Holmes borrows a girlfriend from ‘Game of Thrones’
Natalie Dormer first saw “Elementary” on a plane, during one of the many transatlantic flights she took from London to promote the third — and most successful season —of “Game of Thrones” in the United States. On the HBO series, Dormer plays the conniving Margaery. In a brilliant stroke of casting, she has come on the hit CBS detective show to play Sherlock Holmes’ only love, Irene Adler.
When asked if she wanted to play the part, Dormer says, “Oh my God, where do I sign? Everyone knows the Arthur Conan Doyle novels and the different incarnations of Sherlock. Be it Robert Downey Jr. Or be it Benedict Cumberbatch. Or Jonny. Everyone knows Irene Adler is the woman.”
A vivacious, dynamic presence in person, Dormer, who was first introduced to Americans in her tragic turn as Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s “The Tudors,” has long flowing curls and a crisp, ringing tone to her voice. She clears up a big misconception right away: despite the clamor for “Game of Thrones,” it wasn’t that series that won her this role.
“I’m on this show because [creator] Rob Doherty is a massive fan of ‘The Fades,”” she says. The show was a Best Drama series winner at the BAFTA awards in 2012. “It was a supernatural drama series,” she says. “And I played a girl on a team fighting the apocalypse. Pretty kick-ass. It was out of long skirts. It was nice of Rob to be such a fan of something where I wasn’t wearing a long skirt.”
Her time in New York shooting the show at Silvercup East Studios has been wonderful, if only because of the warm welcome she received from series star and fellow Brit, Jonny Lee Miller, who added borrowed a few details from the Sherlock archives to enrich the experience of playing this four-episode arc, which culminates Thursday night in a two-hour season finale.
“When Sherlock meets Irene, she gives him a sovereign pin for being witness to her wedding,” says Miller, who is compact and trim. He wears one on his jacket. “Little things like that, if you can do them, they flesh out the story.”
“It’s lovely when you can give a nod, and this show is very good about doing that, about giving a nod to the novels,” Dormer says. “If you’re an audience member and people don’t know, it doesn’t matter. You’re not lacking anything in your experience of the show.”
Seen in flashback, the Adler character is meant to show us how Holmes fell into a life of drug addiction — and how he once did experience romantic love, even if Doyle never wrote him that way.
“When the subject of Irene comes up, you see a whole side to his personality that you haven’t seen yet,” Dormer says.
“The original Sherlock Holmes seems to have an aversion to women. He can be a sexual being but he’s not a romantic guy,” Doherty says. “It took me a second to get used to seeing a Sherlock who’s genuinely invested in somebody. We’ve seen how long it’s taken him to warm up to Joan [Watson, played by Lucy Liu], who will never be a romantic partner. To see him in a room with a woman he loves, to see him acting like a more normal person it takes some getting used to. Jonny and Natalie have wonderful romantic chemistry.”
When she made her debut in 1891, in a story called “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Irene Adler was an opera singer, born in New Jersey. Doherty has taken some liberties here and made her an art restorer.
“I love the idea that Irene would be more left-brained than Sherlock,” he says. “Sherlock is so right-brained. It was interesting to find him drawn to a creative personality. The singing, I could never wrap my head around it. I loved the idea of finding her in front of the canvas. I don’t think it would be much fun to watch Sherlock date another detective.”
Like “Game of Thrones,” whose popularity grows week-by-week, “Elementary” has had a season — its first — averaging 16 million viewers — the highest-rated new series of the season — and has been put on the fast track to syndication, having filmed 24 episodes, even with an interruption in production because of Hurricane Sandy. For Miller, who seems to memorize more dialogue than any other actor on television, this is no small feat. But he is all about the gratitude.
“It’s everything that we had hoped for. This is difficult business. To have a positive reaction at all is wonderful,” he says. “The first thing is you want to get the rest of your season filled. And that’s fantastic. And then we got a Super Bowl episode. And you start getting feedback from people on the street. We love doing this show and we love working together. And to be given the opportunity to do it some more is fantastic.”
Miller and Lucy Liu go back to work in July, a short turnaround; so does Dormer, who goes back to Belfast to film Season 4. She has a three-year contract with “Thrones,” but says the show will “wangle” schedules to accommodate the cast if they want to get out to do other projects. For instance, she’s just filmed a Ridley Scott picture, “The Counselor,” with Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz.
Having that flexibility in her schedule is good news for Doherty. Now that he knows what Sherlock can do when he’s in love, he wants Natalie to come back to “Elementary.”
“It’s too soon to tell, but I would definitely like to see her again next year,” he says.
The finale's extended promo and some images were posted here, in case you missed it. More photos under the cut.
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