Last week, Daemon’s TV spoke with RICHARD ARMITAGE, who plays Guy of Gisbourne, about the return of ROBIN HOOD for its second season on BBC America.
Richard Armitage talked about the evolution of his character in season two and his interesting infatuation with Marian, his favorite episode of the season, his new role on Spooks (MI-5 in the US), and much more.
Don’t forget to watch Robin Hood Saturdays at 9pm on BBC America.
And without further ado, enjoy the interview!
Daemon’s TV: What is it like to play a villain in “Robin Hood,” especially since it’s such a well known story?
Richard Armitage: You know what, I was pretty nervous about playng a villain at the start, because people are not going to necesserally like this character, and I’m going to be booed and hissed on the streets. But it’s just so much fun because the writers, I think they have a lot of fun planning all the bad things that these characters are going to get up to, and it’s actually a lot of fun doing it. It’s naughty and you get to sort of exercise all those elements that you can’t really do as a person, because it’s not civilized or polite or nice, so it’s actually really enjoyable to do it. (Laughs)
Have you actually been booed on the street?
RA: Well, it’s the little kids that point at you and then come and stick their tongues out. It’s brilliant, it’s my favorite reaction.
Were you fan orginally of “Robin Hood”?
RA: Yes, in the eighties, I mean there was a “Robin Hood” for every generation. The “Robin Hood” that we had was Michael Praed and I used to love it every Saturday night. I lived in the midlands as a child and my parents used to drive me up to the forest and we sort of played around. So it means a lot to me.
Would you have liked to play Robin Hood instead of Guy of Gisbourne?
RA: Well everyone wants to play Robin Hood, don’t they? I think I was the wrong side of 30 to play Robin Hood.
How were you first approached to play the part of Guy of Gisbourne?
RA: I originally was sent the script to look at the Sheriff and also Guy of Gisbourne. I went and read for both parts, and I think obviously I’m a bit young to play the Sheriff and Guy sort of sat quite well with me. I was really interested in the side of him which is sort of damaged and quite desperate, and then this sort of angry aspect of him I was quite interested in. I also read some scenes with Marian at the very beginning and I really liked his approach to wooing her. It was quite unconventional and a bit brutal, so that was something that really interested me.
Why do you think Guy of Gisbourne is so attracted to Marian?
RA: Well, I think in series one it was definitely that she was the most eligible woman in the area, the daughter of a Nobleman. She was also rumored to be betrothed to Robin Hood, and I think he wanted everything that Robin had, in terms of his reputation and his power, and the love of the people. And then he wanted her as well as a sort of decoration. But actually, through her he sort of found the human side of himself and she sort of made him into a man as opposed to a sort of a machine. And I think once someone’s done that to you, it becomes a bit of an obsession. The fact that she had this power over him he really couldn’t control, I think that it became irresistible. Those feelings, at the same time, are incredibly conflicting in himself, but I think he wanted to see where it ended as it were.
How is that going to evolve in Season 2?
RA: He becomes even more human. I mean she really gets under his skin. And so the great conflict between what he has to do in his work and in his relation with the Sheriff, which is probably the complete opposite direction of how he’s feeling as a man, and his love for her and the gentle side of him that she’s bringing out. So he’s trying to sort of hold it all in and not wreck himself up again, but she’s really pulling him out. At the same time, she sort of has an attraction to him in a strange way, but she also finds him very useful in her need to infiltrate the castle, so it’s quite an interesting, slightly odd relationship.
Do you think he has suspicions that Marian is a traitor?
RA: Yes, I think that’s there all the time. I think that she’s proved herself to be traitorous at the end of series one, so that thought is always hanging in his brain. But she manages to win him over time and time again. Kind of a fatal attraction, this sort of blind love that allows himself to be used by her. And he forgives her time and time again, and his worst fears are gradually coming to the surface throughout the whole series, in a culmination in episode 13 of possibly one of the worst things a man could ever do to the woman he loves. So it’s a really interesting journey.
What can we expect from Guy of Gisbourne this season?
RA: After being jilted at the altar at the end of series one, there’s a fire in him which is going to explode. So he’s much more wild and angry and he’s ready for it. He has sort of already been pried open by her, and so it’s almost like he’s got an open wound, which is the sort of seething blood, and so he’s trying all the time to contain it. Also his relationship with the Sheriffl is very much looked into. There’s a father son relationship which the Sheriff uses to his own advantage, knowing that Gisbourne really needs that kind of paternal approval.
How is the part of Guy of Gisbourne different from other parts you have played in the past?
RA: I think this is the first time that I’ve ever played one that’s so outwardly aggressive, angry, brutal, and violent. It’s the most violent role I’ve ever played. If this were to be played as an adult show, the violence would be extreme. But at the same time there’s this conflict of the man inside, and I think those two extremes have something, which I’ve not quite explored before. It’s really interesting because sometimes you find yourself doing something, which you feel goes against character, but it’s actually just one side of the character, which is being allowed to exist rather than all of it in the same time. I think that’s kind of a human thing, you know.
Yes, it’s hard to totally hate him.
RA: Yes, I think when you see somebody that is damaged like that, I thought I had to find that side of him in order to like him, in order to play him, because it was important to me to sort of find that aspect of him.
Do you do your own stunts?
RA: We really push to do as much as we can. Obviously some elements of the riding, when they’re riding extremely fast through trees, they won’t let us do that because it’s just too dangerous but we do all of the fighting ourselves. I know Jonas (Armstong) certainly does all the wire work and all the kind of tricks himself. The more we can do the more exhilirating it is. Actually, it’s one of the best bits of the job. That’s why we all enjoy ourselves so much. It’s a dream job in that respect.
What’s your favorite episode is season 2?
RA: Well I’ve got two actually. For myself my favorite episode is episode 13 and you’ll understand why when you see it. In terms of the show, I think episode 2, which is an episode where the show sets up a casino in the great hall. The balance of the heist and the comedy aspect, and the anacronistic style of the casino, which is a sort of a ludicrous idea, for me it just works and I think it’s a hilarious episode and at the same time it’s kind of scary and dark. I really enjoyed that one. That thing of taking a license with history in order to kind of have a fun episode, I think it’s something which Americans probably have embraced a little bit more than the British. You know they took inspiration from things like “Buffy” and “A Knight’s Tale,” where history was allowed to be relaxed slightly just so that the entertainment value can be higher whereas the British can be a bit stuffy about their history, so I think it’s probably why it’s been quite popular over there.
Who is your favorite person to act with in “Robin Hood”?
RA: I think I have to say Lucy Griffiths because we have most of our stuff together and the shape of their scenes is so interesting. I’ve really seen her develop as an actress as well and then she’s sort of done the same to me, so definitely Lucy.
I saw that you are playing a new character on “Spooks” (“MI-5″ in the US) season seven.
RA: I think season seven is going to be quite interesting. They’ve taken a new look at the show and they’re definitely bringing the sixties espionage and looking at the reemergence of the cold war as well. I think it’s something which America will really enjoy, so that’s going to be on BBC America as well.
Can you talk about your character a little bit?
RA: He’s been in a Russian prison for eight years. They do a spy swop at the beginning of the series and Lucas North, that’s the character’s name, returns from Russia with a lot of dirt on him and it sort of sets off a chain reaction. That’s how the series sort of kicks off. It’s fascinating and I’ve been water boarded and all sorts, so it’s been pretty current actually.
Are you going to be a regular on the show?
RA: Yes, it’s a regular character.
How is that going to work out with “Robin Hood”?
RA: Yes, I’m double backing. I finish “Spooks” on the 29th of June, and I’ll be in the forest on the 30th of June on a horse. So it’s pretty tight this year for me, but it’s great because the two characters are completely contrasting, so it’s gonna be great fun to do that.
Is there a storyline that you would love your character to have in “Robin Hood”? Is there something that you haven’t been able to do that you would like to?
RA: Yes, and I think that they are going to be doing that in series 3. I went and met with the producers today and they’re gonna take the character on a very downward spiral, which is really interesting. They’re going to take him to rock bottom in series 3, so I’m really looking forward to that. He’s getting darker.
How did you originally get into acting?
RA: I went to a school where there was lots of drama, singing, dance, and that sort of thing, so I had bit of a taste of everything. I did a series of exam, where you do a speech from a play. I kind of got a taste for it there, and then I went into a more commercial aspect of theater to singing in musical theater and I did that for a few years. Then I realized it was actually the classical theater that interested me more. So I went and did a three years classical acting course in London and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Then on I kind of continued doing theater and in more recent years it’s kind of branched off into television.
What do you like better, theater or television?
RA: At the moment, I’m kind of really interested in this sort of television and film media, just because I like the ability to kind of correct it or enhance it immediately rather than having to wait until the next night to do it. I do sort of miss the live audience, but there’s a part of me that just enjoys the kind of piecing together of a character over a very long period. I’m really happy where I am at the moment.
Are you thinking of expanding to the US?
RA: Absolutely, I can’t wait. I’m ready for it, I’ve watched some of US TV dramas at the moment. I’ve just finished watching “Damages” which I just loved. I think the quality of the writing was spectacular, so as soon as I’ve got a free moment I’m gonna hopefully come over there and see what’s around.
Are there any other TV shows that you enjoy watching?
RA: I really enjoy “Heroes,” that was something that’s been very popular over here, and “Brothers & Sisters” as well. I think they’ve both been spectacular and brilliantly written. And funnily enough, British television, I’ve been doing catch up on all of the “Spooks” series as well. I think for me I’m really proud to be part of that, because I think it’s some of the best television that we produce, I really do. Each time there is a new cast change they really up the game, raise the bar, it’s really thrilling.
Is there a part that you would like to play that you haven’t had a chance to play yet?
RA: At the moment I’m working on a project about Richard the Third. I’m very keen to resurrect his reputation and tell his story, which hasn’t really been told before. It’s not the story that Shakespeare told about the hunchback monster. I’m really interested in looking at that.
In England there is a lot of cast changes, they seem to kill off main characters a lot. Are you afraid that it might happen on “Robin Hood”?
RA: To be honest, I do think that Guy of Gisbourne needs to get it in the neck at some point. I’d like to make it to the end of series 3, but I don’t know what they’ve got planned for me. But I do think he needs to get his just desserts, doesn’t he?
But then who would replace him? Who would be as mean to Robin Hood as Guy of Gisbourne?
RA: Who else? I think they’ve got something planned. After talking to the producers today, they mentioned that they are bringing another couple of characters. Obviously I can’t give it away yet, but yes, there’s going to be another character coming in, which is going to add to the evil side.