As you slipped through the subway turnstile this morning, perhaps you noticed a handmade sticker proclaiming, “I believe in Sherlock.” Or graffiti, on your way into work, claiming, “Moriarty was real.” In one of the most creative acts of devotion — or is that obsession? — fans of “Sherlock,” the BBC import that finds Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant detective solving “unsolvable” crimes in modern London, sparked a guerilla marketing campaign in support of their hero. And that was a reaction to new episodes premiering in the U.K., months before they even hit PBS in the States.
“People really went f—ing berserk for [‘Sherlock’] here, which is just fantastic,” says star Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a sharply tailored, gadget-inclined incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. We’re sitting backstage at the 400-seat Florence Gould Hall Theater in Midtown, which will soon host the “Sherlock” superfans — some of whom flew thousands of miles and have been lined up for 10 hours to attend the night’s screening and Q&A session. The evening, says the awed Cumberbatch, belongs to them. “I want to make them feel included in something bigger than the cult they’ve created by word of mouth, because it was such an event in the U.K. this year,” he says of “Sherlock” Season 2, which drew around 10 million viewers per episode. “It’s nice to be in a watercooler moment, and I’d love for America to experience a bit of that as well.”
Why all the fuss over a detective whose powers of deduction, awesome as they are, date back to 1887, anyway? Much credit for the success of this adaptation goes to Cumberbatch’s intense portrayal of Holmes’ genius and eccentricity, counterbalanced by Martin Freeman’s steadfastly calm, caring Dr. John Watson.
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“Sherlock knows how to turn it on. He knows how to play all the games we play in every social interaction, and yet he withdraws from them,” Cumberbatch says of his socially inept character. “John teaches him that it’s all very well to understand human behavior, but you have to actually be human sometimes to really get the benefit of it.”
Season 2 focuses on that “humanizing” process Sherlock undergoes. But the fact that he is flesh and blood and not a fantastical superhero is another reason the man remains so alluring.
“He is achievable,” Cumberbatch says. “He is somebody that we could all be. Not that we necessarily want to follow the personal traits, but these abilities — he doesn’t fly through space. He’s somebody who by hard work and self-imposed discipline has achieved what he has achieved. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Quite hard, but not beyond it.”
Follow Metro's television critic Amber Ray on Twitter @AmberatMetro.