Red Eye star Richard Armitage's major Hollywood role, Netflix stardom and coming out as a teen

Jing Lusi as DC Hana Li and Richard Armitage as Dr Matthew Nolan in Red Eye
Jing Lusi as DC Hana Li and Richard Armitage as Dr Matthew Nolan in Red Eye -Credit:BAD WOLF FOR ITV AND ITVX

Red Eye is the adrenaline-filled ITV1 thriller that has been keeping viewers guessing. Set between an all-night flight from London to Beijing, the streets of London, and the corridors of power within Whitehall, it's caused a kerfuffle on social media.

And part of its charm is the excellent lead actor Richard Armitage. The East Midlander has been appearing on screens for more than 35 years, first appearing on TV in Boon with Michael Elphick back in 1992.

Since then, he has appeared in a Star Wars movie, The Hobbit franchise and more. Here is all you need to know about Richard Armitage.

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Where and when did Richard Armitage begin acting?

Armitage, now 52, was born in Leicester, one of two sons. He played cello and flute at a level when he was at school.

However, at 14, he got a grant to go to Pattison College in Coventry, an independent boarding school specialising in the performing arts. There, he worked on his acting and got experience in local amateur and professional productions.

He worked in musical theatre and dramatic theatre in the late 1980s, and even did six months with the Nachtcircus in Budapest. He wasn't convinced by musical theatre though, so headed back to LAMDA in the same year he appeared onscreen in Boon.

On the completion of his course, he started as a supporting player with the RSC's productions of Macbeth and The Duchess of Malfi.

Speaking to Screenrush in 2010, Richard described himself as a method actor. He said: "Yeah, I suppose I am. In a way it's slightly lazy because it means you don't have to pretend – you just have to believe.

"As much as it's possible to be like that I suppose I kind of do step in and out, I'm not one of these people that can't talk to other people because I'm in my character, but I kind of do stay with the character, yeah.

"He's always there. It's like marinating something – you're sitting in a marinade the whole time."

What might I have seen Richard Armitage in?

If you're a TV fan, this century try Doctors, Casualty, Spooks, Coold Feet, North and South (by Manchester's Elizabeth Gaskell), Robin Hood, Hannibal and Fool Me Once, the Harlen Coben-penned drama which screen earlier this year. Movie buffs may have spotted him in The Phantom Menace (blink and you'll miss him), Oceans 8 and Captain America: The First Avenger.

One of his best-known roles was in Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of The Hobbit where he starred as Thorin Oakenshield.

What about Richard Armitage's personal life?

In 2023, on the subject of his sexuality, he revealed that he came out to his family at the age of 19. However, it was only recently that he felt comfortable enough to come out publicly.

He told the Radio Times: “[Coming out] happened when I was 19 – to anybody who mattered – and I was always waiting for that question to punch me in the face, and it never did. I thought, ‘Are people being polite, or is it that they don’t want to know?’

"I don’t know that I ever wanted to put myself in front of the work I was doing, anything about my family or personal life. I just thought, ‘Let the work speak for itself’."

Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South
Covered in prosthetics, Richard Armitage in The Hobbit

He continued: “I love the conversation with the younger generation. I love the idea that whatever gender, sexuality, the fluidity of who you love, how you identify, is not fixed.

"That was always a thing: if I declare who I am and my sexuality, then I’m saying it’s fixed and I don’t know that, or if I might feel something for somebody further down the line. I doubt it, but I don’t know.

"It’s more relaxed now. As a writer and producer, I do wonder if anybody has to be defined by who they’re in love with.”

In another interview with the Evening Standard, the actor revealed that he was dating someone. When talking about the steamy sex scenes in Netflix's Obsession, he said about his partner: "I reassured him that it was all going to be fine, and we were being well looked after." Other than that not much else is known about his love life or if he is still with his partner previously mentioned.

What do I need to know about Red Eye?

Starring Jing Lusi alongside Armitage, Lesley Sharp and Jemma Moore, the show has been described as "a brilliantly addictive thriller with an international story taking place on the red-eye flight from Heathrow to Beijing". Red Eye is the collision of three worlds – DC Hana Li (Jing Lusi), Journalist Jess Li (Jemma Moore) and MI5’s Madeline Delaney (Lesley Sharp).

All three women are thrown into the same life-threatening conspiracy when a British doctor (Richard Armitage) is arrested for murder upon flying home from Beijing. After attending a medical conference in Beijing and coming frighteningly close to dying in a car crash, Dr Matthew Nolan, played by Armitage, arrives home and is immediately arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Jing Lusi as DC Hana Li and Richard Armitage as Dr Matthew Nolan in Red Eye
Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South -Credit:Newcastle Journal

A dead woman was discovered in his crashed car and, despite his protests that he was driving alone, Nolan must return to China to face charges. DC Hana Li, played by Jing Lusi, is the no-nonsense, London police officer charged with accompanying Nolan back to Beijing.

Born in Hong Kong and with a traumatic past, she does not want to go. So, once ordered, her resentment for this assignment, and of Nolan himself, is intense.

However, when a death occurs onboard, Hana begins to suspect foul play and she commences an investigation. Further deaths confirm that Nolan truly is in danger, and after a call from MI5, Hana finds herself embroiled in an escalating conspiracy.

Back in London, we follow Hana’s half-sister Jess Li, a scrappy journalist played by Jemma Moore, with whom Hana has a fractious relationship. Trying to cash in on Hana’s assignment, Jess runs her own investigation into Nolan’s extradition and finds herself on the run from a lethal, unknown assassin.

And in Thames House, the head of MI5, Madeline Delaney, played by Lesley Sharp, breaks protocol and risks her entire career to not only help Hana and Nolan stay alive, but to expose an international conspiracy that seems to implicate both China and people in her own government for the murders on flight 357.

Red Eye continues on Sunday, April 28 at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX