TV preview: Endeavour

Shaun Evans is devoted to the ITV detective series.
Shaun Evans is devoted to the ITV detective series.
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Shaun Evans is feeling revived after a couple of weeks travelling around Southeast Asia, with his phone switched off and just a rucksack to his name.

His career is not, he admits, like “working down the mines”, but after a solid five months putting in 16 plus-hour days playing the young Inspector Endeavour Morse, in the second series of ITV prequel Endeavour, his moment in the sun has been well earned.

Such is Evans’ devotion to the series that he doesn’t take on any other work while he’s filming the show, which is mainly shot in Taplow near Maidenhead, with about a week’s filming in Oxford, where the series is based.

“[Filming Endeavour] is only five months of my life and it’s an amazing opportunity,” says the chiselled actor, who’s kitted out in a suave suit.

Today, he’s dropped Morse’s Oxford tones - which he says he based on early recordings of fellow Northerner Michael Palin, who was educated at Oxford University - for his own gentle Liverpudlian accent.

“I’m not going to pee it up the wall by focusing on something else, what would be the point? I give it the five months it deserves and then I get my life back.”

The young Morse is Evans’ biggest role to date and, understandably, he wants to put in the hours. He trained at Guildhall School Of Drama And Music and has had parts in BBC One drama Silk, as trainee barrister Daniel Lomas, as well as Whitechapel and Ashes To Ashes, and he’s not about to squander his opportunity.

“In this job, you want to get a good story, tell it well, and hope the audience enjoys it. We seem to have ticked those boxes,” he says.

“I’m very fortunate for Endeavour to come out and have an audience.”

Having worked on small budget projects, the 34-year-old, who says he enjoys how “exacting” the cast and crew of Endeavour are, is well aware of the other side of the acting coin.

“You can make films, as I’ve done, and there has been a lot of effort put into them, but because of the politics of film-making and the commerce of it, it only gets released on three or four screens,” explains Evans, who also starred in ITV’s 2012 psychological thriller The Last Weekend.

“But with Endeavour, that circle will be complete and people will see it. That’s an amazing thing, and it shouldn’t be sniffed at.”

Although he’s started to become more recognisable as Morse, he modestly shrugs when asked about it, insisting that when people do come up to him when he’s working on the show in Oxford, it’s usually because there’s a “huge film crew, and that attracts a lot of attention”.

This series of the prequel is set in 1966 and sees Morse, who’s just returned to work after being shot in the line of duty in the first series, and senior detective Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) facing four more mysteries.

“I was delighted the first one did well enough for us to make four more episodes,” says Evans, who notes that Endeavour, whose father died in the first series, returns to work a “damaged” man.

“What that means is that I can work again for another five months and make some more money, but also that we’ve been given the opportunity to tell more of this story. That makes me happy.”

Given that he’s taken on such a mantle - the character was made famous by the late John Thaw, who played Morse from 1987 until 2000 - Evans is pleased that fans of the original series can judge Endeavour on its own terms.

“Building on the character of Morse has always been the intention,” he explains. “On one level, I’m glad the audience is open to what we’ve done. But even more so that those people who haven’t seen the original series, can see this series for what it is.”

When he’s not busy working, Evans is a big fan of travelling and plans to go back to Southeast Asia at the end of the year to explore Vietnam and Cambodia in greater depth.

“I love that part of the world,” he says with a smile. “I love how the Buddhist faith is so enmeshed into their lives.

“And even how they construct sentences, I just really dig it. It’s also very traveller-friendly. You can go off and explore but you can also have extreme luxury. I always feel refreshed when I come back.”

Nipping back to Asia may not always be an option for a relaxation boost, but for his day-to-day wellbeing, Evans loves a good stroll around London, where he now lives.

“I probably walk about five or six miles a day in whatever city I’m in,” says the actor.

“It clears your mind. And also, you get to take things in and see how they’ve changed. You find little pockets [that you wouldn’t have found otherwise].”

But even if holidays seem a long way off now, Evans isn’t counting down the days until he’s next beside a beach.

“I like work, full stop,” he says. “I enjoy being an actor and I enjoy telling these stories.”

ENDEAVOUR, ITV, SUNDAY 8pm

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