The Version Interview... Martin Freeman on Sherlock series 4

Sherlock returns to BBC One with three brand-new feature length episodes, promising laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary cases.

The eagerly anticipated fourth series, produced by Hartswood Films, begins with the nation’s favourite detective, the mercurial Sherlock Holmes, back once more on British soil, as Doctor Watson and his wife, Mary, prepare for their biggest ever challenge - becoming parents for the first time.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their iconic roles as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the hit drama written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Watson is back without the moustache, how does that feel?

I thought it was a good look for the Christmas Special because it’s Victorian and its very Watsonesque - it’s a classic look but I’m not a huge fan of false moustaches. It doesn’t make your face feel very free and an actor’s face has to be free to express itself so if you’re afraid of this big walrus on your upper lip falling off then that’s not a great feeling! I’m very glad to be naked of that moustache.

John is looking very suave with his new hairdo, was it your idea?

Yes I just thought people change their hair in real life and with this show it’s always a fine balance between honouring what we have but also moving it on incrementally in tiny ways. John had different hair in the Christmas special and in the second episode of the first series he had kind of shaggy hair, so there have been little shifts. Ben isn’t quite as lucky as he has the iconic silhouette but there’s a little bit more leeway with John.

The Watsons are preparing for parenthood, how do they feel about it?

John and Mary are very excited about it - it’s their new life together. They’re married and now they’re going to start a family which is what people often do. They’re in a good place, they’re a loving married couple and it’s exciting.

Does playing new parents bring back memories of your own parenting experiences?

I think we’re reminded of certain things that you forget as parents, you forget what being in charge of a baby is like. Some of it is in the dim and distant recess of your memory and you remember things you did every day for what seemed like for ever, but it was a long time ago and so your mind moves on. So when you’re on a changing table or you’re doing nappy stuff or feeding stuff, it’s certainly like a bolt back to years ago. So yes that’s been a fun shared memory for us I think.

How does John and Mary’s relationship develop in this series?

The stakes get higher because you get to know them more and every day their relationship grows. But Mary still seems a nice, fresh addition to the show even though it’s been a while now. You have to make that relationship grow without taking away from the central friendship of John and Sherlock. John and Mary are very happy together and they’ve been through stuff in series three that would test any couple, but they’re right through the other side of it and it makes them stronger.

Does John’s domestic life interfere with his and Sherlock’s crime solving life?

John is very happy to have a loving relationship, very happy to be a father and a husband but he would miss the adventures like crazy. There’s a subconscious reason he fell in with a mad bloke who goes around killing a lot, why he’s ended up as his flat mate and not a librarian’s flatmate. I love being at home but I would miss acting if I didn’t do it for more than a month and I do start to get edgy, I think John would be like that without crime fighting.

Do you think John has come to terms with Mary’s hidden past?

The John that we see as an audience, on the face of it, has let go of those revelations and I think he’s made peace with them but who knows. Even I don’t fully know what’s rumbling underneath there because when you find out something about someone you love that is a complete surprise that can take a while to digest. But I think what overshadows all of it is that he really loves her and wants to make it work and he does truly forgive her for not being honest and he knows that she’s got the same disease that he has which is that she needs the thrill as much as he does. She’s never going to be a stay at home Mum - she’s not cut out to be one of those people.

What changes will there be between John and Sherlock?

The fact John is with Mary and ensconced in that life and not living at Baker Street anymore changes something in the relationship between John and Sherlock. It wouldn’t be much of a show if it changed it to the extent there was just that domestic life and all we were doing were feeding babies and changing nappies and then Sherlock is off fighting crime on his own. It still has to be the same show so there has to be a bit of give and take. Obviously when you get married and have a baby that trumps everything else in real life, but for this show John and Sherlock’s friendship has to stay central so it will still be very John and Sherlock-centric. But the reality is that John has moved on as he did in Conan Doyle’s books - he moved out and had his own life slightly away from that.

How would John’s life differ if he hadn’t met Sherlock?

John would have ended up in a bedsit on his own when he came back from Afghanistan - trying to become a Doctor, trying to get his own practice and becoming a GP I suppose. As we know, John likes excitement and the thrill of the adventure. For as much he thinks that war is hell and he’s lived through it. As many service personnel do there’s a feeling that something is missing when they come back to peace time.

They say never work with children or animals, in this series you do both, how did you find that?

I would go along with that - the babies were pretty easy actually. The dog not so much. I love dogs, I love animals and I love children but that adage comes about for a reason. Every time I read any script with loads of kids and animals I think we’ll remember that saying it is there for a reason. When it works it’s joyous but getting it to work can be tricky.

Describe John in 3 words.

Strong, loyal and funny.

 

Sherlock - 8:30pm, New Year's Day on BBC One