Encouragement for Creators: A Mother’s Influence

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Sherlock’s Mum: Wanda Ventham in the 70’s.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, we thought we’d once again tip our hats to mums everywhere, with a special Encouragement for Creators. One thing many writers, artists and actors often agree on: their mothers were among their biggest supporters, encouragers, fans, and inspirations! One amazingly talented creator who’s frequently stated that his mother had a tremendous influence on both his professional and personal life, is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Cumberbatch, one of Britain’s biggest and fastest rising stars, currently portrays a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC mega-hit Sherlock. He’s played both heroes and villains: as the military genius Kahn, he was more than a match for Captain Kirk, in the latest Star Trek movie; and he also created the voice of the sinister fire-breathing dragon Smaug, in the recent Hobbit  trilogy. Most recently, Cumberbatch was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Whatever role he pursues, Cumberbatch pours himself into it. He’s been described by the critics as brilliant, he’s in great demand with movie directors, and he has legions of adoring fans; and yet, he remains surprisingly modest and unassuming! For all this creative drive and humility, the actor credits his mother.

When Cumberbatch was growing up, his mother, Wanda Ventham, was an extremely talented actress working on the British stage, as well as in TV. She had appeared in the Carry On cinematic comedies, and co-starred in the science fiction cult-favorite series UFO. Many critics believed she was destined for bigger and better parts in Hollywood movies, but as much as Ms. Ventham was dedicated to her craft, she was even more devoted to her husband, successful actor Timothy Carlton, and to their growing family. In those days, the rising actress often turned down roles that would take too much time away from her family. She also gave up more prestigious stage roles for lesser but better-paying television parts, to help finance her son’s schooling. According to Cumberbatch, because his mother frequently put the needs of others above her own, she probably missed some golden opportunities.

Sounds like a model mom, right? And, like most moms, Ms. Ventham wanted her son to pursue a career that would guarantee him a secure income — hence, she discouraged him from being an actor. But Cumberbatch was too busy following her example (as well as his father’s) to pay heed to that one piece of motherly advice! Thank goodness, we’d miss the Sherlock star! But apparently, the actor did pay attention to his mother’s warnings about the pitfalls of showbiz life: he tends to avoid the limelight and is rarely seen at celebrity parties.

Cumberbatch (as the logical detective) and his mom Wanda Ventham (as Holmes’ “mummy”) in the BBC’s SHERLOCK.

Benedict Cumberbatch recently stated he’s also inspired by his parent’s 38 years of happy marriage — a rarity among celebrity couples — acknowledging that his mother and father are as much in love today as they were 42 years ago. And much to his mother’s delight, Cumberbatch, formerly one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors, just tied the knot with actress and theater director Sophie Hunter. The Sherlock star states his mum is looking forward to grandmothering lots of little “Cumberbabies”!

Today, at age 79, Ms. Ventham is mostly retired from acting, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play the mother of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes in two or three episodes of her son’s popular show. And of course, she’s a natural in the part!

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