On Set at 221B Baker St

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, series 3. Photo by Annaliese Davis.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock during series 3 production. Photo by Annaliese Davis.

Last spring, Sherlock fan Annaliese Davis was studying abroad in London when she discovered series 3 was shooting on location in the city. Here is her behind-the-scenes report, written during her internship at KCTS 9.

Thanks to the great technological age in which we live, and a little Sherlock-esque sleuthing, one could almost instantly confirm the survival of Sherlock Holmes after season two. Filming began in March 2013 for the first episode in an even bigger and more mysterious third season of Sherlock.

One of the more endearing aspects of the new series is the setting—modern-day, central London. London is a city of 8 million people, so one would assume that anything set there would most assuredly not be filmed in the city. But the cast and crew of Sherlock are up to the challenge.

Studying in London for three months allowed me the great opportunity to watch television in the making, and after hearing rumors of Sherlock filming for days, I was finally able to track down the set via some sleuthing of my own on Twitter. As soon as I heard that the day’s shooting schedule would include shots at the illustrious 221B Baker Street, I made my way the two miles from my classroom to the real-life location—on North Gower Street, near Euston station in central London, which takes the place of the real Baker Street, about a mile to the west.

I arrived after 5 pm, unsure about how much filming I would actually get to see. I knew where the filming would be taking place—Twitter is the best site when it comes to instant reports of filming locations in central London—but walking to North Gower Street I got all sorts of turned around. It took me a few moments to realize that the production team changed all the names of the surrounding streets, as well as North Gower Street itself, to reflect the location of Baker Street for filming!

Already there were swarms of fans queued up to catch a glimpse of the stars—Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as his sidekick Dr. John Watson. Talking with other fans, I learned that production had been setting up since 10 in the morning, but they hadn’t actually filmed anything! We decided to take a chance, and found a decent spot to stand at watch along the sidewalk. After more than an hour, Sherlock and Dr. Watson finally arrived and filming was underway.

Taking my place along the barricade across the street from 221B, I was struck by just how glamorous television sets seem in the behind-the-scenes extras show on DVDs compared to the reality of taping. The Sherlock cast and crew took up much of the block, but somehow busy Londoners went about their day, pushing past the obnoxious paparazzi that had filled the pavement. Oblivious tourists walked in front of a shot as it was being filmed, and actors dodged a dead rat in the middle of the street until one unlucky production assistant had to pick it up with a rubbish bag.

Yet for all the madness and hysteria that seemed to surround the filming, the crew and production team of Sherlock joked with the fans and seemed to be impressed by the loyal following that had accumulated on the street.

Filming continued into the chilly early April evening, and even as it began to drizzle, the most dedicated fans held on, enthralled by the filming going on in front of them, waiting for a chance to talk to Cumberbatch, Freeman or Mark Gatiss, executive producer and co-creator of the show. Each scene was done over and over again, and from many different vantage points.

It appeared as though filming was finished, with an hour left of daylight to spare. The main actors left, after friendly waves to the crowd. Many fans left the corral across the street from filming. Even as it began to rain, a few like-minded fans and I stuck around, not completely convinced that filming was over for the day. After another hour of setting up different lighting rigs, the actors returned, and a night shoot was underway!

Damp and discouraged, the loyal group of fans still huddled together on a sidewalk across from Speedy’s Café for hours while different scenes were set up and the cast and crew broke for dinner. But at 10:30 pm we were treated to the surprise of a lifetime—Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock Holmes himself, came over to say hello! Luscious dark and curly locks aside, the man could not have been any nicer!

After my heart stopped racing and I was able to catch my breath, it was clear to me that the day could not get any better, and I decided to head home. Watching filming occur in person is far different than what you see in B-roll footage or even on behind-the-scenes extras. The Sherlock production team was amazingly friendly and calm considering the conditions in which they had to film, and with a large group of respectful fans who just wanted to get a glimpse of their favorite television show being made, it made for a great experience!

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07/28/14
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