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7 Questions with… The Stranger’s Richard Armitage: ‘I tailored the character of Adam Price to me'
Speaking at the launch of the eight-part Netflix series that’s got everyone talking, the English actor reveals what drew him to the character of Adam Price in the Harlan Coben TV adaptation.
It’s the series which has got everyone talking since it launched on Netflix on January 30.
The Stranger, adapted from Harlan Coben’s book of the same name, stars Richard Armitage in the lead role of Adam Price, an ordinary man whose life changes when the mysterious stranger of the title (Hannah John-Kamen) lets slip a devastating secret about his wife.
Speaking to BT TV and other journalists at the show’s worldwide premiere in London, the 48-year-old English actor (The Hobbit, Spooks) reveals what drew him to the role, what he brought to the character and whether he would have reacted the same way as Adam...
7 Questions with… Richard Armitage
1. What about this project was really appealing to you?
It's exactly the kind of show that I would watch. Sometimes you're in something that you think, “I appreciate this, I'm getting a lot out of it as an actor but I probably wouldn't sit down and watch it”. But this is the type of show that I would gravitate to.
Obviously I'd read Harlan's book in preparation for the meeting, and it's such a page-turner. It’s a thriller, it feels cinematic on paper, so it was a no-brainer really. And then the cast starts to assemble and you think “OK, yep let's do this”.
2. Did you learn more about your character from reading the original book or the script?
Bits of both actually. The book becomes like a bedrock, and then the script becomes the tool that you're going to use to bring the character to life. There were things that weren't in the book and things that were in the book, and rather than trying to block out what shouldn't be there, I just let it all be there and just focus on the parts of the story that the [TV series] is going to capture.
There was also some personal stuff in there as well, like I'd written some biographical things [about Adam] that came out of my own life that sort of found their way into the script somehow. And so it was kind of tailored to me.
3. What did you love about the character of Adam Price?
I loved the journey, I hate that word but it's about who he is at the beginning of this story and who he becomes by the end of it, in a really short [time]. It's about 10 days this story; it's a very fast collapse of a person, and collapse of a family, and what I liked about it is they are an ordinary good family that are functioning in an aspirational place - they're just slightly stretched like many people are.
But something extraordinary happens to them, and I love the fact that he wasn't a maverick of some kind, he was just an ordinary guy dealing with something absurd and shocking.
I think as a viewer and as an actor and a reader, you put yourself in that situation and think how would I, what would you do, how would you respond if that happened to you, what if your wife went missing and how would you keep your family together? That was what interested me about it.
4. Did you sympathise with his reaction? Would you have confronted your wife straight away?
The hardest thing I found was the scene where The Stranger sits down and delivers this information to [Adam], below, because I think in realistic terms we are very slow to believe things. It's like death and trauma, you don't instantly leap to “I believe you and I'm going to react to it” - it's a slow burn.
But you know he has to receive that information really quickly and then act on it, so a lot of the time in the story Adam is in denial about something until he cannot deny it any more in the eyes of his kids. That's when the acceptance of what happened is like another bomb that's dropping inside of him and I found that fascinating.
5. Is Adam an everyman or a specific type of character that we’ll discover over time?
I guess he is a bit of an everyman. He’s a good, solid family man. They function as a family, or do they? At the beginning, we had an idea of who he was, and we also had an idea of the final destination of the characters and they were so far apart. Finding the pathway of that man who becomes a broken figure at the end was really exciting I think.
6. There’s a bit of an American dream theme going on in the book - was it an interesting challenge to make it a universal story?
It was, and in my head when I read it, it was a much less affluent place. We got to Manchester [where the show is loosely set] and I realised how fancy it all was. What was interesting, was realising that this family have slightly stretched themselves. Where they live and what they’re aspiring to isn’t quite matching up to where they are financially, and that creates an added tension.
7. Some of the scenes were very long, what were they like to film?
Yeah, sometimes there are scenes in the script that are the reason you take a job, or get excited about a job, and that was one of them. Especially at the centre of episode one [when Adam confronts Corinne, played by Dervla Kirwan]. We worked on that a lot, we rehearsed as if we were rehearsing a short play. It’s really special to be able to do a scene like that.
It's interesting there were versions of that scene and the playing of it that came out like ferocious rapid fire that felt real but actually was unfilmable and unwatchable.
There's so much information coming, you learn so much about them, especially from Corrine's perspective, about what's going to happen. You're watching two people in a state of anxiety but you've still got to be understanding what's happening to them so we did have to sort of just ease it out a little bit I think in the playing of it, it was really satisfying.
I remember feeling in that scene in the garden, being frightened of the scene and then when you get fired up like that it's like you can't control yourself.
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The Stranger is streaming now on Netflix worldwide.