While literally dozens of actors have played the role of Sherlock Holmes it is now hard to imagine anyone but Benedict Cumberbatch portraying the super sleuth in Sherlock, the subject of this week’s Entertainment Weekly cover story. But Cumberbatch thought twice when Sherlock cocreators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss originally offered him the part which, over the past few years, has propelled him from relatively unknown character actor to global star. Why? Precisely because he was concerned the role might do just that.
“My reservation was ‘Well, this is a very iconic character, there will be a lot of attention on it,’” says Cumberbatch. “This was before I had had any significant success [but] I knew there would still be a lot of focus on it. And while I had done work, it wasn’t stepping into the populist limelight like playing a character like Holmes. So I did have a pause for thought.”
According to Cumberbatch, it was the passion and commitment of the behind-the-scenes Sherlock team which ultimately convinced him to sign on for the role. “I thought, If I’m going to do this, if I’m going to step into the limelight with a large leading role of iconic status, then I might as well do it these people,” he recalls. “They know what they’re doing and I completely trust them. I felt like I was being asked to join the family and have some fun. There was nothing businessy about it. And that’s how to operate it.”
The result of that decision can be seen this Sunday when the third season of Sherlock premieres on PBS.
For more from Cumberbatch and Co., pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, January 17. And if you’re still desperate for more Sherlock coverage, like Entertainment Weekly on Facebook now to see an exclusive video of Moffat, Freeman, and Cumberbatch positing theories about how Holmes survived that horrifying fall in last season’s finale.