Fan showcase: Jane (part 1)

Interview number three of the four I had planned to publish on in summer 2011. After you read the whole piece, you’ll no doubt see how the themes of my last few days’ posts have been influenced by my own background thoughts over matters that arose during the conclusion of this interview.

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I remember exactly when I encountered Jane for the first time. I was a new blogger, relatively speaking, and writing about what we can know about Richard Armitage. Jane was the first person ever to present a strongly rational but nonetheless substantial disagreement with a claim that I made, stick to her guns about it, and not get angry at me when I didn’t automatically agree with her critique of my claims. This is the kind of conversation that makes an intellectual sharp and so, if Richard Armitage was the unanticipated actor of my dreams, Jane sort of became the unanticipated fan interlocutor of my dreams. I’ll admit that I wasn’t surprised to discover that she is German, as German culture tends to tolerate friction in strikingly different ways from American culture. Later, we got into a discussion about what is typically German from the insider vs. the outsider perspective. I found out that she always has an opinion and it’s always worth exploring it with her. Readers who interact with her at this blog and elsewhere will realize that Jane simply doesn’t espouse a number of Armitageworld dogmas and refuses to pretend, and that stance was the impetus for my request for an interview. As I said to her at the time, she’s interesting to talk to because she’s “not all hearts and flowers.” She’s not afraid to disagree. This interview is worth reading for new fans if only for that mood in her remarks.

This interview is odd in that I requested it in July — before Captain America had premiered — and it’s now January, so we’ve see not only Captain America but also the trailer for The Hobbit. Jane kept up with me through long delays associated with a move and new job, and I kept egging her on during a point at which she was leery of articulating everything she wanted to say for fear that it would be too controversial. As a result, this piece is much more than an interview — it’s the result of six months of intermittent conversations about Richard Armitage, his career, his prospects, and what kind of work might be desirable for him. Entire questions and answers that seemed interesting in August or October have been excised, and what you see here is the remainder, the stuff that seemed worth preserving. It incorporates a few statements that not every reader will agree with it, including some that I don’t agree with. But I feel like the process of conversation with Jane has illuminated sections of Armitageworld for me that I had never fully understood before — particularly the views of some fans who’ve been with Armitage from the beginning.

Thanks to Jane for her incredible patience in completing this project; I know readers will enjoy it as much as I have. Because the full, edited conversation totaled over 7,000 words, I’m dividing it up into three parts. In the later sections of the showcase, which will appear later this week, Jane describes the mood of the German Armitage fandom, and we discuss future prospects for his career. As is classic in this “me + richard armitage” feature, in the first section, below, Jane discusses her exposure and the reactions that underlie her admiration for Richard Armitage.

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The nose that launched a thousand addictions — or Jane’s anyway: Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in episode 1 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Servetus: What was your first exposure to Richard Armitage’s work? What was your reaction to it?

Jane: Back to the roots!

Servetus: (Laughs.) I am a historian, after all.

Jane: (Laughs.) My first exposure was North & South, but the ground had been prepared when I became involved in the Jane Austen fandom about seven years ago. There, I learned about Richard Armitage and North & South, saw pictures, and read in-depth analysis as well as lots of swooning. One day I decided I should get the DVD and have a look myself. And that was it. I suppose with RA and North & South I found what I had been missing with Austen / Pride & Prejudice / Darcy. I never fell in love with an on-screen Darcy and none of them looked like I had imagined him, but RA did.

But I’m not the type who falls passionately for anyone or anything, let alone quickly. More than with RA as Thornton, I fell in love with the production as a work of art. RA’s acting and appearance were only a part of it (though I soon became addicted to the nose). I actually remember that the first thing I did when I got the DVD was to watch the interview, as I wanted to know what it was all about. My reaction was “nice” — but I have watched that interview every time I’ve watched North & South ever since, so something about it appealed to me!

S: What made you a fan?

J: I read more about the guy and more interviews, and liked what I read. Richard’s interviews play a big part in his appeal for me. And I became involved in fandom, especially the German board. A few weeks after I started reading everything I could find about North & South and RA, the mods at the German Austen board advised the major RA participants to find another place to talk about him. Thus the German RA board was born. I had been a lurker before that, but I was one of the first people to register on the new forum. The fun of involvement in a forum and discussions with like-minded people have always been important for me. Over time, I also joined the various English-speaking forums and got involved more in some and less in others. I had been an active member of an English-speaking Austen forum before, so was already used to posting in English. It helped me to improve a lot.

That endearingly shy glance: Richard Armitage discusses making North & South in an interview from the DVD extras. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

S: You’re as much a fan of Armitage the person as you are of his roles, of which you have been more critical. It’s a different attitude from that of many fans, who either out of conviction or scruple insist that they are more a fan of the artist than of the person or the body. What moves you so much about his interviews?

J: To say something “moves me so much” is probably too much, as I’m very matter-of-fact. Others can explain better what makes Richard Armitage so special. But the guy is just incredibly likable, and it shows in interviews as well as candid shots, most obviously in video interviews. Something about him makes women feel motherly or protective and I think this response involves a reaction to his self-deprecating humor and aura of modesty / slight shyness. When he looks down, apparently embarrassed (and then cheekily looks up again), it’s irresistible. You think “Awww, Richard!” when you watch or read his interviews.

I also perceive him as unintimidating, in contrast to many handsome, successful, and/or intelligent men who are very much aware of their best features. I can imagine feeling comfortable with him while having a chat over a cup of coffee. Several fans who have met him report precisely that: that he’s good at putting shy or nervous people at ease. He comes across as fairly genuine and doesn’t put on too much of an act. Now, it is no great achievement to be polite and charming; it doesn’t have to mean anything; and the most awful people can be charming when required. Yet, with him, I sense something different at work. Things like that are important when it comes to liking a person as opposed to fancying a hot guy. As others put it, though for me those terms are too grand, he appears to be “the whole package” or “beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside.”

S: Since this topic has come up before on this blog many times, I can’t help but ask whether liking Armitage the person is also a particular variation of appreciation of appearances.

J: Admittedly, I seem to have moved recently from what you call a “B reading” to a “D reading” – meaning that I acknowledge I have no way to know whether he’s genuine. Which is not the same as saying I think he’s lying, but simply that it is wiser for me not to get too invested in his statements. For example: I won’t accept any more that he’s serious about doing a stage play until he actually does it. He says many things about himself for which we don’t have evidence and creates a picture we like and admire, but we don’t know whether the image reflects reality, a version of how he wants to be seen by fans, or a facet of how he would like to think of himself – as a serious stage actor. I also consider that he might do things in his private life that some fans would not approve of and which would affect their opinions of him, although exactly what would vary greatly from fan to fan.

I still like his public persona very much, but I don’t read as much into it as I used to. When we see him again, he will be part of a huge marketing machine and probably have been carefully coached in what to say and how to behave, so it won’t seem reasonable to take anything too seriously for much longer. Even so, I still think there is a good chance that in the early days, when he wasn’t so accustomed to giving interviews and much less money was potentially at stake in what he said, he was fairly genuine. So if the way he presents himself now and in future resembles the way he presented himself a few years ago, he may still be “the real thing.”

***

One of Jane’s favorite interviews, for its genuineness and for what it says: Richard Armitage, interviewed for BBCA in June 2008, conceives of his favorite work on Robin Hood up to that point as “a mini-play.”

***

S: Does what you see in his personal statements suggest anything further to you about his potential as an artist?

J: When I read about his artistic approach, especially the way he prepares for a role and tries to get into the head of a character and make him truthful, I often think he has been wasted in previous projects and not been able to show the full effect to which such an approach could lead. He should work with scriptwriters and directors who care about the characters as much as he does. Or do his own thing, as he has often suggested he would like to do with regards to the Richard III project.

S: What do the interviews tell you that seems reliable, and what do they leave you curious about?

J: His interviews do convince me that apparently he puts financial security and having work at all before any artistic or personal matters – with an emphasis on security, not on earning lots of money! He comes across as someone with a sunny disposition who makes the best of anything and finds contentment even when he has to compromise. I would like to know whether that is really true, or if he is simply too polite or diplomatic to say publicly that he has been dissatisfied.

Servetus reports of Jane: Jane didn’t want to report anything about herself and consistently ignored requests for a bio. Servetus concluded that Jane is mysterious! So we will proceed, evidentially, via a “B reading.” Jane apologizes for the Rechtschreibreform. Jane likes Lucas’ face best in Spooks 7. She learned medieval poetry at school. Jane thinks spelling errors are charming, but she is annoyed by Umlaut erasure. She keeps her eye on Armitage’s Spotlight page. She thinks botoxing is cheating. She’s good at puns. She’s left-handed. She likes to wear Birkenstocks. Oh, and in case you’re curious: her written English is outstanding. Hopefully, you get the picture.

Tomorrow: German Armitageworld!

***

[Fan showcases are an irregular feature on “me + richard armitage.” These segments seek to highlight the opinions and activities of a cross-segment of the very diverse group of people who have become fans of Richard Armitage. Previous showcases can be found here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63, fitzg, Angieklong, khandy, jazzbaby1, Amanda Jane. I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being interviewed, please let me know. My email address can be found in the sidebar under “About.” — Servetus]

~ by Servetus on January 16, 2012.

28 Responses to “Fan showcase: Jane (part 1)”

  1. I didn’t read the whole interview yet, since it’s bed time for me, but I swear that I just read the previous post and thought: I always like Jane’s comments, because she is so realistic like me. I wish Servetus will interview her one day!
    So thank you Jane and Servetus for the interview (which I will read tomorrow and may even comment, who knows?).

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  2. Fantastic analysis! Both of you are critical without being harsh…
    Good job girls! I like it very much!!!

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  3. Great interview, found myself nodding a lot to what Jane said. I do wonder what the future holds for Mr A. I suspect he may have to call on all his acting skills in interviews after TH!

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  4. Looking forward to the rest of the interview. I enjoy hearing different perspectives re: RA. Thanks for sharing Servetus and Jane!

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  5. I should be in bed by now, it is past midnight, but reading those first comments I made on your blog it almost feels you and I have switched positions!

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    • you *should* be in bed! and I should go home and get some rest for class tomorrow. Doing this interview sort of has motivated me to finish that series. There was a lot of tension around the claims I made there from a particular commentator who simply exhausted me. Maybe I could finish the posts now, though I would no doubt say something different now than I would have then.

      I think on a sort of ethical level I tend to be a “b” reader (“alles zum besten kehren”) but on an analytical level I am still a “d” reader. But that doesn’t mean I come to no conclusions. 🙂

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      • I remember that well, and I also remember that I started commenting out of APM. 😉 Many new or casual fans do not only wonder if he is for real but automatically assume he is too good to be true and think those that have more faith in him are incredibly naive. I think the B reading involves the benefit of doubt, to assume he’s real until proven otherwise. Nothing in that direction has ever emerged but then, very little has emerged at all and until he causes a public uproar (like JA did) he may get away with a lot.

        I still stick to what I said back then, at that time, he was “performing” for a very small and in the end unimportant audience, the devoted fans (the casual TV viewer wouldn’t care about boring personal titbits), and not trying to sell himself and a certain image of himself to a huge audience. That will certainly change when he tries to conquer Hollywood. He may not have had a army of publicists behind him when interviewed for RH or Spooks, but may very well now. Even if he is still not interested in selling himself he has to sell the Hobbit and when he is interviewed by MTV, it is for a world-wide audience.

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        • It turned into a really interesting discussion. As I remember someone even brought the question of gendered thinking into it, which I found really provocative. Luckily we can still discuss it if we like.

          I was a bit surprised that he got interviewed by MTV — I think of him as too old for their target demographic.

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  6. I’m thrilled you’ve interviewed Jane. She’s always struck me as closer to the middle of the spectrum of RA fans where I am. Her opinions are realistic and thought provoking. Can’t wait to read more.

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    • I agree it’s a perspective we need to continue to hear, and one that’s less likely to emerge on blogs because if you care enough to write about a subject every day already, you tend to be prejudiced …

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  7. Thank you, Servetus and Jane, for doing this lovely to read interview! I went and read all the references as well and now am really looking forward to the rest of the interview!

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  8. Jane keeps me honest. Her comments make me take a step back, to view things more practically, even when my first instincts are to jump to Richard’s defence!
    Thankyou for the interview, I look forward to reading the next instalments.

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  9. Interesting interview, as I expected… and here is my point of view:
    “You’re as much a fan of Armitage the person as you are of his roles, of which you have been more critical” I think that describes me as well. I really like his public persona and I have a feeling that it’s not much far from the real person. That doesn’t mean that whatever he says in interviews we should read as it is (as described by C or D reading). I think sometimes he says things just because it’s the right thing to say (as he probably should!). Anyway, as I may have said before, I can think of it as another one of his characters: “Richard Armitage the actor”, a character with a terrific script!

    Looking forward for the next part…

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  10. Hi Serv,
    A lovely interview beginning. Jane feels like a kindred spirit to me in many ways–her introduction to RA happening with N&S, her liking of his interview persona, and his gentlemanly ways. For me, even if RA’s public persona is a “performance”, he has chosen well–polite wins over pop culture pesky in my view. Ha!

    I look forward to reading the remaining interview parts.
    Cheers! Grati ;->

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  11. Thanks for the interview,Servetus and Jane!:)
    I’m between A and D .:D

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  12. […] The second of three parts of my interview with Jane. Part 1 is here. […]

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  13. That was an interesting read, and I too find myself agreeing with a lot of Jane’s words. Not to mention I’ve often found myself in the same position: [i]You’re as much a fan of Armitage the person as you are of his roles, of which you have been more critical.[/i] in the few fandoms I’ve participated in (well, at least when I was on the fringes) and quite a few fans couldn’t understand my stance.
    One does have to wonder how he will be presented once the PR machine is running in all earnest. While I don’t take his words as a true representation of himself, at least not at face value, I do think the earlier ones show a glimpse.

    But so far I like his public persona, whether or not I would like the private persona will remain a mystery, for I don’t know him.

    Anyways I look forward to the rest of your interview with Jane.

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  14. I’ve taken seriously Jane’s sense of waiting to see what Armitage does in future in order to truly evaluate him as an artist. On the other hand, he has created characters given thin material with which to work. It is a pleasure to have comments such as Jane’s, so reasoned and measured.

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  15. […] conclusion of my interview with Jane. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here. This third piece is the most controversial part of the interview, so a […]

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  16. […] by my familiarity with everything he’s already done. I had the impression after pondering the Jane interview (and now you see another instance of a reason I found that exchange so profitable even though I […]

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  17. Already fascinated. So far, you sound like a lovely lady and a reasonable fan who isn’t away with the fairies, Jane. 🙂 An honour to make your acquaintance.

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  18. […] can be found here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63, fitzg, Angieklong, khandy, jazzbaby1, Amanda Jane, Jane (part 1, part 2, part 3). I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being […]

    Like

  19. […] an honest confession that made me want to know more about mersguy. The final impetus came after a series of interviews that examined one fan’s desires for Armitage to follow a high art career path. In the wake of […]

    Like

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