Benedict Cumberbatch on 'Revisiting a Character…as Opposed To Making Up a Character for the First Time'

Benedict Cumberbatch is well-known for a handful of blockbuster successes and critically acclaimed productions, such as The Imitation Game, The Mauritanian, The Courier, and more. However, the actor remains intimately connected to two roles — his Marvel Cinematic Universe character Doctor Strange and his take on Sherlock Holmes in the BBC crime drama Sherlock

During a chat with Tom Hiddleston (who plays Loki in the MCU) for Interview Magazine, the two discussed their careers, and what it’s like to transition from the small screen to the silver one (and back again). And, Hiddleston took the time to ask Cumberbatch what makes revisiting a familiar character different from taking on a whole new one. 

Cumberbatch says you must approach a reprisal ‘with the same level of invention’ you would approach a new character with 

Hiddleston asked Cumberbatch, “What do you think about revisiting a character—like Sherlock or Loki—as opposed to making up a character for the first time? Cumberbatch explained that the degree of invention required remains the same. He shared:  

“I think you have to approach it with the same level of invention. There are things that are a given, that you’ve already established, and obviously, visually, certain iconic things that can’t be completely removed, like a certain hat or a certain coat in my case.”

The Sherlock star went on to explain that strong writing is a major requirement when it comes to sticking with a character — the character must grow and develop over time to address and align with new obstacles. 

The ‘Doctor Strange’ star on strong writing, Loki, and more 

Cumberbatch told Hiddleston: 

“It’s interesting. I genuinely enjoy it. I think I wouldn’t do it if the writing wasn’t so good, if I wasn’t being asked to do different things with the character. It really depends on what the obstacles and objectives are. If they’re very interesting, then you can bring new tactics to play. And I think the characters are supposed to be an open book, blank canvas. With Loki, the shape-shifting god of mischief can be a number of things. And a consulting detective who suddenly can do kung fu and speak a different language or do sign language … There are all these untapped resources. As far as going in to do a day’s work, I like the familiarity of it. I wonder if it would feel the same revisiting a classic role onstage. Like, if I was to do Hamlet again somewhere else, what that would feel like?”

Cumberbatch explained that when playing the same character in the same production (like a famous Shakespeare play), not much changes other than the “context.” However, when playing the same character across a multi-arc narrative trajectory, there’s more room for continuous developments.

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