Abandoning role agnosticism, or: In praise of Armitage human

•June 16, 2018 • 16 Comments

Richard Armitage as Chop in Urban and the Shed Crew — as Chop has descended into addiction.

What roles should Richard Armitage be pursuing? I have typically said: “On principle, I don’t know.”

I try to remain agnostic as to role choice, apart from believing that Armitage is at his best on stage and preferring live action of any kind to voice acting, narrations or voiceovers. But I lack data. I don’t get to see what he throws his hat in the ring for, what he’s offered and turns down, or what he gets offered but can’t make work. I’ve stayed out of the frequent debates over whether his agent(s) represent him effectively for the same reason. I figure they have more information than we do, he has more information than we do, and Armitage is the best person to say what he wants. Moreover I don’t enjoy pining for a particular prospective role; I find both doing it and reading about it exhausting and aggravating. I was really invested this spring in following the course of the announced stage appearance, and on edge because the scheduling would have been hard to manage for me and expensive given the time-frame for decision-making, and then crushed when it didn’t materialize after all. Now, of course, we know that he probably decided to spend the time with his mother, which is what he should have been doing and any of us who’d had the opportunity would have done. And this fact should be a reminder to me that I created the problem of unhappiness for myself by allowing myself to be drawn out of my resolve to be agnostic. I let myself build up too many expectations. So I haven’t published (and won’t) a lot of stuff here about role rumors unless I find the role particuarly interesting, or the rumor seems very solid. It’s often hard to figure out the difference between an actual rumor and wishful thinking propagated by fellow fans. In recompense for trying to keep myself from engaging in wishful thinking, I allow myself the freedom as fan to respond frankly to actual castings and then to the projects as they appear. These approaches make me an uncomfortable fan, both because I don’t share in the camaraderie of speculation, and because my judgments are not comfortable for every reader.

So tonight I’m going to break the first rule about avoiding wishing for anything role-wise, and I’m going to say what I wish Armitage would do.

I want him to play real people.

Richard Armitage as Kenneth in Love, Love, Love: “I’m serious. I want to talk to you. I want you to be honest, this isn’t funny” (p. 83).

I’d been thinking this in fairly vague terms since seeing Love, Love, Love. Kenneth is in many ways a caricature, but there were still “real” moments in that play that spoke to me, particularly his repeated pleas to his wife to be sincere with him. There were moments of genuine pain and desire on Armitage’s face. I thought it would have been no huge step from this role to something like Edward Albee or Tennesee Williams, admittedly not my favorite playwrights, but who wrote plays with a lot of emotional depth and conflict. In contrast, Daniel Miller confused me a bit, insofar as the show builds almost nothing into the character and it’s increasingly hard to sympathize with that nothing after the first season. In season one, we at least knew how he felt about his family and his past (confused, conflicted) and we could ponder his problem of being hunted by his own bosses, but in season two, although it would have been easy to build that in, in terms of showing his relationship to the neo-Nazis he was infiltrating, the showrunners apparently decided not to.

After the second season of Berlin Station, I thought, okay, Castlevania, Wolverine, why not. These genre roles are popular and they let people know who he is. And he does make something out of genre roles; he’s not just a placeholder; he adds value. I think every day about Thorin Oakenshield, and even if I still shudder about Francis Dolarhyde, that only demonstrates that he made an impact on me. If Daniel Miller is what’s on offer — well, genre roles are deeper than that, the aspersion cast at them notwithstanding. And since that’s all the rage right now, building up his geekdom street cred will keep him in work and me seeing him.

But then: Chop.

Richard Armitage as Chop in Urban and the Shed Crew.

I’ve only seen it a few times — I don’t want to keep paying on-demand fees to see it, and Candida Brady has tweeted that a DVD won’t be available until September, which I think given her track record is a somewhat optimistic prediction. I kept pausing it and rewinding it so I could watch certain pieces repeatedly. You could almost call it “not wanting to let it end.” But nonetheless, one thing is clear — Chop is a human, less a caricature than any other character Armitage has played in quite some time. Admittedly, if we look at his indie “lost period” the competition for human verisimilitude isn’t very challenging. Chop is more fully developed than Raymond de Merville (who needed to be shown largely without sympathy to achieve the filmmaker’s propagandistic purpose), Tom Cahalan (who’s trapped as a character between a bad script and the need to play a real person who’s probably hard to talk about honestly), and Scott White (who’s primarily Ahna O’Reilly’s character’s wish fulfillment and not real at all). Chop has a subtle interior life, a conscience that chooses between real alternatives rather simply obeying a genre character’s compulsion, he is mightily flawed, he’s conflicted, he has his own ends rather than serving the ends of other people or the purposes of the story, he goes on a journey, he is often self-contradictory, he changes, wanes, waxes.

Not that some genre characters don’t do some of these things, too — but Chop is more relatable than all of these, as he lives in a world that resembles one I can recognize, one that is not determined by the fantasy lives of its authors or the stylized aestheticism of its own conventions. It is a world that I can move through. Above all, we can imagine a different ending for the human Chop in ways that are impossible for most of the other characters that Armitage has played recently.

Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) and Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) kiss for their lives in Ocean’s 8. One thing you’ve gotta say about Armitage: he always looks like he’s enjoying the heck out of kissing.

Seeing Claude Becker on screen only intensified this desire. Perhaps paradoxically — in that Becker is even slightly of a caricature than Kenneth was, a step backward, so to speak. But he has a real face (although, after several viewings, I’m not convinced he has all of Armitage’s real hair). He wears (except for one or two scenes) real clothing. I can see real wrinkles. He’s not a fully realized person. But he is enough of one that he makes me hungry for more: reality, verisimilitude, humanity. Not a hero, not a villain. A human working through the same problems we all work through. Lucas North, John Porter, John Mulligan, John Standring, and even Tornado Gary had these problems and in different ways, both Chop and Claude Becker reminded me that we used to see Armitage regularly as a normal human and that we used to identify with those characters and their problems.

Armitage said in the Paris interviews recently that when he picks a character he prefers someone much better than him (he said this quite a while ago, too) or worse because people like him are boring. I can’t venture to say whether his self-assessment is true; but I don’t think that real people are boring. I know those multi-faceted dramatic roles are hard to come by and a long stint as a genre character or even a franchise may be necessary for him to obtain possibilities. But I hope, if they come along, he doesn’t reject them only because they aren’t sufficiently heroic or villainous, or because they are too much like him.

Because one thing I do know about real people: their mutability, their indeterminate endings, their sense that their life does not serve only one purpose call forth my emotions and identifications in a way that it’s hard for a genre character to do. This is not to criticize genre characters so much as to point out that one task of drama is to help us deal cathartically with our real lives as they are, not only as they exist in our fantasies. I would welcome it if Armitage were able to return to more of that kind of activity.

Richard Armitage tangentially related

•June 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Film press is finally turning down the noise on Ocean’s 8 a bit, although there were still many alerts to read because of the London premiere this week. In my local chain, the showings available have been reduced by about half, which suggests they think there are still many people who will want to see it. I expected a bit greater reduction as this weekend’s opening in the U.S. is The Incredibles 2, which is hotly anticipated.

Ocean’s 8:

Berlin Station:

  • THR reviews EPIX’s new series, Deep State. Included here because of this evaluation: “The references to current events and international relations are rote, definitely less nuanced and invested than Epix’s otherwise similar Berlin Station.” Hard to figure. Summary: watch it for Mark Strong and for solid production values. Reminder that EPIX is running a free streaming weekend this weekend if you are interested in seeing it (presumably only in the U.S.).

The Hobbit:

  • Screen Rants on “sweethearts” and “not sweethearts” in the Hobbit / LOTR casts. Since I got into a frankly stupid discussion about this on Twitter, I’ll note for the record that I don’t endorse every assertion in this article. There are at least two factual errors I’m aware of. I agree with some interpretations and not with others. However, I also learned a few things that I didn’t know. And yes, before one believes these things one must seek out and evaluate the source.


Stop Cyberbullying Day (blerg):

Eid-al-Fitr 2018/1439: Eid Mubarak

•June 15, 2018 • 3 Comments

Happy Eid to those who are marking the day!


Eid Mubarak to Muslims around the world celebrating Eid-al-Fitr after a month of fasting. I hope you all have a day full of happiness, love and blessings as well as lots of delicious food. Lets also be sure to remember all those who continue to suffer around the world, may they find peace and ease soon and may we all be grateful for everything we have.

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Richard Armitage invites

•June 15, 2018 • 10 Comments

Here we are again. After Armitage signed up for the Cyberbullying Day thunderclap I realized we were in for it again. Blech. I’d been thinking about it and thought, you know, your position on this bullshit is clear, you’ve got nothing new to say. And then some stuff happened in the fandom that made me think, yeah, you do have something to say. Particularly in the current political atmosphere. So I guess we’ll see how I’m doing on the day and how embattled I’m willing to feel. I actually don’t enjoy conflict. I do enjoy reality, though.

But I’d like to note today that when I try to click on the link in this tweet I get a 504 bad gateway error. It reproduces on my dad’s computer. I’ll try it later from another ISP, too. However, the most common cause for that error is that there’s a server somewhere that isn’t responding quickly enough. So is it really the case that Cybersmile’s server arrangement is overloaded just by Armitage’s fans clicking on the site? Shouldn’t they have anticipated this? The other possibility is that there’s some other error (wrong DNS assignment), but again, you gotta ask, these people are about Cyberstuff and they don’t have this under control?

Armitage mature

•June 15, 2018 • 22 Comments

Richard Armitage, image disseminated by Audible in conjunction with release of Their Lost Daughters, June 14, 2018 (photographer: Dan Kennedy?)

This was my favorite of the two images we received today. Not so much because of the facial expression — is this in character? — although it’s better for me than the other (and the clutching at the coat does nothing for me at all). It reminds me most of the Robert Ascroft photos taken in 2012, which have remained my favorite series over the years.

But, it’s something simpler and more apparent that makes this photo speak to me: it’s that you can see that this is a man in his forties.

I am aware of the eternal running after the youth market in Hollywood and the entertainment industry more generally. I get that it might be easier for someone younger looking to find certain kinds of roles. I also understand that many people regard their own aging with distaste, and there have been signs from time to time that Armitage might be such a one. Boyish Armitage has his place and I enjoy those photos, too.

Those concessions made: this picture shows a sovereign individual who’s seen a few things, who’s done a few things, who’s frowned from time to time and whose face shows it. This might be Rowan Jackman. But if so, he’s wearing Richard Armitage’s face, and Richard Armitage is strong, and shows the signs of experience — the arched eyebrow, the slight wrinkles, a little grey at the margins of his hair.

We have heard many songs of Armitage’s innocence over the years and they remain beautiful. But this photo is a song of experience, a reflection of someone in the prime of his power who shows that he has lived, and is living, his life. Someone with a firm energy and a curious mind, a sensitive approach based on a fearless personality, one that can only come from living.

I don’t know if Richard Armitage is always that person — but I’d like to think so — and this photo suggests it could be true.

Richard Armitage directly and tangentially related

•June 15, 2018 • 8 Comments

I need a little clarity here. Dad is preparing to go on a fishing trip. Chaos ensues. Uch. I’m not sure how his marriage survived these moments.

Anyway, lots of links today.

There’s also this, which I liked, but not as much as the photo I posted earlier today.

Their Lost Daughters:

  • You may have noticed that audiobook dropped today, not just pics and vid. If you’re on the fence, there’s an audio sample here.
  • Guessing that the photographer of today’s stunning new pictures of Richard Armitage may be Dan Kennedy (he did the photoshoot for the series promotion).

Ocean’s 8:

Brain on Fire:

My Zoe:

Berlin Station:

  • If you still haven’t seen it, I got an email that EPIX has free streaming this weekend and I assume the series is included, although they are promoting their new series, Deep State. (I assume this means “in the U.S.”).



OT but interesting to me:

Richard Armitage reduces me to a puddle

•June 14, 2018 • 16 Comments


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