Epix, the premium cable network co-owned by Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM, is getting into the original series game. One of their first two series is the modern day spy drama Berlin Station, starring Richard Armitage. We’ve got interviews with the creator and stars of their other series, the political comedy Graves too.
We spoke with Armitage when Epix threw a summer party for the Television Critics Association, their first appearance before the TCA and surely not their last. Armitage may be most recognized from The Hobbit trilogy as Thorin, or perhaps as the Red Dragon killer Dolarhyde on Hannibal. He had a long career in British television before. Berlin Station premieres tonight on Epix.
Were you looking for something on television again?
Richard Armitage: Yeah, when I finished up on The Hobbit, I was hunting for a contemporary television show which had a political, social context. Hard to find but then this script landed on my desk two years ago and I just loved it. I love the genre, love the character.
So Berlin Station was exactly what you were looking for?
Richard Armitage: Pretty much. It’s always uncertain, like who was going to get a hold of it. Then Epix got a hold of it and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” It’s a first, a first scripted drama for them so everyone’s on their best behavior, on their front foot. I thought that’s a good place to go play.
As an actor, you travel. Have you been to Berlin before?
Richard Armitage: On a press tour, on the middle Hobbit movie. We did Berlin as a premiere, so I just spent 48 hours there. It was such a revelation, the city. I can’t be more effusive about it. I think it’s a brilliant character in the show and it has so many different contexts. It’s an amazing place.
What did you discover about Berlin?
Richard Armitage: I just think visually, in terms of cinematic storytelling, it exists in another time zone. It exists in the ‘20s, the ‘50s, the postwar period, the ‘60s, the ‘70s. There’s parts of it that feel like the future. There were certain scenes that feel like a retro piece and there were scenes where it feels like we’re making Blade Runner. It was fascinating.
How many different lives is Daniel Miller living?
Richard Armitage: He’s definitely in the moment, so he’s living now. He kind of has a bit of baggage from his past and I think he is trying to get home, to be honest. I think he wants to come back to America. He wants to leave that past behind but he’s forced to be in Berlin because of the pursuit of Thomas Shaw.
Does he have to be duplicitous and take on different roles?
Richard Armitage: Yeah, he’s a character with many flaws. Having that face to face interaction with your opponent, particularly somebody like Esther Krug who you see at the end of the second episode, it becomes very personal. They get involved in a relationship which is pretty dangerous.
You said you were looking for something more contemporary and political. Did you ever think about the fantasy approach to the spy genre, the James Bond or Mission Impossible approach?
Richard Armitage: I’ve sort of been involved in a number of different things that are more action based. This is definitely a kind of intellectual pursuit and it’s the thing that attracted me to it. The political commentary about computer hackers and whistleblowers I think couldn’t be more topical really.
Did Berlin Station feel like doing TV in England?
Richard Armitage: It really did. Having a full, uninterrupted hour is what I’m used to. It’s the BBC model. It gives you almost an extra 12 to 15 minutes of TV time so the stories are really fleshed out.