INTERVIEW: Jonny Lee Miller (Sherlock Holmes) and Lucy Liu (Watson) from Elementary & Executive Producers Rob Doherty and Carl Beverly

September 27th, 2012 by


Elementary premieres tonight and it is a lovely new twist on the Sherlock Holmes story. Watson is female (played by Lucy Liu), Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering cocaine addict, living in New York City. Of course there are crimes to solve, but Elementary is not your every day procedural. The focus of the show is the relationship between Holmes and Watson (strictly platonic, for now and probably for a while), which is refreshing. The acting is great, the writing is sharp and I’m excited to see how the season evolves. I recently had the chance to talk with the stars of the show (Liu and Miller) as well as the Executive Producers (Rob Doherty and Carl Beverly), at Comic Con. They discussed the Watson/Holmes relationship, the iconic characters, casting a female Holmes and much more.

New York is such a new area for Sherlock Holmes. Can you talk about that?

Lucy Liu: The stories were based in London and the movies’ have been based in London and the new show, BBC, is based in London and our show being based in New York sort of brings a different element since we’re trying to bring it to America, that it’s sort of a nice twist. I think people can relate to that because people understand New York. There’s an energy and a vitality and an originality to New York and that’s going to bring a twist to having Jonny being there and Holmes being somebody who’s actually British, living in New York.

You and Benedict [Cumberbatch] have worked together in theater. Have you talked about the role?

Jonny Lee Miller: It’s really weird when that came up, but Benedict’s very supportive. I really wouldn’t have been interested in doing this unless I thought it was brilliantly different. And it would have a different audience as well.

Do you think you might swap shows and go over there?

LL: That would be interesting.

JLM: Who knows what could happen.

The producers said that they didn’t want Holmes and Watson to have a romantic relationship. How do you both play the relationship — brother/sister or best friends? How is the rapport going to evolve?

LL: I think it’s pretty open. We didn’t know whatever Rob said to you, is news to us. It wasn’t really in the script originally when we did the pilot. And I think what developed chemistry between the two characters, developed in the way that it did. It wasn’t something that was written. And I think that we will develop in some way, it’s going to be unpredictable even to us. So if it turns into something that has a chemistry, I think that’s why viewers will even want to tune in, because it’s not about the crimes every week. That would be more of a procedural. I think the fact that the audience has developed more intimate relationships with characters is why they tune in, not because it’s a different history every week.

JLM: It’s always a great starting point for characters to be butting heads.

LL: Isn’t that what a relationship is all about?

JLM: Yeah!

What is it like to play with one of the best detective stories of all time?

Rob Doherty: It is a delight. It’s hard to get more iconic than Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always been a fan, Carl’s always been a fan. It’s an honor. It’s a privilege and it’s a lot of fun, because Conan Doyle created this really perfect character. It’s no mistake that the character is as popular as he is today and that he’s coming up on 130 years old. He works all day long and it’s a lot of fun to write him.

Carl Beverly: It’s the challenge of taking one of the iconic characters of our time and way before our time and doing something new with it — honoring it, respecting what’s there but also reinventing it and finding something fresh to say about the character and the world.

Can you talk about the decision to cast a female Watson?

RD: Sure. I suppose one of the reasons I went with it — I knew people would ask questions. I knew it would be eye-catching and to me, one of the challenges that I look forward to was being true to the spirit of the relationship between Holmes and Watson, without having ours wind up in bed. I know many people will want that, they’ll be waiting fo it, it’s not what drives me, it’s not what I’m interested in. I think it’s a little trickier. It’s a challenge, it’s something I look forward to. The challenge is building a real, genuine friendship between our Holmes and our Watson, that’s as strong and as powerful and important as the original relationship between the original Holmes and Watson.

Are you planning to continue that asexual relationship?

RD: Yes. Personally, I have terrifically close friends who are men, I have terrifically close friends who are women, and I’ve slept with none of them. And so I know it can be done. I have no intention of writing these two into the sack.

CB: When you think about how we do this show — to do a woman and make her a love interest is so obvious, it’s so cliche. Why not just do a really complicated, interesting friendship that we get to watch evolve. As Rob has always called it, he keeps calling it a bromance, but one of the bros is a woman. And it’s just a perfect way to think about that relationship. They will become really good friends. The trust will evolve and it doesn’t mean that they’re heading to the bed, it means they are very good friends, that’s all.

Be sure to tune in tonight at 10 PM to CBS for the premiere of Elementary.

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