Favorite “detailed acting” moment: Strike Back

“Scarface” / As’ad (Fenar Mohammed-Ali) gives John Porter (Richard Armitage) a drink during his captivity in Strike Back 1.2. Source: Richard Armitage Net

This is one of those things that struck me immediately while watching the show. The first thing Porter does when As’ad removes his gag is to run his tongue over the place where his tooth’s been (brutally) removed. Anyone who’s ever had dental work done knows that for the first day or so one’s tongue is constantly running over the location of the repair work. I was impressed by the way that Armitage obviously thought through the previous scene to make this one so realistic. Effective acting.

~ by Servetus on July 19, 2010.

37 Responses to “Favorite “detailed acting” moment: Strike Back”

  1. It is such details that make Richard the comsummate actor he is and your noticing them that make you the accomplished analyst of his work. Every time you bring such details to our attention, it has the effect of making me want to rewatch the scene in question.

    So many details, so little time! I’m supposed to be on holiday, but I’m starting to feel as though I’m attending Summer School at the Armitage Institute of Advanced Studies . My choice and I’m loving it!

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    • Even the Institute will eventually take a break, when I fly back to the U.S. and then drive home. But until then I’m glad to have you aboard!

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  2. It’s one of the things that made me become the huge RA fan that I am – all his careful attention to details, the small, subtle things that add up to such compelling, layered portrayals of his characters. I was re-watching some of RH S1 one day and realizing how many subtleties I had missed the first time around in his performance as Sir Guy.

    The rather shy way the normally swaggering, overbearing knight looks at Marian, the uncertainty and the yearning in his smile and his voice as he says, “My lady.” And then later in the series, the gamut of emotions that ran across his face after Marian revealed the scar on her hip to him. Disbelief, anger at her treachery, pain, self-loathing for knowing he had inflicted it on her – all done in the twinkling of an eye.

    There are a lot of handsome faces and physiques out there in celebrity land, but talent and commitment to getting it right like this? Not so much. And darling Millyme, Summer School at the Armitage Institute of Advanced Studies sounds like a dream course to me!

    Speaking of SB, I was completely stunned to read some highly negative reviews of the show at amazonuk, principally those complaining about the “terrible” acting and RA’s “wooden” performance. Yet others said the lead actors were “too hammy.” Considering it got about 45 positive reviews and three or four negative ones, obviously the naysayers were in the minority. As one reviewer pointed out, views are much more subjective than objective when it comes to movies, books, music, the arts in general. (My personal biggest complaint about the show was the writing and also a disconnect with the final two eps being written and directed by a different team than the first four. Didn’t all meld together well for me. But I never faulted the actors.)

    Still, I have to wonder what those fellows (and the negative reviews all seemed to be by men) were smoking to call Richard’s very nuanced performance as JP “wooden.” Then again, there are those who find his Lucas North “wooden,” too, and I can’t fathom that for the life of me.

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    • I’ve found in RH that it’s particularly important to watch Armitage when he’s in the background (as opposed to the foreground) of a scene, and to consider his body language.

      We should take up the “wooden” topic sometime as a separate post.

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      • I think the “wooden” topic would make a swell post. And yes, I love the way Richard as smouldering, brooding, insecure, yearning-to-be-loved Guy always remains fully in character even when he’s in the background. All those little telling details in the body language and facial expressions.

        His obvious disdain for Vasey. His jealousy over the count wooing Marian. The way he squints in the sunlight in S3 when he walks out behind Vasey, obviously hung over yet again.

        Don’t even get me started on the hair acting in S3, both in the fore and background.

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  3. I was watching a few of the John Porter vids on You Tube the other day, and the way the videos were edited (close ups on his face), I was astounded by the level of detail in his expressions (of course that’s what we love about our man, he’s all about the details_.

    I watched SB a few times, but it’s really not my thing, so I completely missed out on these details (maybe because I was concentrating on his biceps?). His expressions, the emotions conveyed, honestly, he went to a new level. After watching a few SB videos, I was even more convinced of the fact that he really is a brillant actor. Here’s a link to one that really struck me:

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    • Well, it would be very easy to get lost in those biceps, wouldn’t it? ( ; SB gave us a lot of good close-ups catching the emotional depth he gave the character – what could have been just another meathead soldier role – and the vids, of course, cut through a lot of the other stuff to make that crystal clear. It is a pleasure to watch a master craftsman at work, whether it was my late uncle who created such beautiful things from wood, from children’s toys and candleholders to dulcimers, to an actor like Richard. I have so much respect and am a bit in awe of those abilities.

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    • @Rob you should check Elvira’s SB vids out. She has the eye thing and the face zoom-in down. SB provides lots of opportunities for objectifying.

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  4. The “wooden acting” aspersion only reflects on those limited reviewers (I repeat, Male Pattern Jealousy”.)

    Detailed acting, from whichever source an actor taps, is essential to performance. Olivier was quoted as having “worked from the outside in”. I’ve thought that Mr. Armitage works from the interior to the exterior; it’s probably a combination for both actors. Still pondering this. I hope servetus and others might add some insight.

    The actor created a memorable (to say the least) character of Gisborne, almost out of whole cloth. I only say almost, because the producers did mention a concept of Guy as a Robin manque. However, Mr. A took that far beyond anyone’s expectations, and detailed, nuanced acting was the basis. Well, apart from little things like voice, etc. 🙂 I still find Guy’s insecurity about Marian painful and heart-breaking….

    Have to wait till Nov. for BBC Canada to run SB. At least they’re running it, and it isn’t even a BBC production.

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    • Male Pattern Jealousy *giggle* I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head, my dear. Well, there is a lot there to make an insecure male jealous. Ridiculously good-looking, fit and charismatic people aren’t supposed to be so talented and intelligent,too, are they? Doesn’t seem fair . . .

      Oh, the whole Guy/Marian thing was heart-wrenching IMHO. Richard gave us a Guy of Gisborne we could champion and fervently hope for his redemption.

      Well, Richard’s previous and current roles for BBC productions perhaps spurred them on to include SB on the menu for you in Canada. Whether it will ever end up here BBC America, I can’t say . . . good thing I have a multi-region DVD player.

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    • Actually, I think it’s Showcase that’s running it, not BBC Canada. Certainly one of the Alliance Atlantis networks is showing it in November.

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    • Love “Male Pattern jealousy.”

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      • It is a great phrase, isn’t it? Captures what I suspect certain gents are feeling all too well.

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  5. I wasn’t sure, either, Leslieg – BBCca and SW are both CanWest. But it does show up on BBC ca schedule. Um – I’ll double-check that! Thanks!

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  6. We might have to credit the script for this because details of such kind usually would be in the script. Not to discredit the performance of course!

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    • I have no knowledge on the filming business, but my general impression is that scripts ‘paint’ the scene, in this case for example, the position JP and As’ad have, their feelings, that JP has an inflammated cheek…not sure it’d have written JP has to pass his tongue over the missing tooth, though I can believe it could be soemthing the director could suggest.

      OML 🙂

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      • I’m no expert, but I’d have guessed that the script gives the text and the setting of the scene, and if there are movements, etc., that the writers envision, and even would remind the actors of what happened in the previous scene, but that such a small detail would be something the actor added in characterization. The script is primarily a guideline that is modified in rehearsal with the influence of the director and the actors.

        In any case, I prefer to think this was Armitage’s contribution! 🙂

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        • Well, that’s me, too, preferring to think our Richard came up with it on his own . . . I do genuinely suspect that specific gesture was one RA added to make the scene even better. If I were the scriptwriter watching his performance, I would have said, “Yes, wonderful detail to add!”

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          • Scripts are not that detailed, trust me, the actor adds loads. Writers do not get that detailed, quite the opposite actually, the concern is for telling a story visually, not describing every micro emotion. The actor’s job is to insert that into the scene. I meant to say a good actor’s job is to insert that.

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            • Well, that is what I was thinking, @ Rob. The scriptwriter provides the words and general directions; it would be up to the director and actor to fine-tune things.
              And Richard being the good (great) actor that he is, he does provide us with loads.

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              • A good script should provide a good timeline to support continuum in the story. So it must have mentioned perhaps the teeth being pulled ar least the punch in the face. Two things pops in my head: RA remembers the effect of getting punched or the effect of dental work. It’s been mentioned that he is familiar w at least dental work.

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                • Well, we know those aren’t his original teeth, so I am sure he is well acquainted with the harrowing experience of major dental work (there’s a reason why a lot of people have a phobia about dentists’ offices, after all).

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            • The acting is up to the actor and the director could have some say in that. But I was trying to point out the production value of SB. Their focus is action not particularly
              character development or
              storyline and in that they
              excelled. Scartissue etc
              all the way through the
              series in the appropriate
              places.

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  7. He’s amazing, isn’t he? It almost hurt watching that little scene, so intense was it, and just e few seconds in the whole piece.

    Of course I had expected that SB would be better than the garden variety action series, but I had not expected his perfomance would be that fantastic, and yes, the script certainly provided material for meaty scenes 🙂 Darn, I don’t really want to say Good Bye to Mr. Porter…

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    • Yeah, I hate to admit it myself, because SB is SO NOT the kind of thing I’d ever pay to watch under other circumstances, but I want more of Porter. Lots more. I want his daughter to find out about his redemption, I want some sexual tension with Layla, I want some more ethical dilemmas … I want me some more Armitage.

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      • I don’t think I have to tell you I feel exactly the same way, servetus. To paraphrase that old Dire Straits song, “I want my John Porter.” Guy (so NOT dead) will always be my favorite as the character who introduced me to the Wonder That Is Armitage, but John Porter and Lucas North are jostling hard for second place – the two sides to the secret services coin.

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      • I also want more JP and especially more ethical dilemmas the way they handled it in the first 2 eps…not like the story with the nun.

        Ohh and sexual tension with Layla, that I wouldn’t mind one bit.

        OML 😛

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        • Why am I not surprised, @OML, you are hoping for some sexual tension with dear Layla? *wink*

          Seriously, I hope to see the relationship continue to build between John and Layla; even if there is no romance in the offing, at least a strong comradeship. I like Jodhi May very much as an actress and thought she did an excellent job with the role. I like Shelley Conn also, but Danni was such a throwaway role. She deserved better.

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          • Agree absolutely about Jodhi May. I only ever see her in costume dramas but she obviously has a lot more in her.

            I hate to run any woman down, but I was disappointed in the story line with Danni as shown in the film. In the book, of course, she’s essentially a sex worker who gives anesthetics and vitamin shots. There was at least something honest about that, as well as the Porter of the book’s honest assessment that there’s no way a woman like that would be interested in him if she weren’t being told to be.

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            • It is conflicting the information we’re provided with because when Layla shows up at JP’s flat to ask what happened between him & Collinson he expects to see Dani. In the series I get the impression he would feel he wouldn’t deserve Layla. At least Angie you provide us with an alternative! 😉

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              • Yes, that comment he makes is supposed to signal to the viewer he and Danni have continued their relationship. And frankly, considering how he was set up, I found that questionable.

                Was John Porter that desperate for female companionship he would simply overlook being part of a honey trap scheme to make him perform better as a soldier?

                Of course, Layla and John are from different backgrounds, different classes, and maybe we are to assume Danni fit the mould of the type of woman John felt would be accessible to him . . . however, I am all for bridging gaps in my fan fiction, iz4spunk, as you have pointed out.

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            • I think the first thing I saw Jodhi in was “The Aristocrats” and I really liked her in that. Saw her most recently in “Flashbacks of a Fool” as the older woman seducing a teenaged Daniel Craig’s character . . .

              I’ve tried to actually give Danni a more significant, and I hope, interesting, secondary role in “Truce,” because, let’s face it, it wasn’t much of a role in the show.
              As you say, Servetus, at least she was an honest sex worker in the original book without all this duplicity, and John’s attitude was pretty on the money in the book.
              In the show, she was the eye candy sergeant gifted in technospeak when necessary, good for a dream/fantasy sex scene (don’t get me wrong, I found it totally hot and far too short) and then, oh yeah, let’s throw in this scene of them preparing for a mission while sitting on the bed so we can show she really does like him and care for him after all . . .

              It wasn’t satisfying.

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              • I’ve mainly seen Johdi in costume dramas, and she always gives a marvellous performance. I actually saw her this weekend in the 1995 edition of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. She usually plays such earnest young women, so it’s so lovely to read about her having a real laugh, letting her hair down and romping with hunky hero Porter in Angie’s Truce.

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                • Jodhi was also good in Tipping the Velvet. I was so glad she got the girl in the end ( ;

                  She does tend to play rather earnest and intense women, and does it very well, but yes, I have had a great time letting her enjoy herself with our favorite sexy soldier, John.
                  It didn’t hurt any when I saw the sex scene in the Daniel Craig movie where she was seducing the teenager . . . I was able to imagine it was Layla and John. A nice bit of inspiration. *grin*

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  8. With regard to an actor’s influence on script/storyline, it might be reading too much into it; but there seem to have been some clues about RA. Interviews and articles suggest that he does come into a production (less so, for the Thornton character, for obvious reasons) but to the lesser-defined role of Gisborne, with a “backstory”, character history.

    The DVD Spooks extras/commentaries also profile Armitage as delivering “notes” on every scene to the writers (sometimes to their dismay – “not ANOTHER note!” 🙂 )

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  9. […] a scene with an obvious transitional move from a previous one. (A particular favorite of mine is John Porter’s reference to his brutally extracted tooth in Strike Back 1.2.) Above, the subsequent scene to the flashback to Russia comes at about 0:53, when Lucas goes in to […]

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