John Thaw played the title role in the BBC’s INSPECTOR MORSE, based on the novels by Colin Dexter, from 1987 through 2000, though seven seasons and five specials, shown in the U.S. on PBS. The character died in the final special, THE REMORSEFUL DAY. Actor Thaw passed away in 2002, after forty-one years as a fixture of British television, with starring roles in THE SWEENEY, A YEAR IN PROVENCE and KAVANAGH Q.C. among the many to his credit.

Inspector Morse has an ongoing legacy in the INSPECTOR LEWIS series, starring Kevin Whately as Morse’s former sidekick who has stepped into his mentor’s professional shoes. However, to tell more stories about Morse himself, screenwriter Russell Lewis and executive producers Rebecca Eaton, Michele Buck and Damien Turner went back to 1965, with Shaun Evans playing Endeavour Morse as a young man taking on his first murder investigation in ENDEAVOUR. The telefilm airs tonight on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY on PBS at 9 PM – if it’s successful, there will be more installments.

Abigail Thaw, daughter of the late John, plays newspaper editor Dorothea Frazil in ENDEAVOUR. Standing on a balcony at Pasadena’s Langham Hotel during TCA press tour, she talks about her father, MORSE and ENDEAVOUR.

ASSIGNMENT X: Did you grow up wanting to be an actor because that was the family business, or was that something that came later?

ABIGAIL THAW: Yeah, I always had a feel for it. I was also brought up by academics; I wasn’t brought up just in a theatrical household. I just always wanted to [act]. It was something I had to do. I tried other things, I was quite bright as a kid at school, but it was something that just always fascinated me. I went away to Italy for a year to try and learn another language and see if there was anything else, but it came down to acting in the tend.

AX: Did your dad father give you any helpful advice about acting as a profession?

THAW: He was very encouraging when things went badly. He wasn’t keen on me being an actor. My mother, who was a history professor, wasn’t keen on my being an actor either. Both had their own reasons. I think Dad was very protective and didn’t want me to feel that rejection that you get inevitably being an actor, putting yourself out there, but once I made that decision, he was very supportive. And so yes, he would give me advice when I asked for it, but I think he wanted me to have my own [experiences].

AX: Are you a fan of mysteries?

THAW: Oh, yes. Big-time. I love mysteries.

AX: Did you get into that because your father was acting in so many mysteries while you were growing up?

THAW: No, that was just purely coincidental. I just love mysteries. I read them, I love them, and it was great that my father was part of them.

AX: When your dad became involved with INSPECTOR MORSE, did you watch the episodes thinking, “Now, who did it?”

THAW: Oh, yeah. I was really good at predicting [the culprit], but I was really bad at why. And it used to become a game. Like, “Okay, who looks really suspicious?” We’d go, “He did it,” or “She did it,” but why? What’s the motivation? That’s always much harder to work out and that’s why the story would always be [intriguing]. That’s a very fun aspect.

AX: Is it weird at all for you to see other people playing parts that your father did? Besides ENDEAVOR, THE SWEENEY is being made for the big screen, with Ray Winstone as Jack Regan, the character your father created.

THAW: Ray Winstone. I’m so delighted. He used to call my father “the Guv’nor.” And I think that was one of the reasons why [Winstone] was a bit reluctant to step into that role, was because he felt the Guv’nor had done it. So [that was] very sweet. [Watching the film THE SWEENEY is] going to be quite hard. Now with ENDEAVOUR, it doesn’t seem so strange, because Shaun is so different [from Thaw’s Morse]. It’s not like I’m looking at an echo – well, it’s an echo, but it’s not like he’s playing the same part.

AX: How much input did you have into your hair and wardrobe and makeup, because that hairstyle looked like it was carefully constructed in the morning and is coming completely undone by the time Morse comes in to see her.

THAW: That is exactly what I wanted to portray. [The ENDEAVOR hair stylist] wanted to give me a great, immaculate bouffant, and I said, “If this is a woman who is running a newspaper in 1965, there is no way on God’s Earth that she is doing bouffant beehives, immaculate. She hasn’t got time. She’s got to run …” So yeah, I did have some input.

AX: Us there anything you’d like to say about ENDEAVOUR?

THAW: It’s a lovely show and it’s nice to see it breathe new life.



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Article: Exclusive Interview with ENDEAVOUR actress Abigail Thaw

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