Why did you want to retell Sherlock Holmes?
Kate Tracy (KT): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are mythic characters; mythology needs to evolve if it wants to endure. We’ve had so many versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson featuring them in a standardized mould of identity, that it felt natural to take the next step and do a feminist, queer-positive version.
Are you inventing new mysteries or modernizing the original stories?
KT: We plan to modernize the original stories firstly by setting them all in 1995 New England. I’ve always been fascinated by gender roles and their archaic but still very present stance in modern society, and I felt as if the nineties were a good era in which to explore that. But of course, Sherlock Holmes will be still written as Sherlock Holmes. I wanted to utilize Holmes for the moody, but observant instigator of justice he is. Only with our Holmes being a woman, these personality traits create a very different reaction.
Helen Davies (HD): The stories themselves give a spotlight to issues and methods of oppression that are very easy to take hold of and adapt for a much later decade. We still want to keep to and use the original plot lines and characters that Doyle gave us because they have a lot to offer.
You are based in Maine, so this will be an American retelling of Holmes, as well as a modern retelling, right? Is S-her-lock: The Web Series set in Maine as well?
KT: The story is set in Portland, Maine in 1995. Sherlock Holmes is still a British woman.
HD: In other words Sherlock is still a Brit but a very particular kind of Brit. A very displaced, post-Thatcher era Brit who might have left some skeletons behind in coming to Maine. The tea is bad but the weather is still the same.
S-her-lock sells itself as being feminist and LGBT-friendly. Your Sherlock and Watson are notable, of course, for being female, and Watson herself is a transgender woman played by a transgender actress. How else is the show LGBT-friendly? Are there other LGBT characters in the show besides Watson?
KT: The first episode, “The Adventure of the Voguing Women” features the Cubitts as two African American lesbian women. Mr. Hudson, their landlord at 221B Baker Street is a gay man, and a drag queen. The second episode, “The Adventure of the Devil’s Dance” takes place at Maine Street, a gay bar in Ogunquit, Maine.
I know it’s important to the LGBT community that trans characters be played by trans actors. Did you set out with that intention or was it a happy accident?
KT: We never even considered casting a cis person to play Dr. Watson.
Many people interpret Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (as well as many modern interpretations) as being asexual, and possibly in a queerplatonic relationship with Watson. Does S-her-lock’s Holmes follow this tradition? What is her sexual identity?
KT: I’ve always identified as asexual. It’s one of the reasons I love Sherlock Holmes so much. Our Sherlock Holmes is 100% asexual and that was also something we never even considered differently. It’s essential to the character. In terms of relationship dynamics, we’ve collected Holmes, Watson and Mr Hudson into a trio in order to explore the concepts of the ‘chosen’ family. They are three individuals displaced from their original or ‘natural’ family, and decide to make their own versions of family with people they choose to be with.
HD: Having Sherlock Holmes as an aromantic asexual is very important for me on several levels. We want to expose the stereotypes people on the asexual and aromantic spectrum are exposed to, but at the same time we want to avoid the notion that her personality is a result of her sexuality, or that her sexuality is only part of her personality that is worth paying attention to. That she is more than her orientation, but at the same time she is confident with her orientation and can and will fight back against people who try and class her as otherwise.
As for whether Holmes is in a queerplatonic relationship with Watson, we were more focused on examining the natures of relationships between friends and family, and Holmes interprets them. I always saw canon Holmes as someone who constantly pushed the limits and boundaries in his relationships with others, for better or worse. We wanted to carry that on in this adaptation.
Does Sherlock actually use those words to describe herself in the show? And is that why S-her-lock’s logo shares colors with the asexual flag?
KT: Yes and yes!
S-her-lock is set in the 90’s, right? Why did you decide to go with this setting?
KT: No cell phones. [smiles] Looking back, the 1990’s were such a crazy time. Technology and culture and people were changing so fast, some folks could barely keep up. I loved the idea of putting our Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in an era where things are just out of their reach.
HD: I adored the idea of Sherlock knowing that the world is on the cusp of a major technological revolution, and being fascinated and frustrated by it at the same time. Canon Holmes loved science and discovering faster methods of doing things, this Holmes is also extremely excited about how much potential technology has, only the developments are going too slow for her- meanwhile you have Watson just rolling with it and enjoying the new age of the internet. As I said earlier, the stories in their original format raise a plethora of moral issues for the reader, but the nineties also give us major opportunities to explore issues of the time that are still very relevant to today.
Will the characters be dressed in terrible 90’s fashions? ;)
KT: That was the other BIG selling point. Jean jackets, scrunchies, and flannel for everyone.
The 90’s was a far less accepting time for members of the LGBT community. Is this seen in S-her-lock: The Web Series at all?
KT: We wanted to create queer media that is honest and reflective of the community, but we didn’t want to fall into any awful stereotypes of the “tragic gay character” and we didn’t want to make it all about the character sexualities.
The story is set in 1995, a year where the AIDS epidemic affected half a million people in United States. In 1996 it was the first time in over a decade that the death rate and diagnosis numbers actually went down. We as writers and watchers know that; but our characters don’t. It’d been a long thirteen years of the LBGTQIA community only being stigmatized, shunned, and basically abandoned by the rest of society. That definitely runs as an undercurrent through our series. Clients come to 221B Baker Street for help, because they know they can’t go to the proper authorities, and Holmes and Watson are more than ready to work aside from the established system of justice.
You’ve already begun filming, but are running an IndieGogo campaign to fund the rest. Any idea when the first episodes will be available to watch? And will they be on iTunes or available to watch elsewhere?
KT: The first episode is on our indiegogo site, our vimeo, and will be put up on YouTube sometime around the first of July. The episodes will be available on iTunes starting in November, once we have finished the whole show!
S-her-lock is currently running an IndieGogo campaign that ends on August 12th in order to fund the shooting of more episodes over the summer.
Rewards start at $5 and include episode and season downloads, t-shirts, and the chance to be named executive producer of the show, among other things!