When Sherlock cocreator Steven Moffat was prepping the third season of his beloved British sleuth show he planned on having an American actor play a new villain called Charles Augustus Milverton, based on a character of the same name from one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales. So how come fans will actually see Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen (a star of the original version of the The Killing and brother of Hannibal actor Mads) play a character called Charles Augustus Magnussen when the new season premieres on PBS this Sunday?
“I wanted him not to be British and we were looking at various film stars,” says Moffat. “But Sue (Vertue), who’s my wife and and the producer, kept going on and on about this guy Lars, saying, ‘He’s really cool, he’s going to be very big, his brother’s already big, and he’s been in these cool Danish shows which have become so big over here anyway.’ He couldn’t come to an audition so he self-taped some scenes on video for us. And he was just so stunning I didn’t get to the end of the tape. I just picked up the phone and said, ‘We absolutely have to have him.’ At which point [the character] became Danish.”
“I didn’t really know about the show,” says Mikkelsen himself. “I went home and looked at it and said, ‘F—ing hell, I want to be in that, yeah. I’d love to be in that.’ So I did all that I could with the taping and then it went well.”
The problem? Despite his Scandinavian roots, Mikkelsen actually sounded more Cockney than Copenhagen. “When I auditioned, I’d been spending time in London [shooting] called Montana and I’d picked up this accent,” says the actor. “So they actually asked me to Scandify it a bit for Sherlock.”
Mikkelsen says he was made to feel extremely welcome by the Sherlock folks, particularly the show’s stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. “You always get this for actors don’t you?” he laughs. “They never go, ‘Oh, he’s a real c—!” But they really are nice people as well as brilliant actors.”
While cagey about giving too much away concerning his Sherlock role, Mikkelsen describes Charles Augustus Magnussen as “a bad person. It’s one of the characters that the original Sherlock [describes] as being one of the most dangerous he’s come across.”
But who is more dangerous? Mikkelsen’s character on Sherlock or brother Mads’ Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal?
“Ooh, I wouldn’t know, mate,” he demurs. “He’s brilliant. It’s such an immense job he’s doing with Hannibal. I wouldn’t really compare myself to that. But let’s see what people say Sherlock it comes out!”
For more from Cumberbatch and Co., pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. And if you’re still desperate for more Sherlock coverage, like Entertainment Weekly on Facebook now to see an exclusive video of Moffat, Freeman, and Cumberbatch positing theories about how Holmes survived that horrifying fall in last season’s finale.