less full of himself, which is not always a bad thing. But I don’t know how much he believes that. He 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, again, as the series progresses and Morse misses days at work it just becomes too much to ignore.
“Morse is in a bad place. 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.”
Q: Thursday says he has got used to having Morse around but knows police colleagues eventually move on. Are there parallels between that and acting?
“It is the same for actors. It’s very strange. Actors are like a tribe. You can end up doing a job in some far-off exotic clime and on the same job there might be people you know quite well. Years ago, I did a job in Thailand, where I had never been before, so it was wonderful to be there. Liam Cunningham was in the cast and I had done a season at Stratford-on-Avon with him. Plus a couple of other people I knew. That’s one of the very nice things about it. But it’s also very melancholy when things end in the theatre. Because you’ve built up this whole mini civilisation of relationships that will never be the same again. Ever.
“It’s slightly different in film and television because you don’t see people that often. But if you are doing a play in the West End, eight shows a week, you see people every day. Twice on some days. And you build up a whole pattern of existence. In normal times, runs tend to be much shorter nowadays. But some years ago, I did a play by Michael Frayn called Democracy. We had done it for six months at the National Theatre, although not every day, and then we did it for six months in the West End. By the end of it we had been doing it together for over a year, including rehearsals, and I found it terribly emotional that it was ending.”
Q: How would you describe Fred and Win’s (Caroline O’Neill) relationship in series eight?
“Things are okay 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.”
Q: And what about Fred and his daughter Joan (Sara Vickers)?
“Things have been rocky between them. But Joan has come back to Oxford, has a career in social services and is an independent young woman. 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.”
Q: Det Sgt Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) is back at work after his stabbing. Does he have more involvement with Fred’s family in these new films?
“Jim Strange has more to do with the Thursday family in this series. Joan sees him as someone good, nice and reliable. But also someone she can educate somewhat about the precise moral standing of the Freemasons, for instance. I think there are possibilities in that relationship. She sees someone who is good and ordinary who isn’t so wrapped up in himself as Endeavour is.”
Q: The first story is set before the IRA bombing campaign on the English mainland. Does 1971 foreshadow yet more changing times?
“It does feel like things are turning less optimistic. In the 1960s there were assassinations in America, including of President John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. As a young child I remember seeing the assassination of Kennedy on the television. Seeing adults crying. It had an enormous impact on me as a child. As with the others, of course. Then in 1968 there seemed to be never ending riots.
“So it’s not as though the sixties was just one thing or the other. That’s often the thing about periods of time. A lot of disparate things go on at the same time. As they always have done. The 1960s was when we first saw a lot of those things on the television news more regularly, which we didn’t before. That was one of the things that had an impact on views in the United States about the Vietnam War. Which lessened support for it in the USA. While people’s lives were improving and economically things were improving as we moved further away from the Second World War.
“Then when we move into the 1970s, not only do you get domestic trouble in Northern Ireland which is much closer to home, then you get the oil crisis. The sense of people’s lives improving materially is lost. And maybe that reduces the feeling of optimism around.
“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. My father certainly. My mother less so. I remember the buying of certain key objects. In the 1950s the whole of my extended family shared a little 8mm cine camera. And each part of the family would have it in turn to make holiday films.
“But then in the 1960s, my bit of the family had its own Super8 mini camera and we bought a cassette recorder when they came out. I remember these objects coming into the house as big events for my parents who were both born in the second decade of the 20th century. And the fact that we could all have these things and go to The Ideal Home Exhibition and come back with stuff.
“Now I look around and if you have economic well-being today you are surrounded by endless stuff. There is so much stuff. All of those kind of things would also have an impact on Thursday’s generation if they could see it today. That we all have just so many things. Including mobile phones, laptops and so on.”
Q: Shaun Evans directed the first film. How does that work?
“The shots will be set up by Shaun, the director of photography and the camera operator. They will use a double for setting the shots up and rehearsing the shots. And then Shaun will step in and act in it.
“And it works, I have to say, tremendously well. He moves from behind the camera to in front of it with the greatest of ease.”
Q: There is a reminder in the first film that Fred is a hard man not to be crossed. Where did that violence come from?
“That scene is just saying, ‘Hello, here I am.’ Fred grew up in the East End of London and he also fought in the war. So, he can easily resort to fighting and violence.”
Q: The opening episode also features the star striker at Oxford Wanderers. Are you a football fan?
“I don’t follow football particularly. My family were all from Fulham and so when I was a boy we used to support Fulham, which was always a slightly quixotic team to follow. We lived in Putney for a while and my father used to take me to Fulham occasionally.
“But I’m not a massive football fan. I don’t really follow it now. I will occasionally watch a match on television. A few years ago I got taken to Arsenal v Manchester United at The Emirates and I was terribly excited about it because I hadn’t been to a football match since I was at university when I went to one match at Old Trafford. In the event it was hugely disappointing. A shapeless match where you kept thinking, ‘I could pass that better. And he is paid a gazillion pounds a week or whatever.’ Of course, I couldn’t have made the pass but you know what I mean.
“It was odd seeing it. And loads of the fans all around me were hugely disappointed as well. Neither side seemed to play terribly well. So, it didn’t have the tremendous excitement that I remember sitting watching, for example, the World Cup in 1966 on telly. When I was that kind of age football was hugely exciting. But it just became less so as time went by. I can still watch the occasional rugby match and the internationals and shout at the television when that’s on. But, again, I’m not terribly sporty. I don’t go to sporting events, really.”
Q: What are your own memories of 1971?
“I went to university the year after 1971. That was a big change for me. Of going from the slightly strange school I was at. Although you have a group of people and a way of life that you know very well and you say goodbye to that and it’s never the same again once you leave school.
“I went to Manchester University. I was doing something I absolutely love and it completely expanded my horizons. I was in a big northern town and had a great time. The only thing I became sure about was that I wanted to be an actor. There was still the possibility of being a singer in those days. But as time went on I just became more and more interested in acting and less in singing.
“I had already gone to the theatre on my own when I was at school and occasionally with a friend or two. I had discovered the theatre when I was about 16 and became rather nerdy about it. Then when I was at university I saw a whole lot of other theatre. We were taken to regional theatres doing great work, like Stoke-on-Trent, the Liverpool Everyman, places like that.
“And also, a whole lot of fringe groups would come and visit the university and play in our drama studio. I saw a whole mind- expanding different kind of theatre compared to what I had seen in London.
“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.
“There is also a nod in the series to decimalisation in 1971. I thought the old money was rather prettier. There was something rather wonderful about the eccentricity of having half crowns, threepenny bits, sixpences and halfpennies.”
Q: One story features a company called Speedy Cabs. Do you get recognised by taxi drivers?
“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.”
Q: Thursday faces two crises in the final episode of series eight which test his emotions. Can you tell us a little about that?
“Fred faces a situation in the third film where he feels powerless about one thing, but there is something he can do about another. Both his actual son Sam and his surrogate son Endeavour are in danger. But the only one he can really rescue is the surrogate son.
“Men at that time did not express their emotions so readily. Very internalised and locked up. Especially people who had been through the war. I remember some in my family and teachers at school of that generation. There might be a series of stories they would tell. An uncle of mine used to talk about the time he was a prisoner of war and it gets turned into an anecdote. But the actual experience was something that wasn’t really talked about. The same applied to my grandparents and the First World War.
“People had witnessed terrible things and had also 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.
“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.”
Q: This is the first long running character you have played on TV. Has it been a different experience for you as an actor?
“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. There are sometimes things that are surprising. I discovered in a scene for the third film in this series that Fred had been doing the football pools for 36 years. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him doing that. The same with the ballroom dancing a couple of seasons ago.
“So, things can come up for the character which are either useful for the story or entertaining for the audience. You don’t know them in advance because you don’t know the whole play. You only know the bit you’re doing now. That’s a bit like life itself. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
“It’s interesting from that point of view but there’s also 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.
“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.”
Q: What’s next?
“I’m filming a series for BritBox called Murder In Provence, based on books by Mary Lou Longworth and adapted by Shelagh Stephenson.”
Episode 1: Striker
It’s the start of 1971. Though wearied from the events of the past year, there’s no chance of ‘light duties’ at the CID – crestfallen and rarely without a scotch in-hand, Endeavour finds himself right back in the thick of it. An explosive murder at an Oxford college has potentially far-reaching political ramifications. Meanwhile, the IRA have made a threat against the life of the Oxford Wanderers’ star striker and Endeavour is tasked with the duty of acting bodyguard.
Episode 2: Scherzo
May 1971, and a cab driver is found dead in his taxi, owing a large debt to a colleague.
Investigations into his death leads Endeavour and the team first to a nudist colony, where guests are making the most of the spring sunshine, and later to the heart of a blue movie outfit in London’s Soho.
Meanwhile at home, Endeavour receives a guest who reminds him of a past he’d sooner forget. As the investigation into the cab driver’s murder unfolds, Endeavour starts to retreat from those close to him and appears set on a course of willful self-destruction.
Episode 3: Terminus
In the midst of the 1971’s cruel winter, the foundations of Endeavour and Thursday’s relationship are profoundly shaken when Thursday unwittingly discovers the extent of Endeavour’s problems are greater than anybody could have suspected.
Meanwhile things at home become quote tense for Thursday and Win when they receive disturbing news from abroad.
When a snowstorm splits CID, and they independently work to solve the murder of a college don, Thursday enlists the help of Dorothea, while Endeavour finds himself stranded at an abandoned hotel, a pawn in a game of gruesome revenge.
Don’t miss the new series of Endeavour starting Sunday September 12th at 8pm on ITV.