There’s no doubt that Sherlock has returned with a bang, from episode one’s brutal ending to the arrival of the mysterious Euros, but the twists and turns of this fourth series have been as shocking to Martin Freeman as they have for us viewers.
“There are a few moments in this series that I couldn’t believe,” he tells the new issue of Radio Times. “It was making me go cold reading it. I was in a café having my tea – and I was like, holy s***, we get to do this? It was chilling.”
“I thought, if we don’t mess it up these are going to be the best [episodes] yet. I honestly do think these scripts are phenomenally good.”
Watson stars in the BBC1 drama as John Watson alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous Sherlock. The roles have helped turn the two men into global superstars and, according to Freeman, unlikely sex symbols – a perk he first began to enjoy while playing Tim Canterbury in Ricky Gervais’s sitcom The Office.
“I think a lot of people fancied that character [Tim Canterbury] because they kind of wanted to look after him.”
We could not say the same of Watson, on the other hand, who served as an army doctor in Afghanistan and always holds his own during a scrap. The attraction there is something altogether more instinctual, says Freeman.
“Even though he’s not butch, and I’m not very butch, both of his professions – soldier, doctor – are quite butch, or they’re quite manly. A man who can save people’s lives and shoot a taxi-driver through a window is pretty impressive, you know.
“And even the most third-wave feminist still wants a bit of that. Believe me, I’ve heard them. As much as I don’t think they should, they do.”
Freeman was off the market until recently with news breaking earlier this month that he and Amanda Abbington, his partner of 16 years, ended their relationship just before filming began on the most recent series last April.
Abbington – with whom Freeman has two children – plays his on-screen wife Mary Watson in the drama, but he insists their separation is entirely amicable.
“We split up a while ago. I mean, we’re very friendly and it’s all lovely and cool. Yes, we’ve not been together for a while. I mean, we did the series not together,” he says.
“You know enough about me to know that I won’t talk about it, but I’m all right, yes. I mean, we’re honest to God doing it [separating] in about as civilised a manner as I’ve ever heard of, you know.”
“I love Amanda’s work. I think she’s brilliant as an actor and she’s brilliant as a woman and, yes, I love her. I will always love Amanda, but yes, we’re…you know, that’s what’s happened.”
Read the full interview with Martin Freeman in the new edition of Radio Times, available in shops and on the newsstand from Tuesday 10th January