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The Remorseful Day

Interview Case Closed: A Remorseful Interview with John Thaw

photo of John Thaw The inimitable John Thaw closes out the career of one of MYSTERY!'s finest in the much-anticipated screen adaptation of author Colin Dexter's The Remorseful Day-Morse's 33rd case and the concluding chapter of his 13-year run on PBS's MYSTERY! Thaw recently answered questions about his long association with the irascible Chief Inspector from his home in London.

How do you feel about saying farewell to Inspector Morse?

I have mixed feelings about it. It's sad since I'm losing one of my favorite characters. I've enjoyed doing it very much, and I feel very proud to have created a character that is so respected. On the other hand, as an actor, I have more freedom now to do other things.

What's been most challenging about the role?

Without question just keeping it fresh-for me and the audience. That's been my job for 13-some years.

Morse is very subtle yet very expressive. Do you have to work at this as an actor?

Yes, I give it a lot of time and a lot of thought just to make it fresh and subtle and believable. That's my main task really-to make viewers believe that this is a real man with real problems. It's consciously done. I'm not an instinctive actor.

What will you miss most about playing the character?

I will miss working with Kevin [Whately]. I think we have a great rapport together. I'll miss that contact with him as an actor. Parts like Morse don't grow on trees. That's another reason I'll be sad, because he's a great character. He's so complex and there are so many sides to him which, for an actor, is a joy. In one scene he'll be churlish-he's not exactly the kindest person in the world-and yet in the very next scene he'll be a sensitive, caring man in a totally different situation.

Has he evolved over the past thirteen years?

Oh yes. No question. He has gotten more sensitive than in the very early episodes. I think the series has gotten more elegiac, both in the style in which it is shot and in the way it is written and performed.

Do you have a favorite episode?

I have two or three. For sentimental reasons, I like the very first one we did: The Dead of Jericho. There, we were laying down the roots for all the years to come. I like the one called Masonic Mysteries, which was quite different. For other reasons I like the one we shot in Australia-Promised Land-which finishes with Morse walking up the steps of the Sydney Opera House to the strains of Der Rosenkavalier, the Strauss opera. I thought that was very touching. That was shot by John Madden who did Shakespeare in Love.

What other traits do you share with Morse?

I'm an introspective person. I'm not an extrovert.

In the last film, Morse is very sick. Is it difficult to play a person who is chronically ill?

It showed me the importance of mind over matter, because I was concentrating on remembering all day long that I was ill. When we got up to do a scene, I'd say to myself, 'Now remember, you're a very sick man.' And that carried over, so that when I got home, I'd be thinking, 'I really don't feel well at all.' I couldn't get away-from that feeling of not feeling well.

There have been many "final" episodes. Just for the record, is it impossible for Morse to come back now?

Yes-unless he comes back as a ghost. I think this is why Colin wanted to make a real end. There is no more final end than death. This is it!

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