The Stars of Sherlock Return to the Show as World-Famous Celebs

It's been nearly two years since the last season and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have both found Hollywood fame in the interim

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on May 22, 2011 in London
Jon Furniss / WireImage / Getty Images

Nearly two years since the season-two finale of the BBC series Sherlock aired in Jan. 2012, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are back as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson with another round of adventures in the modern retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery tales. The much-anticipated third season of Sherlock is set to air in January. The premiere episode, “The Empty Hearse,” will feature Holmes’ return to Baker Street after he faked his own death at the end of the season two.

At a London screening of the season premiere for a small group of fans on Dec. 15, Cumberbatch and Freeman fielded questions about the upcoming season. Asked if there were any noticeable differences coming back to the show after nearly two years away, Cumberbatch quipped, “our trailers were much bigger.” Freeman added that as the cast and crew filmed scenes in London this time around, “the crowds in the street were definitely bigger.”

It was a not-so-subtle reference to just how much the pair’s global fame has risen since Sherlock‘s previous season. Since 2012, the two actors have both seen their stars take off in Hollywood and proven they can help put people in movie theater seats. Freeman — who was previously most widely known for his role as Tim in the U.K. version of The Office — has since starred in The Hobbit franchise as Bilbo Baggins, which has earned him international fame. (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was number one at the box office this past weekend.)

As for Cumberbatch, he also appeared in the The Hobbit films (in the second installment, he voices the titular dragon), in addition to starring roles in The Fifth Estate, 12 Years A Slave, Star Trek Into Darkness and August: Osage County. It would be hard for either actor to deny they’ve seen an incredible amount of success since they last appeared as Holmes and Watson.

Sherlock‘s creators are also well aware of the fortuitous turn of events that have taken place since the shown launched in 2010. Back then, Freeman and Cumberbatch weren’t widely known actors outside of the U.K.  Sherlock‘s return in Jan. brings with it a whole new level of celebrity. “We always felt confident about the show and now we have ended up with these two huge film stars,” said Sue Vertue, Sherlock’s producer, gesturing to Cumberbatch and Freeman at the London screening. “It’s what we’ve always hoped it would be: event television.”

Yet, despite the time off and the added experience, Cumberbatch and Freeman both said that the returning to their Sherlock characters felt the same as it always had before. “It’s like slipping on an old coat,” said Freeman, who wonderfully portrays Sherlock’s emotionally complex sidekick. “I like the familiarity of playing John [Watson].”

While Cumberbatch admitted that “it takes some time to get in Sherlock’s head because, you know, we’re not the same person,” he also said he was delighted to play the eccentric character once again. “We get as much fun as you do when we first read the scripts,” he told the screening’s audience. “It’s a lot of fun to be back.”