New television shows aren’t limited to the Big 3 networks anymore. With streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon, more and more new content is available to the discerning viewer and smaller networks are nipping at their heels with content too. Premium network EPIX is joining the fold with their own original scripted content and they’re drawing a lot of attention and star power to their shows. Nick Nolte and Sela Ward star in Graves, about a former president of the United States admitting to his mistakes while in office and premiering October 16 on EPIX is Berlin Station, an espionage spy thriller along of the lines of MI-5 (which, coincidentally also starred Richard Armitage) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It stars Richard Armitage (North and South) along with Michelle Forbes (Orphan Black) and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill).
I sat down with Richard Armitage this summer to chat about the show.
For those who aren’t familiar with Berlin Station, can you tell them a little more about you character and the show?
The character is Daniel Miller, a CIA operative who identifies a leak in the agency, and it is happening from Berlin. He is sent to Berlin to try to flush out the leak, a character named Thomas Shaw. We follow Daniel into Berlin and he brings us into Berlin Station where we start to track every single character.
I feel like the character has some similarities to your character on Spooks (MI-5) and Strike Back. What draws you to these roles?
This one in particular is quite different for me because I was fascinated with the fact that as a European playing an American, in a way, Daniel grew up with a European childhood. The thing that interested me was the idea of somebody who is a patriot but is questioning his patriotism, he is questioning his government, and he is questioning the institution that he works for, that being the CIA.
And, unlike Spooks and Strike Back, he is a very normal person. He is good in his job, but he is not a superhero. He is a very normal person with normal flaws and he is put into an extraordinary circumstance that stretches him and forces him to kind of question himself. I think that is what interested me about it.
Among theater, TV, and film – do you have a preference?
It depends. When I am on stage, I love the immediate response that you get from the audience, and the immediacy of the material, and the longevity of the play. And the fact that once it starts, you are just immersed in that character for 2.5 to 3.5 hours, maybe.
But at the same time, in film, I love piecing together a character and story in tiny fragments so you can work on extreme detail. And I love handing it over to an editor who will make it coherent and make it more exciting than it was on a day. And also working on a relative vacuum of privacy, I really enjoy it and bringing it to an audience at a later date. So, it depends where I am.
You were actually one of my picks for a possible next James Bond. If anything, what would you change about the character, or how would you approach it differently?
Of James Bond? I guess the thing that is stimulating to me about this material is a heroic figure who is forced to question everything that he knows to secure his government. In James Bond’s case, his queen and country, his sense of national pride, and the institution that he works for, is put on a knife-edge and you are forced to question who are the good guys here and who are the bad guys because it comes in such a grey area. I think that would be a fascinating way to approach a character.
You tend to lean toward serious roles although you have done Vicar of Dibley. Are you going to be doing more comedies in the future?
I was supposed to be doing a little comedy this summer. But unfortunately, the movie fell apart. It is definitely on my radar. When I see something comedic, I jump on it.
The play that I am doing for the rest of the year on Broadway, Love Love Love, is black comedy. It has political flavor. It’s written by Mike Bartlett who I think is almost a prolific, political playwright, at the moment. His tone is comedic and I am looking forward to that.
Do you follow U.S. politics and what do you think…
I am glued to the news cycle; cannot take my eyes of it.
What do you think of Trump and Clinton?
The thing that bothers me the most, and it is something unusual for me, is that I really hate the kind of aggressive mood swinging personality competition.
In England, we vote for the party. We don’t vote for the prime minister or president. We hear a lot of policy. It is changing and I don’t like it. I don’t understand why two people in opposition can’t say, “I hear your point of view, I disagree to that, and here is why.”
It boils down to calling people out on various things, and that is not their job. That is the media’s job. It is their job to be reasonable people who can debate each other. Essentially, they will be working for the same thing. They should be. It disturbs me.
Your character on Hannibal was silent most of the time onscreen; Did you have to approach that differently?
I never thought he was a silent character.
I guess in the way he is crafted in the book, because of his speech impediment, his speech is a very uncomfortable place for him, but I have always felt like I was a silent movie actor on screen anyway.
I come from a physical background so I enjoy the physical presence of the character on screen.
I do believe that the greatest movies are played without dialogue. The dialogue sometimes belongs in theatre and in transition, in television, but a movie, you can cut 90% of the dialogue, and still tell them an amazing story. I was sort of in my element, I think.
I understand you have a background in dance?
I do. I trained when I was very young and danced. But, I was never very good. My brain was too active. I wanted language and poetry and literature. So I left it behind.
Are there any causes you support that you want to talk about?
There are a couple of causes actually. I always work with a lot of children’s charities and I did a movie recently, not that recently actually, it is called Urban & the Shed Crew which we are trying to get released. Some of the profits will go to a charity called Action for Children. The movie is about disadvantaged children in the north of England. It is something I am passionate about.
I also work with Young Minds which is mental health charity for children in the UK. I believe that the way we protect and care to our young people is what will create our next society.
Do you play any instrument?
I do. I play flute and cello. Recently, I started to learn guitar.
Any projects or update you want to talk about?
The play… Love, Love, Love written by Mike Bartlett. As I said, he is probably our most contemporary socio-political playwright; Very witty writer; it is sort of the vein of Harold Pinter – very much about now. The subject matter of the play is about the Baby Boom generation – what they have to the Generation X children. It could not be more topical with what is happening in the UK, about the Brexit vote. It is about that subject.
I’m going to London for the first time; what would you recommend I do that is not touristy, or restaurant off the beaten path?
That is a tricky one. I would say, go to the Royal Academy of Arts. There is an always fantastic exhibition there. I would also say take a walk around Hyde Park just on foot. I will tell you where else is great: Around Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market. You get an amazing curry there. You’ll will really see the truly diverse London that is really great.
What is your favorite meal?
I think Japanese.
Do you have a romantic meal; like a go-to meal that you like to cook? Do you cook, or order in?
I guess being a Brit, I am pretty good at a good roast dinner. I roast a chicken and I am great at roast potatoes.
What was the last book you read or your favorite book?
The last book I read is called the Jilted Generation. It is prep for my play and it is about Baby Boomers. Fictionally, the last book I read was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Who is your favorite musician or favorite song?
At the moment my favorite band is Muse. I am just maybe into them and I don’t know why, and there is a song called Butterflies and Hurricanes which is really cool.
What is your go-to song that you sing in the shower?
I have said it before but I will say it again. It is Aerosmith – Love in the Elevator. I love that song.
What was the last show you binged watched?
House of Cards. And I would have watched it three times. I am just obsessed with it. I love political shows.
Who is your first celebrity crush?
Cate Blanchett. Or, as a child? Well, no actually. Cate Blanchett, period.
Is there a role you would like to play that you have not yet?
Quite a million roles. I can’t think of one in particular but yes.
Coffee or Tea?
What is your favorite place to visit?
Do you have a favorite movie or movie you can watch over and over again?
Saving Private Ryan.
What is your favorite dessert?
What is that?
It is like an instant whip. Did you have that in America? It comes in a packet and you mix it with water. It is from the ’70s. It sets and like moves, like pudding, but it sets and is highly colored and artificially flavored.
Do you have a pet peeve?
Berlin Station premieres October 16 on EPIX. Enjoy an exclusive clip before the premiere.