A CHARACTER STUDY WITHIN A CHARACTER STUDY

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Submitted Date 09/13/2020
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What we see, what we perceive, is not always as straightforward as it seems. Human nature, personality, quirks, loves, desires, needs, wants…it's different for everyone.

I had the honor of being one of the few in a circle of Twitter friends to view Digital Theaters "Locked In" series with actor Richard Armitage. Now, I have never made it a secret that Richard is my favorite actor, that he has inspired and influenced quite a number of characters in my novel writing. All the best playwrights and authors have their muse.

Richard Armitage is my muse.

Before you all start going off about me fangirling, and rolling your eyes, I am going to stop you. Yes, I have done my fair share of gushing admiration, especially when he drops a selfie none of us are expecting. But hey, I am a year older than Richard (yes, I will be 50 on September 16) and I appreciate what I see. I am not dead and I have a very understanding husband. (Sorry Max, Johnny, and Jensen. I promise, your inspired literary heroes will see the light of day as well!)

But my admiration for Richard Armitage goes beyond the surface of his handsomeness and that baritone voice.

No, this piece is not a fangirl piece. This piece truly is a character study of the very enigmatic Mr. Armitage. I know a few people were left wondering or disappointed by his choice of character. It could be a generational thing. After all, both Richard and I are Generation X, and the things we were raised on, the literature we grew up on, may be very different from the literature others were raised on.

Or it could be because those who were disappointed in the character choice have never been truly exposed to a version of this story that has resonated with them.

I was lucky growing up in that my parents were true anglophiles. I have watched far more British television than American in my 50 years. And having lived in Portsmouth between my 9th and 10th birthday, attending Court Lane Middle School, I have a love that goes to my bones. We all do, my brother and sister included.

As a novelist, an author, and a student of English and literary theory, I have spent plenty of time watching and analyzing people about me. I have done research about human behavior to make sure the characters in my stories are accurately portrayed. I study how people talk, inflections in their voice, when their voices rise and fall, get higher or deeper in octave. I watch how they move, what they do with their hands, the way their expression softens, how laugh lines deepen in joy.

Conveying these visual aspects into words is challenging, just as challenging as an actor researching a role. But in order to be good at your craft, the time must be put into it. I mentioned above that Richard is my muse, that he has inspired characters in my novels and stories. So, I have taken the time to study his work, to listen to his interviews, to do the research I need to bring to life my original characters that, in my mind, look and sound like Richard.

In the case of the Digital Theater piece, an educational piece, Richard's choice of Ebenezer Scrooge is very telling. The fact that he went with a character that is very relevant in the time of COVID-19 shows introspection and contemplation. It is also a character that he relates to on a level many of us may not quite understand. The Digital Theater piece is truly an intimate look at how Richard studies his craft, how he relates to characters in literature, how music influences him, and makes him question his own self-expressed anti-social moodiness. By choosing to be "locked in" with Ebenezer Scrooge and the questions and conversation that would occur between the two, Richard has actually given us a piece of himself. He has given us a glimpse of the deeper psyche behind those blue eyes that are the window to his world.

Take the time to listen or watch his interviews. Don't go in with any preconceived notions about what you will read or hear. Instead, pay attention to what Richard says. Elevate your mind and use your intellectual fortitude to read between the lines, to absorb and understand what he is not saying. Watch his expressions, his hand movements, the way he looks shyly away when he laughs. For those that pay attention, understanding the man under the actor is very satisfying and brings a whole new level of appreciation.

So why did Richard choose Scrooge? Scrooge is a character he is familiar with and finds fascinating, a character that needs to have "his layers peeled back." The fact that he also calls Scrooge an anti-hero is interesting. Most people only focus on the cruel things Scrooge has done, as told by Dickens. But Scrooge was not always like that. The need to understand why Scrooge is who he is shows Richard's empathic side. The need to understand a character, to understand what motivates them, what made them who they are, is the first thing a writer or actor needs to do in order to get a firm grasp of them. We have seen Richard do this with Thorin Oakenshield, one of the most complex characters he has brought to life.

In addition to the need to understand who Scrooge is, Richard relates to the character, a man who is introverted. Scrooge, for his own reasons, is moody, anti-social and wants to shut the world away. Right now, many of us are experiencing this, albeit forced in many cases. But why? Why do we sometimes have the need to shut ourselves away?

Richard's question to Scrooge is about how he makes himself happy being so alone. The nature of an introvert is that of someone who prefers their own company to that of others. One thing people may not understand about introverts is that they are passionate, creative people. Scrooge was passionate – to a miserly fault – to his work. So is Richard with a vibrant imagination that allows him to step into a role and make it his. However, I would not say he is an introvert. He is more of an ambivert, someone who is extroverted in the right situation but needs the quiet of their own company once that situation is over.

When he is on stage in the moment of a role, the passion for his craft shines through like a beacon in the night. The extrovert has come out. If you have not watched "The Crucible" yet, I highly recommend it. You see the passion and power that is his fire. While I have yet to meet him, many of you have and expressed the fact that he is a kind, gentle man when the fire has been tempered, a man full of love and compassion for those around him.

One day, I hope I can sit down with Richard over a pot of coffee and simply have an engaging, intelligent and intellectual conversation with him about literature, music, his method for getting into a role, his thoughts on the world at large, teach him how to play chess and just become a friend.

Before you make a judgment about a character or a role your favorite muse takes on, take the time to learn about your muse so you understand what that character or role means to them.

And Richard, thank you for sharing your talent, your kindness, and your love with the world. I always have a pot of coffee on if you ever just want to stop by and talk.

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