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By Hudson Morgan
Sherlock Holmes says that once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains—however improbable—is the truth. So here are some improbable truths about Jonny Lee Miller, the British actor who plays Holmes—a modern, rehabbed version of him—on the hit CBS series Elementary. Miller has starred in everything from Hackers to Trainspotting to Dark Shadows, but he’s only 40 years old. He’s classically trained for theater, but also trained to race to the South Pole. He’s a ladies’ man-turned-family man with a wife and 4-year-old son. Oh, and somehow his unlikely Sherlock—with Lucy Liu as his partner in crime-solving Watson— might just be the most convincing one yet. Elementary? Hardly!
Watch!: Good day to you, sir. Was it fun to come back to the motherland and do a shoot like this?
Jonny Lee Miller: It’s really nice. You don’t get the chance to see your extended family a lot doing a network show, especially when you live in another country, so it’s been fantastic.
Watch!: Let’s talk a little about what drew you to this unorthodox version of Sherlock Holmes.
Jonny: There have been hundreds of incarnations over the years, but because of the high-profi le ones recently, it didn’t seem like a good idea at all. I initially said no to the project.
Jonny: I think Lucy did the same thing. But I came to my senses! I read the script and thought it was very interesting, different and strong enough that we could do something different with it. [Laughs.] Also, they don’t come knocking on your door every day offering you a lead on a show, so the initial skepticism evaporated pretty quickly. And fortunately they hadn’t gone out to anyone else at that stage.
Watch!: Did your buddy Jude Law—the big-screen Watson to Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes—give you any advice?
Jonny: He was thrilled about it, actually. He’s a very excitable guy! He’s not a precious guy, do you know what I mean? I think he also got a kick out of being compared to Lucy Liu.
Watch!: How’d you prep for the role?
Jonny: The only thing you can really do is read the books, and they were a real revelation. I guess in my general state of ignorance—which is what I tend to operate at—I hadn’t read them before and they’re wonderful. It’s quite shocking how much drug use there is! It wasn’t really the social problem back then that it is now. He finishes one of the early novels with, “Oh, well, Watson—there’s always the cocaine bottle.” It’s the last line! And you’re just like, “Really?” [Laughs.]
Watch!: Since this is a darker take on Holmes, did you fi nd yourself drawing on whatever darkness you could from your own life? Jonny: You’re trying to bring the darker side of yourself into it, but you can’t do it without good writing, good situations and good characters. I really liked the fact that you see Sherlock struggle—not necessarily in his recovery but also in relationships—and, in particular, his relationship with Watson.
Watch!: Are you hoping they add the word “sexual” to the tension between Holmes and Watson?
Jonny: None of us are! It’s not what you want from your Holmes/Watson experience. Some things have to remain sacred.
Watch!: So no Holmes-on-Watson action?
Jonny: I mean, let’s face it, it would be a different show. The tension comes from other aspects, and there’s room for a lot of antagonisms with the sober companion thing. Them hooking up would just be weird. [Laughs.] Talk to me later, though, because we’re only in Season 1.
Watch!: Was there chemistry from the fi rst moment you met Lucy?
Jonny: She’s extremely cool and we have a similar work ethic, and if Lucy doesn’t think something’s right, she’s vocal about it. All those things I really like. But people either work well together or they don’t. It’s pretty nerve-racking. You’re like, "Hey, hi there, let’s see if this works out for the next, uh, five years…"
Watch!: Does the fact that you were on two big network shows that got canceled—Smith and Eli Stone—make you gun-shy about the success of this one so far?
Jonny: You get perspective about it—you know the hammer can fall, and it gives you a better attitude at work. For me, the one milestone I wanted to get past was to complete the first season. That was huge because it makes moving your family to New York worthwhile. Getting that was just huge for us as a family.
Watch!: You and your family have lived in New York and Los Angeles. Does New York suit you better?
Jonny: Yeah—so far, it’s a great city for young children. It’s just nice to have life on your doorstep, and not have to get in a car and drive toward it. Children respond very well to that. It’s also got a lot more parks and playgrounds than people think—and it’s closer to England!
Watch!: Has the fact that 13 million people watch the show every week changed the fame trajectory of your life?
Jonny: There was a day like two weeks after the show started, when all of a sudden you’re at the supermarket and people are like, “Heyyyyy, it’s you.” I was talking about it with [co-star] Aidan Quinn and he said, “Did it start for you?”’ But it’s nice because they’re not like, “Hey, your show sucks!” [Laughs.]
Watch!: What does Jonny Lee Miller do when he’s not working?
Jonny: I watch a lot of American football. Michele [Hicks], my wife, she puts up with it. So Monday nights are good, Thursday nights are good, but Tuesday and Wednesday I’m like, “Uhhhhhhhhhm …” I go running every morning before work, or I run to work. I ran two marathons last month, so that’s my hobby and my switch-off thing. Other than that, it’s family time.
Watch!: How have husbandhood and fatherhood changed your life?
Jonny: The stakes are a lot higher. You cannot be as cavalier; you have to put more effort into your marriage, because otherwise the whole thing goes away. It’s quite annoying to my wife: I’m at work so much that when I’ve got downtime, all I want to do is be at home. And she wants to go out with me. But we find a balance.
Watch!: What does the balance entail?
Jonny: We go to the theater or we go to the movies. It sounds pretty straightforward, but those are great things to do.
Watch!: The women who read this magazine will probably want to know how you wooed her.
Jonny: Well, I think we went out a lot! We met through a mutual friend in a bar and we hung out for, like, a week straight. And that was it, pretty much.
Watch!: What kind of advice are you going to give your son, Buster, about women when he gets old enough?
Jonny: None! I wouldn’t take any advice from my dad about women, and Buster won’t be taking any from me. [Laughs.] Hopefully he’ll be a much more sensible human being than I am.
Solving crimes is no laughing matter, unless you’re Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes
MR. LYDON: I sit before you a lucid man—vital, I might say. I hold 18 patents and I can do 11 pullups at age 58.
HOLMES: And I own exactly 16 forks. I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to be comparing.
HOLMES: You seem even more dour than usual, Watson. I would posit it was a menstruation issue, but I worked out your cycle. You’re good for 10 more days.
WATSON: I thought we both agreed that a little exercise would be a good addition to your sobriety regimen.
HOLMES: For future reference, when I say that I agree with you, it means I’m not listening.
HOLMES: No shell casings, no skull fragments, no gray matter. He was killed elsewhere, and then dumped here.
BELL: Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.
HOLMES: A pig’s orgasm lasts up to 30 minutes.
Check out all the photos from Jonny Lee Miller's Watch! Magazine shoot.