Elementary, which is a modern take on Sherlock Holmes in New York City, is not only one of the most popular new dramas on network television, but it will also have the coveted spot following the Super Bowl. The freshman drama follows the eccentric, mischievous detective (played by Jonny Lee Miller) and his sober companion, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), as they come up against some formidable foes while using unorthodox methods to help the NYPD solve cases.
During the CBS portion of the TCA Press Tour, show star Jonny Lee Miller talked about how exciting it is to have so many people tuning in to the show, what a total surprise it was for the first-year series to get the spot after the Super Bowl, how he prefers to stay in the moment with his character instead of knowing what’s to come, how fun it is to play the darker side of Sherlock Holmes, how supportive fellow Sherlock Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch has been, what he thinks of the evolution of the Holmes-Watson relationship, and that he’s looking forward to the cat-and-mouse game between Holmes and Moriarity, now that the appearance of that character is getting closer to happening. Hit the jump for the interview.
JONNY LEE MILLER: No, that’s not the kind of hunch that you get. You don’t get hunches. You hope for the best, but you try to do the best that you can. You never, in your wildest dreams, imagine that. Your first goal is to stay on the air, with any new show. You just make the show you want to make, and make it as good as can. But, to be given a full-season order was wonderful news for all of us. That was really hugely exciting. Anything else after that was really amazing. You hear various permutations of numbers, who’s doing best, the demographics and all that stuff, and it can be quite confusing. So, we tend to just concentrate on our work.
What did you think when you first found out that the show was going to air after the Super Bowl?
MILLER: It was a total surprise! It was a new thing to me. I wasn’t aware of what the Super Bowl slot was. So, when you find out, you’re just really excited because it means that we’re doing good and we’re doing something right. We’re very, very happy.
When viewers first met Sherlock, he was so troubled, but he seems to be getting a little bit better, as things go along. Do you have any idea where you’d like to see him, at the end of Season 1?
MILLER: I don’t know. I don’t get involved that way. I don’t really try to influence Rob [Doherty], in that way, because I feel that [the writers] know better. It’s a journey of discovery, for me. When you’re playing a character, you need to be discovering that, as him. You don’t really want to have an opinion about where you’re going to end up. Otherwise, you can’t really stay in the moment and in your character.
MILLER: Yeah. You’re trying to bring a character to an audience, and tell stories. That’s what we’re all trying do. So, any time that you get to color that with history and emotion and those darker sides, which are a part of all of us, that’s really the bread and butter of what we do. So, any chance that any of us get to do that is really great. One thing I love about this character is that he’s quite raw, and his struggles are on the surface. Hopefully, that makes it more enjoyable for people, and they can identify with that.
Was Sherlock a good fit, right from the beginning, or was there a pivotal moment where it all seemed to click for you?
MILLER: Yeah, it was a good fit. It’s a wonderful character that had been. The skeleton for the character was very strong, in the original script. So then, you try to do that justice. And then, getting into the literature, I can tailor that suit to fit me.
Since you’re good friends, what does Benedict Cumberbatch think of your performance in this?
MILLER: He sent me some messages, when he’d first seen the show, and it was really, really nice. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have sent me a text message saying, “You suck!” He’s been very supportive, the whole way.
MILLER: I might have generally lost a few pounds. We spend a lot of time on our feet.
Do you think this show is well on its way now, in establishing its own identity?
MILLER: Yeah, hopefully. That’s the intention, when you make a show. And our show is very much our show. It’s nice, you meet cab drivers, here or there, or whoever, and they know you as Sherlock Holmes. That’s a thrill because we make our show for people. If they’re watching the show and enjoying it, that’s all that matters really, to me.
Some shows are always the same tone from week to week, but this show has a lot of tonal shifts. Do you like that aspect of it?
MILLER: When you’re shooting 20-odd episodes in a season, the last thing you want is for each script to be the same tone. As long as we feel the characters are written with the same voice, that’s good for us. And then, we try to fit into those different scenarios. It’s a wonderful thing to have the difference. It’s really good.
How has the Holmes-Watson relationship evolved for you?
MILLER: It’s an incredible thing about this medium, working closely with another actor on a show where you’re there, all the time. Your relationship in real life develops, and you become very close as a team, as we do with everyone that we work with. And then, you get to keep doing that. It’s not like we’re doing a run on a play where we do the same two hours every time, and then repeat that. It’s constantly evolving. It’s extremely interesting, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to help each other. It’s a real blessing to form a working relationship and a bond with someone that you love and respect so much.
MILLER: He can be quite opinionated. I really like it when he’s talking about subjects that he loves, whether it be lock-picking or bee-keeping. I really love the hobby side of him, really. I feel he finds the political stuff a little bit tedious and he’s not so wrapped up in such things.
Have you gotten interested in any of his hobbies?
MILLER: I don’t really have time for any more hobbies, but it’s fascinating. We get to bring single-stick into an episode. And it’s wonderful having the bees around. I learn a little bit more about bees, every time there’s a bee hive on set. That’s the good thing about this job.
Will you ever explain the tattoo?
MILLER: No. Maybe one day. There’s a lot of explaining to do there.
MILLER: We keep a little bit of background and I know a little bit about what happens, so I just try to keep it there. We’re not trying to show too much. You just have an idea in your head about what went down, and we’re trying to only show people what they need to know, at the moment.
Do you feel a lot of pressure, even mentioning those characters?
MILLER: No. We just approach it from a realistic point of view, for how it works in our story. The other history is irrelevant, really.
Are you looking forward to finally getting that cat-and-mouse game between Sherlock and Moriarty?
MILLER: Yeah, a little bit. I feel like he operates like that, anyway. Every case is like that, for him. He works pretty methodically, like that.
Elementary airs on Thursday nights on CBS.