FROM the FanstRA TAGTEAMERS today:
Yup, there's more! In freeform: Melanie on why Harry Kennedy is the perfect man • Itsjsforme unveils Guy of Gisborne's latest public service announcements (not safe for work!) • In fandom, Fabo on Richard Armitage's statements about fans • Gratiana Lovelace requests help captioning in "I'm Too Sexy for My T-Shirt!" • The Hobbit chain goes creative with The Queen on Hobbit quilts • Mrs. E.B. Darcy on Hobbit action figures! • For King Richard Armitage, IngeD3 reviews the Michael Hicks biography of the fifteenth-century king •In fanfic, John Thornton on why he loves Margaret Hale • Jo Ann introduces us to a new Armitage character she knows we'll love • Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day.
FROM THE CORE BLOGGERS:
"RAFrenzy" writes "Understanding Richard Armitage" What makes Richard Armitage special?; "me + richard armitage"hosts a fan showcase with Mersguy; "Confessions of a Watcher" Part 1 of "The ChaRActers go to Therapy"; "CDoart: Richard Armitage & History & Spooks" writes about "Fantasy & History"; "Richard Armitage Fan Blog" Crinkleholic SiouxieSioux publishes her diary; "The Squeee" "Holding out for a Hero". Traxy looks at RA's character in "The Golden Hour"; Richard Armitage Vids & Graphics Bccmee discusses RA's role of John Mulligan ; DistRActed musings of one ReAlity hosts an interview with fanfic writer JuleWhatev; Jonia's cut - Jonia discusses the mathematics of RA's legs.
On this blog: JOHN THORNTON - the importance of story, sets, and props in character portrayal
One of the things that impresses me most about Richard Armitage is his dedication to researching his roles and his work ethic. I guess if an actor has struggled to find work in the initial phase of their career journey, he/she will never take work for granted. I sense this very much with Richard Armitage from what he has shared in various interviews, and John Thornton was a role he seemed to really cherish (as many of us did ....). In this blogpost, I will outline (albeit briefly) comments from his director and co-star; his role preparation, and the significance of props and sets.
I will start this blogpost by quoting the Director, Brian Percival, and Producer, Kate Bartlett who made the following observations about Richard Armitage's ability to get into character. (This is taken from the commentary for Episode One, North & South)
About Richard Armitage
"He quickly inhabited the character of Thornton. It was quite amazing to see the transformation of Richard from rehearsal stage ... to getting his costume on and really becoming Thornton." Kate Bartlett:
"I think the moment ... (and Richard would probably agree with this) .. that it all completely fell together was when he arrived at the mill ... and it was his mill ... he became Thornton ... as he walked through the yard of the Mill, looking around and there were his workers ..." Brian Percival:
Re: Daniela and Richard: "... they did get on very well and there was a fantastic onscreen chemistry which was something we were looking for when we were doing the casting of the characters - we did read with a lot of actors and put a lot of combinations of Margarets and Thorntons together until we finally came up with the mix of Richard and Daniela which was perfect"
Daniela Denby-Ashe: "As soon as I saw Richard, I knew he was Thornton .... Just in the way he holds himself, he has a real presence." (The Independent 2004)
Richard Armitage: "Something great happened when I read with Daniela. Something clicked. There are only four scenes in the whole drama when Margaret and John are actually alone together, and that heightens the tension between them. It's a wonderfully antagonistic relationship, and a real meeting of minds as well."(The Independent, 2004)
Following is information from an Interview with Richard Armitage which can be found on the DVD extras.
PREPARATION FOR THE ROLE
I think the depth of research Richard Armitage does for a role has become characteristic. Following are some comments he has made about preparing for John Thornton.
a) The Book: His point of reference was the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. He read the book before his audition:
"I thought I owed it to the role to know as much about it before I attempted to convince someone to cast me as Thornton....."
"The novel was there for me all the time"
b) Research into the cotton industry including museum visits.
d) Research into the etiquette of the 1850's. (A good exampe of etiquette in the 1850's in America can be found here)
Richard Armitage also mentioned that he had an "affinity" to the character because of his own heritage. There were "many aspects to which I related". Through his research, he was able to learn about Thornton, the industry he worked in, the community he lived in, and the lifestyle he led.
PROPS/SETS ASSISTING WITH CHARACTER PORTRAYAL and SCENE AMBIENCE
One aspect of BBC period dramas I really love is the beauty of sets and the attention to detail in the props. (I'm hoping other bloggers will be looking at aspects of Thornton's costume, and I therefore will let them enlarge on the topic). Props help an actor convey their story.
Take this screencap at the Thornton's dinner party for example:
The use of the napkin in delicately wiping his mouth adds a sense of "polish" to the character of John Thornton. He demonstrates that his table etiquette is as good as that of anyone from the "haut ton" of London Society. Mrs Thornton's dinner party was particularly lavish in presentation/set decoration. Annette over at RichardArmitageOnline has a scan of a very interesting article from the Sainsburys Magazine on the dinner party - "A Novel Occasion". It can be found here.
1. The china: The scene where Margaret and John's hands touch fleetingly would lose its appeal if she handed him a chipped mug. Irrespective of the change in circumstances of the Hales, their gentility is obvious.
As small parts of the story are told through Margaret and Edith's letter writing, and there are further scenes showing John writing his ledger and balancing his figures, I thought that I would include the quill as a prop that sets the tone of the work. We see it used throughout North & South.
Much later, John Thornton manages to find one rose surviving in the hedgerow near Margaret's old house. He gives it to her when he meets her by chance at the train station. I think it is symbolic that a Helston rose was given to Margaret by Henry (before he makes her an offer which she rejects), and finally by John whom she now accepts.
The inside shots for North & South were mainly taken in 33 Portland Place, Marylebone, London, England, UK (Gentleman's club); The Georgian Group HQ - 6 Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia, London, England, UK (Thornton House interior) and Ealing studios. As mentioned previously, the Hale's house was built entirely at the studio with the kitchen doubling as Higgins' house.
Location, set design, costume, props and backstory, are all extremely important in helping an actor like Richard Armitage form his character. He has managed to bring to life a much loved character from book to screen. I am hoping he will be doing much the same with Thorin Oakenshield.