Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch Breaks His Silence on CBS' Elementary: 'I'd Be Frightened'

Benedict Cumberbatch Jonny Lee MillerWhen word got out that Elementary — CBS’ Sherlock drama — would feature a female Watson (Lucy Liu) opposite Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes, many of the iconic sleuth’s fans got their knickers in a knot.

However, Benedict Cumberbatch, who currently portrays the detective on PBS’ Emmy-nominated Sherlock, was not one of them. In fact, he’s remained altogether mum about the controversial gender switch… at least until now.

“If I were the [producer], I’d be frightened of the dynamic of male friendship that you’d lose,” he confesses to TVLine, “because that is obviously the bedrock of the books as well. [Now] there might be sexual tension between Joan [Watson] and Sherlock, which is [a different dynamic than you'd have] between the two men. So, that’s a new thing to explore.”

RELATED | Elementary Boss: Playing Up Sherlock/Watson Sexual Tension is ‘Completely Off the Table’

And not necessarily a bad thing to explore. Cumberbatch — who is friends with Miller and even appeared opposite him in the UK stage production of Frankenstein — believes the world is big enough for multiple interpretations of Sherlock. (And, having seen the jolly good pilot, I’m inclined to agree.) “I wish them luck, I really do,” the actor insists. “I think it will be great. It will be a different spin on it, because obviously, theirs is modern-day as well, so it needs to be different from ours, and I think the more differences, the better, to be honest.

“I don’t see why they shouldn’t co-exist with us,” he adds, “I don’t think they’ll steal our audience. I think people who are Holmes fans who think they do a good job of it will have a treat in watching ours and the films. So I wish them good luck!”

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197 Comments
  1. Nevena Vasovic says:

    Ultimately, BBC version and CBS version cater to different types of audience. CBS version might be popular because it’s mainstream, clever JUST enough to make average Joe and Jane feel like they have taste. I don’t think it will be terrible, it might even be good, but I don’t think it will have the elegance, appreciation for the Original work and style that BBC version has. I personally don’t like Luci Lou, she might be a good actor, but I haven’t seen her in anything that made me appreciate her talent. I don’t have a problem that Watson is female, it’s an interesting adaptation, if done correctly. She might surprise me, and show her acting talent here, and it might stretch her abilities like few other projects before. I don’t know. I know I have said I wouldn’t watch BBC version more than the first 10 minutes, but I was wrong, because it the first 5, I was hooked. It was subtle, witty, charming and kind of shocking ( the first Sherlock scene where he is whipping the corpse had me completely stunned and then I had to laugh and appreciate it). I will watch Elementary ( even though the word is not Canon and it’s not used in the books – clue right there! ) and hope that I can say “It’s just interesting enough to pass the time while I wait for the real thing”; you know, kind of like mindless (more or less – remains to be seen) entertainment that’s just there to watch on occasion when you are bored and have nothing better to do and you’ve seen all your favorite shows 5 times over, but won’t be upset that you’ve missed 5 episodes in between. Do I think it will be the greatest show ever? No. Do I think it will be the worst interpretation of Sherlock Holmes ever? No ( the record for that is the one with Velociraptors and the octopus, and all the other creatures that attack London while Sherlock Holmes battles some evil bad guy). But, Elementary will ultimately be just another CBS show like hundred of other CBS shows that might be passably mentioned 10 years from now. BBC Sherlock is more art than a tv show, so I believe it will stand the test of time.

    • Tara says:

      Well said.

    • B.B. says:

      There’s a quality to “Sherlock” that makes it a step above. You see it when you watch other t.v. shows (tho there are some excellent ones, am talking about the “just shows”). They may be watchable, but you Know the difference. “Sherlock” is Iconic, as is Benedict in the role. It is already considered a “Classic” and as said it will stand the test of time.

    • Moni says:

      Great comment- couldn’t have said better myself!

  2. Tara says:

    I’m not a fan of American television, and have found any ‘remake’ the BBC has made famous is, more often than not, a ‘dumbed-down’ version of something that was originally witty, entertaining, and brilliantly written. I say good luck to ‘Elementary’, but I for one will not waste time tuning in.

  3. maxime says:

    Make sherlock gay or Watson lesbian and there you have it! No more sexual tension.

  4. conductor_of_light says:

    I dislike how the media is constantly trying to create tension between the casts of shows who are doing a great job to not step on one another’s toes as they dance around in fairly similar plots and shared inspirations. Especially when the fans already create enough tension as is.

    Benedict gave his–encouraging and hopeful–opinion of his friend and co-star of Frankenstein, Johnny Lee playing the same character as him a while ago, and yet the title of this article as well as the way it was worded makes Benedict out to be conceded and somehow disproving?

    This is just like the misquote about his opinion on Downtown Abbey, which was actually a joke between friends taken out of context.

  5. Grey says:

    Benedict isn’t “finally” breaking his silence. He addressed this back in May 2012 at a PBS Q&A:

    Interviewer: “So we don’t necessarily wish it well?”

    Benedict Cumberbatch: “No no Jonny’s a friend and as we already know with the Robert Downey Jr franchise there’s room enough for two so why not three? You know, it’s fine. It’s fine and it’ll be different and I don’t think it’s gonna take away the love for ours and there’s no reason to be churlish or bitter about them or what they’re trying to do.”

    Stop hounding him about it and trying to stir up rumors between him and Jonny. They’re buddies. They’re not going to play into your sick desire for a celebrity feud.

  6. Andres says:

    BBC Sherlock was made by two Sherlock geeks Moffat and Gatiss, if you read the books you’ll see a lot of references from the canon on the series, they KNOW their stuff.
    Rob Doherty? I don’t think so, enjoy your second rate show Americans (p.s I’m not British).

  7. tvdiva says:

    I would like to watch the premiere and decide if I want to make it appointment television or DVR it for the season.

  8. molly says:

    So basically a dumb version of Sherlock Holmes for a dumb audience? I’m sure CBS knows exactly what they’re doing. Can’t think of anything I’d be less likely to watch but there’s always an audience network trash, I’m sure it will do fine.

  9. B.B. says:

    Jonny saying he was going to the books to get the character of Sherlock. iIs that what “Sherlock” does? Is doing it a lot more, as they base the show on the stories and have read Elemenary is going to be doing their own.
    I did like “Eli Stone” and of course recognize Jonny as a good actor. I don’t tho, like him equally with Benedict.

  10. Templar says:

    If they needed to do another Sherlock, I’d rather see Hugh Laurie in the role with David Haig as Watson. This would be more of a Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce vibe.

  11. Michelle says:

    At the end of the day, it’s just another copy. I don’t have anything against Elementary, despite the enraging fact that they Do switch every tiny thing in order to have a series. Ok, BBC doesn’t own Sherlock Holmes, but they’ve remained true to the stories, and if you’ve read the reasons of why Moffat and Gatiss created the series, then that’s enough reason, for me, to not make the CBS show. I mean, this was their brainchild, this was something they had dreamt for years, Holmes has been their hero since infancy, and just imagine how you would feel that something you’ve created out of love and admiration is taken by someone else, chopped into little pieces as they beat the sense out of it, and your originality is merely “just another version”.

    Ok, BBC Sherlock was also seen as bad and sucky and whathaveyou, but even so, it pushed forward, and out of this brilliance CBS found the winning jackpot, so long as it is made American because despite the international fame, Sherlock is still British.

    So again, my main problem is that some of you are all over the place defending Elementary when it has been an idea taken from someone else. This has constantly happened with British series adapted into an American version (from reality shows like Top Gear, Supernanny, World’s Strictest Parents to fiction such as Life on Mars, Upstairs Downstairs, The Office, and now, Sherlock) and sadly, at the end of the day, no one really cares for the original version, so long as they’re entertained by this ridiculously altered copy.

    Just to finish, I think the worst part here is that CBS is taking the history and background of an entire nation and just “mixing it up” as best as they can (even with the Robert Downey Jr films there was controversy, just not as much). Sherlock Holmes is general culture but was born in UK, and along with many other series, we are merely glimpsing into an unknown world, and at least all people could do is let the Brits handle it whatever way they feel like, because it belongs to them.

    • Lena says:

      Erm…modern Sherlock was NOT their brainchild. Been done several times, beginning with Basil Rathbone’s updated movies.

      • Michelle says:

        I never meant that modernizing it was their very own idea. I know of the different versions made. The problem here is that despite all the influences Moffat and Gatiss had, their love for Sherlock was their inspiration to go ahead and start from scratch (aka, the novels) instead if watching a hit show from a different nation and saying “hey! Can we do that better, being American and all?”

  12. london_Alex says:

    As one who as seen the pilot for ‘Elementary’ I can tell you that it is nothing like Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s far closer to ‘The Mentalist’ than Sherlock Holmes. In fact so much so that I cannot believe it’s on the same network let alone on the same night. Several plot points used in ‘The Mentalist’ are rehashed in the pilot of ‘Elementary’ – He shows off by reading people instantly, says things similar to ‘I’m not psychic just paying attention’, gets down and sniffs carpets while detectives around him look confused, and finds a body in a place(i won’t ruin it for you) but if you watch ‘The Mentalist’ – been there and done that.
    Sherlock himself is charmingly rude, more so than Patrick Jane, but that could partly be due to the fact that he is allowed to keep his accent. (Everything sounds more charming with an accent). The dialogue is sharper than the average Mentalist episode(More like the ones Heller has written himself). Which leads me to wonder if Elementary can keep it up too.
    A female Watson doesn’t bother me if it’s done in true form, if they stray to far into couple territory though it could easily fall apart.

    I’ll be interested to see what comes of it though.

    JMO,
    Alex

    • Lena says:

      You do realize that BBC Sherlock is also very close to the Mentalist. I mean, Patrick Jane said “BORED!” first.
      So I really don’t know why you are acting as if BBC SHerlock didn’t rip off an American show. They certainly did.

      • Moni says:

        Oh dear, look at the poor person. You don’t really think that saying one word is the same as ripping off an entire show? NOT

        • nick1372 says:

          No, it’s worse than that. You can not say that Sherlock is a rip-off of The Mentalist when The Mentalist is based on the Sherlock Holmes stories .

  13. Courtney says:

    Saw the pilot at Comic-Con and was pleasantly surprised. Is it as strong as Sherlock? No. Few shows are. But, much like their performances of the same roles in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, Miller’s Sherlock is a wildly different creature than Cumberbatch’s – much more aware of social norms, much more aware of the world around him, and definitely much more openly emotional. Lucy Liu’s Watson does spend the first half of the episode paling in comparison to Martin Freeman’s, but once they take her in a different direction, she improves immensely. My biggest worry was the very one Cumberbatch addresses here – that the dynamic would change with the gender switch (and, perhaps even moreso, because of the monetary obligation tying Watson to Holmes, as opposed to free will) – but the pilot put my mind at ease by the end. As for the matter of sexual tension, well… if we’re being honest, I see more of that in single scenes between Sherlock and John than I did in an entire episode of Sherlock and Joan. BBC Sherlock is my favorite show, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant, but I will be tuning in to Elementary, and hoping CBS can keep themselves from making it Just Another Procedural.

  14. makasarili says:

    CBS could have just said this Holmes and Watson were descendants, then they could do whatever they want.

  15. Lena says:

    Elementary is “stealing” from “Sherlock”, but Sherlock has stolen from other shows similiar to a modern Holmes. “Monk” and “The Mentalist” come immediately to mind. And Moffat could deny he was never influenced by either show in writing his modern adaptation. I will never believe it. I do like the BBC show, but it is not the be all and end all. I can understand though, why so many say the BBC Sherlock fans are annoying. Case in point, just look online at all the immature, ridiculous comments. If someone wants to watch and enjoy Elementary, that is their business. If Elementary wants to have a male/female friendship, that is THEIR business. And anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t have to watch, but they don’t have to be so freaking annoying and rude to those who are actually *gasp* going to WATCH THE SHOW before calling it out.

  16. Koko B. Ware says:

    “I don’t think they’ll steal our audience…”
    Got that right. Cumberbatch’s version is awesome. Was excited when I saw the preview for Elementary, then saw Lucy Liu will be Watson. Not even going to give it a chance, she’s horrible.

  17. Leo Woodstayer says:

    The Brit needs to speak more clearly and slow down – the lady partner needs to wear something that shows off her great glutes.

  18. iso perri says:

    Am I the ONLY one who actually ships the canon Sherlock and Irene?

  19. Chazza says:

    Is it just me who thinks that elementary is ten times better than Sherlock? (And Sherlock is in my top ten shows by the way)

    • Elatus says:

      Maybe not the only one, but in the minority, I’m almost 100% certain. It’s not even a good series. Forget about being good Sherlock-series. It lacks emotions, deductions, good cases…
      So pity. I like JLM and LL very much. And hoped for them, beyond reason, that it will be good show. It isn’t.

  20. Lorette says:

    I love both Elementary and Sherlock BBC equally, and all this hate for Elementary is frustrating, especially considering the reasons for some of the hate. One thing that I do think Elementary does better than Sherlock is that Elementary is more realistic. Elementary IMO is much more likely to actually happen in the modern world. I have many reasons for this, though I don’t have the time/will to enumerate them here. HOWEVER, I don’t get the haters who have only watched one episode and make a judgement on it (whereas they may have likely seen the 2 seasons of Sherlock BBC). What sealed the deal for me of my love of Elementary was the episode that just aired last night. HONESTLY, if people want to truly “objectively” compare the two they need to AT LEAST watch a few more Elementary episodes. Also, as stated before, Sherlock BBC is *NOT* the original Sherlock.

  21. TJ says:

    I don’t know why we cant just accept Elementary for what it is. I’m from the US and just the last few years have come to appreciate UK television. Sherlock is my favorite and you simply cannot compare it to Elementary. Sherlock > Elementary times 1000. We all know that. It doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy Elementary for what it is. Do I think it is ridiculous that Watson is a girl? Yes. I do enjoy Elementary though. It’s not great but it is good. It is like many other US police/procedural dramas but the fact that you have Holmes/Watson makes it more interesting. Go watch the Granada Television’s 1980’s Sherlock Holmes if you want authenticity. Still great to this day, by the way.

  22. Hannah says:

    There doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual tension between a male and a female lead. True many shows go in that direction but think about Elliot and Olivia on SVU. They were nothing more than the best of friends. Anyways, a lot of people ship Sherlock and Watson on the BBC version anyways.

  23. udontwannaknow says:

    I love the ANYTHING Sherlock Holmes as a child I started watching a show called “Sherlock Holmes In the 24th century” (I think it was 24th) and it wasn’t like the best show ever but as a kid it made me start loving anything having to do with Sherlock and Dr Watson even the young Sherlock Holmes even read the books and when I saw the BBC Sherlock series I thought it was gonna be bad since it was in modern times (but since I loved a show of Sherlock set in the far distant future I gave it a shot) I was BLOWN AWAY my absolute favorite bar none and was actually exited for elementary but then… I watched it and it was kinda sad and upsetting that they would not only ruin the duo I’d grow up loving but it seemed so unfitting for John… My bad Joan to be so different and Sherlock also very differ and then to top it off… New York and not London granted Sherlock isn’t confined to a city but the main setting is England and having be set in New York just for a sub plot differential was kinda sad. Like watching a apocryphal twisted story of close friends just to be repackaged to a American audience. Gladly many if not the vast overwhelming majority know better. Both can coexist but for me it’s not Sherlock Holmes without Dr. “John” Watson.

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