With the extraordinary success in England and the US of Sherlock, the 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it was inevitable that a second series would be produced. Sherlock II is currently playing in England and will premiere here in the States this Spring.
Benedict Cumberbatch reprises his role of the great detective, with Martin Freeman once again portraying his friend and colleague Dr James Watson. This season introduces the character of Irene Adler, played by Laura Pulver, the only woman ever to interest Sherlock Holmes.
The new series was spotlighted at the TV Critics tour, with Benedict Cumberbatch doing his interview via satellite from England, as he was there for the premiere of his new movie, War Horse.
What is it like to play the smartest man on TV?
It’s a thrill to get a script as intelligent and as smart as Steven’s are. It’s a rare challenge, for an audience and for an actor, to take part in something with this level of intelligence and wit. And you have to play with it. You have to really enjoy it. It is hard.
It’s a sort of form of mental and physical gymnastics. It’s hard literally sometimes in the cold of winter on the first series and in the heat of summer on the second, to actually get the words out without beads of sweat dripping down or your jaw freezing in a kind of grin of cold Englishness.
It takes a lot of effort to play clever. It takes very little effort to look clever, as I found out through my character for some reason. And it’s the sort of challenge that you just run [with], and I absolutely love every minute of it as hard as it can be.
It’s a thrill to bring something to an audience that isn’t patronizing as well. To be received with so much love, it’s a validation [from] the audience. It’s something that rewards repeat review, and I think that’s a good thing for it.
Can you talk about the outrage that happened this week in Britain with the nude scene in the show?
Laura was amazing. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to do what she did. There’s nothing that’s supposed to be at all sensational about it. It’s supposed to have an effect on Sherlock.
It’s not supposed to be a source of stimulation for the audience. It’s supposed to throw his radar off, which is exactly what it does.
It’s used as a device of character to create a situation of control, and it’s very much at the heart of their relationship, the power play between the sexes and Holmes and Miss Adler. But an overall answer to the question is, it’s great publicity, isn’t it?
If anyone wants to create a storm in a teacup over it and sell papers the size of telephone directories with hot-air arguments of any description, they’ve really been scraping the barrel this year, so it’s been a lot of fun to watch it come out and laugh them off.
I think there’s an awful lot of support for the way that we did it and the taste that we did it with, and if it creates more interest for the program, thank you very much for that.
What is the relationship between Holmes and Irene Adler?
I think he meets a like-mind. That’s the fundamental attraction for him. He meets someone who is a challenge, who is rather good, and it takes him by surprise, not because he’s a misogynist, not because he views women as any lesser of a species.
He views them as an equal. It’s just that pretty much all people apart from him are a bit stupid.
So the fact that he meets somebody who is a worthy opponent of either sex is of great intrigue. Look at the relationship with Moriarty. There’s a huge bond between those two.
It’s an obsession, but with Ms Adler, it comes with the whole game of love and relationships and the understanding between one sex and another.
Your star has risen so rapidly in this country, due to the Sherlock character. What do you feel about the stardom you’re experiencing now?
Well, you get quite giddy. It’s very flattering. It’s very important to remember that whatever scale you’re working at, it is a job. You have to do your job well, and so you can’t get carried away by too much of it.
I know it’s quite a sober English response. You just treat each job as they come. I’ve been working for nearly 10 years. I got started quite late in my 20s compared to an awful lot of people who are further ahead of me who are younger.
I feel very fortunate and very blessed, but it happened very gradually, but the last bit of it, the trip into being far more on the radar has been very sudden.
You’ve just been anointed for the new Star Trek movie, can you talk about that? What will you play?
(He smiles and looks over to his right side at an invisible person) ‘What’s that? Sorry? I can’t say anything?’ Sorry, there’s a lawyer standing here saying I can’t say anything! (he laughs)
I’m hugely, hugely excited, and I’m very flattered. I like this anointing thing. It’s Biblical! I jumped around an awful lot at 1:00 in the morning, whenever I found out that I’d been given a part in it.
Obviously I’m not here to talk about that, and I will do in the future, I’m sure, but I’m just getting my head around the fact that it’s happened. I’ll just give you my headline on it, which is I’m over the moon.