Two years ago, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss created a 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes entitled Sherlock, which became a worldwide sensation. This spring Sherlock, Series 2, in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman once again play Holmes and Dr Watson, will premiere here in the States. It’s already played on British television.
A newcomer to the franchise is Laura Pulver, who portrays Irene Adler, the only woman ever to turn Sherlock Holmes’ eye. I caught up with Laura on the terrace at the Langham Hotel, following the panel for the show, which had Benedict Cumberbatch doing his interview via satellite from London, where he was about to attend the premiere for his movie War Horse.
Did you see the first series of Sherlock, and were you shocked by how it was updated?
I saw it here on PBS, as I was shooting True Blood at the time. I remember thinking it was the best thing I’d ever seen on television. I was completely mesmerized by Benedict and Martin and how they managed to bring it into this modern world.
I thought it was phenomenal. So it was such a privilege to be asked to come and join them.
Have you seen the film version, where Rachel Adams portrays Irene?
I haven’t, no. I haven’t seen Rachel Adams’ version at all. I have no opinion there. I’m sure she does a sterling job.
How does it feel to play the smartest woman on television?
Ben set the precedent with Season 1, and coming in as his counterpart for Season 2 was an absolute gift, and I think Benedict and I allowed ourselves to play within the tapestry that Steven had written and develop a physical, emotional, mental and sensual relationship.
Can you comment on the nude scene that caused such an uproar in England?
To be honest, it’s two minutes in a 90-minute episode, but 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, 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.
The whole sexual aspect is actually the least intriguing thing that they find about each other. There’s this beautiful moment in the scene where Sherlock literally holds her hand, and it’s electric.
It’s so sensual because there’s these two people who could stand absolutely stark-naked in front of each other, and it doesn’t resonate. You’ve got all this stuff going on with them, and mind games going on, and he touches her hand, and it’s like they’re making love.
It’s extraordinary and just has so many more dimensions than just the fact of them being sexually aware.
How did you feel about the uproar that occurred?
You know what? It made headlines in one national paper, and the kind of hypocrisy about saying that they were insulted about the nudity before the watershed, but then posting three pictures of me naked in their paper, I was like, ‘Okay, so you’ve had three days of nude pictures of me.’
I’m sure more kids under 13 saw pictures of me nude in their newspaper than what anyone possibly did [on TV], although we did get over 9 million viewers.
Did you meet with a dominatrix to see how they work?
I’m going to be honest, if anyone had got hold of my computer the week before I started shooting, I would have been in prison.
Everything is so accessible online. And in the costume design we were in Soho, going into different kinds of sex shops trying to find corsets and whips. It was intriguing for sure, and I learned a lot. My future lovers will benefit I’m sure!
Can you talk about Benedict as an actor? What makes him so mesmerizing?
Benedict is so humble as a man. He only last Sunday was saying to me, ‘You know, if JJ Abrams offers me this Star Trek project, that would be kind of cool, wouldn’t it?’ I was like, ‘Kind of cool? Hello!’ With Ben, it’s all about the work.
He’s a very charming man in essence, he’s also very intelligent and he has an intensity that’s quite alluring. He and Martin have a wonderful sense of humor, they both are very witty, funny men.
Also when you’re at the top of your game doing a show like Sherlock, you can take your risks, so he has that freedom. I feel like he has a real freedom going on within his life right now.
When we finished the panel today he called me and said, ‘Hey, do you think it was okay?’ He cares. He wasn’t in the room, he couldn’t sense how you guys were [reacting], so he called, ‘Were you happy? Were you okay?’ He’s a sensitive being and he’s a great guy, I can’t speak highly enough of Ben.
Will you be in future episodes of Sherlock?
You know just as much as I do to be perfectly honest. I think it has resonated hugely within the British audience, which is very exciting, and I think there’s plenty more for these two characters, but whether Mark and Steven choose to go down that road is another thing.
You can see the second season of Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on PBS’s Masterpiece, premiering May 6, 2012 at 9pm