A new kid on the GridОпубликовано: Metro
Автор: Emma Jean Sturgess
Дата: 21 октября 2008
Until now Sir Guy Of Gisborne has been the character Armitage, 37, is best known for - that and being the man that finally took Geraldine down the aisle in The Vicar Of Dibley. But it's all about to change.
Next week, Armitage joins the line-up of dishy leading men (Rupert Penry-Jones, Matthew Macfadyen) who have strutted the grid in Spooks. His character, Lucas North, is an experienced MI5 operative who has been released from captivity in Russia. But Spooks is, famously, bigger than its cast: the main man's role is to hold it together while all around are fried, exploded or disappeared. How familiar was Armitage with the show's conventions when he signed on? 'I watched most of series one and then drifted away from it because of work,' he says. 'But when I got involved they sent me all of it and I had a Spooksfest. It is the kind of show where, when you sit down with the box set, you're there at 4am in the morning thinking: "I'll just watch one more episode." It's very addictive.'
The secret of its longevity (the new series is the seventh, and Armitage has signed on for another) is partly, he believes, its fairly rigid formula. 'Hats off to the producers,' he says. 'The good thing about it is they absolutely know what works; they know what Spooks is. It has a specific look and a specific style, and if you veer away from that it doesn't work. They fight really hard to keep it all in the same shape. You have to respect that.'
To this end, he's been coached on the finer points of Spooks by the existing cast. 'I have been practising my serious face, my Spooks look, and also my Spooks lean,' he says. 'That's when you lean across the table when you deliver something really serious. Rupert Penry-Jones coached me in a lot of these things.'
Did going into something with such a strong identity give him pause as an actor? 'Yes, because you've got the potential to destroy it all. I was very aware of my duty, and there is a fear that you're not going to be liked.' It's not restrictive? 'It's like a framework, so you can work within restraints. Sometimes when it's too free you end up running around like a headless chicken, not knowing what to do. Very strict guidelines can be quite a nice thing, I think.'
Armitage nominates Jason Bourne as his favourite on-screen spy. 'What I like is that he's Everyman, and I'm trying to be inspired by him. If James Bond walks into a room you know it's him. If Jason Bourne walks into a room you probably wouldn't notice him. He can just disappear in a crowd, but when necessary he can throw off his cloak and save the world. That kind of thing is really exciting.'
Accumulating spy-style techniques has been amusing for Armitage. 'There's moments when you have to take the story to a place that is exciting, dramatic and possibly fictional, although they do try to keep it as real as possible. But there are moments when you think: "OK, I'm diffusing a bomb now and I don't know where I've got this skill from, but I seem to have it." That's when you start to laugh.'
Armitage may well be laughing - with Robin Hood and Spooks giving his CV an air of quality allied with audience-pleasing tendencies, he's got it made. But he considers 2004's BBC adaptation of North And South his big TV break. 'It was quite monumental for me just because of the interior of the character [mill owner John Thornton]. The way the psychology was written was so thorough.'
Born and raised in Leicestershire, Armitage's first foray into entertainment came when he joined a circus in Budapest, aged 18. He lasted eight weeks and returned to the UK to study at The London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Art. He says he never expected to end up on television, but has found it suits him.
'Until about eight years ago all I'd done was work onstage. There is something to be said for that immediacy, but I find it quite scary. I'm not a show-off, I like to do it in private, and a film set is quite private. The audience might be big, but you're not there when they're watching.'
That said, the stage is calling again. 'I'm a bit obsessed with Richard III at the moment. He's an English monarch who's been savaged by history. I'd like to get back onstage in the next year, but I'd also like to do something new for television, something with no preconceptions. North And South is a novel that people know; Robin Hood is a legend; Spooks is a pretty established show. I think it's time now to do something that no-one has any conception of. A clean slate.'