ITV1 Red Eye star Richard Armitage on 'extraordinary' and 'shocking' thriller

ITV1 Red Eye star Richard Armitage on 'extraordinary' and 'shocking' thriller

Leicestershire’s Richard Armitage hopes viewers will be “shocked” and “jaw dropped” by his new tense ITV thriller which begins this weekend. The actor also revealed how the twists and turns of Red Eye meant even he was unable to trust his own “delicious” character at times.

Richard, who was born and grew up in Huncote, near Blaby, leads the cast of ITV’s six-part conspiracy thriller Red Eye which promises thrills and spills aplenty all onboard a plane to China. Richard, most recently seen in Netflix’s Fool Me Once, stars as Dr Matthew Nolan who is arrested on his return to the UK from a medical conference in China accused of murdering a woman following a crash which nearly killed him.

However, the doctor is adamant he was alone in the car, but that does not stop him being sent back to China on a flight that will soon see the bodies pile up. It was a challenge that Richard revelled in, saying: “I liked the challenge of playing somebody of Nolan’s status and intellect, being thrown into a prisoner situation where he has no authority. I thought it would be really interesting to see somebody like him realising that he needs to fight for his freedom.”

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Promotional photo of Richard Armitage and Jing Lusi in Red Eye
Richard's character Matthew is arrested soon after arriving back in the UK from China -Credit:Laurence Cendrowicz/Bad Wolf/Sony Pictures Television

Red Eye is written by Peter Dowling who previously scribed the Jodie Foster film Flightplan, with Richard saying the idea for that 2005 film has now been expanded and explored in new, exciting ways. Twists and turns are promised as Matthew and arresting officer Hana Li (Jing Lusi) soon find themselves confronted with a much wider conspiracy.

It’s a scale that Richard says will really shine on screen, especially as it reaches a gripping finale. He said: “After I read the first two episodes I just really hoped the show was going in the direction I thought, and actually it went much further, which was brilliant. I love the fact that the scale opens up and we find ourselves dealing with an international problem working up to a big finale.

“It’s always frustrating when dramas have a disappointing ending, but this is great. So much so that I want more, it was so delicious I’d love to see these characters thrown back into another political situation for a second season.”

Much of the filming for the series took place on an enclosed plane interior in the high heat of last year. For many it could be a claustrophobic experience, but 52-year-old Richard, who has also starred in The Hobbit movies and the BBC’s Spooks, embraced the challenge.

He said: “I was braced for it to be hell, because it was a five-week shoot on the plane and we were in a hot spell, so I thought it would be claustrophobic and horrible. But by the second day, we'd made our home in the business class cabin and we just loved it.

“It was an amazing experience, and we missed the cabin after we left, especially Jing. Every time I've been on an aeroplane since then I've been sniffing around in the back looking for staircases and lifts, things you don't always see as the public.”

Promotional image from ITV's Red Eye
Matthew and Hana will be surrounded by murder at 35,000ft -Credit:Jonathan Ford/Bad Wolf/Sony Pictures Television

While Red Eye promises much action, it’s also a drama that will make viewers question everyone and everything they see. The twists even led leading man Richard to question if Matthew had an ulterior motive.

He said: “On paper he should be extremely trustworthy. I trusted him at the beginning of the script, but then there were points in the story where I started doubting him – Is he a spy? Is he some sort of courier or mule? He had gained my trust but then I wondered if this man was really everything, he was telling us. It flips between scenes, and you wonder what he’s up to, which is really interesting to play.”

Red Eye also stars Scott & Bailey’s Lesley Sharp as the head of MI5, Madeline Delaney, who must break all protocol to try and answer who is behind the deaths on the plane. Jemma Moore plays Jess Li, Hana’s roving reporter half-sister who after investigating Dr Nolan’s alleged crime finds herself with a target on her back with an assassin waiting to pounce.

Over six episodes, ITV has promised the TV equivalent of a “page turner” thriller book, with viewers said to be guessing what will happen to the very end. Richard is similarly hopeful that viewers strap in for the exciting ride.

He said: “I hope that they will buy into the concept and also be shocked and jaw dropped by the claustrophobia and the extraordinary events that unfold as things run completely out of control. I hope they will ask themselves how they would respond if they were thrown into this situation. I'd like them to put themselves in Matthew Nolan's shoes.”

Red Eye begins this Sunday (April 21) at 9pm on ITV1. The series will also be available to stream on ITVX.

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