Not The Retiring Sort
Endeavour season seven started on ITV two Sundays ago and here’s Roger Allam, who plays Fred Thursday, talking about the new run…
We’re now on the seventh series of Endeavour. Do you find it easy to return to the character of Fred Thursday?
It’s very familiar now, and there are certain things that you do to get into character. I don’t wear a hat or smoke a pipe in real life, so as soon as I put on the hat and have the pipe around, they become strange wormholes in time and space whereby it’s a shorthand way of becoming the character. And then of course there’s being around the other actors – Shaun Evans who plays Endeavour, Caroline O’Neill who plays Win, Sean Rigby who plays Strange and Anton Lesser as Bright. It’s easy to get back into character in relation to them because we’re picking up something that we left off, in all probability, less than a year ago.
Where do we find Thursday at the start of the series?
It’s not great I’m afraid! First of all, we find him having a reasonably happy new year – albeit, at a club that he doesn’t really like – but more or less the next day, he’s back at the coalface with the horrible murder of a young woman, and I think he’s getting jaded with that. It’s starting to taste very bitter, having to continually face up to the worst aspects of humanity. Win is back though, which is good, and Fred has been promoted back to Detective Chief Inspector again – he has Ronnie Box’s old office. So, all of that side of things is OK, although the house is empty as the children have gone away, so there’s all that going on for both he and Win. I think that continues as parents when your children leave home.
Do you think this empty nest syndrome is what triggers him to buy the canaries as pets?
Yes, he buys two canaries because I think he wants something to look after again. They can’t escape as they’re in a cage – however, I think one did actually escape whilst we were filming, but the canary wrangler got it back, so there are no dangerous wild canaries on the loose! I think he chooses canaries as they’re sweet, soft and lovely. It’s an obvious strong contrast to the grimness of having to face up to the bleakness of the murders he’s having to deal with at work, and what’s happening to these young women.
One of the key themes throughout the series is a social shift, with politics coming to the forefront and the dawn of women’s liberation. How is this explored in the series as a whole?
Although there isn’t an immediate shift between the 1960s and 1970s, it does feel like there is a change starting to begin. There’s a story focusing on one of the female colleges in Oxford, around the debate as to whether they should take in men. There’s resistance to that, especially when one of the students is killed, and I think one of the professors questions why it always has to be the women that make the first move towards making things more equal.
How would you say that Morse and Thursday’s relationship changes this series?
The first crime is one that takes some time to solve, and Thursday’s instinct and his gut feeling is that the boyfriend is the culprit, but Morse sort of dismisses that as too obvious and too pedestrian, thinking it must be someone else.
Thursday tends to represent gut instinct whilst Morse represents intellect, and though it’s not as if Morse has no gut instinct and feeling and Thursday has no intellect, that’s how they pursue this particular case. Their disagreement over it opens a big split between them which gets wider and wider throughout the series.
Thursday was keen to retire at this point last year but wasn’t able to as his brother has taken his savings. Is he still feeling that way?
Funnily enough, I think in the last series, he didn’t really want to retire but Win wanted him to. He certainly didn’t want a desk job, but when he was done over by his brother and lost his money, he had to stay on to earn more money for them to live. The difference this year is that he’s had a promotion so I guess there’s more money coming in, but the job itself is also making him feel jaded, and he doesn’t want to face up to all of this continual violence.
Shaun once again directed one of the episodes this series. Do you enjoy working with him in this capacity?
It’s lovely. He makes it seem very easy, moving from behind the camera to in front of it and then back behind. We have the same kind of discussions when he’s a director as we would when he is just an actor about what’s going on in a scene and what we need to do, because he’s still an actor as well. He always listens to other people and their suggestions about how a scene can work, so it’s a huge pleasure to have seen him take that on and succeed in it so well.
And what’s next for you?
I’m doing a play at the Bridge Theatre by Caryl Churchill. It’s a revival of a play she wrote in the early 2000s called A Number. It’s a two-hander with Colin Morgan who I’ve worked with before – he was Ariel when I was Prospero in The Tempest. It’s a very interesting and challenging play so I’m looking forward to that.
Endeavour season seven episode three is on this Sunday on ITV