The unforgettable JP


Sgt. John Porter: a character our pacifist Richard didn’t think he wanted to play.  But on a second look at the script, Richard saw a potential in the role that did not register initially.  It would be a challenge to create a soldier who was believably tough and hard when need be, and yet had that humanity, that soft center that made him more than just a highly efficient killing machine.  A flawed hero and a thoroughly admirable one in so many ways–the “better man” Richard would wish to be.



I would say RA certainly succeeded in reaching his goal. There are those who were unhappy with Richard’s decision to play this role, saying that it overlapped too much with another “action” role,  that of Lucas North in Spooks.

I would argue that other than the fact Lucas was in MI5 and Porter, MI6, and both are of a heroic bent,  the characters don’t bear much resemblance to one another.  Lucas, a university graduate, is bookish, cerebral and enigmatic; Porter, with his working-class roots, doesn’t hold his cards quite so close to his vest. Their backgrounds and personalities are quite different.

As crafted by Richard, they are two very separate and distinct characters onscreen, each with his own particular strengths and weaknesses.

Porter wins us over with his tender love for his little girl, with his kindness to a terrified and traumatized Katie, with his willingness to not fly under the radar in the prison in order to save the boy from rape, and more. He is brave and resourceful, capable of great anger and also willing to forgive. He has a strong moral compass, this “good man sent by God.”

He’s a modern-day knight in khaki and camo who moves with a dancer’s grace. Porter is the sort of man we’d hope would arrive if we found ourselves in a terrible jam. He says, “Trust me.” And we do.

Some have objected to  Richard appearing in Strike Back because he played a soldier and there is a certain amount of violence inherent in a military action drama. Yes, John Porter certainly knows his way around weapons. I found him exciting to watch in those action sequences, quite frankly (but then I do not have a problem with watching this type of story, as long as the violence is not highly gratuitous with bombs and bullets flying around every corner. Needless to say, SB:Project Dawn was SOOOO not my thing).

And yes, Porter is very sexy, and not just due to those impressive muscles Richard worked so hard to create. Porter’s chivalry, his good heart, his sweet flirtatiousness, his determination to do what is necessary to carry out his mission even at the possible cost of his life–all these things make him so very appealing to me.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he looks so good in that khaki and camo and his dress uniform. 😉

In Richard’s hands, John Porter is much, much more than another movie meathead with muscles and an AK-47. He has intelligence, a heart and a soul.

For me, he is yet another unforgettable Richard Armitage chaRActer and one of my personal favorites.  John Portah, I salute you!

About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

35 responses »

  1. SB was not my cuppa tea. But John Portah most certainly was. I loved the relational drama and that could have only worked because of RA’s portrayal of Porter. As you said, a solidier with a heart and soul. When he asks the reporter to trust him, i did. When the nun slaps him, he takes it because at some level he feels he deserves it, I felt his guilt. There were so many scenes that became more than “action” or “violence”. RA’s Porter was layered and that is often rare in action films. He was a human hero. I only wished there was more Porter and Layla as in Truce.

    • Strike Back and Captain America are the only RA roles Benny has watched with me, as they do fall into the genres he enjoys. I am glad in particular he watched SB, because it allowed him to see what a good actor Richard is and how he brought so much to what could have been a stereotypical “action man” role. When Diane says “we’re better off without him,” to Hugh, Benny reacted as we did. Give the poor guy a chance!! Once again, Richard allowed us to journey in a character’s shoes, to see through his eyes. With some action adventures, the action and violence and all the FX to create the huge explosions, etc. often overwhelm the plotline and characters and that’s about all you remember. John Portah, you remember. Naturally, I agree with your last sentiment. 😀 I think back to that scene between them at the prison when they are having to communicate primarily with their eyes and intonations. They were great together. I think it was visiting him in that prison that really made Layla start falling for John, beyond the attraction she already felt, but couldn’t admit it.

      • Well, that is my opinion too. Regardless of how one feels about the action genre or the plotline of SB, I do not see how one cannot be moved by Porter and his journey. And I certainly believe it was a very distinct character from any other one he portrayed.

      • Not very long after I watched SB, I caught the 2nd half of Rambo III (this is the one where Rambo goes on a mission in Afghanistan) and it occurred to me that the two characters (Porter and Rambo) do essentially the same things, lots of running around with guns, saving people, being topless, etc. And yet, there is a world of difference between them! SB luckily wasn’t relying so heavily on explosions and combat scenes and the storyline was better too. And acting-wise.. Stallone could not be more one dimensional, he has about 2 stock expressions and very blank eyes. He’s basically just a body builder turned killing machine. I don’t mind the time I spent watching that cr*p however, as it made me appreciate Richard’s performance even more.

    • Yes, and bless them for their sacrifices. I feel for servicemen and women. They put their lives on the lines for us all and give up so much. I wish we would never have the need to fight wars again. However, it’s good to know we have people who are willing to stand strong for freedom and the rights of people. I don’t like fights and war, but I’m not quite a pacifist. I believe that sometimes it’s necessary to fight the good fight. Just think if nobody opposed Hitler! And the world is a scary place right now. People are oppressed, injured and/or dying all over the world for their religion, their race, their views, their sex, etc. To all of the “Porters” out there: “Thank You!

      I do enjoy a good action story, one with heart, not just blood, guts and gore. SB and RA both delivered in that department!

      I hope I didn’t make anyone mad here. It’s just one girls opinion.

      • You said it wonderfully, Laurie. Maybe I have a different idea of what a pacifist is as I consider myself one but I think as you do!

        When I say my son is a pacifist, I know Matthew would do anything to protect those he loved and would want to do as much as he could for the rest of the world, too. His choice though would be to work with the UN or some such. He and my US Marine son-in-law get on so well and admire one another so much and yet they work in such different professions! Jeff looks like your typical Marine but is one of the gentlest men I’ve ever met and a real gentleman, too. I just wish he didn’t ever have to go to war but then……

        Jeff looks nothing like Richard but I think he’d be a lot like Porter when he’s overseas – he just has that same good heart and desire to help.

        I will always love Porter – he really is my idea of a hero, flaws and all. 🙂

      • Well said, Laurie! I wonder how many of us would be alive today if it weren’t for the men and women who have risked their lives over the years to ensure the safety of those who have gone before us. The world would be a far different place without them, I believe.

        I think Richard tried to honour such people in his portrayal of Porter – a tough and dedicated soldier in the line of duty, but at the same time, a loving family man just as many are today. In my eyes he made him believable.

  2. In my opinion, JP was not at all like Lucas. They were very distinct characters and at no point did I think one reminded me of the other. That is one thing about RA’s acting, when he immerses me in a character, I am not reminded of any other character he played. There is always something refreshing and different to each character. The only thing I have noticed, is he passes his hand over his face and mouth and covers his mouth for a few seconds in times of stress. Does anyone know what I am referring to? I wonder if that is something he does in real life too.

    • Yes, Gracie, I’ve noticed that hand gesture too! He uses it quite often as his characters find themselves in stressful situations a lot! 🙂

  3. I think Richard’s portrayal of John Porter did the real-life “Porter”s a service by showing us the very real emotional and physical trials of an honourable man in extreme circumstances. For every Diane, how many women (and men) are there who have seen their partners through the damage that resulted from such trials, nursed their wounded warriors — mostly unacknowledged and unsupported?

  4. Well said angie, once again you have expressed my feelings perfectly.
    I probably wouldn’t have watched SB if Richard wasn’t in it. It’s generally not my genre at all. I don’t mind some violence on the screen if there is a decent story behind it, but I’m more likely to watch with my eyes half closed! I physically haven’t the stomach for blood and guts, but I’m personally not happy with gratuitous violence either.
    Without Richard’s portrayal SB would have just been another boys with toys series, which is what SB2 appears to have become. He has said he had doubts about it initially, and I know there are fans who weren’t impressed with his choice of role, but I’m so glad he took it on. I absolutely adore Porter. He’s one of my favourite chaRActers. 🙂

    • That’s why most of us detest SB2. I watched about 15 minutes, then fast forwarded until I found JP. It was sex and violence without any substance.

      • Laurie, I haven’t seen SB2, it hasn’t been screened here in Australia yet, and I have no intentions of watching it, even though one of the lead roles is played by an Aussie, Sullivan Stapleton.
        Just the thought of Porter being killed off makes my heart ache, the screencaps over on RANet had me in tears (and yes, I consider myself a sensible, mature woman!!!) Thank goodness Porter is SND.

        • Based on Chris Ryan’s book, I’d never bother with SB. Yet Richard crafted John Porter so brilliantly, that characterisation overcomes my general boredom with the genre. Yes, I am so glad that John Porter is SND. We need him in the world.

    • Exactly, Mezz. Richard does that “looking for the good in the bad guy and the bad in the good guy” really well, doesn’t he? He finds it every time.

      So much so that i was surprised to see Angie had put the guy in “In Divine Proportion” (“The Inspector Lynley” series) down as a bad guy. I’ve never considered him a bad guy, just maybe a bit weak. But then…I wouldn’t consider him one of the good guys either!!! 🙂

      Mumma Mia, I’ve gone blank – what was that character’s name again? 🙂

      Ah… now I have an excuse to watch that episode again….today! 😉

      • Philip Turner. No, I don’t think he was bad either, just weak, as you say. Richard didn’t have much of a chance to develop his character. Maybe Angie needs a “neither/nor” category for chaRActers such as PT!

        • Thank you, Mezz. I kept wanting to type “Phillip” but I knew “Phillip Durrant” wasn’t right! 🙂

      • I’m with you ladies! I didn’t think Philip Turner as a bad guy either! I watched it again the other day and I too think he was bit weak. I think it’s high time Richard was in a movie or series where he wasn’t used by a woman!! 😉

        I just have one question – do any of you think he died after he was shot? I was always under the impression he didn’t because you see him moving afterwards. I sure hope they weren’t trying to make us think he did after him being brave enough to stand up to that deranged copper (policeman).

        Like Mezz, to me Porter is SND even though I was overcome with emotion when he was, supposedly, shot in the head. I wonder if Richard realized he had let the cat out of the bag when he talked about his various “deaths”. I was like, “Huh?? When was he ever shot in the head?” I hated finding out!!! Let me just say, though, I’m glad he is out of that show. It’s ghastly!!

        • BTW – I was referring to Philip Turner in my second paragraph, NOT John Porter, just in case there is any confusion! 🙂 I should also have written “I didn’t think Philip Turner WAS a bad guy either.”

        • Teuchter, I spent more time than I care to remember puzzling over what he said then, going back through his roles, trying to work out what he was referring to. Heaven forbid that I should have actually MISSED seeing a performance of his!

          • “Heaven forbid that I should have actually MISSED seeing a performance of his!”1!!!

            Oh, Mezz- I thought the same and did the same! 🙂

            Do you remember seeing “Cleopatra” on television years and years ago, too? That was where I spotted that lanky, good-looking young centurion and thought to myself, “Well, he’s a bit of alright, isn’t he?” 😉

            • Kathryn, I hadn’t seen that version of Cleopatra (only the Liz Taylor one) and have only downloaded the scenes with Richard in them. I wouldn’t have spotted him anyway, still in the throes of my Brosnan love, and darling Harry hadn’t come along yet. Even then it took until the second sight of him before I succumbed! Your Good Taste Gene must have developed very early! 🙂

              • Oh, it did. I was madly in love with Eddie Fisher, Mario Lanza and Gordon MacRae by 4 years of age!

        • I have never thought Phillip Turner died but I’m not sure if that was just wishful-thinking on my part! I must look at that episode again – I downloaded it to RealPlayer from YouTube and transferred it to a DVD..

          Actually, I still have that whole series of “Inspector Lynley” on videotape! I recorded it from television.

          I have sooooo many videotapes of series like that plus movies plus documentaries that I must transfer onto DVDs before the tapes go all wonky on me! There are about 500 tapes sitting there – I have the equipment to do the transfers but…well, you know how it is…one day!!! 🙂

          It’s the same with the records and the audiotapes – getting around to transferring them to the computer and thence to CD is just another one of those things on my to-do list! I’ve managed to save some CDs to the computer but not many! I have all of mine plus Matthew’s and donelle’s to do!

          • ooops… Donelle – Matthew’s wife. They’ve saved most of their music to their iPods or their computer.

          • Thanks Kathryn! I thought it was maybe just me who was doing a bit of wishful thinking!! 🙂 That episode was shown on TV here not too long ago so I have it saved on my PVR!! 😀

  5. It was good that Lucas and Portah looked so much alike. What better way to showcase Richard’s ability to create very different characters! Gosh, I loved Porter so much, even more than Lucas, and that says something. 🙂

  6. Re. the hand over the face moment……….my friend recorded Macbeth on Sky Arts 2 and i’ve just watched it in the scene when Macbeth imagines the dead Banquo RA does the hand across the face, partly as a indication of shock and the realisation that Macbeth is acutely embarrassing Lady Macbeth, it’s subtle but it works. Angus is only a small part but RA does well up against such an impressive cast it would have been understanable if he was a little over whelmed.

    • It is a gesture actors often use to display distress. I started looking out for it after someone criticised RA for it and found that for example the Downton Abbey actors do it all the time. They may even learn it at drama school or are told so by the director. Even the best actors don’t have an unlimited number of gestures and facial expressions at their disposal, just like the best painters don’t have an unlimited number of colours to work with, what matter is what they do with them and how they come together to form a picture. There also are gestures that many people use and that are commonly understood, so no wonder actors use them to get something across in a split second. It may not be as subtle as simply using the expression of the eyes, but then actors that are too subtle get called wooden.

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