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British Sherlock star stirs up somewhat unlikely fan frenzy

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Rabid fans like to imagine a more-than-friendship relationship between Sherlock’s Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman, left) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch).

)ROBERT VIGLASKY / HARTSWOOD FILMS Enlarge Image

Rabid fans like to imagine a more-than-friendship relationship between Sherlock’s Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman, left) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch).

PASADENA, Calif. -- During the past two weeks, there has been a non-stop parade of television stars and assorted celebrities in and out of the staid and storied Pasadena hotel that plays host to the winter version of the TV press tour.

And because we're in a suburb of Los Angeles, the showbiz capital where fame, on any level, always draws a crowd, the entrance of the Langham Huntington Hotel has drawn a daily gaggle of paparazzi and autograph-seekers looking for a fleeting moment of contact with the various actors, directors, producers and even reality-TV types who have travelled to this slightly out-of-the-way old-money suburban enclave to promote their upcoming television shows.

Matthew McConaughey has been here. Jennifer Lopez, too. And so have Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts, Lena Dunham, Tobey Maguire, Cee-Lo Green, Deion Sanders, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tatiana Maslany, Kiefer Sutherland, Marg Helgenberger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brooklyn Decker, Matt LeBlanc and Keith Urban.

But it took the arrival of PBS -- the U.S. public broadcaster known for its brainy science shows, educational kids' programming and imported British dramas -- to create a full-on fan frenzy outside the Langham's doors.

Who, you ask, caused such a fuss? Well, let's put it this way: when it comes to devoted fan followings, there's one group that sure likes Sherlock.

It was the arrival of Benedict Cumberbatch, star of PBS's Brit-import Sherlock series, that had folks all a-flutter outside the Langham this week, as a mid-sized throng of mostly young, mostly female fans made the trek up L.A.'s oldest freeway and camped out for hours in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Emmy-nominated star.

When he sat down to discuss Sherlock's third short-run season (which began last week and airs Sundays on PBS until Feb. 2), Cumberbatch was asked how he feels about the unusual fan following he has developed Stateside.

"Well, guilty, first of all, because I was late and I had to run past them saying, 'I'm on a tight schedule. I've got to come back and see you later,'" he said. "They have to wait another three-odd hours; forgive me.

"It's kind of extraordinary and a little bit unnerving. I feel... not an onerous sense of responsibility, but I do feel that it has to be acknowledged... As much as I'm capable of, I've got to acknowledge with gratitude the fact that they are so supportive, loyal, and by and large, intelligent, and some of them normal, and committed to something that I really love doing and a character that I like playing, and other characters as well. So, yeah. It means a lot to me."

While the members of The Cumber Collective (they've apparently rejected the term "Cumberbitches," which has also been applied) waited patiently outside, Cumberbatch and Sherlock co-star Amanda Abbington, along with series creator/producer Steven Moffat and executive producer Sue Vertue, spoke at length about the latest PBS version of history's most adapted literary figure, how this Sherlock became so beloved, and just how long Cumberbatch -- whose big-screen career has taken off since he started in the series -- might be willing to continue in the role.

"It will continue until Benedict gets too famous and refuses," Moffat joked about Sherlock's prospects for a long-term run.

Actually, the series' star is already quite famous, on both sides of the pond, thanks to his recent big-screen roles in The Fifth Estate, 12 Years a Slave, Star Trek: Into Darkness, August: Osage County and as the voice of the dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

But Cumberbatch said he enjoys the pace and the challenge of working as Sherlock, so he sees no reason to quit anytime soon as long as Sherlock's shooting schedule fits in with the other demands in his career.

"I'm a long-distance runner," he said. "I'm fine with it. I'm going to keep going with it."

And with that, it was time for Cumberbatch to head out and finally commune with the Collective.

 

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Many actors have played Sherlock Holmes. Who is the best current Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary or Robert Downey Jr in the movies? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2014 D1

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Updated on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 5:51 AM CST: Replaces photo, changes headline, adds question for discussion

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