Richard Talks About “Geneva” With Hello!

Months of sweet f nothing, and then we are hit with lots of goodies. I’ve just seen there is an interview with Hello! mag out, on the topic of Geneva. It’s garnished with some chef’s kiss-level photos, *ooof*, anyone? Interesting bits of background re. the writing of Geneva, who put him up to it, who helped and what the future holds. But for the quick dissemination of the new material, here is the article. Source. WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!!!!

Exclusive: Richard Armitage gets personal as he details career transition and reunion with Spooks co-star Nicola Walker

The Hobbit star has written an intricate and fast-paced psychological thriller

Richard Armitage has shared all the details on his career change from acting and reuniting with his “extraordinary” Spooks co-star Nicola Walker.

The 51-year-old, who received recognition with his first leading role as John Thornton in BBC period drama North & South back in 2004, is well-known for his work in film and TV, including The Hobbit trilogy, Hollywood movie Ocean’s 8, spy drama Spooks and the BBC’s adaptation of Robin Hood.

More recently, Richard has starred in Netflix thrillers such as The Stranger and Stay Close. In addition to his appearances onscreen, the British actor has lent his voice to the animated series Castlevania, and is a listener’s favourite narrator on Audible, narrating a number of titles including the bestselling Jackman and Evans series by Joy Ellis.

Here at HELLO!, we sat down with the acclaimed actor to talk about his debut thriller audiobook, Geneva, something which he later teamed up with his Spooks co-star Nicola when it came to narrating.

Despite being a heartthrob to many, the humble star touched upon his time in lockdown, his gratitude for teaming up with Audible, and whether he will reunite with Harlan Coben for a hat-trick.

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The actor is HELLO! Spotlight’s cover star for November photo credit – Kaitlyn Mikayla

His debut novel, Geneva, follows Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sarah Collier and her husband Daniel as they travel to Switzerland for an important conference. Upon arrival, Sarah begins to experience confusing contradictions and lapses of memory. Soon everything she and Daniel thought they knew about their work, their marriage and even their sanity is called into question.

Brought to life with narration by Richard and Nicola, Geneva is a fast-paced, intricate thriller that will keep listeners on the edge of their seats…

Congratulations on your debut novel, please tell our readers what Geneva is all about in a nutshell…

Richard: “It’s about Sarah Collier, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is in retirement. She’s persuaded by her husband to go to Geneva to endorse a biotech product, a neural implant. She’s been suffering from memory loss, learning that she has early onset dementia by the time she’s arrived in Geneva. Things start to escalate quite quickly, her sense of reality starts to warp and things are not quite what they seem.”

In recent years, you’ve been starring in really suspense thriller-based dramas – did this inspire your move into becoming a thriller writer?

Richard: “I think it’s why Audible came up with the idea. Apart from being involved with them as an actor, I’ve been reading a lot. I read quite a diverse selection for Audible, but I think somewhere along the line the algorithm said, ‘Put me and crime thriller together.’ It was an easy fit because my brain works well in those areas. Thrillers are the kind of movies and television, I like watching. I quite like [intense themes]. Don’t get me wrong, I do love comedy, but it doesn’t come naturally to me – I think other people do it brilliantly.

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The 51-year-old has ventured into writing

“From as early as I can remember, I have loved intrigue. I’m a bit of a Hitchcock fan. I’m not into horror but I like dramatic intrigue, high-stakes tension and suspense. That’s the kind of story, I really like. Trying to find out the twists and turns – a little bit, Agatha Christie.”

How are you finding the transition from acting to writing and narrating?

Richard: “It’s simpler than I thought because whenever I’ve been preparing for a role as an actor, I always do a lot of writing. I create a biography for each of my characters, which can be two pages, or sometimes it can be an entire book of notes and thoughts.

“I’m a literary researcher and I do all of that work ahead of time. It was really a question of doing that, the same work for these characters and then just continuing to explore them on the page. My brain was basically making the movie of Geneva and then I would just have to write it down. I was thinking in images, in cuts and action shots. It’s quite challenging to write cuts in your head because I’d write something and the editor would be like, ‘You can’t do that because it’s not a film.’ So essentially, I was making a movie in my mind.”

With the plotline in Geneva, did you know the outcome before you wrote the book – what was the journey?

Richard: “I had an idea of who I wanted to write about, and I had a rough idea of what the conceit would be. When it came to writing the chapters, I had a template to write from which was quite useful. It was really good because I could just take a chapter at a time and I’d just go in and write it. There were some chapters that I was really excited to write and some that were like, ‘I’ve got to get through this because I need it to get to the next place.'”

When it came to writing and creating Sarah and her husband Daniel, did you base them on anyone you know in real life?

Richard: “Yes, the idea for Sarah came from Sarah Gilbert, who is the face of the AstraZeneca vaccine. I had been reading a lot of information about her because she was the one person during the pandemic that I felt I could trust. I was also watching how she was being reported by the media and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s quite an interesting idea.’ I thought that team should have been nominated for the Nobel Prize.

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Richard has revealed hopes of turning Geneva into a drama

“I just thought how interesting to play a character who was very much in the public eye, but maybe their words get distorted [by the media], thinking what’s her life like? What’s her family life like? What would happen if I put a character like that into a scary situation? Having said that, it’s not really about her. I just watched some documentaries, I didn’t want it to be based on her. I thought, here’s an idea for a person that we hold with a kind of authority, and she’s being undermined by somebody.”

You’ve also teamed up with Nicola Walker in narrating – how did you get her onboard?

Richard: “We worked together on Spooks – for three years. It’s interesting because when it came to deciding on who to read, I wanted to take a step back and let Audible come up with some ideas. When Nicola Walker’s name came up as a suggestion, it was perfect. I had written a scene in the book based on a very old memory of a scene that I played with Nicola in Spooks. It was the end of the Lucas North storyline, where he’s tied her up and she’s drugged in a hostage situation. They were supposed to be allies. I allowed that memory to sort of come into the writing.

“When Audible said Nicola as the reader, I just thought this is brilliant because I’d been thinking about her during the writing process. I love her work and I think she’s such a brilliant actress. I knew that she would make the character just real. I wanted it to be relatable so I wrote this in first person, just so it sounds like someone is just reading a diary to somebody. She’s the perfect companion to this.”

Can we expect an on-screen partnership soon? Both of you are brilliant…

Richard: “If anybody jumps on the opportunity to make Geneva into a TV miniseries, then I would be like, ‘Nicola, are you busy?’ I would love to work with her again. I think she is extraordinary.”

This brings me to my next question, do you think Geneva could be turned into a drama – and would you star in it?

Richard: “I’m going to wait and see what the response is, but I’m certainly going to put it under the noses of some people that I’ve worked with and say, ‘What do you think?’ I wrote this with that in mind. I’ve got some good allies in the industry now and I’ve got a production company of my own. It would be amazing, and it would make a brilliant miniseries.

“I love where I set it because I wanted somewhere spectacular and slightly off the beaten track. I think Switzerland is an interesting country because it’s a sort of independent country in the middle, it’s landlocked, and it has a high altitude. I just thought that would be a great place to start a drama.”

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The star teamed has teamed up with his Spooks co-star Nicola Walker

Could Geneva have a sequel or a series of books?

Richard: “I’m sort of desperate to approach Audible again. For this book, I had some ideas that I was writing and developing. But Audible said, ‘Let’s pull back on that because it’s detracting from the main story.’ I’m still fascinated with some of the technology and the neural implant. It’s all based on things that are really in development so if I were to write a sequel, I might go down that route again.

“Whenever I read a book, I feel a little bit of grief when the book’s over because I miss the characters. I would love to write something else with the characters that survive the story because I’ve grown to love them and I’m interested in what they might do next. Having said that, there might be the opportunity for a completely different story that is not related to this at all, but it will probably be on a similar thing.”

With your line of work, you’ve travelled the world, but how do you deal with the constant travel/jetlag and probably living out of a suitcase?

Richard: “This week has been crazy, I went to Spain to promote The Man from Rome. I haven’t slept for three nights because my body will not shut down. It’s tricky, you just have to force yourself to do it but it is one of the privileges of my job. I’m not a very good tourist although I love going to work somewhere because you really get to know the place. You get to know local people, you’re not taken on the tourist trail and you find little gems all around the world.

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The actor has been busy filming in Spain and Canada

“When I was writing this, I managed to get a research trip to Geneva. I’d been before so I was working from memory. But once I finished, I went back and tried to find the geography of all the places I’d written about in the book to add extra detail. I made sure all of the journeys worked in terms of time and I found some real gems, it was brilliant.”

What other projects do you have coming up?

Richard: “I’m about to go to Toronto to shoot a little independent movie called The Boy in the Woods, which is about a little Jewish boy that escaped the Nazis by hiding in the Polish forest for two years. I’m playing a farmer who takes care of him for a while.

“I’ve just filmed a show called Damage for Netflix, which I think will be coming to the screen in 2023. It’s based on a brilliant book about a man who falls in love with his son’s fiancée and they get into a very complicated relationship. I play the father, Rish Shah plays the son and Charlie Murphy plays the fiancée and Indira Varma plays my wife. It’s a really brilliant cast, so I can’t wait for that to air. I think it’s going to be really good.”

Will you be teaming up with Netflix again for any other Harlan Coben adaptations?

Richard: “There’s a possibility of a third Harlan Coben series next year. I’m looking for a hat-trick, but it’s unconfirmed. There’s a possibility since he’s become a really good friend and as has Nicola Shindler at Quay Street. I really love working with them so whether it’s that project or something else, I’m sure we’ll collaborate in the future.

Did you turn to Harlan Coben for help when it came to your writing of Geneva?

Richard: “Yes, I did. It’s tricky because when I’m working with Harlan, I’m an actor – that’s his lane and that’s my lane. He lives in New York, and I met up with him a couple of times to pick his brains about the editing process, and he gave me some brilliant advice. He’s been very supportive. When you’re working with somebody like Harlan Coben, who is a prolific author, and a New York Times bestseller, it’s his empire. Then here’s me, a newbie coming in and having a crack at doing what he does. One of the things that I loved about working with Harlan Coben is that he’s very open to collaboration with actors when it comes to storyline and character development. He’s a very open-minded person.”

How were things for you during lockdown?

Richard: “I was in a wardrobe recording Agatha Christie books for Audible. I set up a recording studio, first of all in the toilet, but it was too echoey and then in the wardrobe – basically, an IKEA wardrobe with a curtain around me. I went to work every day and just read stories. It kept me sane. It was like a little escape since I had the structure during my day-to-day routine. I spoke to a lot of other actors and to be honest, there are moments when we are unemployed every six months. There’s a void in front of you where you think you have to find something to do today and that terror of no structure is not new to an actor. It happens a lot, as soon as you leave drama school, there’s no job ahead of you.”

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Psychological thriller Geneva is now available on Audible

How do you deal with all the heartthrob attention?

Richard: “I’m 51 – have you seen the state of me? I don’t get any attention. As I head towards my mid-fifties, I think I will retire from that title.”

I have to bring up North & South – are you still in touch with anyone?

Richard: “I’m still in touch with the director. Lesley Manville, if we saw each other now, we put our arms around each other and hug. I haven’t really kept in touch with Daniela [Denby-Ashe], although I think we follow each other on social media. I’d like to work with her again, I think she’s really good and really talented. I really think she did something special in that role. I’m now developing and producing, so I’ve got a little black book of all my old colleagues that I’m going to pull out and hire people.”

Finally, ahead of World Kindness Day, who in the public eye has shown kindness towards you?

Richard: “You know who was really, really kind to me – it was Sandra Bullock. I went to work on Ocean’s 8 and I kind of came into the story at the very last minute. She was so sweet to me. She gave me her phone number and her email – aside from the work things – she just kind of looked after me on set and introduced me to her kids. I was really surprised because sometimes people just pass you and say, ‘Hi,’ and you go to work and then it’s all over. But she was really sweet. She’s one of the good ones.”

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So much for the article. The new images by Kaitlyn Mikayla are really nice… and they belie the whole “not a heartthrob at 51 anymore, nobody notices me”. Richard still suffers from humble pie-itis. But well, I concede that that particular question is not only lame but also unnecessary. I always wonder why interviewers ask it – doesn’t it almost verge on intentionally embarrassing the interviewee? I mean, what is he supposed to say? Agree that he is god’s gift to women, men and any other gender representation? Redundant, if you ask me, since Richard wouldn’t be cast in an erotic thriller or required to take his shirt off for a priest film…

Having listened to more than three quarters of the audio book by now, I actually find that the editor employed by Audible could have done a slightly better job. Or Harlan Coben’s advice wasn’t up to scratch, but there were a couple of mistakes that were not picked up in the editing process. I’ll only say “Sie sind ein Narr.” German-speakers will know what I mean. Google Translate is not always your friend, Richard 😉.

Anyhow, as a first response I have to say that I am enjoying the audio book and the story. Those details are only minor distractions, and easily forgivable. And I would like to see the book turned into a feature film. You can definitely tell that he wrote the story from the POV of an actor/producer.

Hopefully I will get the opportunity to finish the audio book, soon. My mother is arriving today for a short visit. Her beloved grandson graduates from college next week. After that I will travel with her to Germany and attend a wedding. So lots of distraction in the next couple of weeks.

47 thoughts on “Richard Talks About “Geneva” With Hello!

  1. Thanks for the kindness of sharing this interview with us. I agree with you about the stupid question. Oy!
    As for Geneva, so far I’ve listened to six chapters. It has tempted me to write blog post after I finish it. Last, but not least, my congratulations to your son; time sure flies. I remember how excited you were when he left home for university for the first time. Glad you still have your mother with you. Well, you know what I mean. May your time together be wonderful. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this.
    So, there are ideas for Geneva which did not make into the book regarding the technologie? I would love to know more about that.
    I was wondering about the German in Geneva as well, but it did not annoy as much as the French pronounciation.
    And yes, *ooof* please.

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    • The little hint re. other things that didn’t make it into the book, make me curious, too. Hehe, is he planning a whole multi-season show of his books 😉
      There was one particular phrase that was said in German in the book, and unfortunately it was pretty clear that he used Google Translate in order to translate it. The phrase is grammatically correct, but it contains a major logical mistake that actually made me laugh out loud.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Heartthrobe-gate: by now I think that is a request made by RA himself: please, can you ask something about my hotness so I can play humble and make smile my ladies? They are soo happy when I’m dismissive about my insane beauty! 😂

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    • I agree. Even if he does not watch the final films, he must be aware what his scenes look like.
      Or is it to negotiate more money for the next contract? He will need funds for his production company.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m ignorant – what are these “easter eggs”??! Is it a Twitter thing? RA mentioned them, and iirc they have some connection with Taylor Swift.

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        • “Easter eggs” are little details in a Easter egg (media) is a term used to describe a message, image or feature hidden in a video game, film, or other that’s usually an electronic medium. It’s those little sneaky hidden messages in your favourite film that you love to spot and makes you go “ahhhh, I know what that means.” In the audio book it could for instance be something like RA deciding to call his main character “John” (because we always joke about him playing characters called John). This is just an example – there is no character called John in Geneva ;-). But it’s little details like that, where observant fans know that the detail has some other significance for the writer/director etc.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Or do I think I know that because that’s how I explained “Easter egg” to myself (since you hunt, visually, for hidden Easter eggs on Easter morning)? Not knowing anything about popular culture, mind, ignore me if I am completely wrong.

              Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you for this, it’s pretty much what I thought and I did pick up on a few in Geneva! I’m hoping that when enough have listened to it that we can compare notes here – just to see if I got them right hehe 😉

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            • I must confess, I haven’t spotted any (other than maybe an obvious connection to RA), but maybe I haven’t listened closely enough.
              I’d describe it as an inside joke between the creator(s) and the audience. Back in the old NCIS days, the show runners dropped a fandom nickname into an episode. The joy!

              Liked by 1 person

  4. So we have this scenario: yn is a journalist and RA is shyly asking for this heartthrobe thing and says: “you can’t imagine how fit I am! Look at this arm of mine… no, wait, now I take off my shirt… like so… and I have wonderful legs too!” And trousers fly away. And: “where is my pole when I need it? You can’t really believe how useful is pole dance for health! Let me show it, just hold my glasses”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Unfortunate that the opening graf of the article mentions Richard’s “career change from acting… .” Branching out into writing and producing doesn’t spell the end of his time in front of the camera!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m beginning think that Richard should employ this forum as an editor for this next book, with especial reference to use of foreign languages. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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  7. OMG Richard (and Guylty), THANK YOU for this fabulous interview with so much new information in it. This fangirl is ready to plotz.

    Regarding “Redundant, if you ask me, since Richard wouldn’t be cast in an erotic thriller or required to take his shirt off for a priest film…”

    Thank you for THAT piece of sarcastic humor, G, which made me laugh out loud, and yes, yes, yes, just LOOOOOOK at those spectacular photos of that gorgeous man. I’m all over them, as usual. The two where he is wearing the turtle neck sweater/jumper were both shot at the New York Public Library, in exterior locations near entry doors.

    The one with the rectangle of makeup-mirror-style small light bulbs, I don’t know. The clothes look different, so it might be a different shoot, and could be…anywhere. Geneva, perhaps? A London theatre?

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    • IKR? If nobody noticed him, he wouldn’t continuously be offered sexy-leading man roles… Too much humble pie 😉.
      As for the photo – I thought the same about the picture with what looks like a make-up mirror. However, upon looking again, I think it looks more like one of those poster boxes, like they used to have outside the movie theaters? Looks like there is a corridor behind him, not an intimate make-up room.

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  8. Thank you for this, it was good to read it straight through from start to finish.
    Re the heart throb question, I think I snorted out loud when I read his answer, but in truth it must be a bit embarassing to be asked that.
    I finished Geneva today. A few niggles that I won’t go into in case they’re spoilery, but overall I really enjoyed it, I was hooked from the start which to me is a sign of good writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There were a few pieces of news in there, so it was definitely an interesting article – even despite that stupid question.
      I was hooked on the book from the beginning, too, although I found the intro quite long. Still haven’t finished it, but my early hunch has already been confirmed.

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    • Sadly, I haven’t been able to listen to much of Geneva yet (circumstances have got in the way) but will hopefully listen to the rest soon! I decided that late evening wasn’t the best time as I found myself feeling too tense! So had to revert to listening to The Jane Austen Society for the umpteenth time!!! I now know the audiobook so well that it lulls me to sleep. *sigh* That voice!!!

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      • I finished it yesterday. Have spent some time sitting in my car in the garage after a trip, which is when I listened to much of it, not wanting to switch off! I’m glad you’ve reminded me of TJAS Teuchter, I’m due for another listen of that, a bit more relaxing than Geneva!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I also haven’t finished it yet. I probably would, if I didn’t have visitors and had time to craft (because that’s when I listen to audio books). It’s tense alright!!

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  9. I‘m glad that the interview contains a lot of interesting information and great photos (they are very *ooof* (especially those in front of the mirror and on the stairs). This one question does not fit with the rest but maybe you get such question when you become the *cover star for November* (I have no experience in this regard 😂). Nice that he likes Sandra, I like her too.
    😊 I’m also in favor of him using this forum for advice on foreign affairs (foreign languages). In particular, as he is playing a Polish farmer, Johnny, right now. The husband division was so surprised that he was silent for three seconds imagining Lucas and Portah as a very poor Polish farmer in the 1940s (his eyes were so big I thought I was going to die laughing). Can’t wait to see Richard in that role. Looks like this role might be interesting. The two farmers he played so far have been great.
    Congratulations for Master Guylty. It looks like you will have a wonderful gorgeous next week (with the graduation of your son, your birthday) together with your family including your mom. Enjoy this special wonderful week.
    The Wartburg Castle, that you once mentioned, as far as I can remember, was nice. 😉 Just hope you don’t choose to hide there to rest from us, as long as Luther did.
    Have a great time with your family. 💗

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    • I also like Sandra, and it was nice of him to use her as an example.
      I am very curious to see what exactly he is doing in that new film. As I said before, I am always wary of films set in Nazi era (just because they can go so horribly wrong if approached the wrong way), so I really hope it’s going to be good…

      Like

  10. It was an interesting, revealing interview and those recent photos, wow. How can he say ” I don’t get any attention! ” Hello! Are we invisible? I am really impressed by Geneva so far, it is quite profound and poetic at times.

    Like

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