Mr. Armitage, his fans, our pursuit of “great art,” and me as critic, part 1

Photo: Richard Armitage with Annabel Capper at the 2006 Children’s BAFTAs award ceremony. Source: Richard Armitage Fan Blog. I’m posting this not as an entry in the perennially boring “who’s his partner?” sweepstakes, but because he looks as happy here as I’ve ever seen him in any photo, and that’s what I wish for him, no matter what else happens in his life and career: happiness. Really, it’s the least I could wish for the life of someone who’s — all unknowing — brought so much pleasure to mine.

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In the wake of the initial broadcast of Strike Back, a “quo vadis Mr. Armitage?” mood seemed to be emerging in the Armitage blogosphere and environs. You’re probably familiar with some of these comments: from mulubinba, for example, who reads the Armitage fandom as a potential broad church, although she’d prefer more period drama herself, and a slightly more critical one from pi (which is what finally got me out of my funk to finish writing about this, so thanks as usual, pi!). I think other statements dealt with this question, too, although I can’t find them now. Please use the comments to post a link if you wrote or commented on this theme elsewhere. The specter of “Go West, young man, go West!” and the potential Nat polled about of the desirability of him undertaking work in Hollywood –a topic mentioned in several of the Strike Back related interviews– was a component of this discussion; there are worries that some fans only want to watch Armitage playing British characters and from something I read recently it seems Armitage, too, worried about the possibility that pleasing his fans would lead to being typecast.

Reading the latter saddened me. An actor has plenty to worry about without being concerned about the loyalty of his fans. It’s not that I think fans have an obligation to be loyal any more than I think an actor has an obligation to do only things that he knows will please his fans. It’s that I’m sorry he feels or felt influenced in his choices to the extent that he would even ask himself that question. It’s that I think that the line between actor and audience has to be fairly robust; despite the desire on both sides to reach out in good will, good fences make good neighbors. On both sides we pay a price for the free experience of his artistry: as much as I may identify with what I know about him, I can’t ever have him as my friend, and even if he likes what well-disposed fans write, he can’t ever count on us treating him as if he were. The artist must remain free to make his own choices, free of duress, if he’s to grow in skill and spirit, just as the critical (in the sense of evaluative) audience needs to be able to respond in freedom to the artist’s choices or its response will not be truly critical. The risk, of course, is that not every aesthetic or professional choice one makes will be loved, or even understood; the freedom to succeed with something new is equally the freedom to fail at it. It would be creatively laming for any artist worth his salt to believe that the main reason he continued to get roles was because of the preferences of his core fans and not because of the quality of his performances. (For legitimate objections that an artist never performs in the absence of (at least a notional) audience, see section below on “getting work.”) In such a situation, anyone even slightly introspective would wonder about the quality of his performances in a spectrum outside fan love, or alternately, if he’d have to force himself to channel his artistic growth into channels that his fans already approved to keep working. If he’s who he seems to be in interviews, I’m sure Armitage doesn’t want us praising his new work on the basis of his earlier performances or because many of us have grown to like him based on what we think we’ve learned about him personally. The artist who wants to improve has to sort through the criticism he gets, consider the source, and incorporate what’s accurate and helpful into his performances — or not. If he doesn’t go through the process of sifting genuine and relevant responses to his work, he will lose the capacity to surprise us or enchant us with his skills in new ways. The price of artistic freedom is inherent insecurity — a mood that drives one on to try to get better and better. But the necessary preconditions for Armitage’s artistic growth — especially the freedom to take risks that may not always provoke universal applause — also neutralize his right to hurt feelings about our reactions to his work. If he is going to please and satisfy himself as an actor, he has to focus on matters beyond pleasing and satisfying us. He’s absolutely right that as an actor, he can’t also be a “hopeless people-pleaser” to his fans.

Now, I’m not worried about staleness with Armitage at the moment: I am regularly so surprised by his work that I have to watch or listen to it repeatedly to make sure I’ve gotten everything that’s there. I’m just stating that appreciation circumscribed by mutual autonomy is the only real basis for the actor / fan relationship. Fans did a lot for Mr. Armitage at the beginning of his career, via a spontaneous burst of enthusiasm for a job well done, and then by giving him an internet presence that initially well dwarfed the significance of his career and certainly enhanced awareness of his work more quickly than it might have spread otherwise. And he’s expressed his sincere appreciation for fan support many times in ways that suggest that he understands the role that fans played in setting him on a particular professional trajectory. But you know what? He’s said at least once that he sees the turning point in his career as Sparkhouse, because it marked a new approach for him in pursuing a role. Even more: fans didn’t get him the role we probably see as the turning point: Mr. Thornton. He did that all by himself. He said once in an interview that he thought having a following helped, but even at that point it didn’t get him everything he wanted –films, for example– and he talked about the role, not the fans, putting him on the map. Presumably he still had to audition for roles afterward and he still may. So gratitude for fan support should not and cannot mean extending power over his creative choices to fans — even those who might think they know better than he does what he’s doing — and that includes me. If he can’t act freely, then I have no chance of evaluating his acting freely. Of course I have preferences. I have a right to my opinion, but that’s all it can ever be in his life: my opinion. None of us have any right in the universe to any hurt feelings at all about any of his choices.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) indicates on a map where Sister Bernadette should go in order to cross the border to South Africa in Strike Back 1.4. My cap. Can’t resist pointing out that this is a nice thumb shot. They turn up everywhere once you start looking.

Still, constant questions about his fans in interviews (and our responses to his answers — did anyone like being called motherly or protective? Thankfully he stopped saying that by the time of the Spooks 9 publicity) point out that we stand in an atypical relationship to him, one engendered not least by Mr. Armitage’s unusual awareness of and generosity to his fans after the broadcast of North & South. So it’s not surprising that many of us might feel a reciprocal obligation, one that hems our willingness to respond with complete candor to his career choices. I’ve had at least a half-dozen conversations off blog about Strike Back in which the consensus was simultaneously “he is so much better than that lousy script” and “I’m not sure it’s fair / kind to say that.” RAFrenzy expressed comparable reservations about the scripting of Lucas North’s entire character arc on Spooks yesterday (I haven’t had time to read this very closely, but the discussion is interesting. I think I disagree with her, but I’ll have to put that off as I want to finish writing this post!). I feel some of that myself, insofar as I thought after reading the Sunday Express interview that his statements about the lack of attractive drama scripts might have applied indirectly to his own perceived capacity to choose projects he really liked. I concluded privately that perhaps it’s not fair to criticize because John Porter might not have been his first choice of roles. However he felt about it, though, — and the full cut of the first Donald Stephenson interview, I believe, mentioned that his first reaction to the project was negative — he didn’t stray from the course once he had chosen it. He did a great job of selling Strike Back as potential art, full of ethical conflict (of this, more below, in the section on what constitutes art), but — as he noted himself — it was something that the audience that discovered him in North & South was not automatically inclined to like. It wasn’t that we couldn’t be moved there, as RAFrenzy noted several times (once here). She said something smart that I can’t put my mouse on but that’s been ringing in my ears about how Mr. Armitage understood that the audiences that would come along with him from his previous projects needed Strike Back to be more than an action flick. I do think his remarks about Strike Back suggest that he was making a good faith effort to explain to us how a project so out of the average North & South fan’s comfort zone fit into his own professional and artistic trajectory. That was considerate of him. But even so, he shouldn’t have to plead for our understanding. Conversely, if those of us who write or comment about him feel strongly that the roles he’s taking are problematic, we should feel no bounds beyond those of common courtesy on stating exactly that. I don’t mean to delegitimate his marketing effort for Strike Back, which made sense to me and which I think played well, despite a definition of “atonement” that was rather loosy-goosey for anyone who knows much about the theological meaning of that word, and a resulting rhetorical confusion about who exactly was atoning for what, as Ann Marie noted. I simply want to reiterate that given my understanding of the artist – fan relationship as sketched above, both sides have to feel autonomous in terms of their judgments.

But to come back to the beginning of this past, which pondered the recent emergence of this question: why now? It wasn’t because Strike Back was universally disliked; on the contrary, my reading of the response to it in Armitageworld was that the many luscious views of Mr. Armitage’s body nearly made up in the eyes of many readers for any failings in the script. There was the nagging problem of feelings of manipulation, of the show’s appeal to base instinct, and I wrestled with this myself. (Of this, also more below in the section on “beauty”). As this discussion of his career path emerged, it wasn’t immediately apparent what his next project after Spooks 9 might be, so there was opportunity for a lot of speculative chatter. Certainly, his career appears to be at a crossroads, as the sequence of roles in Robin Hood, Spooks, and Strike Back suggests that he’s hit a summit in terms of the number of screens he can control simultaneously on UK television at any one time. (One interviewer made a nice joke about this, suggesting that Armitage could hold the BBC primetime lineup for ransom. Armitage responded in quite vivid terms that this responsibility would be too much pressure.)

My own guess, though, is that the discussion is emerging now in this particular form because, although he must have been making choices all along about what to audition for, and maybe very recently about which roles to accept that he was offered without having to audition, this is one of the first moments in his career where we can see that he must be having to choose between different projects. As a consequence, we now have the freedom to disagree with his choices as opposed to parroting a central dogma of Armitageworld, to wit: we just want him to keep working, to be able to see him in anything. Because Strike Back was renewed for 10 more episodes, it is common consensus, his commitment to that will limit the amount of time that Mr. Armitage can devote to stuff that many of us already know we like better — Spooks 10, if Lucas North doesn’t get killed, maimed, or fired during the current series — or think we would — like “The Rover,” which would be a satisfying move back in the direction of North & South and of his RSC roots. As we puzzle over the extent of his freedom to make choices at this particular moment (one assumes that he was contracted to continue in SB if it was renewed), week after week, voicework appeared –an audiobook, a radio broadcast, auto, sports, and jewelry advertisements, documentary voiceovers– all of which seemed to suggest that rather than planning to surprise us with a new production in the genre of high art, Armitage might be working around the clock at a number of things that look suspiciously like piecework. And there’s no break for him on the horizon. Anyone who was already skeptical about Strike Back because of its doubtful artistic merit is potentially even more bothered by the information that gradually trickled out about Mr. Armitage’s role as the German villain Heinz Krüger in the upcoming Captain America film. It’s not that he’s abandoned art: this year we heard Clarissa and Symphony of a City, and he was great in both. But they were not screen or stage productions. His Spotlight showreel (which doesn’t include any work completed after Robin Hood 3) still ends with the proposal scene in North & South, but it begins with a(n attractively crafted) sequence that manages to make even Mr. Thornton look edgy and seems to set him up as an action specialist. His continual repetition of the refrain of his interest in selling a retelling of the Richard III story notwithstanding, it is not entirely unreasonable to conclude that Richard Armitage is starting to look like someone who wants to do action roles and projects that fall under the rubric of “entertainment,” instead of the actor that the fans who used their computers to catapult him to public attention in 2004 thought he was: a dramatic artist with the potential to become the next great interpreter of Shakespeare — or at the very least, an ongoing competitor worthy of Colin Firth for favorite period drama lead.

***

A map (hidden under a VHS cassette) is one of the objects that give clues to Lucas North / John’s mysterious past in Spooks 9.2. My cap.

As a good academic writer, I always trace what others think and then comment on it critically before presenting my own stance, which is generally much harder to pinpoint. Now I have to write what I think about all of this from my situation as interpreter of what I know of Mr. Armitage’s career. On a simple level, should I admit to reservations about Strike Back? Or about any other project? If so, on what basis? Can I sign on to any reservations about the direction his career is taking? And if so, should I express them? And what about (I write, trying to avoid raising my left hand to my face in imitation of Lucas North’s “extreme emotional distress” signal) his acting itself?

I joked recently that the love language of Servetus is “close analysis.” The more I love something, the more closely I’ll look at it, and the more I’ll write. Thinking via synecdoche has been my pattern since I was a child: what does the detail tell us about the whole? (I’ll also keep wearing an awful piece of clothing just because it has a detail that I really love.) Moreover, for reasons closely connected to my personal issues for writing it, and because of the mechanisms by means of which Armitage has influenced me most deeply, a great deal of the analysis concerning him presented on this blog has been about “how.” How an effect is established, how Mr. Armitage performs, how a scene is put together, how a costume fits, how his eyes or his body move. There’s a component of “why” there as well: why I find a still picture or a scene compelling, for example. I write about myself in terms of “what” and “whither,” and I’ve commented on things like how we can knowwho he is” and my own identification with Mr. Armitage that get to content issues, but even these posts have mostly been constructed as analyses of rhetoric rather than evaluations of anything I assert to be real. I’ve been reluctant to make normative recommendations on larger issues, beyond things like what he should be looking for in a suit. That doesn’t mean I haven’t; aside from the discussion about what he should say about his fans, I speculated that he might have good reasons for taking ad work; I expressed no regret about his detachment from the Charlie project, and I’ve said in a few places that I assume that the primary purpose of Captain America is networking as opposed to artistic merit or professional trajectory. Except occasionally, “me + richard armitage” hasn’t been about the really big questions, and I envy writers who can easily take on that kind of question. (It’s an issue that’s bedeviled me as an academic writer, too.)

So I think that readers of this blog would have a case for claiming that –despite all the analytical detail– I’ve abandoned the viewpoint of objective observer, since I have never written anything strongly negative about Mr. Armitage except, perhaps, as regards his clothing choices, and have never been more than mildly negative about moments in his work that I don’t care for, and even that I do very rarely. Believe it or not, though, I actually do have some negative evaluations of moments in his work! Now, I don’t have anywhere near the time to write or develop every thought I have. I have notes and notes and notes of stuff to write here — and on any given day I pick the theme that fits my mood or the time I have available. So readers shouldn’t discount the possibility that more negative criticism might eventually appear. Admittedly I am usually writing to cheer myself up, reassure myself, or vent, and fingerpointing at Armitage’s flaws as an actor has never fit into those needs especially well.

Photo: Servetus — really just a propagandist for Richard Armitage

As an explanation for why I haven’t yet written much like that, though, more important is my feeling that all evaluation occurs in a particular context; this is an insight that follows upon so many years spent teaching. I taught for my first time in a Sunday School class as a newly-confirmed fourteen-year-old, and so I have been thinking about how to reach learners for 2/3 of my life. Now, I am not trying to teach Mr. Armitage anything. But the pattern of “first praise, then blame,” the mantra of successful grading, has ground its way deep into my synapses. My awareness of this state of mind suggests to me that I will be more likely to offer negative comments about any of his work as moments of a longer analysis — when I am noticing them as part of a particular question I’ve asked — than as a separate theme. Errors (apart from moral ones) are always errors in context; what is right in one place can be wrong in another. Seek to understand before you judge — one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the classroom. I’m not ready to pardon everything I understand, even as a teacher, but I do find that it trying to understand enriches my appreciation of my students’ work. That may not be the most helpful approach for writing succinct blog posts, but that is who I am: as writer, teacher, and critic. So the final question is the easiest to answer: would I criticize his acting? Yes. If I felt it were warranted. In context. After I had sought to understood what he was doing on the basis of what I could grasp were his own terms.

The other four questions are the same question, and the answer(s) are a bit more complex. So that I can be understood, if not pardoned, I’ll first offer the answer, and then reasons why I give it. Though I can’t guarantee how I’ll feel in six months, I am pretty sure at this point — unless Mr. Armitage starts making sn*ff, or something else that I find morally objectionable (that is, beyond “just” troubling)– that he’s not going to to be likely to get criticism from me on the basis of either genre or the scripts of the work he takes. (I consider a test case for this assertion below.) Now, I have and will continue to point out script problems, but I am going to be more interested in how effectively he deals with them in his performances than I will in arguing that a weak script was a reason not to take a role. I reiterate the position I sketched above: I read with interest the arguments of those who make such arguments, I think I understand where they are coming from, and in line with my notion of their actor / fan relationship, I not only support their right to make them, I can think of good reasons why they might be helpful to Mr. Armitage’s self-understanding as an actor. Not only that: I suspect that many readers of this blog are more likely to agree with those kinds of critiques than with the position I explain below. It seems inevitable that if Mr. Armitage continues making TV drama and action pieces rather than projects that are considered more “artistically significant” following conventional judgments, that the number of people making them (particularly among that initial group of fans and/or among those who came to Armitage fandom via North & South) will increase rather than decrease. In line with my comments above: whether to respond or react to that sentiment is his problem — though in my opinion, not his obligation. In the next post, however, I will make the opposite case, which underlines some important analytical principles for understanding the judgments I articulate on this blog.

[Sorry — don’t mean to leave you in medias res — this just got way too long for words.]

~ by Servetus on October 7, 2010.

150 Responses to “Mr. Armitage, his fans, our pursuit of “great art,” and me as critic, part 1”

  1. Yup, he looks happy, but keep in mind, he’s an ACTOR

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    • Yes, certainly. In modern society we have all learned to smile when our heart is breaking. This picture is also extremely blurry. But my phrase was not “here he’s happy,” but rather, “he looks as happy as I’ve ever seen him.” 🙂

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      • Servetus,

        There is also a scan up at RANet from a Woman’s Own article that shows Richard reacting to something Max has told him on the Spooks set. If that isn’t a genuine belly laugh he’s giving, then I will eat that big black hat of mine RA Frenzy likes so much.

        I love people who can laugh like that, actors or no.

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        • That does look like a great laugh. Then again, sometimes we laugh for reasons other than to indicate our pleasure 🙂 such as to support someone or make them feel welcome/understood, etc. I think the point is true that we can’t learn anything definitive from pictures, but I feel inclined to defend my stance as analyzing appearances on this blog as opposed to reality … 🙂

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          • That’s fine by me. I love looking at that picture (and he’s fully clothed, too!) He looks like someone I would like to know as opposed to simply Mr. Gorgeous to drool over.

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            • That’s one of the things I love about him, he seems such a nice guy, the kind I’d like to have as a friend.

              OML 🙂

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  2. Great post, perhaps in part because it expresses so much of what i have been thinking. ( ;

    First off–he does look very happy in that photo, doesn’t he? And I do so dearly want this fellow who has brought me so much pleasure to find happiness and satisfaction in his personal as well as his professional life.

    Secondly–I am with you at this point. Unless he does start making nothing but dreck I’m not really prepared to take potshots at his career choices, because so far it seems to me he always does the best he can with what his is given to work with and makes something more, much more, quite often, than meets the eye at first glance. He is still surprising and enchanting me.

    You well know how much I love the character of John Porter as crafted by Richard. You also know how unhappy I was with some elements of the scripts and how I hope some of those elements will be addressed in the second series. Since I am a fan fic writer aside from being a journalist by profession, I worked through some of my dissatisfaction with underwritten characters and lack of background by writing my own version, thank you very much.

    I am glad you pointed out Sparkhouse because in my opinion, that was truly RA’s breakthrough role. I came to know him through RH initially, but then watched N&S, VoD and Sparkhouse (not necessarily in that order) in quick succession.

    I can easily understand why legions of fans flocked to him from N&S (It’s the first piece of his work I purchased to share with my older sisters), but he’d been working and toiling away at his profession for years prior to that and yes, he did it himself.

    We the fans didn’t earn him the role of Thornton anymore than we did his subsequent roles.
    And while he has always been, I think, very good to his fan base, I don’t want him to think he has to please us with his career choices.
    It frankly bothers me that a few fans seem to think that should be able to dictate to Richard which roles he should take.

    It is his career, after all, and not ours; he is not obligated to us in any way that I can see. Would I like to see him in another good period drama? Absolutely. Would I like to see him in a well-scripted contemporary love story with comedic elements (note I did NOT say a rom-com)? Definitely. Would the possibility of me begging, borrowing and stealing to see him on stage in The Rover or a similar project send frissons of delight through me? Oh, yes. I would also dearly love to hear him in more radio plays like Clarissa.

    But I will leave those decisions to him. And rest assured, I will make my way to The Edge to see him in Captain America (I agree, I am pretty sure it’s a networking move, not because he wants to do comic-book movies the rest of his career).
    Because watching Richard Armitage at work continues to fascinate me, even when the vehicle is not my first choice of roles for him.

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  3. I don’t wish Mr. Armitage limited to any genre. I have a love of “period” stuff. Not action stuff – but. We have to pay the rent. And the BMW 🙂 As well as liking much contemporary (And murder-mystery stuff! William Monk and Anne Perry!) I did a lot of acting in the teen years, and I’m intro, not extra, and never for a minute considered acting as a career). So I don’t know how you go through these voyages.

    I have very great respect, as well as enjoyment in, theatre/acting/screen. This actor is too good to be wasted, and I just hope his managers and agents present him with better “stuff” in the future. “Cause until next month, I can’t judge SB. But Captain America boggles my limited mind. As Geraldine might say, “Please God, NO!!” Just my limited mind…

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    • He won’t have all the time he did to create an amazing full-blown character as he did with evil henchman Guy in RH, but hopefully our RA can work his magic with Nazi bad boy Heinz Kruger, too, @fitzg. We can but hope. *grin* Will be interested to hear what you think of SB and John Porter when it arrives up North.

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    • I agree with servetus that he does CA (apart from the money and the fun it must be) for networking purposes and three cheers to him for that! I had a feeling that he was comfortable with his TV career and would never try to move beyond that. A bigger role in a TV piece might be more satisfying for both the audience and the actor and this small role might never lead to anything or only lead to a string of small baddie parts but at least it bears a CHANCE that it will lead to bigger and better things in a way a TV production never could. So for a change he is actually taking a risk that may or may not pay off instead of going for the save option. I’m much happier with CA than SB even if all we instantly get will be three minutes in a movie I probably won’t even watch!

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      • Your last line made me smile, Jane. 🙂

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      • But isn’t it exciting to let your admiration for an actor take you into new avenues, Jane? Since Christmas I have discovered fanvids and fan fic and watched films that I might not have thought I’d enjoy. Having three sons has actually exposed me to a lot of films of the Strike Back variety, but due to Richard’s portrayal of John Porter I have allowed myself to enter this world with a different attitude. It has even extended to reading articles about Afghanistan with a sharpened sense of interest.
        I’ll watch CA and probably discover a whole new world through that 🙂

        Just reading Servetus’ blog leads to all sorts of new thoughts, too. I’m sorely missing a bit more phwoar, Servetus, but I’m sure you’ve got more in store of us soon.

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        • Yes, probably. After all, comic book movies are “cult” and I have never bothered the slightest do explore what it is all about. On the CA blogs certainly are people that are passionate about this movie and take it all very seriously, just like we take RA related stuff more seriously than we should.

          I never thought I would like a series like Spooks but I did. I bought all previous series after RA joined to see what it is all about and was hooked. I also never thought that I would enjoy a series like Doctor Who and I love it!

          I have issues with SB because I really dislike the sight of uniforms and machine guns and contemporary and real military settings. It disgusts me to see RA in combat gear and posing with a gun. I can deal with it better when it is a historical/fantasy setting. And I am determined to regard CA as a fantasy movie, not a WWII movie and RA’s character as a fantasy baddie. Otherwise I would have a real problem with it.

          I strongly believe that all those not so “artsy” shows have to be judged and enjoyed from what they are meant to be and that it is not fair to blame them because they are not what they don’t claim to be. (And I really enjoy that this blog does not do that!) However, there are choices I would be happier with and I cannot stop asking why his career has taken this turn.

          Ultimately it is not the genre or the type of character. As much as I would enjoy another romantic hero in a period drama, it doesn’t have to be that. I would be very happy with the ugly, damaged character he threatens us with.

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          • Jane, you certainly have every right to dislike military uniforms and guns and all that is involved with that.

            I don’t love war and bloodshed myself. I have often said if there was more dialogue established and less greed and desire for glory, there would be less war.

            However, I am also the wife of a former military officer who served his country very faithfully for 12 years. He was a USAF Emergency War Orders training instructor and you didn’t want him to have a bad day at work, because it would have meant nuclear war and the end of the world as we know it. My father also served during WW II and all my brothers-in-law served honorably in the military as well.

            I loved seeing my husband in uniform, including the dress uniform he wore to marry me all those years ago. I should also add he is one of the kindest and gentlest human beings I have ever known.

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          • I wouldn’t really call comic book movies ‘cult’ as that implies an enthusiastic but small audience for them which is not the case since comic book movies have been mainstream box office draws for many years, often breaking box office records. The Captain America movie is huge, believe me, and it will raise Richard’s profile in the US massively, no matter how small the role.

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            • You’re right, Kaprekar. Look at the success of the Iron Man movies, which are part of the Marvel Comics group spawning Captain America.
              I quite enjoyed the first Iron Man (as did most critics, I recall), although the second one depended too much on special effects in neglect of the story. I’m sure Hubby will want to see CA with his interest in WWII in particular, which I happen to share, and I certainly will look forward to seeing RA on the big screen, even if for only a brief time. Baby steps . . . and the raising of RA’s profile here in the US would be great.

              After all, it was a kiddie show called Robin Hood that led me to watch N&S and Sparkhouse and VoD . . .

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          • Did you hear that interview, Jane, in which he stated that he had the right to reject ad images of him for the series and he stated that he didn’t want those big bulletin board pictures to include him holding a gun? He said it was because SB was about more than that, but it really, really warmed my heart. I wrote a post about it at the time. I think he must have had his own ambivalence about that level of the role.

            John Porter really is damaged, and the script indicates that, although not always with a lot of force or subtlety. I think (if I understand you correctly?) that you are right that to some extent his beauty interferes with our perception of that.

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            • Oh, I definitely think there was an ambivalence there for RA and thank goodness he played the role because I really don’t think I would feel about JP the way I do, if a lesser actor had played him and not given him the subtleties, the heart and soul beneath the uniform, that Richard provided.

              I have imagined Richard would have enjoyed the uglification JP underwent in the original novel–missing finger, missing teeth, the wear and tear of sleeping rough and drinking your way through the day takes on a body.

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              • Indeed, maybe hoping he’d get to be uglier was one reason to take the role.

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                • And then they went and prettied him up again, bless his heart.

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                • I think he said they kept him ‘in good shape’ because of time. In the film, in a matter of a couple of days he was ‘reactivated’ and in the operation team. If he would have been ugly and barely sober wouldn’t have been believable to be in shape for it in 2 days.

                  OML 🙂

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                  • Yeah, this is the most unconvincing aspect of the book — that they get someone who’s been homeless and alcoholic for a decade together, rehabilitated and activated in 48 hours. The plot discrepancies are myriad.

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        • I love your enthusiasm, Milly, it is going to keep you young and it really helps me with the fan fic writing, too.

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          • I agree, it says something about the capacity to love and the regenerating force within one’s personality when one can get so excited. One reason for me writing all this stuff is that Mr. Armitage reawakened a piece of that in me. I’m so grateful.

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            • I’m grateful, too. Benny sometimes teases me about girlish glee over things, the way I wax rhapsodic over our pets and even him, but I think he actually likes it.

              When we were going through those years when every time the phone rang at an odd time, we were afraid it was one of our parents with some new crisis–well, I lost some of that. And then part of me died when they died, I think.

              But Mr. A provided such good therapy and helped lift some of that burden from my shoulders. And I will always be thankful for that.

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        • I’ll try to get in some more phwoar soon, MillyMe. Part of it was that I felt like I went a little overboard on that during the summer, part is probably that I am now reintegrated into the university world and thus living in a more “elevated” atmosphere. But no worries, phwoar is still definitely on the agenda. 🙂

          I think this point about how drama causes you to be interested in things that passed you by otherwise is a really intriguing one. I feel that way about Zimbabwe, now, actually. It was just a footnote in my lectures about colonialism and decolonization in western civ, but now I have a colleague from there, and then seeing that episode has really made me not only more interested in the topic of what’s going on there (which is really frightening), but also more evaluative / critical of what I do learn.

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          • Drama can become a part of our learning experience.

            Becoming interested in RA’s characters has lead me to do more reading (which I do a lot of, anyway) on medieval history, Victorian England, espionage, current affairs . . . he’s influenced me in many positive ways. *grin*

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          • A little phwoar now and again keeps Jill from being a dull girl, methinks.

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          • What the heck is phwoar…I feel like sometimes I need a decoder ring…?

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            • @Ann Marie:

              “The definition of PHWOAR is “Acknowledgement that a person is fit, sexy, hot”
              from InternetSlang.com

              This reveals just how shallow I can be when it comes to Mr Armitage, as Servetus and readers of this blog will know. 🙂 I do not apologise for my appreciation of physical beauty in regards to his person as I greatly appreciate his talent and personality as well. The man is the complete package when it comes to actors IMHO.

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              • And you know how much I love that total package, too, MillyMe.

                He’s a keeper!!

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              • @MillyMe, thanks for the definition. No apology necessary as I could not agree more that he has the complete package. I appreciate most that he is not “pretty boy” handsome but more of a adult masculine (and in some roles, alpha male-ish without the artificial “body-builder” look) build.

                I remember during the promos for SB he talked quite a bit about the training he underwent so that he would look like a “soldier” and not a “bodybuilder”.

                I though it interesting that the promos and appearances for Spooks 9 showed him leaner and more slender (his natural tendency) than SB. I’ve also noticed that those Prada button downs disguise his physique than those sexy tees (black, oh my) that he wears as Lucas.

                Thanks again for the definition. I learn so much in this class! 🙂

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    • My guess, based on what I know about you, fitzg, is that you will say “why is he in this?” and yet nonetheless find things to like about his performance in it. In any case, the closest the script lets him come to a long dramatic monologue is in the very last episode, so you’ll have to hang on until then, I think. 🙂

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  4. But I agree, on the face of it, he looked really happy here. How much do we read into it? Probably not not as much we might wish, We weren’t there.

    Just the limited, cautious mind working here.

    And, he does make me melt, so not quite THAT cautious…

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    • Speaking of melting and similar effects, someone elsewhere said considering the amount of tingles he sends through women’s bodies on a daily basis, he could be considered a one-man powerhouse!

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  5. I think we have to consider the reality of the business that Richard Armitage is in, and it is a business. We don’t know what he’s being offered and what, if anything, he’s turning down. We may think he’s being offered his pick of Shakesperean roles and period dramas,when the reality, regardless of what he or we want, may be entirely different. Unless he has or finds the money to produce on his own (Richard III as an example of a wonderful idea in need of money) he’s at the mercy of producers, directors, and casting people seeking to hire him. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck. He’s talked a great deal about how he struggled for a decade before he was in any way successful. I find this so difficult to believe given his good looks and that voice, but for a long time he couldn’t get work. So I don’t blame him at all now for constantly working and taking advantage of being in demand now. He’s probably just now making real money with RH and Spooks. It may be romantic to be a starving artist, unless you’re the one “starving”. I agree that I also think he’s doing Captain America because he’s been trying for a long time to break into the US TV/Movie world, part of the career success he seeks, and so here’s his first job in a Hollywood film, and yes, of course, he’s doing it to get his foot in the door, so he can hopefully be offered better roles. From his interviews I think he yearns himself to do work that’s more artistically fulfilling. I don’t see or think this has changed. This would certainly be wonderful for him, and great for us. We can hope and wish him well.

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    • Excellent point, Musa. This also ran across my mind, but I was writing far too much as it was.

      There are trends in what’s popular and “hot” as far as what producers and publisher, et al. are looking for. There is an author whose period mysteries featuring Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes stories I adore and have re-read several times.

      She was asked in an interview why she hadn’t written another entry in the series and she said publishers just weren’t looking for that particular type of book right now (so she has a paranormal series going . . .) You can’t act in what isn’t there or isn’t offered to you. Plain and simple.

      I, too, find it hard to believe Richard struggled so hard but he did, and it has to be satisfying for him to finally feel some degree of financial stability. (I think in part he had to grow into his amazing good looks and truly become comfortable with himself; he doesn’t fit the typical pretty boy leading man, certainly, and thank goodness he doesn’t).

      I do hope and wish him all the very best and that the bigger and better roles will come, and in the meantime, that he will have satisfaction and enjoyment in all his current projects. I am thrilled success is coming to him and don’t blame him either for taking the audio work along with the TV roles. It can’t hurt to have that delicious voice out there as much as possible . . .

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      • Wow, I didn’t realize that she had stopped writing Irene Adler because publishers didn’t want it — that’s so sad, as it’s an established series and those are excellent books. And I’ve never been able to get into the paranormal stuff with any enthusiasm.

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        • Yey, you’re a Carole Nelson Douglas fan, too, Servetus! I read the first book because I am a Sherlock Holmes fan from my early teens, and I got hooked on her books. I was really saddened to hear there wasn’t a new one in the works. I also enjoy her Midnight Louie series (well, of course, they feature a gumshoe cat, what’s not to love?!)
          I read some reviews of her new paranormal series and they were very mixed. Lots of people commented the editing was extremely bad, which again surprised me.
          I do admired the fact she has written and published in several genres: historical mystery, contemporary mystery with fantasy elements, sci-fi/fantasy and paranormal. I would love to be as prolific and versatile as she is.

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    • Yes, this is very important. I talk about it at length in the end of the post that I didn’t publish yesterday, so I’ll just agree with you here and not comment if that’s ok with you.

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    • If he’s not offered Shakespeare or period drama or high quality contemporary drama (as opposed to “entertaining” drama) it might be a valid question to ask WHY? After all there are actors who are offered those parts. The obvious answer is that he wasn’t available because for the last few years he has continuously worked on TV series. But could he have gotten such parts if he were free to take them?

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      • I’d really like to know this, too. There are a lot of questions on my mind:

        1. Are there physical strictures on being case in a stage lead? Is he just too tall, as he was apparently too tall for musical theatre?

        2. Is it that he just can’t even get to those auditions? That the people involved in casting for those things have a shortlist of actors they want to consider and he’s not on it (yet, or still)?

        3. Is it that he’s not an ace auditioner?

        4. Is it that given the risk-averse features of his personality, he prefers not to try for productions that are less likely to be successful than the kind of thing he does on tv, which is backed by huge audiences and large ad budgets?

        5. Is doing so much tv (with its emphasis on editing, short cuts, etc.) affecting his acting skills in the realm of stage material, where the actor must hold the audience’s attention for long periods of time with voice and acting as opposed to closeup?

        6. Are people who cast for the stage suspicious of an actor who has such a significant “popular” following?

        7. Since he’s had the classical training with LAMDA and the RSC, etc., is it just that his particular skills in acting are not the kind that lend themselves to the lead role in a classical or contemporary drama? I’m not saying “that he’s not good enough,” but that the skills he has don’t fit well with this sort of piece?

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        • I’ve been thinking about this. We would lose some of what many of us love in his screen performances if he stuck strictly to stage performances–the micro-expressions, those tiny but telling details that would be lost on the vastness of a stage.

          And perhaps you are right, his impressive skills in acting might not lend themselves to certain types of roles. That certainly doesn’t make him less of a fine actor, but it might limit the venues in which he best shines . . .

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          • Well, we’d have to see how he addressed the challenge of the stage with the audience very far away from the actor’s face. Presumably, he could adapt. One thing I notice in Ultimate Force is how (relatively) open his expressional repertoire is — much more so than in later stuff. It’s like he saw himself on TV and toned it down.

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            • Good point. It’s been a while since I watched UF, but thinking back I can see what you mean.
              Obviously people who move back and forth between screen and stage must learn how to adapt and scale down performances for the screen.

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        • Very late to respond, no sure if still anyone is around. I was not necessarily asking about stage productions. As people that run theatres have to fill their seats I don’t even think that being a popular name from TV is a disadvantage, quite the contrary. Many popular TV actor to stage work, in the UK it seems to be relative easily to move between stage, TV and movies yet he does not do it. I was more asking about high quality, serious, awards worthy TV productions. As I mentioned somewhere else, they always seem to cast Matthew Macfayden.

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  6. I think each role he takes adds something to his repertoire or provides the opportunity to learn a new acting skill, try out a different media, work with a particular actor or director (and cultivating those connections can’t be bad) or simply just want to try something to see if he’s like it. He has come from a dancing banana to Lucas North and John Porter (scripts not withstanding, large budget and publicity).

    I can already see the effect of his Porter training on how Lucas manages his weapons (maybe its because he is still a little built up from the Porter role) but he moves with a masculine, assured grace (I think servetus commented on this after Episode one) that wasn’t as prevalent before Porter. I think, simplistically, in some ways acting as a career can be like other careers in that each job or position we take gives us an opportunity to learn or take something from it whether it be a new skill (How I learned EXCEL) and my current student information system or a new management skill or a connection and even a best friend. And sometimes you just build experience and clout.

    So, I want the dear man to keep on working because even when the script is bad or the show is over the top I sit enthralled watching him on screen, not an actor playing the part but the living, breathing character. And sometimes, its just more fun to see what he can do with less lofty roles. Although I have decided that the time for gratuitous nudity has passed. ‘Night all…

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    • Exactly, so, Ann Marie. All the different hats I have worn in my various jobs–and as a community journalist in a recession, I have to wear a lot because the staff is small and the county, big–have taught me something new and different.

      I can write a fine obituary, a heart-wrenching human interest story, an amusing column, a strictly-by-the-books town council meeting, a whimsical story about Super Saturday at the Library . . . (and thanks to Mr. A’s constant inspiration, do some pretty nifty fan fic writing, I like to think).

      Surely all Richard’s roles are broadening his acting repertoire and enriching his experiences. And yeah, Lucas has definitely been enhanced in his action scenes by John Porter, without a doubt.

      The actor George Kennedy once said about the great Jimmy Stewart, “even if the picture wasn’t great, you knew it would be worth watching because Jimmy was in it.”

      That pretty much sums up how I feel about dear Mr. A.

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      • @Angie..

        Yes, you do write some really nifty fanfic (I believe I’ve read most of everything you’ve posted around) and With Mr. A for inspiration its o wonder.

        The quote about Jimmy Stewart (coincidentally my favorite actor of that era) is EXACTLY right about I feel about Mr. A.! You hit it dead on. Thank you!

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        • @Ann Marie,

          Thanks for your shout-out. Mr. A is directly responsible for me dipping into fiction writing, something I had toyed with before but never seriously, until he came into my life and started inspiring me, first as Guy and then as Lucas and currently, as John Porter.

          I also love Jimmy Stewart in every thing from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Harvey” and all those Hitchcock movies.
          I caught that quote about him from a piece on Turner Classic Movies (another fav) and thought how that suited the way I felt about Richard. Wouldn’t it have been great to see those two on the screen together?

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          • Yes it would. Interesting that one of the articles posted up yesterday he mentions a good night in with a classic movie, North by Northwest. Wasn’t that a Jimmy Stewart movie (I used to know them all and loved them)?

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            • North by Northwest featured Cary Grant (and I was absolutely thrilled to see it was a favorite of his as I am a huge Hitchcock fan and NbN is one of my favs–I used to live in Rapid City where the climactic scene is held and visited Mount Rushmore many times.)

              However, Jimmy was in Rope, Vertigo and Rear Window–all great Hitchcock movies.

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              • How odd, I lived in Rapid City for 10 months. First full weekend there, July 4th, got caught in a hailstorm in the Black Hills, a few thousand dollars in damage on the Blazer, it was a dimpled as golf ball. Should have seen the omen.

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                • Oh, the hailstorms were nasty there. I was there three years and one time the hailstorm was so bad there was baseball-sized hail–it left our Chevy out at the base with more damage than it was worth, broke out lots of windows in base housing and killed some poor dog. Growing up in south Alabama, I had never seen hail larger than golf ball-sized. My husband was stationed at Ellsworth. First Blizzard I ever experienced was there. Three days trapped in our house without light and heat. Oh, the stories I could tell . . .

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    • Word. The point about John Porter improving Lucas is especially well taken, I think. It’s really, really clear that Lucas is a lot more physically confident in Spooks 9 than he was in the previous series — he’s “in” his body in a different way, and that has to be due to playing John Porter.

      I’ll address nudity in the next post, so for now I’ll just say “this is an important question.”

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      • Ah, I was wondering if you would tackle the ‘getting his kit off’ question.
        Re JP’s influence on Lucas, I think some of viewer’s concepts of Lucas being more Alpha male this series is due in part to that new confidence and energy playing John has brought to Richard’s portrayal of Lucas (or should we say, John version 5.0?)

        It’s as if his former dance training and his intense training and workouts to play JP have merged to create this very graceful, athletic and dangerous-looking agent I find totally believable and totally watchable as he handles weapons and races through the streets.

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        • This is a matter of perspective. I think JP and LN are bound to be similar as the roles have similar requirements (which again leads to the question if it was wise to do JP at all) especially now LN is team leader and we see him as the action man in the field a lot (BTW didn’t RA say that this series LN is more grid base and cerebral?). Many people enjoy the Porterish Lucas a lot, but there has been critism of his currently limited range as well.

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          • They are actually the two faces of the special services: MI-5 and MI-6, so yes, there are some similarities.
            He did say there would be more cerebral time for Lucas; maybe we just haven’t seen that yet.

            As for criticism of his portrayal of Lucas, well, I’ve read that ever since S7. “Wooden, limited, a bad actor, just OK eye candy.”

            All of which I completely disagree with.

            As you say, a matter of perspective.

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          • Jane,

            I don;t think I understand what you mean as currently limited range. Did you men, physical activity of the role, acting ability? I’m not clear.

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            • It has been mentioned elsewhere that the fact that LN has shades of JP is a kind of disappointment as so far RA has managed to make his character very distinctive in the past. I’m not necessarily in agreement but it is in the nature of the beast that two action men/special agents move in a similar way, use similar expression in similar situations etc. .

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              • I’ve thought for almost the entire duration of my Armitagemania that it’s interesting that someone who worked as a dancer for so long seemed / seems at some points in his acting work to struggle with controlling his body. I’ve said numerous times that the most frequent point at which an Armitage characterization will erode is when he’s going up or down stairs. Walking is another point at which there are occasionally problems. He establishes a unique walk for each character, but again he’s not always 100% consistent.

                So I think it’s odd that he has some difficulties in this regard. Of course, I’m inclined to defend him just by saying that after all, it is the same body, and once you’ve become comfortable in an action role, it’s probably not attractive to “regress,” i.e., to make Lucas do action scenes the way he did before Armitage played Porter.

                I just think it’s odd.

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                • It is interesting. It’s like he’s graceful and gawky all at the same time. There’s still that coltishness you see in some scenes in his roles, as if he’s not quite sure what to do with those long limbs of his.

                  (admittedly, I find this quality endearing, but it has to hamper him in some roles).

                  He’s described himself as a late bloomer. It’s almost as if everything is finally failing into place–he’s grown into those unconventional good looks and he’s learning to master that sometimes renegade body, too.

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        • @angie, My dear friend who turned me on to Mr. Armitage in the first place hadn’t had a chance to see SB when she saw some photos of John Porter. She mistakenly though they were photos of Lucas. I corrected her and said, when you’ve seen the SB and Mr. Armitage as John Porter you will clearly see how different he is in either role. The differences are just the body build up of Porter but the face and expressions are completely different than Lucas North. I’ve lent her by SB DVD which she has now seen several times and two days ago her facebook status said, “How could I have ever confused John Porter and Lucas North, they are completely different”!

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          • @ann marie, I can glance at a photo of Lucas or John in civilian clothing and know which character it is–Richard just has an amazing ability to inhabit a role and transform himself, and I don’t just mean by gaining or losing weight, being more or less muscular, changing hairstyle, and so forth.

            The way he carries himself, the intonation of his voice, his mannerisms–all these things change in sometimes subtle but undeniable ways. RA is an amazing chameleon as a performer. It is so easy for me in my little Sloth Fiction stories to imagine there are all those separate and distinct Characters roaming around in my den, watching telly, eating my cookies and milk and arguing over who’s had the roughest time of it LOL

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            • I agree that Sloth Fiction is the real proof of this point. Or the Lucas – Guy interactions in TAC.

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              • Aren’t you glad you planted the seed of that idea in my mind, Servetus? *grin*

                I remember my beta for TAC commenting how easy it was for her to imagine Lucas and Guy being two separate characters with their own distinct personalities who just happened to bear a striking resemblance to one another. And that’s thanks to the Amazing Mr. A.

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              • What is TAC please?

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                • Sorry, Ann Marie, the full title of that fic is Guy & Rebecca: The Adventure Continues. It’s such a mouthful I generally just refer to it as TAC.

                  Lucas and Guy get to meet each other in that one.

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                  • Thanks, I just saw that this weekend when I was trawling several sites looking for fanfic to read to break up the dissertation jags.

                    Now, I just need to remember where it was…searching can be half the fun. Thanks for the response. I am definitely not on his fandom’s “inner circle”.

                    Oh, I figured out why I have such typing and tech difficulties on this blog. Your type comes up sooo teensy tiny that it was very difficult to see at all. Think I have it fixed now.

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                    • You’re a member at DF, right, Ann Marie?

                      That will be the easiest place to find TAC, since it’s all tucked neatly into its own topic thread. There are 11 chapters, as I recall, so it should provide you with a nice little dissertation break. The Zoom In button is very handy, isn’t it? My middle-aged eyes have trouble with the small print, too.

                      BTW I just posted the final chapter-21- of Truce. Feeling quite a sense of accomplishment there. Still got an epiloque to do, but the difficult part for me as a writer is done. Phew!!

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  7. Servetus, I am in awe as ever of your ability to take a subject, in this case, RA’s roles, and lead your readers into new and interesting areas. Looking up all your references means learning something about Gary Chapman’ 5 languages of love amongst other things.

    In this particular post I would say that I agree wholeheartedly with what you and your posters have written. This boils down to:

    “The artist must be free to make his own choices” … within the constrictions of this particular industry which, as we all know, is extremely fickle. Richard may have particular goals for himself, and his fans may wish to see him in particular roles, but there are no guarantees in an industry which is quick to pigeonhole people and where the money often follows the flavour of the month. Many seemingly undeserving individuals achieve great success while other talented souls trudge along, perhaps undiscovered until years later, if at all. Those that know something of the British tv and film industry will be aware that money has always been a problem, and that major cut-backs are the reality. In such a climate, and in view of the fact that the States has not yet materialised as an option, I would say that Richard has done well. He has a wide range of roles under his belt and has acquired skills that will always stand him in good stead wherever his career takes him. The voice-overs and adverts give him a steady income and will be good to fall back on if times ever get hard. You have to establish a name for yourself in that branch as well.

    Richard once expressed a wish for himself as actor, to have as many and varied roles as possible. Now he’s started talking of desiring The Elephant Man roles. This is an actor who is committed to his craft and whose further development will be a pleasure to follow.

    To end. I have always especially loved pictures of Richard grinning or laughing. He seems to be very fond of a good laugh and it’s one of the most endearing qualities of his personality!

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    • Aaaw. 🙂 Thanks for the love.

      Maybe he should tone down his new teeth a little — make it easier for himself to get “ugly” roles. Or go to an audition after a psoriasis breakout … 🙂

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  8. Are there fans that truly believe that Mr. Armitage owes them something? Really? Why do they think that? That doesn’t make sense to me.

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    • Weird as it may seem, @Rob, yes, there is a small (thankfully) group of Richard’s fans who seem to think they can dictate to him how to behave, what parts to take, etc. because they “made” him.

      Excuse me, but it’s HIS talent and HIS hard work and dedication and professionalism that have taken him this far. I, for one, am just very thankful I stumbled upon Robin Hood on BBCA a couple of summers ago and the bad boy caught my eye . . .

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      • @angie, I became enamored of him in North &South BUT then I saw Guy’s black leather-clad swagger, the dark hair, the deep voice, the bluest eyes (man, he made black liner rock!) and THAT was my *THUD* moment.

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        • @ann marie,

          Guy is the role I saw him as first, and it wasn’t an immediate “Thud” to be honest (although I thought him considerably more to my tastes than Robin) but as I watched I became impressed with what he was doing with the character and oh, yes, my, my–Guy is one sexy, sexy boy. Richard is a man who can wear eyeliner without looking silly or effeminate–simply HOT. And Guy will ALWAYS be my favorite RA character because that is the role that brought the lovely man into my radar. N&S, VoD and Sparkhouse just cemented my belief he was one heck of an actor on top of being very nice to look at.

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    • I don’t want to be accused of creating a straw man here. I think it’s not as transparent as that, that they would say “you owe us another N&S because we followed you all these years.” Afaik no one is saying that. It’s more that I read some commentators as thinking “if you keep doing roles that are not in the genre of what I want to watch, I’m going to stop watching you.” That’s entirely fair, and I don’t want to imply that I think anyone has to continue watching Armitage because they loved N&S. It’s rather that I think it’s odd to justify one’s love for N&S on the grounds that Mr. Armitage is a fantastic actor (as opposed to a pretty face) but then say, when he plays a role in which being a pretty face is important, that they’re not going to watch him because he’s betraying his talent. Presumably if he’s a good actor, he’s a good actor in whatever he does. Of this more later today in the conclusion to this post.

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      • I agree, no one should feel they “have” to watch any RA project just because they loved him in N&S or any of his other work.

        I do feel really uncomfortable with “fans” who denigrate almost everything else he has done outside of N&S and yes, I have run across some. Sometimes they come across as snobs, and I am afraid I don’t deal with snobbery very well. So I just stay away from them as much as possible.

        No, Richard’s work is not all based on great lihhh-ter-atoor, but that doesn’t make it not worth watching. Richard is a very good actor, and frankly, I would watch him even if he lacked that handsome face and physique because I like good acting, period.

        And I like to see good acting in a variety of types of roles–comedic, dramatic, period, action, mystery and so forth. His beauty is just the icing on the cake for me. And let’s face it, producers and directors are going to capitalize on having such a good-looking star, and “fluff his hair and erase his wrinkles.” *wink* Maybe he will get that Elephant Man-type role he wants some day. I will still watch, I assure you. The beauty that lies within is to be admired, too.

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  9. All of you, and servetus, express my thoughts. Better.

    This does appear a very committed actor, “driven” perhaps, which is necessary to persevere in that bloody BUSINESS. Would that it were more art-driven, but that’s not reality.

    Yes, he does make a lot of fans melt. And he has slightly unconventional good looks. So fans can pat themselves on the back for recognising all his qualities. (We probably, mostly, don’t swoon over Brad; Maybe, maybe not) But that gives us no rights to feel he owes us. I have my list of characters I’d like to see him play, and I’m 100% certain they’re RIGHT. But, that’s not pay the rent/get on with career RL and have a more comfortable middle-class life than you used to have, when laminating, whatever… 🙂

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    • Not a Brad swooner. Especially not when he had that horrid beard that made him look like a goat. *giggle* Think he’s a good actor and attractive fellow, but just doesn’t have the effect on me dear RA does.

      And a fella as good at acting as Richard certainly should be doing just that, even if not in the most high-brow or artistic of roles, because it truly would be a crying shame to waste all that talent laying floors and the like.

      He would make a great William Monk, though . . . *sigh*

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    • Thanks, fitzg. As I wrote in the follow up to this, I’m suspicious of “art,” but I also wouldn’t discount the possibility that if he stays in acting (as opposed to directing or whatever) that he eventually will do more “art” roles — if the people commenting who have been saying that his looks are a barrier to being cast in artier roles are right, as he ages and wrinkles, etc., perhaps those roles will be more available to him. It may exclude Romeo or Hamlet, of course, but not Lear or Prospero.

      I haven’t been casting him in my mind in Shakespeare roles, honest I haven’t, but OH. Prospero. I’d love to see him as Prospero.

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      • I look forward to seeing how his roles change (as they inevitably will) as he does age.

        I can’t see him trying to play action roles at 60 as some botoxed and lifted American actors have done (one reason I think he is pursuing such roles now, along with the desire to increase his male audience); I think he’s going to age gracefully because he seems to live gracefully and I believe it will give him the opportunity to play very interesting “character-type” roles.

        Prospero. Yes, I could definitely see that.

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  10. What I meant to ask was are there fans that believe that Mr. Armitage owes his career to them? Huh?

    Brad Pitt does nothing for me at all what so ever.

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  11. NO! We don’t have “rights”! We can project, but that is in private, or on this blog.

    And (no right to project here) definitely William Monk…

    There’s also a “Charles Todd” series, with a WWI protagonist, shell- shocked – well, projecting again…

    We just have to let him get on with RL, and the acting assignments proferred. And paying for the house/flat, and eating, occasionally. He’s rather large, so probably needs occasional meals…

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    • Well put, fitzg. And the lad seems to genuinely enjoy his food, which I quite like to see in a man. *grin*

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    • I have read those novels, fitzg. I think he’d be fantastic in the role — you’re thinking of the policeman, former WWI officer, who executed his friend and trench comrade for subordination? That is some of the most intriguing crime fiction I’ve read in years.

      I just read somewhere that he weighs 13 stone. He probably has to eat quite a bit to maintain that, with his lifestyle. I wonder that he worries about pizza and beer.

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      • I’ve got to read Perry’s WW I novels. I think I read the first one and for some reason didn’t get to the rest, which is unusual for me as I think I have read every single Pitt and Monk novel she has written. I’ve always enjoyed her work.

        182 pounds–yeah, and I bet a lot of that is muscle, which weighs more than fat. Playing Porter must have had him wolfing down protein constantly.

        Well, you know he said he also has to watch his alcohol consumption while filming Spooks because the transfers are put on with alcohol and drinking too much of it makes them fade out quickly.

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  12. I think that the Financial Times article from yesterday is quite interesting and relevant to the discussions above.

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    • I agree, and anyone who wants to read it can access it at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com RA comes across as a very prudent person who is wisely not depending on the government to take care of him in his old age. As a side note, I also found his love and respect for his parents for all their support very lovely, in part because it mirrors the way I felt about my own late parents for all their sacrifices. I wanted to spoil them a bit, too.

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      • Great interview I thought. How adorable can he be – LOL? I do love what a level headed person he is despite being in a crazy business. Love the story about parking his car in an inconspicuous place so his colleagues didn’t think he was showing off! He should come to my office where people love to show off their giant SUV’s 🙂 Also love his choice of films.I feel we get to know a little bit more about him as a person in this interview.

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        • Yes, I particularly enjoy these types of interviews that are not strictly about an upcoming project–although I enjoy those, too– but given us a bit more about him, his tastes, his goals, his outlook on life. He does seem to be incredibly grounded and down to earth in a business that doesn’t exactly seem to abound in such personalities. I loved the car story, too. Such modesty!

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        • I imagine not showing off is more important in England than in the US, where people take showing off to a fine art 🙂

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          • I thought that, too, Servetus. We park our big honkin’ vehicles where everybody can see them AND put vanity plates on them . . . the American way!

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    • Indeed. I read that as I was about half way through writing these two pieces.

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  13. In an interview some time ago, Richard told us he could never marry an actress. I believe him and expect he will marry as he supposed Sir Guy would have, one of the “royals.” (Poor fellow)

    Servetus, you make me think I’m back in grad school. Ugh!

    Armitage’s role in Captain America will make the Nazi look better than it ever has. Look out for more neo-Nazi love. RA really is great at playing bad guys and America LOVES BRITISH BAD GUYS. This could do for RA what it did for Patrick Stuart of Star Trek fame.

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    • Excellent point about American loving Brit baddies, @Mary Lou. Alan Rickman certainly comes to mind; Jeremy Irons has also provided some good “bad guy” moments as have many others over the years.

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      • Rickman (another favorite of mine) is a nice reference — someone else who has one or two iconic screen roles that get him money to live off and who can spend the rest of his time doing theatre or smaller film as he wishes. Who also has a very long term relationship with an extremely normal woman who appears most to wish to stay out of the limelight.

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        • Yes, Alan always be the deliciously nasty sheriff in Prince of Thieves for many, but I also think of his work in Truly, Madly, Deeply (love that film), and now the Harry Potter movies . . . and many small projects, too. He’s someone else I always enjoy watching.

          And it’s good to hear he has that long-term relationship with a normal gal . . . Richard seems to like “normal” ladies, too, and that is so refreshing.

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          • Rickman has been together with Rima Horton since the late 1960s, I believe. He says such sweet things about her in print. I’m prejudiced because she’s been an adjunct economics professor and has a less than model-like figure, I suppose — makes me think that we normal mortals can attract such magnetic men. She was also some kind of London city politician, I believe (would have to look it up).

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            • Wow, that is long term for regular folks these days, much less a celeb. Good for them!! When I tell people I just celebrated my 25th anniversary this year, they seem impressed by that. But then I think about it and a lot of our classmates have been divorced at least once and several more than once. Because I’ve had a happy long-term relationship, it makes me really feel good to see others who have enjoyed the same sort of partnership.

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    • If there is anyone who would not marry a member of the Royal family, it is Richard. He would loathe the fuss and publicity that such a life-style would entail. Sir Guy had “greater ambitions” of establishing himself in society. Richard deliberately keeps a low profile in his private life.

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    • Quicky: I did not know Patrick Stewart is british!! I’m very fond of him since I was 10 or so with ST:TNG and just now I discover that.

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      • PS also played Mr. Thornton on the BBC in a very early stage of his career. So lots of hope for Mr. Armitage, as PS has had a very distinguished career, and starring in a cult scifi series didn’t do him any harm at all. I had no idea who he was until ST:TNG, in which I loved him.

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        • I didn’t know Patrick once played Mr. Thornton! I’ve loved him ever since I first saw him as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. “Engage!” I’ve been watching some eps of TNG running on BBCA right now. A nostalgia trip.

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        • I wonder what Patrick Stewart’s fans thought when they heard about his participation in Star Trek? I wonder could be some of the same as I’m reading about Mr. Armitage’s (official on IMDB now) participation in Captain America (CA)? Perhaps some of the “how could he, he’s so much better than that”? Turned out to be an iconic role. One never knows.

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    • This blog IS graduate school, Mary Lou. That stuff about the Institute of Richard Armitage Studies is not a joke. At the end of the blog you will be given six hours to answer an interpretive question about Mr. Armitage’s career in writing, after which you will be given 30 minutes to defend your answer in front of a board of three examiners. If you fail, you may retake the test once, but if you fail a second time, you will be expelled without possibility of redress from the Institute.

      I’m sorry, I thought you knew that! 🙂 Flee while you can!

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      • *grin* Oh, Servetus. You tease, you.

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        • You don’t believe me? I believe that I need to ask the John Porter Chair how your MA thesis is coming along 🙂

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          • The John Porter chair reporting: Angie is nearing completion of her MA thesis and, once the epilogue of Truce is completed, will have passed with flying colours. She is to be awarded a disctinction in honour of her ability to substantially increase her readers’ tingle factor with each chapter she has written.

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            • Yesss! *does a little happy dance*

              And more tingling to come!

              (Wish I could split a bottle of bubbly with John and Layla . . .)

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      • @servetus, Can i just say that I LOVE the way you write administrative policy! I can imagine the entrance exam…..or better yet, may I please have permission to do a research-based study abroad? I plan on ace-ing this program..hehe.

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        • Yes, you can do a research project abroad, or you can also do a practical internship if you can find someone to supervise it at Kudos or the BBC 🙂

          We’re very flexible here at the Institute, we want each student to fulfill not only her potential, but also her desires 🙂

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  14. **Spoiler Alert** If you read the interview with Laila Rouass be prepared for a real spoiler, in my opinion.

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    • You’re not kidding, @ann marie. I am wondering if those scenes she is alluding to are current day or flashback scenes (because we know RA shot some 1995 scenes in Wandsworth . . .) and that is all I had better say.

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      • Please. I am stockpiling all the publicity for S9 so as to preserve the potential to be surprised!!!

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      • @angie and servetus,

        I somehow missed a spoiler alert on that article from RichardArmitageNet.com when I clicked on the link. I wouldn’t have read the article had I realized it (there is a spoiler alert there now) as I have been trying to avoid reading spoilers and just enjoying the fun of letting the series unfold each week. 😦

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  15. A great post, as usual. I’m pretty ambivalent about fandom in general. I did the Duranie thing in high school and I wonder how much of fan response is conditioned by years of reading teen magazines. That’s what bothered me about the “Life in a Day” article, it seemed channeled by dianediane in Bop! during the Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour in 1985. There were entire sections of the magazine dedicated to stories of fan meetings with the band and you know what? The stories I read of fans meeting Armitage, exhilirating as they are, are no different. It bothers me that I find them exhilirating to begin with. I don’t begrudge fans their meetings or their joy; I just think that *I* should be past it.

    A friend of mine is the younger sister of a major rock star. You would absolutely know him if I mentioned his name. When she turned 21 a mutual friend of ours threw her a surprise party in a restaurant. Her whole family was there except her rock star brother. He didn’t want her party to become about him or any insane people to ruin it for her. How sad is that? This same man was accosted in a record store by some people from Sweden who’d come to town on a Dead Rock Star pilgimage. They were flashing around photos they’d taken of gravestones, of places where people had died and were particularly pleased to have found the apartment building where one Almost Rock Star ODed. Rock Star Brother and Almost Rock Star had been roommates. RSB walked in the door just as they were crowing about finding the place where his roommate, friend, blood brother and creative partner had died. They chased him around the store asking him what it was like to find the body. How do you kick someone in the soul like that? That’s a level of callousness that I cannot comprehend but they excused themselves by calling themselves fans.

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    • This is a really sensitive comment, jazzbaby1. I think that you are right that somehow the exhilaration fans feel when they encounter their desired wish object can cause them to abandon everything else that makes them human. No artist, no matter how famous, ever deserves that sort of treatment from fellow humans, let alone fans, who claim to respect and admire him. You get at the weird paradox that sometimes fans seem to want most to destroy the objects of their affection.

      At the same time, exhilaration, the capacity for unbounded excitement, is an important moment in being human. I wouldn’t want to give it up. The problem is remembering that that sensation does not exempt one from the Golden Rule. I wonder if there’s any way to remind people of that when they’re in the situation of meeting their favorite artist.

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      • Thank goodness most fans don’t go to those awful extremes.
        That’s not fandom to me, that’s really poor manners and inexcusable.

        I am with you, Servetus–unbounded excitement, the “squee” factor is one of the nicest parts of being human and something I don’t want to lose, either.

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        • I think maybe the distinction is that the squee by itself is sufficient — the cause doesn’t need to see that or acknowledge it for it to be meaningful.

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  16. Very interesting post as always, Servitus. I’ve been following Richard Armitage’s work for four years and I’m just as interested in the genres he chooses as I was when I first saw him in Vicar of Dibley. While N&S was the catalyst for an increase in his fanbase and the start of his online communities, I actually feel that it was the character of Guy of Gisborne that he is best known for. Some might disagree with me but by the time RH Series 2 had finished airing, many of the initial N&S fans had become quieter and were replaced by the Guy lovers. I still believe that RA is most well known for that role but now it is over, people are moving on. I think the fanbase is a continually evolving phenomen and as RA plays new roles he will attract new and different audiences. I therefore believe that choice of work must be more dictated by the actor’s interest in that work and script, the availability and working conditions and not by whether his old audiences might like it or not, although, I agree that his comment when Strike Back was first aired gave the impression he cared what they thought. I guess he has to have the confidence to know that his professional skills are strong enough to survive a dubious work choice (if one ever arises) and my personal belief is that he has the ability to do great things with even poorly written scripts. If he continues to put in the hard yards and delivers good performances, then he will always have an audience even if the demographic of that audience is constantly evolving and changing. I’m interested that RA has never mentioned in an interview (to my knowledge), how important a good review is to his work. I would have thought a good review from a respected film/theatre critic is more important to an actor than whether a group of his existing fans like a particular work. I think the man will always have an audience and I would like to see him in a role that will win him an award for acting excellence at some stage.

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    • I appreciate this longer term and broader perspective on the views of the fandom than I have. (I also hesitated to some extent while composing these two posts insofar as I need to concede that my opinions about Mr. Armitage and his fans may well change when I’ve been watching him for several years, as opposed to now, after about a year.)

      I imagine a good theatre review is probably important for future roles in theatre, but I can’t imagine that good reviews for television performances influence all that much, since television is much more directly driven by viewer numbers and sales.

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  17. @mulubinba: Good reviews are not essential in an appraisal of one’s work. There are so many different motives for how your work is assessed and who is doing the assessimg, believe me. I have personal knowledge of this as my son is in the music industry. Depending on a good review would have the effect of crippling your own feeling about your work. You have to trust yourself, sometimes in the face of fierce opposition. Isn’t this what trailblazers have always experienced -first, denigration by the establishment, years later, acclamation, often by the same?

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    • There’s also the question of the source: a good review is of differing value depending on who gives it and where it appears. I write a lot of book reviews (about 20 per year over the last decade) and I notice that people take what I say more seriously when it appears in a major venue as opposed to a less respected one.

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      • This made me think of those blurbs promoting really lousy movies where they flash one or two words on the screen–“amazing” (“It’s amazing how boring this movie is”) or where the critic’s name is printed in very tiny words so you can’t see it’s from one of those “less respected” sources. *grin*

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  18. […] 2 of this. I can't believe this actually got longer than part 1 — when I originally got here, I thought, […]

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  19. […] shake off the rest, and above all, don’t take this aspect of your career too seriously. You gotta do what you gotta do, Mr. Armitage. Because we’re going to react the way we end up reacting no matter how hard you try to […]

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  20. […] have been stronger in the last year than ever, but the scripts have been so questionable. Particularly since Strike Back aired, a sort of vague concern’s been abroad that Mr. Armitage … We’ve been waiting the requisite amount of time for the new season of Spooks, but like me, […]

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  21. […] This matter of “great art” is something you and I disagree about (Servetus’ position part one; part […]

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  22. […] aired in my two posts on the question of Armitage and the necessity of great art at extreme length (part one / part two), so I won’t rehearse them here, but suffice it to say that “great […]

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  23. […] many different forms: as a comment on the importance of projects with a higher culture component (part 1 and part 2) and also as comment on whether he should appear at fan convention events (so I am glad […]

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  24. […] the King Richard Armitage fan initiative. Mainly because I am a very strong supporter of the “Richard Armitage knows best what roles Richard Armitage should take to make Richard Armitage happy a…” position and I’ve said that many times in many different […]

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  25. […] A number of thoughts burst into my mind in response to that particular interpretation of the confession, and some of them I’m factoring out (the potential perspectives one could adduce from Armitage’s position, for example, or those from the perspective of fans who have been around for some time but not since North & South, like my own). Others I am skirting intentionally because they seem likely only to provoke the sort of self-righteous policing statements that I don’t care to entertain anymore — for instance, the whole question of the obligation, if any, Armitage has to fans and especially those of the first hour, which I’ve discussed before. […]

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  26. […] & South because they loved historical romance (and wanted to see him in more of it, and in more “great art” roles) or to the group of fans who’d fallen in love with Guy of Gisborne (whom I was with on not […]

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  27. […] “Mr. Armitage, his fans, our pursuit of “great art,” and me as critic, part 1.” October 7, 2010. The first part of my argument, in the wake of fan restlessness over the […]

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  28. […] a specific one with much forcefulness. (This position was articulated long ago; see arguments here or here, for instance.) I definitely want Armitage to get what Armitage […]

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  29. […] Richard III, which I would love to see him do.) I’ve been on record since the Fall of 2010 as agnostic with regard to roles — Armitage should do what Armitage wants. (So please don’t comment that I’m […]

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  30. […] or something he was reasonably proud of. The showreel seemed cut to display a variety of things but heavily put his action repertoire and his capacity for violent athleticism on display over his m…. So I wanted to look more closely at that scene, since its presence seemed to indicate it meant […]

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  31. […] necessarily or incredibly likely to be a woman. And this isn’t a dealbreaker for me — I realized long ago that I would be likely to go almost anywhere with Richard Armitage in terms of r…, although I wasn’t excited about vampires. (I think snuff films were on my list of absolute […]

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  32. […] writing, approaching four years ago. Very early on this blog, I stated my emphatic position that the crush should not spend too much time worrying about what his fans want. So this topic is not something that only concerns me now, on what now looks like it will have been […]

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  33. […] me; I said how I feel about that years ago and nothing’s changed.) My personal stance is that fans should have no influence at all on role choice. I/we haven’t made that kind of investment in his career. However, we certainly have the […]

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  34. […] for three decades and he doesn’t need us to defend his words, his career, his actions, his role choices, his relationships, or anything about his life. He makes his own decisions about deleting tweets […]

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