Interview with Robert Doherty of "Elementary" on CBS - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Robert Doherty

Interview with Robert Doherty of "Elementary" on CBS 5/10/13

Moderator: Lauren Santiago
05-10-13/3:00 pm CT

CBS Television Elementary Producer conference call. Today's conference is being recorded. At this time I would like to turn the conference over to Ms. Lauren Santiago. Please go ahead ma'am.

Lauren Santiago: Thank you. Hi everyone. Welcome to the Elementary Finale conference call. Thank you for joining. I would like to introduce our Executive Producer and Creator Robert Doherty.
The call will last between 30 and 45 minutes and with that we will start with the first question. And also for everyone, the transcript will be available on Monday at 5:00 pm Pacific Time.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question today, it's star 1 at this time. If you are joining us on a Speakerphone, please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment. Once again, if you do have a question or a comment, it's star 1 now.
Once again, that's star 1 if you have a question or a comment. We'll pause for just a moment.
We'll take you first question from Aubry D'Arminio from TV Guide Magazine. Please go ahead ma'am.

Aubry D'Arminio: Hi. Thank you for doing this. I have a question. How hard was it to cast Moriarty?

Robert Doherty: Wow. It is no mean feat. That is for sure. Of course I can't say much beyond that. But yes, never easy, you know. A vastly important and iconic character and certainly someone we've been building towards all season. So a lot of thought and time went into it.

Aubry D'Arminio: How wide did you cast the net?

Robert Doherty: You know, the truth is I had some very specific thoughts.

Aubry D'Arminio: Okay.

Robert Doherty: And was lucky enough to latch onto a first choice.

Aubry D'Arminio: Oh nice. Now did - is the voice that we heard last night, is that the actor's voice?

Robert Doherty: It is an actor's voice.

Aubry D'Arminio: Okay.

Robert Doherty: I know there was a lot of speculation in the show as to whether it was or was not the real Moriarty so I'd rather - I'd love to sit on that little secret for just one more week.

Aubry D'Arminio: Oh, okay. Cool. Well thank you very much.

Robert Doherty: Even Sherlock and Joan were sort of going back and forth about it.

Aubry D'Arminio: Oh. Thank you.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Operator: We'll move next to Vlada Gelman from Tvline. Please go ahead.

Vlada Gelman: Hi Rob. Thanks for doing this.

Robert Doherty: Hey Vlada. Good to hear your voice.

Vlada Gelman: So a lot of the introduction of Irene has been about her relationship with Sherlock. But I'm wondering, you know, with Joan having a big presence in Sherlock's life, what if any kind of dynamic does she have with Irene?

Robert Doherty: At least for the first season we're only going to get a couple of episodes where Irene and Joan will get to share some significant screen time, I'd say as we move into next week's episode, Irene has been through quite an ordeal. I don't think I'm giving too much away there.

We will learn very, very early on in, within the first five minutes of next week's episode what exactly she's been through, which is a lot. So at least initially in a perfect world Joan at her best would get to meet Irene at her best. But Irene is somebody who needs some help and a little time. So really in the beginning I think what you'll see is a Joan who's trying to help Sherlock help Irene.

Vlada Gelman: (Okay). Thanks.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Operator: We'll move next to Paulette Cohn from Xfinity TV.

Paulette Cohn: Thank you. Good morning Rob.

Robert Doherty: Good morning.

Paulette Cohn: Sherlock always thinks he's right about everything. And he thought Irene was dead so how is he dealing with the fact that he was actually wrong about something?

Robert Doherty: For someone with his ego it's a lot it's quite a blow. And he hates being surprised. He's grown quite accustomed to be the predictability of the average person.
I've always said the first and greatest surprise in Sherlock's life was that he could spiral out of control into a very serious addiction problem. And since then he's never quite been able to look at the world the same way.
Joan has helped him some in this regard. But it speaks to the - I hope it speaks to the cunning of Moriarty that he was able to trick Sherlock to this degree. You know, he loves nothing more than messing with Sherlock's head I would say.

Paulette Cohn: Okay. And a follow up on that. In the press release when Irene was announced it said she was going to be on for three episodes. So I'm curious if last night's 15 seconds counts or is she going to be part of the case that you go to London for in the premier and that would be like the third episode?

Robert Doherty: That is a great question. At least as far as that release goes, last night's episode does count as the first of three. At the moment I'm not sure if she will play into the London episode. That story is still in something of an embryonic state.

Paulette Cohn: Okay. Great. Thank you.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Operator: Jolie Lash from Please go ahead.

Jolie Lash: Hi.

Robert Doherty: Hi.

Jolie Lash: So how is the introduction of Irene going to affect Watson's relationship with Sherlock. I would imagine she'd be very concerned about his sobriety seeing what happened at the end of last night's episode.

Robert Doherty: Itís hard - at least in the world of our show it's hard to find a bigger trigger than Irene, dead or alive. The fact that she has turned up alive has thrown Sherlock for a loop. He's been tricked. He's been deceived. I think in Moriarty's eyes you could say he bottomed out over nothing. He spiraled out of control because he thought Irene was dead when in fact she was quite alive and being kept my Moriarty.
So at least at the moment the joke's on Sherlock - Joan has to be concerned about that. I think in addition to trying to help Sherlock situate Irene and help her recover from her ordeal, she also has to keep an eye on Sherlock and make sure he's able to stay on the straight and narrow.

Jolie Lash: So would you say then that this is a different Sherlock then that we're going to see at least in the first part of the finale. I mean he was shaking and sort of was collapsing at the end of last night's episode.

Robert Doherty: The way we've always looked at our Sherlock is his greatest weakness is the handful of personal connections he has whether it's to the handful of friends or colleagues or family that he is actually in touch with.

He - on some level I think he hates that he has a friend like Joan because she's a vulnerability and that's certainly what Irene was. So yes, I'd say we're going to see a Sherlock who's rocked coming into next week's finale. He's got a lot to try to wrap his head around.

Jolie Lash: Thank you.

Operator: Karen Butler with UPI.

Karen Butler: Hi. How are you?

Robert Doherty: Good. How are you?

Karen Butler: Good. Good. I was so excited...

Robert Doherty: Sorry. That was your only question.

Karen Butler: No, no. So excited to hear that Season 2 will start off in London. And I was wondering can you talk a little bit about the decision to distance Elementary from its British roots until it was established firmly as a New York show?

Robert Doherty: The reasons we wanted to set the show in New York in the beginning - they were two fold. First and foremost we want - we absolutely wanted to be able to draw an American audience
to the show. And setting it in a city like New York, which in many respects echoes London helped a lot.
If you had to put Sherlock anywhere else at least to my mind New York City made the most sense. The other reason was it just seemed interesting.

I started from a broken Sherlock. That was always what intrigued me. I loved the idea of doing a Sherlock who had bottomed out and was in repair. And so the idea that he had left London, it fit quite nicely into what we wanted to do. There was a good strong reason for him to have gone to New York City.

So that was the thinking process as far as setting him there in the beginning. The truth is production wise it's a lot of work to set even one hour in London. The time change alone is - the time difference alone is pretty daunting.
Some of it is production related. It's just it's extreme - I know there was a show maybe 10, 12 years ago called Keen Eddie that was set entirely in the U.K. I thought it was a great idea but I think production wise it was probably quite a struggle.

If it were easier for us to go to London, I guess maybe we would try it a few times a year. Since it's quite difficult, we're going to really enjoy this one opportunity that we have this coming season.

Karen Butler: And will Captain Gregson or anybody else from the NYPD be going with Sherlock and Joan to London?

Robert Doherty: The story's still being developed. So it's hard to say at the moment. But my guess is it would only be Sherlock and Joan. I think story wise it might be hard to justify a trip for all of our players. I'd love to have Captain Gregson there. At least in the pilot we explained he worked and lived there for a little while. That's how he met Sherlock. So he does have some (seniority) with Scotland Yard.
But at the moment I'm going to say no. Probably we're going to limit this trip to Sherlock and Joan.

Karen Butler: Fantastic. Thank you so much.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Operator: Once again I would like to remind our audience it is star 1 now if you have a question or a comment. We'll move on to Jenny Coony from TV Week Australia.

Jenny Coony: Hey Rob.

Robert Doherty: Hi.

Jenny Coony: Hi.

Robert Doherty: How are you?

Jenny Coony: Great. I also wanted to know if we're going to see much interaction with Sherlock's father going forward. What your thoughts are on that relationship.

Robert Doherty: I've always loved the idea of Sherlock's dad. This person that is spoken of but never seen. I enjoy that aspect of it and yet if we had an opportunity to work with a great actor, somebody who could look at and go ďoh yes,Ē absolutely, that's our Sherlock's dad. That's the guy who you could see parenting or not parenting Jonny Lee Miller.

We would go for it. In the meantime right now I don't think it's an immediate concern and yet honestly now I'm not being coy. You never know. The London episode might be the perfect time to meet Sherlock's dad and get a better sense of him and his relationship with his son.

Jenny Coony: And how often do you refer to the original books when you're writing these stories now? Is it more or less or if (the) people read the books are they going to have a better sense of things that are coming up?

Robert Doherty: I would say that Season 1 is pretty rife with Easter eggs. We only did one episode in which we - I'm sorry. I should say we only based one episode on one of the original short stories. That was Dead Man's Switch, which was based on a story of a black mailer named Charles Augustus Milverton.
Other than that really what we have a lot of fund doing is, we often make references to famous cases. And we sort of keep a running list of snippets of dialog from the original books; things that Sherlock will say to Watson or vice versa.

And it's really - I have to say it's been - I never feel like we have to force anything in. I feel like over the course of the year we used - we find ourselves at these moments where some of the original dialog just slots in so nicely.

If you know the books really, really well you're going to spot them every time. I don't think we're using terribly obscure quotes but I would say Conan Doyle was one of the great quotable authors of our time. So we very happily take advantage of that.

Jenny Coony: Great. Thank you.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: Your next question will come from Mike Vicic from TV Tango.

Mike Vicic: Thank you. What primary physical attributes did you identify as being important for the actor you wanted to play Moriarty?

Robert Doherty: Hello by the way.

Mike Vicic: Hello.

Robert Doherty: Primary physical attributes. Copy. You know, it's not - for me the Moriarty was never about primary physical - or it was never really about thinking about the person physically. The plan was always to have to play him as a very shadowy figure, somebody that we would tease and tease and tease until the time was right to reveal him.

So it just really wasn't - it wasn't in our thinking.

Mike Vicic: So you first choice for actor wasn't based on the physical attribute or emotional attribute or anything like that. It was the person itself.

Robert Doherty: Yes. Yes.

Mike Vicic: Okay.

Robert Doherty: Somebody that I - who's work I was very familiar with, someone I really was excited to have an opportunity to work with. Just made perfect sense for us.

Mike Vicic: Okay. Thank you.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Operator: Next up with a question is Tae Mawson from Sky Living.

Tae Mawson: Hi Rob.

Robert Doherty: Hi.

Tae Mawson: Thanks very much for your time.

Robert Doherty: Thanks for having me.

Tae Mawson: I'd like to follow with another Moriarty question I'm afraid but I think it ties in neatly. You know, if we're discounting this for physical attributes, what were the key characteristics that you wanted to capture or create even for your Moriarty? Moriarty feels like such a almost, you know, the perfect counterpoint to Sherlock. So what did your Moriarty need to have?

Robert Doherty: Here - that's a great question. Let me see if I can give you an answer that's as eloquent as the question. I probably can't. But I mean that's absolutely where we started from. I'm sure that's where a lot of folks start with their Moriarty.

But yes you want for lack of a better analogy the other side of Sherlock's coin. Somebody who is - who's quite like him but has been drawn in a very different direction.

The way - trying to think back - way back when I was pitching the series. How did I put it? I always felt like Sherlock and Moriarty are the only two of their kind on the planet. And so - when one realized the other existed his curiosity was peaked.

In this case it's more Moriarty was the first to sort of become aware of Sherlock. And so it's interesting. If you spend your life thinking you're the only person on the planet with these gifts, with these abilities who sees the world this kind of way, it's fascinating to think maybe there's one other person out there.

Even though Moriarty has tortured Sherlock, I think what we're going to see is there is also a kind of mutual respect and mutual interest.

Tae Mawson: Do you go so far as to even try to make a character like Moriarty likable in some way?

Robert Doherty: Boy, I think if there's - I guess next week you can be the judge. I feel like if somebody is just outright despicable, if there's nothing interesting or likable about that person, they're just not as interesting a villain.

So it's strange. We didn't sit down and look at our Moriarty and try to figure out Ė itís not like we were looking at the character and thinking what's going to make the character more likable, more interesting. We just kind of - we really wrote to Moriarty's interest in Sherlock.

Moriarty's not just a frustrated mastermind who wants to break the bad guy. Moriarty's more interesting than that. Does that make Moriarty more likable? No, no. He's still doing bad things.

Tae Mawson: Sure.

Robert Doherty: But I think people will be intrigued by his process and his draw towards Sherlock or his - what's his interest in Sherlock, his fascination with Sherlock.

Tae Mawson: Well thank you very much.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: Moving to Kara Howland from TV Goodness.

Kara Howland: Hi Rob.

Robert Doherty: Hello.

Kara Howland: Hey, so is Watson on the fence about remaining Sherlock's partner?

Robert Doherty: Is Watson on the fence? No, I feel as of last night they made another lovely little step forward. She knows him well enough now to know or at least as of last night she knew him well enough to predict that he might try to push her away when things got a little dangerous.

And she showed up and he appreciated that on some level and they did end up going into that house together. So I think as we move into the finale Joan is as onboard as she's ever been.

Kara Howland: Okay. Great. And can I ask you a question about guest starts?

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Kara Howland: So we've been pretty impressed with the array you had. Can you tell us if anyone will be back either in the finale or next season or anyone you might be working for next season as well?

Robert Doherty: Yes. Really for the first time in my career I did 24 episodes. And it's a marathon. It's quite a - it's quite a bit of work to get there.

So I will confess not too deep into the season to thinking we have some - obviously we have some big thoughts and plans for London. Beyond that, you know, all the writers are trying to, there's a little bit of recovery time and then I actually think it's next week - no, I guess the week after we're back in the writers room.

I can't guarantee any reappearances but I will say it was an absolute blast getting to work with Vinnie Jones. He was hands down my first choice for that character. He's just an actor I've always loved. I've seen him in all the Guy Ritchie films and some of the other work he's done.

We were on the verge of killing him off and I believe someone very wisely suggested let's say he's mostly dead. And...

Kara Howland: Okay.

Robert Doherty: ...that's what we did in last week's show. So if we can it doesn't look good for him right now for Sebastian but I feel like we've left the door open to a return.

I also had a lot of fun - sorry, names are - I'm a little fried. My names are escaping me. The actor who played Rhys the drug dealer - John...

Kara Howland: Oh Hannah?

Robert Doherty: ...yes gees, I'm embarrassed.

Kara Howland: That's okay.

Robert Doherty: But thank you. Yes. It was - it's funny. I very - if John even remembers this I'd be surprised. But I worked very briefly on a show that did not last long called MDs. And John was one of the co-leads. And so I was really excited to have this second opportunity to work with John. I thought he did a great job as Rhys.
Same type of situation. If we can come up with the right kind of story, he's definitely a candidate for a return.

Kara Howland: Okay.

Robert Doherty: And that's - if I could spin off Vinnie Jones and Abraham - F. Murray Abraham into some sort of Moriarty's henchmen type I would do.

Kara Howland: Okay. Thank you so much.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: Well move next to Sandra Gonzalez for Entertainment Weekly. Please go ahead.

Sandra Gonzalez: Hi. How are you?

Robert Doherty: Good. How are you?

Sandra Gonzalez: Really good. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Robert Doherty: My pleasure.

Sandra Gonzalez: So, you know, with these types of shows everybody kind of anticipates a cliffhanger at the end. But can you talk a little bit about how you close out the first season?

Robert Doherty: Yes, absolutely. For a good long while we anticipated a cliffhanger too. When it looked more likely that we would get to go to London for our premiere, we didn't want to drag any of this year's business into a second season, because London represents - I feel like London can be its own show. I didn't want to have to connect it back to the first season.

So the notion of going to London came up early enough for us to write what I feel is a nice last chapter for this season. We will be tying things up and starting with something of a clean slate coming into year two.

Sandra Gonzalez: Can you talk about the tone that we kind of leave off on or are there emotional questions left hanging there or is it just like a nice little, you know, wrap up with bow tie type ending?

Robert Doherty: I mean the two hours are quite emotional. I feel like we do end up with - I hate the term but I would say we have a nice little bow on Season 1. And again, had everything to do with wanting to really go to London and have fun.

These last few episodes were a blast to write and I love working in or I guess writing to the Moriarty of it all. But it's so heavy for Sherlock. It's when you write about Moriarty and Irene and his drug habit, it's appropriately dark. It's true to the character and it's important stuff.

But again, it doesn't make for much fun in the U.K. So we tried - again, we tried to write a proper ending to this first season and we will look to launch new things coming into Season 2.

Sandra Gonzalez: Cool. Can't wait to see it. Thanks so much.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: We'll move next a follow up from Paulette Cohn from Xfinity TV.

Paulette Cohn: Oh, you know, I'm really good. My question was the cliffhanger one, so.

Robert Doherty: Well I - you can ask me anything else.

Paulette Cohn: Okay. Well the one thing that I'm always curious about with Joan is, you know, she was a surgeon and there's a certain type of personality that becomes a surgeon. Doesn't she ever have any (pullback) to medicine at all?

Robert Doherty: Itís funny. I feel like - it's funny. It wasn't something we were writing to but I felt I saw some of that in a landmark story. Not last night's episode but last week. It was fun when the (dailies) came in to watch Lucy take the scalpel from Jonny andÖ

Paulette Cohn: Right.

Robert Doherty: ...take over for the autopsy. I mean will she be drawn back? We've toyed with the idea of getting a little more into her back story, what really happened, how did her patient die, how much of it was her fault. Whatís her comfort level with the idea of a return to a surgical career?

It's all fodder for Season 2, I guess. It's certainly not anything we're exploring next week. But we'll see. Joan - we tried to - the premise of the show was always that these are two brilliant people in states of repair. And I think Joan has come a long way this season. I think she's found her - she's found a calling for sure.

So I think for as long as she stays intrigued with the kind of work Sherlock's doing, she probably won't feel such a pull to her old career - her first career.

Paulette Cohn: Well I think the people who become surgeons tend to be fearless and, you know, last night's episode, you know, she didn't want everybody, you know, not putting her in danger because she was up for that. So I think maybe the personality carries over to that.

Robert Doherty: Yes. And I will say - here's something I can tease. In...

Paulette Cohn: Okay.

Robert Doherty: ...the two hour finale you will see Joan doing a little impromptu surgical work.

Paulette Cohn: Terrific. Thank you.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: Your last question today will come from a follow up from Mike Vicic from TV Tango.

Mike Vicic: Hi again.

Robert Doherty: Hello.

Mike Vicic: A question about Season 2.

Robert Doherty: Sure.

Mike Vicic: ...haven't done a lot with the writers yet but I was curious whether when you come back from London whether the stories will be a bit more serialized like they were at the end of Season 1, which audiences really seem to love.

Robert Doherty: Itís hard to say at the moment. Obviously the reason these last few were so serialized is because we wanted to build to Irene and then ultimately to Moriarty. So it's not the kind of - it's not the kind of story you can spring in just one episode.

Mike Vicic: Right.

Robert Doherty: I predict that next season will feel in many respects like this one. I mean we will absolutely have standalone stories and cases. But there will be certain stories that you can arc over a run or a stretch of shows.

We still have to sort of find those and identify them and what's the kind of story we want to build, tell over four or five, six episodes. Again this year we had our work cut out for us with Moriarty. We knew we wanted to get here by the end of the season.

Itís a drag but Sherlock doesn't have a rhode scholar like Batman. I wish he did. We would do the joker and then the penguin and then the riddler.

Mike Vicic: Exactly. That's too easy. That's no fun.

Robert Doherty: No, I know. It's way too easy. So once again our work is cut out for us and we'll try to find people who are going to challenge Sherlock and challenge Joan and give them interesting stuff to do.

So we'll see how it shakes out. When we think we have an opportunity to serialize something, we will absolutely take it. But as to the getting into our first run next year I think we'll probably have a big batch of relatively standalone mysteries.

Mike Vicic: Okay. Great. Thank you so much.

Robert Doherty: Thank you.

Operator: That does conclude today's Q&A session. I'll hand it back over to the speakers for any concluding remarks.

Operator: And that does conclude today's teleconference. We thank you all for your participation.

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