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SHERLOCKED: 'The Ladies of Sherlock' Panel Transcript * 24 June 2015

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The following is a partial recording of the 'Ladies of Sherlock' Panel that took place on Sunday April 26 2015. A technical issue meant we failed to capture the start of the panel for the purposes of this transcript, which is made up of the final 30 minutes of the session.

The transcript begins with Lara Pulver, Louise Brealey and Una Stubbs revealing how they came to audition and then be cast in Sherlock.

Lara: I was on my way back to Los Angeles, and I was reading the script on the plane, and it was such a beautifully crafted episode that I remember literally salivating as I was reading it, and I had to self tape, which means putting yourself down on camera the doing scenes. Steven and Mark responded, and Paul McGuigan who was directing that episode, and it was a situation where within literally 72 hours I was flying back to London to meet Beryl and Sue and the gang, and what I hadn't anticipated was Benedict being there.  

Una: Oh!

Lara: And we read the scenes together, and what I didn't know is he emailed Mark within an hour saying "that's our Irene Adler", so...

(Chorus of cheers and applause from the audience)

Louise: [Laughs] I feel WILDLY inadequate now, which is no change from normal. I just went along to Twickenham Studios and sat in front of... I think there were four of them... casting director Kate [Rhodes James], and Sue, and Mark and Beryl. And I was like 'why are there four people here? It's just a little part, what's all this about?' So that was it, it was just a standard audition. I did audition. I didn't have Benedict there. But it was only one audition at least, I didn't have to recall, which was marvellous.

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Una: [to Louise] I remember when we first got the job, and we were going home on the Tube, and we were [saying] 'oh, what do you think? Because they're tiny parts.'

[Louise laughs]

Una: And then a year later we bumped into each other again, and by then the show was just such a success, and I remember we couldn't speak, all we could do was... [Una grins hugely] We were so excited and no one in the area knew what on earth we were jumping up and down about, we were so excited and it was such a thrill, wasn't it?

Louise: Oh definitely. It was at Chichester wasn't it?

Una: Yes. I was appearing.

Louise: You were appearing then. [Laughs]

Lara: Star of the stage and screen!

Audience Question 1: I was wondering - I know this will affect you all to differing degrees - how useful did you find the source material for developing your characters?

Louise: It was indispensible.

[Laughter from Una, Lara and the audience]

Louise: [Giggling] I had to get in first.

Una: I'm just not intelligent enough to answer that.

Lara: Where's Benedict when you need him?

[Audience laughs]

Lara: I think that comes back to what we were saying earlier about the fact that Mark and Steven were so passionate about the source material, about Conan Doyle's work, to create this and to make it stand in modern day telly. I think that anything that's worth its salt has longevity.

Audience Question 2: I've got a question for Louise first - yesterday and earlier in the talk you were encouraging more women to go into directing and cinematography, I'm currently studying film.

Louise: Oh that's great news.

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Audience Question 2: And secondly, you know in the scene where Sherlock offers Molly chips and she goes the other way, why do you think she does that? Because, y'know, free chips...

Louise: It's an exceptionally good question. I did ask the writers and the director that. I think they wanted a wistful moment where we watching him go off up the road by himself. You might want to address that question to Mark. Ask Mark. I was like 'why am I not going? I want a battered sausage.'

[Audience laughs]

Louise: Ridiculous. Totally unrealistic.

Lara: I don't think Mark does carbohydrates so I think that's why he wrote that.

Moderator: He's Beach Body Ready.

[Audience roars with laughter]

Audience Question 3: My question is what do you think of the relationship between John Watson and your characters?

Lara: I had an incredible time working with Martin and his character, purely as I kind of got in the way, actually, of what is this very happy couple.

[Audience laughs and cheers]

Lara: And I was very grateful for him offering up Hamish as well. Just working with Martin Freeman full stop is a joy. We had that wonderful scene that is actually set in Battersea Power Station where he realises that I'm not dead and he asks me to tell Sherlock. I don't think I've ever had a better day on set. He is a phenomenal actor and he can give you every spectrum of playing a scene, and it's like playing an amazing game of tennis or something.

Una: And I think Mrs Watson... oh... Mrs Hudson...

Lara: Is there something you need to tell us Una?

[Audience laughs]

Moderator: Season Four...

[Una tries to continue, but...]

Louise: A new ship sails!

[Audience practically explodes with laughter]

Una: I think Mrs Hudson was so pleased that someone was making Sherlock happy. And then perhaps a little bit disappointed when he gets married. As Lara was saying, he's just wonderful to work with. They all are, every one of them, we're just such a lucky trio of women. They're a joy.

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Audience Question 4: As a huge TV fan and a feminist I look forward to seeing strong female roles in anything I watch. As actresses I wanted to know if you think there is a field that offers actresses more interesting roles, whether this is theatre, movies or TV?  

Lara: I'm going to do a blatant plug right now. I'm in a show at the Savoy in London...

[Audience cheers]

Lara: ...called Gypsy with six female roles at the heart of the piece, a piece written in the late 1950s. All fly in their own way, so if you fancy coming down to the Savoy and watching an extraordinary performance by Imelda Staunton in the lead then I'd love to see you there. Plug over.

Una: I know that we hear that they don't write enough for women, and that's being banged about all the time, and I think it's slightly getting better, but it could get MUCH better, and should.


Una: And also, the lack of parts for older women, which is understandable in a way, it's much more appealing to have a younger woman around the place, but I'm finding...

Louise: [interrupting] I don't think that's true Una, I think that's bollocks!

[Una laughs, Audience cheers and applauds]

Louise: I'd much rather watch something with people that have had life experiences. This idea that we don't want to see women once we've stopped wanting to have sex with them has got to stop, it's nineteenth century.

[Audience erupts again]

Louise: And anyway, as if no one wants to have sex with you... you're BEAUTIFUL! I would you know. If I was that way inclined. [Laughs]

Una: Oh, I am finding that as you get older and maybe even as it gets better there are more odd parts and silly old bats, and people like that to play. I'm enjoying working more now than when I was much younger. So I'd like to state that as well, that maybe things are getting a little bit better.

Louise: I think you'll know how I feel about the whole sort of.... just to add to it I do think that there's some brilliant organisations at the moment. Something called Act for Change, which is great, it's talking about diversity generally, you know, actors of colour as well as women. Anyone who is not getting... [responds to Lara, who is off microphone] yeah exactly, minority actors. There are simply not the parts. So I think there is a bit of a sea change going on now isn't there? I just think 'bring it on.' I was on the jury of something a couple of years back at the Royal Television Society with Sue, who kindly let me come onto her jury and then instantly regretted it as I started rabbiting on about feminism the whole time. What was fascinating was watching I think it was 28 hours of prime cut British serials while we were, urm, 'juror-oring', in a week! So it was really interesting, you got to sort of condense it all. You know, even if I hadn't got my feminist goggles on, you can see it. So I started counting, and it was like one woman for every twelve men in the end that had semi-interesting stuff to say. You just got through various stages of disbelief, wild uncontrollable rage, and then you try and make a joke about it. But actually is really just like 'oh come, hurry up now. I've had enough.' Can't we just have loads more parts for everyone that we're just completely ignoring, and that would be marvellous. Thanks.

[Audience applauds]

Audience Question 5: Hi, you're all equally amazing but my question is for Lara. I asked you before if Irene was going to come back and you said you honestly didn't know, but would you like her to come back, and how do you think her character would have changed after what happened at the end of A Scandal in Belgravia?

Lara: Gosh, it's such a predicament isn't it? First of all, the actor is always the last to know about anything, so you're better asking anyone else if I'm coming back, other than me, because we literally are always the last to know. It's such a predicament. It was such a wonderfully crafted episode that you almost want to leave it at that and have that wonderful memory. However, what Mark and Steven are capable of blows all of our minds so they could top it in a way that would make all of us salivate. So I really don't know if she will be reappearing, but I'm sure it would be a huge challenge for me if that did happen because I'm sure with a complex woman like Irene she would have many stories to tell and been on quite a journey.


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Audience Question 6: Is there a personal trait that you either infused into the character, or really identified with?

Una: I just played the way I play at home with my sons, really. I just found that the most suitable for me, for Mrs Hudson, so that's all I did.


Lara: Mines a bit trickier. I'm really NOT like Irene Adler! [Laughs] Sorry to tell you that. Oh gosh, it was something so meaty to get my teeth into, so I'm sure there are elements of my personality but heightened. The one thing I think I did identify with though was right at the very end when he unlocked the code, and that kind of gut wrenching sadness when you think you're triumphing in whatever field, and it's so funny how with the rollercoaster of life you can be on the biggest high and then boom, you're on an ultimate low, and it was that moment for me when he was pushing in those [letters], it was like stabbing me in the heart. Yeah, I definitely identified with that.


Louise: I'm a bit of a mix. I can be quite socially awkward but also quite gobby. I've said it a million times so I'm sorry, but in terms of finding a way into Molly, I just... they write so beautifully in terms of the comedy, so I could let the writing take care of that. and try to inhabit Molly as she was at the beginning. Give her more, give her me, give her other bits of me that I don't allow out, the sort of frightened bits. Everybody is experienced, unless they're deeply fortunate, in the sort of unrequited love thing, and that was a way into Molly that I found most useful because I think everyone's loved someone and they haven't quite loved them back in the way they perhaps would have liked. So I just thought I identified with that, and I just wanted her to be more than a cipher, more than a joke, more than a gag, and I was just really lucky that the show had the sort of muscularity [so] there was room for that. Actually when I look at that first stuff, having basically been playing for laughs but there is also still a bit of heart in there too, and I think that's perhaps why I was allowed to come back and give it another shot.

Moderator: I think Mrs Hudson loves Molly as well. She's there on Christmas Day, that's a lovely moment when you take your coat off and Lestrade's jaw drops.

Louise: That wasn't scripted, that's Rupert, upstaging everybody.

[Laughter and applause]

Louise: Somebody tweeted me yesterday that Rupert's decided Lestrade has got a bit of shine for Molly , which is hilarious, that makes me laugh. Not in a bad way. I'm very happy.

Audience Question 7: I have a question to all three of you - what is your favourite line? And to Louise and Lara, if Molly and Irene were to ever meet, what would their relationship be like?

[Lara and Louise sit back to think about this. Audience laughs]

Moderator: She knows what she likes.

Lara: I know my favourite line. It's when Mycroft says "Shall I play mother?" in Buckingham Palace when he's pouring the tea. I love that moment. I love that Buckingham Palace scene full stop actually. "Are you wearing pants?" and all that. If we met...

Louise: No your own favourite line, that you said.

Lara: Oh!

Louise: I can't think of anyone elses!

Lara: I don't remember my own lines!

[Audience laughs]

Louise: Can anyone help?   

Una: I think mine is "I'm your landlady, not your housekeeper."

[Audience cheers and applauds]

Louise: And mine's from episode one, and I just say "Ok" after he's... [mimes whipping with a riding crop]   

Lara: But what if we meet?

Louise: What if we meet? What would our relationship be? [Laughs]

Lara: Well, I'm open.

[Louise roars with laughter, audience cheers and applauds]

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Moderator: I think she'd take her out for good night out on the town, both get drunk and got your separate ways. It's the safest option.

[Louise and Lara laugh]

Audience Question 8: My question is for Loo. Because John and Molly both work quite closely with Sherlock, what do you think differs in the way Molly handles Sherlock compared to how John deals with him?

Louise: That's a lovely question. I think it's hard to say. Sometimes those sorts of things, it sounds like sacrilege but I don't know if I've really sat down and thought about how I would compare it - she says flailing wildly. I think thinking about it from an objective point of view, John Watson has always in the Sherlock Holmes stories been the audience, because obviously Sherlock himself is an exotic creature, so to speak. I'm sure lots of people relate to him, but from a dramatic form point of view, we're just sort of agog at him. John is sort of our way into him, and I think in a very small and much less significant way Molly has been very helpful in that respect because she sort of humanises him as well in her own version of things. In terms of how she does it, she does it through gentleness I think. Later on she's allowed to become more firm. We don't really see that much of that side of her earlier on but the writers are interesting in making her perhaps less of a doormat, and so she has this very quite steadfast moral compass.


Audience Question 9: I have one question for Louise and one question for you all. Why do you think Molly loves Sherlock? What is there to love? He always teases her and doesn't notice her. And for all of you - if you could play one character that isn't your character, which would it be?

Louise: Why does she love him? God, I sometimes wonder. I look back through my romantic history and myself the same question about people... no I'm very lucky, they're all marvellous. But I think there's just a thing, sometimes something happens, and it may not be reciprocal. There's a brilliant John Steinbeck letter that he wrote to his son which I can't quote to you, but I recommend you look it up if you are interested in unrequited love in all its forms because he writes really beautifully and movingly to his son who is desperately in love with someone and he is not quite sure whether she loves him back. Steinbeck talks about the way it sort of dignifies us and makes us bigger and sort of deeper as people to love, just to love, the act of loving. I think although on paper there's nothing coming back from Sherlock, sometimes it's alright if it's one sided. She just loves him, she fell in love with him, these things happen and eventually she finds the courage to say 'hang on a minute, you've no right to treat me like shit.' In that little Christmas scene, I think was a moment, people talk to me a lot about that. Something clicked, and she comes back and says 'hang on, I don't think so.' That's hard for her. I've rambled, as usual, and maybe it's time to let someone else talk. [Laughs]

Lara: Character wise I think I'd want to play Moriarty.


Louise: Me too.

Una: If I was younger I'd like to play Molly.

Louise: Oh! That would be awesome!


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Audience Question 10: I've got a question for Louise - I'm really sorry you seem to get all the questions!

Louise: I'm sorry too for everyone else. You've got another half an hour answer coming! Go on! I'll try and keep it brief.

Audience Question 10: The thing is Lara's character has kind of been and gone, and Mrs Hudson is very much there as a well developed character. I'm just wondering what your idea is for Molly because she has come from a very small start but she has obviously developed a lot over the last three series so I was wondering what your aspirations were for the character?

Louise: Well it's a good question, and I've no idea what they have in store for me. If I was them, I'd kill me off! I don't want them to! Because I really don't know, where do we go now? Shit. That's a terrible answer! Don't tell anyone I said that! No one heard did they? I just think just to continue to develop her and not let her get stuck, because as people I like to think that I'm capable of change, and I think it's really bold in writing when you allow characters to grow and develop, and I think that's one of the beautiful things about our show. The characters, all of them, go on their own journeys don't they? It's beautiful to play and it's good to watch. Thanks very much.

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Audience Question 11: What are some of your most memorable moments on the set with the other actors, with the crew?

Una: I think we're particularly happy because the crew and the actors, directors, everybody, just know that we're onto such a lucky job. I know that I feel really fortunate to be part of it, and I think we all feel the same and it's very, very special and that creates a very happy set.

Lara: I have a couple of little silly memories. I remember when we were filming THAT scene, one of the costume assistants, Kelly [Williams] said to me at the end of it " You must be starving! Do you want a Snickers?"

[Some giggles from the audience]

Lara: I said Snickers! I'm sorry! So that really made me laugh, she came with this Snickers for us to share. I remember it was a night shoot that particular night, so when they were doing the setups, I had a plastic water bottle, and I challenged Martin and Benedict to a game of Mallet's mallet, which, if you're British, it's kind of like a word association game. And boy, at 3 in the morning did I enjoy bonking both of them on the head over a game of Mallet's mallet!

[Louise laughs]

Louise: I just like the scenes where we're all together. So Baker Street stuff, really. Getting into that room, it never ceases to be a thrill. Sometimes you know, on the Special, Una and I didn't run into each other - I hope we're not going to get arrested for revealing that. So it's so nice when you get the chance to all work together. One of the amazing things about seeing the boys in Victorian was I just thought it was going to be like a bit...weird? But it just felt exactly right. And you thought 'oh we could just do the whole thing like this now!' For me there was no sort of lurch, they just looked right. I think that in a way is testament to them, for me at least, always having been, simply, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson right from the very start. Just to see them in their glad rags isn't weird in the slightest, is it? It's kind of amazing. I can't wait for you to see it.

Una: Besides which, they looked GORGEOUS.

Louise: They did, awfully handsome as well.

Moderator: Well, I'm afraid time is up folks. But it's been an absolute honour, Una, Louise and Lara!