Shaun Evans: ‘I didn’t want to copy John Thaw’

The Take’s Shaun Evans plays a young Morse this week in feature-length prequel Endeavour. Here, he talks about stepping into John Thaw’s shoes…

Do you feel under pressure playing the role made famous by John Thaw?

“I don’t feel daunted or scared about taking on the role, just excited. I didn’t just want to impersonate John or copy what had been done before – it was important that we created something new.”

What can you tell us about this particular story?

“Basically, Morse is drafted into Oxford Police station to help investigate the murder of young girl. He’s always looking for a motive and a culprit. But he gets his sexual attraction and sixth sense a little mixed up and ends up getting things wrong.”

What do we learn about Morse’s past that influenced the person he became in later life?

“We discover why Morse became so isolated and unable to let people in. He is very dissatisfied with his life choices and just wants to be happy. But as he revisits events from his past he ends up getting hurt.”

Up to now, you’ve played some very tormented characters. Is there a pattern emerging?

“Well, I played Jimmy in The Take and Kurt Cobain on stage, so I guess that’s what people see in me and characters with a dark side are more fascinating to play. Morse is melancholy, in control but at the root is an intelligent man who doesn’t understand himself.”

We also discover in this film where Morse’s many interests stem from, don’t we?

“Yes, we get to see how he first fell in love with Jaguar cars. In this, he doesn’t have the money to buy one, so he’s driving the police jag.”

What about his love of real ale?

“Morse doesn’t drink at first but he faints in the mortuary in front of his new boss, who takes him to the pub. Then, once the case starts to overwhelm him, he’s downing pints like nobody’s business!”

And why do you think he’s obsessed with crosswords?

“He’s got a logical brain. There’s a very logical way his mind works; he enjoys solving puzzles and that’s the way he tries to solve crimes. I also think he likes the idea of solving two things together, which many not have gone together before.”

John’s daughter Abigail appears in this film…

“I’m delighted she’s involved and the scene that we’re playing is light; it avoids any sentimentality or heavy-handed nostalgia. There a sweet line where her character says: ‘Haven’t I see you somewhere before?’ Morse replies: ‘Maybe in another life.’ It’s very poignant.”

Why do you think the original series is still so fondly regarded?

“The original films are timeless and the character had such an effect on people. I think it’s a culmination of great stories, really well told, with an interesting character, played by a really charismatic actor in John Thaw.”

Some fans might have a problem with Morse being played by someone other than John Thaw. What do you say to that?

“I’m sure there are die hard fans who will struggle to see Morse as anyone other than John. I have tried to make this film as brilliant as I can make it and I hope it will appeal to existing fans as well as attract a whole new audience to Morse.”

Endeavour can be seen on Monday, January 2 at 9pm on ITV1