Actors and Roles | Lewis' creator Colin Dexter | Music | Locations
The Actors and their Roles
Kevin Whately as Lewis
Laurence Fox as Hathaway
Kevin Whately on his role as Inspector Lewis:
Whately, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, abandoned a future as an accountant to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. He has been acting since the late '70s and has appeared in numerous television programs as well as films.
Kevin Whately owes his role as Lewis to an out-of-town theatrical flop. After the success in the early 1980s of the British television series Auf Wiedersehen Pet (in which he played the role of Neville Hope), Whately met John Thaw to read for the part of Robbie Lewis. Whately remembers his meeting with Thaw, original producer Kenny McBain and casting director Michelle Guish.
"I thought I wouldn't be able to appear in Morse anyway, because at the time I was out of town in a comedy directed by Ray Cooney. We thought it would come into the West End for a long run -- but luckily it flopped in somewhere like Hornchurch or Bromley and left me free to be Lewis! I've always liked the character, so now we'll see how audiences react to his return."
Five years after he was last seen as Lewis, a role which occupied him in 32 Inspector Morse films over a 14 year period, Whately has returned to both the role and to Oxford.
"People had talked about it; it had been suggested for years and I had pooh-poohed it. It wasn't until (executive producer)Ted Childs actually said 'How about this?' that I thought seriously about it. I have huge respect for Ted and the idea had come originally from ITV drama executive producers Michele Buck and Damien Timmer who I knew well; the fact I knew all of them and producer Chris Burt, and trusted them, was a big factor. Russell Lewis' story and Stephen Churchett's script had the ghost of Morse flitting around, which I liked. With the sheer number of detectives on TV, you are constantly being offered new cop roles, several a year. But when this came up, you think, 'There's a back story and people like the Lewis character,' so you've got a head start. The Morse films had a quality to them which is maybe unusual these days, and Michele promised me it would have the same production values which made a huge difference."
But Lewis as an inspector has a long history in the annals of the Morse films.
"The idea of Lewis being an inspector goes way back to Geoff Case's script for Who Killed Harry Field in 1991; the subsidiary story throughout that film was 'Could Lewis be an inspector?' and Morse saying 'No, I don't think so,' when actually Morse knew fine well that he could but didn't want to lose him. If Lewis hadn't got his promotion, he probably would have gone off into private security or one of those jobs, like a lot of police officers do. But it's very obvious in this film that, like Morse, he loves investigating murders and being at the sharp end of police work. It is quite a fiendish plot, and I love the fact that maths are involved; that's quite Morseian."
But Whately admits that he ignored the fact that he was playing the eponymous role.
"It never occurred to me, so my shoulders weren't weighed down! We were working at such a speed. It did seem a slightly more frenetic pace than used to be on Morse, maybe just because I had much more to do. So I didn't have time to think 'Oh God, I wish John was taking the weight!'"
Talking about the new partnership with Laurence Fox's James Hathaway, Whately explains.
"Hathaway is a hugely bright young cop, the sort of graduate policeman that Lewis wouldn't like very much, and obviously he has a hot line to the superintendent and seems to be her man. So he doesn't trust him from that point of view. But gradually, and I think quite subtly over the length of the film, they gain a mutual respect. It sounds a bit of a cliché, but I think it's well done. I think there's a lot of potential there. Both Lewis and Hathaway are nice people; I think we'd have to ginger it up for the future. I think it works fine in this story because there is a bit of grit in the relationship."
After his five-year absence, Lewis is back in a new world where women are in the police hierarchy:
"Morse never quite related to women as human beings; he tended either to fall in love with them or stick them in prison because they were murderesses -- or both! But Lewis has always seemed absolutely relaxed and fine with women."
Though it was back in front of the cameras in Oxford for the first time since he and many of the crew filmed The Remorseful Day, Whately had visited the university city in the intervening years.
"I fronted the Magdalen Bridge restoration appeal a few years ago, and have been involved with a few other Oxford charities, including a children's home north of the city. But we hadn't really done much in Wadham College in the past films; there's still quite a lot of Oxford that we haven't shot in -- or that didn't invite us. This time they let us have our location base right in the middle of the city by the Radcliffe Camera, which we used to do on the very early Morses before they banished us down to the station yard! But Oxford is good to shoot in because wherever you point a camera looks great, and the light is always nice because of the Cotswold stone. I asked very early on if we could get as many of the core team people; most of them are pals and they are the best. They were always the top people on Morse."
In contrast with Hathaway, Lewis can be seen as old-fashioned when it comes to new technology, something with which Whately sympathizes.
"Sending emails from your hand, as Hathaway does, really astonishes me... I can't stand people being able to get hold of me at the drop of a hat. I guess I am a bit of a technophobe; things like computers tend to go wrong and if you can't fix them, then you spend your whole life waiting for somebody to come and sort you out. I've got by very happily for 50 plus years without! I don't need it! I don't want it!"
How about being reunited with Lewis's creator, Colin Dexter?
"It was fab; he was on the set a lot when we were in Oxford and you could tell it was just such a buzz for him to be back. But it did take quite a few takes for us to do our scene with Colin as a college scout... I can't remember why. It's got to have been Colin's fault and if it wasn't, I am saying that it was; especially if it was my fault!"
Laurence Fox on his role as James Hathaway:
Trained at RADA, Laurence Fox is the son of actor James Fox, the cousin of actress Emilia Fox and the nephew of actor Edward Fox and producer Robert Fox. His credits to date include roles in Masterpiece/Mystery titles Miss Marple: The Sittaford Mystery, Jericho, Island at War and Foyle's War.
Despite the fact that he was unfamiliar with Morse history, when he took on the role of James Hathaway, Lewis's new partner, Laurence Fox was instantly at home in Oxford.
"Kevin took me around Oxford, into little chapels and pubs, and would talk about the colleges and the quads, I'm an obsessive flesh-eater, so he showed me places where you could get really great barbecue! The minute you see that face, you trust him and you want to go for a beer with him. Kevin's a great guy. He's keen on the truth and understanding what other people think. He's not totally different from my own father. Though Kevin and I come from totally different backgrounds, and have incredibly different politics as well, not once did we have an argument about anything.
"On my first day, I just strolled in like this was brand new... I had no context for the history of Morse, other than when I was acting, to defer to the idea that what happened before was obviously very important to Kevin's character, Lewis. I allowed my character to believe that, in the police force that he worked for, this guy was a legend."
Fox had family ties to his character, the theology student turned fast-track detective.
"My sister is a theology graduate from Cambridge, and my older brother briefly considered becoming a priest. So what research there was came around the kitchen table! So much of this has to come from your instinctive reaction to a script. In some examples, research can be very helpful, but I often find it can hurt and hinder you, because you think, 'I don't know anything, I'm screwed! The script was good enough for me to know what Hathaway was like and to get a very strong sense of him."
But Fox says he shared a secret with his character.
"I decided that something had happened to Hathaway -- which is why he hadn't continued on the path of becoming a priest. He tells Lewis that he was too frivolous for the priesthood. That's a lie; he's just not telling the real reason. I've got my reason -- which is my secret and his. Hathaway is hard-working, diligent and seeks approval. As a young actor like me, who has managed to have some success early on, you develop a sense of confidence beyond your experience; Hathaway's probably got that as well. He's not exceptional. He's got a very real vulnerability and he does respect other people's opinion. He's a secretive sort of guy. I don't sense that he likes people to know a lot about him. He would rather give nothing away."
James Hathaway is a great advocate of new technology, forever using his Blackberry in the course of his police duties. But this ability has not rubbed off onto Fox.
"I've just learnt how to email, but I don't know how to attach things. I like it that way... I really like being without it; I don't want to become dependent on it."
What does Hathaway think of having a women boss in Jean Innocent (played by actress Rebecca Front)?
"She likes him; he's hard working and doesn't get in the way. He's a modern, politically correct creature. He's totally un-Establishment. For him, if women can do the job, then fine. It's the world I grew up in, where I've had women bosses, like he has. He doesn't turn on the charm for anyone. But he does start to respect this guy Lewis."
Production Notes | Story Synopsis | Who's Who | Cast + Credits | Discussion
Home | About MYSTERY! | American Mystery Specials | Program History
Schedule & Season | MYSTERY! Games | eNewsletter | Book Club
Discussion | Search | Shop | Feedback
Masterpiece is sponsored by: