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If there was a most anticipated session during the weeks-long Television Critics Association press tour, it might have been PBS Masterpiece’s presentation of British drama Sherlock on Monday afternoon.
Boosted by the rising star wattage of Benedict Cumberbatch (August: Osage County, 12 Years a Slave), currently making the rounds during awards season, and Martin Freeman (next starring in FX’s Fargo), Sherlock premiered to strong numbers Sunday evening for the season-three opener with 4 million viewers, up 25 percent from the previous year’s 3.2 million.
Executive producer Steven Moffat previously revealed that he was prepping the fourth season, though the BBC (which broadcasts it in the U.K.) has not yet officially announced a renewal, but Cumberbatch — who dropped a few F-bombs during the panel — confirmed that he and Freeman were adamant it happens. “I’ve commissioned it,” Cumberbatch told reporters matter-of-factly.
While there were no official announcements, expect this iteration of Sherlock Holmes to air for a long time — at least that’s the hope. “It will continue until Benedict gets too famous,” Moffat said, half-joking.
Here are 11 highlights from the 45-minute session in Pasadena, including some veiled teases from Moffat, the keeper of secrets.
Cumberbatch on his fans: There was a group of Cumberbatch fans gathered Monday afternoon in front of the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena. How did the actor feel about the attention? “Guilt, first of all,” he said explaining his day’s “tight schedule,” before calling it “extraordinary.” He cited the attention as being partially due to the character he plays. “I think a lot of it comes with who he is. He’s a very iconic figure,” Cumberbatch said. “It’s kind of extraordinary and a little bit unnerving, and I do feel that has to be acknowledged. I know that feeds the thing itself but I’m a human being; as much as I’m capable of, I’m going to acknowledge the gratitude, the fact that they are so supportive, loyal and by and large intelligent and some of them normal and committed to something I really love doing and a character I love playing. It means a hell of a lot to me.”
Sherlock spinoff? The idea was posed to Amanda Abbington (“our original fangirl,” as Cumberbatch called her), who plays John Watson’s eventual wife Mary, about the possibility of a story centered solely on a supporting character like hers. But don’t expect a Sherlock spinoff anytime soon.
Did Moriarty and Sherlock actually kiss? The moment came in the season-three premiere as a theory that presumably explained one way Sherlock faked his death in the “Reichenbach Fall.” “We got the idea from the palpable chemistry between Benedict and Andy [Andrew Scott],” Moffat said, crediting executive producer Mark Gatiss for coming up with the idea. “I’ve done something slightly cheeky,” Moffat recalled Gatiss telling him. “I roared with laughter.” The scene, which featured Moriarty and Sherlock laughing off the tense phone call with John, saw the two nemeses inch closer in a presumed kiss. “We cut it before contact, and indeed, sex, because that was wrong,” Moffat joked. And sorry Sherlock fans, Cumberbatch said he and Scott “didn’t actually connect.”
Yes, Sherlock’s faked death was calculated: “John couldn’t see the point of impact,” Moffat said when asked yet again about the explanation for how Sherlock pulled off the ruse. “It was obvious.”
Why they added Mary to the season: “If you have a female perspective on the two men, it’s very, very funny and very illuminating,” Moffat said of the reason they added John’s future wife, who didn’t get the warmest of receptions at first. “They all see through Sherlock so fast…but John is still bamboozled.” Abbington, who appears in all three episodes of the season, will remain a large part of the mythology of Sherlock as the story continues. “Mary’s absolutely here. We don’t just off her,” Moffat said. “How would that be at the start of the next series. ‘Where’s Mary?’ ‘Dead!’ “
Cumberbatch doesn’t see an end date: When asked whether he has felt overwhelmed playing a character like Sherlock, the British actor dismissed any notion of that. “I’m fine with it. I’m going to keep going with it,” Cumberbatch said, adding that “it’s a schedule-providing thing…I love it. I find it very invigorating.”
Sherlock’s relationship with his parents? Similar to real life: In an illuminating moment during the session, Cumberbatch revealed that the season-three premiere scene with Sherlock and his parents at 221B Baker Street is almost identical to his relationship with his own parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham. “They were absolutely appalled at how accurate the relationship is between Sherlock and his parents and me and my parents,” Cumberbatch said with a laugh.
“Danger” with bringing in new characters: “I think there is a danger with bringing in a girlfriend or boyfriend, and people might think they might get in the way,” Moffat said, speaking specifically to Mary: “Doyle does not write the original Mary Morstan that way. I just think if you get it right — which we did — then why wouldn’t you like her?” Moffat said. “We weren’t that nervous.”
Will The Woman return? “If we come up with a good idea, then anything is possible,” the notoriously secretive Moffat said when asked about the likelihood of Lara Pulver‘s return as Irene Adler/The Woman. “We do our best to surprise you with lies and deceit, so we’d never tell you. You’d never know.”
On the (kinda) flirty relationship between Sherlock and Molly: Molly Hooper, whose attraction to Sherlock is addressed in season three, was never supposed to last past season one, but Louise Brealey‘s portrayal changed Moffat’s mind. “It was so automatically funny to see Sherlock with her. As a character she’s grown the most out of anyone in the series,” Moffat said, endearingly calling Cumberbatch “the chief flirt.” “[Molly’s] the first person to make Sherlock apologize.”
Sherlock, meet Sherlock. Cumberbatch said he sat down with Robert Downey Jr. on Sunday night to compare notes about their versions of Sherlock Holmes. (Downey Jr. played the title character in two features opposite Jude Law.) However, Cumberbatch has not been able to chat with Jonny Lee Miller, who stars in CBS’ Elementary and with whom he co-starred in Frankenstein.
Sherlock airs Sundays on PBS Masterpiece.
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