Shaun Evans: 'There's plenty of life left in Morse'
Shaun Evans is back on the beat in Endeavour. Keeley Bolger talks to the about the "dark" third series and why he's not ready for LA just yet
The doyenne of cool, Patti Smith, recently gave TV detective dramas her unexpected seal of approval after admitting that when she's in the UK, she likes nothing better than hunkering down in a hotel room and binge-watching our crime shows.
It was exciting news for Shaun Evans, the lead in the jewel of ITV's current detective drama crown, Endeavour, and a self-confessed fan of the American singer-songwriter.
"I've got the biggest crush on Patti Smith," says the 35-year-old with a laugh.
"I find her really inspiring. Her photographs are incredible, the poetry that she writes, and just her way of living.
"I'm totally gushing now, but as soon as I finished one of her books, I started it again, because I was so intoxicated with the atmosphere of it. She's something else."
Even without the punk poet's declaration, Endeavour, which is written by Colin Dexter and delves into Inspector (Endeavour) Morse's early career as a detective in Sixties Oxford, has been a huge success story for the channel.
The pilot was the highest performing new drama to air on ITV in 2012, reached a peak of seven million viewers for the second series and subsequent episodes have been shown in the States as well as over here.
Now it's back for a third time, is Evans, who trained at the Guildhall School Of Drama And Music, interested in capitalising on his biggest role to date and launching a career across the pond?
"Well, I feel very fortunate at the moment," says the actor, who moved from his native Liverpool to study in London aged 18.
"I've always worked and I've always managed to do stuff that at least I have found interesting, [whether that's] theatre, film, TV. I don't feel like there's this elusive thing I'm desperately trying to achieve that is located in Los Angeles, do you know what I mean?
"I'm lucky, man. I work quite a lot here, so I don't feel like there's much missing."
The second series ended with Morse languishing in prison after being falsely accused of murdering Chief Constable Robert Standish and with senior officer, DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), seriously wounded after a gun shot to the chest, so there are plenty of meaty storylines for the actor to get his teeth into.
"There's a bank heist," explains Evans.
"There's a love story throughout, but it ends in a very tragic way. There are some terrific stories, really well told by the director. We've got a lovely cast as well, who are just in their element. I'm very proud of it and hope people enjoy it."
Keen to act from a young age, Evans, who played Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the play Kurt And Sid, alongside Danny Dyer in 2009, starred in productions at his school in the Liverpool suburb of West Derby.
His breakthrough came in 2002 when he played young languages teacher JP in Channel 4 comedy Teachers, but he also had a part in BBC One drama Silk, as trainee barrister Daniel Lomas, as well as in Whitechapel and Ashes To Ashes.
And unlike many actors, Evans "doesn't mind" watching himself back on screen.
"When you watch it as a piece of work and think, 'That was good' or, 'That's interesting that they've chosen that rather than this' or, 'That could be improved' - it's a good thing," he explains.
"And also to be grateful and congratulate good work where it's done, even if that's your own, you know, it's important. It helps you grow."
Over the last year, Evans, who loves browsing the shelves of second-hand bookshops in Oxford whenever he films in the city (much of the series is shot near Maidenhead), also starred in BBC One's raunchy The Scandalous Lady W with Natalie Dormer, as well as three plays including Hello/Goodbye opposite Spooks actress Miranda Raison.
Although he's "open" to any opportunities "to be involved in a good story, told well", he's not ready to hang up Morse's dapper hat just yet.
"We'll just have to see how the audience takes to the new series," he says.
"It's not like we have a six-year contract, there's none of that. It's day by day, year by year. I think this one is really good. We'll know when it airs if there's an audience for it and if we feel there's another place to take these characters."
While making Endeavour takes up a big chunk of Evans' year - roughly five months - he still tries to indulge his other passion - travelling.
Recently, he went to Russia with the British Council to talk about the film War Book, which he starred in alongside Ben Chaplin and Sophie Okonedo, and also revisited South East Asia.
"I love that part of the world. It's just so different. You've got monks walking down the street barefoot of a morning," says Evans.
"I was in a second-hand bookshop and I found a copy of Colin Dexter's short stories. It's funny ... You go halfway around the world to a different culture, but good stories are everywhere."
Endeavour, ITV, Sunday, January 3, 8pm