As an addendum to yesterday's commentary about Benedict Cumberbatch's interviews on talk shows, I’m posting just a few thoughts about this morning's interview with Jimmy Fallon (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon). As far as informative interviews go, the content wasn't the best ever, and the pace was so fast that the audience might not remember details about what was said. So--content-wise, average. However, from a media persona perspective, Cumberbatch was entertaining and more than kept up with Fallon during their mutual fan-fest.
To introduce Cumberbatch to the audience, Fallon mentioned the award nominations that U.S. viewers are more likely to recognize (Golden Globe and Emmy), but he also praised Sherlock at two points in the show, linking the actor with two key projects that American audiences should see. Fallon excelled in elevating Cumberbatch's energy and being so enthusiastic about the actor's work that Cumberbatch seemed empowered. The whole "Who can you impersonate?" game could have led to disaster, because Cumberbatch briefly seemed at a loss for an explanation, repeating his words before launching into a description of a spontaneous impressions game he and Martin Freeman play on set. I wish this moment had smoothly led to more examples of Cumberbatch's mimicry, but at least the guest turned the tables on the host, who then couldn't think of a way to impersonate Hilary Clinton (tough one) or Miss Piggy (at least he tried). The five-minute interview (with Star Trek clip) left little time for long answers or involved stories (although the Harrison Ford anecdote was a winner), but Cumberbatch and Fallon still covered quite a few topics as they ping-ponged words back and forth. Cumberbatch seemed to be with “his people”—Fallon as his greatest fan—and accepted the applause and effusive praise graciously. The nervous mannerisms were still there (at one point upstaging the camera's view of his face), but Cumberbatch seemed to be having fun and was incredibly animated in this interview.
What is interesting is the variety of "Cumbarbatches" U.S. audiences met in just a few days. Of the U.S. television interviews to promote Star Trek this week, Letterman created the most awkward scenarios, which resulted in the weakest “performance,” the Today show only briefly spotlighted Cumberbatch’s film role but presented a well-spoken, confident actor, and Fallon encouraged the hyperactive playmate not everyone in the audience may have yet met. If audiences seeing all three interviews were interested in continuity or had to describe their impression of Cumberbatch based only on these shows, they might have difficulty coming up with a unified conclusion about who he really is (at least in public). On the other hand, the actor showed that he could handle wildly divergent interview styles and present himself differently to each show’s individual audience demographic. It will be interesting to see if, during future promotional appearances, he will present a single “persona,” no matter who conducts the interview or what he is asked, or if Cumberbatch will surprise us with his reactions and responses. Funny, fun, frenetic—a good reason to be watching Fallon and Cumberbatch late night Friday/very early Saturday morning.
The best interview this week—albeit in another medium—is Caitlin Moran’s substantial and well-written article in the Times (full article by subscription here but already available in its entirety on other sites). I enjoy Moran’s books and articles; I admire her style and outlook on life. The new interview is yet another excellent conversation, this time with Cumberbatch and his parents. Moran's word choice is so descriptive that I could "see" the family home and practically sit down to Sunday dinner. For pure enjoyment, Moran's interview is well worth a couple of reads this weekend. It allows Cumberbatch to express himself in depth and to have more control over the way he will be perceived in the media during this incredibly busy time.