Despite the fact that this initial report came from “unnamed sources” and featured more than a few inaccuracies, Sherlock fans everywhere understandably freaked out because, well, it wouldn’t be the first time that a television series has lost out because stardom came calling for its leads. Cumberbatch is busy starring in what appears to be every other movie slated for release next year and Freeman’s professional dance card is about to get a lot more crowded, now that he’s playing Bilbo Baggins in this little trilogy whose first installment broke global records at the box office last weekend.
However, there appears to be little to worry about where the future of Sherlock is concerned – and that’s news straight from the star himself. In a recent interview with Yahoo UK, ostensibly to talk about his role in the upcoming Star Trek sequel, the actor did have one particularly interesting thing to say about Sherlock. Asked whether his current big screen success means that he might “get too big for Sherlock” in the future, Cumberbatch seems adamant that that will never be the case.
"No! Absolutely not," he said. "I don't think that's a possibility because I love it too much. Making [Sherlock] is all about availability. Martin Freeman has the same kind of pressures on him now. It's a thing of quality not quantity that show - thank God. We started young with it. We started when they meet and we still are young for those roles. There's no reason why it can't continue until we get too old."
Whew! (And huzzah!) For an extra comforting thought: in some ways, the show’s extended production schedule – in which the principles film for roughly three months every year and a half or two years – is a good thing, and largely the reason its continuation is possible at all. Sherlock’s shorter series length requires less time to film than many other big name TV projects, meaning that its leads are free to appear in other things without having to give up doing the show entirely in order to do so. This is a rare luxury on series that are carried by one or two principal performers who are basically required to be in almost every scene. For example, Matt Smith spends a majority of his year filming Doctor Who and, as a result, gets to be involved with very little else. This seems to work out just fine, since he clearly loves being the Doctor, but extended series commitments like that can occasionally be a strain on actors who want to do other things or make films. (I imagine when Smith decides he does want to do something else like make films, then that is when we’ll see a regeneration.)
It’s lovely that the Sherlock stars don’t seem to have to make that sort of difficult choice because the production schedule can be more flexible. Yes, we were all thrown into the depths of despair by the news that Series 3 production’s been pushed back to accommodate one of Cumberbatch’s many film roles. (To be fair, word from the producers indicates that Sherlock production shift probably won’t affect transmission dates for the next series, but we should probably be aware of the fact that a late 2013 UK premiere probably does mean early 2014 for Americans. We all hope not, obviously, but it’s best to start preparing ourselves now. Just in case.) However, it’s because Sherlock is set up the way it is that shifts like this are possible – making it all the more likely that we’ll get to see more of the show beyond Series 3, because neither Cumberbatch nor Freeman will have to say no to anything else in order to do it. (If Freeman can make The Hobbit trilogy and still play John Watson, anything is possible!)
So, take heart Sherlock fans. We’ll have to wait a while for Series 3 and we might have to wait a bit longer for future series to come about, but as long as the folks involved want to keep making the show – we can be patient, right?