‘Elementary’ Star Lucy Liu on Sherlock and Joan’s Final Run, Saying Goodbye to the CBS Procedural, and What Comes Next

“The joys that came out of this show were the kind that I don’t know that I would’ve thought possible doing other shows and other movies,” Liu tells TheWrap

Last Updated: May 30, 2019 @ 9:27 PM

Everyone involved with “Elementary” has grown accustomed to the CBS drama’s status as a perennial bubble show, and was fully prepared for it to end with Season 6. And last season’s finale would’ve been a perfectly suitable final bow, with Sherlock and Watson having reaffirmed their mutual affection and admiration and finally taken up shop at the detective’s iconic 221B Baker Street home.

But to no small surprise, the long-running series was instead gifted with a 13-episode victory lap, one final chance to sew up the remaining storylines, bid a proper farewell to its cast of characters and maybe solve a few more murders along the way.

“I felt accomplished,” series star Lucy Liu said in an interview with TheWrap about the final run of episodes. “I didn’t feel sad, necessarily. I know that sounds strange, but this [show] was a such big endeavor.”

Liu and company certainly have a lot to feel accomplished about. By the end of the show’s run, she and her co-star Jonny Lee Miller will have played their version of Watson and Holmes in a total of 154 episodes of CBS’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation.

“I didn’t shed a tear, because the joys that came out of this show were the kind that I don’t know that I would’ve thought possible doing other shows and other movies,” Liu said. “I just felt so happy. Is that strange? I felt joyous.”

Elementary

CBS

The 13-episode final season sees Sherlock and Watson return to their New York brownstone after a year abroad when Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is shot while investigating a potential terrorist plot. In the process, they’ll have to reckon with their damaged relationships and reputations after last season’s finale. They’ll also have to find a new equilibrium in their personal relationship in the wake of Sherlock’s admission that they’re “two people who love each other.”

According to Liu, the duo has come to a place where they “see each other outside of just their partnership” and more in terms of their genuine friendship this season. They’ve begun to realize that they’re better together (platonically, of course) than they are apart, a new paradigm that extends to their colleagues at the NYPD. It’s the personal connection that lures them back to New York and to Captain Gregson’s bedside.

“To me, those are the more interesting aspects of the show,” Liu said. “Even more so than who’s gonna be the antagonist for that season.”

Read TheWrap’s full interview with Liu, in which she looks back on “Elementary’s” impressive seven-season run, teases what’s still left to come for Sherlock and Joan and explains her character’s new (blonde!) look.

Elementary

CBS

TheWrap: How did it feel coming into this season knowing this would be the end?

Liu: I felt accomplished. I didn’t feel sad, necessarily. I know that sounds strange, but this was a such big endeavor. I’ve said before that working on this kind of a show is not a race, you have to pace yourself, and I was really impressed at how we survived. How we were able to group together and become stronger as a family throughout the last seven seasons. I always look on the bright side of things — I didn’t shed a tear, because the joys that came out of this show were the kind that I don’t know that I would’ve thought possible doing other shows and other movies. I just felt so happy. Is that strange? I felt joyous.

Is there anything in particular that you’ll miss the most about “Elementary” as you move on to other projects?

I’ll miss seeing my friends. With a show like this, you know, you have the opportunity to see people rain or shine. You kind of have to be there, and you’re excited to be there, so you can always see each other and catch up. That’s not something that we’re going to have anymore, because we’re not reporting for duty. So that I’ll miss. But I’m still in touch with everybody. We still text, we still get together, but it’s not the same. You have other jobs and that tears you apart, in terms of location and time, and now we’re not as much of a unit as we were before. So that’s tough.

Knowing that you were going to be wrapping up Joan’s story, was there something specific you wanted to see happen? Or that you were really hoping to get to do?

I really wanted to make sure that she didn’t lose her personal life. You know, in the time that the show’s been on, she’s had a partner and then he was killed. There were so many different ways that we could go, but I just felt like I wanted to see more of the relationship end on her part. I had talked to Rob [Doherty, showrunner] about it, too. That was something that I was sad about not having developed [earlier], because I didn’t want it to seem like you can have a career but you can’t also have a personal life. And that sort of changes in Season 7, so I was happy for that. Because I didn’t want it to seem like it’s impossible to have both.

There was the storyline last season about her trying to start a family, and that’s obviously been back-burnered a little bit after everything that happened in the last couple of episodes. Is that something that we’ll see come back for her?

I think she definitely continues to struggle with it. It’s something that I know a lot of women friends of mine also struggle with. That sense of “I’m so in the flow right now, is it a good time for me to stop and go into this?” It’s a very modern sort of thing to be concerned about. So it’s something that comes up in Season 7, and I was glad for it. Because like I was saying, it was important to me to delve into her personal life more and not give up on that, or say that [starting a family] was out of the picture just because she made a choice about it before. I’m glad Rob was able to continue that story and not just let her turn into somebody who doesn’t even think about it. Because I’ve had friends who decided not to have children, but they did at some point think about it, you know? So I think that’s an honest assessment of what it means to prioritize your career.

Elementary

CBS

I also wanted to ask about Joan’s hair. There was a line in the premiere about her going blonde, was that a creative decision or something that happened in your personal life that got written into the show?

That was something that happened in my life but it worked out well for the story [Laughs]. I was doing a movie in Canada, and I’d been wanting to change my hair color anyway, so it was kind of a great opportunity to do that. And then in the same week, we also got picked up [for Season 7]. So it was sort of happenstance, but Rob was totally cool with it. He was like, “Well, if Sherlock can shave his head, Joan can have blonde hair.” He didn’t even flinch, it was great.

It plays into this sense that at the beginning of the season, Joan’s feeling a little bit like a fish out of water in London, where Sherlock is obviously very at home. How would you describe the state of their relationship after the time jump?

I think it’s in a place where they’re able to move forward in their relationship knowing that they’re for each other, regardless of the fact that he committed this terrible crime, essentially. The main thing that Rob always stressed from the very beginning was that he wanted to maintain the relationship — the friendship — between these two characters. A lot of people were asking when it was going to become romantic, but he never strayed from that idea. It’s remarkable the way that he honored that. But that was one of the reasons I was really excited about working on the show. He was able to say, I want the depth of their relationship to constantly be up for discovery.

Love doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic, but the word can be dangerous to use, especially when there’s two different genders involved. Everyone assumes that we’re going to get together or that when we say it, it means that we’re in love with each other. That’s not necessarily the case. [Sherlock and Joan have] almost like a heightened type of love because they’ve been through so much. They have this deep understanding of each other because their relationship started with her as his sober companion, as a support system. And then it changed and sort of metamorphosed over the course of the series.

At the end of last season she followed him to London, and then in episode two of this season, he ends up following her back, even going as far as to turn himself into the FBI. Was there ever a moment in that process where these two characters considered just going their separate ways? What’s at the root of those decisions to cross oceans for each other?

I can’t remember which season it was, but there was a point where Joan moved out because she really needed to discover who she was on her own and she was really disappointed in him [at the time]. But they moved past that and discovered they were better together than they were apart. And I think in this season, they really start to see each other outside of just their partnership. They see each other more in terms of their friendship. That’s also really clear even with Sherlock’s relationship with Captain Gregson. At the start of the season, he’s disappointed and really angry, and their personal relationship is really coming apart. To me, those are the more interesting aspects of the show. Even more so than who’s gonna be the antagonist for that season.

Elementary

CBS

Can you talk a little bit about your working relationship with Jonny? What’s it been like to play these characters who are so tightly bound together for the better part of a decade?

There’s a sense of professionalism that we’ve been able to maintain over the course of the show. Because we both work in the same way. And we’ve both grown a lot throughout that time. He started directing on the show, I started directing on the show. So we’ve also gotten to see each other outside of being actors. We’re peers, but we’ve also been able to hoist each other up and kind of encourage each other. And I don’t know that everyone works in the same way when they’re doing a show like this. And, I have to say, I’ve learned a lot from him, so I’m really glad we’ve been able to be partners in this. I’d even include in that mix Aidan [Quinn] and Jon Michael [Hill], who have really also been our framework for the show. The high points to me are when we were all together. I know that’s not often the case, but I don’t see it just as Jonny and I, necessarily. It’s all four of us. That’s not really a big cast, when you consider seven seasons, but in this case it really was the four of us holding up the show. And I credit Rob as the person who really kept that foundation as strong as it was.

That being said, Jonny and I work really well together. I’m going to go see him in his play tomorrow. So we try to support each other as much as we can, and I hope that will continue as time progresses. Because you do lose contact, that happens when you move on to other projects. But hopefully we’ll keep those family ties.

I also want to ask you about “Why Women Kill.” How did you choose that as your next project? What kinds of things were you looking for?

To me, Marc Cherry is somebody who can really connect drama with comedy. And I’ve spoken about it before, but my passion is comedy. I love it, I live for it. It’s something that makes me feel connected to my best self, when I’m laughing and making other people laugh. And I don’t always know that that’s a possibility, but Marc really is able to play with that line, much like David Kelley did on “Ally McBeal.” So I was offered the part, and Marc said he’d been wanting to work with me and that I’d be playing a character in the 1980’s, it was already like, “I’m in.” Shoulder pads and big hair? Come on. We just finished two episodes and the character couldn’t be more different from Joan Watson. Plus, it’s still within the CBS family, and they really have been such a great supporter of mine. It was kind of a no-brainer. I love the opportunity to really reach out and stretch those acting chops, the discovery and the exploration of different kinds of parts.

Elementary

CBS

“Sherlock” airs Thursdays at 10/9c on CBS.