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. Aknien says:

    You know what…I don’t care..but if they are making Watson a woman they should also make Moriaty a woman and I sure hope Irene Adler is a man in this show.

  2. anna says:

    LOL endless sexual tension in this one I’m sure. I don’t know why but it keeps reminding of me Castle instead of Sherlock.

  3. concerned Sherlock fan says:

    Ok i was all for giving this show a chance i got over it been set in New York, CBS blatantly ripping off the BBC but i will NOT watch a female John Watson(i like Lucy Liu) because if they start messing with it’s core characters(and we all know they changed him to her so they can get Sherlock and John together)where will it stop soon the Sherlock Holmes and JOHN WATSON we all grew up watching(casually or devout fan) will be unregoniszalbe and will soon become a monstosity
    sorry that’s just my opinion

  4. jess says:

    Love it!
    But I will miss her on Southland

  5. Ellie says:

    This is a long April Fools joke isn’t it? I mean, April 1st it’s going to be announce that this was never going to happen.

  6. Shenay says:

    Really. Really? This makes me so disappointed, this whole ‘Elementary’ thing is just rubbing me the wrong way. I just can’t

  7. Peter says:

    Certainly a bit more of a change than the BBC’s Sherlock. As long as she keeps some of Watson’s classic backstory though I’m fine with it, reimaginings can work if they respect the source material.

  8. Allie says:

    I hope this series fails spectacularly.
    I imagine the only reasons CBS is even doing this are because BBC Sherlock has done so well, the American television audience probably hasn’t read any of Doyle’s work, and hell, if Sherlock Holmes can be turned into an action hero (lookin’ at you, Robert Downey, Jr…get back in that Iron Man suit and leave Holmes alone), then why not dump Sherlock Holmes and Watson-as-a-woman in modern day New York City?

    • valezza says:

      The American television audience doesn’t read. Otherwise they wouldn’t be an audience, would they? )
      Perhaps CBS wants bigger audience, they want their version of Castle and Beckett or Booth&Brennan style procedural where the two main characters are the engine and fuel for the show. But I think an asian chick is bad choice for a female counterpart to a white guy. Can’t recall any successful show with such chemistry lately.

      • Macy says:

        Just for the record, we certainly do read. I and many of my friends have read every one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, and we love them. I do, however, whole-heartedly agree that American television attempts to leech the success of any British series that becomes popular. Skins, The Office, Misfits, and now Sherlock. (I think The Office was the only of these which will have been worthwhile.) America has a vast number of wonderful television series. Why can’t we leave the UK’s creations alone? Plenty of Americans, like myself, love them as they are.
        As a side note, I do love both of the actors in question, and I doubt that this show’s failure would be due to the race of the actors. I mean no offense, but that is quite a narrow-minded thing to say.

  9. Shenay says:

    My exact same thoughts.

  10. --- says:

    Maybe they should genderbend Sherlock too. I mean, it might be more amusing to watch- if Sherlock was genderbent, the personality would probably take on a bit of a different form-, but still. It’s already been done by BBC, and it’s amazing. Even if they are making people wait a while. Ride the BBC train, CBS, ride it (seriously, where else would they get the idea from)!

    • Zoe says:

      Really, I think there best bet would be to make both of them female. I’m pretty sure that’s never been done, and it might make fans of the BBC version (including myself) take it with less of a hit in the kidneys.
      The fact that they are pilfering BBC idea is one thing, but now with the male/female partner pairing it seems to be falling into the pattern that so many, many American crime television shows fall into. Setting it up for sexual tension etc that will appeal to the widest audience possible.

      • Mindy says:

        Kudos to all of you people who are posting the idea that they should just make all the main characters female. I never even thought of this, but I find this idea very intriguing. And it would make me much less likely to believe that the show would get stomped on by the brilliant BBC series.

        • Meh says:

          Lol, exactly what I was thikning ^_^
          But, then again, America is like “Woah!!! No gayness, ever!” Even if it is just like platonic, but close together.
          So, of course, they have to do male and female.
          And I can so see this going to a couple. Best part about Sherlock is the fact that they have bromance, and are NOT a couple.
          (It gives us fans a chance to imagine things XD)

  11. Sam says:

    This isn’t going to be good.
    First of all, Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson”…so the title of the show has already ruined any credibility it could’ve appeared to have.
    Second, why make Watson a woman? Why? There’s absolutely no reason to do that. It makes no sense. There is sexual tension between Sherlock and John, but have we forgotten about Irene Adler?
    Third, there’s no reason to set it in America. It’s going to destroy who Sherlock Holmes is at the core. I can’t see him being anything other than British. It’s basically like making an entirely new character, somewhat based on Sherlock Holmes. Next, you’re going to tell me he has no mental issues. If he isn’t a sociopath or autistic or something, I’m not even going to bother watching. I bet they’ll leave that out, as well as his cocaine addiction.
    Fourth, BBC’s Sherlock is amazing, and it set the bar much higher when it comes to movies and TV shows based off of Sherlock Holmes. You’re not going to do better than Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Steven Moffat, and Mark Gatiss. Case closed.

  12. Reyane says:

    *sigh*
    CBS, please stop with this heteronormative attitude and accept the fact that Sherlock and John are supposed to be two guys. Also, what about Mycroft, Lestrade and Moriarty, who are so brilliant acted out in BBC’s Sherlock? Are we just going to ignore them? Cause honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone that could equal up to Gatiss, Graves, and Scott in those roles. *shakes head* I’m just going back to Tumblr and will be ignoring this when it airs, because it’s going to flop and flop hard.

  13. Gilda says:

    For the record, I do like the fact that they’re adding a girl to a very male dominated dynamic. But there are other ways to do it. It’s a twist, and it will set it apart from the recent movie and the (incredible) BBC show, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get into it. They are maybe the most famous bromance in recent times, and as a big Holmes fan, I’ve just seen way to many version of it where he’s a guy to be able to see the character as a girl. It’s like…like if the new Star Trek movie had randomly decided to make Kirk a girl. Just no.
    My other big issue is that if the point of this is to make Holmes and Watson a thing, why can’t they both be guys? This is the 21st century!
    I might give the show a try, since I love the Holmes stories and the buzz about the actress sounds good, but I’m having trouble seeing myself getting into it.

  14. Kylie says:

    WTF is this crap? I’m raging pretty badly right now. Even if BBC Sherlock didn’t exist this would still sound like rubbish. I hope it fails miserably.

  15. Here_and_Gone says:

    You know what would be good? If they made both Sherlock and John female. Don’t care if they made it platonic or sexual, I just wanna see more gender swap.

    • Mindy says:

      As I posted below, this is a great idea. I would actually be interested to see if a female version of the story would be good.

  16. Lilly says:

    I was hoping that they’d cast a woman as Watson! Great that they did so and with some diversity also. I also like that it will be a male/female partnership and friendship with no romance (or at least hoping that’s the case).
    Let’s give the show a chance, folks, before hating on it. There was a huge uproar when BBC first set Sherlock Holmes in modern day London and that worked out okay.

    • Zoe says:

      Yes, but at that point there wasn’t a similar show on television that it could easily be compared to. The people causing the uproar were fans of the books and the much older series, thinking that they would ruin it by bringing it into the 21st century. But then they very obviously didn’t, and it turned out to be one of the most faithful adaptations.
      People’s main problem with this show is that there is a very similar idea ALREADY on television. Also the fact that CBS approached the BBC asking for the licencing, but were turned down, so they went ahead anyways.

    • Mindy says:

      Come on. You KNOW that CBS is going to play up the relationship as sexual. You know they will. It is CBS. Why else would they cast a woman as Watson.
      As much as I would love a show to depict a really strong male/female friendship I just can’t believe that is CBS’s intent.
      Plus, I still think it is just a lazy way of avoiding the complexity of the original Sherlock/Watson dynamic.

  17. Adriene says:

    While my intense love/obsession/loyalty for the BBC’s show has hindered any and all interest in this ABC production, I will admit that there is no way to know whether or not this show will be good or not until I see it. The fact that an American production is doing a remake of a British production doesn’t automatically guarantee suckage. The Office was a hit in the US, Showtime’s Shameless is great, and SyFy’s adaptation of Being Human just got a third series. What DOES bug me about this series is how ABC didn’t get the BBC’s aproval to adapt Sherlock for US television like Syfy did for Being Human, so found a way to get around that. Plus the fact that the show is being developed by ABC, and I have no faith that that particular network will be able to produce anything near as brilliant as the Beeb’s show and I’ll always be comparing the two in my mind. Casting Liu as a female Watson doesn’t bother me. Battlestar Galactica cast several originally male roles and female and it was brilliant. I just don’t think ABC is capable of doing anything really interesting with this decision.

  18. Larry says:

    STUPID STUPID idea!!! Why does America always think they are modernizing an idea by changing the gender of a character. We have already have too many shows on television that play off the sexual tension between the two leads. This is as embarrassing as trying to remake Charlie’s Angels. I cannot accept a female Watson if the show goes even close to using sexual tension as a story device. I HATE this idea!!

  19. Erin says:

    I’ve never really been a Sherlock fan but Lucy Liu as this character intrigues me. I don’t even care about the possibility for a legitimate relationship between the two characters; I just like Lucy, and even more so since watching her on this season of Southland. Her addition might even get me to try this show out.

  20. J says:

    No. Just no. This is not acceptable. I smell a desperate cash/award grab. And they’re going to change Watson to a woman so that they can play up the latent homoeroticism in the stories without having the homoeroticism part. No one is going to watch it. Or at least I hope no one is stupid enough to watch it.

  21. Faye says:

    This is a bad idea. Lucy Liu is awesome, but why does America have to ruin things that is already perfected? Also, Watson should not be a woman. If you’re going to make him a woman, do some original thinking and make up an original show. This is not Sherlock. This will be a remake of bones with the characters flipped. Homophobic America strikes again thanks to how ‘uncomfortable’ two guys being close friends makes them. I don’t see them turning Robin into a woman in any of the Batman movies and they’re even more ambiguous than Sherlock and John. Please, for the love of God do not make this show. Just stop. Stop now. Because no one will do as well as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. If nothing else, pay them to do more episodes a year, or to move over here and do this. Better yet, don’t even refer to this as Sherlock at all and do something original. Sherlock seems to be the new vampire phase and it needs to stop, because if it doesn’t there are going to be crappier and crappier shows about Sherlock until everyone utterly hates it instead of being able to appreciate it.

  22. t says:

    I don’t understand why two grown men can’t have a deep relationship without there being “sexual tension” between them. it has nothing to do with homophobia. It’s Americas insatiable urge to make anything a conspiracy and everyone a freaking couple.
    There was zero wrong with the original characters relationship.
    On topic though, come on. How many shows do they have to try and rip off before they leave it alone? They’ve tried being human and an American doctor who…

  23. whatisthis says:

    Oh dear god.
    Why.
    If they were going to gender blend, Holmes should be female too. And Moriarty. And all the others.
    America. Another reason I’m disappointed in you.

    • Mindy says:

      Now THAT is a great idea! A female Sherlock, female Watson and female Moriarty! Oh, CBS, that really would be a bold new direction.

  24. izzy says:

    Australia, Queensland. Not NZ. that’s Hobbit.

  25. molly says:

    The moment I heard about this latest pathetic American attempt to remake a brilliant British show I absolutely knew Watson would be female, I mean seriously you can’t have US TV without UST amiright? It’s just adorable how predictable you are, just like your TV shows!

  26. shuayb says:

    I honestly think that this is the worst move CBS made with regards to casting for this pilot season. A female watson is just not gonna sit well. Seriously! At its heart, the story is about an oddball detective who is a genius and a pragmatic slightly cynical doctor whose relationship resembles a relationship of girlfriend boyfriend but without actually being a girlfriend boyfriend relationship. They have a deep affection for each other and that is something that is gonna be very hard to sell if Sherlock is a male and Watson is a female. Look at House and the Movies, it has to be about two men. I know that this may sound sexist but thats just the way it is.

  27. Mindy says:

    It is freaking hilarious that they are claiming this is some bold, new direction. Hello? We Americans aren’t totally ignorant. As you can see from these comments, we have actually seen the BBC’s “Sherlock” series. Sigh.
    Speaking of…. I cannot wait for those “Sherlock” episodes to air. I am totally against illegal streaming, but…… Is it seriously still 3 months before those air here? The siren call of internet streaming sites might get the better of me.

  28. Mindy says:

    Oh, and finally, this just makes me sad that Lucy Liu won’t be continuing on “Southland”, where she has been great. This is my favorite performance of hers I have ever seen.

  29. BADTHING says:

    Why does CBS call it a modern Holmes in NYC?
    Not necessary at all,it is completely totally another story!!
    Haha, why don’t you also turn Sherlock and Moriaty to female?
    It is better than now.
    Whatever, I AM NOT GOING TO SEE IT EVEN ONE SECOND!!!!

  30. Evyn says:

    Another reason not to watch this mess honestly

  31. Aya says:

    … The only way this could ever work is if they made one of them gay. As others have said, the awkward friendship and underlying somewhat sexual tension that nothing ever really comes of, is what makes Sherlock Holmes great.

  32. Jess says:

    Okay, now I HAVE TO watch! I love Lucy Liu, so even though my inner-Holmes-fan is “WTF-ing” at this development, I’m going to have to try it out.

    For those of you who say this adaptation will fail because it’s set in NYC and Holmes is British, I say bah! Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have to be British, it’s his eccentricities and way of thinking that makes him an immortal character (to the dismay of ACD). I mean, this show might fail due to a slew of other reasons, but it being set in NYC isn’t be one of them.

    • Khorrie says:

      Holmes *will* be British, though. Jonny Lee Miller has been cast and other sites are making it clear that he’s a London transplant in this series.

  33. Ashley says:

    Not remotely interested in this version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson AT ALL. After reading about all of the underhanded back ally crap CBS was doing with the BBC Sherlock production people. (CBS was trying to get information from the BBC Sherlock production people in order to use what they got from them to ‘create’ Elementary.) Now they are going for the boring cliche of having sexual tension between the lead characters Sherlock and Joan. Such a cop out. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman ARE the present day Sherlock and John. There are no substitutes. (Before you all go nuts. House is a medical drama. Thinly based on the Holmes and Watson dynamic. I like that show, but don’t consider it a Holmes show. Oh and Sherlock Holmes in the 22 Century. Is set in the future not present day. Duh!) Sure production companies can use Sherlock Holmes because of public domain, but the way CBS has gone about doing it with essentially trying to steal content and repackaging it as their own is wrong. Hope the BBC is looking into legal action against CBS. Sick of the American Media Machine taking ideas and profiting off of them. Hope Elementary falls on its face in the ratings and gets canceled.

  34. Tee says:

    These changes are starting to make it seem like they are going the ‘trying too hard’ route ala Charlie’s Angels to make it modern and different.

  35. Geordiegirl1967 says:

    Words fail me. This is such a monumentally bad idea that I don’t know where to start.
    I think I will just stick to the original and best modern take on this and wait for the BBCs Sherlock to return. I was already angry that this US channel was trying to hang on to the coat tails of Sherlock and cash in on its popularity without paying the BBC a penny. Now it has managed to jump the shark before it has even started filming. Good job!

  36. OooSillyMe says:

    All I can say is *eye roll

  37. CRK says:

    Lucy Liu is awesome, but this is just… well, more than just a bit not good actually. I for one will only watch it as the train wreck that it is bound to be and otherwise stick to the canon, BBC!Sherlock, the Russian SH and other great adaptations like Granada. I’m just sad that anyone should feel the need to do that to the stories. You want to stick out from the BBC version with your modern adaptation? Go all the way and turn Sherlock into a woman as well at least (and maybe even the rest of the main cast). Or make them (openly) gay, because the BBC certainly won’t go there. Or, even better, come up with a really original idea instead of trying to ride the coat tails of Sherlock, CBS!

  38. Diana says:

    Personally I think that CBS is making a huge mistake casting Lucy Lui as Dr. Watson. She is miscast as the good Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson is usually been protrayed by a male actor. Also, Dr. Watson is not Asian or Chinese. I find that it is an insult to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Canonical protrayal of Dr. Watson. I also find it an insult to the actors that have protrayed Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Since it does not follow the stories from the Canon why even make this series in the first place. A much better show for Lucy Lui would be if she joined the series Hawaii 5-O.

  39. Diana says:

    This sounds like the worst show that CBS has come up with as a pilot. Lucy Lui is completely miscast as Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson has never been an Asian Chinese woman in the stories. Dr. Watson is usually been protrayed by a male actor. I find that this is an insult to the stories that were writen by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lucy Lui would be better cast on Hawaii 5-O instead of as Dr. Watson. What is CBS thinking?

  40. Siberianchan says:

    I can’t possibly name all the ways this is wrong. So I leave it at one:
    Feminism definitely does not look like an apparently incompetent woman who lost her licence and thus is dependant on the male half of the duo. (also a nice way to avoid the Aghanistan issue. Since you know, NO WAY a woman could fight in Afghanistan and leave without being a TOTAL wreck, unable to barely function, like a male veteran… NO WAY…)
    Not to mention she’ll – knowing CBS – either will be a complete Straw Feminist, hating all men on earth (too much emphasis on the Holmes-Watson-Headbutting) or a complete doormat (too much emphasis with John’s almost endless and adorable patience with Sherlock and his antics.) Because, you know, a patient, kind, caring woman can’t have wnough spine to stand up to Holmes.

    and… as far as I remember the original Holmes had no regard for women and BBC-Sherlock outright ignores them.
    Exception in both cases is Irene Adler.

    now, does that mean this Sherlock wont respect his Watson?

    the feminist in me cries and the Holmesian screams in agony.
    CBS LEAVE IT. You put us through enough pain already.

  41. A Concerned Sherlockian says:

    I really love all things Sherlock,(even the bad stuff but for completely different reasons). That being said, I am feeling extremely nervous by the casting. I can deal with girl/Watson but I think the balance would be better felt if there was a corresponding girl/Sherlock. Personally, I’ll give it a shot, hope to be pleasantly surprised.

  42. JO says:

    That’s CRAY CRAY.

  43. Anna says:

    I could give it a go if Elementry pulls of a strictly platonic relationship, that I think in a sense that would be new. But I don´t think that what they have in mind though. This is a move to make the Holmes/Watson filled with sexual tension without being precived as offensvie.
    Yuck!

  44. :__D says:

    *Extreme Facepalm*
    WHY.
    WHY.
    Sorry but NO.
    I don’t like the idea that Watson as a female. Why? More cliche? The hero and his girl?
    I prefer BBC Sherlock so far. SO FAR.

  45. Mcat says:

    A lot of these comments are similar to the ones people made when they found out that Starbuck in the Battlestar Galactica reboot was being cast as a woman. People cried bloody murder, and that character turned out BRILLIANT and became the most beloved character on the show. Now I don’t think anyone thinks Starbuck should be a male character.
    That said, I doubt I’ll watch this. Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman are my Holmes/Watson (though I absolutely adore the RDJ/Jude Law movies as well).

  46. Marcus says:

    haha lol no.

  47. Elle says:

    Horrible. John Watson a girl? Sherlock is American? They will live in a caravan? This is a TERIBBLE idea. America needs to stop. This show will be bad, and JOHN WATSON IS NOT A FEMALE. I’m mad. This will not be good. Petition anyone?

  48. Concerned Sherlockian says:

    Ok, I am a strong, independent woman and feminist… but I think that this is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. Not because I don’t like to see leading roles for women or minorities, but because this seems more like a play to make it “ok” for Sherlock and Watson’s legendary “bromance” to evolve into a full-blown romance. And that the show would be lacking that bromance flies in the face of everything that is Sherlock Holmes.
    Don’t get me wrong, I believe men and women can have platonic relationships, but we all know that (if Watson and Holmes are to have the same relationship as is cannon) it will eventually have to evolve into something more to appease the masses.
    I was already leery about this show to begin with because, unfortunately, I can’t stand Jonny Lee Miller’s acting. Also, I do not see how this show could possibly improve upon BBC’s Sherlock. But this decision has pretty much sealed its fate.

  49. Foot says:

    Well, from what I’ve heard, she’s supposed to be a disgraced surgeon and former NYPD consultant. So I dunno what they’re going for there.

  50. Watson's Fan says:

    I’ll start off by saying that I’m convinced that, even if Elementary does succeed(which I find highly unlikely but stranger things have happened), it will never compare to BBC’s Sherlock. Inevitably, Sherlock will come out on top. That being said, I do intend to look watch at least the pilot episode of Elementary.
    Lucy Liu as John Watson set me on edge at first (partially because I adore Martin Freeman’s portrayal and am convinced it can’t be topped). Why would they choose a woman to play the role of Sherlock’s chronicler and dearest friend? As a fan of the original stories, it just didn’t seem to me that a man and a woman could recreate the complex bromance that is Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes.
    However, I’ve seen a lot of bad portrayals of Dr. Watson. Mostly, I’ve seen him as the bumbling sidekick, the dull-witted assistant who did nothing but praise Holmes and provide the comic relief. I’ve always been infuriated by this because, in the original stories, Watson is a capable ex-army surgeon, a good man who can keep up with Holmes(or at least not get left behind on one of Sherlock’s rants like those in Scotland Yard), and intelligent.
    If Lucy Liu’s Watson is as capable as the original, like some of the latest portrayals of Watson(Jude Law, Martin Freeman, etc.), then I’ll definitely give her a chance. If she goes the way of a typical CBS show sidekick/bumbling Watson, well, there really is no hope of me ever making it past the pilot.

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