Martin Freeman Photo: BBC
Martin Freeman reportedly turned down the lead role in The Hobbit to continue playing Dr Watson in Sherlock
Wiry and greying at the temples, Martin Freeman is coiled in a chair at a West End members’ club enthusing about Sherlock, a modern-day interpretation of the famous detective story.
The 38-year-old plays Dr John Watson, an army doctor invalided out of Afghanistan and the flatmate of arrogant genius Holmes, a “consulting detective” who helps the police when they’re out of their depth.
“John Watson is very pukka and traditional and lends a moral framework to Sherlock [played by Benedict Cumberbatch], who’s more interested in the chase than in what’s right or wrong,” says Freeman.
But, despite his willingness to talk about his latest starring role, the actor who got famous playing nice guy Tim Canterbury in BBC sitcom The Office seems to be one of those unusual creatures: an actor without a huge, celebrity-lifestyle-influenced ego who’s capable of self-mockery.
He doesn’t drive (“I’ve never taken a lesson. There are better things to spend money on”); his main indulgence is collecting Motown records on vinyl; and he lives in Hertfordshire with his partner, actress Amanda Abbington, and their two children, Joe and Grace. They are reportedly five and one, but he declines to confirm their ages.
“Obviously they’re what I’m proud-est of, but when I grew up I thought all actors were [private] like de Niro. All I’ve read about him is that he likes black women. These days you have to know everything, and it’s tedious.
“I can be as frivolous as the next person, but I’d rather not make a career out of celebrity. When I go to a showbiz event, that’s four hours of my life lost. If people make a fuss over me, I just think, You should get out more. I don’t have spectacularly low self-esteem, but I’m not delusional. I’m just about worthwhile.
“I thought actors were dodgy until I hung out with stand-up comedians. They’re pathologically egotistical and make us seem like selfless wallflowers by comparison. I don’t want to be around people who can’t shut up. I guess they’re insecure, but isn’t everyone—unless you’re mental or boring?”
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The Street - Series 1