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Scott D. Pierce: Benedict Cumberbatch's 'Sherlock' fans are crazily devoted

Published January 24, 2014 4:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pasadena, Calif.

For several weeks, members of the Cumber Collective have been emailing the Television Critics Association, asking when and where Benedict Cumberbatch would appear before us.

I didn't tell them, replying only that TCA is just for credentialed members of the press, but a couple dozen of them arrived at the Langham Hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of their idol. And the online community — which, by the way, no longer wants to be called Cumberbitches (for obvious reasons) — was out in force, retweeting everything that came out of the interview.

It was, well, sort of weird. Not just for the journalists in the room, but for Cumberbatch, who was there to promote the third season of "Sherlock" (Sunday, 9 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7).

"It's kind of extraordinary and a little bit unnerving," he said. "I was sort of concerned that fans would storm the room."

Not to worry. I chatted with a few of the fans in front of the hotel, and there wasn't a rioter in sight. Cumberbatch described them as "supportive, loyal and, by and large, intelligent. And some of them are normal."

Well, "normal" is relative. Spending eight hours round-trip on a train from Orange County just for a chance to catch a glimpse of the actor seems sort of weird to me. In a harmless sort of way.

Cumberbatch is talented. He's charming. Great voice. Handsome. But what has generated an army of obsessed followers?

I have no idea. And neither does Cumberbatch.

"I think a lot of it comes with who [Sherlock Holmes] is, obviously. He's a very iconic figure," he said. "I don't know."

Much to his credit, Cumberbatch doesn't fight his odd strain of fame. The support of the Cumber Collective "means a hell of a lot to me," he said. And he has made an effort to not let it affect his everyday life.

"I still take public transport," Cumberbatch said. "I do go around on a motorbike quite a lot with a helmet, and that's quite anonymous. When I go shopping, I don't sort of send minions out and sit at home at the top of a tall ivory tower with guns pointed at the street."

Which is not to say that his life has continued unaffected. Such as when he went into a London grocery store to buy chicken and the guy behind the counter recognized him.

"He went, 'Oh, my God, he's an actor.' And that was it," Cumberbatch said. "I didn't get any chicken for half an hour. He got all his friends out. We took photographs over the chicken. I was getting really hungry for the chicken."

Cumberbatch said fans have been "really respectful," for the most part. And he gets how people are overwhelmed when they meet a celebrity. Like when he met "Breaking Bad" stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

"I'm not even a girl, but I completely had a meltdown," he said.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.