Lucy Liu spills the beans be­hind the scenes of Ele­men­tary

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

LUCY Liu was look­ing to make a TV com­edy. “I adore do­ing com­edy,” says the ac­tor, whose break­out se­ries Ally McBeal led to high-pro­file movie roles in the likes of Char­lie’s An­gels, Kung Fu Panda and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

What Liu got in­stead was 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. We haven’t got­ten sick of each other yet.”

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 Mafia – came and went within one or two sea­sons. A third sea­son has yet to be locked in, but all signs from US net­work CBS are “en­cour­ag­ing”, says Liu. Strangely, she’s find­ing such pos­i­tiv­ity a lit­tle un­nerv­ing.

“It’s so strange be­cause as an ac­tor you don’t re­ally live by any kind of sched­ule, be­cause you could be can­celled at any minute. That would be nor­mal. Like get­ting a call to say, ‘ You’re on the plane to go to Aus­tralia to do this movie for six months’ – you just do it. So the fact we have any sem­blance of a sea­son put to­gether right now is shock­ing for me.”

Ele­men­tary has also 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 and its own brand of Holmes and Wat­son in­ter­play.

“We still have very strong pro­ce­dural as­pects to the show ev­ery week, but our re­la­tion­ship, I think, is what peo­ple tune into,” Liu says. “What I find the most in­ter­est­ing about the show is how our re­la­tion­ship de­vel­ops, re­gard­less of what crime we’re solv­ing. That’s re­ally lovely.”

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 as a friend and crime-solv­ing part­ner.

Liu is rel­ish­ing Joan’s evo­lu­tion.

“I like that she’s in­cred­i­bly pa­tient, she’s very cu­ri­ous and she’s able to change her life, even though it’s against all odds. She’s still car­ing about peo­ple but on a much more height­ened level, in crime-solv­ing. It’s ob­vi­ously a lit­tle more ex­cit­ing than be­ing a sober com­pan­ion … or maybe not! It de­pends on who you have as a com­pan­ion,” she laughs.

At the be­gin­ning of this sea­son, Joan fi­nally re­vealed to Sher­lock the trauma that led her to aban­don her med­i­cal ca­reer.

“That was prob­a­bly one of the heav­i­est mo­ments she has had,” says Liu.

“It’s been a big ques­tion mark – what hap­pened to her? Why did she get kicked out of the field? It was an im­por­tant story point for the au­di­ence to un­der­stand how she fell into the path that she has with Sher­lock. Joan has a lot of lighter mo­ments so it’s nice to be able to hinge that with this other side.”

In­deed, while it may not be the straight up sit­com she was look­ing for, 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”.

On the case: Ele­men­tary star Lucy Liu; be­low, with co-star Jonny Lee Miller.



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