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Robin Hood series 2 : Playing Guy of Gisborne (2)

A large part of Gisborne’s character is revealed in his relationships with the Sheriff and with Marian, and to a lesser extent with Robin.

Gisborne and the Sheriff

Richard Armitage and Keith Allen in Robin HoodComing back to the show to film the second series was easier than starting the first.  “There's a familiarity with the characters because everyone knows the function of the characters, and particularly with my relationship with the Sheriff, for example.  That enables you to develop it further because you're not going over old ground,” said Richard. “That relationship gets really interesting.  The father/son relationship is very interesting from Guy's point of view because he wants to impress the father, he wants praise and he wants approval and he never gets it. When he fails, he gets a big whipping, and when he succeeds, the Sheriff passes it off as his own success.  So he never quite gets approval.” [8]

“The Sheriff manipulates Gisborne because he knows that he needs that approval.  That's really focused on in the series this time.” [9]

“Guy's on his own. He's got no-one,” said Richard.  Gisborne points out as much to Marian in episode 6 when she challenges him about why he works for the Sheriff. “[Gisborne] may be cruel, but he's humiliated at every turn by the Sheriff.” [1]

So why stay with him?  “The Sheriff doesn't really need Gisborne but Gisborne needs the Sheriff so badly, because without him he has no status and no position. That's why he keeps coming back for more, because he has no choice.” [2]

The relationship between the two villains is one of the highlights of the series, and the two actors who play them evidently enjoy it.  Richard said of Keith Allen, “He’s hilarious, I have to say, and he loves playing the Sheriff so he throws his weight around with good humour.  I feed off him and we bounce around and enjoy ourselves.  We both enjoy playing the bad characters - they’re so much fun to play because you get to be nasty and do all those things you can’t do in real life.  So we have an awful lot of fun together.” [3]

In fact, one of his favourite scenes in this series is one with Keith Allen, “where the Sheriff is bathing naked in a bath and stands up out of the bath.  And Gisborne is just horrified having to be so humiliated to have to stand and look at the Sheriff's private parts. It's the ultimate humiliation, so I found that quite amusing to film. And actually to watch back, it's very funny.” [9]

However, this was probably not what Keith Allen had in mind when he joked that the relationship between the two characters in this series is “as homoerotic as ever.”  [2]

Gisborne and Marian

“I really like Guy's relationship with Marian.” [10] 

It’s this relationship, more than any other, that drives the character of Gisborne.

“Gisborne's feelings for Marian run pretty deep,” said Richard. “I don't think he quite realised when he first started to pursue her. I think he saw somebody that would be a pretty decoration on his arm and it slowly turned into a love story for him.  And it's become an obsessive love story so he is prepared to compromise himself, he is prepared to risk his career, and he does. He does very dangerous things for her, and in her name, which put himself at risk, especially in the eyes of the Sheriff.” [9]

In the first series, Gisborne slowly came to feel more and more for Marian, until things came to an abrupt halt when she ran out of the church on their wedding day.  It seemed that the ‘love triangle’ between Gisborne, Marian and Robin was resolved at that point. 

But the writers have found new ways to keep the Gisborne/Marian story alive.  As the second series begins, Gisborne still doesn’t realise that she has been betraying him, that she is in league with Robin (and in love with him) and that she is the Nightwatchman. The fury that leads him to burn down her house in the first episode comes purely from the fact that she jilted him.
“He’s very angry. In the last series, Marian made him open up and we saw a nicer side to him. He’s trying to be a tyrant again, but it’s a real struggle with Marian still near him. She needs Gisborne. But there are still sparks between them and things get a little bit ‘Fatal Attraction’ later in the series.” [11]

”This series the character is evolving, he is learning to live with a humanity and a compassion which he didn't really have before. It started to come out in the last series so he's trying to ravel himself up so that he can do his job.  He can slaughter people ruthlessly but at the same time he's found compassion and he's found humanity through Marian and that's the kind of struggle he is going through at the moment, but he's pursuing her in quite an obsessive way.” [9]

“I'm not sure he knows what real love is. It's more about wanting something he can't have. And there's a bit of me that identifies with that - if you're told 'no', something seems more attractive.” [12]


Gisborne and Robin

Gisborne’s relationship with Robin Hood is simple and uncomplicated – he hates him.  He taunts him at every opportunity, whether Robin is suspended helplessly above a pit full of deadly snakes, or whether the two men are fighting each other at Locksley Manor, Robin’s old home. 

In the latter scene, Gisborne gloats over the fact that Locksley is now his.  But in reality, Robin has everything that Gisborne wants, and Gisborne knows it.

“Guy's always out to impress and he's jealous of Robin. He's everything Guy would secretly like to be,” explained Richard. [1]

His humiliation at the hands of Robin in their fight in episode 3 is therefore doubly wounding for him.  In spite of being clad in apparently indestructible armour, he ends up in a tub of water at Robin’s mercy.  And when Robin threatens to kill him unless the Sheriff agrees to his demands, Gisborne’s master calmly  refuses and abandons him to his fate.
Asked about the secret of the brooding stare that is Gisborne’s hallmark, he said, “I don’t think too much about the end product, I just try and think in my head of the dislike for Robin and try and get into the story that way.” [3]

Continued on page 3 >>

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Robin Hood series 2 : Introduction | Playing Guy of Gisborne page 1, page 2, page 3
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