'I felt incredibly inferior to be playing both Superman and Eleven's older brother.'
"I hope people enjoy it as much as we did making it," Sam Claflin says. He's talking about Enola Holmes, the new Netflix movie starring Millie Bobby Brown as the titular budding detective and youngest sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Claflin). As soon as those words are out of his mouth, he quickly adds, "I feel that's a line I use in every job I've worked on, but it's true."
When Claflin says it, you believe it. He sounds just as excited about the time he spent with his co-stars as he does the patricians and petticoats of Victorian England being a part of the first female-centric story in the Holmes canon. (Enola is actually not a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but young adult author Nancy Springer in The Enola Holmes Mysteries.)
The same goes for his next project, Daisy Jones & The Six, Amazon's miniseries adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid's best-seller. The show is set within the wild west of the L.A. music scene circa 1970, about a rock group who abruptly splits up at the height of their fame. Claflin plays Billy Dunne, who's navigating his newfound celebrity and increasingly messy relationships with frontwoman Daisy (Riley Keough) and wife Camila (Camila Morrone).
Claflin calls from London to chat with ET about playing big brother to "Superman and Eleven" and how he's channeling his inner rocker for Daisy Jones & The Six.
ET: I know things had at least for a bit started to go back to normal over there following lockdown. How are you doing these days? What's life like right now?
Sam Claflin: I feel like the whole world is taking two steps forward and three steps back at the moment. Everything's so uncertain. There's rumblings of another lockdown. So, who knows? I feel a bit helpless. Or hopeless is probably the better word. Everything, it's just all uncertain, isn't it? But I'm doing all right. Mentally, physically, emotionally, I'm holding it together. I'm staying sane, just about.
We're all losing it a bit, so sane just about is what we're all aiming for these days.
Let's talk Enola Holmes. Maybe not so much for Mycroft, but for you, it must have felt good to be in support of a young woman within the Holmes franchise and of Millie as a star in this genre.
For me, that was exactly the reason I wanted to be involved, in all honesty, to just champion someone as wonderfully talented and as charismatic and as focused and exciting as Millie. She's such a joy to work with. And I think it is that fresh take on a classic tale. We've seen so many different Sherlocks in our time -- just our time, let alone the times before! It didn't feel like a rehash or a remake. It felt very fresh, very new, very current and very relevant, surprisingly. In all honesty, I'm Team Enola. Mycroft can go stick it. [Laughs]
Millie was a producer on this, too. What was it like seeing her in that role?
I'm not sure I ever saw her sit on a producer's chair with a producer hat on, but she's just an incredibly focused and professional and incredibly well-experienced actress. That's the role that I saw her in. But also, you do forget that she's only 16. She's still so young but just so exciting. And it's not just Millie. Just looking at the whole youth of today -- the younger generation, the future -- it's a really exciting time to be living in. And watching her at the forefront of it, just doing it expertly, it was a joy.
One of the things that tickled me about this movie is that you play Henry Cavill's older brother. [Claflin is 34, Cavill is 37.]
I know, I know. How ridiculous is that? I mean, come on. [Laughs] To be fair, he's way more handsome, so I think they were like, "We'll stick a mustache on Sam, [and] we'll make Henry look as handsome as possible." I have to say I felt incredibly inferior to be playing both Superman and Eleven's older brother with nothing to my name.
You've got The Hunger Games to your name!
I have Hunger Games. Yeah, I was Finnick. But Finnick died.
Superman died at one point, too.
But Finnick had no superpowers! [Laughs] I love Henry to bits and what was amazing, actually, was exploring the fact that we're both from very big families and we both have older brothers and younger brothers, so we were able to discuss our experience in that kind of competitive world and we brought that to the table. So, it was actually amazing having the opportunity to work with him.
Well, these are characters we know quite well. What were the conversations you and Henry had about how you wanted to play Mycroft and Sherlock's dynamic?
Fortunately, most of the dynamic was there on the page before we even got involved. You know, the competitive nature, the bitterness from Mycroft's front, the jealousy, it was there. But we added to it. With the introduction of the billiards game and Sherlock always winning and him getting all the fame and all the fortune and everything, there is that understandable and undeniable bitterness to Mycroft, which was really enjoyable to play.
My little brother is someone who's just naturally gifted at anything and everything they try to do, so I knew exactly how that felt. That was the aspect of our characters that we wanted to bring out more. You know that both are intelligent humans, but actually seeing them quite human was quite refreshing and what we wanted to bring to the table, that really, before anything else, they are brothers and they have a younger sister and bringing that family dynamic to it. It's the first time I thought that you see them as a family. Normally, they're sort of compatriots or acquaintances, so it was quite nice to play with that.
You mentioned the stache. Was that provided for you or did you grow that out?
It started as a bit of both. I think we made the decision that we were going to have a stache, but I was coming off the back of another job where I was clean shaven, so I was desperately squeezing one out. They were laying hair to make it a little more twisty and twiddly, but by the end of the job, that was all me. That's something I can put on my CV now, so I'm quite grateful for that. [Laughs] But I was saying only recently that I feel like most of the jobs I've done over the last few years have required a mustache. I don't know whether someone saw me once and went, "Yes," and now... I'm the new Tom Selleck. What can I say? I'm really not, by the way.
In the movie, there's that caricature drawing of you in all your mustached glory. Did you get to keep that at the end as a souvenir?
I personally really giggled when I first [saw that], because they wouldn't show me it until I ripped the duvet off the bed. And I couldn't help but corpse as I saw my very, very, very big head on a very small body and my stern eyebrows peeking back. But no, I didn't, unfortunately, get to keep it. But I might commission whoever drew it to draw me one that I'll put over my mantelpiece.
One of your upcoming projects that I'm really looking forward to is Daisy Jones & The Six. I adore Taylor and I'm a big fan of that book. What was it that you were most drawn to there?
I mean, everything, really. Every aspect of it. Like, the story itself is so rich. To me, it feels like a world that I belong in in a weird way. I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, and I know that was loosely the inspiration for this story, amongst many other things that I grew up with through my parents. Having the opportunity to delve deeper into that world -- 1970s L.A. -- and the music scene at that time, it's just so rich. It's got everything a good TV drama requires, really. The one thing it didn't have is an actual person that can play guitar, because that's something I did not have in my utility belt going into this. [Laughs] But it's something that I fortunately had a bit more time to do because of where we find ourselves.
It's something that I'm very, very excited to explore further. We were literally just getting into the place where we were in a band camp and were coming together as a band and starting to put the feelers out. I think we'd just had our first cast dinner and were ready to get started, and then this happened. So, it will be happening at some point. We're all very, very excited. We're all just chomping at the bit and raring to go.
Have you heard any updates on when you might start filming that?
It's just impossible to know at the moment. Rumor has it beginning of next year, but everything's so uncertain at the moment. It's just an impossible, impossible thing to call. But as far as I'm aware, it's still happening. I know I'm still learning guitar, so there's definitely some movement. But we're all just really, really desperate to get going. We all just want to be creative. We want to be living in that world. There's so much fun to be had.
Playing guitar onscreen is nerve-wracking enough -- especially if you've just learned how -- and then you have to sing, too.
Yeah, it's all incredibly, incredibly scary. I'm not going to lie. [Laugh] I've done a bit of musical theater, but my musical experience stops there. I'm obviously watching hours and hours of research and reading as much as I can, but at the same time, I am a dad, so at the moment I'm juggling being a full-time dad whilst trying to learn to be a rock singer. My little boy is very happy watching me fail miserably, but it's getting tedious. I'm ready to go to a private recording studio and hide away and focus on it properly. But no, it's a dream. It's a dream come true. It really is.
So much of that story relies on your chemistry with Riley and with Camila. Have you had a chance to get to know them or spend some time with them yet?
Just my audition process. I think those guys were all cast before myself, so when I went to L.A. to audition, I auditioned with both Riley and with Camila. We're all in a group WhatsApp and literally just before you called, I was checking in what was happening. We're talking regularly. We've had Zoom chats through quarantine. We're all very, very much eager to get going on it. I adore both of them as actresses and as people, and that goes for the whole cast, really. It's a very, very exciting group of people, I think.
It must feel reassured to be able to say, "Fans of the book, the chemistry has been tested. It's there."
You can quote me on that! I don't know, if you're a good person, I think it's easy to have chemistry. If you can trust them, then that's all you need, really. And everything else, hopefully, should just come naturally. I think?! We'll see. We'll see. Don't quote me on that, actually. [Laughs]
Before I let you go, I saw rumors online of another potential project. Are you starring in a movie with Harry Styles?
With Harry Styles? No. Not me. There might be another Sam. Not as far as I'm aware. I haven't heard any rumors about me being in a Harry Styles film. [Laughs] You learn something every day. I love it when the world knows before I do. No, I've not heard anything about a possible link up with Harry Styles, but I'd happily do it. I'd happily go for it if he's willing.
Enola Holmes is now streaming on Netflix.