Richard Armitage returns to television in spy thriller ‘Berlin Station’

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (UPI) — British actor Richard Armitage says he thought carefully and considered all aspects before boarding his latest television project Berlin Station.

Asked by UPI in a recent phone interview if it was an easy decision to accept the role of CIA agent Daniel Miller, Armitage replied: “You know what? It wasn’t actually. It’s pretty tricky.

“You only really get that first episode and when you’re setting up a series, which is going to potentially be a recurring series and something which is long running, it’s quite difficult to make that judgment on one episode and I really wanted to make sure that the character had enough depth and scope to go on a longer journey than maybe one [season] and, so, I went into a period of negotiation with the producers and the creator and I think we found a potential character, which was going to do that, have some longevity and so, it was a very collaborative process. But I love Olen Steinhauer’s novels. Obviously, Anonymous Content has such a great track record with great drama and the fact that EPIX was breaking out into the new arena of original programming was a really tempting prospect because I knew everyone would be on the front foot and I am really pleased with the results.”

A beloved actor best known for his work in The Hobbit film trilogy, as well as in the TV shows Hannibal, Strike Back, MI-5, Robin Hood and The Vicar of Dibley, Armitage said he likes that his complicated, intelligence operative in Berlin Station cannot be easily pegged because his abilities, motives and connections are not immediately clear to the viewer.

“One of the first things I asked about my character was, as an American, he would have been naturally raised with a sort of patriotic call, but when that patriotism is challenged because there are doubts thrust in front of him in terms of the institution that he is working for, how strong is that patriotism and how is he swayed around it?” he explained. “But another thing that really interests me about the character is something, a theme that I have found in other projects that I’ve worked on, this idea of a grey man, somebody that is indistinguishable in a crowd that you probably wouldn’t look twice at, but somebody that has a sort of analytical mind that can stretch to different places and can really rise to that challenge, but you wouldn’t necessarily spot him in the street as a James Bond type. I feel like the James Bond myth is something which suits drama, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a very real person. And I wanted to create somebody that was a real person.”

So, will Daniel’s backstory be revealed through flashback scenes since early episodes tease an intriguing, decades-old mystery involving his mother?

“The thing that really excited me about Berlin Station is that it’s always about what’s happening now and what’s happening next,” he noted. “Things and ghosts from the past tend to be more like wind in the sails that drives the character forward, but it’s definitely there in the tapestry of the character.”

Pressed to divulge whether any of his research has yielded troubling information he wishes he hadn’t learned, Armitage laughed: “Not particularly with this one because I think as an actor I am an optimist, so I am always looking for positive information, rather than negative.

“Although, one of the things I did do when I was prepping for Daniel is that I treated it as if I was going to be interviewing for a job at the CIA. So, I researched the CIA as much as possible. And really trying to find a truthful account of what the CIA is and how it was created and sort of personal experiences of ex-spies who had written biographies was part of my research and it was really, really difficult to find something which I felt was truthful because there are two sides of the coin. There is the sort of candid side, which feels a little bit like conspiracy theory and then there is the party line, whereby you feel the person is being observed and controlled by the CIA somehow. So, finding what I felt was a truthful account, that kind of warts and all version of the CIA was almost impossible and I felt like: ‘OK, well that’s quite a good place to be because maybe that’s one of the reasons why Daniel is in there and that’s another thing that’s fueling it. He’s trying to really find out what is this institution I am working for? What’s the truth of it?’ Because I don’t think there is an industry standard. I think the CIA changes according to the administration in power in government. And I suppose that’s the most frightening thing to me… Depending on which president sits in the White House determines how effective, and how small or large, or potent the CIA is.”

Co-starring Richard Jenkins, Michelle Forbes and Rhys Ifans, the 10-part series airs Sunday nights on EPIX.

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