Richard Armitage as “sinister lizard”: Tomorrow, Guy of Gisborne is ten years old!

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood 1.1. Source:

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood 1.1. Source:

Ten years ago tomorrow, UK audiences saw that particular black leather-inflected smirk for the first time when Guy of Gisborne rode into Locksley to investigate a theft. Robin Hood was commissioned to alternate with the revived Doctor Who episodes in the Saturday night evening slot on BBC One. You can read about the origins of the series; it got a big budget, was designed to be shot in HD — only the first of Richard Armitage’s association with high resolution formats! — and its first series was bedeviled by the theft of its tapes. When it aired, responses were mixed, but Armitage and Keith Allen generally came in for praise. In the reviews of the first episode, “Will you tolerate this?” Armitage was described as “flouncing darkly” and “a cool and sinister lizard.” That episode got a 37 percent share.

All ups and downs of the series itself aside, and no matter how he himself might think about it now, I still find this one of Richard Armitage’s most successful and durable roles. I’ve written about it a fair amount but the fact that I don’t write about it more is mainly because I find what Armitage does here so complex and so difficult to analyze — not least because he regularly sweeps me both into emotion and lust here. Armitage is well known as a master of portraying humiliation and this is the character whose emotions have often come closest to my own in that regard. Perhaps that is the genius of Richard Armitage as Guy — that although I’d like to think I’m nothing like him, I so often see my own reactions mirrored in his face. So much about him is ambiguous or subtle or simply left to the viewer’s judgment.


Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) on his knees before King John, in Robin Hood 3.1. Source:

Fans have remained loyal, too — with “Guyday Friday” being one of the most persistent informal fan appointments of the week. I think it’s not just about ogling him, although that plays a role: he is the most persistently stare-at-able Armitage character, inviting it, perhaps, because the character himself stares. As the show got worse the character got more physically attractive. I wish that more episodes of this had been made while acknowledging that this must have been one of the most frustrating roles on the planet to play and I can’t imagine Armitage wasn’t relieved when his three-year contract ran out.

~ by Servetus on October 6, 2016.

19 Responses to “Richard Armitage as “sinister lizard”: Tomorrow, Guy of Gisborne is ten years old!”

  1. This is the first show I have seen him in after The Hobbit and his character got under my skin.❤ Happy birthday, Guy!😉

  2. The show was downright stupid most of the time, but he was magnetic in a way that defies description. As you say, it’s hard to figure out what it is that he does to make Guy so appealing, even when he was behaving badly from an objective viewpoint. Since Guy is half French, I will wish him a “bon anniversaire!”

  3. Von der Serie selbst bin ich total enttäuscht. Sie bleibt weiter hinter der üblichen BBC Qualität zurück und ist zum Teil fast schon etwas lächerlich und sehr anstrengend. Also habe ich sie im Schnelldurchlauf quergesehen und immer nur dann wirklich geschaut, sobald auch nur ein Fitzelchen von Guy auftauchte. Für gebrochene Figuren habe ich eine große Schwäche und er spielt den Schurken mit der geschundenen Seele einfach grandios. Nicht einmal das teilweise aus dem Ruder gelaufene Make-up kann seiner Ausstrahlung etwas anhaben. Herzlichen Glückwunsch 🙂

  4. We must have a really big and raucous party!!! Can’t imagine not having the bad boy in my life 😀😂😂😃

  5. Oh and we must have the Guy on horse gif again. 😍 i love so much about the conflicted and conflicting character and the way he played him! Glad I’ve had no plans tomorrow night. Now i do! 😎😉

  6. BTW Has anybody heard anything of Fedoralady/Angie recently? Haven’t seen her around here in a long time. Talking of Guy of course, reminds me of her. Hope she is fine!

  7. For me Sir Guy is one of my favorite characters and I think he always will be. RA’s amazing looks, esp. his facial acting brought so much to this character it is stunning To watch the growth thru all 3 season i – just spellbinding. Anyone who can peel away the layers of such an evil character and make him if not loved but understood and sympathized with is something. Richard it may not be your favorite, but it is definitely one of mine for not only my eyes but my mind just watching your technique. Thank you for giving us Sir Guy and Happy anniversary to my black Leather Clad Medieval Menace…oops Knight!

  8. I’m not surprised RA and Keith Allen garnered the praise as they were the best thing about that show. Guy was such a complex character and what RA did with him was astonishing – I thought I was immune to the charms of the psychopath until Guy swaggered across my screen. I hope RA still feels proud of his work on RH, although I suspect it often gets dismissed because of the genre.

    • I figure that is the next thing he’ll get teased about. Like when he gets Oscar nominated or something similar.

  9. Guy is definitely one of my favourite characters. How could Marion choose the young Robin over the manly Guy? And the anguish portrayed by Richard in Marian’s final scene is so wonderfully believable and heartbreaking.

  10. “As the show got worse the character got more physically attractive”. So true. He looks simply perfect in series 3 😍. Are you sure, they got a big budget? When I think about the dangerous “weapon” (=lion) I still wonder 😬
    But nevertheless: Happy 10th-Guyday!

  11. I am facsinated of the history of king Richard Lionheart and also of Robin Hood. I can remember that I was deeply disappointed of these series.BUT I was glued to the TV only to watch RA as Guy ( like a mesmerised bunny). I was and I am favourably impressed by his acting presence in this role. So I will raise my glass this evening, for him ,for us, for me.And also watch some clips ( sigh yearn)

  12. I doubt I would have watched the series beyond the first few episodes considering the general quality of the scripts and acting, but then there was Sir Guy and Richard Armitage’s wonderful performance… It’s one of my favourite roles of his and Sir Guy pulls me in me whenever I rewatch it. Apart from the sheer attraction (he looked so good and was very charismatic), this is such a deep and moving character. Like you, I think Armitage must have been really frustrated with the scriptwriters, but what he made of the material he was given is impressive and such a joy.

  13. Guy never got to me in the same way that John Porter did.

    I think it was the way in which RA, who played a villain in one series (and I didn’t see season 3 until much later), could suddenly portray someone so completely different in another. That fascinated me, and I became hooked🙂
    However, RA and Keith Allen were the true masters of acting in Robin Hood which was somewhat amateurish at times. Their acting ability had much more range IMO.

  14. Robin who? Gisborne was my first, and I think my favorite. When he came on screen, it changed my life forever. (Although it’s only eight years for us in the U.S..) He was just one big sexy popsicle with nape curls, granted the first couple of episodes when they tried to straighten them were pretty bad. He was also nuanced in his portrayal, my introduction to his acting with a flicker of his eyes, a slight movement of his lips, or tilt of his head. The fact that Dominic Minghella left was the death blow. What they did in series three was so contrary to the first two seasons, it just makes me crazy. So much of it was completely against those characters as we had known them. Robin having two different love interests just sullied Marion’s memory, and Guy’s suffering. Then the last couple episodes were just a ridiculous rush. I can see that it may have soured him, but he should be proud of the first two. It was campy, but unapologetically so.

  15. It was neat to read all these reminiscences. Great that Guy still plays an important role in our fan lives! I hope Armitage remains proud of that work.

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