Aidan Quinn says Sherlock is relatable

Actor Aidan Quinn poses for photo while promoting his new show "Elementary," in Toronto on Wednesday October 24, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

TORONTO - Though some fans are dismayed to see reboots and remakes of their favourite franchises and characters, Sherlock Holmes is among those that work well when reinvented, says "Elementary" star Aidan Quinn.

Quinn plays Capt. Tobias Gregson in the series that's set in present-day New York and stars Jonny Lee Miller as an addiction-plagued Holmes and Lucy Liu as his "sober companion," Dr. Joan Watson.

"I think there's ... a tremendous amount of rich detail in the original (Sherlock Holmes) novels that lends itself to many different interpretations," Quinn, 53, said in a recent interview.

"Here you have a Sherlock that's coming out of rehab. Well, Sherlock Holmes in the books was experimenting with cocaine. Cocaine was legal in the 1890s or whatever it was, Victorian England, and he was trying to use it as a tool to sharpen his mind, to help solve crime.

"I'm not beginning to suggest that cocaine does that — but that was the feeling at the time, which was why it was legal. So (this is) a very interesting version that people are loving."

Airing Thursdays on Global and CBS, "Elementary" sees Holmes as a former consultant to Scotland Yard who is now solving crimes alongside Gregson in New York after a stint in rehab there.

The same quirky, astute observer he was in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, this Holmes is aware of everything going on around him — so much so that he often seems psychic. His social graces are lacking though and he can be frank with victims and rub them the wrong way. That's where the personable Watson helps him.

Quinn said he signed on to the show because of the sharp script, stellar cast, and the prospect of steady work in his home city of New York.

He hadn't seen anything on the super sleuth since he watched him on TV as a kid, so he's trying to catch up now that "Elementary" has been greenlit for a full season.

"I'm not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado — yet. I'm getting there, people," said Quinn, a Chicago native who played the blue-eyed heartthrob in the 1985 film "Desperately Seeking Susan."

The Emmy Award nominee for the 2007 miniseries "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" has also adopted Holmes' tendency to take notice of everything going on around him.

"I went to a tracking and wilderness survival school a long time ago to get ready for a role and one of the things I was taught there was awareness of what's around you and details of what's going on, and that was for hunting reasons," said Quinn.

"I've always liked to challenge myself since then about, 'What do you remember, what was the colour of the room?' ... I mean, we walk around mostly 90 per cent asleep. We use such a tiny part of our brains."

Such observational skills are being lost more than ever in the smartphone and tablet era, added Quinn.

"We're myopic, too, we're looking at that screen, that iPhone, that iPad, the BlackBerry. Whatever it is, we're looking directly at that screen, we don't even have to look around us."

Quinn has played a member of a police force about five times throughout his career and said he's become friends with some of the officers he's met through research for his roles.

"I love cops," added Quinn, whose other films include "Benny and Joon" and "Legends of The Fall."

"Whenever I've met them, I like listening to them, I like their stories, I like the moral dilemma that being a policeman is, I like the fact that they have to battle with being hated right off the bat and yet completely loved when they're needed.

"I like the drama of it, and if you're certainly a detective or a homicide detective in New York City, you're going to come across every walk of life, and I like that."

Quinn's upcoming projects include the Christmas TV movie "Horses of McBride," which was shot in Alberta last March. For one scene, he had to sit on a snowmobile while being pulled up a steep hill. He ended up injuring some crew members when the vehicle started to slide and he inadvertently hit the accelerator out of panic.

"I took out the sound cart, the sound man, the boom man and another gentleman.... The snowmobile right on top of them," said Quinn.

"The absolute worst feeling in the world. I pride myself on my safety and stunts and not hurting anyone, because as a young actor there was a couple of things that happened where I went, 'OK, never again.'"

The crew members were bruised but fine, added Quinn: "But let me tell you, that was one of the worst feelings in the world."