Given the power and conviction with which he played the role, it seems, in hindsight, as if Richard Armitage was the obvious choice to play John Thornton. And I knew the John Thornton type.” But it was six weeks before he was called back to read for the part again.But in fact, the casting process for Thornton was a long one. I felt that I owed it to the role to know as much about it before I attempted to try and convince someone to cast me as Thornton.” “Within the first pages, I thought, ‘I’m right for this person and for this role’. By this time, Daniela Denby-Ashe had been cast as Margaret Hale, and he was asked to read with her.
It had been a long casting process and I realised it was the role of a lifetime.
But then, of course, I was incredibly honoured to have been asked to play it - I’d fallen in love with the novel. It was a huge mountain to climb and there’s a lot of expectation for that role as well; it’s a big favourite of many people.” Research As usual, Richard Armitage’s research for the role was meticulous.
“Obviously I started with the novel and the novel was around all the time and there’s a great deal of rich, historical information in the novel.
But I felt it was important to understand the industry that Thornton is in, so I researched the cotton industry and I went to the various places in England where there are working museums, one of which turned out to be one of the locations, which was brilliant. I think Engels has written a book which was based around the working classes in the 1850s which is incredibly detailed about the poverty – so I looked at that for a start.
And then I read around the etiquette of the 1850s as well. What we take for granted now was just being born then.” The character of John Thornton “[Elizabeth Gaskell], for me, is probably the most exciting of the Victorian novelists.
Although the Thorntons don’t necessarily abide by those rules, I felt it was important to know as much about the period as possible.” Given that the novel deals with the beginnings of unionisation, he also researched the history of the early socialists. Unlike others, she manages to get inside the male mind. The idea that this male mind was written by a female writer was brilliant." “He is courageous.He has suffered great tragedy in his life and kept his family together.He has this reputation that precedes him, based on his ruthlessness with his workers, and I think that's quite an exciting dynamic to start with."But during the course of the story his layers get peeled back and he reveals somebody else inside who is actually quite sensitive and lonely. "That dichotomy between the powerful, almost monstrous, entrepreneur and this kind of vulnerable boy is really exciting to look at." "During the course of the story, he is faced with exactly the same prospect [as his father] — of losing everything again. He realizes the only thing that matters is his family, his relationship with his mother and his love for Margaret, which he believes will never happen. It's very now." The character of Thornton has been compared with that of Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy."He goes from being a somewhat tyrannical entrepreneur who is money-grubbing to someone who is prepared to shed all of that for love. Richard Armitage saw some similarities, but also differences. He's clinging onto his empire, so there's a bit more desperation.There is a real survival instinct with his aggression.” Thornton’s relationship with Margaret is at the heart of the novel and the drama.