Thanks to the team at MX Publishing, we’re excited to bring you this exclusive interview with Sherlock producer Sue Vertue on the genesis of the BBC series. The interview was carried out as part of this month’s Sherlock Holmes week and in support of the Save Undershaw campaign, for which Mark Gatiss is also a Trust patron.
What do you like most about working on Sherlock?
There are so many different aspects of making Sherlock which are special to me that it’s tricky to pin it down, however, the one sentiment that runs all the way through and which I love is the PASSION. I have never seen so many people – writers, artistes, crew, fans – be so involved or so proud, in any other show that I’ve worked on and I love that.
Can you tell us one thing about Sherlock that you’ve never told anyone?
Until we started discussing the possibility of making Sherlock, I had never read anything by Conan Doyle! I had obviously seen various movies but never read any of the books. Steven plopped me down in a chair with A Study in Scarlet and said – go read that, I know you’ll love it. Which I did. That said, even to this day, I haven’t read that many of the stories. This is really for a calculated reason. We felt that there needed to be one person on the production that didn’t know every single bit about Sherlock Holmes so that when the boys put a reference into the script, it stays there because it’s good and it fits, not because it will please the fans.
There have been a couple of occasions where, in earlier drafts, I’ve said “I don’t get that” and they have had to admit that it was just a little ACD reference they were trying to slip in!
What did you discuss at your first Sherlock meeting with Steven and Mark?
The first meeting we had was rather glamorously in Monte Carlo as we were there for an awards ceremony. It was a beautiful sunny day and I took them to lunch outside. I said “tell me everything about Sherlock Holmes” Stupid thing to say!!! A few hours later I knew quite a lot (all of which you know and I didn’t). That John got married, that Sherlock had a brother, that we don’t know that much about their back story (but Mark and Steven can discuss for hours the kind of childhood they think Mycroft and Sherlock had!), that Conan Doyle sometimes forgot people’s names, placements of wounds and once wrongly named John as James. That most of the stories were short and, quite importantly, that Conan Doyle had once replied to William Gillette who had written for permission to marry Sherlock off in a stage play, “You may marry him or murder him or do whatever you like with him”. In a way, this is important for us because, although Mark and Steven are such die-hard ACD fans they wouldn’t stray beyond the boundaries of what they believe is acceptable but also, it allows for the cherry picking of Doyle’s stories which I think the boys do to great effect.
You can do your part to support Save Undershaw by visiting and liking their Facebook page and encouraging other Sherlock fans to do the same. Without Undershaw, Conan Doyle wouldn’t have brought Sherlock Holmes back to life and we’d have no BBC Sherlock - a sobering thought.
MX Publishing and Sherlockology also co-operated to publish a book of fan written short stories in support of the Save Undershaw Trust. Sherlock’s Home: The Empty House is currently available from online stores and on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. You can find more information on the book and purchase from Amazon UK here.
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