Thank you Robin Sheppard: John Standring / Richard Armitage appreciation post

What’s your favorite Standring moment?

How many of us fell wholly or partially in love with John Standring?

Richard Armitage:

“What happened with Sparkhouse was that the role was against type and I thought it was up to me to make sure they couldn’t give it to anybody else.

“It was the first time I went into an audition in character. It was a minor role but it was something I really got my teeth into and I realised that not getting work was perhaps to do with me and the way I was approaching it. I couldn’t go back.

“I knew that I had to approach everything in the same way.”

Richard Armitage as John Standring in episode 1 of Sparkhouse. I can’t help noting that this was before his post-2004 dental work.

Richard Armitage, from BBC press pack:

“John always hopes that she will grow to love him as their relationship changes over the years,” explains Richard Armitage. “He has an affection for her which I feel was based on a need for nurturing rather than on a sexual need. He is very protective of her because of the lack of love she has from her mother and the way her father treats her. But there is a simplicity to John; he doesn’t always understand all the nuances of what is going on around him. In some ways he is like an old man on the outside, but there is a real naivety about him – he’s a kind of ‘young fogie’,” laughs Richard. “He is completely inexperienced with women and incredibly nervous about any kind of sexual contact. Inside, he is just an inexperienced boy who can’t express himself very well. So it was really interesting to play when this big burly bloke finally opens up to show this vulnerable child inside.”
Remember that painful scene in episode 1 where John tries to give Carol a necklace that had been his mother’s? Armitage included it in his last pre-Hobbit showreel, from 2008.

In Sparkhouse, Richard Armitage proved in his first longer outing that no-one will ever understand how to play humiliation as well as he does.

We loved him and we smiled wryly.

A favorite John Standring comic moment, from episode 2 of Sparkhouse.

And then, in episode 3, he cleaned WAY up.

John Standring after his haircut, in episode 3 of Sparkhouse.

And in Sparkhouse, Richard Armitage gave us one most his most tender screen moments — unrivaled among his best ever — when he moves into Carol’s farmhouse after their wedding.

Who could forget this? “Don’t think you can’t tell me things.”

I have spent a lot of time pondering what happened after the end of Sparkhouse. To me that’s the stamp of approval on a great performance: that you can’t get the character out of your mind afterwards. Standring has stayed with many of us for years.
Are you reading for a rewatch? Check it out here:

It is worth watching the whole thing, but if you’ve only got time for a targeted rewatch, here’s one:

So — what IS your favorite John Standring moment?

~ by Servetus on March 9, 2018.

34 Responses to “Thank you Robin Sheppard: John Standring / Richard Armitage appreciation post”

  1. Spot on, Servetus! Standring is an unforgettable character for many reasons beyond how nicely he cleans up in the end. The whole ‘ugly duckling to beautiful swan’ scenario obviously appeals, but the character had depth despite being a supporting role. The rough outside hiding the soft core – RA explained it very nicely in the quote you cited. There are so many favourite scenes of Standring in Sparkhouse, so in terms of acting, I really love the scene where Standring and Carol are watching TV together after they have decided to get married, and inexperienced John suggests they hold hands. RA really gets the awkwardness and shyness of the character across. Heartbreaking. In terms of content, I love the scene when Carol visits John at his house and explains herself. The end of it, where John’s facial expression changes from pained and scared to understanding and hopeful, is also heartbreaking, but in a good way. RA really proved his acting prowess with Standring…

    Liked by 5 people

  2. This was 16 years ago. How can the man not have aged?

    I watched Sparkhouse in its entirety three years ago for the first time. My favourite moment is the end in all its heartbreak. The emotions of the characters are so poignant, and Richard’s performance is outstanding. Those who say he’s ‘wooden’ have not seen this performance.

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  3. I like when John is striding down the street after Carol proposed. she asks where they’re going and John says ‘I’ve run out of milk’.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So bittersweet. I think the thumb caress is my favourite moment. The whole thing is a tour de force though, there’s no doubt.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. John Standring, so many good moments.. as you listed many of them they are also my favorites, the thumb and the one where she asks him to kiss her and he says he didn’t know she felt that way too, but he is too shy to kiss her in a public being totally thrown off. He is so wonderful at playing these parts now I need to watch it again. Thank goodness I have the DVD. Also when he asks her if they should set closer and wants to hold his hand, so simple yet very moving and his hand looks huge against hers

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was such a special role and i only watched it last year going home for Xmas or Easter can’t remember, but it made a lasting impression and i fell in love with him as an actor all over again. Great character and great interpretation. I loved almost every scene, thanks for gathering them up, i’ll certainly watch them again 🙂 I don’t know how important this role was in his career, ie as a stepping stone to other roles but of the ones that i have seen it really is up there with the best of himself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Something changed that year. I don’t know so much about the causality but if you look at the stuff he’d been doing before and after, after this he got four supporting / recurring roles in quick succession. So I have no trouble believing that something changed for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well……when we had this freeeeeezing cold spell around here, about 1-2 weeks ago, and in addition I’d seen pictures with loads of snow in Yorkshire, there was an persistent, and urgent need/drive to re-read the wonderful fanficton of khandy (Kate Forrester) “In the bleak midwinter” (or her adapted version for Amazon-Kindle “Weathering the storm”. Brilliant as well.) One of my all-time favourite RA fanfictions. I was deeply stirred by John Standring (and the unfortunate women in the film! )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d been thinking about the fanfic too — Sparkhouse fanfic used to be my favorite kind (before Bagginshield took over my life).

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  8. Thank you Servetus for this wonderful post! When I look at the pictures of John/RA they almost make me cry… still !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think I can pick a favourite moment – the whole performance is so moving. It’s interesting to read that he felt the character was against type and that he had to go to the audition in character to stand a chance. With the exception of Porter ( where I felt RA introduced a kindness and empathy that probably wasn’t in the original script) I can’t think of another character that has allowed him to show this level of vulnerability, nativity and humility. And his success probably means he doesn’t get offered that type of role now – which is our loss as, in my opinion, this is where he shines brightest.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Wholly in love – I can only read the first couple sentences cause I’m on the way out but when Stranding said “don’t think you can’t tell me things” after the wedding I melted.

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  11. Oh, thank you for this, you posted MORE than one John Standring photo! There were many scenes that I loved, the thumb caress being one of them. I loved the scene where she is washing the blood off of his face, and the necklace scene was almost unbearable to watch, it was so sad. I think I’m going to have to watch it again this weekend!

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  12. Thanks for including his thoughts in this role. I watched it for the first time last year and really enjoyed it. I love how he makes John so awkward and yet filled with a quiet strength and a need to protect. I think after it ends, they have a pretty good chance at a happy marriage.

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    • The fanfic authors were fairly evenly split on that issue — there was a lot of hostility toward Carol and lot of self-insertion going on where the author eliminated Carol in favor of an OC.

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      • Really? Interesting. Not how I felt about it at all. She was what she was and dealt with what life gave her in the only way she knew how. And he loved her, for it and in spite of it. My take.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I wasn’t hostile to her but I didn’t think the relationship would have taken a positive turn. I don’t think she’d have ever loved him, and eventually he’d have realized that she wasn’t worth the work. But my general assumption is that relationships don’t really change people much, especially in the short run.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I had in my mind that they both had a very practical streak and that she wanted to build a successful and stable life very different from her past. So I thought that both of the would have worked hard at maintaining the partnership and enjoyed the comfort of the relationship.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think that’s reasonable. Part of my problem is that I didn’t find the plot device of them marrying very realistic in the first place. I enjoy “arranged marriage / forced marriage” strands in fanfic but it something realistic it doesn’t really fly for me. However, there were also a lot of fanfics written in that direction (Standring paired with an OC due some kind of constraining framework) and I read those too 🙂

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