First appeared in totalfilmindonesia.com as “Mark Gatiss mempererat tali persaudaraan Mycroft dan Sherlock Holmes“.
Mark Gatiss Strengthen the Brotherly Bonds of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes
Playing the much smarter and more mysterious older brother of a “high functioning psychopath” consulting detective must not really be a walk in the part. But for Mark Gatiss, co-creator, co-writer and actor of BBC’s highly popular crime drama Sherlock, it’s as close to an ideal job as he could get.
One of the perks of being one of the two men in charge (the other being Steven Moffat) in the show, while also also acting in it, is that he gets to “change lines at the last minute without asking anybody.”
During our conversation by phone (Total Film Indonesia was in Jakarta, Gatiss in Liverpool), the actor/writer elaborates: “At the last minute, lots of things which might be difficult otherwise can be arranged quite quickly. It’s also great because I’m there on the set every day anyway even when I’m not acting. It’s very useful to be around and make sure that everyone is fully on board with what we’re trying to do in that particular episode. One of the difficult things about filming is that, when you do things several months apart, people might slightly lose track of where they were. They might start the scene being more emotional or something and you have to keep them on track – ‘You remember the scene before this, you were actually quite angry.’ It’s good to have a complete overview of all three stories.”
But what of building Mycroft as a character? Gatiss, who is a big fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle books, has already said that his version of Mycroft Holmes took his cue from Christopher Lee’s character in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970). There’s apparently something more sinister with Gatiss’ Mycroft, as it is with Lee’s, compared to the one conceived by the author, as the character only appeared in 2 of the original stories. “As with all the characters what we’ve tried to do is give them a bigger life and background than they usually have. Mycroft was only in two of the original stories. And apart from being cleverer than Sherlock and enormously fat, there isn’t much more to it except that he is the British government,” Gatiss explains.
The Holmes brothers may not get along but Gatiss claims that Mycroft is concerned for Sherlock. “They have a much more antagonistic relationship which I think is extremely interesting,” he continues. “There is warmth there somewhere deep down but it’s much more brittle and I think that’s a great thing to play with. What we’re trying to do, as with Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade, and new characters like Molly and Anderson, is to just to broaden it out a bit so you get to know these people as a family, almost.”
One of the smaller, though no less interesting, mysteries of S2’s “The Hounds Of Baskerville” (which Gatiss wrote) was when Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade came to Baskerville to aid Sherlock and John Watson in their investigation. At that time, Sherlock accused him of being sent there on Mycroft’s orders as his “handler”. We asked Gatiss about working with the actor Rupert Graves, who plays Lestrade, and the story behind the accusation.
“With Lestrade we wanted to do something different because in the original stories he’s sort of a ratty faced man. He’s a good policeman, it’s important to say; Sherlock says that he’s the best that the Scotland Yard has to offer and that, in his opinion, doesn’t mean very much. But he’s actually a very good policeman. When Rupert came in and read for us, it was like: if Sherlock wasn’t around it would be his series. He’s a very dashing, handsome and good leading man. We thought it’d be an interesting thing to play with Lestrade,” Gatiss explains of the unique casting decision.
As for the accusation… “Whether or not he’s actually doing things at Mycroft’s behest is a different story. I think he certainly ends up turning up in the Baskerville case because he’s been told to but I don’t know if there’s anything more behind it than that. I think possibly there is… they’re definitely trying to look after Sherlock. For all of Mycroft’s disdain for his younger brother’s methods, he’s worried about him – I think he wants him on the inside of a tent, pissing out, as they used to say.”
Mycroft and Sherlock’s sibling rivalry and the former’s disguised concern for the latter is one of the staples of BBC’s Sherlock. One that Gatiss can fathom only too well, having a brother himself. As he puts it: “Some people have very close relationships with their brothers or sisters, but other people… I have an older brother. We’re very close now. But like Mycroft and Sherlock, we’re totally different. We’re like night and day. But it’s in the end blood will out.”
While most of the brotherly drama will happen in the third episode, “His Last Vow”, both Mycroft and Lestrade will be looking out for Sherlock as Martin Freeman’s John Watson ties the knot with his fiancée in the second episode, “The Sign of Three” – a personal favorite of the Total Film Indonesia editorial team in S3. This episode goes on air on AXN Asia on Thursday, 6 March, at 21.00 Indonesia time. The third and final episode of S3 goes on air next week, on 13 March.