LOS ANGELES – In the sixth season of “Endeavour,” star Shaun Evans felt comfortable enough to direct one of the episodes.
Airing Sunday, the 90-minute edition lets the actor show yet another approach to a character he knows so well.
Because the episodes are like mini-films, each director “brings his own team and has his own color palette,” he says.
“It’s amazing because you get a complete platform,” Evans explains. “I’m a big photography fan. So I brought all of my photography books and said, ‘These are the color palettes I would like to adhere to. This is how I would like it to look, visually.’
“Whilst the characters are constant, each (episode) should feel different and different from the next.”
Over the years, Evans says, he has been able to size up other directors very quickly. “The director has a massive input on how it will look, ultimately.”
Although Evans’ “Apollo” (as the episode is titled) is the second entry in the season, it was actually shot first so he could deal with editing while he was shooting the following three episodes. “That was challenging, trying to keep a couple of stories in your head at all times but it’s like an extraordinary opportunity and I just wanted to make the most of it.”
When Evans was cast in the role, he faced another looming challenge – stepping into the shoes of another actor who had played the role.
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A prequel to the popular “Inspector Morse” series, “Endeavour” focuses on the early career of Endeavour Morse, the character created by John Thaw.
“You would be shortchanging the audience if you were to come in and do an impression and start morphing into something else,” Evans says. “My first port of call was the books and the imagination. I still haven’t seen (the first series), to be honest with you. And that’s purposeful. I know they will be brilliant when I do get around to watching them. If there are any similarities, then that needs to be born out of the writing.”
In “Endeavour,” Morse makes his way up the career ladder by weighing in on various cases. Season six takes place in 1969, just months after the closure of the Cowley Station. Now assigned to Castle Gate, he’s assigned a missing person’s case and forced to work under former adversaries.
For the sixth season, Evans sports a mustache. “What I think is terrific, if you’re telling a long-form story, is that you can change a little bit and the audience will go with that,” he says. “I also like it as a sort of metaphor for not being able to look in the mirror or try to change yourself in a way.”
When Evans, a veteran of several British television series, was cast in “Endeavour,” he didn’t dwell on the idea of rebooting a classic or how he might be accepted.
“Something landed in my lap, which I grabbed with both hands and tried to make the most of and, most importantly, tried to make it my own.
“I had a conversation with the producers when they first offered it to me and said, ‘I don’t want to do an impression of someone. I don’t want to be walking up on a set and for you to expect something that I’m not willing to give nor for you to expect something of me,’” Evans says. “If we are going to do it, this is how we should do it, via imagination and via something which is brand new.”
Key to a reboot, the 39-year-old says, is the acting.
“David Mamet, the great American writer, says, ‘There’s no such thing as character, just lines on a page. The onus is upon you to breathe life into that.’ I try not to overthink it,” Evans says. “Just use your imagination and pretend, if I was this person saying this and being alive to the moment. I think that’s the most difficult thing – to be without artifice and without guise but to be alive and spontaneous in the moment.”
“Endeavour” airs Sunday on PBS.