September 18, 2010
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>In a taxi with... Spooks star Richard Armitage
By Stuart Husband
Last updated at 8:01 PM on 18th September 2010
We’re trawling the backstreets of Soho, looking for a suitably clandestine setting in which to shoot Richard Armitage. ‘Will this do?’ asks our cabbie, Ken from Loughton, as we pull into a particularly nondescript cul-de-sac. ‘Perfect,’ beams Richard, unfurling his six-foot-two frame from the back seat and adopting a slew of saturnine poses for the photographer. He raises a wry eyebrow as she snaps away. ‘Furtive enough for you?’
If Richard, 39, is doing his best to deflect the stares of passers-by, it’s because he’s about to embark on series nine of Spooks, the ‘MI5, not 9 to 5’ spy thrill-fest that’s become a runaway BBC hit. He tells us his third season as Lucas North, an enigmatic officer once imprisoned in Russia, is all about ‘deception’ – which is like saying that Jamie Oliver’s new series is all about food. ‘No, but there’s lots of internal conflict this time round,’ protests Richard. ‘Ghosts from the past start catching up with Lucas, and it shakes the entire team to its foundations.’
The jitters aren’t confined to whether the team can yet again save London from death plots and dirty bombs by running round picturesque plazas and muttering into their shirt cuffs; it’s become Spooks standard policy to kill off characters without a backward glance, as numerous fallen alumni of the show – Rupert Penry-Jones, Miranda Raison, Lisa Faulkner – can attest. Do cast members receive the new scripts with trepidation? ‘That’s the thing that’s kept the show alive,’ grins Richard. ‘No matter how embedded a personality is, they can go, just like that. It keeps you on your toes.’
‘I try to look rough and knackered on Spooks, but they’re always coming in and fluffing up my hair and hiding my wrinkles. I’m ready for my Elephant Man phase’
Richard reckons there are parallels between spying and acting. ‘In both, the line between real and unreal is very blurry,’ he says. ‘Spies are never quite on solid ground. In Spooks, we’re always off-balance, because the scripts change all the time. I’ve thrown them across my trailer in frustration at times.’ He’s never (knowingly) met a real spook. ‘But I imagine there’s a lot more desk-work and data input than we ever do,’ he grins. ‘Plus I know entry-level MI5 salaries are pretty low, so you’d never be able to run around in Prada and Belstaff like we do.’
If Richard sometimes displays a slight diffidence when discussing his job, that’s because he retains what he terms ‘a certain ambivalence’ about acting, thanks to an upbringing in no-nonsense Leicestershire; his father was an engineer and his mother was a school secretary (‘there were no thesps in our family’). Despite running away from home at 17 to join a physical theatre group and get his Equity card, he still gives the impression of someone as much bemused as enthused by his trade.
Richard was first catapulted into the limelight six years ago, with the
bodice-ripping role of the sideburned John Thornton in the BBC adaptation of North and South. Message boards crashed, D’Arcy-esque pinnacles of hysteria were reached, and an unofficial fan club – the Armitage Army – was born. ‘I was fascinated for a while,’ he says sheepishly. ‘I thought, what on earth are they all talking about? I’d managed to work for years under the radar. Then after North and South, I started really analysing what I was doing, thinking I shouldn’t play certain types of characters because my “fan base” wouldn’t like it.’
He stares out of the cab window. ‘I’m a hopeless people-pleaser in life, so I had to divorce that from my work. Now I’ve gone the other way. I want to play ugly, damaged people. I try to look rough and knackered on Spooks, but they’re always coming in and fluffing up my hair and hiding my wrinkles.’ He arches an eyebrow. ‘I’m ready for my Elephant Man phase now.’
That may be, but the remnants of the Armitage Army may be heartened to learn that not only is he still single, but there are also vague plans for him to tread the boards in something resembling doublet and hose next year.
As we drop him on a crowded Soho thoroughfare, Richard does his best to blend in as only an above-averagely tall, handsome, small-screen sex god can. <
Spooks returns to BBC1 this month - Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1312643/Richard-Armitage-The-Spooks-star-taxi.html#ixzz0zwJ3uGym
Congratulations post card from the past arrives via carrier pigeon(dove) for Lucas North...