Robin Hood series 2 : Playing Guy of Gisborne (1)
Guy of Gisborne returns in the second series of Robin Hood, angrier and crueller than ever before, after being jilted at the altar by Marian at the end of the first series.
“Guy's nastier this time,” said Richard Armitage. “He may have found a conscience, but he still acts appallingly. Everyone despises him even more because he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he still does it.” 
But Gisborne’s emotional journey through the course of the second series is as interesting as in the first. His initial anger at Marian dissipates, and his feelings for her gradually reassert themselves as the series progresses.
Richard Armitage has spoken at length about this series, and Gisborne’s part in it, in several interviews. He described the series as “both darker and more comic” than before. 
“The writers and producers have gone down the experimental route that they went last year. They’ve really picked up on the anachronistic style, so it’s faster and funnier and it’s more of a roller coaster this year. It’s very dark and scary at times. It’s been great to work on that.” 
Creating Gisborne: The backstory
In creating the character of Gisborne when the show first started, Richard wanted to construct a backstory for him. “Actually that is my responsibility, the backstory [rather than the writers’]. Dominic [Minghella] wrote episodes 1 and 2 and you look for clues in those episodes as to what his intention was with regards to the biography of the character. But I very much created the biography for myself.
“So I decided that his father had gone to war and had separated from his mother at an early age and lost his land through the Norman conquests. He’s a landless child that should have been awarded status of land, and he’s obsessed with title and finance in the name of his father, he wants to honour his father. But obviously that’s not explored in the story, that’s just something for my own personal drive.” 
As an actor, “you’ve got to be triggered by certain things. It’s better to be triggered by something you’ve created and invented for the character yourself. I know different actors disagree but for me, because this character is such a malevolent figure, I can’t always draw from my own experience for that so I have to create shocking or extraordinary events in that character’s life to draw from.” 
His own life appears to offer very little of direct relevance to creating this man, although he admits, “I once nicked some chewing gum from a local sweet shop.” 
"In order to sustain the character of Guy you have to find conflict within him," he said. "He's constantly pulled between good and evil, between who he really wants to be and who he actually is. He could have been a good man, but he is forever dragged down by his fatal flaw – that he wants glory at all costs.” 
Creating Gisborne: The costume
The costume is important in creating the character. Originally, Gisborne was to have had a similar costume to the ones worn by his men – a chain-mail tabard. “Thankfully they decided to scrap it. They said 'Change of plan. He's going to be a biker.' The inspiration was the hell-raising biker look, which they adapted because in 1197 a biker would have been a demon horse rider. It's partly that and it's also a kind of heroin-chic, slightly Goth look and it really works for me. Sometimes we have rehearsals not in costume but I can't do it. I can't play Gisborne in flip-flops. I have to get that jacket on to play him.” 
The costume is nearly the same as last year’s, but with the loss of the mustard-coloured scarf at the neck and the addition of some black leather trousers. “Gisborne has been spending a bit of his new-found fortune on a pair of leather strides.” 
Creating Gisborne: Evolution of the character
But the character hasn’t stayed still, as Richard explained, “What happens with Gisborne in the second series is there's a self awareness that's happening to somebody that was a cold-blooded killer and was quite happy to do that. He's actually turning in on himself and having to look at himself and have a conscience about it.” 
In spite of his villainy, Gisborne became one of the most popular characters in the first series. This wasn’t what he’d been aiming for.
“In fact, I went all out to try and achieve the opposite. I wanted people to be repulsed by this character and so part of me feels like I’ve failed in a way because I wanted people to squirm and feel uncomfortable when he was doing his dealings. But I kind of understand why it’s gone in this direction and I think it’s because there’s a bad character who’s shown evidence that he’s redeemable. But I think there might be some unwinding of that feeling in the second series.” 
He clearly enjoys playing this man. “Having power over people is quite satisfying. In life, you have to yield a lot - well, I certainly do - so it's great to be the iron fist.” 
Continued on page 2 >>
Back to top