Amanda Abbington on her Sherlock exit: It’s a dream to have to say all these ‘last things’

Sherlock star Amanda Abbington's character died in shocking circumstances as the BBC1 crime drama returned, but she said it was a 'really fun' way to go

Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington has said filming the scenes of the death of her character were ‘sensitively handled’ – and even fun.

The first episode of the fourth series, which returned on New Year’s Day, saw her character Mary Watson being shot dead as she jumped in front of a bullet intended for the lead character, Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Amanda, 42, and Sherlock star Martin Freeman, 45, who plays her on-screen husband John in the popular BBC One series, recently made headlines with news that their 16-year relationship off screen has ended.

Sherlock
Sherlock (BBC/Hartswood Films/Todd Antony)

 

The new series sees their characters introduce their baby daughter, Rosamund Mary Watson, to fans.

Talking at a screening of the episode held in central London a few weeks before it aired, Amanda said filming the death scenes was ‘really fun’.

She said: “It was good, we took a day and a half, it was sensitively handled, but it was good fun because I worked with these guys (Benedict and Martin) and these guys are brilliant.

“It’s always nice when you get something like that in the script, and it says you get shot and you have to say all of these last things, it’s a dream for an actor because you can just kind of just completely self-indulge and go to town with it and I think I did.”

The popular series, which is written and created by Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, is inspired by the original works of Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mark, who also stars in the series as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, explained: “We did an early road map, it’s a strange thing, but actually in the original stories it’s not actually said she’s died, it is heavily inferred, but it could have been a messy break-up.

“But we’ve obviously been very true to Doyle and also very untrue, so we didn’t necessarily have to do this (kill off the character), but it just felt the right place to do it.”

Steven, 55, said the difficulty was that as the character of Mary has been ‘dead for a hundred years’ it is difficult to ‘surprise people in those circumstances’.

“So the only thing we could do was to do it earlier than people thought so it would happen as wrenchingly and as horrifically as such things happen in real life, so that’s what we went for,” he said.

Sherlock
Sherlock (BBC/Hartswood Films/Robert Viglasky)

 

As characters, Sherlock and Mary share a complex history, which saw Mary attempt to assassinate Sherlock in a previous episode.

The events leading up to her death last night also offered a glimpse into Mary’s past as a secret assassin.

Steven said: “Obviously we had the thing hanging over us, Mary and Sherlock were very close but there was that moment of froideur when she shot him in His Last Vow (a previous episode), so it was nice to reverse that and have her save his life.”

Benedict said filming the scenes was emotional, adding that the cast ‘got the hit the audience gets hopefully when they watch it, when we first read it, so that was always going to be a moment in the schedule and it was a big moment’.

Sherlock
Sherlock (BBC/Hartswood Films/Robert Viglasky)

 

He added: “This incredibly important part of what Sherlock is, is no more in the most violent way imaginable and a mother as well as a wife and dear friend (is gone), and you discover more about her just as you lose her as well.

“It’s a great bit of tipping someone over the edge of a cliff… so it was a very upsetting scene to film.”

Martin appeared to reference his off-screen relationship with Amanda when asked about filming the death of Mary.

He said: “It’s difficult because, you’re kind of, I am, always on the verge of acting badly and so you have to work up to a point where you could really get caught out acting badly, especially when it’s your wife on telly and who we are in real life, so you kind of have to do it justice obviously, but it’s very easy to overdo it, so it’s a careful line to walk.”

Sherlock
Sherlock (BBC/Hartswood Films/Steve Brown)

 

Series four is comprised of three feature length episodes and will give viewers a glimpse of a different side to the usually arrogant Sherlock they know.

Referencing a previous comment by Steven, who joked that Sherlock would be ‘less of a dick’ in the current series, Benedict said: “Yes, I think he’s slightly less of a dick.

“He takes himself off to therapy at the end of the episode, he’s becoming slightly more, in a very clear way, responsible for his actions, but I think he understands it is a slow process that began the first very instant when he met John, when that immediate, missing part of the jigsaw, when they collide, when that partnership in crime began, that has been a humanising element all the way through and I think he’s very much now becoming more of a human being.”