Armitage anatomy: mentalis

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) signals his attention to and consideration of information about Nightingale given to him by Sarah Caulfield (Genevieve O’Reilly) in Spooks 8.6. He’s trying to communicate that even though she looks suspicious, he is willing to listen. Source:

This isn’t an incredibly frequent move for Armitage. He as good as never pouts aggressively, which is odd, since Guy of Gisborne so frequently looks put out or pained. That’s a characterization choice (Guy never wants to look vulnerable) but it seems to me that it’s also the case that Mr. Armitage’s lower lip is not especially robust. He might be moving it into pout position without us seeing it. He really has to move that lip very far forward for us to notice it protruding. To wit:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) responds to the news that Michael Braden’s been murdered in London in Spooks 8.5. Source:

The cap above shows another function of mentalis: wrinkling the chin. This is part of why the muscle is said to be used in thoughtful expressions. In the West it is supposed to signal openness to what the interlocutor is saying. It seems so overplayed on Armitage’s face, though, that it has the effect of undermining itself — as if it signals to his character’s interlocutor that he’s paying attention or attempting to convey thoughtful sincerity, but isn’t. I admit, above: who can really pay attention before ingesting his morning coffee?

On Armitage’s face, it also has the effect of making a thoughtful concession. Armitage never sustains the motion; it almost always disappears immediately. In this particular case, it’s practically a micro-expression as we almost miss it:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) concedes to Sarah Caulfield that the person responsible for Braden’s death is a former MI-6 operative in Spooks 8.5. Source:

One thing this last cap also makes clear is how narrow the vermilion region of Armitage’s lips are — making a really noticeable pout much less noticeable even if he were to do it. It also underlines the somewhat unusual qualities of his mouth. The lower lip is usually somewhat larger than the upper lip on humans — not so in Armitage’s case.

~ by Servetus on October 26, 2011.

49 Responses to “Armitage anatomy: mentalis”

  1. As with so many other aspects of Mr. A/his characters, I find his mouth particularly appealing, expressive, sensual, even though I normally don’t care for thinnish lips on a guy. I do think it’s harder for someone to pout as effectively when you don’t have pouty lips.
    As you pointed out elsewhere, the structure of it allows him to look cruel and mean when the part calls for it. But it can also look soft and vulnerable . . .

    And are we sure Mr. A IS entirely human? I mean, those ears . . . 😉


  2. These RA looks seem really not so familiar to me!! Obviously I haven´t looked close enough sofar…It is a peculiar fleeting expression which I need a bit of time to get used to.
    But (OTOH) his lips are so delicate…Just so tempting…


    • if you watch him enough, you (or I, I guess) start to fixate on these smaller recurring details.

      Sometimes I feel badly for the man — if I were in his circle of friends, he’d never have to open his mouth — I’m starting to feel like I could read him just based on his body language …


      • I´m sure you can. Which is somehow a challenging idea. But I´m also sure you want him to talk too. We need his voice, don´t we!!?? I´m crazy about it. BTW his friends certainly not have studied him so intensely like you have….


  3. Okay, looked quickly at the picture and thought you’d photoshopped him as Bugs Bunny for some reason. Carry on.


  4. I love his ears!! And his thin lips (sensual as has been said, soft and sexy). And his hands and……oh, heck, I just love all 6ft 2ins. of him, from the tips of those sticky-uppy bits of hair all the way down to his cute toes.

    But…sometimes I’d like to make him straighten up a little more – the photo of him in his black tank top makes me want to pull his shoulders back just a little. I’m worried he might end up with back pain later on in life.

    Thank you for the great shots, Servetus. You’ve come through once again! and thanks for explaining how the facial muscles (in particular) work.


    • Your first paragraph is so succinct kathryn, that I just thought, “That’s what I wanted to say!!!!!!!” I love every bit of him too! Sometimes I think he’s just too adorable for words!! 😀

      On a personal note, may I ask if you are British?? I felt I was back home when I read your “sticky-uppy” comment! We used to play a game when we had to keep a ball off the ground using only our feet and we called it “keepy-uppy”!!


      • No I’m a dinky-dye (that’s how we say it but how do I spell it?), true-blue Aussie through and through but I’m often told I sound more English than Australian! LOL.

        When I was in London in 1997, I just had to catch a red double-decker bus (as you do). I was sitting next to a lovely lady from Leeds and we were having a little chat (as you do).

        I noticed 2 men strap-hanging and listening intently to what I was saying to her. One of them just couldn’t stand it any longer and asked, “What nationality are you?”.

        The little lady from Leeds looked at me askance and said, “I thought you were a well-brought up English girl”!!! I had to admit the truth and said, “Blame my convent school education and all those elocution lessons”!!!

        Once I had finished my examinations (the day after my 18th birthday), my 2 brothers said to me, “Now you can take that plum out of your mouth and start sounding normal”!!! They thought I sounded a little too toffee-nosed (as that old expression goes) to be related to them.

        That toffee-nosed intonation comes out when I “get on my high horse”


        • LOL kathryn re the lady on the double decker!! Was she implying that you couldn’t possibly be well brought up if you were an Aussie?

          Speaking for myself I can never get enough of either Aussie or Kiwi accents! Love ’em!! I’ve visited both countries and could have listened to people talk all day! Being from the UK myself that was one thing we did over there was chat to strangers in buses. While visiting one small town in the NE of Scotland I got such a kick out of listening to conversations between various folk on the bus whether they were sitting next to each-other or not! No secrets there – no matter what or whom they were talking about!! Could be quite entertaining! 🙂


          • Maybe she was! I didn’t think of that at the time – maybe it’s just as well!

            I get very protective of my country and its citizens and hate it when we’re protrayed by “foreign” television/movies as uneducated, mostly drunk, bad-mannered yokels with no sense of dignity.

            Some of us are like that but most people aren’t. We’re no worse or better than people from any other Western nation when it comes to knowledge… or good manners… or anything else.. Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now!

            I love the variety of accents in the English-speaking countries, too, and the differences and similarities in our foods, customs, etc. Travelling is an education in and of itself, isn’t it?

            Just don’t ever mistake an Australian for a New Zealander or vice versa, or you’ll be in trouble! I’m joking, of course. It’s just in sport that we’re fiercely competitive with one another.

            Oh… or when Russell Crowe makes an ass of himself in public! He’s definitely a New Zealander then. As Mel Gibson is definitely an American then. They both grew up in Australia and we’re quite happy to claim them as ours…so long as they behave properly!


            • I guess I shouldn’t mention that I was thrilled that the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup then? *Ducks as heavy object is thrown this way* LOL!!

              And I know what you mean about accents. Even in a place the size of the UK you can find a diffrence in accents in places separated by as little as 40 miles. (Sorry, have a hard time thinking in kilometers!)

              BTW – I never tire of looking at Mr. A’s lips, whatever he does with them! 😉


              • Ah, those kilometres! They’re tricky little things for you poor foreigners! Even the spelling – you did say you were British, didn’t you?

                Actually, I was totally thrilled that the All Blacks won – I cheered them on once Australia was out of the running!


                • Guilty as charged! I am British – Scottish to be exact – but have lived in Canada for over 30 years so I tend to spell it that way even though we keep the English spelling for things like colour and neighbour.

                  Good on ya for supporting the All Blacks at the end! I DO love watching them do the Haka! Soooo manly! 😉

                  I did enjoy our trip to Australia, sadly way too short. Had to pinch myself when we sat at Darling Harbour and looked over at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House!! Hard to believe I was actually there! Do you remember a show called “Water Rats”? I just HAD to watch it to see all the wonderful views of the Harbour!!


                  • I’m sighing in relief…thank goodness, you realized I was only joking about the spelling!

                    Wow, “Water Rats” – haven’t thought about that show for years! One or 2 hunky guys in that, too, but.then…… you were watching it for the scenery, weren’t you? 🙂

                    Que…..where’s the smiley? 😉

                    and the wink?

                    I’ve always loved Sydney Harbour myself – it’s totally breathtaking. And I’m not even a New South Welshman!

                    I’ve never been to Canada but I enjoyed my 3 months in the UK and Europe …maybe I should have said “the continent”?……and will go again if I ever win the Lottery (might be difficult as I don’t take a ticket!!!!). Those coach tours give you just enough glimpses of all the famous landmarks and landscapes to whet your appetite


        • kathryn, it’s “dinky-di.” 🙂


    • mulubinba worries about his posture, too. His shoulders seem to be slightly rounded.


  5. I love that pout in the first picture! He looks adorable.


  6. The first picture is gorgeous- I just love those eyes! However, on that last picture all I could think of was “derp face” but it’s adorable.


  7. What I adore in him is, that he can change the outlook and appearance of his lips as the situation and his role requires. What other actor can say that about himself?
    The mentalis must be partially responsible for that.
    I love your analysis of facial expressions, Servetus!


  8. Yeaay! Just what I needed after a day’s travelling, another Armitage facial muscle! And what a yummy one it is 🙂
    My husband has been working interstate, and I’ve joined him for a few days, so today it was the train to Melbourne, bus to the airport, and plane to Sydney where he picked me up. I managed to get a short RA fix early this morning before I left, but from now on it’s only of an evening when I can get onto hubby’s laptop! Lucky I’ve got my Spooks 7 dvds to help me if I start to develop Armitage cravings during the day 😉


    • Hope you’ve had fun with hubby.


      • Thankyou serv. We haven’t seen each other for six weeks, although we Skype most evenings, so it’s nice to be together again. I only came up here for 2-3 days, before driving home with him, so just brought a carry-on bag, but his client has asked him to stay on a little longer, so it’s more like ten days now. I’ve had to go shopping for a few items to supplement the little I packed. 😉 Even if I’d needed to fly home earlier, the situation with Qantas being grounded means getting a flight isn’t easy, so I’m staying put.


  9. Lucas can focus a contemplative lip protruding pout in my direction any day of the week. Ha! Cheers! Grati ;->


  10. […] It occurred to me this morning that one of the moments that makes one of my favorite scenes from Strike Back 1.2 so potent is one of Richard Armitage’s relatively rare uses of mentalis. […]


  11. Thanks for the Mentalis anatomy lesson – very mentally stimulating


  12. […] I said that the mentalis move wasn’t frequent for Armitage, but I’m finding some more instances of it. (To clear up any confusion, I’m reposting […]


  13. […] haven’t gotten to discuss yet) and the chin (which I’ve done a little on with regard to mentalis: see here and here on potentially emotional or emotionalizing uses of mentalis) and the lower […]


  14. […] jaw edged out by the beard: John Porter (Richard Armitage) cranes his jaw (and mobilizes mentalis, as well) to relax himself before his interview with Kenneth Bratton in Strike Back 1.1. My […]


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