OK, I’m a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch and really enjoy Sherlock. I’ve loved Martin Freeman ever since he popped up as an awkward porn star in Love Actually. But being dropped into #Setlock was something else.
Didn’t know North Gower Street in north-west London doubled as Sherlock’s Baker Street? Not to worry. Just follow the screams.
Barriers literally bulged under the weight of fans as they craned to get a better view of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who were filming the final episode of series three as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson.
As I scrabbled to talk to fans, every sudden scream sent my heart into my mouth, convincing me I’d missed some hugely important moment. “What just happened?” I’d yell at the nearest person. “Benedict walked across the road,” they’d say. He’d already done this thirty times. But yes, every time counts.
“It doesn’t finish until 10pm, that’s only another six hours,” one fan told me, settling in for the long haul.
I quickly learned not to bother asking what they’d do if they ever got to meet Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman. “Er, I’ve met him like three times,” was the third disdainful response I got. I expected this to be followed by something like, “Well, when I say met, I kind of stood near him,” but no. These were full blown, uberfan meetings. From ‘that time I followed him to his trailer’, to ‘he wouldn’t let me stroke his hair but I stroked his hand’, these are proper Cumbers/Freeman fan-to-celeb experiences.
As the crowd began aww-ing in unison when Freeman’s real-life partner Amanda Abbington arrived and hugged Freeman, Cumberbatch and some of the production staff, I – as a #Setlock newbie – felt I was merely watching from the sidelines.
At one point, Amanda danced across the road to talk to the crowd like she was greeting a loved one at the airport. A fan next to me waved at co-creator Mark Gatiss and he winked back.
You might think this sort of hysterical activity, a mere couple of metres from the action, bothers the actors. But the fans camped out for #Setlock are total pros and certainly know when to be quiet for the camera (I got told to sshh several times by irritated fans).
Indeed, Cumberbatch spent most of his breaks over with the fans, too. He started a huge round of “happy birthday” for some lucky soul near the front, and Freeman high-fived a young girl who looked as if all of her Christmases had come at once.
Cumbers was also making the most of the cameras to spread his political messages. After initially trying to do it from across the road, he reacted to impassioned yells of “We can’t read it Benedict’, from those eager to drink in everything he may possibly have had to say, by heading back towards the barriers.
All of this was in between filming scenes in which Sherlock hailed a black cab and left Watson standing alone outside the now iconic Speedy’s Cafe.
Rumours quickly spread that filming would be starting up again at 4am in the morning. I laughed and said “Don’t tell my editor, he’ll send me back!” Their shocked faces said it all: why the hell wouldn’t you be here?