Spooks: Richard Armitage
Опубликовано: Daily Telegraph
Автор: Serena Davies
Дата: 23 октября 2008
New Spooks star Richard Armitage tells Serena Davies about his role as MI5’s latest heartthrob
Spooks’s new star is taking the programme very seriously. Richard Armitage, best known as the oily Guy of Gisborne in BBC1’s arch take on the Robin Hood tales, is the latest handsome male to join the long-running spy series, whose seventh innings begins on Monday on BBC1. He arrives in the wake of the beetle-browed Matthew Macfadyen and current hunk-incumbent Rupert Penry-Jones – but he doesn’t want to talk about looks. "What is the Spooks ‘hunk mantle’ anyway? Is it a piece of clothing I have to wear? I guess that’s part of the job criteria but I don’t really think about it to be honest,” he declares, almost indignantly. "Compared to Rupert I’m pretty average in the hunk department,” he adds, though his legion of female fans might differ on this.
No, what Armitage wants to talk about is how true he reckons Spooks is to real life. "It’s fascinating some of the things that this [upcoming] series is dealing with when you look at what’s happening in the world,” he says. "You’ve got one episode which is about financial terrorism and one episode about cyber warfare where you see the economy driven into the ground in the space of an hour. Don’t you think that’s incredibly good writing to make a prediction like that?”
But does he think the drama, with all its planet-saving hijinks, bears any relation to the experience of actual spying? "Since real spies are so good you never really know what actual spying is,” he says. "But I do think spying is a lot more dangerous than we are led to believe.”
Still, regardless of his enthusiasm for authenticity, Armitage was anxious his character Lucas North should have a certain panache. North is a sometime British spy who has been incarcerated in a Russian prison for eight years so he’s already avoided "just sitting in an office doing an awful lot of paperwork”. Despite Armitage’s demurrals about whether he qualifies as a hunk or not his character does also get to spend five minutes of the first episode with his top off, baring a wiry torso complete with the tattoos Russian prison life demands (actually, they’re transfers). "I wanted him to be the fictional spy hero as well,” Armitage admits.
Armitage reckons Lucas North is the most complex part he’s ever played, although it’s not his favourite. That honour goes to the role of the noble northerner John Thornton in the BBC’s 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. The serial made Armitage’s name, somewhat belatedly (he was already 33) after years of "spear carrying” at the RSC, minor theatre roles, and small parts in programmes such as Cold Feet.
It also acquired him a female fanbase that dubs itself the Armitage Army and remains loyal to this day. "They send me ridiculous birthday presents,” he says. "such as mountains of chocolates, underpants with pictures of myself on them and charity donkeys.” Charity donkeys? "A charity donkey is where you sponsor a donkey in a sanctuary and give them three pounds a month to have some donkey nuts, or something.” Ah.
After the noble Thornton, Armitage says that this bonkers fanbase had difficulty weathering the diversion into medieval villainy required of him in Robin Hood. "There was trepidation there. They didn’t like him to be too nasty – so I tried to make him even more nasty just to upset them,” he jokes.
Armitage’s Guy of Gisborne is actually rather more than the cardboard cut-out baddie of myth, not least because he has a back story – which gets fleshed out in January’s upcoming series. "There’s a bit of a journey for Guy this year,” Armitage discloses. "It turns out he’s got a sister, and other family members. We really delve into his past.”
There’s also a wardrobe change in the offing. Gisborne garnered instant cool in the first Robin Hood series by wearing a long, oddly sci-fi looking, leather coat. "I did start to pine for that coat when Spooks was coming to an end,” Armitage says. "Only to return to find that it’s been ditched and there’s a whole new look for him.”
It’s a look, he confesses, that’s a cross between a samurai warrior and the three musketeers. Still, at least the writers haven’t killed his character off, something that may well happen to Lucas North – Spooks is famous for putting its heroes to sudden and bloody ends. Not that Armitage says he’d mind an execution scene. "If they said, ‘Look we’ve got a fantastic storyline and unfortunately it involves you getting killed off,’ I’d be jumping around saying do it. Those kinds of death make the series, you know.”