Steven Moffat: “Benedict Cumberbatch knows he’s a star”

Like Matt Smith before him, Sherlock actor is loving the adulation, says BBC1 series writer

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This year’s second series of Sherlock is benefiting from a lead actor who is feeding off rave reviews and high ratings, according to showrunner Steven Moffat.

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Moffat says Benedict Cumberbatch has put a “new spring in the step of the show” because “as brilliant as he was [in series one], suddenly he knows he’s a star”.

Said Moffat: “Same thing happened with Matt Smith – you saw it in last year’s [Doctor Who] Christmas special. It was the first time Matt had played the Doctor knowing that he was a hit. You’re seeing Benedict flourish into it, and just being such a star. He’s made [Sherlock] a romantic lead.”

In an interview with Digital Spy, Moffat confessed that he and co-creator Mark Gatiss had suffered some nerves when they faced the task of following series one of Sherlock – a smash hit for BBC1 in 2010.

“Mark was the first person to put pen to paper this year,” Moffat recalled, “and he was struggling to find the modern Sherlock’s voice again. By the time I turned up to do mine, I’d been pre-warned, ‘You’ll find it harder than you think to get that feeling back.’”

Moffat said some changes had been made to the character on the page. “I think Sherlock’s shifted slightly this year – slightly more Victorian. We were always very cautious in the first series that he never sounded like he’s giving a lecture, but Benedict’s got that beautiful voice and you sort of want him to give a lecture! So we’ve shoved him a little bit that way.”

The Sherlock supremo also commented on the resolution to series one’s cliffhanger ending – which saw Holmes train a gun on arch-villain Moriarty, but with his enemy’s goons doing the same to him in an apparent stalemate, a situation defused when Moriarty’s mobile rang and he was called away.

“I always felt that coming up with the resolution was actually relatively easy,” Moffat said. “In my mind, I thought, ‘Maybe we don’t even resolve it that week, maybe we just cut to them having an adventure and we go back to it.’ But it became such a big deal that we had to do the most unexpected thing. The three of us – Mark and I and [co-writer] Steve Thompson – were out one night and just thought, ‘What if the phone rings?’ It’s ridiculous, it’ll be funny.”

Moffat observed that Moriarty – who features heavily in this weekend’s series finale, The Reichenbach Fall – was one of the trickier characters to get right in the BBC’s update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Stories. “With Sherlock and John, we’ve actually stayed quite close to the original, but just modernised them,” Moffat said.

“The scenes with Moriarty in the original are brilliant, but every single super-villain in comics or novels or movies ever since has been an imitation of him. If we did Moriarty that way now, he would look like a hoary old take-off of a super-villain. That’s not going to work. So we just thought, what would really scare Sherlock Holmes?

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“Andrew Scott became a star – which he absolutely deserves to be – on the basis of being in the last three or four minutes of Sherlock. His screen-time was tiny but it’s a measure of that man’s extraordinary talent that he’s become such a big deal so quickly. He’s a genius.”