For five days each July, San Diego, CA, becomes a mecca for fans of all things related to popular culture, be it comics, films, novels, toys, art, video games, and every medium in between. Just a short walk down the street at The New Children’s Museum, NerdHQ was in full swing Sunday afternoon, July 24th. Established by actor Zachary Levi in July 2011, the NerdHQ panels raise funds for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that raises money to pay for cleft lip and palate surgery for children around the world.
Host Eric Artell warmed up the audience of approximately 200 fans with a quick auction of two Sherlock gummy gift boxes and a Benedict Cumberbatch gummy gift box signed by the panelists, raising over five hundred dollars in just a few minutes. Then, Artell asked the audience who had come the furthest to the panel – as it happens, it was China and Singapore – and followed up with showcasing audience members who were in cosplay. Levi came through a side stage door, waving to the audience and taking over host duties for Artell.
Levi cued the official trailer for season four of Sherlock to which the audience watched with baited breath, exploding into a gale of wild applause as the “Coming in 2017” appeared at the conclusion of the trailer. Levi then introduced writers Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and Mark Gatiss who also plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. Moffat and Gatiss are the co-creators of the hugely popular BBC version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Victorian detective, Sherlock Holmes. Moffat and Gatiss were joined on stage by producer Sue Vertue and actress Amanda Abbington who plays Mary Morstan the love interest of Martin Freeman’s Watson.
In a relaxed, informal environment, Levi invited audience members to ask their questions. The first question was directed to Abbington who was asked how her character balances marriage and pregnancy. She responded that “Mary is a bad ass.” Another person asked the panel when last they experienced a giggling fit. Moffat said it was at a wedding, while Gatiss stated he was at a funeral in which the family name “Gatiss” was pronounced differently each time the eulogist said it. Vertue indicated she got an attack of the giggles as she was watched the playback of a scene. Abbington related her episode occurred during filming with her lifelong partner Freeman and Cumberbatch. She said they had to try to compose themselves, because they were running short on production time.
Moffat claimed that the Sherlock/Moriarty exchange showcased brilliant scriptwriting when asked about his writing on the series. Gatiss was asked his decision-making process regarding the stage roles he accepted. Deadpan, he said it was for the money, but then chuckled and explained that he chose based on the part.
A general question to the panelists: What challenges did they face working on Sherlock. Abbington explained that the waiting and then having to quickly get into character proved her biggest challenge. Gatiss agreed and added that taking multiple takes could be difficult; however, once they were shooting the scene, time went quickly. Vertue stated the nighttime shootings were demanding. Levi said that he loved filming at night because of less people out, so it was liberating and afforded him the space to do things he would not usually get to do.
The panelists were then asked to give a title of a song that would describe the upcoming season from their prospective. Gatiss started singing “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack) while Abbington unabashedly claimed “Smack My Bitch Up” (Prodigy) was representative of her take, which resulted in a lot of laughter from the panelists and the audience. Gatiss was asked that as a character who doesn’t like to do much leg work, what will the season hold for him? He coyly said that viewers would see a lot more of Mycroft. Moffat added that Mycroft would be naked, to which Gatiss would neither confirm nor deny.
The panelists confirmed they had some story ideas they would like to explore in the future, but they were evasive to reveal what they might be. Gatiss was then asked that as both a writer and actor for the series, how did he balance how much screen time and dialogue he gave himself? Moffat stepped in and revealed that Gatiss would often limit himself to non-speaking lines; Gatiss added that he said it was very helpful being on set so he could change lines when needed. This led to an audience member asking if there had been any instances in which an actor refused to say certain lines. Moffat and Gatiss said that hasn’t happened; however, an actor might ask to modify a line or replace it with a facial expression to convey the same in a non-verbal way.
Was an LGBT presence coming to Sherlock in season four? Gatiss said no character was planned for this season. He was cognizant of the challenge to try to fit everything into a season and did not want a character to be included because of an “agenda.” Moffat added that in the series, which is fast paced and crisis ridden, the idea of “who do I want to date” doesn’t really come up in the minds of the characters. He added that it was important to be careful with how an LGBT character is represented, because he did not want to single out the character as different or requiring an apology.
The last question of the hour was directed to all the panelists: Given the literary roots of Sherlock, what was their favorite book? Abbington said The Velveteen Rabbit had been a childhood favorite and one she still shared with her daughter. Vertue said hers was Enchanted Tree. Gatiss blurted out Dracula, then said it was The Velveteen Rabbit, but felt he needed to say something different. Moffat said his favorite was Tom’s Midnight Garden. And with that, the hour was up!
Photos from this NerdHQ panel can be found at Fanbase Press’ SDCC 2016 photo gallery on Facebook.