Me & Richard Armitage: Why I Love North & South

ns2-thornton open arms

My job is hard. I am head of Labor Relations for a Corporation. That means that I am North & South‘s Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale rolled into one. I have to keep in mind the goals of the Corporation while I am keeping in mind the needs of the employees. I am often reminded of Margaret Hale as I explain to a manager why violating a collective bargaining contract is not a good idea. Hiring Irish workers to break a strike? Not really a great idea. Working with the union to set up a training program for workers whose jobs are becoming redundant, much better.

Mr. Thornton (pre-Margaret) is typical of many managers. His mission is to get his products produced and shipped, in the fastest, least expensive manner. Certain employee rules make sense – no smoking on the premises is one. It’s in no one’s best interest to have the mill go up in flames. But kicking and beating said employee….. maybe not a good idea. Although I sympathized with him. My reaction to that scene – Yeah, kick him some more! I didn’t really like Margaret at that point. I identified with Thornton.

ns1 beating man

I’m not really planning to write an analysis of North & South. I just wanted to whine about my job. I’m tired. Today I met with a union that is trying to get into our construction contracts; I settled a dispute with the engineers who are responsible for solving problems in the cooling and heating equipment; settled some payroll issues; wrote a policy for disciplining security personnel; researched a staffing issue that one of our unions is laser-focussed on; listened to the complaints of my secretary….and on and on and on. But then I look at pretty pictures of Richard Armitage and YAY, I am transported to Wellington, NZ, thinking of him inhabiting the role of Thorin once again, in the company of friends he apparently loves working with. Seeing that RA went out to a concert with Peter Jackson and Lee Pace was thrilling. So happy he is happy.

RA wellie

Anyway, back to me. This job is the equivalent to me of RA getting the role of Thorin. You don’t think you will ever get a chance to show what you can do on a big stage, and then all of a sudden, you can. You have the opportunity to prove yourself. All the years you worked to keep yourself at the top of your game and then it pays off – you get that job that is an acknowledgement that you have achieved a certain status in your field – that those who matter think you can do the job – even if you yourself don’t think you can!

RA Thorin in front of cameras

I have been incredibly lucky in finding people who think I can do the job. If it was up to me, I would never have gotten anywhere. I am so glad that Peter Jackson found RA. He is the director who is able to bring out the best in RA, who gave him the confidence to realize that he absolutely brought Thorin to life. You can see it in all the interviews RA has given since TH. He has a confidence and happiness that isn’t as apparent in earlier interviews. He says that he kept his bags packed for three weeks when he arrived for filming, thinking he would be sent away. That statement really hit me. Not only because I think he’s mad, as in crazy, for thinking that he wouldn’t be able to inhabit Thorin as he  has so many other characters. But it hit me also because that’s the way I felt when I got my job. Like it would just be a matter of days when everything would come crashing down and everyone would know I couldn’t handle the job.  Well, 9 months in, and it hasn’t crashed yet. Not that it makes me feel any more confident. It’s still a REALLY HARD job!

RA Thorin roaring

So Richard Armitage is a mirror for me, as he is for so many of us. We see ourselves reflected in what we know about him. I relate to his commitment to his work, his (sometimes too) candid responses to questions, and to his treating everyone with respect. And his love of theater. And his love of LOTR. And his not spending a lot of time on his appearance. And…so many other things! I’m sure you see a lot of things you relate to in him as well. Or at least things you admire about him, aside from his gorgeousness.


Back to Mr. Thornton. When Margaret impetuously pushed Mr. Thornton out to confront the angry workers and then ran out herself to yell at those workers, I loved her. I so related to her. Before I worked for management in labor relations I worked on the union side. And being hit in the head by a rock thrown by the people you were trying to help. Labor Relations is a complicated world!

ns2 margaret on balcony ns2- margaret hit

Sadly, I never met Mr. Thornton in RL. I did not inspire any tall, handsome, manager to change his evil ways to please me and then kiss me gently and passionately in a train station. <sigh> I will have to make do with watching Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe have one of the best afternoons of their work lives.

ra kiss

Thanks for the pictures, and The Armitage Effect for the Wellington newspaper photo.



From New York City. Anglophile, theater-goer, love books, music and LIFE.
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12 Responses to Me & Richard Armitage: Why I Love North & South

  1. guylty says:

    How interesting that you can find yourself reflected to well in one of the works that RA has been associated with. Does that mean that N&S was the first film you noticed RA in? And is it your favourite, because it collides with a world that you know very well, yourself?
    Your own personal journey must have been a very challenging one. Almost like changing sides – switching from union representation over to a labour relations role, paid for by an employer. I am sure that brings many challenges with it, from both sides – the employer thinking that the former union rep is too much on the side of the workers, while the workers might believe you have sold out by taking a role paid by the employer. However, you are probably working at an interface where you can *really* move something. That is a gratifying position to be in. So well done on achieving that.
    As for RA and his self-doubt – yes, I can relate to that, too. The fear of failure is always at the back of my mind. Luckily not strong enough to sabotage myself. And in a way, I do believe that the fear of failure works as a worst-case-scenario type of thing, subconsciously, that makes us come up with coping strategies. Both by preempting reaction to rejection, as well as by focusing our minds on the circumnavigating of possible obstacles. And yet, the fact that he, you or we have accepted the new job in the first place, means that we do have a) the confidence to do it and b) the skills to succeed at it. Plus, the fact that we have been offered it, is already a boost of support from the “employer”. They believe in our capability. So can we, then. It is, in RA’s case, both endearing and enlightening that he speaks so freely of it. I find it encouraging – to know that someone whom I perceive at the top of his game fears failure, makes it easier for me to cope with my self-doubts. An inspiring man.

    • marieastra8 says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, guylty! My journey has certainly been challenging! It’s been many years since I made the change over from labor to management. And, believe it or not, I was well-supported by my labor colleagues when I did! Oh, I was teased, but they were actually happy to deal with someone they knew. Also, the “employers” I’ve worked for haven’t been anti-union to any great degree. I wouldn’t be happy working in that environment or with people like that. I made the move to management with the help of a mentor who was like my Peter Jackson. 😀 Life is full of choices, but sometimes you’ve made the choice before you even realize it.

      • guylty says:

        Good to hear that there was support from your colleagues. It really comes down to that, doesn’t it? The support of the peers (or a benign mentor) cannot be underestimated, both practically as well as psychologically.
        The Hobbit is responsible for a lot of love these days *ggg*.

      • marieastra8 says:

        Isn’t that the truth! It’s been so easy to jump into the fandom thanks to all the RA love on the internet. Lots to explore. And even more now after TH!! RA’s embodiment of Thorin was very powerful to me as a LOTR fan. Seems like a lot of others felt that too!! Pelty goodness! 😀

  2. marieastra8 says:

    Oh, and North & South is not the first thing I saw RA in. That was The Hobbit. N&S is the first thing I saw him in after TH. Sealed the deal for me! 😀

  3. Pingback: Richard Armitage Legenda 80: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  4. fitzg says:

    I’ve also worked on both sides. With a single arts degree, I knew I would have to begin at the clerical (unionised) level and accepted it. At that point in history, there were superiors who accepted a mentor/training role. And, with the familial travel experiences, also accepted that if I wanted to work, in some places, at some time, it was clerical/unionised. Notwithstanding more years as management, I do not forget the other side of the coin; rather more left of centre politically, I only wish we had not inherited the rather? antagonistic European stance of labour vs. management in North America. Another reason I’m devoted to N&S and to Mrs. Gaskell. Thank you for expressing your experiences vis a vis N&S.

    • marieastra8 says:

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, it is too bad about the antagonism. Unnecessary in my opinion. I get along fine with both sides. Just common sense, really. Mrs. Gaskell had a very good take on the situation, in my opinion. Glad you agree.

  5. Servetus says:

    Imposter syndrome … yeah, that made me feel for him, too (and recognize something in myself). Why do we not think we’re good enough? And we do we pick these jobs that are so hard? Because we want to challenge ourselves, I suppose. I think this is particularly true for me, not having children — I’m not saving or building for someone else’s future (mostly), so I want the challenge of building something really good, somewhere.

    Thornton does have his decent sides even at the beginning (the wheel), but I more or less totally identified with him from the end of episode 1 or so. It’s rough having principles and having no one understand why you do what you do …

    • marieastra8 says:

      LOL Imposter syndrome indeed. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. I now understand why (after 10 yrs in therapy) but it doesn’t go away. You just go on. And indeed, that’s labor relations, explaining why you do the things you do and why you need cooperation in doing them. That’s my job. :-/ I do love Mr. Thornton, though. He really TRIED.

  6. How interesting you have the job of intermediary. I always thought that eventually Higgins would become more or less Thornton’s chosen mouthpiece for his fellow laborers. So you are like Higgins in a way, too. Margaret got the ball rolling, so to speak, in waking Thornton up to a different responsibility to his employees. He had a pretty good game going, but he wasn’t involving his workers in any decisions or treating them with better respect. I always thought that in Margaret and John’s first arguments in the book, Gaskell was trying to show the extreme positions of both sides which comes from not really knowing the other side. Both Margaret and John’s judgments/theories need a re-haul. Their idealisms are too strict and both end up softening their stances – changing their perspectives to a better middle ground. The whole working world needs that balance of logic/principles and humanity/compassion. Get the right mix of principle and love going on in any human endeavor and you’ve got the gold standard for progress, IMO.
    Love, love, love Gaskell’s story for so many reasons. And Richard’s role in the adaptation has brought so many to it. It’s all good. 🙂

    • marieastra8 says:

      I so agree with what you say about the right mix of principle and love. I have seen it work.

      Re Higgins, I see him as the union representative of the workers, explaining their position to Margaret and Thornton. I identify with Margaret, since she is the one who gets Thornton to realize that he needs to see the big picture. I deal with lots of Higginses and Thorntons! What a great story.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Trudy!

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