Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman: ‘We hope we’ve upped the ante on this Sherlock’

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman tell TV Times magazine they’re as excited as the rest of us as the incomparable Sherlock makes its long-awaited comeback to BBC1 on New Year’s Day…

Benedict and Martin, after months of speculation we will finally learn how Sherlock faked his own death. Are you looking forward to sharing the secret with the viewers?
Benedict: “I am excited for people to see it – you won’t be disappointed! The reveal is ingenious, witty and everything that it should be.”
Martin: “The nice thing is that I didn’t have to lie about how it was done because I only found out when I read the first episode. There are fans who seem to endlessly think about the show and they have conjured up some pretty impressive theories!”

The series two finale left us misty-eyed as we watched an inconsolable Watson face up to life without his best friend. Can you promise us that the reunion will live up to our expectations?
Martin: “I sincerely hope so. I think the reunion scene is really good, it has been written by people who care completely about this show, so I hope viewers like it. It’s a great problem to have, but the trouble is that when people anticipate something so much it is very difficult not to disappoint them. Bear in mind that no one making television wants to let you down – we are trying our best to sustain it and actually improve. A lot of detail has been put into the series in order to make the pay-off worthwhile.”

Was the reunion a special scene to film?
Benedict: “It was hellishly fun to do.”
Martin: “It was actually really difficult for me because I was ill and just trying not to sneeze everywhere!”

You’ve both been unfeasibly busy – Martin with The Hobbit trilogy and Benedict with films including Star Trek Into Darkness and The Fifth Estate. How did it feel to return to Sherlock?
Benedict: “It’s thrilling to be back. It’s always hard work because we’re trying to better ourselves and hopefully the bar is even higher than it was after the first series. But it’s the kind of work you hunger for – Martin and I have the most extraordinary characters to play and we’re just being spoilt rotten by fantastic stories.”

You have a great chemistry – you must enjoy working together?
Benedict: “Martin and I didn’t really know each other before Sherlock, but he walked into the audition and he raised my game. He still does that and that’s all you could ever want from whoever you’re playing opposite. I really look forward to working with him, there’s never a dull moment.”
Martin: “I hadn’t seen Benedict properly for a couple of years when we started this series, so it has been really good fun, just like old times.”

What can we expect from this Sherlock?
Benedict: “He definitely progresses and there are huge new elements in play – he’s continually being challenged by what it is to be a human being while also trying to achieve God-like status. I think there’s a lot more humanity to him than people initially presume. He’s pretty awesomely rude, but if I met him I’d be fascinated – my jaw would be on the floor and I’d want to be around him to improve myself. I think it’s unlikely he’d give me the time of day though!”

Where do we find Watson at the beginning of series three?
Martin: “Obviously there has been huge grief in his life from losing his best friend but he has tried, as we all do, to move on from that and live a relatively stable, happy-ish life. It’s two years since Sherlock ‘died’ and he is trying to be a regular person again.”

Martin, your wife, actress Amanda Abbington, has joined the cast as Watson’s love interest Mary Marston. What was it like working together?
Martin: “It’s been lovely. It is a coincidence that she got the part – it is not a John-and-Yoko situation! But I know how good Amanda is and how easy she is to work with, it’s been great.”

Can we expect this series to be just as stimulating as the previous two?
Benedict: “Yes, it is intriguing and exciting. The stories are complex because we serve an audience that we respect. There’s a lot of texture to them, so you won’t be bored watching an episode for a second or third time.”
Martin: “I hope we are upping the ante this year, because we are all very conscious of not resting on our laurels. We don’t want to think, ‘Great, we have done it now’ because we wouldn’t forgive ourselves and neither would the public.”

Sherlock has a dedicated fan base – how do you cope with the attention?
Benedict: “I’m sure fans expect me to be like Sherlock. I try to say as little as possible in their presence because it quickly becomes apparent that I don’t have anything like his insight or intellect! Dealing with this kind of exposure is an adjustment and I’m still learning, but there are wonderful things that happen because of it. The sex symbol thing is weird though – I have a horsey face and weird features.”

Are the two of you committed to playing John and Sherlock for many years to come?
Martin: “It is a hard question because I don’t want to be held to that when I am 85, but as it stands I want to do more. I won’t do many things better than Sherlock in my career.”
Benedict: “I accidentally commissioned the fourth series in an interview, so yes I am committed to it! [laughs] It’s great that there’s an appetite for the show. We’re busy bees, but we absolutely love doing it, so fingers crossed.”


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