Bits and Bobs (Vol. 5 1/2): Exclusive 'Robin Hood' scoop from Richard Armitage!
Good evening, anglophiles. Not only did Richard Armitage (pictured) call Bits and Bobs to answer the majority of your questions (we couldn’t get to all of them, and for that I humbly apologize), but he also gave us some exclusive scoop on Robin Hood season 3. Gisborne’s sister appears! We might have a flashback episode on the horizon! And he let us into the mind of his new MI-5 character Lucas North. Just be forewarned, if you don’t want to know any season finale spoilers, I’d wait until after you watch it tomorrow night on BBC America at 9 p.m. to read this in its entirety. And don’t forget, the entire season 2 hits stores on Tuesday.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you?
Richard Armitage: Good, just a little bit hot. It’s about 32 degrees [Celsius] today. It’s absolutely baking. It’s fine, though. You’re probably used to it, but you know, being from England you don’t often get this kind of heat, so it’s good.
Is it burning inside Gisborne’s leather outfit?
Well, it’s slightly different this year. It’s not quite so much leather, but there’s a bit more weight to the costume, so it’s proved to be as hot as the last couple of years.
Can you give us a hint as to what Guy is up to in season 3?
In season 3, Gisborne is on a downward spiral, so he’s a bit of a car crash at the beginning when you find him. He’s off the leash and he’s turned to alcohol. He’s a real mess. It’s very much a revenge storyline between him and Robin because he blames Robin for perpetuating Marian’s death and then Robin blames Gisborne obviously because he did it. So there is that sort of fire burning. Then he finds a way back through the character of Prince John and finds a new energy, a new force. That’s what we’re filming at the moment, but beyond that I’m not quite sure yet.
What do you think you’ll do with the costume when the show is over?
You know what, it’s really funny you should say that because, as I just said, there is actually a new costume designer that’s come on board, and so the whole show has been sort of redesigned. At this moment Keith Allen, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is trying to buy my costume. And we’re in a little bit of a bidding war as to who’s going to get my costume. He wants Gisborne’s costume so that he can sell it. But I think I’ll try and get it just for myself as a bit of nostalgia. It’s weird, because you know, I spent two years putting that costume on: It’s part of my process and it helps me become the character. I’d find it very strange to think that that it is in could be in else’s hands. I think it would be very weird. [Laughing] My blood and sweat is fused into the leather as well!
addCredit(“Richard Armitage: Gareth Davies/Getty Images”)
Is it harder to develop a character on a continuing series like Robin Hood, when you don’t know where the character is headed, rather than on an adapted miniseries like North & South, where you already know the entire Elizabeth Gaskell story?
It’smore flexible to work on a show like this. I plotted my characterbiography at the beginning of the show, and it’s had to change forseries 3 because Gisborne’s sister arrives in the story and she bringsthe truth of their history with her. So I’ve had to slightly change mybiography for Gisborne because it was my creation and now the actualtruth is going to be explored. But that was quite an interesting partof the journey for me.
Are there any flashbacks in season 3? Would you be interested in doing a prequel episode for Gisborne?
Funny you should say that: I believe one of the episodes is going to beof that nature. There is going to be a flashback episode which looksinto the journey of the Gisborne family, and also how Robin was whenthey were younger. I think that’s one of the ideas that the writershave this year.
Do you know who will be playing your sister?
Yes, we’re working together at the moment. It’s an actress called LaraPulver, who’s relatively unknown. She’s done a lot of theater work.She’s absolutely fantastic. The really strange thing is that she hassort of similar features to me, similar coloring, similar eye color.And we sort of think alike and have similar tastes, it’s very weird.She’s a bit of a chip off the Gisborne block. She’s cunning and she’sdevious. She’s incredibly beautiful and very sexy. She’s going to be areally interesting ingredient on the show, I think.
How do you feel about the fact that Guy is so evil, yet so beloved at the same time?
I think it could be the thing of loving to hate the bad guys. I supposethe difficulty with a character like this is that I feel sometimes thatI’ve failed to alienate people enough and maybe I’ve let them into hispsyche too much. But I had to try and find a way to forgive him forwhat he does. I think it stems from the fact that I made him have somekind of faith. It’s a private faith. I liked the idea that there wassomebody who could go out and slaughter people and then go home and sayhis prayers. Which perhaps gives him a glimmer of humanity orcompassion. It’s his failing in the show, but maybe that’s what peoplefeel gives him the potential to be redeemed.
What are the pluses and minuses of the role?
From my point of view, I’ve grown to love the character. I really enjoyhim and forgive him. You know, you have to do that when you play acharacter. So I get quite frustrated when I open a script and thecharacter is constantly humiliated or acting without thought because Iknow he wouldn’t do that and [his motivation] won’t be explored in thestory. At the moment I’m sort of battling over this with the writersbecause they set up a very interesting relationship with his sister.It’s a very volatile relationship, but I’m striving to make it truthfuland I want them to be at loggerheads at each other but I also wantthere to be some kind of affinity between them. So that’s what we’restriving for at the moment.
What advice would you give Guy if you had the chance?
Gosh, I don’t know. I think he’s too far down the road now to giveadvice to [laughs]. It’s like he’s on a rollercoaster and he’s right atthe top. My advice would be, “Get off, get out of the carriage and walkthe other way,” but he can’t, he’s got too far to fall now. But if Icould have given him advice ten years ago, I would have said: Stay wellaway from Nottingham. But he’s just a bit too far down the line now andI think he has to go over the top. He has to take the fall in order tothen be redeemed.
How different was filming MI-5 in comparison to filming Robin Hood? Did you have the same input with your character as you do with Guy?
Yes, I did. I went in and met them quite early on so I had a chance toform the character as they were forming him. It was great to have thatinput. MI-5is very different. Guy is very much a separate character from me: Hehas a very distinctive look, he has a distinctive movement, and a verydistinctive voice. And, obviously, Robin Hood is a period piece. It’s very away from myself. Whereas with MI-5it’s much closer to my body weight, speed, and sound. I actually findGuy easier because it’s a definite departure from myself, but MI-5 is interesting because it’s really opened up my political mind.
Can you tell us about your MI-5 character Lucas North?
He was an MI-5 operative who was a predecessor of one of the charactersin the original series. He was the best, the top of his field. Hebasically went to Russia on an operation and was caught and imprisonedfor eight years. So he spent eight years in a Russian jail wonderingwhy the British government has abandoned him. There is a spy swap atthe beginning of series seven and he is returned, but you’re not butyou’re not quite sure whether he has come back with an agenda or if heis a double agent. He has to fight very hard to get back into the gridand back into the world of MI-5. He’s a bit of an outsider. In a way,there are parallels between Lucas and Guy in that respect—they’re bothon the outside trying desperately to get back in.
Are there any parallels between Guy and Richard III?
Sort of. I’m researching Richard III at the moment. I suppose thebiggest parallel is this ambition that is all consuming and willultimately crush the person that’s chasing it. That’s been theoverriding theme of Guy right from the beginning. It’s ambition thatstarted out as “I am fighting for my family name.” But once he’s had ataste of success, he wants it for himself, despite the fact that he’llsay it’s for the Gisbornes. He wants it for himself and it’sinsatiable. I’m hoping to explore the character of Richard III at somepoint, but I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m interested inthe camp that says he wasn’t the ruthless, ambitious, child murdererthat Shakespeare depicted. I want to explore what it might be like ifyou grow up never being in line to the thrown and then suddenly you seecan see the crown and the path is cleared. You get a taste of thepotential of what it might be like. Surely you would dive in and youwould run and grab it! I wonder if that’s what he really did. Those arethe parallels for me really.
What other historical or literary character are you itching to play?
Well, at the moment Richard III is buzzing around in my head. I’ve always said I’d loved to play Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. That was one of my favorite novels. It’s already been done, but I’d still quite like to investigate that role.
If you could star in a remake of a classic film, what would it be?
Crikey, that’s a tricky one. I tell you what: Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. It’s his Macbeth. That’s where I’m at at the moment: Something kind of epic, dramatic, and atmospheric. Obviously I wouldn’t be Japanese.
Didn’t you play Macduff once?
I did, in a BBC television update with James McAvoy, who has gone on to great heights since then. It was a great piece.
What character did you play in Cats?
I was one of those bodies in cats that gets to play lots of characters.I was basically run-and-cover, a swing. I played the Rum Tum Tugger,Gus, Macavity, among a number of different parts.
Are you a dancer?
I’m a pretty good mover, I can get away with it. Catswas my journey to drama school. I did a year on tour and a year in theWest End and saved my pennies so that I could go to drama school. ButI’m not a bad singer.
Will you sing on film or TV?
I’d love to do a musical, but I don’t know when or what. Certainly not Robin Hood: The Musical, but I would love to do something like again, something so completely different.
What is the Havoc Tour?
[Laughing] It’s an imaginary rock tour. I got sent a t-shirt by someonewho created it. I guess because Guy of Gisborne dressed head-to-toe inleather he looked a bit like a rocker and the Havoc tour was animaginary medieval rock festival that he fronted. Yes, maybe I’ll singon the Havoc Tour!
Do you think you’ll ever try to break into the U.S.?
God, I’d love to. Anything that a) raises my profile and b) is aninteresting role to play. You look at some at the television thatAmerica is making at the moment, stuff like Damages and Heroes. Brilliant shows like that. I’d love to come over and have a crack at that, but I never seem to get the time.
What’s the next thing you have planned?
Well, obviously I’m going to talk to the BBC very seriously and try toconvince them to do Richard III with me, but I think I’m probably goingto be going straight back to MI-5 after Robin Hood is finished.
Will you ever do another comedy?
I really hope so. The Vicar of Dibleyfor me was such a brilliant departure from anything I’ve done before.Acting in front of live studio audience was such a fantasticexperience. And to spend six weeks laughing like that, and reallyenjoying doing that kind of performance. I feel like I’m in a sort ofcomedy at the moment because of Keith Allen and the way he plays theSheriff: I think I’m the stooge and he gets all the comic lines. I’dlove to do some more comedy.
What does guy feel when he looks at the Sheriff?
That’s quite a hard one to describe. I think he sees a poisoned dwarfwhom he absolutely despises but simply cannot live without. It’s veryinteresting because in series 3, the relationship becomes severed andwe’re pitted against each other. And it’s very very difficult for Guyto function without that man. I don’t know if that’s reciprocated.That’s the only way I can describe it: He absolutely despises him butcannot live without him.
If you could have been born during a different time in history, what period would that be?
Well, God, that’s tricky one. Every possible period! I would quite liketo have been a bit of a lush in the 1920s, but I would have had to beenwealthy. I couldn’t be poor, because I’d quite like to go around toparties.
Does your nephew play with your Guy of Gisborne action figure?
[Laughing] He hasn’t got one! He’s got a little Robin Hood hoodie. Heputs that on while running in front of the television trying to shootme.
Who are your acting inspirations?
Oh, I suppose, lots and lots of different people: A bit of De Niro, a bit of James Stewart, a bit of Daniel Day-Lewis.
What’s your favorite music group?
At the moment I’m really into Coldplay just because that last album wasso good. But I’m really into Keane and Radiohead. The Feeling are greatat the moment, I really like that band.
What in British entertainment would you recommend to American anglophiles?
British entertainment? Something that’s typically British, you mean? I would say karaoke but that’s Japanese.
Or something on U.K. TV that’s interesting or was interesting to you. Like, when we asked Simon Pegg, he mentioned Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place.
What did he say? God, that’s really clever isn’t it? Well, I’d say seethe Coldplay tour. They’re coming to Budapest and I can’t wait. It’sfestival season, isn’t it? I’d say getting up to your knees in mud andwatching a live rock concert in the pouring rain is a very Britishthing to do.
Do you wear Wellies?
I tend to be one of those ones in flip-flops who’s forgotten it’s going to rain.
Which of your past characters do you feel you are the most like?
Probably Vicar of Dibley‘s Harry Kennedy is the most like myself.
So you’re nice, and somewhat like an accountant?
Yeah, I suppose, and we have similar senses of humor.
Do you ever think they’ll be a Dibley reunion episode? Will we see Harry and Geraldine with kids?
Do you know what? In the last five minutes of that shoot, JonPlowman, the head of comedy at the BBC came up to me and said theymight just hang on to the set, which they were about to burn. And I waslike, why? What do you mean? And he said, “Well nothing, we’re just notgoing to burn the set just yet.” I think they’ve packed it away deepinto storage, but I’m sure there’s always the possibility they mightdig it out. That would be great wouldn’t it? A Christmas special thatshows where everyone is in a couple of years? I would love it.
Lastly, we were wondering if you could pull some strings at the BBC to get them to definitely air your season of MI-5 over here.
I know! I only just found out that it’s not really shown there anymore.That’s such a shame. Well, when I talk to them, I will definitely bringthat up. I’ll say, “Please play it.” There also might be a little bitof a wait for Robin Hood series 3, so I hope people are patient.