Benedict Cumberbatch compares the ‘fakery’ of his banjo-playing in ‘The Power of the Dog’ to learning the violin for ‘Sherlock’

A picture of Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Power of The Dog.'
Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Power of The Dog.’ KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX
  • Benedict Cumberbatch compared his music experiences on “Sherlock” and “The Power of the Dog.”
  • The actor learned the banjo for “The Power of the Dog” and the violin for “Sherlock.”
  • He said that learning quickly means “you just hear all the fakery coming back at you” on set.

Benedict Cumberbatch compared the difficulty, and “fakery,” of playing the banjo on-set for “The Power of the Dog” to his time playing the violin for the BBC drama “Sherlock.”

Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank in the Netflix western, which was directed by Joan Campion and released on the streaming service in December 2021. The actor reflected on his on-set musical instrument experience in an interview for W Magazine’s performance issue.  

“With the banjo, there’s nothing like picking up an instrument for a few months and having to play it on set like you’re a master of it, and just blowing any kind of moment of being focused on your authenticity of your absorption,” Cumberbatch told W Magazine. 

Cumberbatch compared the experience to his time on the 2010s BBC drama “Sherlock,” a fandom favorite in which Cumberbatch starred as a modern Sherlock Holmes with a penchant for playing the violin. The Guardian reported in 2012 that violinist Eos Chater coached the actor on how to play the instrument.

According to Chater, who wrote about the experience both on her personal Tumblr blog and for The Guardian, Cumberbatch was an excellent student. That didn’t mean that the actor was satisfied.

“You just hear all the fakery coming back at you. I had it with ‘Sherlock’ when I was playing the violin,” Cumberbatch told W Magazine. 

Cumberbatch previously spoken about the difficulties of his banjo work on “The Power of the Dog” during a panel for the film at the TCL Chinese Theater in November 2021.

“[My character] is someone who has done it all their life, and I’m trying to master it in 4 weeks or something stupid,” Cumberbatch said, per The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s tough.”