Richard Armitage has said he is not interested in playing floppy-haired heroic types (but, darn it, Rich, we love your floppy tresses!) and when he does play heroes, he looks for their dark side. After all, perfection would be a bit–boring, would it not?
He loves playing the bad guys, and he’s so very good at it. Because just as he looks for the dark side in the heroes, he also seeks the humanity, the light, no matter how dim, within his darker characters. And he always finds it. It makes all the difference in how I respond to characters like Paul Andrews, John Mulligan, Robert Lovelace , Heinz Kruger or my beloved Sir Guy of Gisborne.
I find myself unable to completely despise any of the cads, rogues, heinous henchmen or sinister spies he has played thus far. I may reject many of their actions and attitudes and find elements of their characters revolting; still, that glimpse of humanity, that sometimes subtle-yet-discernible struggle between good and evil, allows me to identify with them and empathize in a way I rarely do with other actors when playing the same types of roles.
I have asked myself, “Is it because, as Lucy Griffiths quipped on one of the RH commentaries, Richard makes ‘such a good-looking murderer?'”
Is it Richard’s beauty and charisma blinding me to the characters’ flaws that keeps me from despising the baddies? I honestly don’t think so. I clearly see these are flawed, damaged, sometimes amoral and dangerous men who also happen to possess great looks and considerable charm. The latter qualities certainly can make them easier on the eye and soften one up a bit.
Still, it’s what is going on inside these characters that ultimately makes them so compelling for me. It’s that glimmer of light inside the darkness. It’s wondering where they came from, what molded them into the men they have become and what lies ahead of them. In Sir Guy’s case, it was longing for that redemptive arc, for him to become the good man, the hero we knew he was capable of being. Before Richard, could we imagine a Sir Guy of Gisborne we’d actually prefer over the titular hero of the show?
A baddie in Richard’s hands becomes a three-dimensional, fully-fleshed-out character, a real human being with a mind, a heart and soul. And knowing they are created with such detail and dedication by this wonderful actor, who works so hard to breath life into each one, makes me appreciate them all, good, bad, and something somewhere in-between.
So, Richard. Maybe what we need is a complex anti-hero role where you start out a baddie, end up a goodie, get the girl and survive past the final credits? Angst, danger, brooding, romance, heroism and ultimately a happy ending. What do ya think?