Benedict Cumberbatch discusses nudity, sleuthing and Sherlock at the TCA’s

Yesterday saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver bring on the British charm offensive at the Television Critics’ Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. where the two were promoting the up-and-coming second season of “Sherlock” for PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre.

The television series has recently started its second season here in the UK, but when asked about how the shows second season Cumberbatch and Pulver were more than happy to share their thoughts and feelings about the series.

Lara Pulver plays the role of Irene Adler who is the only woman to ever beat Sherlock Holmes, and is in every way his intellectual equal. When asked what it is like to play two of the smartest characters on television, both Pulver and Cumberbatch were very complimentary about each others performance and the episode itself when answering.

Lara Pulver says, “When I was reading the script for “Sherlock,” I was actually flying back from the U.K. to L.A., and I remember thinking I’m reading it. We needed to turn the plane back around because it was just the best piece of writing that I’d read in a long time. I think Steven Moffat is a genius, and he beautifully encapsulates Conan Doyle’s legend and subtly and wittily and brilliantly brings it to life in this kind of modern day world.”

“As for playing the most intelligent people on television, Ben set the Benedict set the precedent with Season 1, and coming in as his counterpart for Season 2 was a gift, an absolute gift, and I think Benedict and I allowed ourselves to play within within the tapestry that Steven had written and develop both a physical, emotional, mental, sensual relationship. Ben?”

Via satellite, a well-groomed Benedict Cumberbatch picked up the thread addressing Pulver, “Well, thank you for what you said. I mean, it’s no mean feat what you achieved in coming in and try to be the female equivalent of Holmes, and that’s really what Adler is. You were sublime. This isn’t going to be a love, guys, where we get boring and mushy. But I have to pay her a compliment because it was extraordinarily brilliant, as you’ll see. And they’re an even match for each other. It’s a thrill to get a script as intelligent and as smart as Steven’s are.”

“It is a rare challenge, for an audience and for an actor, to take part in something with this level of intelligence and wit. And you have to play with it. You have to really enjoy it. It is hard. It’s a sort of form of mental and physical gymnastics. It’s hard literally sometimes in the cold of winter on the first series and in the heat of summer on the second to actually get the words out without beads of sweat dripping down or your jaw freezing in a kind of rictus grin of cold Englishness. It takes a lot of effort to play clever. It takes very little effort to look clever, as I found out through my character for some reason. And it’s the sort of challenge that you just have to run, and I really do. I absolutely love every minute of it as hard as it can be. It’s a thrill. It’s a thrill to bring something to an audience that isn’t patronizing as well. It really is. To be received with so much love, it’s a validation the audiences have very much they may or may not understand the first viewing, just have such a rich texture of detail to enjoy that they can go back to it and get an awful lot of it the first time around as well, but it’s something that rewards repeat reviewing viewing. And I think that’s a good thing for it.”

Cumberbatch continued, “In the first episode of the new season of Sherlock we get a scene in which Lara Pulver as Irene Adler is completely nude, which apparently kicked off a bit of a stink with outraged viewers. When asked about this scene, which was brief to say the least. Both Pulver and Cumberbatch pretty much said it was a big outrage over a very little 2 minute scene.”

Pulver says, “To be honest, it’s one of two minutes in a 90 minute episode, and it’s pre the 9 o’clock BBC watershed. There is nothing that you see. It’s very suggestive. It’s very clever camerawork, and it’s just a character device. It’s not about nudity being displayed in “Sherlock.” She’s a dominatrix. Nudity is nothing to her, and I’m sure Ben will talk further, but it was no mean feat for me to shoot it being naked for eight hours in just a pair of Louboutin shoes was a challenge and one I’ve never met before, but please, Ben, go ahead…”

(Laughter.)

Benedict Cumberbatch was quick to praise Pulver:  “You were amazing. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to do what you did, and I think Laura’s absolutely right. There’s nothing that’s supposed to be at all sensational about it. It’s supposed to have an effect on Sherlock. It’s not supposed to be a source of stimulation for the audience. It’s supposed to throw his radar off, which is exactly what it does. It’s used as a device of character to create a situation of control, and it’s very much at the heart of their relationship, the power play between the sexes and Holmes and Miss Adler, but an overall answer to the question, it’s great publicity, isn’t it?”

(Laughter)

“I mean, if anyone wants to create a storm in a teacup over it and sell papers the size of telephone directories with sort of hot air arguments of any description, they’ve really been scraping the barrel this year, so it’s been a lot of fun to watch it come out and sort of laugh them off. I mean, the love for this goes quite far and wide, and it meets sort of all status of society. Yeah. Good luck to them for their views, and that’s fine. I think there’s an awful lot of support for the way that we did it and the taste that we did it with, and if it creates more interest than the program, thank you very much for that.”

In the episode Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) is a dominatrix, which kind of plays into the fact that the relationship between Adler and Holmes in the books and in earlier incarnations of Sherlock Holmes saw Adler as kind of psychologically torturing Holmes. When asked about this aspect of Adler as Holmes torturer Cumberbatch agreed that this is part of Holmes fascination with her.

Benedict Cumberbatch says, “There’s a thing of her that’s utterly mysterious to him, and he has to break through why he can’t read her to begin with. The fact that she is a very difficult objective to overcome is what attracts him to her. She’s a puzzle, as most of us are to each other in relationships. It’s an ongoing thing, and I think it’s sort of extrapolated at extreme because of the way they are and who they are and how they live their lives. But why it’s in a way, in a way phrase this very carefully an old fashioned love story, and “love” is the thing I’m being careful with, or maybe it’s an old fashioned story about love and all that means is because very little of what is it’s very understated. It’s old fashioned on that sense, as well, which is beautiful. It’s very much supposition. And if there is attraction, it’s through these massive masks that are constantly shifting in order to try and engineer control over one another, and that dance is a very, very entertaining one, and in Steven’s hands is very witty. And it’s interesting to see him. It’s interesting to see him slightly touched and moved on and possibly humanized by this experience a little bit, and it’s that sort of does correspond with how he behaves with all the characters in his life in that episode. It has a knock on the facts, as you’ll see.”

The season two finale will see the final confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Moriarty. So when asked if we’ll see a third season of Sherlock Cumberbatch initially answered “No,” but teased fans with the following statement, which also alludes to him recently getting cast as the villain in J.J. Abrams latest Star Trek film.

Benedict Cumberbatch says, “As far as the last question goes, you might see it’s quite hard for me to make it back by the end of the last episode. There’s another lawyer standing behind J.J’s saying, “Don’t answer that.” So I’m only going to tease you with ‘I would like to.’ “

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