Richard Armitage reinvents himself in new Netflix chiller ‘Stay Close’

'Stay Close' on Netflix stars Richard Armitage.
'Stay Close' on Netflix stars Richard Armitage. (Image credit: Netflix)

New chiller Stay Close, from the pen of bestselling US crime writer Harlan Coben, launches on Netflix on New Year’s Eve and sees Richard Armitage return for another mysterious character created by the author.

Richard is known and admired for heroic roles in The Hobbit films as well as the likes of Strike Back, Spooks while he hit streaming gold with 2020’s Netflix blockbuster The Stranger, in which he played a husband whose life unravels when a mysterious stranger tells him a secret about his wife.

With ‘Everyone Has Secrets’ being the tagline for Stay Close, we're in familiar territory, but Richard, 50, was anxious not to repeat the role of Adam Price. In Stay Close he plays Ray, a down-on-his-luck photographer with big gaps in his memory, which is the heart of the plot – three characters who seem to be unconnected are introduced in episode one and their previous dark relationship to each other is developed through the eight-part series as the intrigue and tension builds.

Richard relished the role of tattooed Ray, telling HELLO!: “I just love the themes that Harlan plays with, identity and reinventing yourself and your past catching up with you and how do you hide yourself? It’s people’s fantasy and worst nightmare that they try to invent themselves and the past comes back to haunt them.”

The action in Stay Close moves from New Jersey, where the novel is set, to Manchester and the series features an appealing cast of Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Sarah Parish and Eddie Izzard. Richard’s character has memory problems, a state that is about to tear his life wide open.

He said: “One of the biggest challenges was playing a character that doesn't remember anything ... We had to play around with, what happens when you don't remember something, you either admit that you don't remember? Or you lie, or you invent? And I thought that was what was interesting for me, he was almost kidding himself. He'd created a past for himself, which was not the truth.”

Ray created a ‘false memory of something traumatic’ and when the past becomes the present there is a terrifying payoff.

Richard reunites with his co-star in The Hobbit James, who relished appearing in a Netflix original series. He said: “I know I’ve played a lot of policemen, recently that’s all I seem to do is play a policeman.

“I’ve played a lot of extreme characters in the last while, and I just thought, there was someone who is one of the good guys in a way, but yet with a complicated internal kind of process going on his life and in his mind. So I loved that.

“Everything I thought about this job, the boxes that you hope to be able to tick, it turns out that it was very easy early on to be able to tick.”

All eight episodes of Stay Close hit Netflix on New Year's Day

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.