Reasons I love Richard Armitage in Strike Back, #1

Today’s Monday Classic FanstRAvaganza, posted on facebook, comes from Reviewerama, a blog written by Ragtag, one of the original 2010 FanstRAvaganza bloggers who’s since taken a blog break. In it, she describes the “gorgeous, smoldering truth” and the effect that it had on her behavior.

“Like” the FanstRAvaganaza page for ongoing updates on the event, or follow @FanstRAvaganza at twitter!

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Richard Armitage, selling Strike Back to an entertainment reporter, at the BAFTA premiere screening, April 15, 2010. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Since Jane aired her disapproval of Strike Back as an artistic and career choice, I’ve been thinking about why I liked it so well, admittedly against my own expectations. It’s not the kind of thing I’d have watched if Richard Armitage weren’t in it. I subscribe to everything she said about it as a career choice — it wasn’t the kind of role that was going to get Mr. Armitage invitations to do Shakespeare in the West End or anywhere else. It certainly exploited his sex appeal, and it’s true that doing so is an at best ambivalent strategy if he wants higher profile roles in more respected genres. I agree that it’s the kind of project that can lead serious critics to dismiss an actor’s career if he does too many of them. I think she’s right that for whatever reason, it matters less if Armitage puts himself through physical ordeals to make this sort of thing than if he did the same for an “artsier” film that got more subtle critical attention. Although I think she’s right about all of that, it doesn’t have much personal effect on me. Partially I react this way for the reasons that I have already 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 art” isn’t a concept that influences me much. As someone who’s spent all of her professional life writing things that will be read by perhaps a few dozen people at most — I’m not kidding; thousands more people have read this blog than will ever read my published work under my real name — I would also guess there must be a pleasure in doing a project that large groups of people enjoy. It’s never been entirely clear to me from his interviews exactly what kind of career Richard Armitage wants, beyond wanting to continue to work, so my tacit assumption is that what he does pleases him (more or less), and though I’m not a friend or a relative of his, I do want him to do what most pleases him as long as it’s not illegal or hurtful to others in a specific, concrete way. Even if, as Jane would say, I still have opinions about things that may be none of my business.

Richard Armitage as John Porter in one of those crazily sexploitative ads for Strike Back. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

But I do think there’s an additional reason I loved Strike Back that’s not susceptible to Jane’s critique, and that’s just that Richard Armitage plays Porter so extremely well. He is fully Porter — there’s no condescension or irony at all in his performance, despite the many opportunities the production offered. She hasn’t watched most of it, so she can’t comment on that, but she would respond, I assume, that no matter how good he is in it, it doesn’t matter that much. And that’s a place where she and I diverge. That it doesn’t matter in all the larger senses she describes is for me, on some level, beside the point. It matters to me that he’s good in it. A lot of that’s me. I write this blog mostly for myself and to a lesser extent for other fans and to a tiny degree as an act of gratitude for the changes fangirling Richard Armitage has helped me make in my life, but it’s become increasingly apparent to me because of writing it that my love for it consists in it as itself, not in its capacity to serve as a vehicle for larger projects or lead to other things beyond its role as a reflection of the kind of self-actualization I’m seeking. In other words, I do think there’s an argument for Strike Back as successful in itself or in terms of Armitage’s performance, without it having to be “for” something bigger, and thus apart from all the framing issues we’ve discussed during the last week.

So: Why was Armitage’s performance so good? I’m giving this post title a #1 because I think there are other reasons besides the one that occurred to me this morning; who knows if I will get around to enumerating them all or not, though. At any rate, for anyone who felt sad last week, it’s now time for some Porter love!

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At one point I had considered starting a series called “too painful to watch” that would be an analysis of scenes that I sometimes fast forward past because Armitage’s performance is so good that the scene seriously upsets me when I watch it. Then I realized that in order to write a series like that I would have to commit to actually watching those scenes very closely in order to write about them. Blogging is supposed to be fun! Well, maybe I’ll still write a few of those posts. I’ve made a category. But here’s a scene from Strike Back 1.1 that falls in the “too painful to watch” category for me. It also demonstrates one sense in which Armitage was so good in Strike Back.

This is the scene where, after Porter’s been told he’ll be mustered out and agrees to it, he seeks work at Kenneth Bratton’s concern.

The scene is super kitschy in ways that point to all the reasons that critics usually eschew productions like this. We totally expect everything that happens in terms of plot, and we see all of our expectations expressed in the most stereotypical possible ways in the script. We expect that Porter will approach Bratton, but also that he will be turned down (script stereotype number one: veterans always expect consideration first from the people they protect, who are always insufficiently grateful for what they have received). We expect that Bratton will turn down Porter because he lacks the correct education (stereotype two: business owners value book learning over practical capacity, but also two-a: they are not ever justified in doing so). We expect that Porter’s reaction to the soft no will be overboard from the perspective of the people in the scene (stereotype three: wounded veterans always overreact to bad news) and that his overreaction will reveal a developing inability to cope / simmering mental illness (stereotype four: all combat veterans will develop PTSD). Since we’re sympathetic with Porter at this point, however, we’re also expected to accept that hurling objects through a glass window is a common manifestation of PTSD (stereotype five: PTSD always manifests itself in dangerous, violent behavior), which it isn’t, particularly. Besides the script problems, the dialogue is completely predictable. And the last straw on the level of predictability is the casting of a sculpted metrosexual as the Bratton security guard. OK, maybe that’s the penultimate straw. There’s also the over-made-up secretary with the rolling eyes and the unnecessary scream.

And what do we see Armitage doing with this (let’s admit it) piece-of-crap script? The thing that my eyes fall upon over and over again in this scene is the way in which his performance visualizes Porter’s strength and his weakness, his impermeability and his vulnerability, in the same gestures. One thing the scene is supposed to do for the story is to show the humbling of the man in control — another stereotype about combat veterans since the wake of the Vietnam War being their apparent inability to function outside of their “native environment” — when he’s no longer in control. This could have been played a lot of ways, but what’s neat here is the way in which Armitage’s gestures of strength and weakness, of pride and humiliation, melt into each other seamlessly.

Look, for example, after 0:27, when Porter reacts to Bratton’s statement that he doesn’t have to sell himself.

Cap from the scene above. You’ll have to look at the scene itself to see what I’m talking about; I’m just putting this here to break up the text.

You have this interesting facial expression where he backs off from showing the relief he’s feeling at not having to complete his prepared pitch, but then just at the moment where he’s slightly lifting his head, he gets the information from Bratton that the jobs he has to provide are in Iraq. Then the camera shifts and we see his discomfort from a distance — but he’s moving his upper body in almost a squirm as he holds his physical position, which allows him to make an insistent claim for “something closer to home.” The suave, masculine move of putting his script in his pocket also moves that arm across his body in a way that seems unavoidably defensive.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) reacts to the information that Bratton recruits only people with academic qualifications in Strike Back 1.1. My cap.

Again, after 0:45, you see the emotional strong / weak, proud / humiliated move, but in the other direction. At this point Bratton is telling Porter that he only employs university grads at home in England. At 0:46 he’s almost tucked his chin down into his chest (and we’ve considered before how essential the jaw position is to the emotionality of the Porter character):

The same. My cap.

…but you see him pulling out the humiliation gesture in a sort of laugh of incredulity that begins at 0:47 with a head twist:

The same. My cap.

By 0:50 a slightly shamed, bowed-head incredulity is merging into a hostile incredulity:

The same. My cap.

and at 0:52 the anger is fully evident on his face:

The same. My cap.

and then at 0:54, the incredulity merges into subliminal threat, with the incredulity underlying the whole moment still:

The result is a sort of five second move through about seven shades of the same emotion, without ever fully marking the boundaries of any kind of transition between them. The result is that we start with the vulnerable Porter, sitting in a chair, awaiting his chance to sell himself to the man he saved:

The same. My cap. And I’ve talked about the gestural choices that make Porter look so vulnerable at this moment here.

And we end with the Porter who’s stronger than anyone in the room:

My cap. The same.

I’m not thrilled with the stage direction for Porter to smash the window — and I can’t imagine that, based on what I understand about Richard Armitage’s ideas about not showing everything he thinks on screen, that it would necessarily have been his choice, either. But it ends up being beside the point, because the effect of the scene is a sort of paradox: the strong man humiliated and humiliating at the same time. The successful portrayal of the paradox means that the stereotypes fall by the wayside. We can’t bear to watch Porter’s humiliation because we sense that he can’t bear to experience it, either, and his struggle to find a mediating place between strength and weakness is laid out in every move of his face.

So yeah. It’s crap. Richard Armitage is really good in it — and I can get fascinated even watching scenes that I find painful. And it doesn’t matter to me, then, what the critics think or what the role might mean. I am, quite simply, entranced.

~ by Servetus on January 24, 2012.

89 Responses to “Reasons I love Richard Armitage in Strike Back, #1”

  1. I totally agree with you on that scene, cringe worthy to say the least.
    Now I know I am not alone, cheers!

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  2. Yaaay, I’m all for some Porter love and lots of it!
    I’m currently working my way through SB1 this week. Richard’s portrayal of Porter pulls me in more strongly each time I watch it.

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  3. So frustrating that this isn’t available in region 1 dvd. Grrr.

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  4. Most of the Strike Back script was crap, but then so was Robin Hood and Ultimate Force and I’ll stop on that vein.

    I’m so glad you highlighted this scene. Best one for showcasing RA’s abilities in this piece. It has always stunned me how he could convey such a range of emotions in his characters and within a scene! Amazing, and I hate using words like amazing, but in this instance, it fits. He is a fine actor, who I’m so glad someone with some clout (Peter Jackson) is finally noticing. If RA is the smart boy I think he is, he’ll figure out how to make that work for him to get to meatier stuff.

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    • I have been re-watching RH during my hiatus from having internet and yes, some of the scripts were rubbish, the productions values laughable at times, but Richard as Guy was superb. (of course, when he got dunked in the tank by Robin and got all wet and dirty, I thought of you, Frenz).

      Strike Back had much better production values–the money showed–but the writing still left something to be desired–and Richard as John Porter? Superb. I wrote my longest fanfic yet about his character and I seriously doubt I would have ever done that with such a character played by a different actor.

      The man can take dross and turn it into pure gold. I feel that I can count on Armitage (sort of like I can count on John Porter) to always deliver the goods.

      In the best of all possible worlds, Richard would always get to work on a project he wishes to do, with an excellent script, director, casting agent (are your ears burning, Spooks people??) top-quality co-stars, great production values–
      but that isn’t always going to happen. I do believe he will give his best to a role and I do not anticipate him ever phoning in a performance.

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  5. Great post! And don’t worry, I won’t go on ranting against SB, whatever it is, it is history.

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  6. Hi Servet,
    A great job!

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  7. The point is that Armitage can make a rotton script sow’s ear a silk purse. He is an actor of distinction. SB is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I don’t LIKE it, but appreciate the performances of Armitage, Harewood and Andrew Lincoln (who went on to do a Zombie American TV series…)
    Region 1 is available on Blue Ray – and I’m not going to buy yet another piece of hardware (blue ray player) just for this. It was available via the internet and I had it (probably some pirated copy) lent it and it’s gone awol.

    I do hope that Hobbit will bring better scripts. I completely understand Jane’s view, but would suggest that the mark of a good actor is what he/she brings to any part, no matter the quality of the writingor subject matter. Laurence Olivier made some questionable film choices – for money. Prince and the Showgirl? And I think TV is a very legitimate artistic vehicle. At a guess, Colin Firth’s and Jennifer Ehle’s P&P is more watched more often than is Colin Firth’s Mama Mia. Perhaps even more often than The King’s Speech. Maybe.

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    • Just to say Andrew Lincoln’s zombie series, as rubbish as that sounds, won a Golden Globe.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1520211/awards

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      • Sorry, it was only nominated, but to me it doesn’t make a big difference, it certainly got recognition as a quality program. One of the things that pain me about RA’s career is that he has never even come close to an award, with the exception of two BAFTA nomination for Spooks.

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    • Caligula? 🙂

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    • Hear hear fitzg.

      Jane you mentioned ‘artistic integrity’ (or lack of it) and I understand exactly what you meant. But there is a kind of integrity in the sheer commitment RA brings to even his worst-scripted roles. It’s admirable and almost touching, and of course leaves us sometimes – often – wishing he had a better vehicle to pour all that talent and hard work into. I doubt he’ll ever be guilty of phoning in a script.

      The best example of artistic integrity I’ve come across recently was Matthew Macfadyen’s role in a TV play about two years ago, where he played a paedophile struggling, and failing, to adjust to life in society after imprisonment. It was very well written and acted – and hard to watch – but I can imagine some actors not wanting to go there, for obvious reasons.

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      • feefa, thanks for this comment. It encapsulated a lot of what I was trying to say. For me integrity comes from the job done by the actor as well.

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        • It’s taking what you are given and making the most and best of it. Mr. A does not hide his light under a bushel but allows it to shine for all the world to see.

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  8. I watch “Walking Dead.” It can be both compelling and annoying, as the writing is very uneven. On the whole, though, I enjoy it, and the acting can be quite good. This was the actually first time I even heard of Andrew Lincoln–he’s very good here.

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    • I have to commend Andrew on his southern American accent. it isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than some I have heard in TV and films. And he is very good in the role. I agree, TWD is uneven, but when it is good, it is really outstanding.

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      • I’ve only seen one episode, but I thought, okay, this is the kind of southern accent that seems credible to a northerner. You know — it has pieces of a few different southern accents in it, but it has no glaring non-southern pieces.

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        • Servetus,

          If I had not already been aware that Andrew was British (and I had seen him in several roles before SB) I would likely have assumed he was an American actor who had at least spent some time in the south or around southerners–and this is a genuine GRITS (Girl raised in the South) saying that.

          All too often British actors trying to emulate Americans end up sounding at least vaguely Canadians (no offense to my dear Canadian friends, of course, but it IS a different country . . . 😉 )
          And I am really familiar with Canadian accents from all those years the X Files was filmed in Canada (and several other shows).

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          • The importance of accents are another thing I don’t “get”, part because I don’t notice, part because on German TV almost everyone speaks Hochdeutsch and you usually can’t tell where a show is set, except with very “folkloristic” characters/actor. I myself live in an area with no accent/dialect. But if it is such an issue getting a variety of American accents right, should be on top of RA’s to do list, assuming he is interested in playing American characters in American productions.

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            • It’s such a big country, and even regional accents have sub-accents if you will. The accent of many of my mother’s relatives from Tennessee was VERY different than ours here in S. Central Alabama. And my husband and I both grew up here and we don’t have the heavy “suuthen” accent some people expect, although I know people who do.

              An example of a British actor who has done extremely well imitating an American accent is the afore-mentioned Damian Lewis. That ability has likely helped land him several good roles.

              I thought Richard did a decent job with Heinz’s American accent in CA (we only heard a couple of lines) but if he does want to play American roles, I agree, it is something he needs to work on. It just depends on what he wants to do,

              I love his British accent and would be perfectly happy to hear only that for the rest of his career, but it’s what he wants, not what I like.;(

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              • Accents puzzle me, respectively the fact that some people still have them, even young and educated people. We were encouraged very strongly at school to loose every bit of “local” sound and of course we watch TV and listen to the radio all the time and and everyone there speaks standard German, so one would think we model our way of speaking after that. In other parts of Germany it is different, many still have accents but usually not on TV! An actor usually doesn’t have to acquire the local accent to play a character that lives in a certain area.

                As much as I would RA like to keep his accent (after all, for me a British accent is not an “accent” at all but correct English as it should be!) and appear in great British productions, he would seriously limit himself if playing a convincing American should be a problem.

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                • There is a reason I love speaking in my faux British accent–I just love the way the words sound. 😉 Proper Queen’s English.

                  Here in the US, there is sort of “standard” American accent that is emulated by radio and television newscasters–perhaps that is a common practice in most countries? Some midwesterners say they don’t have an accent, but some of them do–a definite “twang” to their voices.

                  And I have NO earhtly idea where Sarah Caulfield in Spooks was really from. It was just an awful job by that actress.

                  I think most US actors with strong regional accents work on achieving the “accentless” sound. The model/actress Andi McDowell had such a pronounced southern accent in her first movie her voice was actually dubbed by Glenn Close.

                  It is definitely an advantage to be able to do a variety of accents. And Brit actors who can emulate a credible American accent have a greater number of potential roles open to them.

                  My dream is to see Richard play Atticus Finch in a remake of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I love that character and well, the author is a fellow Alabamian.

                  And it would be a southern accent, which might be easier for him.

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                • I think people have differing capacities to even hear whether they have an accent. I’m somewhere in the middle range of talents on this, maybe because I’ve lived in so many different places, but I think that some people just don’t really hear that they’re speaking differently from others.

                  As I understand it the “American standard” evolved from Nebraska — Johnny Carson being the big exemplar. But of course many US movie actors aped British accents well into the 1950s.

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  9. Jane, I know. Walking Dead was celebrated. At least Spooks has had awards and nominations. Again, it is what an actor brings to the role, however the audience might view the film/series etc. And we all have our preferences. I love the absurd RH series, but don’t care for zombies and vampires. That is entirely subjective and can or not influence what I watch. It also does not influence appreciation of a good performance. I think, Jane, that we are in accord fundamentally. I would like to see, apres Thorin, that this actor is in a position to go after roles more independently and with financial security, aggressively. (Of course, I reserve the right to “vet” the roles.) 😀

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    • I suppose, if RA had been in The Walking Dead, it would have been a case of “don’t like the genre, I will skip it” for me, but I would have been okay with him being in an American series to rise his profile and happy about the acclaim the series got. I would have seen it as a advantageous career move.

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  10. I would, of course, have watched a zombie thing, if Armitage had been in it. Every little bit of development is interesting. Missed the 7 minutes of CA, and not sure that that added to the viewer perception of career development. So I argue against myself – not unusual. Don’t know that it raised his profile with the bean-counters. Or that valuable contacts were made in the U.S. Don’t want to pin exceptional hopes on Hobbit. Hope it will signal not just wider internatioanl recognition – but mainly, a better position to forge ahead. I think Sir PJ is cannily introducing Thorin in a sort-of low-key manner; he stands or falls, according to audience reaction.

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    • I hope that, even if the film career doesn’t happen, he will be in a better position when it comes to competing for high quality TV projects. Many actors that get the best TV parts have film experience. If he could get himself into those a lot would be won because we might be spared the despair about bad scripts and unconvincing co-stars. And financially I don’t expect the Hobbit to make him super rich, but more comfortable, so it may take away the pressure to accept everything.

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      • I love to see him do something like “Homeland,” a recent television series for Showtime, I forget which . It starred Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, a Brit actor who has been in both TV and films and has played Americans successfully in several productions (he was utterly fantastic as Major Winters in Band of Brothers). It was a taut, suspenseful story with well-written characters and literate scripts. Just to give you an idea, it is rated 8.7 at IMDB. Rare are the productions that get that high of a composite rating.

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        • Oh, I am tired. I “would” love . . . and just ignore the “I forget which” . . . English is my first language.

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        • Damien Lewis is one of those actors with a balanced career (apart from that I have a soft spot of redheads!). I remember very well that he was in a play with Keira Kneightly and even German media reported about that, criticising her acting but praising him! He actually managed to kill two birds with one stone, profiting from being ion stage and from the publicity a famous leading lady gets. It seems Band of Brothers was a stepping stone for many British actors that are doing very well now. I haven’t seen it, but I got the impression that it is the kind of war drama SB decidedly isn’t.

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          • Damien has a fine head of red hair 😉 and is very talented, too. And he’s very attractive without being a bland-looking pretty boy sort. I’ve always enjoyed his performances.

            I remember my husband and I watched “Band of Brothers” together (we actually subscribed to the premium channel just to watch the series) and we have re-watched it more than once. You are correct; it was a springboard for more than one Brit actor–come to think of it, there were quite a few very credible Yank accents by Brit actors in the production.

            My husband is a WWII history buff and he felt there was a lot of authenticity and attention to detail in the production, which followed the real-life experiences of the men of EZ Company.

            There was no glorification or romanticizing of war; you saw the hardships and suffering and devastation. And you get to know these men, their strengths and their flaws, and how they cope (some obviously better than others). I am sure some liberties were taken with some aspects of the series as creative license, but the veterans themselves and critics loved it. We did, too.

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            • Homeland is a great show. I’m not a Claire Danes fan, but she’s good in it. But Damian Lewis! Excellent! I did not even know that he was British??! I see more British actors able to be ‘American’ than I do the other way around or am I just biased :0

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              • Joann,
                I was very surprised after first seeing Damien in “Band of Brothers” to discover he was a Brit. He was in Stephen King’s “Dreamcatcher” and he gets to use both his natural English accent and his American accent. Not a great movie, but a great performance by Lewis.

                I do seem to notice more British actors successfully becoming American for roles than the other way around. Perhaps in part because there are so many really good British actors looking to have a breakthrough in the States–and not so many American actors looking to breakthrough in England. 😉 Supply and demand?

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  11. Another word on the fact that SB got him CA. Apparently he wasn’t seriously going for film roles, but I think if he had wanted, he could have gotten a role of that size sooner or later. Many actors that mostly do TV sometimes appear in smaller film roles, after all someone has to play the supporting roles. I think such roles are worth trying for because with luck they can open doors, but they don’t have to. Miranda Raison for example was in a Woody Allen film a few years ago, she said it looks good in her CV but did nothing for her career. I think there was a chance, however small, that Mr. Allen would take a fancy on her and cast her as the lead actress in his next film.

    The only quibble I have about CA as a career move is not even the genre, after all it was among the most successful movies of 2011 and got decent reviews (with most critics taking it for what it is and not blaming it for what isn’t) – it was that he invested so much time and physical effort into such a small role. When it isn’t an action heavy part it usually only takes a few days to film what results into a few minutes of screentime.

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    • I agree, Jane. Of course the only reason I watched CA was b/c RA was in it. So I read his interviews where he talks about his role before I saw the movie. When I got to see it, I was a little surprised at the size of his role?? Nonetheless, I thought he was superb and I ended up enjoying the rest of the movie. Win-win 🙂

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    • I agree in the sense that he also dislikes being underwater.

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  12. RA said himself he had to take a second look at SB and decided he could do something different with it……….he certainly did, he made John Porter flesh and blood and he was feted by the production people for it. Okay it was for Sky and it would get fewer viewers than the BBC but Sky sold it well and the showing at the BAFTA cinema in Picadilly London was thrilling or as RA said palpatingly good.
    Sorry for going slightly off subject but when RA promotes something he does just that twice he had opportunity to say he was now filming the TH when on the red carpet at CA and he didn’t but kept to the subject of CA but listen to the promotion of SB all Andrew Lincoln could do was talk about his next project Walking Dead.

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    • It sold as well as could be expected from a British production, a British production never sells as well as an American, no matter how good it is, it is not fair, but that is how things are. And as far as I know SB1 was never shown in the US. To get decent international distribution a British production company has to team up with an American channel, as it happened with SB2 (only that the particular channel brought other problems with it). In Germany international co-productions like The Tudors or The Borgias or The Pillars of the Earth are big hits because they get adequate publicity and good time slots on the main channels – in contrast to SB1.

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    • In one YouTube red carpet interview that RA did for CA, he was actually talking more about how great Chris Evans was! I was a little surprised by that. This guy keeps surprising me, lol..what a gent….

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  13. I’m a big fan of international co-productions. The Borgias was an Italian/Canadian project. Without looking it up, I don’t recall thr co-producers of The Tudore or Pillars. I think Ireland was in there, and perhaps Canada, too. Whatever, it contributes to some quality. Borgias fell a bit flat for me. It seemed more a series of gorgeous Ghirlandaio paintings than a great drama. I should re-watch the re-runs…

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    • I think the B orgias is worth watching just for the costumes and sets, although I wouldn’t say (as was said about “Barry Lyndon”) “a feast for the eyes, a famine for the mind.”

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  14. My point here is that watching him, I forget the script. Maybe others can’t. But I do. That loss of self is what makes it worthwhile for me.

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    • Amen. When JP’s wife says “We’re better off without him,” I feel actual physical pain. My mind and heart are totally invested in that character.

      Watching Guy tonight trying to console Marian after the death of her father, his genuine concern for her safety, his well-meaning but ham-fisted handling of things by trying to kiss her, and the way you could tell he was mentally kicking himself after she leaves—I was moved by it, by an actor’s performance in a cheesy kiddy show. Because said actor transcended the script yet again.

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  15. [in other words, I wanted to talk about the subtlety of his acting as opposed to professional concerns, which i concede.]

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    • That is indeed the beauty of Richard Armitage. I totally forgot the script until I got ready to write a blog piece about it, and then it began to fall apart.

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    • I agree servetus, that’s what is happening now when I’m watching SB for what must be the sixth time, if not more. I certainly don’t return to it time and again for the quality of the script. As with RH, I fast forward through the bits that don’t have RA in them. His performance has me totally absorbed, and my appreciation of how he has fleshed out the character and my love of Porter continues to grow; brave, intelligent, tender, strong, resourceful- everything one could wish for in a man/hero.

      Oh, and did I mention sexy as h*ll? *sigh*

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      • I fast forwarded through a lot of RH 1 when I re-watched the other day, but I actually have been watching the full eps of RH2–there is more Gizzy and what a lovely thing to see Richard’s crafting of the evolution of the character. And I really do enjoy the performances of many of the supporting cast members and guest stars. There wasn’t a lack of talent in RH just as there wasn’t in SB, script issues aside.

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        • angie, usually when I rewatch these shows, it’s simply because I want to immerse myself in Armitage and only Armitage, hence the fastforwarding! But like you, I can appreciate the performances of the others, and RH/SB had some excellent actors in their casts and as guests.

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          • Also as a friend pointed out, even when Richard is just in the background of a scene, he’s still in character and he is still worth watching to see his expressions and body language (and, well, all that gorgeous black leather and Guyliner 😉 )

            And after re-watching much of the series,
            I am feeling so very sympathetic toward Much, who Robin still treated like some sort of serf and simpleton. I thought Sam did a great job in that role and I enjoyed the gang (this is terrible of me but the least favorite gang member was Robin, who was too smug, petulant and too much of a glory hog for my tastes.
            And then–S3 and Preachy and Screechy showed up. I was sorely missing Djaq and Will!! The horror! 😉

            Seriously, I think Lucy learned a lot and grew in the role of Marian from her experience working with Richard. I think he would indeed be a great screen partner–he seems to have such a generous spirit and a desire to be a real team player. And I do enjoy seeing Richard playing scenes with good actors .in his various projects. I loved him with Hermione in Spooks. Their banter with each other and the obvious trust in and affection for one another as colleagues was so enjoyable.

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            • I know that I must have lost the plot somewhere – that’s if I ever had it in the first place – ;), but can you please explain who Preachy and Screechy are in Series 3 of RH?

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              • II haven’t read everything, but I’m going to guess Tuck and Kate.

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                • RAFrenzy: many thanks. I wondered at first if it might be Robin and Kate, but Tuck and Kate make better sense. It was the names, for some reason, they really gave me a fit of the giggles …. 🙂

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            • I love watching Richard in the background too. RH2 ep2 about the casino is a prime example. All that eyerolling, smirking, and jealousy…delicious!

              Preachy and Screechy lol! Those characters annoyed me no end. Theirs’ were definitely scenes to fast forward through, unless Guy was in them of course. 😉
              I liked the actors much better in other roles; Joanne Froggat in Downton Abbey, and David Harewood in SB.

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              • Yes, I do believe I was the one to coin those nicknames of Preachy and Screechy for Tuck and Kate. Tuck was always pontificating about “the Legend” and Kate was always, well–screeching. “Yoooo killed my broootha!” 😉

                Joanna Froggatt also redeemed herself for me in Downton Abbey after irritating me to no end as Kate, and David Harewood was fine in SB (and Homeland, for that matter).

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                • You are always one who is very vocal about the things you don’t like about RA’s shows, they almost never concern him, but his co-statrs, the script, continuity errors etc., and you are certainly not the only one. Usually I myself am a lot more forgiving because shrieking Kate and Sarah with the horrible accent are only symptoms of the disease. For me the only cure for such problems is that RA has to choose better projects! And if he isn’t offered them, the problem somehow lies with him, because better shows exist and there are actors that get cast in them.

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                  • Certainly I hope his projects get better–why would I wish anything less?

                    But he does impress me by how he has risen above less-than-stellar scripts, co-stars, etc. As someone said, there is an integrity in the journeyman actor who always trys his best.

                    Heck, the first series of Spooks with Richard was well done for its genre–or it was in my opinion, for what that is worth–before it began its downward slide. Again, that’s just my opinion.

                    I can only say there are certain projects I have seen such as Homeland that I think would be excellent for him, but his career choices are not in my or anyone else’s hands except his.
                    When he I think he’s screwed up a role, I will say so. I do hope some excellent opportunities arise in the next couple of years. We shall see.

                    And I am glad he doesn’t restrict himself to playing Shakespeare and other “serious” works on stage or perfoming in small art films, because I
                    would very likely never have the opportunity to enjoy his work. Neither would a great many other people. I am NOT saying he shouldn’t also do stage work and small interesting films; but it’s nice to have a mixture of TV, film and stage work (and of course, his wonderful audio work).

                    And I still say he doesn’t get to choose co-stars or directors or veto decisions to completely destroy a character he so carefully crafted. What may start out as a seemingly great opportunity can go awry. And in the end, unless you are lucky enough to be independently wealthy, you have to pay the bills.

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                    • I personally think you can’t really separate show and actor, I can’t and it always surprises me others can. The actor stands and falls with the surroundings. An incoherent script or a bad screen partner (or a bad dubbing actor for the matter) spoils whatever he does. After signing for a project it is beyond his control, but still falls back on him. I also wonder, his fans have said since N&S seven years ago that he is one of the best actors they have ever seen, but it seems TPTB didn’t agree (at least not until thankfully PJ came along) or he would have been offered better projects.

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                    • I guess I just have a different philosophy and it appears never the twain shall meet for us.

                      I look at actors from the past whom I admire greatly. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Betty Davis, Katherine Hepburn. Were all their films top-drawer even after they achieved “star” status? No. But I will still watch pretty much anything they have done because I feel they were reliable talents and I will find something worth watching, worth taking away from it.

                      In the best of all possible worlds, everything about every production would be first-rate. Ah. This isn’t the best of all possible worlds, however. Let’s be realistic.

                      Sadly, there are some enormously talented people who never have any success whatsoever in their field. I am sure some of RA’s fellow drama school students would love to have his career thus far. How many gifted actors, dancers, artists, writers are there we never know about because they weren’t in the right place at the right time, because they weren’t flavor of the month, and so forth.

                      And I think this is all I am going to say on this subject for now.

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                  • Maybe the solution was as simple as getting a different agent. 😉

                    Having said that, I’m a great believer in things happening when they do for a reason. Yes, we control our own destiny to a great extent, but I also feel that this time and this experience with TH has all happened when it should for RA. He has gone through the tough times when he considered quitting acting and worked at other jobs; taken on a variety of roles in shows that range in quality from the dubious to the very good, and probably been passed over more times than he cares to remember (pure speculation on my part!)
                    He’s more than paid his dues, and it has all come together for an actor who was chosen over everyone else for the role of Thorin; it’s been said that everyone auditioned for TH so he was up against considerable competition.

                    Who knows, maybe he hasn’t been as frustrated as some of his fans at the lack of quality shows that have come his way and he’s simply been doing what he loves with commitment and (I agree with others here) absolute integrity.

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                    • This is a really good discussion. Y’all have articulated so well my thoughts on why he may be in some roles vs. others. He strikes me as a practical guy (gleaning that from an interview done by a financial journal?) as well as an artist, balanced. So I agree with everyone 🙂 I’m easy 🙂

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  16. Thanks to your previous post of RA as Porter I had to rewatch SB ep 3 + 4 and noticed that I missed a lot of dialogue! 🙂 Should watch it with subtitles on…

    To come back to your post, the original writing in the book was according to genre. You could say riddled with cliches. It had Porter with PTSD. He started out as a drunk, homeless wreck which resonates to eighties war heros on screen. That would be not convincingly and not contemporary, seen from a higher educated audience or at least better earning audience, subscribed and paid extra to watch this network channel. The scene you selected depicts the hierarchic conflict on a personal level in which Porter humiliates himself but in a subtler manner. The romantic scenes in the book were way beyond classic romantic N&S style. Interesting as woman to observe (with mockery or gentle compassion?) the man version of romantic, as the series was labelled “Man TV”. Even those scenes in the book were rewritten for this script. I don´t see Jason Statman doing these scenes convincingly in his action movies. Although I don´t always like the hardball action movies, I am watching The Hurt Locker as it was directed by a woman, to see if there´s a woman´s touch in there..Oscars…

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    • I’ll watch an action project if I think it will have artistic merit. I’ve watched a lot of extremely violent Vietnam movies, for instance. I had read the novel of Strike Back only after seeing Strike Back, and thought the novel might have kept me from watching the series, it was that bad.

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      • I read the book first and could sooo see RA in this character! Was also pleased that it was his first leading role, which he would do with so much naughty tongue in cheek, albeit taking the subject very seriously. OK the book and the series had it´s clichés, and I was curious to see how he would work around them. Come to think of it, maybe I should read Old Shatterhand as this war/action genre is the modern western.

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        • Violet, I never nitpick about these things, so forgive me for doing it with you. I know you’re aware of North and South, so I was perplexed when I read that this was his first leading role. It makes me wonder how many people see it that way.

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          • Sorry, typos combined with fast thinking. I meant his first big(ger) budget leading role (“high production values”), as it was presented and as I recall the pr buzz, although I don’t have financial figures of N&S to compare it with.

            Creating fog here was not my intention… I just stepped on this train some years later than the N&S fans.

            Only wanted to say that I perceive John Porter as a really leading leading role. I’m just not that into the story or characters of N&S (yet).
            I don’t want to argue against the wisdom of the crowd. 🙂

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  17. There are a couple of moments in “Strike Back” that made me cringe but the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the moment when they give him the John Dean persona and he says something like “It couldn’t be James?” His delivery was odd and I couldn’t quite figure out from the context if they were referencing James Bond or James Dean. Bond I could buy there but Jimmy Dean? Uh, no.

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    • that’s a different kind of cringe, I think. Cringe because of something being so terribly bad. There are several of those, as well.

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  18. Thanks to Servetus for dissecting these shots in such detail and explaining to me why I react the way I do because I’m not sure why I react the way I do…I just react. The bottom line in the USA market is whether or not people will pay to see an actor. If an actor makes a profit for the movie industry, then he/she will get work. RA hasn’t had a chance to prove himself in that arena, but I think he will come December 2012. He may not even care if he makes more movies. It’s just wishful thinking on my part since that’s the only way I’ll be able to see more of his work…not to mention the affect of seeing “more of his work” on the big screen.

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  19. Thank you,Servetus!
    I like this type of men,warm interior in the hard shell-hot staff!

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  20. That’s what is so irresistible about Porter. He’s tough, brave, take-no-prisoners, sexy-as-hell male and at the same time, there’s a gentle, kind, decent human being inside, As RA said, he wanted to find the soft center, and he did.

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  21. Who doesn’t LOVE a tragic HERO?!?!?! Who??? Plus I’m a sucker for men in uniform. @ Angie might know something about that too? As The Dude said,” I’m a pacifist man.” But I get a gooey and patriotic for men in uniform. I just admire people who put their own personal safety aside to help others.

    I’ve only watched SB once bec of the violence, my senstive consitution can’t handle it. But I have really enjoyed the fan vids.

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    • And I think Armitage played up the tragic hero aspect for all that it was worth, within his own sort of subtle parameters, of course.

      I’m not gooey and patriotic for men in uniform — my main reaction is always to wonder what price they’ve paid.

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      • I would be fine with a show that focusses on the price soldiers have to pay. But a uniform awakes very unfortunate associations with me in a way that is typically German.

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    • Yes, I DO love a man in uniform . . . which would be expected. 😉

      And Richard does play a tragic hero (and I consider Guy to be one, too) so brilliantly. Breaks your heart every time.

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  22. Show vs actor: for me I think this comes from spending so much time as a teacher. That may not be a fair perspective for watching an actor, but the only way to get ahead as a teacher is “praise then blame.” So we become very accustomed to looking at parts of processes or pieces of events.

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  23. […] affected me for years, I watched it over and over again not just that night but subsequently, and it finally brought me to write about why I love Strike Back despite its kitschiness. It helped me understand why even when I […]

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  24. […] now appropriately dressed for a visit to Section D, in a jacket that also fits slightly better than the one used to emphasize Porter’s unfamiliarity with the halls of power, though still ill-fitting in a way that suggests he’s new to the setting. In this scene, […]

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