He is Hollywood’s most wanted man. Benedict Cumberbatch, the brainy British actor with the deep baritone, is best known as the acid-tongued genius of Baker Street on the BBC series Sherlock (more on that in a second). But this summer he raised his profile with his smoldering version of Khan, the most infamous villain in the Starfleet universe, in Star Trek Into Darkness. Now, the 37-year-old is about to have the busiest fall of his career, playing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (Oct. 18), a plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave (Oct. 18), the titular dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Dec. 13), and Meryl Streep’s nephew in August: Osage County (Dec. 25). It’s for those reasons—and more—that he was a perfect fit for our New Hollywood package.

With The Fifth Estate, Cumberbatch travels into strange new territory: the modern world as we know it. “It’s the first role I’ve had where I am portraying a real person as they go through events that have occurred since I’ve been alive,” he says. “And that does change the dynamic [of playing the part]. With Assange, it’s a story that is going on in the world beyond our movie, which is new for me and extraordinary, quite honestly. There’s a different energy there.”

As for a more familiar energy, Cumberbatch is currently shooting the third season of Sherlock. “It’s great,” he says, calling from the London set. “The second series was weird. Because it was such a phenomenal success, we were a bit distanced from the routine and the inhabiting of those characters. This season, straight into it, comfortable. And [the characters all] immediately fit under our skins. Really hard work because it wouldn’t be a good show unless we were trying to evolve it and set ourselves new challenges and standards. But I love it. I’m very fond of playing him. You’re in for a treat this series.” Undoubtedly. So could he give us a tease of what goodies await us? “Ummmmm…no,” Cumberbatch says. “Nothing that’s worth my liver or whatever part of my body they’d remove if I said anything.”

Even when he’s off-duty, Mr. Holmes has a way of following him around. Jonny Lee Miller, star of CBS’ Elementary, was Cumberbatch’s co-star in Danny Boyle’s two-man Frankenstein play, which ran on the London stage in 2011. And Cumberbatch also once lived less than two blocks from Robert Downey Jr.’s Venice Beach office and was tempted to drop in as a surprise. “I’m not sure anyone needs that much Sherlock in one room,” he says. “I also don’t know if I can find his office. I’m not a detective.”

(Reporting by Geoff Boucher and Adam Markovitz)

To read more about Cumberbatch, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s New Hollywood issue, on stands today.