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Martin Freeman Talks Sherlock Series 3
On cliffhangers, riots and John's own deductions...

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Martin Freeman has been very busy of late with The Hobbit, but he still found time back in March - on the first day of shooting in London for the upcoming third series, no less - to talk about how things were going in Baker Street. This is the result, with Doctor Watson speaking about such varied topics as fan mail, punching Sherlock and his most excellent suits.

Martin Freeman Talks Sherlock Series 3

That's an amazing suit - do you have hundreds of them?
No, I have scores of suits. Scores of 'em. Scores of handkerchiefs, too. I've always liked clothes, since I was a kid. I get suits made for me by a man called Mark Powell, in Marshall Street, and another man called George Dyer, on Walworth Road. But other than that, I just see what I like! I don't have any rules, or anything. I've just always liked clothes. So... thanks for noticing!

How happy are you with the way last season's cliffhanger was resolved?
It's very satisfying. It's Mark Gatiss's script we're doing at the moment, and it's rather beautiful, as you would hope, and expect!

Did you guess it?
There are always bits [in Sherlock] where you go, 'Um, so, that was actually mine.' Not enough times, unfortunately, for a writing credit.
I guessed parts of it. It's kind of unfair, really, because Steven and Mark intimated to us some of the ingredients that might be involved, so I wasn't dealing with a completely blank canvas. But I am more impressed with the people who had nothing to do with the show who were hypothesising it might be this, that or the other, and some of them are quite close. There were lots and lots of theories, and some of them were very good.

But the way that we deal with it in this episode, I think, is really clever and ultimately satisfying. It's difficult, you see, because once something is revealed, and you've already sort of tried to guess and guess and guess the trick, when it is revealed, it's very hard not to be disappointed. "Isn't that sort of what I read somewhere? Oh, it's that." But with my other job, it's different. There it's wizards; here it still has to be grounded in a sort of reality, although it's a very heightened reality.

Will we see some of the emotional fallout?
Yes, it's a lot to do with that. And without giving anything away, you can imagine if you thought that about someone that you love, and it transpires not to be the case, that's a huge piece of news.

How does it affect their relationship?
Hmm... I don't know. Well, I do know. (Laughs) I just don't know what I want to say. But we can't dwell on it too long, otherwise the show wouldn't be what it is. We definitely deal with it. We deal with the fact that is a huge piece of information for John - and everybody else, you know. We can't have two people resenting each other forever, or for however long we end up doing this show.

Are we going to get the chance to see John do some of his own deductions?
And songs, too, maybe? I certainly hope so. But to answer your question seriously... not really. No, I don't think... I'm just going to say: not really. And probably not say much more than that. In The Empty House, in the books, they're reunited, and there's an allusion from John. I can't remember the exact words, but his opinions on a murder of a young aristocrat are based on what he'd learnt from Sherlock. And we've seen in the previous series, Sherlock saying "Oh, go on, have a go" and John floundering, and embarrassed, because he's doing it in front of the main man. I think if he were doing it in front of anyone else, he could busk it quite well, and look vaguely impressive, but because he's doing it front of Sherlock...

Do you get to punch him again?
Ah... we'll see. (Laughs) It would be a shame to give that away!

Martin Freeman Talks Sherlock Series 3

Do you do anything special to prepare for this character?
It's hard talking about acting, in a way, because it's like explaining a joke: I do think it loses something in the telling. But I do do stuff, and I'd love to tell you about it, but I believe that acting shouldn't be a huge penance.

Do you read your fan mail?
Some of it. Not as much as I should do... That fan art on Graham Norton, that was the tame stuff. I've seen way more than that. It's a funny one because you don't want to discourage artistic expression, but that is a completely different, fantasy world. Any time you kind of go, "To be honest... we're not gay", it sounds like you're protesting too much. It sounds like you're saying something vaguely homophobic: "Oh, I'm not gay." As it happens, if you really are interested, we have never played a single scene as two gay men. You can, of course, cut things together and compile, and see anything you want to see in the spirit you want to see it in, so then it's very easy to see us as a couple. But we honestly haven't played it as a couple, ever.

Whenever we talk about this, about what John and Sherlock can do, who they are, backstory and all that... Steven's not really interested in all that. He's interested, quite rightly, in the template of who those characters are, especially Sherlock.

I try to do my best acting and all that, but it's still a heightened reality, and based on one of the most beloved characters in English literature. Someone who's kind of a not-quite-superhero, but is sort of a superhero. It's not Nil By Mouth. So to come onto set with an idea about abuse that John had when he was 15... it's like, "Well, okay, that's interesting, but who gives a shit?" It doesn't help, you know? That's a very bad answer to your question, I know...

Is there ever any room for improv?
I have scores of suits. Scores of 'em. Scores of handkerchiefs, too.
People do listen to suggestions, definitely. And your feedback is valued. I emailed them yesterday about the next script, and it's up to them as to whether they act on it or not. But it's feedback - Benedict and I don't come in with our own drafts or anything. They're very good writers, and the extent of my contribution about scripts is that I will often say, "I'm going to say this instead of that", or I'll amend some small thing, and that's nine times out of ten, totally accepted. The one other time... it's in there for a specific reason.

Are there ever any bits, when you look back on older episodes, where you think "That bit of mine there, that was good..."
(Laughs) I think there are always little bits in every show you do. I'm quite active, I like to attend to details of things. But yeah, there are always bits where you go, "Um, so, that was actually mine." Not enough times, unfortunately, for a writing credit. (Laughs)

How has location filming been this time?
It has been different. We do our first location in town today, after this interview. It was different in Newport, but it'll be different in London, definitely. Now our exterior for 221 is pretty well known on the Sherlock beat, so I am anticipating a few fans there today - I could be wrong though, there could be three people there. But I am guessing there won't be three people there. In the two years that people have been waiting for this show, people are gagging for it, frankly.

You survived the riots last time, at least...
Yeah, we did! It was literally mid-sentence, a scene between me and Mark, when Mycroft is telling John that Irene Adler is dead. We're in the cafe and the unit manager is saying, "We've got to go now." We stood up from our seats and went out of that door. I was really ungentlemanly, because the previous night, a group of youths had come down that street and just raided the scaffolding van and broke the windows and I thought, "I don't think my winning ways from TV are going to cut any ice this time. They might not be Office fans..."

So me and Mark were ushered into a car. Okay, separate cars, we're not quite at that level. It wasn't that serious that we had to share a car. Then after that, we learnt that it probably wasn't as big a deal. But there were police everywhere. I don't think they were seconds away when we left... they were five minutes away - but I wasn't going to hang around to find out.


The first episode of series 3 of Sherlock is out January 1, 2014. In the meantime, be sure to buy the current issue of Empire for an in-depth interview with Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. And as an iPad bonus, take an interactive tour around the set of 221B, with audio details on certain props.

Interview by Ali Plumb

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