Elementary: state-side Sherlock in London
By Jill Lawless
LONDON — Sherlock Holmes is back on home turf in the second-season première of Elementary — and so, a bit uncomfortably, is star Jonny Lee Miller.
“It’s a little bit surreal, to be honest with you,” said the British actor, who plays a New York-based Sherlock in CBS’ modern-day take on the great detective.
It was the US setting that convinced him to do the show, which débuted last fall on the heels of both Robert Downey Jr.’s big-screen Holmes and the BBC’s acclaimed series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
There were grumbles in the media about a Sherlock glut, and Miller says he felt some trepidation about taking on the iconic role.
“I turned it down because of that, initially,” said Miller, who has played a San Francisco lawyer in the ABC TV series Eli Stone and a Scottish heroin addict in 1990s movie classic Trainspotting.
“I wouldn’t have done it here” in London, he said.
A season in, Elementary is a hit for CBS, and here Miller is, filming the start of season two this week at London locations including Paddington Station and Trafalgar Square.
Visiting London was natural for the show, which broke the usual Holmesian mold by casting Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan — rather than John — Watson. Elementary‘s Sherlock is a tattooed recovering drug addict working as a consulting detective to the New York Police Department. Watson is the “sober companion” hired by Sherlock’s wealthy father to stop him going off the rails.
The show also features other characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original detective stories, often with a twist, including possible love interest Irene Adler and the detective’s nemesis, the mysterious Moriarty.
Miller says he’s a “huge fan” of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. The two men are friends, and have played the same character before. They were co-stars in director Danny Boyle’s 2011 London stage production of Frankenstein, alternating the roles of scientist Victor Frankenstein and his monster.
Once Elementary débuted last fall to mostly positive reviews and strong viewing figures, many of the doubters stopped comparing Elementary to other incarnations of the Holmes stories — and Miller did, too.
“I just have confidence in our differences in our show, and I have confidence in what I am doing now,” he said. “It was a risk, but... it was a confidence in the material, and in the basic idea. And the fact we were going over to America to do it.
“And at the end of the day, the world’s big enough for various interpretations of a bit of fiction.”
The show’s second season will introduce other characters from the Holmes canon, including Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade (Sean Pertwee), and Sherlock’s brilliant older brother Mycroft, played by The Amazing Spider-Man actor Rhys Ifans.
Filming in Trafalgar Square this week provided the show’s makers with an archetypal London scene — pigeons, tourists, Nelson’s Column, red double-decker buses.
The only thing amiss was the weather.
It was warm. The sun shone. So much for those classic images of 221B Baker St. in the rain.
“When we started writing the script I just assumed that it would be the London I’ve seen in so many movies and shows before,” Elementary creator and executive producer Robert Doherty said.
“But this is great. This is perfect. For our purposes and given the time of year that we’re going to première, I’d rather have a big, beautiful, lush and sunny London for the American audience.”