IT TAKES a while to realise that Roger Allam is not in fact DI Thursday – his character in ITV’s Endeavour – but a real life actor.
Which seems ridiculous, but such is his compelling and all-encompassing portrayal of the 1950s cop and father figure to a young Morse, that you forget it’s just his day job.
In fact you are equally as likely to see Roger playing cross-dressers, Shakespearean rogues or Adolf Hitler as you are a detective.
But that’s his strength, his forte, that he becomes whoever he plays so convincingly that it’s hard to tell him and his characters apart.
Until now able to walk down the streets of his West London home relatively unnoticed, that is beginning to change since Endeavour hit our screens and he admits that he does get stopped on the street more often, adding that he enjoys having a chat with people.
“It’s not frenzied or anything,” he chuckles, “but I’d hate it if it meant I was unable to go to the supermarket or use public transport.”
Now that Endeavour has just been recommissioned for its fourth series, and Thursday will continue to grace our screens, in a series in which he continues to dominate, remains to be seen.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he blusters.
It was a bit touch-and-go at the end of the last series, we were worried that a nasty cough might signal the end of our new favourite Sunday night detective, until he spat a bullet out in the sink. So is he pleased he’s made the cut?
“Well I’m still here,” he grins sardonically, “but it was a very satisfying scene to act.”
He is dry though, Roger Allam, just like DI Thursday, and doesn’t waste words or embellish, and while not a luvvy, he is a thespian, learning his trade at the RSC.
So how did Endeavour come about?
“I just read for it and got the part,” he says, “but I loved the character straight away and knew what I could do with it because I grew up with that generation.
“I had teachers who had fought in the war and saw how haunted they were and how clammed up. And my background wasn’t dissimilar and isn’t now. I’m a family man myself and like being at home.”
He must know Oxford well then?
“You know, I didn’t spend vast amounts of time there while filming Endeavour so I am getting to know it gradually. It takes 23 days to film an episode and of that we spend 2-5 days in Oxford so I’m enjoying getting to know it.”
Surely in rep he visited? “No never, I was in Stratford most of the time.”
One forgets how successful Allam has been. He’s one of those faces that has been in everything from The Thick of it to Game of Thrones and Bad Education.
Endeavour of course doesn’t take up all of his time. Filming takes about 20 weeks for the four episodes every series. “It is a substantial amount of time but leaves me free to do other things,” he explains.
Last year saw him starring in a play about Glyndebourne founder The Moderate Soprano. “We are hoping it will transfer to the West End at the beginning of next year,” he confirms. “And I’m about to start filming a new series The Missing 2. Have you seen it? With Jimmy Nesbitt?” “What’s it about?” I ask. “I haven’t quite got to grips with the script yet,” he admits chuckling away, reminding me again he is an actor with a home life and switches off.
Living with his actress wife Rebecca Saire they have two sons, and share time away from home. “We tend not to do long tours or anything that takes us away for too long. A short tour is OK but I couldn’t do a long one - I wouldn’t want to - I don’t like taking on something that means I can’t get home for long periods of time. I like being at home.”
And what of the laborious filming process. “Well there are a lot of people to take into consideration as well as the lighting and weather. It takes a long time, but it’s quick in comparison to films.
“And the Endeavour team all works very well together. Shaun (Morse) and I get on very well and I’ve known Anton Lesser (Chief Superintendent Bright) for years.”
So does he enjoy being in Endeavour or is it just another job? “It can be enormous fun and if it’s ever boring I just think I’m being paid to hang around and do the acting for free.”
And the highlights so far? “The tiger, although we weren’t in the maze with it at the same time, but I got to wave a massive gun in the air which appealed to the infant in me.”
And what of his similarities to DI Thursday? “Well I’m not a policeman, and I didn’t fight in the war, but I do enjoy the part and I do really like and respect Thursday and feel great sympathy for him.
“So there are always things that you use to engage with a character, to bring a sense of yourself to your work, so you do your research so you know what it was like. And for the rest?” he pauses, “You just use your imagination.”
DI Thursday couldn’t have put it better himself.
Endeavour Series 3 is available now from Amazon and to download from iTunes.