On Hearing Richard

I was going to post my contribution to the Mystery Blogger Award today, but have decided that I must record my thoughts on yesterday’s podcast by Christopher Maynard of Following Films with Richard Armitage. I am going to lean far out of the metaphorical window here and say that it was a near-perfect interview. And what a surprise, too, sprung on us some time yesterday afternoon (GMT) by way of a call for questions.

And the resulting podcast was an even bigger surprise. Not only because it actually arrived when it said it would (the same night unlike some other sites who keep tapping us for questions and likes and then never deliver the goods…), but because it turned out to be a *proper* interview, not just a mini Q&A but a veritable 41 minutes long! For posterity – here it is linked below. I suggest you keep these visuals in sight when listening to it.

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/followingfilms/episodes/2017-10-29T15_20_30-07_00

So why is this an outstanding interview? Because it is a calm, long conversation rather than a short sensational quiz. Interviewer Chris Maynard gives Armitage space to expand his thoughts – not just to get the usual information about the release date of his latest work across, but to actually talk about his process and experience on Sleepwalker. The interviewer asks considered questions that cannot just be answered with a simple yes/no or a one-sentence anecdote, but demand careful answers. The whole interview feels less like a Hollywood entertainment show between a celebrity reporter and a movie star, but much more like an in-depth conversation between two interested equals. And as such, Maynard manages to draw out so much more from Armitage than most promo interviews that stay at the surface because they are after the funny anecdotes and need short sound-bites.

Armitage, in turn, is a true pleasure to listen to. It’s not just his beautiful diction, the way he expresses his thoughts in supple, measured sentences – but also the passion when he’s touching on issues that excite him. I even like the little pauses he makes – a sign of an active mind searching for the right word and the right thought to answer a question in a careful, deliberate way, considering language very carefully.

Yeah, no one believed that Bateman was real… In fact many of us were rightly pissed-off that the BBC fobbed us off in such a cheap way… Final scene of Lucas North in Spooks 9

It’s actually the glimpse of the workings of this actor’s mind – his approach to details of his work, the insights into his work on set, the context he puts his work in, both in terms of practical anchoring of a character’s actions, as well as their supposed subconscious. From my notes I can see that I particularly was struck by his audience awareness. And by that I don’t mean that he was aware of who was likely to be listening to the podcast (and for whom he was thus adjusting his statements) but his general awareness of the audience who will perceive his work. For instance, when talking about Sleepwalker, he touches upon the risk the filmmaker is taking by leaving the film somewhat ambiguous – and Armitage shows his audience awareness by conceding that ambiguity is tricky for an audience. Or around the 11:00 minute mark, Armitage uses the Lucas North/John Bateman dichotomy as an example for the importance of taking the audience seriously. These little tidbits resonate with me because they exactly touch on things that *I* struggled with in the respective film/show. Whether Armitage agrees with my POV or supports the filmmakers’ decisions is not really the point – for *me* the point is that he is *aware* of audience reactions.

Other bits that resonated with me:

  • Armitage on himself: “not a performer or a showman”, “would rather like to be observed than push something to the audience” – as in ‘quietly doing his job’ rather than ‘pointedly pretending to be someone’? Or ‘being a character’ rather than ‘pretending to be a character’? ‘Method acting’?
  • The gratification that is in the work: “the riches are not financial but artistic”
  • And total bonus: His laugh at 31:50 Someone make a ringtone out of that, please
  • Oh, and Armitage inadvertently answering my question re. the playlist for Scott White. Interesting answers – he mentions Max Richter and Mica Levi, both producing suitably “atmospheric” music for a film that is dealing with the subconscious. Have a listen to these two samples of their work – they both sound to me as if they could’ve been on Armitage’s playlist (although he doesn’t mention the exact pieces)

  • Self-indulgent Guylty guilty plus: Interviewer Christopher Maynard even acknowledged the input from fans who submitted questions right at the end of the podcast. That’s a definite first. Thank you for that!

So, a really nice interview – I really liked what I heard. Not least because it will provide more fodder for my imaginary version of the Armitage, considered actor, assured talker. Over and out.

 

 

29 thoughts on “On Hearing Richard

  1. I loved this interview as well. I’ve been listening to more and more podcasts over the last several months, and I think there’s a difference in how guests are handled on podcasts than in regular interviews. This truly was a conversation, and aside from the mispronunciation of Armitage, this interviewer not only did his homework, but was apologetic that he couldn’t do enough homework in the prep time allowed. It was really stellar. Ranks right up there – even surpasses, in some ways, that one on one Sydney interview after the first Hobbit ( I forget what we call that interview.) Other interviewers can learn a lot from this guy.

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    • Sydney: Popcorn Taxi. Which, I agree, was a fantastic interview, but hard to compare with this podcast because a) it was conducted on a stage with an audience and b) was more celeb interview-y than this one.
      It is very interesting to observe these differences, though – how Armitage seems to blossom in this particular interview. Conclusion: Interviewers have to give Armitage space to expand his thoughts, and they’ll be rewarded with a long, insightful interview. Showbiz/promo interviews OTOH only get the ‘non-committal chat’ treatment.

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      • Agree to the differences and thanks for supplying the name of it. Also different because he was so “green” for Popcorn – but it is a favorite of mine. I only saw it a few years after it was conducted, so missed most of the fan buzz, but at the time, it was instrumental in increasing my crush.

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        • Popcorn Taxi is a definite favourite of mine, too. It also goes to show that interviews really depend on *both* participants in the conversation. The interviewer in Sydney was well-prepared and his style of interviewing was light and humorous. RA reacted in kind. That’s something he always does – he kind of reflects the approach of his interview partner. Future interviewers note!

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      • that Sydney interview was really problematic — the interviewer was anti-fan, and then the version that we got of it was not complete; edited it out a bunch of stuff that he said. I enjoy that interview but I never see it without remembering those things.

        I also think some of this has to do with him being on the phone as opposed to in front of hundreds of fans.

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        • There they are. My rose-tinted glasses. Blanking out the fact that some of Oscar Whatsisname’s comments about fans were actually not just anti-fan but downright distasteful. Not RA’s fault, but yeah, I can see how that puts a dampener on that interview for you.
          A phone interview probably puts the interviewee in a much more comfortable space – knowing he is not being observed (visually); potentially speaking from the comfort of his own living room thus feeling more relaxed. Also: maybe not knowing how much of what he is saying will actually be used… (although that could go either way).

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          • I think it’s sort of to Armitage’s credit that he never responds to opportunities to bait fans. It would be easy for him.

            There’s still something intimate, at least potentially, in this idea that you’re speaking to one person, even if you know you’re being recorded. I also think it’s often easier to warm up to people over the phone.

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            • Indeed, Armitage keeps the distance. He doesn’t bait. Quite the opposite – he seems to actively avoid any semblance of baiting. Speaks of a certain amount of integrity and independence.
              Interesting – while I agree with you that a conversation between two people is intimate (no matter whether recorded or not), I personally find it very hard to warm up to people over the phone – because I really dislike phone conversations. I miss the visuals.

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              • Oh, I hate phone conversations, too, or at least I do now (although not because I miss the visuals — the missing visuals are the best thing about phone convos). I hate how slow they usually are. But the useful thing about them is that because all of the other visual information about the person and his/her surroundings is edited out, one fills it in oneself. I hear a “yes” and add a lot of affirming information to that in my mind. Or, sometimes the person just has a voice I respond to more than I might have otherwise if I weren’t focused solely on that. Or the person is quite ordinary looking or even ugly, or just has a feature that I don’t like (crooked nose, neon orange hair), or is dressed really badly — but I don’t see any of that. In phone conversations much more than other mediums, I experience the other person as I would ideally like them to be. I’m talking to *my* picture of them and I’m free to build that picture as I please. It goes on in both directions. I think it’s why a lot of times people who do online dating choose to talk on the phone first and sometimes get marooned in that phase of a new encounter.

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  2. Danke Guylty für diese wunderbare Nachbetrachtung dieses wunderbaren Interviews mit RA. Und die Musik! Right now we are being spoiled tremendously with a lot of RA goodies!! Oh boy, I love this man!!

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    • I have to say I felt quite a bit love-struck last night after listening to the podcast, too. A bit like that love emoji, with the love hearts covering the eyes 😍. I was inwardly sighing and thinking to myself “oh Richard, du bist so toll” before quietly fainting with my hand clutching my heart 😂… And let’s be honest here – such an incident/interview was badly needed… Wall-nailing antics cannot sustain a crush alone…

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      • This love emoji, yesss!!! 😀 Also felt very, very emotional after reading the “Japanese Hollywood” interview a couple of days ago….Just that he mentioned those two “fundamental Johns” somehow knocked me over !!! 😉 In the moment Richie seems to be in a phase of generously giving away some of his intriguing thoughts, and experiences connected to his work, and the preperations for it. He has been silent publicly for so long, more ore less since last Christmas.

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        • Oh yes, that was an interesting insight, telling us that he feels closest to Standring and Thornton. Even the fact that these two characters from way back in his career are still in his mind, is telling.
          I guess he’s in between projects right now, not yet deeply immersed in a new character, so he has time to be himself. It certainly is a nice change to hear and read longer interviews with him.

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  3. So much this!
    I listened and smiled and was thinking: ‘I wish I could talk to and with him like that should I ever get to meet him.’ I love it when people speak about their interests and passions (and are allowed to speak about them) and you can *feel* it – this whole ‘this is my thing and I love doing it’. It was a brilliant talk between two people who share a few topics to dig into.
    (On a sidenote: I love the fact that Richard listened to Max Richter. One of my personal all time favourites for inspiration.)

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    • I think you are totally hitting the nail on the head there, Luscinnia – this is the sort of conversation I would like to have with him, where you delve into a subject matter beyond the main “coordinates” and where you don’t just get the facts about the subject of the discussion, but you learn something about the person. It was definitely uplifting to hear him reflect so earnestly about his approach. And I loved when he said that he just loves watching two actors working together, observing how they create something.

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  4. Ich schließe mich den Vorrednerinnen an: schöne Nachbetrachtung eines schönen Interviews! Danke dafür – und für die Soundtrackfrage natürlich auch! Max Richter ist im Moment auch bei mir viel gehört! Sein “Recomposed – Vivaldi – The four seasons” ist fantastisch! ❤

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  5. re: ambiguity — okay, you and I had slightly different interpretations of what you meant by “audience awareness,” but I guess I think what you’re talking about has been there all along, has to have been there all along, in the sense that it would be a question that one would have to ask about a script while reading it. So I didn’t find that very surprising and I wouldn’t have classified it as a new “audience awareness” so much as a question any reader would ask themselves about anything they were reading: how do I feel about this ambiguity as a reader? Where do my reactions fit in? Are they legitimate? To me, Armitage revealed that he is a normal consumer of texts. (shrugs).

    iirc the John Bateman info was not new — he said right after filming Spooks 9 that he had thrown the scripts against the wall, which to me signaled that he had been frustrated with it, even if his main message, in most of the publicity, was selling it as legitimate. He said it more straightforwardly this time; I suppose distance makes that easier.

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    • Fair point. Audience awareness is probably a must for *any* performer. After all, they are performing *for* an audience. In that sense it was not new. It just struck me this time – because he touched on points that I had thought about. The ambiguity issue in Sleepwalker; the Bateman twist. (His previous comments on the resolution of the Lucas North/Bateman character must have slipped under my radar.)

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      • He was a bit caught on his own petard rhetorically, because for two years he’d been saying he loved about the show that any character could be suddenly written out of the show in the most shocking way possible. I bet he said that at least six times. So then, when it happened to him, aside from the marketing question and not running down your own projects, it was probably impossible to say that he didn’t like that it was happening. Two or three years later he did say that he hadn’t wanted to negotiate for further seasons of Spooks, that he’d decided to leave it anyway when his standard 3 years were up, but I’ve always wondered if that mood came from season 8 (which was confusing as heck) or season 9 (which was indeed viewable as a sort of artistic betrayal).

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        • My guess is the latter. Just in terms of him having invested two years in a character and his back story, only to be told by the writers that it was all a lie. That must indeed seemed like betrayal to him, however much he enjoyed the idea of a show that ruthlessly does away with a character whenever they need a twist. In itself, that idea is not bad but exciting. Going out with a bang is always exciting, I would think. Except Lucas/John didn’t exit with a “bang” but a “gnab” – a weird, mixed-up, forced reversal of what had been so carefully cultivated over two seasons. As you said in your previous comment – with the show now far enough in the past, RA probably feels more confident to voice criticism. (Hehe, although he is not quite brave enough to say what he really thinks, but using the audience as an excuse…)

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          • I wondered about that ending — like if they really thought we’d think it was a cliffhanger, or if there was some possibility that he’d have agreed to do another series, or if it was just that they didn’t want the ending to leak (they supposedly filmed different endings).

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            • All of those things… I do think it was intended as an open ending; slightly wishi-washi. As in “ok, we’ll end his plot line here. But juuuuuuust in case there is any demand, we will just *imply* he’s dead…” Cheap.

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              • yeah, it ended up being a characterization tool for Harry Pearce in season 10, a throwaway one liner when he has to discuss it briefly.

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  6. Wish i has time to listen to it again, had to do it over a lunchbreak at pc while doing emails, but it was still very pleasant. I love hearing him talk, always reminds me of that conversation at the Old Vic when i found him so very interesting, And it’s always the same feeling when there is opportunity to hear him speak in more detail.
    But i have to say the credit for this goes 90% to the interviewer who created the opportunity.
    He’s a great host and a very warm and engaging and open presence apart from being utterly professional and well prepared. He creates the tone and puts him at ease so it becomes this really interesting exchange. It also helps that he is very much into the genre of the movie. much more than myself actually. But it’s testament to his skill that he keeps even those not that fascinated with the subject engaged throughout.
    I#m glad somebody mentioned the bit about Standring and Thornton. It struck me as well while listening that he still remembered them and fondly too and i can see what he means.
    I am maybe less surprised by what he says about acting on stage particularly. The best ones always seem to be the ones who turn inside into the character and just delve deep into it because i think it creates a most natural effect. Display outwards is always counterproductive. Well, it will depend on the role but still i think actors are at their best when they focus completely on the story and their character and not on the audience. We’re just there along for the ride and the more convincing the story and the characters the better our experience is for it.
    Will definitely try and see if i can put it on my phone to listen on the move. Though my last bus rides have been nightmare of rude people loudly yammering on their phones or talking in high volume which has made any kind of attentive listening nearly impossible to my utter frustration.
    But yes, wish there were more interviewers like this one… thankfully every now and then one comes along but it feels like a dying art.. everything is short, twitter-style, written questions and it never really is a human conversation anymore.

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    • I agree that the better the interviewer, the better the questions, the more interesting the responses. (Also, an interviewer that listens to the answers and follows up is a rare thing these days.) It’s part of why I’m kind of exhausted by the whole “ask fans for questions on Twitter” thing these days. It’s true that some fans ask very good questions, but it’s a minority — most are just asking questions to which they know they will like the answers, or their favorite questions of the past in order to hear the answer again. And a lazy interviewer says, oh, fans want to know that, so it must be important.

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      • There are a couple of other elements in the “fan questions” that are also slightly dubious. It doesn’t apply in this particular case (FF was actually really good about the whole thing, chose good questions, made an attempt at asking (although preempted by RA) and even credited fans), but more often than not the request for fan questions is just a way of advertising a forth-coming interview. And when it then comes to choosing the questions, the interviewers either stick to the same old (because the answers will guarantee attention – even if not from the fans but from the general audience), or if it is promo interview where the producers/actors choose the questions themselves, they often choose superficial questions, too, because they carefully guard what they want to give away. Lastly – I occasionally get the impression that the whole fan question thing sometimes looks like a contest within the fandom. As in – “*MY* question got my question”. Unfortunately that then means that the suggested questions are not geared to what would be really interesting to find out, but to what is most likely to get answered. And that would be entertaining, inconsequential stuff.

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        • I guess I’m not really bothered by the competitive aspect of it — I’d put this in the “if that makes you happy” category. But I agree about the other stuff.

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