Lucy Liu to play Dr Watson in 'radical' US adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

He’s traditionally been Sherlock Holmes’ brave accomplice and a faithful chronicler of their sleuthing escapades.

Now Dr Watson will be transformed into an “ass-kicking” female counterpart, played by Lucy Liu, in the curious case of the gender-changing sidekick.

John Watson will become Joan in Elementary, a radical modern-day take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries, produced by the American network CBS.

With Jonny Lee Miller cast as Sherlock, the US series has made a bold move to distance itself from Sherlock, the hit BBC1 series, whose producers had threatened legal action if the American drama infringed their copyright.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR GALLERY OF FAMOUS WATSONS

Set in contemporary New York, Elementary begins with eccentric Brit Holmes, a former consultant to Scotland Yard, struggling with addiction problems which forced him to seek treatment in rehab.

Holmes’s recovery is assisted by his Brooklyn housemate Watson, played by the Charlie’s Angels star Liu, who in this version is a former surgeon who lost her license after a patient died, while consulting for the NYPD.

The pilot episode will be directed by Michael Cuesta, who won acclaim for the award-winning “war on terror” series, Homeland.

From Nigel Bruce, who starred opposite Basil Rathbone in the early 40s Sherlock films to the BBC's Martin Freeman and Jude Law in Guy Ritchie's recent films, the character of Watson, an able surgeon who struggles manfully to keep up with Holmes’s brilliant deductions, has survived many interpretations.

But Sherlock traditionalists reacted with disdain to the arrival Lucy Liu, which prompted comparisons with the partnership of Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in the 80s US detective series, Moonlighting.

Liu is not the first female Watson however. American actress Margaret Colin played Joan Watson, a private detective who thaws a cryogenically frozen Sherlock in a 1979 CBS television movie, The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.

Kurt Sutter, creator of the FX biker drama series Sons Of Anarchy, tweeted: “dear sir arthur conan doyle, i am so very sorry. and honestly, sir, ashamed at the things we do in the name of profit.”

Karen Krizanovich, the film critic, asked: “Does this reinforce the stereotype that Asian women are just smart & beautiful?”

A female Watson is far from the most outlandish portrayal of the role. In the short-lived 70s US series Holmes & Yo-Yo, the detective was partnered with a battery-powered, android sidekick. The show was voted one of the worst ever broadcast.

The Elementary team had initially approached Hartswood Films, which produces Sherlock for the BBC, to collaborate on a new, modernised version for CBS.

When CBS cast Lee Miller, who shared the lead role in the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch, the BBC’s Sherlock, Sue Vertue of Hartswood, said: “Let’s hope their pilot script has stayed further away from our Sherlock than their casting choice.”

Liu, 43, rose to fame in the legal drama series Ally McBeal before graduating to action roles in Charlie’s Angels and the Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill.

Conan Doyle described Watson as a thin, strongly-built man, with a small moustache. Injured serving in Afghanistan, he remains a crack shot and his medical skills are often key to solving a case.

CBS will decide in May whether the response to the Elementary pilot episode is sufficiently positive to move forward with a full season which would air in the Autumn.

The BBC series avoided using the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” which is often wrongly ascribed to Holmes, although his deductions are occasionally described as “elementary” in the Conan Doyle stories.

 

Famous Watsons

Nigel Bruce

California-born son of a Baronet starred in 14 films opposite Basil Rathbone from 1939-46 and 200 radio broadcasts of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. His bumbling Watson was more Laurel & Hardy than Conan Doyle.

André Morell

Portrayed a more serious Watson in 1959 Hammer film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Peter Cushing’s Sherlock. Strong and dependable foil in first colour Conan Doyle adaptation.

Martin Freeman

Bafta-winning performance from comic actor in modern-day BBC adaptation. A grounded counterpart who explains Holmes’ flights of genius to frustrated onlookers, his Watson is forced to deny rumours that they are more than flatmates.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition