Queer Eric star explains why Benedict Cumberbatch is ‘refreshing’ to work with

McKinley Belcher III and Benedict Cumberbatch in stills from new netflix thriller Eric.

Queer actor McKinley Belcher III has spoken about the excitement of working with Benedict Cumberbatch in the Netflix thriller, Eric.

In the new six-part series, The Imitation Game‘s Cumberbatch plays Vincent, a loose-cannon puppeteer whose young son Edgar goes missing on his way to school.

Belcher plays Michael Ledroit, a queer detective expected to solve the case while enduring his own struggles as a Black, gay police officer in New York at the height of the 80s Aids epidemic, and with his boyfriend William at home, stricken with the disease.

Mapplethorpe star Belcher shares a fair bit of screen time with two-time Oscar-nominee Cumberbatch, an experience he found “refreshing, intriguing” and “incredibly exciting”.

“I think it would be very easy for Benedict – he’s incredibly accomplished and incredibly talented – to show up with a lot of ego,” Belcher tells PinkNews.

You may like to watch

“It was refreshing that he showed up as a workman in a way, who was interested in rolling up his sleeves and diving into the story and collaborating. There were so many moments on set when I look into his eyes, and I feel like anything is possible… it means I can show up and play.”

Vincent struggles with alcohol addiction and mental-health issues as he goes above and beyond to try to find his son. As the series progresses, he’s joined by Eric, an imaginary monster puppet thought up by Edgar.

Eric acts as Vincent’s inner saboteur, provoking him with jibes about his failure as a father. Cumberbatch voices the monster. 

A still from new Netflix show Eric showing Benedict Cumberbatch and puppet Eric dancing.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s character Vincent is followed around by imaginary monster Eric. (Netflix)

“To watch him engage with the puppet… I don’t see the puppet. It’s full of discovery. As an audience member, it’s intriguing to watch but as a person who’s playing off that, it gives me a lot of things to react to, and a lot of ways of keeping the scenes alive and grounded,” Belcher continues.

In addition to the story of Edgar’s disappearance, Eric also touches on New York’s homelessness crisis, and the institutionalised racism and homophobia within the NYPD at the time.

“Ultimately, we’re telling human stories and unpacking what it is to be human, and, in a way, holding up the mirror to like the world and life and saying: ‘This is us’ – either, ‘This is what we looked like, this is what we look like now, or how far we come; how far we think we’ve come’,” Belcher says.

“Having a scene partner who is so eager and willing to dive in, makes that incredibly exciting.”

While Vincent and Ledroit’s roles are very different, Belcher thinks the characters have some clear parallels. 

He’s previously described Ledroit as going on a journey to queer self-acceptance, and thinks Vincent also has to go through trauma to discover himself.

McKinley Belcher III as Michael Ledroit in Eric.
McKinley Belcher III plays gay detective Michael Ledroit in Eric. (Netflix)

“I think they’re both on a journey in which they start the story in some ways lost… specifically for these two men who are walking parallel journeys on the discovery of self. As they step into the next chapter of that discovery, they free themselves from some of the shackles of carrying around the baggage of yesteryear.

“At the end of the day, I think Vincent is able to be a more present and loving father, having come to terms with some of his own trauma.

“Ledroit, similarly, is able to step into a place [where] he can call the NYPD, as an institution, to task and be the change that he wants to see in the world by dealing with himself, then [being] able to stand firmly in himself.”

Eric is streaming on Netflix now.

Please login or register to comment on this story.