I Think Therefore I Am a Great Actor

Continuing on with my contribution to FanstRAvaganza 3:

I’m not going to pretend I understand all there is to know about Richard Armitage. Someone said earlier it would take at least a “40 parter” for that. May I suggest the parts would be infinite. I believe that’s the case for all of us. We are all complex. Some just make themselves look simple and in the doing of that lose our interest. Just know that this series is my attempt to shed a little light on what I’ve learned about this fascination with Richard and his characters. Also, there is no way I can do justice to Constantin Stanislavski, Bertold Brecht or Edward Gordon Craig within the confines of a blog post nor even a week of blogging on them. But I can highlight some salient points with respect to our guy.

When I first became aware of Richard Armitage, I just let myself enjoy the sensations his performances created in me. My greed for those feelings had me watching some of his shows over and over and over, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to feel like I was taking a drug. I’m fairly sure I appeared slack jawed to anyone who might have observed me in the process or shortly thereafter. And each time I came down from the high, I would intensely question myself about it. A common question was: how old am I? Never mind. :D The point is that I was old enough to know better than to be silly about some actor.

After I passed the initial euphoria, I had to explain (at least to myself) what had created it. A good looking guy with a great voice in a romantic role? That was it? I’m not quite so air headed or needy for male affirmation that it would generate this reaction. So I went in search of others who had a similar reaction. I lurked the forums for months, and there were some wonderful fan writings about the impressions Richard Armitage had made. Many others were overwhelmed by what they were seeing, but none of them (at least that I read) captured what was niggling in my brain, and candidly, I became frustrated by some of the rhapsodizing. I wanted it to answer me, and it just seemed like some were the same things said about every other good looking or compelling actor. I did watch other actors I appreciate for comparison — Edward Norton in ‘American History X,’ Gary Oldman in ‘My Immortal Beloved,’ Sean Penn in ‘Dead Man Walking,’ Russell Crow in ‘The Insider,’ Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘My Left Foot,’ ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being,’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’ and even Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ All great performances, but it was abundantly clear they all had great writing and/or stories to propel them. Even with that, none of them had quite the same effect on me as Richard Armitage in much lesser roles and with less adept writing.

And what was the effect? An identification with something so real it made me feel I was there with the character and seeing the situation through his eyes. Some of those roles above had moments of that, but none were able to make me almost continuously see the story through their eyes — feeling their pain or frustration or joy or elation — as I have watching Richard Armitage. The only thing that has frequently had this effect on me is reading a well crafted book where a character or a scene has gotten inside my head, and I’m with them and in them, and sometimes I have to read books or parts of books again and again to experience the thrill of that moment of connection.

The scene in The Sun Also Rises where Jake is in the church trying to pray and then steps out into the sunlight is one of them. If there was ever a scene that I consider orgasmic, it’s that one. It nearly took my head off. There are others which come close, but that one I can barely speak of without almost having a meltdown, and I even got misty eyed typing these last few sentences. But with Richard Armitage, I was taken to that place of connection with almost no words. It was in his action:

Action or rather movement was integral to Craig, “theatre has sprung from movement.” Notice he doesn’t say words were the impetus. He does give deference to writing as the body of a play but movement was so important that he suggested the need for an Uber Marionette (sometimes described as inhuman) as the perfect actor who could be controlled by the director of a piece in order to achieve its vision. Richard Armitage has spoken several times of the importance of movement and his body to his craft, and he’s even spoken of smoldering with his back. Anyone who has seen the first episode of Robin Hood Series 3 knows how effectively he can use it:

But it is Stanislavski who explains how he is able to use his body to such great effect:

“if actors really mean to hold the attention of a large audience they must make every effort to maintain an uninterrupted exchange of feelings, thoughts, and actions among themselves. And the inner material for this exchange should be sufficiently interesting to hold spectators. The exceptional importance of this process makes me urge you to devote special attention to it and to study with care its various outstanding phases.”

Through Tortsov the Director he goes onto explain about self-communion, which is a way of facilitating intercourse within yourself and specifically between your brain and feelings, and communion between individuals, which requires you to first seek out the other person’s soul and inner world. At the train station when John Thornton looked at Margaret Hale, I felt he was looking at her soul, her inner world, and mine too. He was getting in my head.

I’m tired, and I’ve still got more to say, but I bid you adieu for now. More of this later. And hey, I got some pictures in this one. :D

Today’s Conversation found here.

edit: the thoughts in this post continue here.

26 Comments

  1. Love this honest telling, Frenz, and I can feel what you’re saying. gonna think about this a while, be back later.

  2. Hello Frenzy :) Thank You for wonderful post. I was thinking why I like Richard much more than other actors like Colin Firth or Fassbender or others, but I consider that this is matter in his playing, something in details.

  3. I knew it!:) I feel likewise,Frenzy! Thank you for this beautiful post.:*

  4. Very thoughtful piece…I am sure I will be mulling it over tonight. Recently when going through some of my favorite RA quotes and I found the one about how to do a good smoulder and it ended with he bit about ‘smouldering with his back’, I didn’t really understand it but your post has helped lift the shade.

    I have always wondered what was different about Richard – I kept coming back to the same old thing and finally gave up and just accepted my feelings. (Sort of what some people do with religion.)

    Looking forward to your post helping me with a better understanding of the Armitage effect..

  5. Thank you for expressing some of my feelings so eloquently that now I understand them better.

    I, too, have been dumbfounded by the depth of my attraction to RA’s acting. In some ways, it is similar to watching a live performance, because my identification with the actor is so strong. The level of meaningful motion/physical reactions he portrays is hypnotic and cathartic. He provides a window to the soul of his characters, and thereby elevates the intensity and integrity of the surrounding performances and even the plot and overall production.

    Robin Hood as a production, should have been merely escapist fun. The costuming was distracting, the level of acting uneven, and some of the writing very silly. But yowser — Guy of Gisborne broke my heart — and that changed everything. Sometimes I’m amazed when other people watch the show and don’t “get it.”

    On a side note, I also love Jimmy Stewart. He doesn’t effect me the same as RA, and the range of his acting isn’t as varied, but there is an underlying sincerity in his acting that speaks to my heart.

  6. That is perfectly stated. I feel the same way. He moves me, many times to tears. He is awesome, even in poorly written roles. And he uses his body to perfection!:)

  7. Thanks to all of you. This is such a small part of the iceberg that is RA’s abilities. More coming tomorrow. And I have to apologize for the lateness of my post. I finished it about an hour later than I should have posted but obviously didn’t post. I was lying on my bed when I finished and closed my eyes for a moment. :D My husband came in and turned everything off and covered me up, and the next thing I knew it was morning. I will not be tardy today. The next post should come on time.

  8. The Sun Also Rises… Who stars in that?

    I think it’s fascinating how much body language means to an actor. It makes a load of difference, although few viewers consciously pick up on it.

  9. Hello, Melanie :)

    I should make it clear that I’m referring to reading the book The Sun Also Rises. Should have underlined it. LOL!

  10. I don’t know if I can add anything new to the compliments on this post – you’ve done a wonderful job of analyzing the mystique of Richard’s acting and appeal. Yes, a handsome face and melted chocolate voice are part of his appeal but we’ve all seen handsome actors who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag – their appeal is not long lasting. I think Richard’s performances are ones for the ages. ;}
    Cheers!

  11. Excellent post!! Like Beverly, many times I think you are expressing my ‘feelings’ for RA and helping me understand and accept them!!

  12. Armitage simply has charisma. Now define charisma…
    He is a combination of thought, intuition and training. All the parts combine…In short, I can’t explain it, either.

  13. I’ve known a few charismatic people, but I never wanted to start a blog in their honor. :D

  14. On my way out the door. Be back letter to cause trouble. :D And finish my next post.

  15. “I’ve known a few charismatic people, but I never wanted to start a blog in their honor.” Oh, Frenz, you said it right there for me, to which I would add, “or write copious fiction related to them or make more than 120 vids celebrating the person and their work or write essays about them or discuss them with other people ad nauseum.” ;)

    The man is extraordinary and it’s extraordinary how he moves us in a way few if any other actors do. I have NEVER cried so much over the death of characters as I have Richard’s. That’s why I called my blog “The Armitage EFFECT.” What an effect!!

    I look forward to more of this discussion.

  16. “..with Richard Armitage I was taken to that place of connection with almost no words, It was in his action..”
    Fabulous post, Frenz. You have described how Richard affects me so eloquently. Looking forward to your next post.

  17. I am sure you do not mean too, but these posts are starting to become therapy for me. Well articulated and definitely resonating with me. So thrilled to be able to work through this addiction/response to RA /characters by reading, reflecting, contemplating, analyzing your words and others of course, with a smile on my face….and for free.

  18. […] divulges a classified memo from the DG of MI-5 on Lucas’s return to Section D • RAFrenzy on Richard Armitage’s thinking • Nat with a Richard Armitage interactive crossword puzzle • Traxy on family relationships and […]

  19. Hi Frenz,

    Most thought provoking. I like Richard Armitage’s total immersion into his character portrayals–embuing his characters with authentic personae. And RA’s complete use of his instrument–voice, physicality, and emotions, etc. is pure poetry.

    It is only during RA’s live interviews that we might glimpse bits of what he is like for real. But even then, it’s partially a performance on his part. We all do it. We are different things and roles for different people. I rather like not knowing “who” he really is. Let him have his mystique. It’s working. Ha!

    Blessings to him as I and others enjoy the gifts of his storytelling that he shares with us.

    Cheers! Grati ;->

  20. At last.

  21. @pi, amen but is she going to leave us hanging over that proverbial cliff yet again?! Thanks Frenz. You are saying so well!

  22. I’ve spent a large – maybe too large :) – part of my day watching Richard as Ricky Deeming in the pilot episode of George Gently and as John Mulligan in Moving On. (Such a hard thing to do;) ) I found I was no longer watching an actor called “Richard Armitage” because he had transformed himself into first Ricky and then John. Such different characters but both of them totally believable!! The more I watch him act the more impressed I am. I think we could simply be shown head shots of the different personas he has created and know right away who that character is as he manages to make even his facial expressions different for each one. Add to that his amazing voice and the body language and we see not one of them is alike even having the common denominator of being “created” by the same man!! Truly magical!

    I’m looking forward to the next part of the “conversation” as I love reading how others are affected by him!! I still, after all these years, cannot put into words what he does to me and for me!! Personally I can never get enough of him!! :D

  23. Glad you have pictures… I was about to call the RA police and have you locked up! heh heh. :)

  24. I respect Richard Armitage’s dedication to his profession, I love the way he brings out depth in his characters, but I believe he has a long way to go in his career before he reaches his full potential. I recently was privileged to see Cate Blanchett on stage in “Gross und Klein” … her performance was stupendous, her versatility mind blowing, her uniqueness incredible. What Richard Armitage needs now are roles that will stretch him to the limit, and I don’t mean just physically. I’m noticing a few too many familiar mannerisms and gestures in his acting which I find distracting (Stanislavski quote was interesting). Maybe I’ve watched his work too much. I believe he has the potential to be great, and I’m hoping a great director will bring that potential out in him. He certainly has the dedication and I sense, the modesty, to continue to study and perfect his art. (I hope this doesn’t sound too negative given the praise, but I won’t be satisfied until I see him nominated and hopefully winning a prestigious acting award which I believe he is capable of doing – he will need the right roles and good direction to achieve this however). Do actors go back to “school” to “refresh” and fine tune their skills, or do they rely on directors to do this, I wonder?

    Thought provoking post … but you know I’m surrounded by budding actors at the moment, so the profession is of particular interest.

  25. […] POSTS A Hot Spur, If You WillFanstRAvaganza 3 ConversationsI Think Therefore I Am a Great ActorUnderstanding Richard ArmitageAddict ListEncounters of the Misty KindFanstRAvaganzacooked […]

  26. […] This one of thought continues here. […]


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