Sherlock, True Detective and Marvellous were among the winners at the BAFTA Television Awards ceremony in London last night. In a night of varied winners there were a few surprises with Benedict Cumberbatch being yet again denied a best actor BAFTA. Jason Watkins and Georgina Campbell took home the top acting prizes for leading actor and actress. Full List of winners below for all categories:
LEADING ACTOR Jason Watkins The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies
LEADING ACTRESS Georgina Campbell Murdered by My Boyfriend
ENTERTAINMENT PERFORMANCE Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway
SCRIPTED COMEDY Detectorists Production Team
SINGLE DRAMA Marvellous
REALITY & CONSTRUCTED FACTUAL The Island With Bear Grylls
FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A COMEDY PROGRAM Jessica Hynes W1A
RADIO TIMES AUDIENCE AWARD Sherlock
SPECIALIST FACTUAL Grayson Perry: Who Are You?
MALE PERFORMANCE IN A COMEDY PROGRAM Matt Berry Toast of London
DRAMA SERIES Happy Valley
SOAP & CONTINUING DRAMA Coronation Street
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Gemma Jones Marvellous
COMEDY AND COMEDY ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM The Graham Norton Show
SUPPORTING ACTOR Stephen Rea The Honourable Woman
CURRENT AFFAIRS Children on the Frontline (Dispatches) Production Team
SPORT & LIVE EVENT WW1 Remembered
SINGLE DOCUMENTARY The Paedophile Hunter
FEATURES Grand Designs Production Team
NEWS COVERAGE SKY News Live at Five: Ebola
INTERNATIONAL True Detective
FACTUAL SERIES Life and Death Row
MINI-SERIES The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies
ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway
Benedict Cumberbatch answered fan questions for nearly an hour while appearing at Sherlocked the first official Sherlock fan event in London. Benedict shared acting advice, his experiences making Sherlock and working with his parents, as well as talking about other projects like The Imitation Game, Black Mass and Doctor Strange. Full transcript below:
With such a hectic film career, how does it feel to come back to Sherlock for the special?
We dream big with Sherlock so it doesn’t differ in scale from anything else I work on around the world. That’s what we aim for and it has to be as big as anything else I’m lucky to be a part of. Though sadly we don’t have the budget of a Star Trek or Doctor Strange, we do a lot of good stuff with the budget we do have. So I love it is the short answer. I don’t see a disparity or difference in the scale and quality, I really don’t. It may be for the small screen, but most of the episodes which I’ve seen first off have been screened at the BFI and it holds up, it’s good stuff in every aspect; the shooting style, music and the ambition of the storytelling for hour and a half not just 30 minute or hour long structures. I love going back to it. It’s a very familiar family and a great role. I think as long as we all keep it fresh and keep enjoying it and evolving it, making it better and better, then I think it will be something we come back to.
Do you have favourite episodes to shoot or watch back?
I’m really crap at favourites… I have fav bits, though its dodging the question slightly. The rooftop stunts were great to do, both the falling and the landing. That was great fun! The chases in London were great fun. The scenes with Lars in the last episode were incredibly good to do, he’s an extraordinary actor, as is Martin in every scene. The stuff we’ve just done… which I can’t really talk about.
I think overall for me I’d have to say the wedding episode, even though it isn’t necessarily everyone else’s favourite. For me it’s the turn in that, for how at ease you are, I just thought it was stunningly crafted how something that seems to be getting schmaltzy is actually just the springboard not only for an extraordinarily complex resolution of a case, but also for where it leads you as to where he then goes. I really enjoyed that.
Having said that, playing the violin was probably my least favourite thing of all time ever! I feel so phoney when I do it. Any of you who are any good at playing musical instruments or the violin have bene very kind to me saying I’m doing better. I’m not! I’m so bad at it. I mean you know some people do it from the age of three at a concert level. I can hardly hold the thing! So to try to pretend that I’m that good is just agonising. I feel like I’m such a fraud. So that’s the best and worst of things to do. As for watching them, I enjoy watching all of them I really do. I never like watching myself but after a while I can get past that and can see the show for what it is.
How does it feel going from being so small to so big and having all these people wanting to see you?
Um… I’m just thinking about what you mean by so small. (laughs) Lots of things spring to mind… I’m a grower not a shower… no that’s not it. I would say it feels pretty extraordinary. I would say sitting here with a microphone speaking to however many people, this is normal. This… this isn’t normal actually, what am I trying to say. This normalises it a little bit, because I get to speak to you in my own voice. I’m not having a very self-conscious episode walking through a shopping centre or a gallery and knowing people are noticing me rather than what they’re supposed to be doing. The thing of that side of being big and visible is still weird, taxing and strange. It’s something I think I’m still adjusting to. I don’t think anyone ever really quite adjusts to it. Being able to feel comfortable enough to talk to you about it now openly and honestly, that makes it feel like I’m the same person I was before all this began ad I had to react to it. So I guess I try to do things that keep people around you to try and normalises which is in a sense a very abnormal situation. I’m just talking about fame her, not the extraordinary experiences, riches and fun of my work and where it’s got me. I’m just talking about being in front of a big group of people as opposed to a small group of people instead.
Is there anything in the scripts for Sherlock that ever scares you as an actor because it’ a big challenge?
That’s an interesting question. Even the deduction actually thrill me, the opportunity to be given that kind of challenge as an actor is rare, so it’s a treat. So while I may make a meal of it sometimes or be exhausted and behind on my learning; that is still a great treat to have and a gift I respect. I get the same thrill that audiences get of these scripts. I’ve said it many times before but we are the first audiences for the scripts. We see that last draft and we get verbally what people get to see at the airing of each episode. So it’s so enjoyable.
I suppose you’re right that learning any role there’s moments when you go, how am I going to be able to do that? But when you do this you want the challenges to increase, having gained a certain amount of confidence in your ability, having met challenges in earlier episodes. So you want to be challenged more and stretched. So perversely with this job I get very excited by the difficult bits in the scripts. It’s like being given a difficult passage of music and knowing that it’s going to sound amazing when you get it right. Other jobs though, you get the role and get excited about it. Then you think oh my God I’m actually going to have to be Khan in Star trek or Doctor Strange in Marvel. It’s exciting for a brief millisecond, then you realise that you’re actually going to have to make someone’s faith in you real. But with this role I really really enjoy the challenges in the scripts.
When you got cast as Sherlock did you read a lot of Conan Doyle?
Yeah I did. That was the first time I really read all of them. They’re the best blueprint. I started for the pilot and finished before the first series. It’s just the most wonderful handbook for an actor playing that part. You have a doctor who’s incredibly observant and deeply detailed about not just the physicality but the mood swings, temperaments everything about Sherlock. Then you read this script written by two incredibly faithful fanboys and it’s a golden formula, it’s great. Every time I need to get back into it that’s kind of how I refresh him. I don’t normally look at what we’ve just done or what we’ve come from. I look at the original books.
What is your favourite part of the complexity of the relationship between Sherlock and Moriarty?
That they’re two sides of the same coin really. That there’s a lot of reflection, he’s like the dark shadow self of Holmes. He is Holmes without any of what he’s sees as the weakness of the heart in Sherlock, the feeling of necessity to do good even if it’s by bad means. Nobody can humiliate Sherlock better; confuse him, and trouble, to give him a good game to get better at than Moriarty. Andrew is the most phenomenal actor, its brilliant casting. I knew him from theatre and I knew who he was even if some people didn’t. I was so over the moon about it because I knew about his uniqueness, what he could bring to it that would make it so exciting to have and just dazzlingly dangerous for all of us to watch. It’s the only time when I feel like an utter fraud really and have to work really hard as Sherlock to become something better. Everyone needs an adversary or a nemesis; something that is going to excel them to be a better version of themselves. That’s what makes it so much fun to have someone like Moriarty as the villain. There ain’t no one better than him, apart from maybe Sherlock.
How does Magnuson compare as a villain?
There’s a sort of specificity to his cruelty, he is a bully. He does things to control people and does it by really base means which all of us have agonised over as children. Flicking someone’s face, licking someone’s face…. he should have ticked someone’s face as well. He is a master of manipulation and he does it by incredible means and as a master of intellect, but to carry out the most sort of asinine childish and pathetic sort of bullying playground cruelty. That’s why you can hate hate him. But Moriarty is sort of so off the rails he’s sort of dangerous. Don’t think for a second he’s cosy. But there’s something sort of anarchic and sort of entertaining in a way. You don’t want to see him necessarily destroyed, you want to see the battle continue because you know there’s going to be fireworks. But Magnuson you really want him taken down. And yeah… yeah I do! (Thunderous applause)
Hmm not sure if applauding a character shooting someone is a good thing really. It’s a tricky one, Sherlock has killed someone to win. Not just to win but to save, he does do it out of love, it is a sacrificial killing. It is done with a purpose. It’s not just about the game at that point, it’s about protecting John, Mary and the unborn child. So it is a sacrificial act of violence but he is a beaten man when does that in my mind. If a bully makes you do something more desperately violent, they’ve won.
It’s also very satisfying to see Sherlock avenging Mrs Hudson. Do you see Mrs Hudson as the Mother figure for the show?
Absolutely in may many ways Beryl is the mother for the show. She’s known me since I was born really, so to have her on set she is the mother figure. She’s extraordinary both as an actress an as a character. That’s just a joy, she is a beam of very naughty twinkly light. That was great and it was very satisfying to show that humanity, love and generosity. That’s the great sort of curve that we’ve all sort of talked about a lot with Watson. That’s the influence of having this everyman figure, someone very special but more normal than Sherlock, guiding Sherlock as brilliant as he is toward being a better person and therefore better at being great.
How did your parent end up playing Sherlock’s parents and what was that like?
They’re huge fans of the show and they loved it. I remember Mark mentioned it to me first, though I don’t know if I can give him credit for generating the idea after that. I just remember Mark said they were thinking about introducing Sherlock’s parents and I said I have two acting parents. He just said I know! But I was thrilled about the idea. We started filming the third season and I was frightened because it was our first day on set, they were nervous because they didn’t want to get it wrong. Bless them! They were stepping into something they’d followed and admired having been very proud of me for doing it. Then they had to deliver something as actors having been fans of the show and parents of the actor in the lead. So it was a nervy fist day but they got into it and had a great time by the end of the scene. The stuff for the Christmas scenes were at the end of shooting too so they really spanned the last series. I can’t explain what a magical thing it is to be on set with your parents. It’s incredible to do what you both do together.
Had you ever worked together before?
It was pretty much the first time we acted together. Although years ago I’d said t them listen it’s pretty bizarre but I’m filming a marriage scene for Atonement. It’s just round the corner and I know you guys might be in town, but they’re looking for people to play my parents as extras. So I said why don’t you come in. They said okay but asked what exactly they’d be doing. I said well it might just be the back of your heads in shot but we’d be on film together. So they said yes because you don’t know when you’d get the opportunity again. I don’t think they’d have done that if they’d known then about this. It literally was just the back of their heads and they sent the whole day being shuffled around like poor extras often are. But it was a wonderful moment even just in a flashback without any dialogue between us. So yeah really Sherlock was the first time properly and hopefully not the last scenes we share.
What are the similarities and differences between yourself and Sherlock?
Differences and similarities… well when I play him my mum has to put up with some very Sherlockian behaviour. My mum says you do get very brisk me with me, you get very short and you tend to disappear from rooms a lot. Not that she’s actually had to wedge her foot in the door, I should add that, not like she does in the series. So I definitely think things speed up a bit, I have to get sort of active and mentally I have to be a little more gymnastic. That’s more about how I get into the part really but I guess what I’m saying is that it evolves when I’m playing it and I become a lot more similar to him.
On paper there are very few similarities. I have time for things he doesn’t have time for. He has abilities I don’t have. I don’t have the same black curly hair he as. I can’t play the violin. I don’t live with another man, and I have a family on the way. Huge differences, massive differences, all of his priorities are different to mine. For him it’s a specific kind of work and nothing else. It’s such a good question. Someone should ask this question again actually to people who work with e, because they’d give a much better answer than I will. It’s hard for me talking about myself, playing someone else as myself. It’s not a good thing to do.
You’re known for playing very intelligent characters like Sherlock or Turing, how do you feel about the inevitable comparisons between ostensibly similar roles?
No, they’re very different characters. I mean I am who I am and look the way I look, so there are limits, but I try very much to distinguish between those two characters in particular. Sherlock is a very flamboyant extrovert in his field. He’s a show off and he has an audience he wants to impress, he doesn’t really keep his talents close to his chest. But Turing, for reasons that you discover in the film, shuts himself off and is much more isolated. He’s certainly not one to shout form the rooftops about his achievements. In the film and in reality this man should have bene a household name in his field of science, never mind for what he stood for after the war and what he did during the war. What he even did before the war in defining the language of computer science could have got him Nobel Prize status, if he had pushed in his field. But he didn’t, he wasn’t interested in that. He was about doing the work and moving on; he certainly wasn’t interested in self publicity. He wasn’t self-aggrandising.
I do look for differences, because yeah if you’re doing a very lazy ven diagram you can say I play lot of intelligent people. But so what? Lots of characters and stories are only worth telling because they have intelligent people involved. Intelligence comes in all forms, whether it’s book learnt or wisdom through life’s lessons; whether it’s innate intelligence or something very peculiar and special like Sherlock’s. So apart from the fact that they’re smart I don’t see much correlation at all between Sherlock and a man dealing with an intolerant world during a war with very different prerogatives to the 21st version of Sherlock. I think they’re very very different.
But maybe it’s just shades because of who I am, because of the limits of what I can do as an actor that make them seem like similar roles. I’m always straining to do stuff that’s different, whether it’s playing a gangster’s brother in Black Mass, a dragon in The Hobbit or Doctor Strange. Again he’s a doctor and smart, but a very different story and trajectory to what Holmes or Turing where about.
I mean Van Gough was a genius at painting, getting into an obsessive mental loop at times, but a really brilliant mind. Though you might not naturally twin him with the standard definitions of intelligence. Oh, what a long dreary f**king answer! Sorry about that. I do play stupid people as well from time to time, Patrick in Starter For Ten for example. I just played someone stupid in something else.. which I can’t talk about yet.
How are you feeling about impending fatherhood on a scale of 1-10. With 1 being a nice picnic in the park and 10 being eaten by a shark?
All of it really! I feel like I’m about to have a really nice picnic with a shark in a park!
Did you take any inspiration for Sherlock from past on screen versions of the character?
No. I grew up watching Rathbone but no I stayed away from past versions. I think I watched the Robert Downey Jr version after we shot the pilot but before we did the series. But you can’ go to other performances for inspiration when you’re about to try and make your own stance on an already incredibly iconic character. I used the books for my inspiration, that’s what I went back to. Mark and Steven’s scripts also need very little inspiration. They’re the benchmark, so if I can deliver that script then I’m doing fine. It’s a dangerous thing to toy with the idea of other people’s performances, not to say I don’t appreciate or enjoy them, but you have to create a distance from them otherwise you’re just referring to what has already been done which would be boring for everyone.
You’ve said you’re not a fan of ‘Johnlock’, but if you had to ‘ship’ any of the characters form the series who would it be?
Shipping is when you move containers or bits of furniture right? I’d happily ship a location other than London into Sherlock really, that’s what I’d ship. I’d ship New York over or Milan, let’s go globetrotting with it. Let’s ship continents, let’s think big people. You’ve heard the ladies I’m not small in their minds. Let’s ship Bangkok!
How do you take your life experience, research and preparation to deliver a unique performance with each role you take on?
That’s a huge question.. see me after school. A brief answer would be it’s different on every single project. It depends what the starting point is. If it’s a well-known, iconic fictional or real character, there’s immediately a different focus. You have expectations to deal with, whether they’re real, fan based or imagined. You can’t take on those expectations in your research, but you have to have knowledge. You have to be part of the thing you’re driving to portray whether that’s Sherlock or Alan Turing. For example with Turing it’s about whether it’s tackling his gay following, his role in science or as a political warning. I think then you start to break things down, you do things in bite size chunks. You think, well what can I feasibly manage in the finite amount of time I’ve got. All the research you do in the world is not going to make you comfortable delivering a certain line in a certain moment with another actor live on set. That’s at the centre of what it’s all about. It’s about marrying those responsibilities. If you choose a good script then a lot of that heavy lifting has already been done by the writer, the producer and the director. The costume department and make up, that all helps. Lean on them and use the expertise in the room you have round you to start building the various bits of the jigsaw puzzle you’re going to put together to start you characterization. Really follow the script and ask questions; the who, what, where. Be really specific about what you’re doing, you’re intentions and actions, what the effect of both of those are on the characters you’re with. Be open to changing it on a dime because someone next to you will be working things in a completely different way or have a totally different rhythm. You have to be adaptable, that’s another key element. So the amount of homework you do is dependent on time, the stature of your subject and how relevant all that is to portraying an actual moment of drama.
Then beyond that if you’re lucky enough to get rehearsals, which thank goodness I have been for a lot of things I’ve worked on, and then you can fail. It’s about doing it wrong, doing it wrong, doing it slightly better than wrong, doing it slightly accurately, doing it right, then doing it right. You can never get there, you’re always failing better. Falling upwards as someone once described it.
Did you find that the Victorian setting and costume for the Sherlock special changed Sherlock a lot for you?
Absolutely, it immediately affects you. The stiff starch collar really affects the pose, the hair and movement of what you’re wearing I changes your entire movement. It’s extraordinary; almost without any effort at all you morph into something completely different.
Do you get nervous before scenes and do you have any tips for aspiring actors or actresses?
I get very nervous. I get more nervous usually with stage work. I get nervous when I know the time is running about but I’ve gotten something wrong and I’ve got to get it right. Then my brain goes blank and I get very nervous. Theatre work there’s always an element of it. You need a certain amount of adrenalin to focus. So my advice would be don’t be afraid to be afraid, let it embolden you to fail and not worry about that. The only way you get better is by learning through mistakes. You can’t control everything, you really can’t.
Other situations I’ve been frighten in, sometimes I’ve worked opposite well known people and I just feel like I’m behind and it’s like how can I possibly match this? Or there are moments where there’s a stunt that requires great fluidity and technicality, knowing that if I get it wrong there’s a whole set up gone. That can be terrifying. The moment after you get the job is really terrifying because after that millisecond of elation you realise this is the work I have to do now. You realise though that a lot of fear is actually counterproductive, but you need an element of it to energise what you do.
So yeah, keep going at it! Write your own stuff, form a theatre group. Go see a lot, whatever you can afford to go and see you should. Don’t be wedded to one medium either, go to music and art as well as television, theatre and film. Just keep your perspective broad and wide, be as generous as possible with people around you because that sometimes comes back. Good luck!
What’s your most memorable moment whilst filming Sherlock?
There have been so many really extraordinary moments. Standing on the rooftop at St Barts was definitely one. I’m forgetting all the others now which is unfortunate, that is ironic to forget the most memorable moments is definitely the definition of irony. The wedding scene definitely, we talked about quite a lot but the best man speech was definitely very memorable. All sorts of things really, it’s the fun stuff like jumping off that roof, the spirit of it but also the actual stunt of it. The running the fights that slow mo bit with the safe. That was great fun to do. Scene with all of the badies, first walking on set, first walking on set in Victorian costume. Every time I catch a glimpse of it on telly or watch it when it’s first out the starting blocks it’s an amazing rush of memory the whole thing and good times.
Would you have liked the opportunity to meet Connan Doyle?
Oh absolutely he was such a complex guy, he had so many sort of evolutions of his life, before and after his wife’s death for example. I would also have loved to meet the real man who was the original inspiration for Holmes.
How was it filming Black Mass with Johnny Depp?
I loved Boston and I really enjoyed working there. I saw a really wide swing of it as well, we were really welcomed by the southy community. It was amazing and an extraordinary experience, it’s a mind blowing story and Johnny Depp was just astonishing. I didn’t meet him, I met the character all the time not Johnny. Every day I didn’t see him out of makeup, he was there with the prosthetics on the hair, makeup and eyes before I got to set. I didn’t know who Johnny Depp was. I met him this year when I went to visit the Star Wars set and he was doing a pick up on one of his films. I sat in one of his trailers staring at him and he said are you okay man? I said yeah I’m just getting used to looking at you as you. People said you’ve been cast as Johnny Depp’s brother? And I said No, I’ve been cast as Whitey Bulger’s brother. That’s the extraordinary thing; he was astonishing in the role. He’s just preternaturally calm and dangerous. There’s a constant undercurrent of menace and I think it will be a very interesting ride. I haven’t seen the finished film, but form having worked opposite him it was a mighty fine performance from a major big screen actor. The film itself is going to be brilliant, the script is genius and the director was great to work with. I had such a great time.