IHOSE header

“When an actor I had, of course, learned all the secrets…” [TWIS]

In the March 2017 issue of the electronic newsletter The Sherlockian E-Times (Vol 17, No 3), Carolyn and Joel Senter posted this notice:
We recently received this note from that SOB, David Haugen:
"Hey all you SOBs and Friends of the SOBs!!!!!
SOB Charlie Cook of Sumter, SC just sent us this info about his New York-based granddaughter, SOB Nadia Alexander, who is an actress!!!

SOB Member Nadia Alexander will be appearing, as a guest star in the role of Hope Neligan, in the 18th episode of this season of "ELEMENTARY" on CBS, premiering later this month!
Checking CBS' viewing schedule today on the web, this Sunday (March 5) they are showing the 15th episode ("Wrong Side of the Road"), so our best-guess-timate is that Episode 18 (no known title yet) will show on March 26 but please, please, please check your local listings!!!
So, set your video recording devises and check your local listings!!!!

Terri and David"

The episode did air on Sunday, March 26. Called “Dead Man’s Tale,” it is a satisfyingly twisty story about the mummified remains of a man run through by a sword found in a self-storage unit. Turns out the man worked for New York City, stealing items from people who died without heirs. One of the looted items was a captain’s log from Captain Emerson Barker, who was also the legendary Colonial-era pirate Black Peter.

Tracing the path of the stolen logbook, Sherlock and Joan come across the mysterious Kashgar, middleman in fencing stolen antiquities on the dark web. Kashgar turns out to be Hope Neligan, teenage daughter of ex-con John Neligan.  Hope was played by the Sound of the Baskervilles’ own Nadia Alexander.

Before the show aired, I emailed Joel with additional information about the episode garnered from the internet and joked with him about the “E-Times ratings bump” —  “With Nadia's relatives, membership of the SOB's and E-Times subscribers, I have no doubt that the March 26 ratings will see a significant increase in viewership, to the delight of the CBS brass…”

In fact, according to TV Line, Elementary “enjoyed bigger audiences while hitting their best ratings since Dec. 18." Like TV Line, Deadline attributed the bump to the Final Four:
"North Carolina’s thrilling victory provided the best result of the tourney so far, and the surge pushed CBS’ subsequent lineup of 60 Minutes (2.7/10), NCIS: Los Angeles (1.6/6), Madam Secretary (1.0/4) and Elementary (0.8/3, tracked from 10:30-11 PM) up by double digits. Whether those tentative numbers hold is another matter, but right now almost all of CBS’ Sunday shows are at heights unseen since the NFL season was raging late last fall." 
But what do TV critics know about the clout of the E-Times and Sherlockians, anyway?

After “Dead Man’s Tale” broadcast, I reached out to the John H Watson Society’s Margie Deck, The Watsonian’s Pawky Puzzler and member of the SOBs, to reach out to Charlie Cook to ask Nadia to see if she would be interested in being interview for this website on her experiences on the show. Margie did, Charlie did, and Nadia said yes.

So, with a heartfelt thanks to Carolyn and Joel Senter, Margie Deck and Charlie Cook, we hear from the master thespian herself.

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere: Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Nadia Alexander: I am a New York City-based actor who has been working in the film/TV business for about nine years now. My initial love of acting began at age six, when I started doing theater in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I always knew it was what I wanted to do with my life, and now I’m fortunate enough to make my living—full-time—as an actor (no day job, hooray!). I also recently graduated summa cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College (one of the few tuition-free programs in the country) with two degrees in Physics and Psychology. 

IHOSE: How did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

NA: My very first introduction to the detective was through my grandpa, Charlie, who absolutely adores Sherlock Holmes and would always encourage me to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories when I was little (though I must admit, at that age, I had more interest in his Peanuts comic collection!). But I would say I was officially roped into the Sherlockian world in 2010, when a friend introduced me to the first season of the BBC Sherlock series. In my opinion, the first two seasons of BBC Sherlock are among some of the best and most brilliant pieces of TV I’ve seen, and the Benedict Cumberbatch-Martin Freeman-Andrew Scott trifecta as Holmes, Watson and Moriarty is the kind of truly spot-on, chemistry-filled casting that an actor like myself lives to watch. And while I do not regularly keep up with Elementary (I’m more of a binge-watcher than a week-to-week kind of TV consumer), both my grandpa and my mom are huge fans of the show, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of something I knew my whole family would enjoy and play in a world I’ve discovered more and more of over the past few years!

IHOSE: Tell us how you were cast for Elementary?

NA: I got the audition appointment from my agents to meet with the show’s casting director, Mark Saks. I’ve auditioned for Mark a few times in the past so we’ve developed a good rapport and relationship. As such, he brought me straight to a session with the director of the episode, Alex Chapple (as opposed to bringing me in for a pre-read, where the actor only reads for the casting director before potentially getting a callback with the director). I was given the interrogation scene to read for Mark and Alex and, because my agents had sent me a breakdown of the character, I knew Hope Neligan was supposed to be very bright and really know her stuff when it comes to the dark web.

To help me get into that mindset, I went in with the lines fully memorized (it’s usually standard to bring a copy of the scene in case you forget your lines, but I decided to take a risk) and just tried to play the scene as if I spent my days running business all over the dark web (in reality I wouldn’t know where to find the dark web, let alone set up shop!). I think my level of preparation really showed Mark and Alex that I was serious about the role and my approach to the scene was right for the overall energy of Hope as a character. So, just a few days after that meeting, I got a call from my agents that I had booked the role!

IHOSE: The episode you were on, “Dead Man’s Tale,” took elements of Doyle’s “The Adventure of Black Peter.” Black Peter became the sobriquet of a part-time Colonial era pirate and you became Hope Neligan, daughter of ex-con John Neligan, who sells the pirate’s stolen logbook on the dark web. How did it feel to be not only on a Sherlockian TV show but also to play a Canonical-ish character based on John Hopley Neligan, son of "absconding banker" J.H. Neligan?

NA: I think it’s always a real treat for Sherlock-based shows to give nods like that to die-hard fans who really know their canon. And as an actor, it’s fun because you get to see the parallels that the writers used to form your character. Even a little thing from the original story, like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock noting that John Hopley Neligan was too slight to run a man through with a harpoon, was able to be brought up in our story, with our Sherlock doubting that I could be capable of such an act with a sword (but my father could be)! Ultimately, it just adds a really fun layer that you hope will tickle fans of the original stories. 

IHOSE: How as it working with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu and the rest of the cast and crew?

NA: Jonny and Lucy were very welcoming, kind, and professional. When you come in for just a few days of work on a show that has been going on for years and you’re working with the leads of said show, it can be a bit intimidating, even for someone like me who has been doing this for quite a while now. But the two of them really made me feel like a part of the team and were very friendly both on and off set. Jon Michael Hill was also incredibly nice and very easy to work with, which was great since I had both of my scenes with him! When I wrapped, he even agreed to write and autograph a little note to my mom (who, as I mentioned, is an avid fan), which I put on my copy of the episode’s script as a little gift for her!

IHOSE: Did you get to “talk Sherlock shop” with JLM and Lucy?

NA: I wish! Sadly, network TV shooting tends to move very quickly, and so I was only on set with JLM and Lucy for a few hours and for most of that time, we were pretending to be other people! But you can tell after five seasons, those two really know what they’re doing and understand the beloved characters they inhabit week-to-week. It’s clearly second nature for them, and it was awesome to see them work as Sherlock and Watson! 

IHOSE: Did you have any Sherlockian-based discussions with anyone in production?

NA: Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to chat with anyone about Sherlock! I would have loved to sit down with the writers and pick their brains but sadly the days just move too fast for that! But all in all, I just had a really wonderful experience both as an actor and as a Sherlock fan.

IHOSE: Hope is arrested in her father’s home and interrogated at the 11th Precinct. Did you get to visit the Brownstone set? What did you think of it?

NA: Unfortunately, the Brownstone was at a different part of the stage and I had to get to my other job (more on that in a bit) before I was able to sneak a peek at it. But the Precinct was really cool. It’s amazing how much detail goes into making it feel like it’s a real space and not just a stage. They even had water fountains and payphones (though further inspection proved neither worked)!

Nadia on set as Hope Neligan. "No, really, the police arrested me on suspicion of murder, questioned me about
 my dark web business, then let me go! Look, I took a selfie at the station to prove it!"

IHOSE: I liked your performance as Hope, a brilliant 14-year-old (I’m not asking your age in case any casting agents are reading this!) who sees nothing wrong with being a middleman who facilitated the transfer of dubious items on the dark web to save her proceeds as tuition to attend MIT, because she’s not selling guns or drugs like her dad. To further the pirate metaphor of the episode, you captured both her certainty as someone who’s able to navigate dangerous shoals few could handle and her uncertainty as a kid in over her head in deep adult waters. I also liked Jon Michael Hill’s “what the heck” look during the arrest scene when you admit you’re Kashgar.

NA: Thanks! Jon and I had a lot of fun playing with our dynamic both in that scene and in the interrogation (where I got to be particularly snarky with him as payback for busting in on me and my dad!). There was a very funny moment when we were rehearsing the raid scene before the cameras started rolling, where, after I admitted I was Kashgar, there was a long pause, and Jon suddenly, very comically, turned around and ran out the front door and halfway down the block! We all laughed so hard!

IHOSE: Any possibility that Hope could return as one of Sherlock’s Irregulars a la Mason (Robert Capron), who was also in your episode?

NA: Sadly, those types of decisions don’t rest with me, but of course I would say yes if they invited me back. I did think it was interesting that I (presumably) got to walk free despite committing a felony! But jokes aside, I’m always happy for whatever work I can get, so I am very grateful for my one episode!

IHOSE: What’s next for you?

NA: I have a couple exciting things in store for 2017. Coming up soonest is the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Quinn Shephard’s very impressive directorial debut, Blame, where I play the lead villain, Melissa. Then, I’ve got two other lead roles in upcoming films: Phil, in Boaz Yakin’s psychological thriller Boarding School and Mina in Justin P. Lange’s monster tale, The Dark. I am also currently working on a new Netflix series called Seven Seconds, which, funnily enough, actually shares the same shooting stage as Elementary—it made commuting to work very easy that week! That should be out later this year or early 2018! 

IHOSE: Thanks so much for doing this and future success in all you do. 

Update: Since conducting this interview Blame has premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and Nadia was awarded Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film. Jury Comment: 
“For her powerful, multilayered and risky portrayal of a troubled teenager in Quinn Shephard’s accomplished directorial debut ‘Blame,’ the award for Best Actress goes to Nadia Alexander.”

I am especially thankful to our award-winning Sherlockian for graciously taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. As for Elementary, its season finale will be May 21. The Sunday night 10:00 pm time-slot is not especially kind and Sunday sports can frequently push the start time close 11:00. The Masters on April 9 pushed Episode 19 back by a week. The future is uncertain for a sixth season. Deadline reported mid-April:
"Elementary surprisingly did not make the list of early renewals for the first time, spending its first spring on the bubble. But I hear the crime drama, 100% owned by CBS, looks good to return and is making writer staffing deals for next season. While its linear ratings in the Sunday 10 PM hour are soft (7.7 million viewers, 1.1 in 18-49 Live+7), the series has off-network and SVOD deals with WGN America, Hulu Plus and broadcast stations that fetch in as much as $3 million total per episode; and it is a nice international seller too. Just last May, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves used Elementary as an example of a program ownership success story, telling investors that the show had “made approximately an $80 million profit for the corporation” the previous year.

On the other hand, with 120 episodes in the can, CBS is all set for a successful syndication. The fans, on the other hand, would like it to return. USA Today published the results for their annual Save Our Shows poll on May 5 and reported:
"The viewers have spoken, and they want to make time for NBC's Timeless.The freshman series was the favorite in USA Today's Save Our Shows poll, with 49% of voters saying they'd like the historically minded time-travel drama to stick around for a second season. CBS's Elementary, wrapping its fifth season this month, was a very close second with 48% (a difference of 1,350 votes), with NBC's Blindspot and ABC's Last Man Standing tied for third place with far less support. This year's turnout of 146,603 votes marked a new record for Save Our Shows, now in its 20th year....Timeless was the clear favorite among viewers under 50 (74% of teen voters picked it), while Elementary outshone it among the 50-plus group....Women also picked Timeless as their favorite to return, while men chose Elementary..."

It would be nice if CBS saw the poll and kept the results in mind when they make their final decision. I hope it returns for a sixth season and wraps-up the Morland Holmes, Jamie Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes storylines and give us a bit more of Ms. Hudson. After all, on the show she is a Greek interpreter.