Richard Armitage (born 22 August 1971) is an English film, television, theatre and voice actor. He is best known internationally for his role as dwarf prince and leader Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit. However, Armitage first gained fame in Britain for his portrayal of John Thornton in the British television programme North & South (2004). He is also known for his roles as John Standring in the TV film Sparkhouse, Guy of Gisborne in the TV drama Robin Hood, Harry Kennedy in the TV comedy The Vicar of Dibley, Lucas North in the TV drama Spooks, John Porter in the TV drama Strike Back, and Francis Dolarhyde in the TV drama Hannibal.
After graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Armitage initially sought theatre work and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). But he turned to film and television roles when he noticed that leading stage roles went to actors with name recognition who could bring in patrons to fill venues. After twelve years away and having earned that name recognition, Armitage returned to the stage in 2014 taking his first leading role in a major production. He played John Proctor in the highly successful and critically acclaimed production of The Crucibel at The Old Vic, and earned an Olivier Awardnomination for Best Actor.
One of Armitage's trademarks is his baritone voice, which he has employed as a voice actor since 2006. While working on the TV series Robin Hood, he was asked to record audiobooks for the first season of that series. Since then, Armitage has recorded many notable audiobooks as well as worked as a narrator on many TV and radio shows and adverts. His flair for speaking in a multitude of dialects, accents and voices has garnered Armitage numerous accolades for his narration skills, including the 2014 Best Audiobook of the Year Award from Audible.com for his recording of Hamlet.
Armitage was born in Leicester, England, the younger son of Margaret, a secretary, and John Armitage, an engineer. Richard has an older brother named Chris. He attended Huncote Community Primary School in Huncote, Blaby District, Leicestershire and began middle school at the local comprehensive school, Brockington College in Enderby. At Brockington, Armitage pursued his interest in music - playing the cello in school and local orchestras, and learning how to play the flute. But by fourteen, having secured a grant from the Leicestershire Authority, he successfully persuaded his mother to allow him to transfer to Pattison College in Coventry, an independent boarding school specializing in the Performing Arts so that he could focus on drama and dance. Armitage has expressed gratitude for the lessons and opportunities Pattison College provided, "It...instilled me with a discipline that has stood me in good stead - never to be late, to know your lines and to be professional." By the time he graduated, not only had he gained A Levels in music and English, Armitage had gained acting experience in local amateur and professional productions such as Showboat, Half a Sixpence, Orpheus and the Underworld (as Bacchus) and The Hobbit (as an elf) at the New Alexandra Theatre (aka "The Alex"), Birmingham.