One of the better Paris interviews with Richard Armitage [English translation]

Source. I put this together this by correcting a machine translation, which isn’t ideal but it’s fast. This is the only interview I read that I felt really gave us a sense that the interviewer had talked to Armitage the person (as opposed to Armitage the publicity man).


Richard Armitage loves creative disobedience – Interview for Berlin Station

Richard Armitage was on his way through Paris to present his new espionage series, Berlin Station, in which he plays a CIA agent sent to the German capital to flush out the source of a whistleblower. He returns without double talk about his approach to the profession and on his choices – voluntary or otherwise – in an already prolific career where he navigates between large productions and independent films, between big screen and small skylight, while offering a few theatrical escapades. The broadcast of Berlin Station begins this April 15th on 13eme Rue.

Are you as afraid of Americans as the Berlin Station theme song, David Bowie’s I‘m Afraid of Americans?

Richard Armitage: I remember where I was when I heard our credits for the first time. I was about to promote the show in Los Angeles. The American election campaign was in full swing, so the song struck me. We should all be scared. Not just Americans but all who are in such a powerful position. This song remains a rather cool choice for our series.


Are you an actor who, like many, uses music to prepare a role?

Yes. I use music all the time. This is the fastest way to get into the character. I can read a lot of things and load my mind with lots of information but when I’m on a set, the quickest way for me to find the character is through music.

What music, for example?

On Berlin Station season 1, I was listening to the original soundtrack of the movie The Lives of Others (2006), one of my favorite movies of recent years. It was not until later that I discovered that the director of photography of the film, Hagen Bogdanski, was also our director of photography on Berlin Station. The soundtrack is quite old school but it really helped me to find the rhythm of the series, the inner spirit of the character, who is a kind of loner facing a very complicated world.


The rhythm of Season 2 seems faster.

Yes, indeed. I listened to music less for that one. I guess it’s because my character is undercover from that point and my readings were more useful then. I was looking for more information on the news, which was not lacking at that time. France was in an election period, like Poland, Austria or (again) Germany. When we were shooting Season 2, there were real demonstrations of the far right even though we had created a fake few streets away.

It’s never easy to create a series that borrows from the news.

No, it’s always slightly late.

It can very quickly get off topic.

Yes, we were aware of it. We seek to be relevant but without being too specific. We have to stay in a fictional world. If you talk about the US presidential election, for example, you’re already overwhelmed when you air. We will see what the main theme of Season 3 is. I do not know it yet.

Season 3 has been confirmed.

Yes, but I do not know if I’m part of it yet.

You don’t die at the end of Season 2.

I know, but I have not been asked yet. I’ll see. (Smile)

You often die in movies and series.

Indeed. I have this quality that people want to destroy. (Smile)

Is it in your contract? Do you have a clause that says “I want to die”?

(Smile) I do not know where it comes from. I must have something that makes people want to beat me up or kill me. Or to want to see me participate in violent acts, although I am the most peaceful of people you could meet. And yet my characters are always hurting people.

Which death is your favorite? That of Thorin in The Hobbit ?

I think so. It had already affected me when I read the book as a child. As soon as you have the role, you know that you will have to play this scene at one point during the shooting and it is a monumental death, very noble. I had no room for error. It had to be noble and beautiful. But the writers wrote a scene so fantastic that it was not difficult to interpret.

If I count MI-5 and Strike Back, this is your third spy series. In the first two, you were treated to the torture technique of waterboarding (a simulacrum of drowning). Never two without three? [“three times makes a charm?”]

No! (Laughs) I learned my lesson well. On MI-5, I agreed to experience it to see what it was about. On Strike Back, it was out of the question. Never again! On Strike Back, it’s a rigged scene. It only lasted about 20 seconds on MI-5, but that was enough for life. What an idiot I was! Why did I do that?

Is it the most extreme physical experience you’ve ever had on a shoot?

No. The worst was the underwater scene in Captain America: The First Avenger. I’m just terrified by the water. I had to dive quite deeply into the water. It was the first time I went down so deep and when I looked to the surface … I can say that it was a trial for me. I still have nightmares. (Laughter)

To return to Berlin Station, how did you create your character? On The Hobbit for the role of Thorin or Hannibal for the role of Francis Dolarhyde aka Red Dragon, you had the books as a reference but on Berlin Station, what did you use? The script? Discussions with the showrunner? Your own imagination?

All of it together. I had the script, I could talk with the showrunner. We exchanged some ideas and then I wrote my own biography for my character. I use everything I can. For a project like Berlin Station, the theme is rarely linked to the past but rather to the present and the future. But it is important for me to create a past in order to give memories or experiences to my character that will help him in situations in the present. I really like this process. I created a photo album of his life in Germany, I wrote some notes about his family, his work, his military training … So, I can take inspiration from it whenever I need it for a scene.

Are you the instinctive type, or more of a type who thinks a long time before you start a scene?

A bit of both. I begin with as much reading as possible, the better to move away from them afterwards. Then I watch movies, just for fun. Finally, I use music. Thus, when I’m on the set, I already have everything in place in my head and I can play instinctively, be responsive. I think there’s nothing more boring than watching an actor thinking on the screen. Everything must already be thought out well before the shoot.

Do you think an actor is like a spy? Both must wear a mask and adopt other personalities.

Totally. In Season 2, my character is undercover and has to pretend to be someone else. The writers wanted to give him a different accent and a different approach. I still remember wondering if a spy would really take the same approach as an actor to create another personality. He has to become a real person, not a fictional person. In my opinion, everything depends on the knowledge he has of the person he has to become and less by his voice or his way of moving.

Do you think you would be a good spy?

I do. I have this ability to disappear in public places. I can make myself invisible, so that people do not notice me when I walk on the street. I do not know where it comes from.

Because being famous you want to escape the paparazzi and disappear in the crowd?

Perhaps. Just lower your head a little, keep a low profile and then people look through you, without seeing you. Yes, I think I’d make a good spy.

Berlin Station is a series with a complicated history that takes its time. Did you feel this way while you were reading the script or shooting it?

Yes, but it’s mainly because the other series that I watch usually start with an important or shocking event that must be used to keep viewers in front of their screen. In fact, it’s just a trick. Progressively unfolding a story like Berlin Station is an equally effective process. If you get to know the characters gradually and they are sufficiently captivating, you stay with the story. But I’m not sure if the audience is coming back for a good story or good characters. I think it’s great to have both, but I think the audience would not stay if the story is good and the characters are not. They come back for the characters. Watching Big Little Lies, the plot was not really much of one. What was interesting were these lives, these characters. In a sense, the plot was rather vague and hidden. I have the feeling with this series, you wanted to follow the life of these characters. With a spy thriller, the difficulty is that the plot is crucial. This is what binds the characters. They react to the plot. This is the dilemma of the writers. But it’s always easier to watch a series when it’s brilliant, like Big Little Lies or The Handmaid’s Tale. The latter is quite traumatic, as well. But in both cases, I was impatient to see the next episode.

And in Berlin Station?

I haven’t seen any episodes. I play in it, so I do not need to see the show. (Smile)

But even if you have the main role, it’s still an ensemble series and it also has many sub-plots and scenes where you do not appear.

But I read all the scripts. It’s too much for me to see my own work. I prefer to watch the work of others. (Laughter)

I have not seen all that you have done, but you often portray sullen and dark characters, while you seem to be the opposite in life.

It’s hard to be light in Berlin Station. I tried to find some humor but I am at the mercy of the writers. You can’t have a go at something when there’s nothing to have a go at. (Laughs) Berlin Station has a serious subject. Politics is a serious subject. It is very hard to find lightness in my character. And yet, I tried. (Laughter)

Do not you want to act in a comedy someday?

I did it last year in Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett, a play on Broadway. It was refreshing. I’m still chasing a good comedy. Always.

You mention the theater. What brings you to the stage that you do not find in cinema or television?

It’s very different. You usually work with complex texts and you have control of the narrative for two hours or two and a half hours without interruption. And I love that. I like this responsibility of holding a show in my hands and offer it to the public. I come from the theater and it’s always a happy moment for me to be on stage. I love the energy. It’s like being on a moving train that you cannot get off.

And you work without a net.

Without a net. If you make a mistake, you must adapt and continue.

I always thought that the theater was the medium of the actor, the film that of the director and the series that of the screenwriter.

Absolutely. Totally. And in a film, you are always at the mercy of the editor’s and director’s choices. In a series, you are at the mercy of the authors for the unfolding of the story, hoping that they are good writers. But on stage, once the piece has started, the creative team and the director are gone, it’s just the audience and you. Then it’s just you. You have control. It’s awesome.

If you had to choose between the three, would you take the stage?

(He bites his lip). I would not want to have to choose. But I suppose that in the last ten years of my career, I would be very happy if I could be on stage every night. Without theater at the end of my career, I would be dissatisfied.

You have gone into film and TV to make a name for yourself.


Was it also in order to earn enough money to then act in the theater?

It was less for the money and more to be known and so to be cast and play roles in the theater. It is therefore surprising to have done so little theater in recent years. (Laughter)

When you acted in The Hobbit, the project was important and everyone talked about it. How has this changed your career?

The success of the film, both public and financial, opened up many work opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. And the effect has not completely faded yet. I was lucky.

Yet after The Hobbit, you have appeared more in small productions and TV series than in big blockbusters of the importance of The Hobbit.

I took what was offered to me. It was not always my choice. (Laughter)

Do you remember why you wanted to become an actor?

(He thinks) At the base, I sang and danced. I was working in musicals, on stage, and everyone told me to smile as if I enjoyed what I was doing. I then told myself that if I was really enjoying what I was doing, I would have smiled. I hadn’t chosen the right path in the medium of the musical. I have always been a big reader and that has always fueled my imagination. In each book, it was as if I lived the story. While studying William Shakespeare for my school exams, I went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Stratford’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and I could not believe what was happening before my eyes. This exchange between the audience and the actors on stage. I realized that was what I wanted to do.

And what do you like about this job?

I like that the days are never the same. I like that each new role opens up new horizons, new fields of research. I’m learning so much. I love music, art and literature and I can use them in my profession. These are my work tools.

How would you describe your evolution as an actor since you started?

I think everything has to do with the fact that today I’m not afraid anymore. At first, I was embarrassed to do something wrong or do things badly or make myself ridiculous. Today, I am almost looking for opportunities to be ridiculous or vulnerable or to make as much of a mistake as possible. In a sense, it’s now the opposite of being undercover.

Are you the actor you dreamed of being when you started?

Not yet. I am not yet fearless enough. It’s in waves, actually. But I have already approached this dream. There were moments, especially during Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which I performed on stage, where I felt I had no control over things. That’s what I’m looking for: to lose control.

You often play bad guys. What do you like in these characters?

I like disobedience. I like the fact that you can be disobedient thanks to your creativity. As a person, I must always be polite in life, be careful and correct so as not to hurt anyone. In a fantasy world, I can be as offensive as I want. It’s an outlet. (Laughter)

Is it true that you auditioned for Pennywise for the movie, IT?

Yes. That was a good character. Each audition is an opportunity for me to explore something unique for a few moments. If I get the role, it’s great. If I do not get it, it’s still a good experience.

Many actors are moving to directing. Is this also your goal?

I would like to, but I do not think I’m smart enough. I am good when it comes to working with another’s vision. I do not think I have that creative spontaneity that creates a vision from scratch. But the future will tell.

If so, do you already have a project in mind?

Not yet. On the other hand, I have a project as a producer that I dream of developing. It’s called Bridget Cleary. It’s a kind of Irish love story about a husband burning his wife at the stake because he thinks she’s a witch.

It looks nice …

It’s a bit dark, indeed. (Laughter)

~ by Servetus on April 15, 2018.

16 Responses to “One of the better Paris interviews with Richard Armitage [English translation]”

  1. THANK you, Serv.


    • je vous en prie. You have only to ask for a language I can read. Most of the stuff so far has been really repetitive, though.


  2. Thanks for the translation! I know he doesn’t like to watch himself act, but he hasn’t seen any BS episodes? Ok, that can’t even be true since he live-tweeted a few in S1. And it’s not like he’d have to see himself act in S2 since he’s on screen so little, lol. But seriously, I’ve wondered how he could truly be satisfied with S2, and I guess the answer is “Ignorance is bliss.”


    • He has to see at least his own scenes when he does ADR, and I think b/c of the accent issue he did quite a bit of ADR for Berlin Station.


      • Good point. I guess what I find odd is what seems like his lack of interest in how the whole thing hangs together beyond his own piece in it.


        • fwiw, I read this as a bit defensive. (Hard to say given the translation into French and back again and it wasn’t there — she followed up when she didn’t have to and he deflected.) There is a lot of stuff from his early career where he describes watching himself as “excruciating.” So I don’t know if it’s necessarily that he is uninterested. I know in my own life that I have never been able to reread my published work. I hear about it from other people but I never looked at it myself. And that’s true with the blog here, as well.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks a lot for the translation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Since WP ate my (longer) comment… thank you for the translation, made it a lot easier to understand!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for this. Interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. He tried out for Pennywise the Clown!?!?


  7. Thank you, i really enjoyed reading it though the interviewer was a bit aggressive in my opinion or just didn’t know when to change subject. But very interesting, especially they way he talks about acting now and where he feels his skills are and what he wants to achieve. I am and at the same time i am not surprised he now wants to feel a bit out of control, since his approach always seemed to be a lot of control, information, etc but seems that with more opportunities for improv and all that and some more recent stage experience (ie in recent years) he wants to control the prep but seeks freedom in the act. Interesting 🙂 I wonder if this means he wants to take on more risky roles and what that in turn would mean..
    Also interesting the statements about not always having the choice in roles or they way they are set out etc. Not as a major quibble but nevertheless fascinating that statement does crop up now and again.
    I also enjoyed those quick fire questions, yes on Star Trek :- And had a laugh when he blurted out Dumbledore and also regretted it; suspect maybe there was some tiny bit of regret about wanting the role in the recent movies and maybe that’s why it was more at the forefront of his mind 🙂 I would have enjoyed seeing him i think in the role (though i haven’t watched the 1st one in the new series). But what can one do, few really interesting or unusual parts out there and many good actors.
    I wonder if he would be interested in playing Lord Asriel…..


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