Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly the most famous detective in literary history, and his enduring appeal as a mystery solver is seen in the countless interpretations of his character over the years in film and television. Created by Sir Alfred Conan Doyle in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has always been known for his eccentricity, his super sleuth skills, and of course his deerstalker hat.
We’ve seen many variations of Sherlock Holmes come to life, from John Barrymore’s portrayal in 1922 to Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of the detective in the more recent Guy Ritchie films. However, no actor seems to have so perfectly captured audiences’ imagination of Sherlock Holmes as Benedict Cumberbatch, who became the star of the BBC series Sherlock back in 2010.
With his manic idiosyncrasies and complete disregard for social norms, Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock has, for many, become the definitive version of Sir Alfred Conan Doyle’s beloved creation. With a stellar supporting cast including Martin Freeman as the loyal sidekick Dr. Watson, Sherlock has become a worldwide hit that has kept the magic and mystery of the original stories alive and kicking.
Although you might think you’re on par with Sherlock when it comes to sussing out problems, we bet even the most astute mystery chaser will be surprised by the secrets we’ve uncovered about the making of Sherlock. From hair disasters, to hidden easter eggs, to frenemy tensions, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of this high-drama, high-stakes TV show.
With that in mind, here are 20 BTS Details About The Making Of The Sherlock TV Show.
20 Benedict Cumberbatch's nose was a problem
It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Benedict Cumberbatch playing the gifted yet socially dysfunctional detective genius that Sherlock Holmes is in this enthralling TV series. And yet, we we very close to seeing a completely different take on the role as Cumberbatch didn’t exactly fit the picture of the character the show’s makers had in mind.
According to Metro newspaper, our favorite silly-named Brit almost lost out on the role because he wasn’t considered good-looking enough. Sherlock’s writer and co-creator Mark Gatiss also admitted that Cumberbatch had “the wrong nose” to play the detective. Well, we’re glad the show’s creators stuck their nose out of the matter and let Cumberbatch be the best Sherlock we’ve seen.
19 Benedict’s mom wasn’t sure he was right for the job
It’s every child’s hope that their parents will be proud of what they do, especially when it comes to landing a new job. It’s only natural then that Benedict Cumberbatch would have been ecstatic upon hearing the news he’d landed one of the most coveted gigs in town, and he no doubt was keen to share the big news with his parents.
Well, according to The Evening Standard, it seems that Mother Cumberbatch, Wanda Ventham, had some reservations about her son taking on this important role. Showrunner Steven Moffat said: “Benedict's mum didn't think he was good-looking enough to play Sherlock. Nobody did.” Clearly the theory that every mother thinks their child is beautiful is incorrect and we reckon if Ben’s mom saw some of the internet fan-fiction involving her son, she’d see there were quite a few people who think he’s as handsome as they come.
18 There’s no real love between Sherlock and Watson
It’s always disheartening to hear stories of co-working stars not getting along, especially when it comes to famous duos. Well, it seems like the close bond between Sherlock and Watson isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in real life.
According to The Daily Mail, the relationship between Cumberbatch and Freeman is “professional and polite”, but the two never apparently socialize outside of work. We’ve seen there be some tension and strain between Watson and Sherlock in the series, and it would seem this might come easily to them as they aren’t the best of buds behind the scenes. This icy relationship could also be a factor in why a fifth season of the show remains uncertain, as both actors are very busy and neither of them is particularly keen to come back to their Sherlock roles.
17 Dr. Who? Dr. Watson
Martin Freeman is a perfect fit for the role of Dr. Watson, but the part he plays so well was almost given to another top British actor. Matt Smith, best known for playing Dr. Who was the first actor given the opportunity to be considered for the Sherlock sidekick role, but according to RadioTimes, showrunner Steven Moffat thought Smith was a little too “barmy” for the part. Moffat said: “he didn’t have a chance [...] of getting it ‘cos he was clearly more of a Sherlock Holmes than a Dr Watson.”
Sadly for Matt Smith, both the parts of Watson and Sherlock went to two other deserving actors, but Smith clearly didn’t let this rejection get him down as he was swiftly cast as another kind of Doctor, the time-travelling sort, that is.
16 Cumberbatch did many of his own stunts
Looking at Benedict Cumberbatch, you might not immediately assume that he is a man up for doing his own stunt-work. Watching the show though, there is actually a lot of physicality involved in the role of Sherlock and it seems that Benedict was down to get involved in the action.
The Express reveals that when it came to the infamous rooftop jump Sherlock makes in “The Reichenbach Fall” at the end of Season 2, Cumberbatch was the one taking the tumble. “I think I’m allowed to say that I did my own stunt. I jumped off St Bart’s, which was great fun,” said Cumberbatch. According to Hypable, Cumberbatch also stated: “Doing the fall was really exciting. That’s me up on the roof.” It seems like Sherlock could very well give James Bond a run for his money then.
15 Martin Freeman had a stressful audition
We all know how tough job interviews can be, so imagine how much pressure there is going into an audition for what could potentially be the role of a lifetime. Although Martin Freeman was already a well-known, seasoned actor, his Sherlock audition had all the bad luck and stress of a first-timer’s.
According to The Guardian, Martin Freeman had his wallet stolen right before going into the audition and, as such, was in a foul mood. Because he wasn’t in “the best frame of mind,” Freeman apparently gave the producers the impression that he wasn’t really into the role and didn’t want to be in the show. Of course, this was untrue, but because of the unfortunate wallet incident, Freeman almost lost out on the part.
14 Moustache Mayhem
There’s certainly plenty of drama that takes place within each episode of Sherlock, but according to Claire Pritchard-Jones, the show’s makeup artist, there was a lot of drama going on behind the scenes too, particularly when it came to choosing Watson’s facial hair.
13 There’s a nod to Bond in the decor
In the episode called “The Empty Hearse”, we get to see the inside of Mycroft’s office. According to Den of Geek and the Sherlock special editions DVD, the office was designed by Arwel Jones who deliberately took inspiration from the world of James Bond for it. In fact, Sherlock’s Home reveals that the decor inside Mycroft’s office is directly based off of M’s office in the early Bond films, seen through the globe on the table and the portrait of the Queen.
It’s not hard to believe that Mycroft’s working space would have some similarities with that of the most famous of all British spies, especially since Sherlock’s Home also reveals that Sherlock co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are both big James Bond fans.
12 An abandoned “ghost” station was used
London is full of hidden gems and secret locations that only those in the know have heard about, so it’s only fitting that some of this city’s secrets come to the fore in the a series all about mystery and intrigue.
Everyone knows that London has an incredible network of underground rail stations that is used for public transport, which locals call “the tube,” but what you may not know is that within the tangle of subway routes are a few “ghost stations” that are no longer in use. The Daily Mail reveals that Sherlock used the now closed Aldwych station in its filming, in particular for the episode called “The Empty Hearse”, according to Sherlockology.
11 Benedict Cumberbatch’s real parents have a cameo
It’s always interesting to see what famous people’s parents look like but it’s rare to ever see a star with their mom and dad outside of the occasional red carpet appearance. Well, Benedict Cumberbatch certainly didn’t want to miss out on the chance to show off his loving parental unit, as seen by the fact that they’re both featured in an episode of Sherlock.
Appearing as the super sleuth’s parents in the opening episode of Season 3, Cumberbatch’s parents, Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch and Wanda Ventham, were “brilliant and fantastic” according Benedict in The Independent. His parents are both professional actors, so there’s sure to have been some pressure on Benedict Cumberbatch to make his parents proud.
10 Sherlock almost accidentally had green hair
No, there wasn’t some kind of crazy, futuristic re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes that had been suggested, but there definitely was a cosmetic problem involving some unfortunate hair-dye. Before embarking on his role as the super sleuth, Benedict Cumberbatch had been involved in a film where he played the infamous sunflower-loving artist Vincent Van Gogh.
In a behind the scenes look at the TV series in the Mirror, it was revealed that when the make-up department tried to dye Cumberbatch’s post-Gogh light hair dark brown for his role as Sherlock, his hair unexpectedly turned green. Claire Pritchard-Jones, the show’s makeup specialist, revealed that there was a mad dash to the hair salon the day before the pilot was to begin filming.
9 The Appledore house is real
Who can forget the incredible Appledore mansion featured in the climax of the third series, where it served as the home of Sherlock’s nemesis Charles Augustus Magnussen, played by Lars Mikkelsen.
This amazing house looked like the perfect evil lair built specially for the program, but in actual fact, it’s a real-life house owned by one of Britain’s leading engineers, Sir David McMurtry. According to The Daily Mail, McMurtry spent £30 million on this luxury home, which has eight bedrooms, a two-lane bowling alley, an enclosed winter garden, and a spectacular panorama room.
Although this sounds like the dream property, the McMurtry family doesn’t actually live there full time as wife Terry believes it’s a bit too “flashy.”
8 Una Stubbs has a cheeky nickname for Rupert Graves
Everyone instantly fell in love with Una Stubbs as Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock, the lovely landlady of 221b Baker Street. Watching interviews with the actress, it’s easy to see how likeable Una Stubbs is, which must be why it’s so easy to be endeared by her Sherlock character.
Aside from being lovely and kind, it appears Una Stubbs is also quite cheeky. According to the Sherlock special features DVD, as reported by Den of Geek, Stubbs apparently had quite the complimentary nickname for her co-star Rupert Graves who plays D.I. Greg Lestrade in the series, as she called him “Mr. Gorgeous.” Clearly Una Stubbs wasn’t hiding her feelings when she came up with this little name for Graves, but, to be honest, we don’t blame her for going for it.
7 Lars Mikkelsen had some accent problems
Lars Mikkelsen brilliantly portrayed the cold, shark-like villain Charles Augustus Magnussen in the series and, as you might have guessed from his name, Mikkelsen is the brother of Mads Mikkelsen, both of whom are Danish.
For some reason, Scandi stars make pretty great villains in TV shows, so it would seem that Lars would be an instant, perfect fit without having to try very hard. However, according to The Mirror, Mikkelsen actually had some trouble with his accent when it came to playing the role. The actor had just finished filming a movie in London and had managed to pick up a Cockney accent. So, when it came time to play Magnussen, Mikkelsen started speaking like a Londoner. This of course would not do and the producers of the show had to demand he speak like a Scandinavian.
6 Remembering Sherlock lines is tough
It’s easy to forget when being engrossed in such an accomplished show as Sherlock, that all the incredible dialogue going on between the actors will have had to be learnt by heart. Of course, in many TV shows and movies there’s often room for improvisation, but when it comes to dramatic shows like this one, there’s certainly a lot of lines to remember.
Speaking to People, Cumberbatch admitted that it takes a lot of work to remember those “rapid-fire lines” that Sherlock is famous for. “I memorize them very painstakingly and slowly. And I try to exercise [...], so I’ve got this good, healthy oxygenated blood and can think fast”, the actor revealed. “You have to be really disciplined.”
5 There’s a Chinese Menu Easter Egg
Every episode of Sherlock contains elements and references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Alfred Conan Doyle, but some of these are less obvious than others. While plot devices and villains are often very much like the original ones written by Doyle, there are a few hidden nods to the books that have probably gone unnoticed by most.
One of these is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in the first episode of the fourth season called “The Six Thatchers.” We see Mycroft reaching for a Chinese take-out menu stuck to his refrigerator, with the name Reigate Square on it. This sounds a lot like Reigate Squire, which is the name of a short story featured in the 1893 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes book written by Doyle, according to RadioTimes.
4 It’s never a good idea to work with animals or children
Apparently, Abbington got a little too well acquainted with one of the babies who appeared on the series, as the child got sick all over her. “I was bouncing her too much, and then it happened. I had to go, ‘Thank you very much’, and hand her back!”, Abbington says.
The actress also revealed that there were some dog-elated issues during filming, particularly when it came to getting the bloodhound seen in the show to do anything it was supposed to : “He looked great but if you asked him to do anything, he was like ‘Nope’ and just sat there."
3 The show sparked a convention
When the BBC created Sherlock, it’s unlikely that any of the show’s makers could have predicted just how big the series would become. Watched and loved the world over, Sherlock swiftly grew an enormous fan base, and before long a convention celebrating the super sleuth was being planned.
Called Sherlocked, this three-day convention was held in London as well as the United States, and was the first official Sherlock event of its kind. It started in 2014 and has been held annually ever since. With special guest appearances and a whole host of other activities and events going on over the course of the three days, this convention has become the beating heart of the Sherlock fan-community.
2 Speedy’s Sandwich Bar has become a hit
Sherlock has garnered countless fans who long to walk in Cumberbatch’s steps, so it should be no surprise then that many of the landmarks featured in the series have become pilgrimage sites for enthusiasts of the show.
One of the most popular fan-spots is Speedy’s Sandwich Bar, the cafe located below the filming location of Sherlock’s apartment. The sandwich shop has become a booming tourist destination according to The Daily Mail and although the address is meant to be right by 221b Baker Street, the actual apartment where filming was done and where Speedy’s is found is on North Gower Street in London.
The sandwich shop is so popular with Sherlock fans, that they even created a sleuth-themed treat called a “Sherlock Sandwich” that contains chicken, bacon, cheese, onion, peppers, lettuce and cucumber.
1 The Jam gets a Sherlock shout-out
We’ve already seen how Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents managed to slip themselves into an episode of Sherlock, but while this was a fairly obvious cameo appearance, you might have missed a more sneaky one that was hiding in plain sight.
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!