What Just Happened?

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Janine‘s account of Richard Armitage hitting her world:

Sometimes life hands you something you didn’t know you needed.

Or even were looking for.

Richard Armitage. It is a name that a year ago I would have said, “Who, the politician guy?” and Googled him to check. The actor’s name would have meant nothing. Now? I do not know enough words to express all that I feel for the actor guy. I still would need to Google the politician.

What I have been pondering and mulling this past year is simple — and complicated. Why Richard? Why me? What just happened?

Mid-March of 2012 found me with the Netflix DVD of ‘North and South.’ It had been in my queue for probably two years, but I never made a move to watch it. While the story sounded slightly depressing, it was there because it was Elizabeth Gaskell. A drought in British period dramas brought it to my house. I hate to say that my viewing of this was with “the family.” That is never a good idea with period pieces, which do not hold the attention of a large portion of the inmates.

But I remember the first moment I saw Richard on screen. And while I know this is not true, there was complete silence, at least in my head.

I don’t remember coherent thoughts. It was more a wordless recognition. Just … there.

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The voice hit me next. It was so much to process that it was only later when my head said, “Chocolate.” And for me, it wasn’t just any kind, but this particular mocha buttercream I make for the yule log each year: rich, a little sweet, smooth as silk.

Since the show was divided over two discs, I had to wait an entire week to get the second half.

I know.

By the time I got to the kiss to end all kisses in the history of romance, not to mention the future into all of eternity or any parallel universe, I was attempting to remain sensible. This was assisted by the presence of “the family.” After they toddled off to bed, I replayed that scene a shocking number of times.

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Somehow I was able to stop myself, only to go to the DVD extras to watch the man who played John Thornton masterfully and with such nuance.

Awkward. Uncomfortable. Stumbling over his words a bit. This was the man who just made John Thornton tear a hole in the space-time continuum?

I found him endearing. Sincere. Real. And when he started to discuss the responsibility of playing his character, he said a few fateful words that stopped me short. He talked about his character living for 150 years on the page.

Ah. Imagination. Richard Armitage had imagination.

I am not sure how the craziness played out over the next few weeks. It is a bit of a blur. I decided to watch his work chronologically if I could find it. That meant “Robin Hood” was up next (what? a bad boy? conflicted? smirking?). I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content on the Internet: fan sites, blogs and everything in between. I darted about when I had time, hearing echoes of my own reactions wherever I went.

Did I say echoes? I meant the keening cry of a siren’s call. I was Odysseus floating on a sea called denial.

Around June I was starting to question my sanity. What was I doing? I felt an incredible need to watch this man work, crafting characters where Richard disappeared. He was a chameleon, shifting in and out of roles where he looked remarkably different from himself, and it wasn’t due to makeup or prosthetics.

Eclipsing that need, however, was a desire to understand his motivation. Almost daily I was looking up interviews, scattered at first, but then starting with the earliest and moving ahead, wanting to see how he grew and changed in those years between ‘North and South’ and now.

It was those interviews and commentaries — along with the letters to his fans — that brought me to the conclusion that this was a decent guy with a wicked sense of humor, a man who embodied a lot of my ideals. Much of the time, I felt as if he reflected me: staying in the background, giving praise but not comfortable getting it, working hard to do the job not just well but excellently, living honorably. The list only grew.

It all made me admire him more.

None of this happened in a vacuum. Life was swirling madly about just like always. Family was crazy, work actually went to an even crazier place in May, June and July, and I was working on my own web-based garden site that I launched in December 2011. There was a dog to keep entertained, a vegetable garden to tend, summer projects to start, friends to visit …. The list was always endless. The majority of my entertainment was watching shows with Richard in them.

In July I started to examine what I was doing. Why? That is forever the question I ask. Who, what, where, when and even the how are just facts. It’s the why that tells the story. Why Richard? Why me? Why all of this here and now and in such an intensity that, I now admit, frightened me?

I needed to write something. Anything. It took a form of a letter to Richard in my head. It morphed and changed. Edited, rewritten and edited again. Then Comic-Con happened. In nearly real time, I saw Richard giving interviews and being wholly charming. There was a twinkle in his eyes that his beard only emphasized. He was articulate and again earnest in his unmistakable love for what he was doing.

Warner Bros. Pictures And Legendary Pictures Preview - "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"  - Comic-Con International 2012

At that point, the urge to write was overwhelming. I write. It’s what I do. It’s the place where I can be honest to myself about everything. And why I was denying myself that was because it was important. I knew in my soul it was important. Either I couldn’t admit to the why or I didn’t know the answer myself yet.

Eleven days later, after a long day taking care of my grandmother who had cataract surgery early that morning, I wrote. Longhand. And wrote and wrote. Several hours later I had a letter to Richard. I tucked it away and actually believed that had done it, that I would wake up the next morning and be able to let this go.

No.

It only intensified.

More tomorrow.

Screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet

22 Comments

  1. Oh, my gosh, I’m on the edge of my seat! Are you my soul twin? Love the narrative, but this is the sentence that made me laugh:

    “I was Odysseus floating on a sea called denial.” We are on the same journey and the sailboat is very large, Janine! I am glad I am not making this trip alone or I’d completely lose my mind. Thank you!

  2. It is a very large boat! Thank goodness. And it is nice to not be on it alone.

  3. After so many years, I still can’t explain it–something in me recognized something in him and clung to it fiercely, even as I’m still doing now. There is a part of me that needs that inspiration and sheer intensity like water every day and night. And I don’t see that ending. Bless you, Mr. Armitage–it was like coming back to life.

  4. Amazing, isn’t it? Welcome aboard.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I totally know where you are coming from in this narrative Janine, as you are describing what some of my own journey has been like. It started a few years after my husband died and like you North & South was the catalyst for me and John Thornton in particular. I still can’t explain it but I began to feel alive again and have never looked back. He is one unique human being.

  6. although Im only a new crew member in this boat, I can completely relate to what you have written (and what a well written, heart-felt piece this is!). I am suffering from a major attack of “what the?” about my feelings for Richard. My friends look at me like Im nuts, my husband just sighs and shakes his head. I cant stop thinking about him, reading about him, watching him and talking about him (I think I would have gone mad without Twitter!) I also asking myself “what just happened?”

  7. [...] What Just Happened? [...]

  8. LOL, we should make a collection, “Letters to Armitage …” I saw myself in this, too.

  9. [...] What Just Happened? [...]

  10. An incredibly addictive man, that Richard Armitage. :)

  11. It’s been 4 years since I checked N&S out at the library here in the USA. I had watched every title that I knew the name of from this genre so started checking for DVD’s with the BBC logo on the spine. That’s how I found N&S. My world changed that day. I can’t tell you how or why he made such an impression on me but the past 4 years have been a ride with Richard. He has made me smile in so many ways. He has consumed my thoughts and time so much that I wonder sometimes what I did before him.

  12. Stephanie, I don’t see it waning anytime soon. Nor do I want it to do so. And yes, back to life.

    Thank you, Beverly. :D

    Teuchter, he is unique. And yet he is more real to me than a good many people I have sat next to. His willingness to share his uncertainties – and yet still soldier on – speaks to me in a way few others ever have. He came just when I needed him. Truly.

    Bechep, I totally understand. o.O Prepare for continued wonkiness.

    Servetus, that is not a bad idea. :D

    Traxy, no wonder chocolate is an on-going theme.

    Carolyn, as my anniversary approached, I thought about that bit: What did I do before him? And I can’t quite say now. I think I was on Pause, if anything. Something nice about thinking I am on “Play.” :D

  13. Hi Janine,
    There there dear, we are sisters at heart–all of us RA admirers.

    And thank god for dvd’s! I watched that train station kissing scene so much after I first watched the series that a vhs tape would have broken. I think laser technology was invented for RA Fangirls. Ha!
    Cheers! Grati ;->

  14. Oh, my dear, I think that we all feel the same about RA, to see a man so gorgeous and sexy and even a gentleman, so hard worker. Really it´s a pleasure!!
    Great words yours!! Congrats!!!
    Sorry, my english is not good, I´m from Buenos Aire, Argentina.

  15. Love love love love this post. Amen to every word of it!

  16. I’m not sure what was filling my thoughts and dreams before the discovery of Richard–I know it was a very dark time for me and I saw very little light at the end of the tunnel. I was definitely floundering; the one word I forgot to mention before was “hope”. My feelings when I found him were so immediate and overwhelming (and still are) that it’s just easier to get through the day, no matter what’s going on. And that he inspired me to begin again things I had not put my hand to in years, whether or not the finished products would ever find their way beyond me; opened my eyes to possibilities I had long since abandoned in my quest to just manage day to day living. Thank you, Richard, and all the members of your following–I, for one, am forever in your debt.

  17. Thank you for your words, Stephanie. As I read them, I was thinking that I have felt the same way. I am not exaggerating when I say he has saved my life and, oh, how I wish I could do something for him in return. :)

  18. I often feel that in some way I didn’t find Richard but that he was “sent” to me at a time when I “needed” him, if that makes sense. I think that is why even now, when I have a “down” day, just the sight of him can lift my spirits! I’m so thankful for him every day and the lovely friendships I have made because of him.

  19. Grati, my dear, yes, technology is on our side. I just bought a Blu-Ray player yesterday because of this man. I even hooked it up within 24 hours of purchase. (I find hardware installation a painful process, but look at what I’ll endure now.) :D

    Fernanda, your English is better than my Spanish. Although I have two someones on Twitter who are helping me with that, one in Argentina (yes, I know!) and one in Spain. Thanks, again, to Richard for that. :D

    Awkwardceleb, I thank you. xxx

    Stephanie, hope is a beautiful thing. I am so pleased you have it again, for I do as well. My heart was waiting, thankfully, for it to return. And I, too, am in the man’s debt.

    Mujertropical, if I can jump in, I know how strongly you feel about Richard. And while I doubt I shall ever meet him or have a chance for an actual conversation that would be more than just pleasantries (and that might be more painful than anything I could imagine), I know my best way to honor this gift he has given us is to live an honorable life and embrace the people who are sent to me because of him. xxx

    Teuchter, I agree. He was sent. Exactly when I needed him. Otherwise I do not know how I would have survived the past year and the rather horrible things that have happened during that time, things that might have broken an already cracked me.

  20. It’s really weird but I feel just like some of you do, that he was sent to me. I don’t actually want to think about it that way because he’s just a human being not better than any one of us. But the truth is that it really feels like he was sent to me. Because last year I had the worst time of my life, on this christmas I had even started to use drugs. But then out of nowhere he just came to me, I saw the hobbit and became addicted in RA instead. When I watch he’s movies or anything I forget al shit. My need for drugs have almost dissapeared this year. Sorry girls for beeing too personal. But I just felt for explaining my similar experience. It’s totally grazy but it feels like God or something has sent him to me so I can get inspired to change my life. Or maybe I just needed someone to hold on at the moment and he got on my way. ( I’m of course, aware of that he’s just an actor, I can only change my life if I want to, but he’s sort of my inspiration, muse and sunshine at the moment). So obviously the poor man is saving fangirls lives without knowing it. (:
    That makes me to think about how mutch famous people actually can affect peoples lifes, specially week people and people with problems, it’s actually sick. So now I know that it’s important how I present myself if I ever get famous. But at the same time I believe it has a lot to do about the famous persons personality, I do think Richard really is special, maybe he’s an angel sent to us, who knows. I mean he must be special, because I have been depressed befoure and never got grazy about celebrities. So this is actually first time I have felt like this for any famous person and it creeps me out a little bit. Hope I wont creep him out, hehe.

  21. I had to laugh when I read the comment about the blu-ray player–only because I also am really rotten at this technical stuff, but when I first began in my Richard addiction, there was so little of his work available and so much of it was not available in anything other than Region 2 dvd’s–in short, it is solely because of him that I bought my first regionless player, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t been extremely grateful that I did. Turned out that I did not need to be a tech genius to hook it up, and I was able to see things that I otherwise would not have been able to watch or would have had to wait around until they made their way to this side of the pond. I agree–once the addiction hits you, it’s amazing what you’ll do.

    I feel I must share a line from a song by one of my favorite rock groups, Heart–the song is “Will You Be There In the Morning?”, and the line is “You’re my obsession, my addiction,my drug”. It’s one of my favorite descriptions of our guy.

  22. In 2004 I must have been existing on a totally different level as I actually missed the first few episodes of North & South when it was broadcast in Britain on the BBC. I remember seeing the trailers previous to the series being aired and Richards gorgeous face looking back at me from the tv screen but I forgot about it until I saw a trailer for the last episode. My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw the kissing scene at the train station. I became fanatical about watching everything Richard had been in on the tv and I wasn’t satisfied until I had all the dvd’s I could find. My world has never been the same since. I discovered there were other people out there who also felt the same way and I joined The Armitage Army(which used to be the only/or the first website dedicated to Richard) and I enjoyed meeting up with the other Richard followers. We once travelled up to Yorkshire to visit the locations used in North & South and Sparkhouse and it was nice to spend time with like minded people who all adored Richard. I am definitely addicted to him …..and I am lucky I have an understanding husband and son who put up with me! I went to The Hobbit Premier in Leicester Square in December and have watched an episode of Spooks being filmed in the streets of London. I would ilke to pay homage to all the other Richard followers who are so techy and upload all the tv clips to YouTube…your expertise is appreciated by this non-techy admirer. X


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