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This story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
“It started out as something of a joke,” creator Rob Doherty confesses of his decision to make the Watson in his Sherlock Holmes tale a woman. When he began to research the story’s original characters, he came across a handful of experts who had written up psychological assessments of Sherlock; one of them had noted an aversion to women.
“I thought to myself, ‘What would make Holmes crazier than taking the figurative rock he has in Watson and making him a woman?’ I scribbled it down and then went back to my research,” the 38-year-old Elementary showrunner continues. “The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it.”
The result: casting Asian-American film star Lucy Liu as the first female Watson opposite Jonny Lee Miller‘s Sherlock and an impressive 13.9 million viewers tuning in weekly, making Elementary the No. 1 new series with total viewers this fall. (Among the key 18-to-49 set, the series ranks No. 2 behind only NBC’s breakout Revolution.) And come February, the CBS drama — one of the season’s few hits with critics and audiences alike — will get the coveted post-Super Bowl slot.
The show’s stars, Liu, 44, and Miller, 40, still are making sense of the series’ success, particularly rewarding because the show colors outside the lines in a way that excites both of them.
“To me, one of the best things you can do in this profession is to take a risk,” says Miller, whose co-star plays sober coach to his recovering-addict Sherlock. Liu says the tweak in formula can liberate the story in other ways as well: “There’s an endless supply of unpredictability that we can delve into and we can change and add. It will still be a pound cake, but it could be marble, it could be lemon, it could be poppy seed.”
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