Rupert Graves Online.
2014 - I Wish They'd Let Me Play Holmes!.
Author: Rupert Graves.
Rupert Graves tells his story of life behind the scenes of Sherlock.
The hardest thing about being one of the actors in Sherlock is that people expect me to know all the answers.
For two long years after Holmes’ apparent jump to his death, wherever I went people would ask me ‘How will they do it? How will they bring him back?’
When I told them I didn’t know, it was the truth. And as much as I asked, nudged, and twisted arms to find out, no one would tell me anything until the scripts were finished. There’s a culture of secrecy around them which is absolutely right, even it if it is infuriating.
The scripts for the third series arrived at my North London home last spring, and if you’d been the kind of Sherlock-obsessive who listens at doors, you would have heard a mixture of ‘Wow’, ‘Oh my God!’ and ‘I can’t believe you did that!’.
The scripts arrived just a couple of days before our first read-through at a rundown church in Soho. It was the first time the cast had been in the same room together for two years, and we all got a bit giggly because we were so excited. It’s a lovely team — and the success of the show binds us together.
It’s rare to be in anything that has an impact as big as Sherlock, and we are all enjoying it.
Afterwards, the show’s creator and writer Steven Moffat reminded us not to breathe a word. The scripts are carefully crafted and you don’t want to ruin the surprise — however much people ask. And, boy, do they keep asking.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s life changed the moment the first episode of Sherlock aired. His profile has become extraordinary. I think he found it overwhelming at first. He gets a huge amount of attention wherever he goes, and I don’t think he can even get on the Tube.
Because my role is so much smaller, I don’t have to deal with anything like that, though people often think they know me and sometimes mistake me for someone they met at their daughter’s wedding.
From the moment I read the very first Sherlock script, I knew I wanted to be involved. It was an astonishing, adrenalin-filled action story, without actually much action in it. The adrenalin is all verbal: it comes from Sherlock’s mouth. His reasoning and intelligence is almost like that of a superpower. I like being the character who anchors him into the real police world.
I’m the hapless Inspector Lestrade, whose relationship with Sherlock is interesting. He both loves him and he resents him. It’s not really anything do to with class. He knows he needs Sherlock’s brilliance, and he is angry at himself for not being brilliant.
He is quite out of his depth with Sherlock — and he knows it. He looks flummoxed a lot.
I’ve never played a copper before, and not playing the upper-class boy for once is nice. Because my name is Rupert and I starred in some glossy Merchant Ivory films, people have always assumed I’m posh and put me up for those parts. It’s never something I’ve been comfortable with. For a long time I wanted to change my name to Michael.
I love working with Benedict and am full of admiration for him. He’ll have to learn three pages of speeches which are like verbal car chases — and I’ll just have to interject with the odd word, like ‘Exeter’.
He has to work hugely long hours, but even when he’s doing night scenes after working all day, he’ll still be spinning around the room. It’s incredible. It’s like watching fireworks go off.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a part of me that would have loved to have been Sherlock. After I’ve been on the show, I spend about a week pretending to be him. Did that woman have those shoes on before? If she changed them, why? What caused that scratch on that man’s face?
But there are very few actors who could have played this version of Sherlock, and Benedict is the best of them. He has this very fast front-footed energy, which is perfect for this part. He always runs full pelt into a speech, and each take is always different. It does mean he occasionally stumbles, but what he does is brave; alive.
Filming the wedding scenes in this last series were particularly fun. We spent two weeks at The Orangery in Clifton, Bristol. It was a great chance to catch up as we don’t often get to appear in scenes together. We watched, chewing three-day old cheese, as Benedict and Martin recorded scene after scene. There are worse ways to earn a living; it felt like a little holiday.
There was some socialising — but I think people would be surprised at how tame our nights out are. When I started out, actors would get drunk all the time, but people work a lot harder now.
Sherlock has always been very much a family affair. It’s produced by creator Steven Moffat’s partner Sue Vertue, and her mother Beryl, a BBC stalwart, is the executive producer.
For me, that’s what makes it so good. Together, they have the power and the ability and the means to achieve their vision.
Being with Steven and fellow creator Mark Gatiss is sometimes like stumbling into a Sherlock geek convention, because they know everything there is to know about him. You can see how they love the fact they’ve made Sherlock into the extraordinary character he was when he was invented all those years ago.
The detective genre has moved on since Conan Doyle wrote the books, but now he has been reinvented he is a well-loved and astonishing figure all over again.
The family theme has continued this series. Sherlock’s parents were played by Benedict’s real parents, who are both actors. They were both very nice, very normal people, who seemed really excited to be on the set.
Dr Watson’s wife Mary was played by Martin’s partner Amanda Abbington, while Steven and Sue’s son Louis was cast as the young Sherlock.
Do I know what will happen next? Of course not. I’m still as confused as anyone about exactly how Sherlock came back. I think it was a bit smoke and mirrors, but that was deliberate. It’s always dull hearing how a magic trick was done.
Everyone is keen to make another series soon, and I’ve already driven my agent mad to find out when it will be. We are all waiting to find out what will happen next. Is Moriarty really back? Did he actually die? Will there be a Christmas special?
I wouldn’t tell you even if I knew. But I genuinely won’t know until that script lands on my doormat.