Q & A with Elementary’s Aidan Quinn
Sherlock Holmes leaves his digs at 221b Baker Street to take a trip across the pond in the new television show Elementary, where the iconic English sleuth is re-imagined as a consultant detective in 21st-century New York. He trades the familiar pipe and deerstalker hat for a cellphone and modern forensics, though Holmes’ trademark brilliance for observation remains. Aidan Quinn plays New York City police captain Tobias Gregson on the show. The 53-year-old recently spoke with Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago about working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, fatherhood and literature’s greatest gumshoe.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: Before you got into acting you worked as a roofer. Tell us about how you made that switch.
AIDAN QUINN: I had been living in Dublin after graduating from high school and I started seeing a lot of interesting lunchtime theatre where, for 50 pence, you could get a bowl of soup, a hunk of cheese, bread and a play … I started seeing these things and thinking, “I think I could do that.” That’s where it was born.
MC: And from there you’ve built a career working with names like Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, Robert Duvall and so on.
MC: Any examples?
AQ: There was a scene in Benny and Joon – he’s making a mess in the dining room pouring ketchup. I mean, there were takes where it would take the prop guys 10 minutes to clean up what he did off camera and the silliness he’d do off camera just to get reactions from me and Mary Stuart Masterson.
MC: From film to television, congratulations are in order: Elementary was just picked up for a full season. What’s it like working on a television show when you have that uncertain future hanging over you?
AQ: That was great news … We were very quietly confident but you never know until you get the call. It’s just a major relief. And also, it makes everything easier for the crew. And the writers know that they have a job so they can get to work on the next 10 scripts.
MC: Were you a fan of Sherlock Holmes before joining the cast of this show?
AQ: No more so than most. I’d watched it as a kid when it came on the telly – the old Basil Rathbone ones. But I’ve never read the series of the books. I’m starting to read them now, and they’re pretty damn good. The writing’s fantastic. I’m shocked at how good it is.
MC: What sort of feedback have you received from Sherlock Holmes fans?
AQ: I have got the weirdest texts from Holmes aficionados, and they love it. I have a couple of English friends who are real snobs about (Sherlock Holmes) and they said, “I thought I was going to hate this” and they’re into it. And it’s also the writing, obviously, and direction. The dynamic between Johnny (Lee Miller, aka Holmes) and Lucy (Liu, a.k.a. Dr. Watson) is just fascinating.
MC: Your character, the New York City police captain, isn’t the stereotypically depicted gritty cop. He actually has a soft spot for Sherlock.