Scoop: Lucy Liu Cast as Watson in CBS' Modern Day Sherlock Holmes Pilot Elementary

Lucy Liu ElementaryFurther proof that CBS’ in-the-works Sherlock Holmes reboot will take the iconic franchise in a radical new direction: The network has cast Lucy Liu as Watson!

TVLine has learned that Liu has been tapped to play Watson to Jonny Lee Miller‘s Sherlock in Elementary, the network’s modern-day take on the famed detective saga.

Another key change: Sherlock and Watson now live in New York City.

Rob Doherty (Medium) penned the script and Michael Cuesta (Homeland) will direct the pilot. Both will serve as EPs alongside Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.

Liu is currently in the midst of a season-long arc on Southland.


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193 Comments
  1. Khorrie says:

    Well. That was unexpected to say the least.

    • rubygirl says:

      If this was April 1st, I’d think this was an April Fools Joke! Obviously Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have nothing to fear from this ridiculous American re-make.

      • squwiggs says:

        I agree with this. This is sounding more and more like a very very bad idea.

      • fiveminutecrush says:

        @rubygirl – couldn’t have said it better myself. well played, well played!

      • Logic says:

        Benedict Cumberbatch is not the first actor to play Sherlock and certainly will not be the last BCC did not invent the character or the franchise by any means. Beyond that — this isn’t even a remake of BBC Sherlock.

        • Harri says:

          I’m sorry but that’s almost exactly what this is. The Americans taking one look at something that worked well for British television i.e dragging Sherlock Holmes into the 21st Century. And then setting about copying it by fantastically screwing it up! This show is only destined to fall a million miles short of the fantastic originality that is the BBc’s Sherlock.

          • stopbeinganidiot says:

            Lucy Liu’s in it as Watson. Trust me. People are gonna wanna watch.

          • Matthew says:

            I don’t anticipate the new American show being very good either. I have to say, though, that three episodes a season, even double length ones, are not enough to keep an American audience. They are all brilliant and incredibly well made, but with the BBC producing only three shows a year, an American show with a full complement of 20+ episodes was inevitable.

        • Sherlocked says:

          They have the idea of a modern Sherlock!! anyway… CBS just changed something the caracters

        • Dally says:

          Benedict may not have been the first to play the role of Sherlock but he did it bloody well! This americanized version will ruin Sherlock, and tarnish our BBC Sherlock’s name. I have nothing against the actors but the show is destined to fail as all of Benedict Cumberbatch’s fangirls will gravitate towards the BBC Sherlock and will frown upon this other attempt at modernising Sherlock.

          • ficklemookie says:

            Agree, whole heartedly. As an american, I just discovered the BBC Sherlock Holmes and it’s BRILLIANT!! Why are my fellow americans trying to completely ruin what you guys have already mastered?

      • Dee Gibson says:

        I simply find it so odd that they act like there never was an original Sherlock Holmes. It is off putting. Why did they decide to act like the originals never existed. Seems very strange.

  2. Melissa Miller says:

    This makes me nervous for her Southland character. I was already nervous. (I refuse to believe Southland won’t be coming back.)

    • Saint Alicia says:

      How is she/her character on Southland? Have yet to start watching this season since I’m still bummed about Nate’s death and Russell’s dismissal.

      • DL says:

        This season has been pretty darn good so far. It’ll be really hard to match last season, but it’s still fantastic.

        • Saint Alicia says:

          Oh, had no doubt about that, just wondered if (specifically) the new character lived up to her “predecessors.” Thanks :)

          • Mindy says:

            I think Lucy Liu is really good on “Southland”. I am very much enjoying her performance. I am quite surprised, actually, at how good she has been. I think she and Cudlitz make a great team.

    • ceejay says:

      You and me both, Milissa! We already lost it once and it has come back better than ever.

  3. Michael says:

    I’m not sold on this show at all, since Sherlock Holmes is British, and that has always read to me as an integral part of his identity. And by failure, I refer to the show, not the actors.
    Why does he have to be in NYC? Is this to make him more endearing to Americans? Because BBC has done a perfectly good modern rendition of it already. Without removing him from London, or making him American. So what’s so special about NYC?
    About the most innovating thing this show could have done is labeled above, but again, I’m not sold on this because so far, there is nothing that says ‘watch me’ simply because this pilot is in NYC, with a female Watson, and a modern reboot.

    • Mel says:

      I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with being endearing as much as it is cost-effective. There really isn’t a setting anywhere in the states that I can think of that would do London justice. Look at shows like Terra Nova, it did decent in the ratings, not great, but decent. However, the main thing (and I would venture *only* thing) holding up its renewal is the fact that it’s shot entirely on location in New Zealand. That’s expensive for a 22 episode run of a show.

    • MelindaB says:

      Well, Jonny Lee Miller *is* British. I don’t know, though, whether he’ll be “playing British” in the series.

    • 1992 says:

      I think the elephant in the room which few people are mentioning, probably because they are afraid of criticism, is the fact that Watson will be a woman in this show. I think that is an even more radical change than moving the story accross the pond. I personally think its a silly idea. I think that the BBC got it right by making existing femail characters (e.g. “the Woman”) into more powerful characters (its intersting to not that she was a powerful character in the original short stories and books. Pretty ahead of its time if you ask me). Changing the gender of a popular and important character will ruin the story. Its like when the Tudors made Thomas Tallis gay. Why invent something like that when there were plenty of real gay people in Henry VIII’s England? Its just dishonest. The same goes here. I like the idea of powerful female characters. I think TV needs more of them. But I disagree with changing existing, well-known characters into women. They should have added someone and made Sherlock and Watson a trio with a woman. That would have been better.

  4. Joe says:

    Love her on Southland! Sad to see her leave

  5. Alex says:

    Oh no – what about Southland :( she’s great on there! I didn’t realize, is she definitely not coming back?
    I can’t blame her though, there’s no guarantee Southland will be back so she wants the work.
    This show would excite me – they’ve cast two great leads – if it wasn’t CBS. Then again, so is The Good Wife, but that’s the exception to the rule, isn’t it?

    • Boogiebump says:

      No because they also have Criminal Minds. Beyond those 2 shows though….

      • Saint Alicia says:

        Um, I like(d) CM too, but let’s be real, it’s not on the same level as TGW. Maybe in seasons 1-4, but as it stands…
        Though the Mentalist is pretty sharp, and they don’t introduce the perp at the beginning of the hour.

  6. Beth Muramoto says:

    OOOO, LOVE THIS addition and am glad to see Jonny Lee Miller back on TV. I LOVED Eli Stone. Is this happening this fall? If so, it’s looking brighter all the time. My two fave brits back on network TV. Jonny and James Murray! Life is DEFINITELY good!

    • Khorrie says:

      I’d totally forgotten they’d cast JLM as Sherlock. Hopefully, he’ll be a London transplant and will still be British despite living in New York.

  7. badwolf says:

    wow, if they wanted to make watson a romantic interest for holmes they should have made them gay. I don’t have anything against gender bending characters but they’re so perfect for each other it hurts. It’s gonna suck, especially when compared to BBC’s Sherlock

    • XK says:

      The latter point in your post is the key, in my opinion. The BBC’s current Sherlock adaptation is exceptional. This just seems destined to fall short in comparison.

    • Pedro says:

      Seriously. The sexual tension is in there even in the original.

    • Khorrie says:

      A dramatic gay leading couple on American network television? Not going to happen.

    • Tao says:

      The original Sherlock is, or rather was, asexual and had no intrest in dating nor sex. Puzzles was all he cared about. The BBC show ‘Sherlock’ got that right and as an asexual I’m extremely happy that Sherlock Holmes is now once again asexual, at least in Britian.
      Anyways it’s another ‘America cant come up with ideas of their own so they steal stuff from the BBC and turn it to crap’ god I wish they would stop sexualizing every asexual character and stop using others ideas.
      Come on America, surely you can think up an original show on your own.
      I give this show a month tops, before it’s canceled.

  8. Liz says:

    AWESOME CHOICE!!!!!!!!! A+ move, CBS.

  9. hannah says:

    This is not okay.

  10. Karen says:

    Ok there is a Sherlock on BBC. Are they using that for a model. The BBC one is great.

    • Znachki says:

      The creators of this version, originally asked the BBC folks if they could license the show, but the BBC folks said no. So, they went ahead with this.
      I could live with a gender switch, but I’m not a fan of the actress they cast.

  11. Jenn says:

    Why does America have to ruin everything… Sounds like crap… Epic fail

  12. Dan says:

    Nooooo! if she is joining a NEW show that means she/her character on SouthLAnd is either going be killed off (by the finale) or her character will “relocate” to another Police Dept. in LA. [sadface]

  13. dee123 says:

    I didn’t know it was April 1st? How did i miss all of March?

  14. Dags says:

    No more Tang on Southland? She has been a welcome addition to the show this year.

  15. Damian says:

    Uhg. Because of this i dont want to live on this planet anymore. jesus. america why do i hate you so

  16. Jake says:

    I guess this means Sherlock and Watson can finally hook up without people freaking out lol

    • Macy says:

      We SHOULD freak out. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, there is admittedly a ton of sexual tension. But nothing comes of it. It is just there. I think that element is key to the relationship. I think we can all agree that Holmes and Watson are going to get together at some point, as this is undoubtedly the primary reason for changing the sex of the character. But any sexual activity deviates in no small manner from the relationship the author intended.

      • Mindy says:

        Any type of sexual relationship between Holmes and Watson would kill the entire idea of the show for me. The depiction of the friendship between Holmes and Watson is fascinating in the Sherlock stories. It is very deep and complex. I love all the undercurrents it has.
        The only reason they would cast a female as Watson is to make the relationship sexual. And being CBS I am sure they will give them some really lame banter.
        And this isn’t even mentioning how this will be completely shamed by the brilliance of the BBC version.

      • Rod B. says:

        I don’t understand the allegations of sexual tension between Holmes and Watson in Doyle’s works. Acutally Holmes always appear barely human, not taking interest in relationships, or sex.
        In my opinion, he’s asexual, and this is refreshing and should be treated with the respect it deserves. Asexuality is a real issue, but is barely addressed on TV.

  17. Maricela says:

    I’m glad to see Lucy Liu on network TV adding some much needed diversity (and she’s also a great actress).
    That being said, let’s be real CBS is trying to make their own version of BBC’s Sherlock. And the amazing chemistry between Sherlock and Watson on that series is definitely something they (CBS) wanted to replicate.
    But is it too hetero-normative now that they’ve cast Watson as a woman?
    And yes, this is coming from a Johnlock fan (and yes I know it’s probably never going to happen).

  18. Watson says:

    THIS IS NOT OKAY.
    Watson is a man, not a woman and while renovating the series it’s fine (even tho LOL the british sherlock is the best and will always be the best) changing Watson’s character like this is just plain ridiculous.
    Epic Failure.

    • Ani says:

      Oh, “Watson.” We’ve had a Russian Holmes, a modernized Holmes, a dinosaur-fighting Holmes, a friggin’ MOUSE Holmes, and your problem is with Lucy Liu as Watson?
      I’m pleased that CBS is bringing a woman of color into such an iconic role, especially considering how very racist the original stories were. Brava, CBS.

      • Watson says:

        My problem is that… I don’t like it?
        There was one remake (at least) in which Watson was a woman and I didn’t like it because I felt something was missing so my guess is that I won’t like this one either.
        As a fan of the books (more than anything), I love the friendship between Watson and Holmes and the fact that they’re both men. That’s all.

      • SWMML says:

        It’s not the fact that Lucy Liu plays Watson, it’s the fact that Watson is BEING PORTRAYED BY A FEMALE, that is bothering most people. I’m not being sexist or racist, but female Watson has been done before and it wasn’t very good. CBS probably did it to make them romantic interests.

    • youre dumb says:

      excuse me in sherlock holmes in the 22nd century (which is the best sherlock related series ever) watson didn’t even had a gender ok HE WAS A ROBOT so i think they’re allowed to make watson a woman

      • Watson says:

        I’m not saying they’re not allowed LOL I don’t own Sherlock so they can do whatever they want. That doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on the matter and my opinion is that Watson should be a man like in the book series.
        Also, the 22nd century may be YOUR favorite (and therefore the best in your opinion) but they’re not to everyone so yeah.

        • Danni says:

          hahahahahahahahahahah @”Also, the 22nd century may be YOUR favorite (and therefore the best in your opinion) but they’re not to everyone so yeah.”
          Says the person who, in their original comment, said, “(even tho LOL the british sherlock is the best and will always be the best)”

      • Macy says:

        Hahahahaha

      • you're dumb too says:

        :))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  19. K. says:

    While I like the fact that they’ve decided to make Watson a woman, I’m wary that its only device is to make Lucy Liu be Sherlock’s love interest. La siiigh.

  20. Cate22 says:

    I love the BBC one, as much as I want to give this one a chance…I’ve very nervous. And this just makes it worse. Much worse really. And New York really? This just has red flags all over it. I will probably watch it though; to see it crash and burn (probably) or see it be….okay.

  21. Ray says:

    This has been my favorite season of Southland and she is awesome on the show. The partner switch for all the main characters has made the show seem new. I think she signed for 1 season no matter what. It does not look good since the previews for the new episode show her trying to cover details of a crime. Either way as long as Lucy Liu is on my tv I’m happy. A very sexy woman who seems to never age.

  22. C says:

    Nope. That just changes the whole dynamic between Holmes and Watson. Nope. I just- I can’t. Not doing it. :|

  23. Hannah says:

    Why, America? Why? I live in you and I’m ashamed of this. The BBC version on now is fantastic and can’t be replaced by some re-boot-wanna-be just because it’s now set in NYC. and srsly? Watson is a woman? well, at least they’ll finally be allowed to hook-up (if the series even gets that far).

  24. artemisscribe says:

    They’ve picked a female watson to avoid having slash fic in the fandom they assume will pop up around this show. They’ve seen how people feel about the RDJ/Jude Law relationship in the movies and the BC/MF relationship in the BBC adaption. Competing against one great pair of actors is hard enough but two? It’s almost impossible. Therefore they go with the safe bet of having a male/female lead pair because sexual chemistry is so much easier to fake than platonic chemistry.

    • Mindy says:

      And that is pretty much exactly why it is doomed to failure for me. I don’t object in the general sense to Watson being a woman. But, we all know they are doing this to make Watson a love interest for Sherlock. And that just seems cheap and lazy.

  25. Serena says:

    this show is a JOKE. An offensive remake of a successful and beautifully written British show (oh, let’s make a Sherlock Holmes tv series but set in present time…nobody has ever done it, right? Ugh). Then they cast Jonny Lee Miller, that I love, but God the fact he’s worked with Benedict Cumberbatch on Frankenstein and swapped roles with him makes me think the Universe has some humor. And now to shake things up (because, let’s face it, nobody is excited at the idea of this show, surely not the fanbase they were going for) they make WATSON A WOMAN. Instantly ruining *the* Bromance Par Excellence! Because they needed plausible sexual tension to make the whole thing more spicy, didn’t we? This is utterly ridiculous. THE WHOLE THING IS A JOKE.

  26. Ren says:

    They haven’t even finished casting and I’m done with this show already. It’s never going to be anywhere near as good as the BBC Sherlock and casting a woman as Watson is just going to destroy their relationship.

  27. Black Cherry says:

    LOL this gonna be very awkward
    and horrible too
    I prefer BBC’s
    #fact!

  28. Michael says:

    Yeah, I’ll stick to the BBC’s Sherlock…

  29. Jules says:

    There is already a Sherlock Holmes on American TV, the BBC’s Sherlock which airs in May on PBS.

  30. betsy says:

    and of course inevitably they will pair holmes and watson together because it’s okay okay to do if heterosexual!!!!!!
    um
    frak that stuff????
    tvline doesn’t let me use language of proper passion.
    well frak that stuff too

  31. Stars says:

    *snort* “Key” changes?? “Iconic NEW direction”??
    Please. CBS is scrambling to steal as much of Moffat & Gatiss’ BBC Sherlock-mojo as they can while patting themselves on the back for how clever they are.
    Do you think they ever considered reversing Miller’s & Liu’s roles? A female Holmes would have been different. But then again, Fox already has a socially awkward genius female detective and her steady sidekick law enforcement/military sometime-love-interest… that would be Bones.
    Nothing new or different here. Can’t catch lightning in a bottle, and you only look derivative and unoriginal when you try, CBS.
    *yawn* I might have to wait 18-24 months for more BBC Sherlock, but I know it will be more than worth the wait. As for CBS, as much as I respect the stars they’ve chosen to cast, I won’t be watching.

  32. João Amaral says:

    lol just lol

  33. Jack says:

    I love how this article brings out all the self-loathing Americans. You guys crack me up.
    Fact is, there already HAS been a Sherlock Holmes on American TV — he has a cane and his name is HOUSE, and he’s been on the air for 8 years, 6 years before the BBC’s Sherlock. Hell, even that kid on the TV show “Psych” is already doing a Sherlock Holmes. This time they’re just bothering to call him Sherlock Holmes. Get a grip.

    • dayne says:

      I agree with yu. Also monk, the mentalist, and cbs’s show unforgettable is sort of hserlock homes. Not only is this show totally unorginal, but this is just CBS to up their ratings. Because with NBC Grimm and FOX Fringe. CBS has nothing on the friday night to compare to these shows. Blue Bloods i think is ok, but not a TV favorite. Furthermore the only way i would go for this is absolute change with a british women watson, and american sherlock holmes, but i would still be skeptical. I honestly believe the theme is wrong and the cast is not right. I do not think lucy liu and John lee miller do not come close to the cast of Sherlock.Finally no way can CBS create a chemistry between Lui and Miller that will equal chemistry of Downey and Jude Law. Downey and Law performance is beyond remarkable.

  34. THANK YOU!!!!!!! says:

    ANYTHING WILL BE BETTER THAN THAT BBC BULL****

  35. Anonymouse says:

    Why would they title it Elementary? He never said that line in any of the books, why in good taste would they use Elementary? And I really, really hope that they haven’t cast Lucy Lui just so that there can be some kind of romantic relationship between Sherlock and Watson and have it be “acceptable”. Of all versions of Sherlock Holmes that I’ve ever seen, yes there has been sexual chemistry between Sherlock and John, and if you’re going to go the romantic/sexual route, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD ON TELEVISION (no that there’s much) DO NOT MAKE JOHN A WOMAN.
    I’m going to boycott this show when it premieres. I hope it tanks, and tanks hard. Get an original idea for a change CBS, and stop it with your hetero-normative bull.
    /End rant

    • jane says:

      He definitely said the word ‘elementary’ in the book series. The title is not ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ so they’re correct.

      • Katty says:

        I’ve checked. In all the stories and books ACD had written, on all the hundreds of pages, Sherlock Holmes says “elementary” as a single word (not within a context of a sentence when he says that sth is elementary knowledge) once. ONCE. I “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, adventure 7 – “The Crooked Man”.

    • Niki says:

      I think they were probably looking for a short (and “cool”? ;-)) title like the BBC’s “Sherlock” and while I am still somewhat dubious about this series in general, I don’t actually mind the title.

  36. tattooqueen13 says:

    Ummm….no. I am just another fan of BBC’s Sherlock who looks at an American reboot as a waste of time. Way to be creative CBS.

  37. Danielle H says:

    Say WHAT?
    What a weird pairing.. honestly you can tell they are swinging for the fences with this one and flipping everything on its head for kicks.

  38. Khorrie says:

    It gets better: Sherlock is going to be a recovering addict living in New York with Joan Watson, a former surgeon who lost her medical license. He’s a former consultant for Scotland Yard, she’s a former consultant for the NYPD. Shenanigans, I presume, will be afoot.

  39. Mr--Blue says:

    HONESTLY It’d be like CBS making an American retake of Doctor Who (dear GOD NO) I think the BBC is doing an excellent job already

  40. SBrown says:

    I would love this casting of a woman of colour, except I get the awful feeling they’re just doing it so Sherlock and Watson can safely hook up, or at least interact in the show, without it getting ‘too gay’ :///

  41. Winnie says:

    The Sherlock Fandom is going to get such a good laugh out of this.

  42. Justin says:

    Gotta be diverse… and it’s going to turn this show into total cr*p.

  43. Cautiously Hopeful Canadian says:

    I’m definitely going to give this a chance. Even though it is extremely tempting, it is not/won’t be fair to compare this to BBC Sherlock, as they obviously have different goals in mind as stories (and the BBC is just on a whole higher tier period, but that’s another can of worms). Also, as said by others, I wouldn’t be surprised if this choice to genderbend Watson means that they plan to make she and Sherlock a couple. But you never know.

  44. mona says:

    Officer Jessica Tang is *amazing*. The best thing about Southland — or SouthLAnd, I guess — this season, easily (and I love Cooper, don’t get me wrong, and Lydia when she’s not written as freakily as she is at the moment, sigh).

  45. Miller says:

    Are you bloody seriouse…
    This show will be horrible.
    Really? A gender swap? What is this? A Fanfiction?!
    I will watch this show, and laugh.
    Americans doing British things…I’ll be falling out of my chair laughing.
    Martin Freeman will always be my John Watson.
    Sorry.
    -MS

  46. K says:

    Strange casting, to say the least. Liu’s only in her early 30s, whereas Dr. Watson was around 50, I think. Remains to be seen if it works.

    • Znachki says:

      When the stories begin, Sherlock Holmes is in his mid-20’s and John Watson was in his early 30’s. Those stories take place over the span of something like 30 years. So there is nothing wrong with the ages

      • Mick says:

        k, Lucy Liu is in her 40s. Funny on deadline people were asking why they didn’t cast her as Holmes if they wanted to do something groundbreaking

  47. Lindsay says:

    LOL! Hey we have a show that really has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes…but damn that Sherlock is so hot right now, so let’s just name the character Sherlock!
    Ride those BBC coattails CBS, ride them hard!
    What a complete joke.

  48. fudgebuckets says:

    They should’ve genderbent the whole show if they were turning Watson into a girl. Or they should’ve genderbent Sherlock instead of John. Because no matter what, they’re still writing the gal into a side role (an awesome one and an important one, but regarded as the partner nonetheless).

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