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Sherlock - Season 3 - Lars Mikkelsen Interview

Interview with Lars Mikkelsen, who plays Charles Augustus Magnussen in series three of BBC One Drama Sherlock.

How did you come to join the show? How did that process start?

They contacted me, and I was here doing a small film in East London at The Beaumont. Then I read the script, and did a casting, and then the role was mine!

And what was your first impression of the scripts when you read them?

I was just amazed. I’d just read that one script actually, the last one. It’s the best script I’ve ever read really.

Tell us a little bit about your character.

The character is called Charles Augustus Magnussen. He is the baddie of this last episode of this season, and he’s described in the original novels as an opponent that Sherlock really hates. He loathes him, and he is based on a character that was real in the time of Conan Doyle. In Doyle’s novel he was an art dealer who lives on preying on other people.

What do you think makes him different to the previous villain, Moriarty?

It’s all to do with the writing. He’s so supreme in his power that I read it as quite a different character to Moriaty. Whereas Moriarty is playful as a villain, this character is more supreme. He doesn’t even need to raise his voice to dominate people. He doesn’t enjoy being a villain; I don’t even think he reckons himself as a villain, he just lives off preying on other people. He calls himself a businessman and it’s just a way of life for him.

How do you think Magnussen views Sherlock?

I’d say Magnussen is more or less infatuated with Sherlock. They share the fact that they are both intelligent - there is recognition from that point of view between them.

What was it like working alongside Benedict and Martin? Were you a fan of their work before starting the role?

Oh yes, immensely. The chemistry between those two, and the writing, is really what makes the show. They’re so good - they are such good actors. I was a bit starstruck with them but they’re such nice people, and they just opened their hearts and their minds, and let me in. So it was quite easy working with them.

Did you do much research for the role? Were you familiar with the source literature?

I was familiar with it but I didn’t do that much research, because I found out quite early that this is Moffat and Gatiss’s way of telling the story, and it’s so well-written there’s not really any need for me to go back – that’d be a nuisance for me to go ‘Well why didn’t you do...?’ or ‘Have you thought about him being...?’ I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to act what they’d written because it’s so good.

Why do you think Sherlock Holmes has such an enduring success around the world?

It captures something very British – the character alone, Sherlock, is very British, along with Watson. I think there’s something that appealed very much to me in this time and age, and that was that ‘clever is the new sexy’. Sherlock is quite different, it’s to do with being clever and intelligent, and that alone takes its audience in another way. It’s also the chemistry between the two, Martin and Benedict, and the fact the writing is really really good – it doesn’t let go of what it was originally. The canon is there, even though they updated it. They haven’t just let themselves loose, and I think all those things put together is what makes it talk to us now. It makes you clever as an audience, and I like that!

It’s amazing the reaction Sherlock gets from the fans, wherever it goes. Have you seen much about the following of the show on the internet, and how that has evolved?

Not really. I’ve seen a bit of what’s on the internet and it’s just immense. I might be a part of it after this episode – I just don’t know! Let’s see what happens. I haven’t seen much of it, I’m a different generation I suppose. I have a hard time getting into my email sometimes!

What do you hope the audience gets out of the show? What do you hope they leave with after watching it?

I hope they are entertained – at the moment. My hopes for what the audience feels like afterwards is that they are entertained and we haven’t scorned the writing, because - like Martin said to me - “The only ones that can mess this up are us!” So I hope we haven’t done that!

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