In her element
LUCY Liu was looking to make a TV comedy. “I adore doing comedy,” says the actress, whose breakout series Ally McBeal led to movie roles in the likes of Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu Panda and Kill Bill.
What Liu got instead is a topless Jonny Lee Miller doing push- ups while she tries to focus on her lines.
“Yeah, I’m pretty good at being focused,” Liu says with a laugh. “And we do it so many times … we’re with each other so much. Luckily we really do get along.”
Liu is Dr Joan Watson to English actor Miller’s Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, a modern spin on the classic detective story. Now in its second season, Elementary looks set to be a long- runner for Liu, after her previous few series – Southland, Dirty Sexy Money and Cashmere Mafi a – came and went within a few seasons. A third season has yet to be locked in, but all signs are “encouraging”, Liu says.
Elementary has allowed Liu, who turns 45 in December, to re- root herself in her home town, New York.
“It’s weird to be in this business and know where you’re gonna be until a certain time. That’s nice but it’s also terrifying, because we’re so used to being unplanned about our lives. It really changes your format of living. I’ve gotten a lot out of it.”
Elementary wasn’t always such a sure bet: initially it seemed it might be the poor American cousin to the BBC’s acclaimed Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the detective and his sidekick. But the US series has carved out its own audience.
“We still have very strong procedural aspects to the show every week, but our relationship, I think, is what people tune into,” Liu says. Liu’s Watson initially began working with Holmes as his “sober companion” – a well- paid babysitter whose task was to keep him away from drugs. But the eccentric sleuth has now come to count on Watson.
Elementary allows Liu plenty of comedic opportunities, along with elements of drama, crime and the odd kick- butt moment. It’s enough, she says, “that I don’t feel I’ve lost out on not doing a comedy”.