An interpretive take on the lock-in interview


~ by Servetus on September 12, 2020.

9 Responses to “An interpretive take on the lock-in interview”

  1. I’m an introverted generation x-er that’s enjoyed several different versions of A Christmas Carol and spent hours upon hours watching Richard Armitage interviews through the years while observing his behavior, and yet I still think looking to Scrooge for advice on how to be a happy hermit is an odd choice. that doesn’t mean it’s a wrong choice, it just means I don’t see that character the same way that he does.


    • I thought this was a worthwhile read, which is why I linked it. But I was not on board with pieces of this analysis either (I am starting to shut down when I hear the word “ambivert.” I think he is almost certainly a Jungian “I” and he pretty much confirmed that in the interview where he said he likes to be quiet at home after the theatre. He said he sees hundreds of people at the theatre who engage with his work, and after that he wants / needs to be alone. That’s a classic “I” statement. You can absolutely be an introvert and still have no problem functioning well in public, in front of audiences. I always say “I’m not an extrovert but I play one at work.” The point is that you don’t find interactions with others energizing. If you’re going to interject “ambivert” into the discussion you more or less make the interpretive distinctions of the MBTI meaningless, as they are all based on I/E divisions. So then you can also say what you like about introversion or extraversion. Which, frankly, is what a lot of people seem to do on Twitter.)

      For one thing I am far from confident that Scrooge was necessarily his choice. It might be. We know he appreciates Dickens. However, it could be that Digital Theatre Plus, which is a service that sell itself to educational campuses, wanted some kind of discussion of that character, as it is one that students are likely to play. Or that they gave him some suggestions and this was one that he picked from a group of options. Or, it could be that it was his choice, but it’s because he’s likely to play the character this winter, as A Christmas Carol is a very common British production over the holidays. (I’ll say more about this in a second.) So I think the question of whether he feels some strong personal affinity to Scrooge and picked the character himself for that reason is unanswered — that may be the case, as he says that he did prepare for this interview, or it may not. Any argument based on what someone is not saying is speculative (and I make those arguments myself from time to time. It’s just that what remains unsaid is a different kind of evidence than what is said). But if we are talking “roles Armitage most wants to play,” that has long been a tossup between Richard III and Macbeth, and a lot of people were surprised by this choice because of that. I think he’s “over” Richard III but I was a bit surprised that he didn’t pick Macbeth.

      I won’t reify his characterization of Scrooge as an anti-hero, either, just because Scrooge precisely represents a conventional morality of his day — that people should work hard, have only as many children as they can afford on their wages, and not burden the public. That’s one of the points Dickens tries to make in that story — that the rigors of Victorian morality needs to be tempered with something else (which is represented by the Cratchits, and also by Scrooge’s dream of his lost love). In general in his work, Dickens resorts to sentimentality (also beloved of the Victorians — which is why he was such a successful author in his own day) to make this sort of point, and A Christmas Carol is no exception. So the fact that Scrooge ultimately rejects his initial POV to ally with generosity and kindness (“the spirit of Christmas” he chooses) means that he is ultimately just opting into another conventional morality of the day. (And indeed, one of the problems of the story is that every moment of it is a cliché. I always forget that Armitage really goes for the epic / mythic roles. I’ve written about it often enough!)

      In general, I’m with you. I’m an introverted X-er. I’ve been watching Armitage’s interviews for ten years, I’ve observed his behavior from afar and on stage live and at stage doors, and I’ve got the usual cultural familiarity with A Christmas Carol. I imagine there will eventually be a transcript of what he says about Scrooge (or maybe I’ll get frustrated and transcribe it myself), and maybe there will be more careful discussion of it then. I didn’t find what he said about Scrooge to be terribly coherent / consistent, and I didn’t agree with all of it. Part of why I hypothesized that maybe he’s preparing to play this character is that (a) I actually don’t think he’s much like Scrooge at all — liking to be alone (Armitage) is not the same as being a misanthrope (Scrooge) — so that his argument for that seemed to me a bit like protesting too much and (b) we know that this technique — finding the sympathetic part of a character, humanizing a caricature — is part of his technique for preparing a role. I watched the section where he says that we can identify with neglecting love or happiness in favor of success, which can disappear, very carefully, because I wondered if there were tells (also given what Pace said two years ago about love in that long interview), but I don’t really think there were any obvious ones. But as you note, it seems like an unassailable point that Scrooge is not happy before the final night of dreaming. If we were going to pick a “happy hermit,” who would we pick? Yoda, maybe, or Obi-wan Kenobi, or Radagast the Brown?

      To me, what he said about UV ended up being more convincing and insightful than what he said about Scrooge.


      • I think the author’s intent was to get us to take a closer look at why Richard may have picked that character and for what reasons, but I found the wording a little condescending. that may be b/c it seemed to switch from informing those who may not be familiar with Richard, to actual fans of Richard who were criticizing his choice of character. relating to what made Scrooge grumpy, sacrificing love and other regrets, makes more sense to me than striving to be happy in solitude. I’m just stuck on that detail! as for a true happy hermit, Bilbo seemed to be content before the dwarfs and Gandalf shook his life up 😛


        • Bilbo — indeed! (apart from Lobelia Sackville-Baggins).

          Yeah, there was definitely some APM in this piece, that expressed itself as “if you truly understood Richard [as I do], you would embrace his POV.” A lot of what she writes here about how actors work goes without saying and I agree that could create the impression of condescension. There’s also the problem that most readers haven’t seen the whole interview. My response would be that any reading is subject to the demands of persuasion and that “I understand him better than you” is not really persuasive (for reasons we have already articulated). I don’t think I really need to get involved in any competition with another fan for “time spent analyzing Armitage’s work, life, and statements.” But he’s (according to her) her muse, so he probably needs to correspond more closely to her demands of him than would be the case for someone like me.

          Liked by 2 people

      • *** should add that his familiarity with Michael Caine as Scrooge (and the soundtrack) made me think he might have been at least looking at previous portrayals of Scrooge in preparation for his own.


      • Which Pace interview are you referring to?


  2. Perhaps he was just just jealous that Rhys Ifans got to play Ebenezer at the Old Vic lol


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