There's no shortage of Sherlock Holmes interpretations in the current pop culture zeitgeist.
There's the big-screen Sherlock Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., for two movies now and counting. There's the BBC version, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, which just debuted its critically acclaimed second season on PBS in May. And now there's a third man entering the race: Jonny Lee Miller, who will play the famed quirky detective on CBS' upcoming drama Elementary. It may be an increasingly crowded field, but Miller & Co. sounded up for the challenge during the show's Comic-Con panel on Thursday.
"The fact that there have been so many interpretations over the years actually takes the pressure off a little bit," Miller told the crowd. "You can take what you want — what you feel hasn't been seen before ... and discover some new stuff and try to bring it to the audience."
Miller said he paid the most attention to the original source material, the books, but by pure coincidence he wound up having a second source to tap into: Sherlock star Cumberbatch, with whom Miller co-starred in the Royal National Theatre production of Frankstein. Miller acknowledged that the two talked about their similar projects, but declined to divulge exactly what was said. "We wanted to be sure that it was going to be very different, so that was the conversation that we had," Miller said. "He's been very, very supportive actually. We just discussed what a wonderful character it is."
One big way Elementary differs from its previous counterparts? The character of Watson, who for the first time will be played by a female actress, Lucy Liu. "I always think it's wonderful when people do turn things on their heads. I think [executive producer Rob Doherty] was really thinking outside the box," Liu said. "I think the gender change also creates a dynamic and a chemistry different from the films and also the BBC version."
She added: "I'm not saying it's romantic. It just gives it a little bit of a shift, a little bit of a tingle."
Does that tingle mean that Sherlock and Watson will become TV's newest will-they-or-won't-they couple? Doherty said that he hopes to keep the characters' "incredible bond" close to its original form. "It was never designed for that," he said, when asked about possible romantic tension. "It just made me laugh. What would be more trying for Sherlock Holmes than working with a Watson that's a woman?"
However, there are certain ways Elementary will overlap with its many predecessors. One serious possibility is the eventual introduction of famous supporting characters from Holmes' world, including Professor Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother. "We want to keep some secrets to ourselves. But it would be a great shame to do a Sherlock project and not have Moriarty appear at some point in time," Doherty said. "It's something that we will be looking at as we move through this first season." As for Mycroft's debut, he said they "might hold off on him for a little bit."
"Moving forward, we'd like to contribute our own stories and our own material to the canon," he said.
Elementary premieres on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 10/9c on CBS. Will you be tuning in?