Son of a gun, Arm­strong Jr is on a role

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - COLIN VICK­ERY

WHEN Joe Arm­strong agreed to play Al­lan A. Dale in the BBC’s Robin Hood, he didn’t re­alise film­ing would be more like boot camp than a TV se­ries.

First was a month-long stint in the spe­cially cre­ated ‘‘Hood Academy’’ where the cast, headed by Jonas Arm­strong (no re­la­tion) as Robin Hood and Lucy Grif­fiths as Maid Mar­ian, were given aer­o­bic train­ing and drilled in archery, horse rid­ing and sword fight­ing.

That was fol­lowed by three months film­ing in Bu­dapest where the cast and crew worked, ate and lived to­gether 24 hours a day.

Arm­strong says the on-screen rap­port re­flects the close ties that have de­vel­oped be­tween cast mem­bers.

‘‘We’ve been very for­tu­nate that there are no big heads among us. I think the pro­duc­ers de­lib­er­ately went for un­knowns so that none of the ac­tors brought egos with them.’’

In se­ries one, Al­lan A. Dale was lit­tle more than a lar­rikin, but the char­ac­ter has dark­ened in the sec­ond se­ries. Fed up with his mea­gre ex­is­tence and lack of recog­ni­tion, he be­trays Robin to aid the Sher­iff of Not­ting­ham.

It’s a turn of events wel­comed by 29-year-old Arm­strong.

‘‘In the first se­ries he was just a cheeky guy out for him­self try­ing to make a bit of money so it was all quite straight­for­ward. In this se­ries he’s been put in more in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tions — ones where he’s forced to think about things on a deeper level.’’

Be­fore Robin Hood Arm­strong had guest roles in some of the UK’s most a c c l a i m e d TV shows, in­clud­ing The Bill, Wak­ing the Dead, Mid­somer Mur­ders, Foyle’s War, and Rose and Maloney.

‘‘I’m lucky be­cause it’s been a steady pro­gres­sion from very small parts to Al­lan A. Dale,’’ he says.

One of three boys, Arm­strong is the son of renowned UK ac­tor Alun Arm­strong, best known to TV au­di­ences as Brian Lane in New Tricks.

‘‘I was aware that my dad was an ac­tor, but it wasn’t some­thing that was pressed on us at all,’’ Arm­strong says. ‘‘We were just all out play­ing foot­ball most of the time.

‘‘Dad was very hon­est that act­ing isn’t the glam­orous job that a lot of peo­ple like to think, and you have to be very lucky to do well. So it was all painted quite re­al­is­ti­cally.

‘‘Once I had made my de­ci­sion, I think he quite liked it that ul­ti­mately some­one was go­ing to do it and he could pass on some of his wis­dom.’’ Robin Hood, PG ABC, Sun­day, 7.30pm Ad­ven­ture Du­ra­tion: 45 min

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