Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

In Conversation with: Richard Armitage.

In the latest in our occasional series “In Conversation with …” we’re delighted to welcome actor Richard Armitage to Vulpes Libris.

After working steadily for many years as an actor – both in the theatre and on television – most notably in Sparkhouse and Cold Feet – Richard came to sudden prominence in 2004 with the breakthrough role of Victorian cotton mill owner John Thornton in the BBC’s highly-regarded dramatization of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic North and South.

In October of last year, he joined the cast of  Spooks as Lucas North, and has recently met his end as Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s iconoclastic take on Robin Hood.

He recently very kindly took some time out of an insanely busy schedule to answer a few questions for us:

~~~: o :~~~

VL: First of all, welcome to Vulpes Libris and thank you very much for making time to talk to us.   Straight on with the first question – what, if anything, did you read as a child?

RA: Tolkien – Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit;  Roald Dahl – Danny the Champion of the WorldJames and the Giant Peach;  Steven King – IT;  CS Lewis.

VL: What do you enjoy reading now – for pleasure, rather than in connection with your work? And what are you reading now?

RA: Most reading time is tied into work related research so for Spooks, lots of Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré, and Robert Ludlum.

Biography:  I’m currently reading Heath Ledger’s biography, Michael Gambon’s A Life in Acting and Blake by Peter Ackroyd.

VL: I’m interested in how an actor reads. Do you find you can detach yourself from what you are reading, or is your professional self ticking over, wondering what an adaptation would look like, or how you would play the protagonist? Is there any sort of writing that you can lose yourself in, and forget you are an actor?

RA: I would never try to ‘detach’ from what I am reading, the goal would always be to engage and relate. ‘Forgetting I am an actor?’ I always try to forget I am an actor especially when acting. I have a visual brain so any stimulus will charge my ‘acting batteries’.  The best writing is when one gets lost firstly in a character and then in that character’s journey through a gripping plot. That’s my kind of book. My story-hungry brain does go for ‘plot’ but if a character is detailed and layered then the plot can take a back seat. I look for inspiration when reading characters for research – details, thoughts and actions but mainly ‘sensation’, which is unique to each reader and changes according the reading environment. I prefer to read fiction for research rather than a factual textbook even if the latter is more accurate. I am a story lover.

VL: The great Question of the Age – Spoilers: Where do you stand? Do you want to inflict a lingering death on the person who tells you whodunnit, or are you a final-paragraph-peeker?

RA: Spoilers are the bane of my world. I just don’t get why one would want to spoil the ending. It’s like hunting for Christmas presents and then having to feign surprise on Christmas day. The reader is setting himself up for disappointment. Also one makes a judgement on what the ending may be and without ‘the journey’ that judgement is clouded, but worse than that, once you have decided, through ‘reading a spoiler’, that the ending is not what you wanted, then it’s almost impossible for the unfolding of the story to actually change the judgment you have made. It’s like a jury member privately deciding in advance a guilty verdict, despite overwhelming evidence. I say ‘don’t do it’. Do not seek out your Christmas presents, they may not even be for you, then how disappointed will you be! However, some people believe the frenzy of expectation, prompted by being fed little crumbs of spoiler, can have a good effect.  I am dubious. Incidentally, I was part of the ‘Don’t show the Sheriff’s finger Twitching’ campaign on the Robin Hood shoot … we lost!

VL: Now, you were born on August the 22nd and your given name is Richard. I believe those two facts are not completely disconnected – and that there are plans afoot for a bit of Richard III rehabilitation. Can you tell us a little more about it?

RA: I was named Richard being born on the anniversary of Richard III’s demise at Bosworth; one of my father’s favourite novels is The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman, and I read this many years ago. In recent years it has lead to a tentative interest and line of research into the rehabilitation of this story. As an actor, it’s a project I would love to achieve. I believe it is a great story, a socio-political thriller, a love story and a dynastic tragedy. My challenge is to convince commercial producers to see beyond ‘history lesson’, but I strongly suspect that this will be a long way off, probably outside of my ability to play the role, but I wouldn’t rule out playing another role, I may even be producing by the time someone wakes up and realizes the potential for this project.

VL: Did you know that your portrayal of John Thornton launched several writing careers? I’m thinking specifically here of Phillipa Ashley, Rosy Thornton and Elizabeth Hanbury – because they’ve all had books reviewed on Vulpes – but I’m sure there are others. They started writing fan-fiction inspired by ‘North and South’, then went on to become published authors. That must feel a little odd. Good – but odd?

RA: I certainly don’t feel odd; many contemporary writers have been   inspired to write novels based on ‘Classics’. The inspiration you are talking of, which launched these writing careers is the same inspiration that gave Sandy Welch the desire to adapt Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, and it was both Gaskell and Welch that facilitated my interpretation of John Thornton.  Much as I would love to take credit for ‘launching writing careers’ the credit is Gaskell’s.

VL: I think you may have had a just a little to do with it, but never mind … we’ll move swiftly on to the next question. One of the interesting aspects of your acting is your insistence on the importance of a back-story for your characters. You seem to take delight in creating this background and exercising your imagination on where your character has come from and what makes him tick. Inside the actor, might there be a writer waiting to come out?

RA: Possibly. Although, I work backwards from someone else’s framework. When I write my character biography, it takes the form of a diary/novel, which moves between first and third person, sometimes second. Its good to talk ‘to’ your character, as well as ‘for’ and ‘about’. But this is all research, and the moment when it comes alive is when that research turns into the character, and that character goes out into the big wide world and collides with other characters (often the facets created in the biography are designed to cause chaos when this happens, like planting a few explosions inside the character).

I think writing is solitary; I like the interaction of a scene with another character. That’s why you will never see me in a one-man show.

VL: Can I take you back to Sparkhouse for a few minutes? (For those who don’t know, Sparkhouse was a grim but fascinating three-part series written by Sally Wainwright, and loosely inspired by Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights – but with the two lead roles reversed … the ‘Heathcliff’ role was played by Sarah Smart and the ‘Cathy’ role by Joe McFadden.) Your character – John Standring – was a sort of amalgam of Isabella and Hareton. Did you read Wuthering Heights beforehand, and if you did – was it a help or a hindrance?

RA: I did read the novel, in fact I had read it many times before, and listened to Kate Bush!! The derivation of the character was less interesting in this instance, what was more useful was Brontë’s vision of that landscape, literal and metaphorical, the major themes in the novel, the wilderness and the madness. I didn’t try to locate John in Brontë’s novel and Sally was keen that there were no exact parallels. There was an elemental feeling from the novel, which had most impact on me.

VL: Casting a quick eye down your CV, I have to say there’s a bit of a lack of jolly, cheery characters. John Standring, John Thornton, Guy of Gisborne, Lucas North … not exactly little sunbeams, any of them. The only recent exception was Harry Kennedy – who married the Vicar of Dibley. Now, I believe that in life you’re actually quite a cheerful soul – more like Harry than Lucas – so, are you drawn to darker characters because they’re more interesting to play … or are you just not offered happy chappies?

RA: I think I am drawn to darker characters because I am quite a cheerful person; there are more questions to ask of these characters. Having said that I think even when playing Harry Kennedy, my biography was quite dark, he was running away from something, from the dark to the light, and he found Geraldine! I think once an actor has been relatively successful in a genre, they are asked to repeat it. I try not to do this, but if the character is appealing then it’s worth exploring. I always look for good within bad and vice versa. That’s what appeals to me about Richard III. The villain, the hunchback, child murdering, usurping monster – I want to try and find the man who loved Anne Neville, passionately, from childhood until death, who was inconsolable at the loss of his only son and who put in place the ‘even handed’ judicial system, which we enjoy today; and then have him ‘slaughter’ the Princes in the Tower. It’s all about contradictions.

VL: Can we talk about Guy of Gisborne for a minute? After waiting two years for him to do something with that extremely large sword, he went and ran Marian through with it, which was a bit startling, to say the least. You said at the time that after that, he more or less had to die … and he did. Were you satisfied with his departure – and will you miss him?

RA: I always maintained that Gisborne was only interesting when he wasn’t getting what he wanted. Give him what he needs and it’s over. In simple terms, as one of the baddies of the piece, which was essentially aimed at youngsters, he really did have to suffer for the suffering he had caused. I am glad he was able to free himself from the burden of his actions and to die a noble death. I will miss him but that’s why it had to end, I would have hated to grow tired of that character, he was hard work to play and needed a lot of ‘concessions’. Much has been said critically about contradictions within this character, but it is my belief that much of our expectations of dramatic characters especially written for TV are paradoxically unrealistic. We expect them to be perfectly formed, that they are for example ‘always bad’, somehow linear. I believe that this is what leads to a stereotypical realization of that character, for if we look honestly to ‘life’, for realism, then we have to accept that is its possible for a man to kill the woman he loves, in a crime of passion, regret this till the day he dies, despise the man she truly loved, and yet still find a way to friendship with him. As I have said before, I don’t think it is unrealistic to believe that a serial killer can return home to his wife, who he loves dearly, tenderly kiss his newborn daughter good night, it’s just hard for us to accept. One of my great mantras is that ‘characters are at their most interesting when they are behaving out of character’, so when actors say:  “my character just wouldn’t do that”, I always say ‘well see what happens when you ‘make’ them do that!’ I had to instruct myself like this quite frequently with Guy of Gisborne, which is why he became interesting to me. He helped me to develop as an actor, for this reason.

VL: Whither Richard Armitage? Can you tell us what you have lined up next?

RA: A new 6-part TV series, a film, and a stage play based on a novel, which became a 60’s film classic. (Answers on a postcard please!) Hopefully, Spooks 9.

VL: “A stage play, based on a novel which became a 60’s screen classic” …  well, that’s nothing if not intriguing …  If – just for the sake of argument – the bubble burst tomorrow and your ‘phone stopped ringing … do you have any second or third strings to your bow? You’re a musician, I think?

RA: I am totally prepared for the phone to stop ringing; in fact I am probably going to disconnect that phone before it has a chance to ‘not ring’. I have a strong need to direct, but I would also like to produce. If I could turn back the clock, I would certainly be behind the camera.

VL: It’s become a custom on Vulpes for us to ask our guests to name their five favourite books – and give reasons. The floor is yours. Just be sure to give it back …

RA: The Lord of the Rings: the best adventure novel for a 12-year-old boy. A ‘road movie’. I was playing one of the Elves in a school play at the time (researching even back then).

Danny The Champion of the World: the first book where I realized I wasn’t reading words to make sense, just imagining the story in my mind.

The Sunne in Splendour: Slightly over blown but much needed antithesis of Shakespeare’s villain,

North and South: I don’t think I need to say why with this one.

Crime and Punishment: Intellectually aspirational read, which turned into a fascination with dark characters, (read this whilst prepping to play Macbeth at drama school, researching the nature of the guilty mind and the unraveling of a good man who does a bad deed, which then escalates into the creation of a full blown violent criminal).

VL: Good choices and interesting reasons …  thank you very much indeed.  And good luck with Richard III.

~~~: O: ~~~

Richard may be contacted via United Agents.  Our thanks to them for their help with this interview.

(Much as I’d like to take full credit for all of  the above questions, the intelligent ones were actually supplied by my fellow Book Fox Hilary … M.)

About Moira

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128 comments on “In Conversation with: Richard Armitage.

  1. Helen
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moira and Hilary for this most interesting interview and to Richard for giving of his valuable time. I think it provided further confirmation of my picture of Richard. I have to agree with his views on spoilers which I think did affect how Robin Hood was received. Lovely to hear about his upcoming work and a little less lovely from my point of view to hear confirmation of his wish to be behind the camera, although I do hope he gets to fulfill that dream.

  2. Susan
    July 8, 2009

    What a fabulous interview. I’ve just recently found North and South, and am endlessly fascinated by it, and especially John Thornton. So I really enjoyed this thoughtful interview with Richard Armitage. (yes, I find him fascinating too!) Thanks very much.

  3. Julia Smith
    July 8, 2009

    Hmm…? Breakfast at Tiffany’s? …hmm… Wonderful interview – thanks, Richard for sharing these marvellous insights into your creative process. And thanks, Moira, for doing the interview (okay, and to Hillary for the intelligent questions.) I have to say your portrayal of Guy has often disturbed me, because I’m not one to be attracted to a man who would leave his infant child in the woods, for example. And yet Guy is someone I cared deeply about. Every time he did something rotten, I couldn’t bear it, for his sake. When he ran Marian through at the end of season 2, I thought, wow – what an insight into domestic violence and the moments that build into the next day’s headlines. As for Spooks – I was a massive Adam Carter fan, so your debut episode as Lucas was extremely bittersweet. I’m definitely enjoying your Russian storyline and cannot wait for next season. All the best – keep inspiring us writers. It works wonders.

  4. Talin
    July 8, 2009

    Thanks to Moira (and Hillary) for a wonderful interview and to Richard for taking the time to provide such insightful answers. I think I may just need to read ‘The Sunne In Splendour’ after this…

    Richard always seems to take such care in adding all the small details into his characters that bring them to life and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into his methods. Being in the US, the first role I actually saw him in was Guy of Gisborne…and I was totally amazed by how much empathy he made me feel for the “baddie” by creating such a complex character that had plenty of good bits mixed in with bad. I’m looking forward to seeing Richard’s upcoming projects (and hope he stays in front of the camera for a good long while as he always turns in excellent performances).

  5. Anne P.
    July 8, 2009

    As expected, we find intelligent and extremely thoughtful answers to superb questions!
    It’s wonderful to gain a little insight into how Richard Armitage’s mind ‘ticks’ and, consequently, how his characters’ minds ‘tick’ – Guy of Gisborne in particular. If Richard published the diary/novel he wrote about this intriguing character’s biography, I suspect that it would sell rather well.
    Interesting and varied favourite book choices and current reading matter!
    I look forward to Richard’s future projects. A film! Goody! What could that be? As a Tolkien fan, I’m hoping it’s The Hobbit, with Richard playing Bard or Thranduil, perhaps. A stage play based on a novel that became a 60’s film classic? The Go-between? Blow Up? (Was that a novel first?) And a six-part television series? I for one am saying, “Woo hoo!” whatever it might be.
    I do hope that someone in TV-land realises the potential of a series about the other side of Richard III. It’d be fascinating.
    Thank you for a great interview, Richard, Moira and Hilary.

  6. Lynn
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you for this fantastic interview with Richard Armitage. The questions were very thoughtful and gave us his fans a great deal of insight as to how he approaches a part.

    I particularly enjoyed his take on Guy.

  7. siobhan
    July 8, 2009

    How marvellous to read such an informative and fascinating interview with RA. As someone who loves to read, I’m always intrigued by other peoples choices in books and I’m delighted to have these new recommendations.

    I have to agree about both “Danny…” and “North and South” – both wonderful!

    Thankyou so much to you Moira and to Hilary of course for this. I shall spend months now, wondering about the film, the play and the TV series…but at least I shall have plenty to read whilst I ponder.

    Oh and I couldn’t agree more with Richard regarding Spoilers ;)

  8. Kate
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moria and Hillary for having the idea to speak to Richard about his reading habits and future work.

    It is so wonderful to, I will use the word listen as I can hear in my head Richard’s answers, listen to somebody who obviously enjoys reading for pure pleasure. Reading is one of our greatest gifts. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said especially about having to interact with the characters in the story.If I cannot do this I don’t enjoy the story.

    The spoiler bit I agree with even though I looked for my Christmas presents and read the spoilers about Robin Hood it was difficult to avoid. I would not read the last page of a book thouugh.

    He strikes me as being ever so slightly ill at ease with being in the public spotlight.

    His future projects sound intriguing and he looks like he will be busy for the forseable future.

    Many thanks to Richard for once again demonstrating what a thoughtful charming and modest man you are.

  9. LInda
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you for a wonderful interview.

    Richard you have a very rare talent. When I see you on screen you draw me into the character and completely take over the screen with your presence. You are a very charming and modest man and please do not change who you are. You stand head and shoulders above everyone else in your industry and lots of so called stars could take a leaf out of your book in how you conduct yourself.

  10. Patty
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moira, Hilary and Richard for a great interview.

  11. Lisa
    July 8, 2009

    Welcome to Vulpes Libris, Richard. Welcome also to the new visitors – our stats are amazing!

    This was a superb interview. Well done to all.

    Count me in as another author inspired by North and South. One of the first things I ever wrote was a North and South fanfic short story, which I entered for a competition. I had just studied the book at university when the TV series came out, both of which I found extraordinarily gripping.

    I found myself nodding along with this:

    “The best writing is when one gets lost firstly in a character and then in that character’s journey through a gripping plot. That’s my kind of book. My story-hungry brain does go for ‘plot’ but if a character is detailed and layered then the plot can take a back seat.”

    Crime and Punishment and TLOTR are two of my favourite novels. Might I suggest that fans of Crime and Punishment might like to check out M. J. Hyland’s This Is How just published by Canongate, which I reviewed here last week:

    https://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/this-is-how-by-m-j-hyland/

    Anyone interested in a study of ‘the guilty mind’ and ‘the good man who does a bad deed’ would probably get a kick out of This Is How.

    Thanks again to all. Really enjoyed reading this interview.

    Lisa Glass.
    (Vulpes Libris Co-Admin).

  12. Anne
    July 8, 2009

    Moira,

    Thanks for a fascinating interview and thanks to Richard for taking the time out to do it.

    So glad he’s ‘anti-spoiler’. The dramatic journey whether in book, drama series or film can be really marred by knowing the end in advance. I was so glad that when, for example, I first read ‘Jane Eyre’ (unputdownable on a holiday in Cornwall when I was about 13) and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that I knew nothing about them. With ‘Lorna Doone’ I got about a third of the way through (the dialect was heavy going!), but had to stop for my A levels, and then re-start from scratch about a year later, so it was intriguing that I was re-reading part of the novel knowing some of the plot already, but the rest was fresh and new. Many Shakespeare and other ‘classic’ plays I first saw in the theatre and didn’t know the plots, so it was fascinating seeing them unfolding in front of me, without the baggage of commentaries and interpretations of what they were supposed to mean. On the other hand, if one does knows a piece and the outcome in advance, or has been inadvertently spoiled, it’s impossible to really know how this colours one’s experience of it. I suppose it’s just a different experience, e.g. seeing clues in a novel as to the eventual ending, picking up character nuances perhaps missed the first time round, or seeing how a character’s downfall is actually plotted early on, or, in watching ‘Spooks 7’ again, many lines taking on a completely different complexion once the outcome of the series was known. Great works are always worth re-visiting anyway, as there are always new things to find, or new thoughts one can have about a piece – why else re-read a novel, see a play many times, or indeed read studies about them?

    I do hope someone, somewhere with a bit of sense, realises what a great project re-telling the Richard III story would be, and it would be fascinating to see that in tandem with the Shakespeare play. At a time when drama is being cut back left, right and centre by broadcasters, we want some emotional and intellectual stimulation, not an endless diet of cheap reality/celebrity shows. At least in the recession, theatre audiences seem to be holding up at the moment, so perhaps this project might eventually see the light of day on stage rather than film/TV? Anyway, let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later!

    Guy was a great character precisely because he was complex and full of contradictions, and, of all the characters in the series, went on the greatest emotional journey and story arc. What could just have been a one-dimensional villain turned into something much more interesting. His end was fitting and moving and beautifully played by Richard. His detailed research and care about building a character really do show on screen. Long may it continue. I hope if he does eventually move into directing/producing, we don’t lose the acting entirely – that would be a great loss. As Linda comments, he has that rare ability to totally become the character he is playing, and his performances are all the more compelling as a result.

    Will keep my eyes peeled about the stage play. No answer on a postcard I’m afraid – the possibilities are too endless!

    End of what has turned into an essay. This was only supposed to be a comment!

  13. Phillipa Ashley
    July 8, 2009

    Thank You VP, for this fascinating interview – and what a coup! He is too modest, as ever, about the inspiration.

  14. Pingback: Author Phillipa Ashley » Blog Archive » Richard Armitage on Vulpes Libris

  15. Annette
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moira and Richard (and Hilary) for a fascinating interview.

    What a precious memory he has, of the moment when reading changes from trying to decipher the words on the page, to getting lost in the story. I can’t remember when that happened for me.

    He makes an interesting point about apparent contradictions in a character. Real life is messier than drama, which often tries to tie characters up too neatly – there are certain conventions about how characters behave and evolve. Gisborne did sometimes surprise me but his actions never felt false, and what Richard says explains why that was. His murder of Marian shocked me but it felt true – at no point did I think, “Oh no, he couldn’t have done that.” I could see just why he had come to the point that he would do that. I was surprised to read later that Richard had had reservations about that scene, because what he’d done on-screen had made it make perfect sense.

    I look forward to the projects he has lined up. While I hope he gets his wish to work behind the camera eventually, I’m glad he can’t turn the clock back, otherwise we’d have missed some fine performances.

  16. Megs
    July 8, 2009

    Many thanks to Moira and Hillary for this fabulous interview.
    Lovely to get an insight in how and what Richard likes to read.

    It’s interesting to read his approach to creating a character and his take on the development of Guy of Gisborne. The hard work on this character has paid off, because Guy was fascinating to watch in all his complexities and will not be forgotten that easily.

    I am thrilled about the news on his coming projects; there will be so much to look forward to!
    And I do hope that Richard III will be picked up by a producer who has the insight to recognise the potential of this project.

    Thank you Richard for taking the time to answer these questions in such a thougtful way and good luck with your future projects.

  17. Steph
    July 8, 2009

    Many thanks for this interview – great questions and fascinating answers.

    Mm, answers on a postcard…’Georgy Girl’?

  18. Calliope
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you very much to all at Vulpes Libris, and to Richard for a fascinating interview.
    For me the questions were intelligent and thoughtful, something quite rare amid many interviews that skim the surface with the same old lines.

    It gave us the chance to see Richard articulate his replies on a deeper level than previously seen, which was a joy.

    The insights into Guy’s character were fascinating, as was his interest in ‘dark characters’.

    I totally agree about spoilers!

    He is truly modest (Gaskell cannot have all the credit – there is a visual element to take into account!) and I for one am happy that he hasnt gone behind the camera yet. To have missed his career so far would have been a terrible shame.

    Thank you again!
    Calliope

  19. millhand
    July 8, 2009

    What an interesting and thoughtful interview – thank you, Moira and Hilary, for posing such very apposite questions. I’m so pleased that Richard is reading Peter Ackroyd’s splendid biography of Blake (only fitting for someone who spent the last series of ‘Spooks’ sporting a Blake tattoo); I know Ackroyd isn’t to everyone’s taste as a biographer, but his ability to enter imaginatively into the world of his subjects isn’t dissimilar to the way actors like Richard think themselves into a role. I hope he’s enjoying it and will find a way of introducing one or two Blakean touches into the character of Lucas North for the next series.

    I got a strong sense of a reading ‘journey’ from the interview, starting from the sudden, still remembered childhood engagement with a particular text: no wonder his CBeebies stories were performed so brilliantly. It’s fascinating to read about the very detailed and thorough way in which he ‘finds’ his characters, the complexity and contradiction he seeks in them, and his preference for fiction over fact when preparing for a role. (And his comments about ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Sparkhouse’ are spot on – ‘elemental feeling’ indeed!)

    I do agree about spoilers (and the Sheriff’s twitching hand was particularly clunky). For me the joy of reading a novel is to become immersed in an imaginary unfolding world, so knowing the ending in advance always impoverishes the experience. I think Richard’s observation about spoilers undermining the ability of a narrative to change a viewer’s/ reader’s judgement about an ending is absolutely right; it’s something I hadn’t thought about it in quite that way before.

    Thank you Vulpes Libris – and Richard – for a fascinating interview.

  20. rosyb
    July 8, 2009

    Hee hee. Moira – Hilary may have come up with the stonking qs but your wicked humour is all over this.

    Hats off to you. all Very enjoyable. (Particularly found all that stuff about character interesting – that it’s acting out of character that provides the drama. Certainly a character needs to be challenged to be revealed sometimes – rather than just shown eating cornflakes and pottering off to work. This is perhaps something about character in drama though – that character can only be revealed through action, or even opposition…Dunno. Food for thought. )

    And funny that about “my character wouldn’t do this” – from my – very low-down experience of theatre – it often seems to be a case of “my character wouldn’t wear anything as unflattering as this.” ;)

  21. June
    July 8, 2009

    Thanks Moira and Hilary for getting this interview and Richard for taking his considerable thought and time answering your questions.

    As another avid reader it’s lovely to see how much he obviously loves books even if he is reading for character research. There can’t be many people who remember when ‘learning to read’ became ‘reading for pleasure’.

    Looking forward to seeing whatever new work he has planned. Book that became an iconic screen hit – The Manchurian Candidate? Lovely to see him in a film and if the stage project comes to fruition I can see full houses every night.

  22. Angie
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moira, Richard and Hilary for such an insightful interview!

  23. Judy
    July 8, 2009

    Many thanks to Moira and Hillary, and, of course, the man himself, Richard Armitage, on this interesting and illuminating interview, giving us an insight into his reading, how he approaches roles and a little on his future plans.

    ‘North and South’ has, it appears, been a definitive novel for Richard and many of us, for various reasons. I read it twice whilst living near Knutsford, (Cranford,) and the book and Richard’s portrayal of John Thornton made Victorian Manchester open up to me in a way which made both the time and place much more interesting and intriguing.

    We will, of course, all be intrigued to find out exactly what Richard’s next projects actually will be………

  24. Angela
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you for interviewing Richard. It was an interesting read, and I am glad he has some new projects in the pipeline.

    It made me smile to read that childhood favourites had been James and the Giant Peach and Danny Champion of the world, they were two among my favourite childhood stories.

    I hope he gets all his career hopes come true and it makes me sad to read that the RIII project is being so undervalued by TPTB. I have “The Sunne in Splendour” in my to read pile in my bedroom. I hope to get to it one day.

    Richard does inspire us, not just the characters he plays. It is the acting as well as the story that draws us in. Thank you Richard. I was aware of Gaskell before I watched North & South but his performance as Thornton inspired me to read the source of the story, and for that I am grateful as I would have been missing out on a wonderful story.

    Angela

  25. Jean
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you very much Moira, Hilary and, of course Richard for this extremely interesting interview.

    I was particularly interested by the comments about characters acting out of character since I think it does reflect reality in many cases. I don’t think that anyone can really say how anybody would react in a given situation until they are actually in that situation.

  26. Jen
    July 8, 2009

    This is the best interview with Richard Armitage I’ve read so far, intelligent, interesting, humorous answers, to thoughtful, intelligent, questions.

    Thank you very much, Moira, Hilary and Richard.

  27. Maria Grazia
    July 8, 2009

    I really enjoyed reading this series of reflections Richard wrote for you. I’m so interested in and fascinated by the man. YES, I mean, Richard. Not Guy, Thornton or Harry. I’ve read and seen so many inteviews that I can say I’d listen to him speaking for hours. He’s so … thorough and sensitive, deep and pondering when he communicates his ideas. Incredible!
    Looking forward to seeing him in Spooks 8 and to knowing more about his future (mysterious) projects, I wish him the best for his life and his career. He deserves every bit of the huge love and esteem he’s object of … THANKS AGAIN to your blog, of course!

  28. Emma
    July 8, 2009

    Excellent interview – thank you to all parties. To a novelist, actors’ take on characters is always fascinating, not least because they have to embody what they think about characters in what they DO, rather than in how they’re described, which is a lesson which too many aspiring writers (and quite a few published ones) don’t learn well enough. Aristotle said that the essence of drama is character-in-action, and nothing’s changed.

    Interesting take on Richard III, too. Researching A Secret Alchemy what struck me was how absent he was from what you might call the main stage of the politics of the time: too young at the beginning of his brother’s reign, and stuck in Northumberland running the north for him in the latter half. I’m sure one reason Richard (of Gloucester) so intrigues writers as well as actors is because he is in some ways a relatively blank canvas…

  29. Mandy
    July 8, 2009

    Many, many thanks, Moira, Hilary and of course, Richard for this wonderful interview.

    This is one of the best I’ve read. The questions were well thought out and intelligent, with not a little humour, and invited responses in the same style. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about how he uses his craft to imbue his characters with life, but I wish he would take a little more credit; he often insists that it is the character he plays that we are drawn to, when infact it is what he brings to the character that is important.
    As a fellow avid reader, I too can clearly remember the first book that I lost myself in, Kes, many, many years ago!
    I’m so glad that he has so much work lined up, and I really hope that some one wakes up to the potential of a re-telling of Richard III.

    Many thanks again!

  30. JILLY
    July 8, 2009

    Even though I thought this was great, it did seem a little staged to me, as if the questions were on paper and answered in the same way, not a face to face interview, or so heavily edited it took alot of the human side away from it.

    Maybe it’s just me, but after reading the messages Richard used to put on the websites i.e The Armitage Army, etc. it just doesn’t feel the same. Maybe it’s because the last of those messages were 2 years ago (I so wish he would start writing them again) that maybe he’s not funny anymore and started to be serious now instead of the lighthearted way he used to write. You could almost hear Richard speaking when you read those messages, but I just didn’t get that feeling at all from this interview. Almost as if someone else was answering for him.

    Sorry, don’t mind me, I’m just warbling.

  31. Kalara
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you so much for this fascinating interview with Richard, the best I’ve ever read. His description of his character biographies gave great insight into why he is a truly great actor, and creates complex, yet very real characters – who are unforgettable.

    I hope Richard realizes his directorial and producing ambitions, and am still hoping to see his Richard III. However, I do hope he keeps acting as well. I am very happy about the new projects!

  32. Felso
    July 8, 2009

    Wonderful interview! Many thanks!

  33. Bzirk
    July 8, 2009

    Wonderful interview. I have not thought those two words when reading or hearing interviews with Richard Armitage until now. Oh, I’ve read and heard some pretty good interviews (redeemed by Richard Armitage’s thoughtful answers), but this was refreshing because it did not devolve into the kind of interview that was really only designed to throw his adoring fans some crumbs and thereby lead them to a production to consume. So kudos to all of you who put this together.

    As for Richard, it became apparent to me a while back that he is a latent writer, but this interview makes it abundantly apparent why. Obviously he’s a thinker. (I could stop there, but this wouldn’t be an interesting comment, and he deserves no less than interesting comments.) Obviously, he seems to be focused on the story and the characters. But lots of actors make comments about being interested in the story and characters. It’s de rigueur to be considered “a serious actor.” No, this is more. He not only thinks about it but actually draws conclusions that have depth and interest. It’s one thing to say you’re interested. It’s another to be interesting.

    What is so very interesting is his fascination with the human condition and how to translate that to screen in a way that’s not self-conscious hence “talk ‘to’ your character, as well as ‘for’ and ‘about’.“ I don’t care where he learned to do that or if he came to that himself, it works and works well, and that is due in great part to the fact he is intelligent. For that intelligence he gets no kudos except that he’s applied himself so vigorously.

    I could go on and on about the very interesting things Mr. Armitage had to say. Thanks again to all of you for bringing it to print.

    As to this thinker, I can hold my head high in finding him the most interesting actor of the day and maybe even deigning at times to be called a fangirl.

  34. Debs
    July 8, 2009

    Thanks so much for that fabulous interview with Richard Armitage. Such interesting answers and so much for us all to look forward to.

  35. Squid
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you so much for posting this wonderful interview. What a treat to read questions outside of the “usual” questions posed to him, and to read his thoughtful answers. I enjoyed this so much, thank you to you at VL who made this possible!

  36. Susie
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you very much indeed for the fascinating interview with Richard Armitage. I do believe you can tell a lot by what a person reads, and Richard’s revelations have certainly given me food for thought!

    I admire Richard his ability to resist spoilers or peeking at the few last pages of a book to see how it ends. I agree with him that by doing this you lose the anticipation which is half the fun, unfortunately unlike him I’ve never had the strength of character to resist doing this. He’s right though it does spoil things for the reader/viewer.

    I’m rather intrigued by the clues he’s given to his future 6 part series. So it was a 60′s film classic? Now that sounds like something I might enjoy watching and I feel sure I will know what it is. For some reason I always enjoy a bit of nostagia, such as the 1960′s, even if it was a bit before my time. Now what I would like to know is if it will be set in the 1960′s or will it be a modernized version? I hope it will be set in the 60′s personally but either way I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching it.

    Richard always has the ability to take us on a magical mystery tour with his characterizations and I think he would make a very good writer, maybe one day we will be able to read his biography? Certainly any dramatizations he chooses to produce should be very good indeed because of this insight.

    Glad to learn that he is of a cheerful disposition. I think it is a definite plus when you are playing such dark and gloomy creatures as Sir Guy!

    Thanks you Vulpes Libris for asking such interesting and profound questions it made the interview all the more enjoyable because of it.

    Can I just add how much enjoyment his acting brings to all his fans?

  37. Lena
    July 8, 2009

    What an excellent and insightful interview! Thank you, Moira and Hilary. and Richard, ever the consummate professional (lovely sidestep of the Thornton inspiration question!). It was wonderful to read an interview with original questions that have such substance.

    Richard’s comments on Guy of Gisborne give a good look into his (both character and actor) thought process. It was Richard’s portrayal of Guy that brought me back to the series time and again. Side note: I agree that they should not have shown the sheriff was still alive. It sapped the last episodes of their surprise.

    The three-perspective method for creating biographies is nearly identical to how authors create complex characters. The fact that Richard puts background even into a character like Harry, who is only a 2-episode character in a comedy series, reaffirms his commitment to the craft. His desire to create fleshed-out characters who have backstories and dreams leads to his performances that always grab the viewer’s attention.

    I, and I’m sure everyone else here, am waiting with baited breath for Richard’s new projects to air.

    This interview has just reaffirmed that Richard has excellent taste in literature and is quite well read. Bravo!

  38. Susie
    July 8, 2009

    “RA: A new 6-part TV series, a film, and a stage play based on a novel, which became a 60’s film classic. (Answers on a postcard please!) Hopefully, Spooks 9.”

    “VL: “A stage play, based on a novel which became a 60’s screen classic” … well, that’s nothing if not intriguing … If – just for the sake of argument – the bubble burst tomorrow and your ‘phone stopped ringing … do you have any second or third strings to your bow? You’re a musician, I think?”

    Vulpes Libris can you just clarify something from the above interview with Richard please?

    Is Richard’s future project a 6-part TV series based on a stage play, which was based on a novel which later became a 60′s classic? (Which is what I assumed he was saying from the quote)

    OR

    is he doing a 6-part TV series, AND a film, AND a stage play. I had assumed it was the first answer, namely, a 6-part TV series but I’ve just noticed on other messageboards where this interview is being discussed that fans are assuming he is performing in a stage play! Totally confused now! What is it to be? Surely not all three!

  39. Moira
    July 8, 2009

    It’s my understanding that Richard is doing all three, Susie … a 6-part TV series AND a film AND a stage play.

  40. Bzirk
    July 8, 2009

    So glad you cleared that up since my daily fix, er, ration of caffeine hasn’t been administered yet. The question is when this play may happen. No need to answer if you don’t know the answer. I’m just curious since I will be coming across the pond in August and would love to see it.

  41. libs
    July 8, 2009

    Thank you Moira and Hilary for asking the questions that resulted in such an interesting interview. And, of course, thanks to Richard Armitage for answering so thoughtfully and thoroughly. I enjoyed hearing about both his reading and his work.

    I’ve also enjoyed reading through the comments and reactions which are just as interesting!

    I don’t want to go too far off topic or offend Emma but RIII wasn’t ‘stuck in Northumberland running the north’. He lived at Middleham in Yorkshire, through choice – and a very beautiful place it is which still calls itself ‘royal and loyal’.

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  43. Hilary
    July 8, 2009

    Richard, thank you so very much for picking up this challenge and for giving us such remarkably thoughtful, wide-ranging and personal answers – deeply grateful for this opportunity to explore the place of books and reading in your professional and personal world, to find out a little about what feeds your own art and craft, and to get some tantalising hints about what comes next. Moira, you deserve all the credit for structuring a fabulous interview, and I do so agree with rosyb that your vulpine pawprints are all over it!

    But – ooh! I’d so like to have the 20 minute argument over spoilers! I think I want to develop a scientific discipline of Spoilerology, as it is obvious that those of us who try to talk about books online need some strict guidelines, especially with fiction. When is a Spoiler a Spoiler, and when is it a legitimate comment on the content of the story? I haven’t dared review a novel on Vulpes yet, because I’m so unclear about how much detail will upset potential readers (having had the odd cuff round the ear before) – yet without a measure of detail, how do you give a flavour of the novel that will make it sound alluring? Maybe I need to stick to Haiku Reviews!

    I agree 100% over the Sheriff’s twitching finger (and may I be the first to apologise to those who have not yet seen RH3 if I have just committed a spoiler), as that prefigured a coup de theatre. Gaah! Now THAT is beyond the pale, and plain stupid! Why undermine a dramatic device? My feeble hope at the time was that it was a bluff, which might have actually been quite clever. Some genres have to be spoiler free – suspense and crime, obviously, by definition, and of course action-driven drama.

    But (for example) Romance is not like that – the conventions are such that we know the denouement, from the moment the hero and heroine meet and learn to loathe one another – the journey is the thing. Anthony Trollope quite coolly starts at least one of his novels by saying words to the effect that he wants his readers to rest easy, and not be eaten up by suspense – the man DOES get the girl (or vice versa). But he wants to entertain us by telling us what happened on the way. Sorry I can’t remember which title of his – I hope it will come to me.

    But the attitude to spoilers seems to be on the move – they are incensing more and more people, and less and less detail is being regarded as a spoiler. I’ve got many Penguin and Oxford World’s Classics on my bookshelves with thoughtful and informative introduction and notes by experts in the author or period – but not until I added the 2003 reprint of the Penguin Classics to my completist’s ‘North and South’ collection did I see the words at the top of the intro: “New readers are advised that this introduction makes details of the plot explicit.” Well of course it does! I’d have saved 5 quid and bought the popular classics edition otherwise.

    Sorry – got totally carried away. That’s my 10 minutes of the 20 minute argument – anyone care to join in?

    Thank you again, Richard and Moira for such a wonderful contribution to Vulpes Libris.

  44. Bzirk
    July 8, 2009

    Hilary, if the assumption is that the ending of a story is a spoiler, then obviously we should never know. Apparently, it’s not always a spoiler as you’ve referenced. But if the story does indeed depend on the ending being a surprise or at least having some surprising elements, then certainly, it’s not a good idea to know in advance. That was the case with the sheriff’s death — a big, fat spoiler that definitely helped to break the momentum of that show. Unfortunately, it was not the only spoiler that helped ruin the finale.

  45. Nell Dixon
    July 8, 2009

    Very interesting interview, I’ve always been fascinated by Richard 111 so it was interesting to read Richard’s thoughts on his namesake.

  46. Andromeda
    July 8, 2009

    What a fascinating interview! Thank you so much, Richard, Moira and Hilary!
    I’m so much looking forward to the new projects! A stage play after a novel? Could it be “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

  47. Susie
    July 8, 2009

    It’s my understanding that Richard is doing all three, Susie … a 6-part TV series AND a film AND a stage play.

    Thanks Moira for clearing that up. My goodness Richard is going to be VERY busy in the near future isn’t he?

    Looking forward to the 6-part TV series. I can’t help wondering what the film will be, but I bet the stage play will be in London, drat! Don’t forget us staunch fans in the North of England please Richard in the future!

  48. Sue
    July 8, 2009

    I’m enjoying the comments almost as much as the interview itself. I would like to suggest that those of you who are defending your love of the spoiler relax! Mr. Armitage is not proposing that everyone think as he does. I do agree that spoilers should not be so readily available for those who do not want to know them, including the sheriff’s “finger twitch” and the other more egregious Robin Hood spoilers that became widely available on the ‘net. Fortunately, I was on a month-long holiday in Prague before the season finale, and so was able to watch the show without much in the way of prior knowledge and I think that increased my enjoyment. However, tonight I am going to see Twelfth Night in New York City’s lovely Central Park and I know the story well, but will delight in it just the same! We’re all different, so please don’t assume that we are expected to think alike.

  49. Anna Campbell
    July 8, 2009

    Moira and Hilary, what a fantastic interview! Richard, thank you so much for you thoughtful answers. I really enjoyed your take on character and story, in particular.

    Julia, if you’re around, thanks for letting me know this was coming up! I’ve found a new favorite blog ;-)

  50. nara
    July 8, 2009

    Nice blog, awesome interview…

  51. Christine Wells
    July 8, 2009

    Julia Smith alerted me that this was coming up and I’m so glad she did. Thanks, Julia! As a romance writer, so much of what Richard observed about character and so-called inconsistencies rang true to me.

    What he’s talking about is writing and playing a 3 dimensional character. If a villain has some good aspects to him, we can empathize and feel the significance of his choice–that he *has* the choice of taking the good or bad path in any given situation. If sometimes he chooses the good, well that just makes him human, doesn’t it?

    What a talented and intelligent man. Thank you for the interview, Moira, Hilary and Richard!

  52. Imba
    July 8, 2009

    I am an American from Nowhere You’d Want to Visit, USA (hello, UK) who wanted to post “out loud” my support and rampant interest in this particular Richard III project.

    Yes, I would pay money to see it. Yes, I know of several in my social circle (counting 7 off the top of my head right now) for whom the DVDs would be ideal gifts. You know, one of those once in a blue moon, I can’t believe I found this to give Ideal Gift.

    Lest you think this is interest springs from a craving for anything and everything Richard Armitage, let me clarify. My love for this Richard III came out of reading the Sunne in Splendour nine years ago whereupon I had to read every history book I could find about him straight away and non-stop. I had to know. Did he kill the princes? My obsession went on for months. I didn’t see Richard Armitage perform until last year. Still, I can’t think of anyone better for plugging Richard III’s cause, so I hope he doesn’t give up, whether he’s in the film himself or not. And I hope those he needs on board get it. Soon.

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  54. Julia Smith
    July 9, 2009

    Anna Campbell and Christine Wells – I myself have to thank the folks over at Richard Armitage Online for mentioning the upcoming interview in the Latest News section. And like you, Anna, I now have a new favorite blog to visit.

    I would never deprive an RA admirer from knowing about an interview – never! As soon as I heard about it, I made a link on my own blog.

    It’s somewhat hilarious to think about all the writers out there who have a character based on Richard roaming about inside our heads. I’m most definitely guilty as charged. So I felt inclined to meet other people like me who I felt sure would show up here at Vulpes Libris today.

  55. Nobel Pearl
    July 9, 2009

    Thank you so much for this lovely interview – it was such a delight to read!

    Richard, if you only knew how much you and your caracters have inspired me in so many ways! For instance, you’ve inspired me to revive my ability to make up stories just as intensively as I did as a child and teenager. It feels like I’ve regained a big and very important part of myself, it’s actually a bit like meeting a long lost best friend. I’m so amazed that my imagination is just going on and on and takes me on one fantastic journey after another. I dont’ think I’m ready to start writing my stories down but maybe someday, who knows? I guess anything is possible!

    About spoilers, usually you read the book first and then see the movie (and almost always you get disappointed). I’ve found that it’s much better the other way around. I watch the movie first and then I read the book. That way I still can be a bit surprised since the book always contains more details than the movie.

    Now I feel inspired to start reading “North and South”. It will be a challenge since english isn’t my first language but the best things in life are usually those you have to fight for.

    Richard, I hope you’re enjoying your life and that you’re taking care of your self (that busy schedule of yours sounded a bit nervewracking)!

    Thank you Moira, Hilary and last but not least Richard!

    /Greetings from Scandinavia

  56. ElleJay
    July 9, 2009

    This was such a wonderful interview. As an avid reader and a fan of Richard it was the best of both worlds.

    I agree about the spoiler issue and know people who will read the last page of book before they even start reading which I find unbelievable. The most fasinating part of the interview for me was how he does his research on a part.

    I will also now look out for the books recommended that I have not already read. I am a great fan of North and South, both the adaptation and the book.

    I look forward to following this site over time now that I have found it.
    Keep up the good work.
    LJ

  57. Sue
    July 9, 2009

    Upon rereading the interview, I see that Mr. Armitage *does* clearly say ‘don’t do it’ when it comes to spoilers! Mea culpa, I need to learn better reading skills. However, my opinion still stands that we are all different. Some of my best friends thrive on spoilers, and I love them anyway!

  58. Amanda
    July 9, 2009

    Thank you to Moira and Hilary for asking such stimulating and original questions and to Richard for providing these fascinating, intelligent and modest answers.

    A wonderful insight into the considerable work that goes into each of the characters that have so engaged our imaginations thanks to Richard’s amazing performances of them.

    ( I’ve never had a problem with seeing the contradictions within Guy. That how complex human nature can be ).

    And how lovely to read about such a passion for stories. I can so relate to the idea of a ‘visual brain ‘ every book I enjoy becomes a movie in my head.

    The new projects sound so exciting. The very best of wishes to Richard for the future.

  59. rosyb
    July 9, 2009

    I just wanted to let everyone know here (not least the Armitage Army – what a name! :)) that we are having “Adaptation Week” the week after next where we are looking at some famous books in relation to the film versions and vice versa.

    Hilary should be doing a piece on “North and South ” so any Gaskell fans take note. The complete line-up so far is:

    North and South
    The End of the Affair
    Brokeback Mountain
    Wuthering Heights
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    Jeeves and Wooster
    and an interview with Helen FitzGerald and Sergio Casci about screenwriting and the process of adapting novels for film and TV

    I hope there might be a few things there to tickle people’s fancy.

  60. Denise
    July 9, 2009

    Thank you for the interesting interview, I was slightly disappointed it wasn’t audio though.
    I agree the “twitching finger” should not have been shown, it flag-posted an “I’ll be back” scenerio. Also, could live without “spoilers” the bane of information technology age, usually it’s better to enjoy the ride to getting there.
    I don’t think the case of child-killer was ever proven against Richard III, he was followed by Tudors who needed to discredit him in order to secure their claim to the throne. It would make an interesting drama, we seem to have become obsessed with the Tudors in recent years.

    Good luck in future endeavours to Richard.

    Having found this website I look forward to returning (finger twitches).

    Regards
    Denise

  61. Bluecabochon
    July 9, 2009

    I think that this is Richard’s best interview ever. Great questions, real and intelligent responses and a peek into how his mind works and what influences the acting choices he’s made. Thank you, Moira and Hilary, and RA for so thoroughly answering these interesting questions. I am also on the edge of my seat waiting to see how these future projects pan out.

  62. Gail Foster
    July 10, 2009

    What a brilliant interview! Richard Armitage is an inspiration to so many people on many levels. He has another string to his bow that is becoming widely known – that as a a narrator of audio books. He has brought Bernard Cornwell’s “Lord of the North” and Gergette Heyer’s “Sylvester”to life in a most authentic way. His use of dialect and character building is superb! Although I shall miss Guy immensly I can’t wait for the next instalment from Mr Armitage.

  63. Nath
    July 10, 2009

    This interview with Richard Armitage is a delight!
    Dear Vulpes Libris, please promise to invite Richard again! This person is in constant progress and no doubt he’s got to say a lot more about the books he reads, about his creative approaches and fascinating insights! Thank you also for your very thoughtful questions!

  64. charleybrown
    July 10, 2009

    Thanks for posting this interview! It’s wonderful to learn more about this delightful actor and intriguing human being!

  65. Faye
    July 11, 2009

    Thanks to all for a really thought-provoking interview – I’ve been turning over Richard’s mantra about ‘characters are at their most interesting when they are behaving out of character’ in my mind ever since.

    By a nifty coincidence, David Edgar has an interesting piece on plot vs character in the Guardian Review section today, well worth a read:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/11/drama-edgar-plays-theatre

    Not surprisingly, Edgar comes to the same conclusion as Richard:

    ‘But in great drama, the most memorable and indeed the most meaningful moment is when the character departs from and even challenges his or her role…’

  66. Moira G
    July 12, 2009

    Thank you for this interview – Mr. Armitage has become a new ‘favorite’ actor of our household – we loved seeing him as John Thornton and were able to see seasons 1 and 2 of Robin Hood via DVD and 3 via youtube since we are in the states. I like to see that he read and loved C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as a child. Even though I think Viggo Mortensen did a beautiful job playing Aragorn, Mr. Armitage ‘looks’ physically closer to the way I envisioned that character when I read it OH so many years ago.

    I quite agree with his assessment about characters and real people being a mix of good and bad – one only has to look at such an extreme famous example of Ted Bundy, who seemed to have care for friends – would even walk one of his lady friends to the car to make sure she was ‘safe’ at night when they finished doing work together – and then went murdering people.

    I share his love of Tolkien right up there in my top 5 – and Roald Dahl’s other works, particularly his Charlie books, especially The Great Glass Elevator (with all those Vermicious Knids) was one of my favorite childhood books.

    I hope he’s able to achieve his Richard III project – just look what Kevin Spacey achieved with his project on Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea.

    It’s great to see someone else named Moira as well – My Irish father named me that and I went for many years in the US without finding another one anywhere. I have since run into about 2 or 3 in the last 40+ years.

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  68. Elaine Simpson-Long
    July 15, 2009

    My DVD of North and South has been watched so often it is like a lace doily! I had read this book of mrs Gaskell just a few months before the TV adaptation so it was fresh in my mind and I thought it ws excellent and very true to the book. And while all the comments above are of literary merit and very interesting, as interesting as the interview, I would like to lower the tone here and say that I simply adore Mr A and think he is quite divine.

    Oh be still my beating heart…..

  69. Judith Thompson
    July 18, 2009

    Thank you so much for this brilliant interview. It’s a pleasure to read such superb questions and Richard’s thoughtful and intelligent responses. It provides a fascinating insight into how his mind works when researching and preparing for a role. It is precisely his meticulous attention to detail which shines through in the characters he portrays ( in particular Guy of Gisborne), making them thoroughly compelling. He completely dominates the screen with his presence

    I was not entirely surprised when he said that he prefers to read fiction rather than non-fiction for research, but, for example, if he wants to pursue a subject like Richard III, I would have thought that some non-fiction reading would be essential for background detail. Since he also mentioned that he is currently reading three biographies (for pleasure), I would like to say that there are some very good historical biographies on this subject which make enjoyable reading – they’re not all stultifyingly dull!

    I do agree wholeheartedly with him regarding spoilers and go out of my way to avoid them, because it defeats the object of watching a series. This is particularly true with ‘Robin Hood’. I think we all knew that there was only one way out for Guy, after he killed Marian, without details being divulged.

    My, what a busy schedule he has ahead. I am looking forward to these projects coming to fruition. The stage play sounds intriguing. No doubt it will be in London, but I would like to go and see it – whatever it may be!

    I sincerely hope that he realises his ambition to bring Richard III to the screen and that someone out there is far sighted enough to realise the potential for a different take on the subject, sooner rather than later. It would be a great shame if it was delayed to the point where he may not be able to act the role himself. Whatever happens Richard, don’t give up the challenge.

    I am also glad that he can’t turn back the clock, since it would have robbed us of the splendid performances he has turned in. However, I do hope that eventually he realises his ambition to direct/produce, since he possesses great insight- just don’t give up the acting completely.

    Richard – I wish you all the very best for the future.

  70. Diane
    July 21, 2009

    Thank you Moira, Hilary and Richard for such an excellent interview

  71. hrileena
    July 21, 2009

    It’s unusual to find actors talking about books and reading somehow; maybe it’s just because no one thinks to ask them. I think it was an excellent idea to do so, and the result is a wonderful, interesting interview. Thank you to everyone involved. And yeah, it’d be nice to see Richard III as something other than Shakespeare’s villain, so good luck with that to Mr. Armitage.

  72. Shelley Gray
    July 22, 2009

    Thank you.
    As a fan of books and writer myself, not to mention a big fan of Richard Armitage it was a pleasure to read what makes this actor tick.
    As children we tend to miss the wonder in books and it is not until we can look back and search the future in books do we truly appreciate them.
    I have only just discovered this site, so again thank you.

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  75. Jill
    August 6, 2009

    Let’s see . . . a novel: Pygmalion + a stage play and a 60′s movie: My Fair Lady. I understand there is some talk about Keira Knightley set for a remake. I wonder . . .

  76. rtm
    September 2, 2009

    Thank you for the article! I’ve been an admirer of Richard ever since BBC N&S. Glad to hear he’s as smart as he is handsome! Love a hunky guy who reads, and the fact that he likes The Lord of the Rings, too! No wonder he played Thornton so well since he enjoyed the book. His portrayal of the mill owner definitely gives Colin Firth’s Darcy a run for his money!! I wish he does more movies, I posted my wish for him to star in the futuristic Robin Hood: http://tinyurl.com/mvxbut

  77. Catherine
    September 16, 2009

    Thank you Moira, Hilary and Richard for this interview.
    I think this is one of the most interesting interviews of RA that I have read so far.
    Best wishes from Belgium !

  78. Yoli Rector
    September 19, 2009

    Wow. Good questions. RA is superb. He seems very honest and ready to give back, deep, conscientious, intelligent, humble and observing, complex yet sweet. Like him, I am very visual and I tend to make the words I read instantly into pictures in my mind. But I like that. I lvoe writing and hope to publish in the future; RA is the perfect idea of some of the characters I have tried to develop, now I will have a full and real base. All the best to Rich A, he seems to deserve good and I think as a late bloomer, he is steadfast and grounded, confident and decisive, in control. That is the emigma of him, in my opinion. Well, HOPE TO MEET YOU ONE DAY, RICHARD!!! Love from BELIZE.(seek it one a map…or google it)-peace out XOXXOXXOXXO!!!!

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  80. Liz
    March 26, 2010

    I just found this. Excellent interview and nice to know that he is as interesting and intelligent as he is good to look at. (he’d probably cringe at that.)

    Richard Armitage as Richard III – if only!

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  82. gloria.steer
    April 26, 2010

    such an interesting interview. Could I suggest Richard reads Anna Seyton’s
    “Katherine” All about John of Gaunt and his mistress whom he eventually marries. Its a super book and Richard would make a super John of Gaunt.
    I think it would be quite expensive to make but would be a winner, as was North and South. Mr Thornton stole all our hearts. I would recognise his voice anywhere – Santandar and the advert for the three would be prime ministers. My heart still vascillates when I hear it

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  92. Sophie
    February 15, 2011

    Thank you for this thoughtful interview of an actor whom I’ve recently “discovered” and come to admire. Your blog is such an intriguing read in general. Both you and RA are such keen and erudite people. As an American, I find that rare among our acting celebrities, :) and am a little awed by his intelligence, perception and ability to express himself on literature. Even judging from the messages he has sent to fans, he definitely is an intelligent, keen writer, with a great sense of humor. I also find his self deprecating wit charming.

    All the best to you and Mr. Armitage.

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  115. RAFrenzy
    October 19, 2012

    Dear Book Foxes, it’s fairly obvious several of us love this interview. Do you think you could eventually swing one regarding the character diaries? No need to answer if you’re not comfortable. Just wanted to register my interest. Cheers.

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  121. knightleyemma
    January 27, 2013

    Reblogged this on Knightleyemma.

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  125. starchaserxoxo
    July 12, 2013

    Reblogged this on starchaserxoxo and commented:
    I just love everything about this conversation.

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