BWW Profile: Benedict Cumberbatch Emmy-Nominated Star of Stage and Screen
In anticipation of the live 66th Annual Emmy Award broadcast on NBC on Monday, August 25th, BWW will be spotlighting the Emmy nominated TV performances of some of Broadway's biggest stars. If you want to follow along and interact with all of BroadwayWorld's Emmy coverage, check out #BWWEmmys on Twitter.
Though only 38 years old, British actor Benedict Cumberbatch has already amassed an impressive list of credits on stage, on television, and on the big screen. Though he has yet to grace a Broadway stage, I have a feeling that that is just an eventuality as his popularity continues to grow on this side of the Atlantic. Today we are taking a look at his career from the British stage in "Hedda Gabler," "After the Dance," and "Frankenstein;" to his work on film in "12 Years a Slave," "August: Osage County," and "Star Trek: Into Darkness;" to his iconic performance on TV as the "high-functioning sociopath" titular-character on the BBC's "Sherlock," for which he is nominated a second time, in addition to his 2013 nomination for HBO's "Parade's End."
Cumberbatch came to fame in the United States playing a modern Sherlock Holmes on the BBC series beginning in 2010. Benedict stars as the famous detective opposite Dr. John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, another British star of stage and screen who has seen his status skyrocket since the series debuted. The format of "Sherlock" is a little unusual for American viewers; each season (or series as they are called in the UK) is comprised of three 90-minute episodes. Between the first three seasons, there has been either 16 or 24 months between runs, with Season 4 currently in preparation. There will be a full-length special episode shot in early 2015 to tide fans over until the three-episode full season can be scheduled amidst the stars' movie schedules. Ironically, given the format of both "Sherlock" and FX's "Fargo," Cumberbatch is going up against Freeman in the ridiculously competitive Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category. Though Cumberbatch is nominated for the third Season 3 episode 'His Last Vow," the Best Man's speech he delivers at Watson's wedding in the second episode, "The Sign of Three," is enough to bring a tear to the eye of even the most emotionally detached narcissist.
Though most American fans only became familiar with Benedict from "Sherlock," he was a highly regarded stage actor for nearly a decade before joining the BBC's show. After years of performing Shakespeare and other classics, in 2005, Cumberbatch was nominated for an Olivier Award for his portrayal of George in the West End production of "Hedda Gabler." After leading the Olivier-winning revival of "After the Dance" in 2010, the next year he starred in Danny Boyle's revolutionary production of "Frankenstein." In the play, he alternated playing Victor and the Creature each performance with co-star Johnny Lee Miller. Ironically, Miller would be cast as Sherlock Holmes in CBS' modern-day take on the detective, "Elementary," the following year. For his performance, Cumberbatch not only took home the Olivier, but also the prestigious Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Theatre Awards. Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that in 2015, Cumberbatch will take on the most prestigious role in the English language when he plays Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in London. The entire 14-week run sold out in just minutes.
The success of "Sherlock" has opened many doors for both Freeman and Cumberbatch. While Freeman has starred in the "Hobbit" Trilogy as Bilbo Baggins and on "Fargo" as Lester Nygaard, Cumberbatch has been busy, filming 21 movies since 2010. He starred in "War Horse," the "Hobbit" movies as The Voice of Smaug, and "The Fifth Estate" as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Last year Cumberbatch was a member of the ensemble of two critically acclaimed films, Tracey Letts' "August: Osage County," and the Academy Award-winning Best Picture "12 Years a Slave." However, he is probably known to the widest audience from "Star Trek: Into Darkness." I won't give away too much about his role in the film, but after you see the movie, you will probably want to scream out his name in anger. Just yesterday, it was announced that Cumberbatch will voice the tiger Shere Khan in the adaptation of "The Jungle Book."
Cumberbatch's success has brought him a legion of fans on both sides of the pond. It has become increasingly difficult for him to shoot street scenes for "Sherlock" as thousands of fans are always just outside of the camera's view. In fact, his female fans have given themselves a rather colorful nickname that makes Benedict blush; they call themselves "Cumberb*tches."
While I won't go so far as to call myself that, I am an admitted fan, and thus have put together five videos that highlight his remarkable career. The first is of the production of "Frankenstein" opposite Miller. In this clip, Benedict is playing the doctor. The next video is of a television broadcast of the play "The Turning Point," in which Cumberbatch plays a Soviet spy working undercover at the BBC to get close to Winston Churchill. The third video is a classic scene from the first season (or series if you are British) of "Sherlock," opposite Freeman. The last two videos are from two of Benedict's more recent movies; the first as Little Charles in the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County." The final video is of a dramatic scene from Cumberbatch's villainous turn as ***Spoiler*** in "Star Trek: Into Darkness."
Will you be cheering on Benedict during next Monday's Emmy telecast? Check back with BWW TV on Friday when we will give you the chance to predict whether or not he will win his first TV trophy. Let me know your thoughts on Benedict's nomination and the Emmys in general in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt and #BWWEmmys.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast will air live coast-to-coast on Monday, August 25th (8 PM ET/5 PM PT) on NBC from the NOKIA Theater L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. And be sure to visit BWW TV for live coverage of the 2014 Primetime EMMY AWARDS.