I don’t think he’s damaged at all. I think it’s all self-inflicted. I think what this [season] is about is humanizing him, making you realize there’s actually an adolescent that is being repressed from childhood purposely in order try and become the ultimate, calculating deduction machine. And he can’t actually do that. These three challenges [in Season 2, one in each episode] humanize him through love, horror and the ultimate thriller, I suppose, through his face-off with Moriarty. I think what we try to do anyway is remind the audience that somebody that they have fallen in love with for being heroic is somebody who had to let vulnerability into his life, as he sees it, which is emotion, a moral compass of some sort, honor, defending your friends and what you hold dear, and actually being on the side of the good guys. As he says, “I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second I’m one of them.” He’s still going to use demonic means and it shouldn’t for a second make him less terrifying. There should be moments where you should be very uncertain of this person that you sort of found a little bit eccentric and rude and for some reason attractive, because God knows he’d be a difficult person to go out with — or try to at least. It is that thing of what you can’t have makes you want it more.
But he’s violent and he’s incredibly dark and it’s because of what he deals with and … it’s about control. He just wants control. And I think what he realizes and what John [Watson, played by Martin Freeman] teaches him is that it’s all very well to understand human behavior, but you have to actually be human sometimes to really get the benefit of it.
It’s a thin — it’s a very small difference, though, because he knows how to turn it on. He knows how to be charming, he knows how to play all the games we play in every social interaction, and yet he withdraws from them. Purely, it’s an athlete thing. He’s reserving what he needs for when he needs it. That’s a huge difference between him and me. I kind of spend myself too easily; I’m far more [makes a “putting it all out there” motion] “bleh,” and there it all is, heart and sleeve. But he’s incredibly controlled and that’s sort of what’s remarkable about him.
And I think, you know, the other thing I really enjoy is he is achievable. He is somebody that we could all be — not that we necessarily want to follow the personal traits, but these abilities. He doesn’t fly through space or have a sonic screwdriver, he’s somebody who has actually … [Contemplates.] Who has sonic screwdrivers? He’s somebody who by hard work and self-imposed discipline has achieved what he has achieved. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Quite hard, but not beyond it.