LGBTQ+ actor Richard Armitage’s best roles to date, from Spooks to ITV’s Red Eye

LGBTQ+ actor Richard Armitage will be boarding a deadly flight and investigating a high-level conspiracy in ITV’s new six-part drama Red Eye.

Armitage plays Dr Matthew Nolan, who gets arrested by DC Hana Li, played by Jing Lusi, at Heathrow Airport after returning home from China, and is escorted back to Beijing on a late-night flight – known as a red eye.

The official synopsis states: “When a first death occurs [in flight], DC Li begins to suspect foul play. Further deaths confirm that Nolan is in danger, and, after a call from MI5, Hana finds herself embroiled in an escalating conspiracy.

“Back in London, we follow Hana’s sister, scrappy reporter Jess (Jemma Moore) who is running her own investigation into Nolan’s extradition and finds herself having to flee an unknown assassin.

“And in Thames House, the head of MI5, Madeline Delaney (Lesley Sharp), breaks protocol and risks her career to not only help Hana and Nolan stay alive but also to expose an international conspiracy that seems to implicate both China and people in her own government.”

The British actor confirmed last year that he had come out “to anybody who mattered” when he was a teenager but did not discuss his sexuality publicly because he didn’t want the focus to be on his personal life instead of his acting skills.

“I don’t know that I ever wanted to put myself in front of the work I was doing, anything about my family or personal life. I just thought, ‘Let the work speak for itself’,” Armitage told Radio Times.

He also added that when it comes to his sexuality, he’s reluctant to put himself in a box. “That was always a thing: if I declare who I am and my sexuality, then I’m saying it’s fixed. I don’t know that, or if I might feel something for somebody further down the line,” he told Attitude. “I doubt it, but I don’t know.”

Armitage has a long list of acting credits to his name – not to mention an uncredited part in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, in 1999 – so perhaps he was right about letting the “work speak for itself”. Here are some of his best-loved roles.

Spooks (2008)

Richard Armitage joined BBC’s Spooks in season seven. (BBC)

One of Armitage’s most famous parts was police officer Lucas North, in BBC’s Spooks – known as MI-5 in the US – which followed the exploits of Section D, the counter-terrorism division of the UK’s security services.

North is introduced in the seventh series, as the former head of Section D, who was captured and imprisoned during a previous operation in Russia and later returned to be reinstated.

Speaking to Radio Times last year, Armitage said North was not “100 per cent straight”.

Robin Hood (2006)

Armitage plays another popular, and classically British role, Sir Guy of Gisborne, in the BBC adaptation of Robin Hood.

Sir Guy is the sheriff of Nottingham’s second-in-command. Armitage stayed with the show until it ended in 2009.

The Hobbit (2012)

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit trilogy. (Sky)

Armitage plays Thorin, the leader of the company of dwarves who aim to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon, in the three Lord of the Rings prequels, between 2012 and 2014.

The trilogy, which also starred other British heavyweights Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Ken Stott, Andy Serkis and Orlando Bloom, was a hit with fans and the critics.

Armitage previously told Hello! that the role of Thorin was extremely special to him.

“I was completely absorbed by Tolkien. Then I found Lord of the Rings and I think it was where my early feelers were going towards being an actor, but I didn’t realise it at the time,” he said.

“So, when I came to playing Thorin Oakenshield as a 40-year-old, I was retracing my steps back to being an eight year old in school and finding that book for the first time. It was just such a massive thing for me.”

Obsession (2023)

In Netflix’s Obsession, Armitage plays London surgeon William Farrow, who seemingly has the perfect life. Then he meets his son’s girlfriend Anna Barton (Charlie Murphy) and begins an affair that threatens to ruin his idyllic existence.

The pair shared a number of nude and explicit scenes in the steamy show, which Armitage told the Evening Standard were discussed with his partner before the show aired.

“We did talk about it. I reassured him that it was all going to be fine, and we were being well looked after.”

Armitage and Murphy also “met each other’s partners” and went for dinner so that they could all be comfortable with what the actors had to do on screen.

Fool Me Once (2024)

Richard Armitage played Joe Burkett, alongside Michelle Keegan, in Fool Me Once. (Netflix)

The Harlan Coben thriller Fool Me Once followa former soldier Maya Stern, played by Michelle Keegan, who installs a nanny-cam in her home to keep an eye on her daughter after witnessing the murder of her husband Joe Burkett (Armitage).

But when Maya begins to see her supposedly dead husband in the camera footage, she is scared and confused, and determines to find out whether he is real or not.

Coben, the author of the book from which the TV show is adapted, previously said: “[It’s] a shocking story of how secrets and deceit have the power to bring people together while simultaneously tearing them apart. I can’t wait to see how this dream cast brings these characters to life.”

Red Eye is a six-part British television series starring Jing Lusi, Richard Armitage and Lesley Sharp. It will premiere on ITV1 and ITVX on 21 April 2024.

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