Richard Armitage (born 22 August 1971) is an English actor. At 17 he joined a circus in Budapest for 6 weeks to gain his Equity Card. Armitage then returned to Britain to pursue his interest in musical theater. He appeared on stage in various musicals, including Cats as Admetus and Macavity.
In time, Armitage drew weary of musical theatre and returned to school to study acting, where he did so at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). “I had started on a certain road in musical theatre and I was about 21 when I suddenly thought this is not quite the right path I am taking. I needed to do something a bit more truthful than musical theatre. For me it was a bit too theatrical and all about standing on stage and showing off. I was looking for something else, so that’s why I went back to drama school.”
After graduating from LAMDA, he returned to stage to appear as a supporting player with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions of Macbeth and The Duchess of Malfi, as well as Hamlet and Four Alice Bakers with the Birmingham Repertory Theater while taking a series of small roles in television and films.
His first major television role was in the BBC drama Sparkhouse (2002) as the shy but noble John Standring. “It was the first time I went to an audition in character. It was a minor role but it was something I really got my teeth into…I couldn’t go back. I knew I had to approach everything the same way.” After this he took a variety supporting roles in the TV productions of Between the Sheets, Cold Feet (series 5), and Ultimate Force (Series 2).
In 2004, Armitage appeared in his first leading role as John Thornton, in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Armitage felt personally drawn to the role due to his northern working-class family background. “My father’s family were weavers and spinners. It was where I came from and it was exciting to think I could be a part of it.” He also cited Thorton’s dualism as drawing him to the character. “The dichotomy between the powerful, almost monstrous, entrepreneur and this kind of vulnerable boy is exciting for me to look at.”
Then in 2006, Armitage took on another major role of Sir Guy of Gisborne in the BBC series Robin Hood. “In order to sustain the character of Guy, you have to find the conflict within him. He’s constantly pulled between good and evil, between who he wants to be and who he actually is. He could have been a good man, but he is forever dragged down by his fatal flaw – that he wants glory at all costs.”
In March 2009, Armitage began filming for Series 8 of Spooks, which began airing in November 2009. In July 2010 he finished filming series 9, due to be broadcast in late September. On 20 May 2009, he also appeared in the BBC1 drama Moving On as John Mulligan.
In May of 2010, he starred as John Porter in “Strike Back” for Sky 1. On playing John Porter Armitage stated, “On paper it is pretty obvious what kind of drama “Strike Back” is, but the driving challenge for me and the scriptwriters and directors was to find the emotional centre of John Porter. How does a man become a trained killer and then go home and put his arms around his wife and rock his baby daughter to sleep? How can a soldier not have a conscience about what he is being asked to do?”
Sky1 has been signed on for a second series of “Strike Back”, due to be broadcast late in 2011.
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