I promised a reaction to Richard Armitage at Comic Con, but hit the wall a bit on the fangurling. After all, I’m not an ardent fan, just an
lecherous old bag admirer. Maybe I need some assistance. Hold on…
Ah, there’s nothing like a visual for inspiration. Where was I? Oh, yes, RA’s presentation. I’ll preface by saying that my admirer status allows me to shed my fan cloak and observe him coldly and objectively. I’ve never had any qualms pointing out that the emperor is wearing no clothes, as it were. In RA’s case, he’s gotten his wardrobe only half right. (I’d talk about Martin Freeman’s real attire but it makes my brain hurt.)
Before you throw the brickbats, Dear Reader, I’ll use my other crush David Tennant as an example. I mentioned previously that DT and RA have similar personalities and rises in fame at relatively older ages. They are both intelligent, articulate, and witty but basically shy, quiet, well mannered, modest, geeky, and introverted. When producers cast DT as the 10th Doctor in the UK’s wildly popular sci-fi program Doctor Who, he was thrust into an immense spotlight. The public attention and scrutiny was huge; DT had to learn quickly as he went. It was akin to being thrown into a lake, instead of the deep end of the pool, to see if he would sink or swim. Not only did he swim, he created a modest cult of personality.
Boyishly attractive but not good looking, tall, skinny, lanky, and geeky, he is not the stereotypical leading man material. He utters face-palming but refreshing remarks (after several celebrities sprouted prentious rubbish over a play by Tom Stoppard, infamous for being annoyingly esoteric, DT stated, “I was afraid I wouldn’t understand it, but it was accessible!”) He is unself-conscious or apologetic about it, essentially saying, “This is who I am. Love me or leave me.” As he has said, “I’ve learned to deal with the yin and yang of that.” He has turned these weaknesses into strengths, a well buffed public persona of DT, the man. Sources say he is a quiet shy man in real life. But before a camera or audience, he turns on the persona. At times he gets a wicked gleam in his eye, suggesting he enjoys playing this role; it’s like his alter ego, the personality he would have possessed had he not been an introvert. One of the biggest qualities DT exudes in single or group public situations that draws attention to him is confidence; he appears comfortable in his own skin. If he isn’t, he does a damn good job not showing it.
So what does this have to do with RA?
Okay, aside from him *still* having that beard, I found myself a bit ambivalent about his performance. Don’t get me wrong, he’s made great strides from the nervous, giggly man from the North & South days. He does seem more composed and confident in one-on-one interviews. He displayed charm, intelligence, some dry wit (that flew over the heads of a few interviewers), and ease. However, when it came to the group interviews, his confidence was not as evident. He knew he did not have to speak unless spoken to, and it showed, especially during the EW interview when he became the most soft-spoken guest. Even fans in chat remarked, “why’s he talking like that? Speak up!” During the Hobbit panel, he dutifully answered his question and said nothing more. It is true that time was tight, and Martin Freeman appeared the designated spokesperson, so RA might not have had the opportunity to engage more. But what if circumstances had been different and he’d had more time to interact? Would he have used the opportunity to talk? I don’t think so, and that’s what concerns me.
I understand he’s a shy man who, when he’s not “on,” has a propensity to standing at the ends of lines, hovering in the background of shots, being the only one to pull his chair back at the panel, forever finding some way not to be the focus of attention. RA is confident about RA, the actor, but not so much about RA, the man, and it shows. I have to wonder that if I can pick up these nonverbal cues, other people in positions to advance his career can, too. RA may not want to be a “star,” but he wants to break into Hollywood. That place is chock full of g00d-looking, talented actors. He needs to stand out from the pack. His wallflower tendencies of fading into the background won’t work there; he has to show the same confidence in a group that he does in one-on-one situations. If he cannot find it within himself, then he must act it. That means putting himself forward (at least not falling back), talking more, interacting more in groups, being a bit more forthcoming. He’s come along way, but still has a bit to go.
Public persona report card:
Personal dynamics – A
Group dynamics – C-