Robin Hood series 2 : Playing Guy of Gisborne (3)
Filming Robin Hood
Each series is filmed in Hungary over the course of 6 months during the middle of the year. The summers are hot, particularly so in 2007, when the second series was filmed. “We had the most amazing summer,” Richard said. “There was a week where it got up to 42 degrees - it felt like we were filming in an oven. There was no chance of getting sunburnt, though, as the makeup department kept me topped up with factor 50 [sun screen]. Guy has to look sickly pale - I look as if I haven't eaten for weeks.” 
Gisborne’s most important relationships might be with Marian, the Sheriff and Robin, but Richard Armitage’s most important relationship in Robin Hood is probably with his horse.
“Last year my horse, Richie, was new. The horses didn't seem to like him and he was always trying to get me off.” In fact, on one occasion during the filming of the first series he bolted, with Richard on his back and crew members running after him shouting at him to stop. “This year he's friends with everyone, and I've been known to bribe him with an apple between takes. We also had lessons, and it went a lot better this time.” 
As with the first series, this one began with the actors spending two weeks in training before filming. “We went back to the Hood Academy - we had another two weeks of riding, fighting, training and archery. I try to do as many of my own stunts as I'm allowed to do. My stunt double is a great fighter and horse rider but from the neck up he doesn't really pass for me unless the camera is miles and miles away so I do as much as I can.” 
“But there always comes a point where they insist that the stuntman has to step in - and that's fine with me! We were allowed to gallop this time, and the sword fighting has really tightened up. But whenever I see them getting out the fire suits, ready to flame up, I'm always happy to step aside.”  (In a scene in episode 3, Gisborne, fighting in a new type of indestructible armour, is sprayed with pitch and set on fire.)
The training has to continue during filming. “You just have to keep on top of it physically because you'll do three or four weeks without doing anything and then all of a sudden you're into a really big fight sequence. So if you don't train properly you can injure yourself. The same with the horse-riding as well. If you suddenly get on a horse after three weeks of doing nothing, you really cannot walk the next day so you have to keep your body in shape.
“I run and go to the gym quite a lot. The scripts come in quite late - you open a script and realise you've got to be seriously fighting or naked from the waist up and you've got to be ready for it.” 
The fight scenes can be difficult. “Being in character helps you to do it. It's the repetition. You get really tired and especially on an extended sequence, you can spend three days doing it and it's just knackering, and you have to really take care not to get injured.” 
And there is a lot of fighting for Gisborne. “It gets physical because he's such a violent operator. He's sort of the Sheriff's weapon: he's the front man, he's the master-at-arms, he's the one who will go out and do the dirty work for the Sheriff. So even though in this second series I think Gisborne's elevated sense of self means that he delegates a certain amount now, there are still times when it gets personal between him and Robin so he actually will go all out to completely crush him. So there is quite a lot of physicality and fighting and I actually get to use a bow and arrow this series [in episode 9].” 
But his main weapon is still his sword. However, the swords used in filming aren’t real. “When it’s in contact with a body it’s rubber, but then they come running and give you a steel sword.” Even the steel swords aren’t real. “In reality they’re really heavy, but we have lightweight versions, obviously, because we’re not strong enough.” 
As for the filming itself, “it’s quite hard to be away for six months but the work is so intense you don’t really notice that you’re away until you’ve come back and you realise you’ve been away for six months. But it does go quickly because the time’s just filled.” 
“You film two episodes at a time. One episode takes two weeks, but you’re often dotting around between the two different episodes which can get quite confusing. I like to keep my eye on the continuity but there’s also somebody there to make sure that it’s all correct and you’re wearing the right clothes. Luckily for me that’s not a problem - he only really has one suit of clothes.” 
What of the future for Guy of Gisborne? “There's a scene in the series finale that's going to take Gisborne past the point of no return. There'll be no coming back from it.”  But Gisborne will return in the third series, which is to be broadcast in the UK in 2008.
However, he hopes that eventually Guy will be written out in style. “I want Gisborne to die. I think they should whack him in a big way. The villains have got to get it at some point; it's just a question of how long you can string it out. But I guess it's that comic-book thing really - I'll get you next time, Hood!” 
© RichardArmitageOnline.com, 2007-2013