In the upcoming series of the BBC’s Sherlock, viewers will see the relationship between Martin Freeman’s Doctor Watson, and his wife, Mary, begin to crumble after the couple are blessed with a child.

But in a cruel example of life imitating art, Freeman and Amanda Abbington, his partner both on and off-screen, have announced that they have broken up in real life too.
In an interview with next week's Sunday Telegraph, Abbington, who has two children with Freeman, said the couple had undergone an “entirely amicable” separation after 16 years together, but had attempted to keep the news private.Citing Freeman’s lengthy overseas filming commitments as one of the key reasons behind the split, Abbington said the pair, who have two children, “realised we’d come to the end of our time together”.

“Martin and I remain best friends and love each other, and it was entirely amicable,” she said.  “There was no hostility, really, we just said that we couldn’t live together anymore, so we put everything in place, he moved out to a flat in north London, I stayed at home and we’ve started a new chapter.

“It is sad and it is upsetting, because you think you’re going to be with someone forever, but you either do that or you break up, and we both came to the decision that splitting was best for us. We’ve been really lucky to make it such a clean break, especially for the kids.”

Freeman has developed into a Hollywood star over the past few years, taking the lead role in the Hobbit trilogy and landing a major part in the television series, Fargo.

Abbington said that the resulting time apart, in which she had been left to care for the couple’s children Joe, 10, and eight-year-old Grace, and had only spoken to Freeman via Skype, was “one of the reasons” the split occurred.

She added: “You can’t be away from people for too long, because you start to function on your own, and you get used to being separate [from] the person you’re supposed to be with. You lose that connection and lose sight of it, in the end.”

Sherlock, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous detective, will return to BBC One on New Year’s Day, and was seen by 11.6 million viewers in the same slot last year.

Filming on the upcoming series, which shows cracks beginning to appear in the Watsons’ marriage after the arrival of a new baby, began two weeks after the couple’s real life split.

Abbington admitted that the coincidence was “so weird”. She said: “Especially playing new parents again, up all night feeding and things, because we were effectively revisiting how it was when we first got together.”

The actress added: “I love working with Martin, and we definitely would do again, but there were some pressure points in this episode where we thought, ‘oh, are we doing the right thing here?’, but the resounding answer was always yes.”

Abbington said that the couple’s two children had felt “quite vulnerable” after the split, but “they’re very cool. They know they’re so loved, and have a huge support network around them of both our families and friends”.

She added: “He sees the children as much as he wants to, and [will spend] Christmas here. We play it by ear on childcare, and it’s working so far.

“They’ll get the best of us now, which is far better than living in a house that’s not harmonious.”

In a separate interview, Freeman also confirmed the split. He told the Financial Times: “It’s very, very amicable — I’ll always love Amanda.”

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