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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Robin Hood returns to BBC One – Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood

Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood

It's been three months since Marian's untimely death at the hands of Sir Guy of Gisborne and Robin Hood is an angry man. Having returned from the Holy Land, he's on a mission to bring down his mortal enemy and he's out for Gisborne's blood.

Here, Jonas Armstrong talks about what the viewers can expect from our hooded hero this series and how he feels about reprising the role of Robin without Marian by his side.

"Although Robin is totally devastated losing his wife, it takes him in a new direction for viewers," says Jonas. But the actor stresses: "We all missed Lucy [Griffiths] during filming, who was a terrific Marian and great fun to work with.

"I've always tried to find the darker aspects of Robin, because the good sides are clearly there for all to see. But now Robin's lost Marian, the heartbeat of his life, I've been able to darken and deepen him."

Robin is like a man possessed. He's returned from a long, arduous journey and has sacked his gang since they arrived back in England.

"The beginning of the series is explosive – it's really strong," explains Jonas. "Robin has just gone mad, because he's obsessed by revenge; he must kill Gisborne whatever the cost to himself and others. So he doesn't care about his men and being the champion of the people – all that's gone."

Fuelled by grief and anger, Robin is stuck on a downward spiral, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a travelling monk called Tuck, played by David Harewood, who soon brings Robin back from the brink.

"Robin isn't thinking straight," says Jonas. "During episode one he has a major duel with Gisborne and afterwards is close to death. The last thing he needs is someone preaching to him about his purpose in the world. But Tuck sorts him out. He makes Robin remember what he believed in before he lost Marian and reminds him the English need the Robin Hood legend to inspire them."

Another turning point for Robin, says Jonas, is when he confronts his nemesis: "At the moment, Robin could finish Gisborne for ever – he sees in Gisborne's eyes terrible grief and remorse."

Early on in the series, Robin and his men come across feisty Locksley villager Kate, played by Joanne Froggatt. Could she turn into a potential love interest for Robin?

"There is potential," laughs Jonas. "But you'll just have to wait and see!

"Kate has her own quest. She's like a mini vigilante all by herself – her family have suffered a terrible loss at the hands of Gisborne. Robin and the gang have to calm her down, otherwise she'll be killed, too. Eventually she joins the lads and she becomes indispensable to them. Joanne's performance as Kate is fantastic."

So, did Jonas have to go back to the Hood academy for some more training before filming began?

"We didn't have to do that because we're all pros now," he laughs. "Come on, give us a break! You get back, do a few warm-up exercises, jump on your horse again, and re-work the stuff that you used to know. The trick is to remember it all in the right sequence!"

Born in Dublin, Jonas used to watch Robin Hood with his dad when he was young, and still living in Ireland.

"I used to watch Robin Of Sherwood, with Michael Praed and then Jason Connery," he recalls. "I liked it because there was quite a lot of mysticism in it and the series had a kind of magical thing going on."

Jonas readily admits he felt quite anxious when he first found out he was going to step into the boots of such a legend.

"I didn't have quite as much confidence as maybe I should and the scale of the production was quite overwhelming for me at times. It took me a bit of time to get into it. I just felt like there were a lot of eyes on me, and there were – and rightly so.

"They said to me: 'OK, there you go, lad, off you go. There's your sword, there's your bow and arrow and that's your horse – get on with it.' But I wouldn't swap the experience for anything."

Sadly, for his legions of fans, this third series marks Jonas's departure from the show and he will be hanging up his bow and arrow for good.

"I feel immensely lucky to have played Robin Hood for three years and I've had the time of my life in the role," says Jonas.

"But the show has to keep on changing and evolving – we've done about 39 hours now of Robin Hood, so it needs to go in different directions. It's the greatest experience I've had in my career so far, but you can't do one thing for too long."

Since he left his band of merry men behind, Jonas has filmed the leading role in an episode of Jimmy McGovern's multi-award-winning drama, The Street.

"I play Nick a British soldier who returns home from Afghanistan, with a terrible facial disfigurement, and then has to re-adjust to civilian life," explains Jonas.

"At the end of April I'm off to the Eastern Europe again, to Romania, to start work on a film called The Glasshouse, which is about the plight of Jews during the Nazis invasion of Budapest."

But returning now to Robin Hood, Jonas says that the cast and crew all got together again recently and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the ending of this series.

"It is just a brilliant, brilliant finale to the three years," he enthuses. "We all got quite emotional watching it and were trying to hold the tears back. We've been racing around those forests for three years, and we've been through a lot together and become true comrades at arms."

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