In his own words: Richard Armitage’s Process of Bringing Characters to Life, 9/30/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #281)

As fans, we so enjoy the storytelling of British actor Richard Armitage [(1) right]–with us easily becoming immersed in the worlds he creates and engaged with the characters he brings to life–one might sometimes forget that a lot of work goes into making it all seem so effortless.  And we have all probably read or heard interview bits in one form or another about Mr. Armitage’s acting and storytelling craft from his in print and broadcast interviews over the years.

But for me, one print interview that interweaves several of those threads together as it delves into Richard Armitage’s process is by Moira at Vulpes Libris from July 8, 2009 in an article titled “In Conversation with: Richard Armitage” [(2) left and below].  Here are a few quoted excerpts from the Vulpes Libris interview with Richard Armitage:

***

“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 World,  James 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: 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.”

(Okay, this is also a “shameless” plug for the group who are reading “The Sunne in Splendour” [(3) right] who begin their discussions today (Sept. 30, 2012) after reading the first five chapters of the book. I am endeavoring to join this discussion–I just have to read those chapters.  Ha!  Click here for general information about the group book read and discussion taking place at Armitage Watch [(4)].)

***

“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: 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: 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).”

***

For more of this Vulpes Libris interview, I encourage you to visit the article [(1)] at:

http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/in-conversation-with-richard-armitage/

P.S.  And I have to say it, that Richard Armitage’s mention The Hobbit book in the 2009 Vulpes Libris interview and his connection to the book as a young child growing up seems startlingly prescient given his current role as Thorin Oakenshield [(5) right] in the upcoming three “The Hobbit” films.   Perhaps portraying Thorin is a dream come true for him as quoted below from  Armitage’s views from the very first broadcast interview of him about his role as Thorin Oakenshield at The Hobbit Press Conference in February 2011.  Below is a partial quoted excerpt of what Mr. Armitage had to say  via bccmee2’s transcription and then her video below it
[(6) courtesy of bccmee2]:

“Richard Armitage: I just think it’s just a really amazing opportunity to take a character from a book that I was brought to as a child. I mean my first experience onstage was in a production of The Hobbit.

Martin Freeman: Really?

Richard Armitage: At the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. And I played an elf. And Gollum was a little papier-mâché puppet with a man offstage on a microphone.

Off-camera: Michael Sheehan, then? 

Richard Armitage: Yeah, his voice was not that much different.  So it’s kind of been in my childhood very prominently so to come to it as an adult, a middle-aged man, and have another look at it is a brilliant opportunity.”

References

1)       The 2009 Richard Armitage promotional image is from http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2009%20Promo/slides/NewHeadshotHigh.html

2)       The July 8, 2009 Vulpes Libris interview by Moira “In Conversation with: Richard Armitage” was found at http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/in-conversation-with-richard-armitage/

3)       The Sunne in Splendour book by Sharon Kay Penman book cover was found at http://meandrichard.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/images.jpg; for purchase, it may be found at http://www.amazon.com/The-Sunne-In-Splendour-ebook/dp/B003XYERRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1348973185&sr=1-1&keywords=the+sunne+in+splendour

4)       General info about the read and discussion on the Me + Richard Armitage web site (scroll down) is found at http://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/i-havent-forgotten-you-richard-iii/;  for the Armitage watch direct link for the discussions on Twitter, visit http://armitagewatch.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-sunne-in-splendour-splendid-new.html

5)       Image of Richard Armitage portraying Thorin Oakenshield in the three “The Hobbit” films was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Hobbit/HobbitStills/album/slides/38-Thorin-CharacterScroll.html;    “The Hobbit” wallpaper generator with the characters scroll released 9/29/12 is found at http://apps.warnerbros.com/thehobbit/wallpapergenerator/

6)       The Hobbit Interview video transcription by bccmee2 is found at http://fanvideos.wordpress.com/hobbit/ ; the video itself, “Richard Armitage Bits at The Hobbit Press Conference” on February 11, 2011 is also found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSq2FkxsDoQ&feature=player_embedded

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About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
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6 Responses to In his own words: Richard Armitage’s Process of Bringing Characters to Life, 9/30/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #281)

  1. Tereza says:

    Thanks for posting that , Grati. Now I just discover that RA and I have something in common. One of my favorite books are justly Lord of the Rings , N&S and my favorite one of the all the times. Crime and Punishment. In fact, Dostoievsky is still one of my favorite writer along with Balzac, Victor Hugo and ,of course ,several brasilian writers, like Machado de Assis( the master), José de Alencar …
    Have a GReAt Sunday, Gratiana.

    Like

    • Hi Tereza,
      Thanks for your nice note! Yes, lovers of literature the world over tend to gravitate to wonderful writers and storytellers from all countries as you and Mr. Armitage mentioned. In addition, some of my favorites authors are Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, and Isabel Allende to name a few.
      You have a gReAt Sunday, too. Cheers! Grati ;->

      Like

  2. A heads up from Grati:
    Vulpes Libris kindly pointed out to me just now in an email that they prefer to have excerpts quoting more than 100 words from their articles to seek prior permission ahead of time. But they are giving me that permission now for the above post–which is very kind of them.

    Because I am a stickler for proper crediting and quoting, I apologize to Vulpes Libris and thank them for their kind and helpful email. I did not see their policy on quotation on their web site until now when I was directed back to their page and to look at the sidebar (scroll down on the article page and here it is quoted from their sidebar):

    “Quoting from Vulpes Libris
    You are very welcome to quote up to 100 words from any article posted on Vulpes Libris – as long as you quote accurately, give us due credit and link back to the original post. If you would like to quote MORE than 100 words, please ask us first via the email address at the top of this sidebar.”

    Here is the article link again: http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/in-conversation-with-richard-armitage/

    I am pointing out my error and their kindness so that of my readers who might wish to also visit the wonderful resources at Vulpes Libris, that they are aware of Vulpes Libris’ quotation policy and requesting permission prior to quoting more than 100 words.

    Cheers! Grati ;->

    Like

  3. Servetus’ post today has “The Sunne in Splendour” Tweetchat reminders (it starts today discussion Ch. 1-5) and a poll:

    http://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/are-you-ready-for-the-richard-iii-rumble/

    Like

  4. katie70 says:

    Son 2 is the reader of my sons, just like his mom. He has yet to read Lord of the Rings . I plan on taking him and son 3 to the movie in December, then we will see if he wants to read the books. Once he reads one book by an author he will try to read everything they have written. He has enjoyed the Redwall books by Brian Jaquces and Tom Claneys books. Boys also tend not to be the readers that much, but the year that son 2 was in sixth grade the top ten readers of the year, nine where boys. Son 2 has books everywhere, and picks up books at yard sales and asks for them for gifts. The rest of my boys read too, but nothing like him. I also am impressed that Richard reads, but have read that Rupert Penry Jones also reads too. I am sure it helps with the job of being an actor.

    Like

    • Hi Katie,
      Thanks for your nice note! I love that your sons are readers! Introducing children to reading is so important–it gives them a lifetime of spurring their imaginations. Good for you!
      And it helps when kids see adults reading, too. Our public library has a series of posters with adults posing with books and providing a quote about their enjoyment of reading.
      For Richard Armitage and other actors, the text is what they begin with. And it sounds like RA really enjoys exploring written works.
      Cheers! Grati ;->

      Like

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