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Benedict Cumberbatch Calls ‘Patrick Melrose’ His ‘Passion Project’

Benedict Cumberbatch has taken on some iconic roles in his career, from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, but he says his most meaningful might be his latest.

Cumberbatch plays the title character in new Showtime miniseries “Patrick Melrose,” which is based off a book series by Edward St. Aubyn. At the show’s premiere on Wednesday night, he told Variety that the show was “a passion project.”

“These are some of the greatest moments of 21st century prose, and to be a part of dramatizing that is a real treat,” Cumberbatch said of the “Patrick Melrose” novels. “This is a hell of role, and a hell of a stretch for any actor, and a hell of an opportunity for me, and I just hope we’ve done the books justice, so we’ve done something that has the same following and integrity the books do.”

The “Sherlock” star revealed his journey with the project started five years ago, when he said in a Reddit Q&A that he dreamed of taking on the character of Patrick Melrose. Days later, he met with producers and signed on to star, also taking on an executive producer title for himself.

“Patrick Melrose” costars Allison Williams and Jennifer Jason Leigh were also on hand at the premiere, held at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Los Angeles. The five-part series follows the life of Patrick Melrose, who experiences a privileged but traumatic childhood that leads him to heavy substance abuse and eventual recovery in his adulthood.

Leigh said she was a big fan of the books, but “didn’t think it was possible to adapt it, ever.” After reading the script, written by David Nicholls, she said, “it was like the book came to life in such a beautiful way; I have no idea how he did it.”

Executive producer Michael Jackson spoke about the “vision for this [miniseries] that each episode would have its own style, like a small movie.” Jackson also discussed the difficulty of navigating the story’s tone, which flips from dark and heavy themes to comedy in a second, saying, “the big challenge for us in terms of appealing to the potential audience for this show was for them to understand that the tragic and the comic sit side-by-side and are equally important.”

Cumberbatch took the stage ahead of the screening to thank the cast and crew, joking that he “wanted to welcome you to the biggest premiere this week,” referencing the stark contrast of “Patrick Melrose” to his massive “Avengers: Infinity War” premiere that shut down Hollywood on Monday.

“Patrick Melrose” premieres on Showtime May 12.

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