Sure, Richard Armitage is deliciously stunning as Harry Kennedy,The Handsome Stranger who sweeps vicar Geraldine Granger off her feet in The Vicar of Dibley 2006-2007 Christmas special, him with his floppy black hair and dazzling smile. Yes, the BBC audience must have been beside themselves with delight and surprise when on Christmas 2006 the door of Sleepy Cottage opened revealing North and South heartthrob, Mr. Thornton. And OK, this was the first real RomCom – the only one – for Armitage, and we know he loved filming the episodes.
Still, I don’t understand why so many fans count Harry Kennedy among, if not their number one, favorite Armitage roles.
He doesn’t engage in challenging acting, or if he does, he isn’t stretching himself. He’s basically playing straight man to Dawn French’s hysterically comedic Geraldine – I don’t think he has one funny line in either of the two episodes.
So what’s it all about? Why do some fans choose Harry Kennedy as their favorite role over other meatier, dramatic roles?
One thought, at least for the BBC audience, might be that wonderful surprise of seeing an actor you love play something so against type – and on a favorite sitcom. I know I felt that way – like I’d gotten a gift from the network, when, seemingly out of the blue, Brad Pitt showed up on an episode of Friends or even better, when
my favorite actress, Susan Sarandon showed up, also on Friends.
Surprise may explain why British Armitage fans love Harry Kennedy so much, but what about all the other fans who favor Harry Kennedy over Lucas and Mr. Thornton and John Porter? Could it be that it’s because Armitage is playing against type – giving us a glimpse into what it would be like if he were in a romantic comedy?
Last Fall the Richard Armitage IMDB board had a contest/game to select Richard Armitage’s favorite character. John Standring gave Harry Kennedy a run for his money, but in the end, the handsome stranger beat out the awkward farm hand.
But in my book, favorite character and favorite role are discrete categories. The former asks the question, do you like Harry Kennedy better than, say Lucas North or Thorin. The latter asks whether one likes Richard Armitage’s work better as one character than another. I understand why Harry Kennedy is so likeable – he’s sweet and pliant and he rescues beloved Geraldine from loneliness and spinsterhood. But I don’t understand what it is that fans see in Armitage’s work in the role.
So, tell me.