Bringing Sherlock to NYC, making Watson a woman
- Last Updated: 10:41 AM, July 16, 2012
- Posted: 10:14 PM, July 15, 2012
One of the oldest characters in English literature is about to become one of the hottest stars of the fall season — Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary Victorian detective has been transported to 21st century Brooklyn Heights in the new CBS Thursday night drama, “Elementary,” which will premiere Sept. 27 in the network’s prime slot after “Person of Interest.”
The buzz on the show is high, from advertisers and from the Comic-Con geeks who packed a San Diego auditorium to see a screening last week. The Rob Doherty series stars British actor Jonny Lee Miller as the funny and eccentric Holmes who, in his capacity as consultant to the NYPD, can deduce all manner of things the rest of us wouldn’t think of to solve a murder. He tends to his bees and accurately predicts the outcome of a Mets game — he calls the team the “New York Metropolitans” — and does it all with panache, great wit and peculiar style.
He’s not modest. “You can solve people just by looking at them,” he declares.
This Sherlock has the hypersensitivity and weirdness of famous TV detectives such as Adrian Monk and Lt. Colombo but his penchant for saying inappropriate things will also remind viewers Dr. Gregory House, who was, of course, based on Holmes.
Miller, who first attracted notice in the movie “Trainspotting” and went to on to marry Angelina Jolie before a 2-year run on the ABC series “Eli Stone,” is a natural choice the role. The other characters — a veteran cop played by Aidan Quinn and his flunkies — on the show spin in his orbit as he remains several steps ahead of them.
Doherty reveals that no other actor was considered.
“Where he really jumped out was in ‘Trainspotting,’ and I watched him in ‘Eli Stone.’ I thought he was charming and witty and funny and smart,” Doherty says. “I looked at the show and wished he could speak with a British accent. It took a little getting used to his American accent. There’s a tiny, invisible little harness that comes with speaking an accent and I welcomed an opportunity to write for an authentic British voice for American TV.”
Cast opposite Miller is Lucy Liu as Watson — Joan Watson, that is, another departure from the Conan Doyle books and one that’s going to make purists positively bellicose. This Watson, a former surgeon, crosses paths with Holmes when she is assigned to him as a “sober companion” after the detective’s recent stint in rehab. When introducing her to his boss, Holmes refers to Watson as “his personal valet.”
Doherty, who admires the recent “Sherlock Holmes” miniseries that aired on PBS, knows the protests about Watson will be deafening and defends his choice with some Doyle scholarship.
“I read some sort of psychological analysis of Sherlock. In one of them, he was called gynophobe because he had a weird aversion to women,” he says. “He tended to be very suspicious of them. Irene Adler is the only woman he got close to in the original books. I thought nothing would make him crazier than to live with a female Watson.”
The pilot was filmed in New York, with a street in Harlem subbing for the block where Holmes lives in his father’s Brooklyn brownstone. The show will film interiors at the Silvercup East studios in Long Island City. Setting the show in New York seemed like a natural fit also because of the city’s similarities to London. “If you’re going to transplant Sherlock Holmes to an American city it has to be New York,” Doherty says. “There’s a texture to the place that’s reminiscent of London and both have Victorian elements.”