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His name is... Richard Armitage

   Name
           Richard Crispin Armitage


   Born
           
22 August 1971 (age 39)
           Leicester, England, UK

   Height
           
6'2" (1.88 m)


           Richard Crispin Armitage was born on Sunday 22nd August 1971, in Leicester, UK, the second son of Margaret, a secretary, and John, an engineer. Richard is the younger of their two boys. The family grew up in a normal house, in a normal village.

            "I was quite solitary. I would be up in my room reading books so I developed a vivid imagination. Mum and dad were brilliant, always supported me, never pushed or dissuaded me.” 

   The difference between Richard and any other 14 year old boy is that he managed to persuade his parents to send him to Pattison’s Dancing Academy, now known as Pattison College.  Pattison’s, an independent school which specialised in performing arts, was the start of Richard’s training for his career as an actor. His interest in acting was born here. He has been quoted as saying that it was while he was at Pattison’s, during a school theatre trip, that he first realised that maybe this was the direction in which he wanted to take his life.

             "I remember having that moment of finally understanding what was going on. They were having such a good time and the audience was having such a good time and I just thought that was where I wanted to be. I remember thinking they were doing something they loved and they were getting paid for it” ***

             "It... instilled me with a discipline that has stood me in good stead - never to be late, to know your lines and to be professional."

   It gave its pupils opportunities to appear in local amateur and professional productions, and by the time Richard left school at 17, he had already appeared in Showboat, Half a Sixpence, as Bacchus in Orpheus and the Underworld and in The Hobbit at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.
   On leaving school Richard joined a physical theatre group based in Budapest, Hungary, for a short run. It enabled him to obtain his Equity card, which at that time in the UK was a requirement for a career as an actor.Here he "threw hoola hoops to a skateboarding Russian and held ladders for [a] juggling act…did guide roping for the trapeze, and…a weird kind of UV glow-in-the-dark mime illusion thing”. [4] Though he later described "sleeping next to the elephants” as "a low point in show business”, it was sufficient to gain him his Equity card, a pre-requisite at the time for entry to the profession. [1] His Equity card acquired, he returned to the UK and started working on the London stage. During these early years he appeared in a number of musicals including Cats, Annie Get Your Gun and 42nd Street.
   By 1995, inspired in part by seeing Adrian Noble’s classic 1994 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Stratford, he was laying the foundations of an acting career, appearing at the Actors’ Centre’s Tristram Bates Theatre as Macliesh in Willis Hall’s The Long and the Short and the Tall, and at the Old School Manchester as Henry in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, Flan in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation and Biff in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. He was also studying for a Society of British Fight Directors qualification.
   His next step was to enrol in an acting course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, LAMDA. He continued to gain experience acting in student productions. During his final year at LAMDA he spotted an advert on the college noticeboard that led to his brief but shining (and difficult to spot) role in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. It was a humble, though interesting, entry into film:

            "I felt very nervous saying my line - I had practised it for three weeks… I actually ended up as a computer graphic in the film, I think”.

Even Richard himself missed it when watching the film – he dropped his popcorn. That blink and you miss it role was a slow but steady start to a very successful career. To some die-hard Star Wars fans in Japan he was the number one attraction on a tour with the RSC.
   Graduating in the summer of 1998, he immediately joined the cast of Hamlet at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, having already appeared at the Edinburgh Festival as Cliff in William Mastrosimone’s two-hander The Woolgatherer, and as Henry in Tom Stoppard’s romantic comedy The Real Thing. Small parts in the films This Year’s Love and Franc Roddam’s Cleopatra followed. After appearing in Dylan Ritson’s A Light Swell at the Bridewell Theatre, London, he returned to the Birmingham Rep in February 1999 to play Young Richie in Fay Weldon’s play The Four Alice Bakers, an exploration of the implications of human cloning.
   An eighteen month engagement with the Royal Shakespeare Company followed. He appeared first in the role of Angus in Gregory Doran’s highly acclaimed production of Macbeth. After seasons at the Swan in Stratford and the Young Vic in London between November 1999 and June 2000, Macbeth toured overseas in the summer of 2000 before being filmed. He then took the more substantial role of Delio in John Webster’s Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi. This opened in November 2000 at the Barbican Theatre, London, transferring to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford in February 2001.
   The following year, Richard appeared in an Operating Theatre/Actors’ Centre production of Annie Lee at the Tristan Bates Theatre. 
   But it was in TV that his career started to take off. His first television appearances had come while he was still working in musical theatre. By the mid 1990’s he had appeared in an episode of Boon (as "Man in pub”), Children in Need, The Den (a children’s programme), The Late Show (for Radio Telefis Eireann) and the BBC science and technology programme Tomorrow’s World. There was a later appearance (as "Armed police officer”) in an episode of Spooks in 2002 (series 1, episode 4).
   His first named TV roles came at the end of 2001, when he appeared in two BBC medical dramas. He played locum Dr Tom Steele in two episodes of Doctors, and then Craig, boyfriend of Dr Lara Stone, in an episode of Casualty.   
   By the following spring, he was in Yorkshire filming Sparkhouse for the BBC, a modern interpretation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. It was his first major TV role – he played John Standring, the shy farmhand who was in love with the heroine, Carol. Sparkhouse was broadcast in September 2002.
   Next came the role of Lee, the flirty lifeguard in the final series of ITV’s popular comedy drama Cold Feet, swiftly followed by another role in another popular drama. The role was Captain Ian McAlwaine in Ross Kemp’s SAS drama, Ultimate Force. His next role as Paul Andrews in Kay Mellors’ Between the Sheets would be another step in his steady growth. It was a significant role and one that gave us the opportunity to see the type of multi-layered, subtly nuanced performance.
  In 2004, he was seen in Juliet McKoen’s small-budget but award-winning film, Frozen. It was his biggest film role to date - he played Steven, a security guard helping Kath (Shirley Henderson) to investigate the disappearance of her sister.
  From spring of that year the BBC started filming their adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. It is the story of a genteel, ex-parson’s daughter’s move from their privileged village life in the rural south to the harsh climate of the industrial north after her father resigns on a matter of conscience. He starred as John Thornton to Daniela Denby Ashes’ Margaret Hale.

          "... we needed an instant impact. When you understand why he's done it, you're torn between hating him and wanting them (Thornton and Margaret Hale) to get together."

  As is usually the case the BBC excelled themselves in their adaptation, exceeding their own expectations of how popular the drama would be with audiences. Richard’s portrayal as John Thornton showed us the vulnerable inner workings of an outwardly strong northern mill owner and won him an army of fans. Overnight Richard seemed to become the sole topic of conversation on the internet, or so it seemed at the time.
  His next couple of appearances on TV were as part ensemble casts. The first in the popular British drama, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, the second in a two part drama shown on ITV, Malice Aforethought. Next to come was the lead role in The Golden Hour. Richard played the head of a team of doctors who responded to emergencies by helicopter, in the hope that getting to and treating their patient within that important ‘golden hour’ would improve their chances of survival. There was only one series of the drama made. 2005 turned out to be quite a busy year for Richard and he ended it in the role of Macduff in the second tranché of Shakespeare Retold stories from the BBC. In the spring of 2006 he appeared on our screens again, this time as the young Claude Monet in the BBC’s docu-drama, The Impressionists.
  Autumn 2006 brought his highest profile role to date, that of Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s flagship autumn family drama, Robin Hood. It entered its third and final series in 2009.

          "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."

  We saw a new Guy, filled with angst and anger a plenty after the murder of Marion, something for Richard to get his dramatic teeth into! It was a performance that drew appreciative comments from female bloggers across the Internet, but also praise from critics who were divided about the series as a whole. The series has been sold to several other countries including the USA, Canada and Australia, where it was broadcast in spring 2007.
  Robin Hood gave him the opportunity to record his first audiobooks – four stories based on the first four episodes of the series. Since then, he has recorded an audiobook of Bernard Cornwell's The Lords of the North for The Audiobook Collection, released in July 2007.
  In the six months between the filming of series 1 and 2 of Robin Hood, Richard Armitage filmed several more TV programmes. At Christmas 2006 he appeared in the last two episodes of The Vicar of Dibley, playing Dawn French’s husband-to-be. The first of the two episodes had the largest Christmas Day audience that year. He was then seen as Ricky Deeming, the leader of a 1960s biker gang in George Gently, a BBC detective drama starring Martin Shaw that was shown in April 2007. 
  In the BBC Four drama Miss Marie Lloyd - Queen of the Music Hall, broadcast in May 2007, he played Percy Courtenay, Marie Lloyd's first husband, opposite Jessie Wallace. He was later seen in a Miss Marple story called Ordeal by Innocence, first broadcast in Canada in June 2007, and later shown in the USA and the UK. 
  Empire's Children, a six part documentary series for Channel 4 about the British Empire, marked his first work as a narrator for a TV programme. It was shown in July and August 2007.
  In the autumn of 2007 came his first radio work. In October, he read from the letters of the former Poet Laureate in The Ted Hughes Letters on BBC Radio 4, and in November he was one of the readers in a programme for BBC Radio 2 about the experiences of non-combatants in wartime, A War Less Ordinary.

The second series of Robin Hood was shown in the UK on BBC One in the autumn of 2007 and has since been shown in several other countries.

In 2008, Richard joined the cast of Spooks, the BBC's popular spy series about MI5, for its seventh series, playing MI5 officer Lucas North. The series was shown on BBC One and BBC Three during autumn 2008. It was so well received that an eighth series was commissioned, and broadcast on BBC One and BBC Three in November and December 2009.

Other work broadcast in 2009 included the narration of two programmes in March - a three part documentary series for ITV, New Homes From Hell 2009, and a single documentary for Channel 4 called The Great Sperm Race. In May, he was seen in a drama for BBC Daytime called Drowning not Waving. Written by Sarah Deane, it was one of a series of five dramas executive-produced by Jimmy McGovern called Moving On.

The third and final series of Robin Hood was broadcast on the BBC in spring 2009. Linked to the new series was a new set of Robin Hood audiobooks - Richard was the reader of two of them. In July, his second full-length audiobook was released by Naxos, a recording of Georgette Heyer's Regency romance, Sylvester.

His work in 2010 began with a series of voiceovers for UK television and radio commercials that continued throughout the year. They included four television adverts for the bank Santander, radio and television adverts for the Alfa Romeo Mito Multiair, a pair of radio advertisements for jewellery and several radio and television trailers for Sky television (The Leaders Debate, General Election coverage, and Sky Sports channels. He also became the voice of the BBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, being heard in a number of trailers on both television and radio before and during the Games in February.

His narrations for TV in 2010 included a documentary in BBC Two's Natural World series called Forest Elephants - Rumbles in the Jungle, a documentary for Channel 4, Too Poor for Posh School?, a four-part series for ITV called Homes From Hell, a three-part documentary series for ITV called Surgery School, and Lost Land of the Tiger, a three-part series for the BBC.

Also in 2010 year, he recorded two more Georgette Heyer audiobooks for Naxos AudioBooks, Venetia, in April, and The Convenient Marriage, in August. Other voice work included a programme in September in BBC Radio 3's series Words and Music, in which he and Emilia Fox read poetry and prose about the life of the city.

In March, he starred as Robert Lovelace in BBC Radio 4's four-part dramatisation of Samuel Richardson's 1747 novel, Clarissa. It was his first radio drama. Later in the spring, he swapped the role of an 18th century rake for a 21st century action hero, starring in Strike Back, a six-part TV series for Sky based on Chris Ryan's novel of the same name. Sky has since commissioned a second, ten-part series of Strike Back, to be shown in 2011, in which he will play some part.

He was next seen on TV in September, when he reprised his role as Lucas North in the ninth series of Spooks.

Having previously only had minor roles in films some years ago, his film career now looks set to take off. In autumn 2010 he filmed the role of Heinz Kruger in Captain America: The First Avenger. The film is due for release in July 2011. And during most of 2011, he will be in New Zealand shooting Peter Jackson's film of The Hobbit, in which he will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves. The film is being made in two parts, to be released in December 2012 and December 2013. But there will be a break in the summer, during which he will film the second series of Strike Back.

More television narration work has already been seen on British television this year - firstly another programme in the BBC's Natural World series, Elsa: the Lioness that changed the World, and secondly, an eight part series for Discovery UK about the Royal Navy's largest aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal. His television adverts for the bank Santander continued, with two more ads appearing in January and February.

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Sources

Richard Armitage Online

Richard Armitage Net

Richard Armitage Central

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