Sherlock: Season II

The Making of Moriarty

When the time came for Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and actor Andrew Scott to unleash Sherlock's nemesis Jim Moriarty, they gave us a true arch-villain for the 21st century. Now, they share their insights into the character and take us deep into the mind of the madman.

Play the slideshow (below) for images of Moriarty and character analysis from Moffat, Gatiss and Scott.

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  • A New Moriarty

    Steven Moffat: We wrote an audition scene — which ended up pretty much as the swimming pool scene — which feature all the Moriarty quirks and psycho moments. It was Andrew who could bring those to life.

    Mark Gatiss: We set out from the start to make Moriarty a younger, stranger nemesis for our hero but Andrew's reading of the part simply blew everyone away. He's an actor I'd long admired and he brings to it the most amazing blend of charm, impishness and absolute, blood-freezing malevolence.

  • A New Moriarty

    Steven Moffat: The problem with Doyle's Moriarty, is that the character was too successful. Almost every super-villain that followed him, talked almost exactly like him. Smug, supercilious, seemingly courteous. To have done that again, would have seemed like a cliché. So Mark and I took the decision to have a genuinely mad, frightening, unpredictable psycho-Moriarty.

  • A New Moriarty

    Andrew Scott: Because I'm as physically different to the person you would choose [as Moriarty], it could be perceived as a surprising choice. Going with that, what I really didn't want to do was copy any other villain. So I didn't look at any of the different incarnations of Moriarty before. I kind of took a risk in that sense, by just going with what I thought was the darkness that is within me.

  • Hiding In Plain Sight

    Andrew Scott: You have to be very sparing with Moriarty, and they're very clever in that sense, not to overuse him. So it was very important for me to really make his presence felt in each of the scenes he appears in. There's a great expression that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss use, "hiding in plain sight."

  • Hiding In Plain Sight

    Mark Gatiss: In the original stories, he's a much older man, his "shoulders rounded through much study." We thought it would be great to effectively make him Sherlock's stalker!

    Mark Gatiss: When we were making the pilot, we all fell in love with the character of Molly Hooper and her hopeless love for Sherlock. I had an idea that we should give her a trophy boyfriend whom Sherlock immediately deduces is gay! It was an off the cuff joke but it eventually led to the idea that we would first meet Moriarty in that way — literally the last person you'd expect.

  • The Physical Moriarty

    Mark Gatiss: I spoke to Andrew at an early stage about keeping his lovely Irish accent as Moriarty is, after all, an Irish name so I thought that would be nice. Also, as a nod to the originals, I asked him to put in a little of the distinctive oscillating head movement that Conan Doyle describes. A literal nod I suppose!

  • The Physical Moriarty

    Andrew Scott: I kind of like the idea of him wearing a light suit, not something that you would necessarily see on a stereotypical villain — the big black cloak and the black hat — and I just wanted to do sort of the opposite of the stuff I may have imagined Moriarty to wear.

    Steven Moffat: He's up against a dapper Sherlock, and since he's just as vain, he would be unlikely to let [that] side down.

  • Playful & Menacing

    Steven Moffat: [Moriarty] not bothering to be menacing is the most menacing thing of all. To face off against Sherlock Holmes and to seem almost bored at the prospect — to be cracking jokes in the face of the genius detective — is so unsettling.

    Mark Gatiss: Bad people don't know they're bad. They think they're RIGHT! He's just having fun. Anything to distract him from the dreary monotony of existence.

  • Playful & Menacing

    Steven Moffat: He doesn't care. I keep coming back to that. He's playing because he's bored — a malevolent child without limits. Psycho on a sugar rush.

    Andrew Scott: Even though he's an international super-villain, I think he takes great pleasure in what he does. So it was important that I really enjoyed it and we got the sense that Moriarty is really playful about it and not serious. And then sometimes you think that he really is serious about it...sometimes he's massively scary and sometimes he's just charm itself.

  • So Changeable

    Mark Gatiss: If you're that terrifyingly intelligent, then what's left for you? Andrew infuses him with a terrific sense of ennui. That the world is too small, too trivial, too boring for him. So he seeks any kind of distraction. Sherlock is the only person who can get remotely close to his level of genius so, for a while, he enjoys the game.

    Steven Moffat: Again, it's the power thing. [Moriarty is] absolutely confident he can handle anything without effort. Consistency is for people who care. People who don't really care about anything are the scariest of all.

  • So Changeable

    Mark Gatiss: It's worth saying that there were a couple of things that influenced his creation. One (which works equally for Sherlock) is the story that Isaac Newton was so clever, so brimming with ideas that when he woke every morning he had to sit on the end of the bed with his head in his hands, just to let his mind 'settle'. I think that's just so thrilling as an idea and we wanted Moriarty to have something of that quality. Secondly, I remember when I was a child watching Peter Sellers being interviewed and he said something at once extraordinary and chilling. He was such a chameleon, such a repository for other characters and their quirks that he said to the interviewer "I THINK this is my voice'. Like a lost soul who no longer knows what he is. That sense of an empty human being with something dark and terrible inside him, Andrew can do like no one else.

  • So Changeable

    Andrew Scott: Like a lot of people that are emotionally sort of disturbed in that way, he can be massively high, and I think he gets a great deal of comfort in being able to challenge Sherlock. I think he's somebody with a lot of immediate access to the way he feels.

    Andrew Scott: That's what fear is, is to feel unsettled, not I know what this is so I'm able to deal with this. If you don't know what something is, then you're more like Um...what should I be feeling?! And if you can increase that, and that's what I tried to do with Moriarty, play with it throughout the series, then hopefully the audience will feel that.

  • Sherlock and Moriarty

    Steven Moffat: This is the man that forces Sherlock Holmes to become a hero. In our series, as in the original, Sherlock is first introduced as a cold, amoral reasoner, fascinated by the game for its own sake, indifferent to good and bad. It takes Moriarty to push him to the point where he'll put his own life on the line for the love of his friends, and for what he believes is right.

    Mark Gatiss: It's a cliché to say they're two sides of the same coin but that's clearly true. Sherlock chose a different side in the game, perhaps because it's harder to be good! Ultimately, though, Sherlock realizes he is different to Moriarty. He does care about people — although he will never be like the rest of us.

  • Working With Benedict

    Andrew Scott: Because [Moriarty's] very intelligent and playful, I had to rely on whatever playfulness is in me. I had a lot of ideas, I'd read the scripts hundreds of time, but then you just wait and see what happens, and see what Benedict is going to do. Because I had to be a little bit unpredictable, I definitely got to try things that worked sometimes, and sometimes were really embarrassing. So we definitely had a really good laugh.

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