A Guest Post by @peppgrad (aka Lori H)
I have been a “well-wisher” of Richard Armitage since the first season of Robin Hood when my BFF called me and told me to “Watch Robin Hood but forget the Robin Hood guy, check out the actor who’s playing Guy of Gisborne.” Wow. I soon discovered, after watching his prior work, that he was more than just a pretty face. After seeing the work he has accomplished since then, he confirmed in my mind that he is an underrated actor with great range. Let us face it; there are many handsome men in Hollywood who cannot act. Richard is a handsome man who can act!
When I discovered he was going to be at WonderCon on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at the Anaheim Convention Center, I could not believe it. Anaheim, CA, is practically at my back door. I have been to WonderCon there before and been inside the Arena where the Into the Storm (ITS) panel was to be held early on Saturday. He was going to be on my home turf!
Here was another chance to see Richard up close and perhaps even an opportunity for an autograph and picture at a signing. However, in checking the WonderCon schedule and announcements, it became clear the ITS panel would not be doing any signings afterwards. That was disappointing. Three times in the past, I have been within twelve feet of Richard without any opportunity to even say how much I liked his work, much less get a posed picture or an autograph. There was either intense security or just people crowding rudely in between. It was getting pretty frustrating. Especially since all I wanted was even a brief moment to say hello to an actor I admire. He seemed, from all accounts I had read, to be a nice guy.
Anyway, my BFF and I picked up our badges and headed over to the line to get inside the Arena for the panel. Once we were able to get in and be seated, and the panel started, my BFF started taking pictures. I knew at least that I would get copies of the photos she had taken.
As I was sitting there, I decided I was going to go up to the microphone when they opened it for questions (we were seated fairly close to it) and ask Richard a question. At least I would get to speak to him and get an answer! When I saw the first person heading to the mic, I told my friend, “I’m going to the mic to ask Richard a question. I don’t know what I’m going to ask but I’ll think of something intelligent to ask before I get there!”
And there, my friends, was where my adventure REALLY began!
The first three people at the mic all asked questions of Richard. It quickly became clear, and quite humorous, that Richard was going to get the majority of the questions. The fourth person, the one directly in front of me, asked a question she said anyone could answer. When my turn came, I was told I would be the last question.
I had worn my Thorin Oakenshield t-shirt that day. When they put my picture up on the big screen behind the panel, and everyone saw my t-shirt, there was a lot of laughter; Richard obviously was getting the final question, too! I quickly told Steven Quale, the director, thank you for making the movie; I thought it would be really good. Then I said what everybody already knew, “But my question is for Richard.” I asked him if he had written a bio for this character as he had done for his prior characters. I mentioned I had read that he wrote character bios.
As he started to answer, I stepped to the right of the mic about six feet. I was still in the lit area. I suddenly realized he must be able to see me because he quit looking in the direction of the mic and turned his gaze on me where I was now standing! I almost could not focus on what he was saying because I thought, “It is true. He does listen and speaks directly to the person who asks him the question!” It seemed for a second as though no one was in the room but me and him. He answered my question, stating he did indeed create a bio for Gary as his wife had died and left him with two sons so he felt there needed to be more story there. In addition, he mentioned he had met with an American high school teacher to get an understanding of what the job was as well as the Mid-Western culture. In my own mind, it seemed as though he liked the question but that could be just wishful thinking!
As they wrapped up the panel onstage, I had a quick thought. In the past, I had been in the back area of the Convention Center and Arena. I was sure I knew where they would drive out if we could get near there. I told my BFF, “Let’s leave and go outside. I want to go around to the back and see if there is any way to meet Richard.” She was all for it and we quickly left and made our way around to the gate which was wide open. There was a guard there but a couple was walking out in costume, a couple more people were milling around so I said, “Just keep walking in like you know where you’re going.” No one stopped us. I knew it was a long shot to meet Richard but I had to try.
At the first corner, I looked left and there were three black Mercedes down at the end with a couple of men in suits who turned out to be drivers. Some men appeared to be neither security nor drivers and were probably press or industry. We casually began to stroll down that way. We were about a third of the way down when I saw a security guy approaching. I thought “Uh-oh, we’ve been busted.” However, he was incredibly nice. He politely told us to wait where we were and stand to the side; he didn’t want us to get run over. I told him, don’t worry, we don’t want to get run over either! He laughed, said thanks and walked back toward the cars.
We stood there for a few minutes chatting with each other when I looked back at the Mercedes to see Richard standing with his back to us, and I could see the ponytail! In a split second, he turned around and he and a driver got in one of the Mercedes and began heading our way. The windows in the back were so darkly tinted that you could not see in. My BFF said, “Let’s wave just to let him know we’re here to support him.”
As the car came near us, it rolled to a stop. The rear driver’s side window rolled down and there was Richard!
I have no idea whether he recognized me from my asking a question inside the Arena, whether he saw my Thorin Oakenshield t-shirt and my friend’s Hobbit:DoS t-shirt, whether he stopped because we waved or what the reason was that he stopped. I was, as the British say, “Gobsmacked.” I looked around and there was no one else near us. No one else had come to the back. It was just Richard and us (and the driver).
Richard was sitting on the passenger side in the back but quickly scooted over a little, and put his hand out first to shake our hands. We exchanged the “nice to meet yous.” He has, as you know, an amazing voice. He also has a great handshake. Firm, but he was not squeezing too hard. I could not believe I was shaking hands with Richard Armitage! And that he offered to shake hands first! (I had this quick thought at that moment when my hand was in Richard’s that made me laugh quite hard later on. It was a line from “The Big Bang Theory” when Penny gives Sheldon a napkin from the Cheesecake Factory that Leonard Nimoy has wiped his mouth on. Sheldon cries out, “I have a napkin with Leonard Nimoy’s DNA on it. Do you know what this means? I can clone him!”).
My friend told Richard we were big fans of his and he thanked us. I quickly took the opportunity to ask if he would sign a couple of autographs for us. He smiled and said in that smooth voice, “Of course.” Through all of this, I was trying to be as calm and polite as possible. So was my BFF, I could tell. He signed the WonderCon programs for us: Lori, love, Richard Armitage. He signed the same (except for the name of course) for my BFF.
I asked him, as he handed her program back to her, how much longer did he have on the shoot for Urban and the Shed Crew. He told me he had two weeks left. He mentioned he was headed straight to the airport to catch a plane back. I also briefly made some mention about The Crucible (sorry, can’t remember what it was) and he answered back. I noticed during this conversation, he had removed the tie he was wearing earlier and opened his shirt collar but still had on his black leather Diesel jacket.
Realizing we had already had several minutes of his time without ANY interruption, I quickly asked him if he would be kind enough to pose for a picture for us before he had to leave. He said he would be happy to and leaned forward so he was leaning on the edge of the door. (We did not want to be demanding and ask him to get out of the car and pose with each of us since we knew now he had to catch a flight. I thought that would be rather rude and inconsiderate of his time).
However, my BFF had not changed the focus on her camera since she pulled it out earlier when he was down at the end with the Mercedes and looked through it to see down there. Therefore, being a little nervous when she took the picture, it was not in focus. When she checked it, she exclaimed “Oh no, I didn’t change the focus from earlier. All I got was your nose.” He started laughing and told her she could take another picture. This time she got a good picture! At some point, we may share this picture. For the moment though, only we have this private picture of our almost private time with Richard. (Darn driver, LOL!).
We thanked him again for stopping, that it was very nice of him to do that. He looked happy. We wished him a good flight home as he moved back over to the passenger side seat in the back. Then the handsome prince’s driver took him away in his horseless carriage.
As soon as his car turned the corner, my BFF and I high-fived each other! We could contain it no longer! We could not believe we had just had an “audience” with Richard Armitage, uninterrupted, for almost five minutes. Finally, after being so close so many times without meeting him, I met him!
I have to make a comment here about “celebrities.” I have lived all of my life in Southern California within about 25 miles of Los Angeles. I have encountered numerous rock stars, singers, actors, politicians, etc. over the years. Some I wanted to see and some I just encountered some place. Sometimes I just told them I liked their work, sometimes I just ignored them, some I asked to take pictures of, and some I asked for autographs. I have always been polite. I can say some of them were nice, some were jerks and one had a publicist (!) who haughtily told me when I asked her if I could get an autograph from her singer/actor client that “Mr. So-and-So doesn’t do autographs.”
However, Richard Armitage is possibly the nicest public personality I have ever met! How many actors will stop their car to speak several minutes with just two “well-wishers?” He could easily have driven past us with the windows rolled up. Alternatively, he could have just rolled down his window and waved, shouting out the “Sorry, have to go catch a plane” excuse. Instead, he stopped, shook hands, answered questions, signed autographs, posed for a couple of pictures and thanked us for being his fans!
Richard Armitage is as nice and polite as people who have met him say he is. (His mum should be proud.) By the way, he is also criminally handsome in person. If you are fans of his stubble, he was definitely sporting it that morning.
From the start of the ITS panel to the ending outside with Richard being driven away in a black Mercedes, it was an amazing time. I think every year on April 19 my friend and I are going to watch The Hobbit trilogy to remind ourselves of OUR adventure.
Note from Frenz: they relented about the picture :D Also, for those who have never been to a fan driven Con, it is entirely the norm for fans to be all over the place including where the stars of the event come and go. The famous who attend know this, and for the most part are gracious. RA especially so in my experience.