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 returned to Britain to pursue a career in musical theater. He appeared on stage in various musicals, including Cats as Admetus and Macavity.
Dissatisfied with this career path, he returned to school to study acting 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 completing LAMDA’s three year program 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).
Then in 2004 he appeared in his first leading role, that of 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.”
In 2005, he played Peter MacDuff in Macbeth as part of the BBC’s ShakespeaRe-Told series and appeared in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries episode “In Divine Proportion” as recovering gambling addict and suspect Phillip Turner. He starred in the BBC’s The Impressionists, in which he played the young Claude Monet, and as Dr Alec Track in ITV’s The Golden Hour, a medical series based on the London Air Ambulance. He also played his first substantial role in movies with the independent film Frozen.
In 2006, Armitage took on the 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.” “I have to say I think baddies are always the most fun to play because you get to be rude and aggressive and you get to do things that you can’t really do in everyday life. We have to be civilized and nice and polite. And when you play the bad guys you get to play all those notes of your personality. There’s a little bit of me in Guy, I think, sort of the aggressiveness. No, it’s great fun; I love it.” The final series of Robin Hood, series 3, started on 28 March 2009.
Armitage appeared in a two-part 2006 Christmas special of The Vicar of Dibley, as Harry Kennedy – the vicar’s new love interest (and eventual husband). He reprised the role in 2007 for Red Nose Day. On 8 April 2007, he starred in George Gently, a detective drama, with Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby. Armitage played biker Ricky Deeming. On 9 May 2007, he appeared in the BBC Four production of Miss Marie Lloyd – Queen of The Music Hall. playing Marie Lloyd’s first husband, Percy Courtenay. He also appeared in the Granada TV production of Agatha Christie’s novel Ordeal by Innocence as the character Philip Durrant.
Armitage joined the cast of Spooks for series 7 which began on 27 October 2008, in the UK, as the character Lucas North. “On the surface Lucas is an amiable character but eight years in a Russian prison has had a profound effect on him. His personality is divided between who he was before he was imprisoned, the prisoner, and the person he has become. He has an outer facade which is personable, but underneath is someone who has been through a big trauma…He has no knowledge of how damaged he is emotionally until memories start to work their way to the surface.” “I love films with a combination of action and good characters. That’s why Lucas is interesting as I get to play someone with a complex psychology who goes out there and tries to save the world.” Armitage gained notoriety during the filming of series 7 when he allowed himself to be subjected to waterboarding in order to film a flashback sequence.
In March 2009, he 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 appeared in the BBC1 drama Moving On as John Mulligan.
In May 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?” Elsewhere he said, “In the end it was the character I was attracted to, the story of a man who makes a decision under pressure and that decision has a knock-on effect on his whole life. He goes in search of atonement still believing he did the right thing even though it cost the lives of three of his friends….I admire the tenacity of standing up and saying “I made a mistake, I’m going to take the consequences. I’m going to search out the reason it was a mistake.” There’s anger and there’s injustice. It’s like, “I did the right thing, with the wrong outcome.””
Sky1 has commissioned a second series of “Strike Back”, due to be broadcast late in 2011.
In recent years, Richard Armitage has also performed a great deal of voice work such as reading poetry for various radio programmes and starring as Robert Lovelace in BBC Radio 4′s production of Clarissa: A History of a Young Lady in April 2010. He has recorded audio books from those based on BBC’s “Robin Hood”, to Bernard Cornwel’s The Lords of the North, to three Georgette Heyer novels for Naxos AudioBooks: Sylvester, Venetia, and The Convenient Marriage which was released in August 2010. He has provided the narration for documentaries such as “Homes From Hell”, “Empire’s Children”, “Too Poor for Posh School?”, “Forest Elephants: Rumble in the Jungle”, and “Surgery School”. He has also provided the voice over for several advertisements.
In addtion to his role as Thorin in “The Hobbit” trilogy, Armitage had a small role in “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), and just completed work on the film “Black Sky” (2013).
- 2006-2009 Robin Hood (TV Series)
- 2002-2010 MI-5 (TV Series)
- 2011 – Captain America: The First Avenger