Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Into the Hood with Robin's actor

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Joanne Froggatt and Jonas Armstrong
Joanne Froggatt is new to the show starring Jonas Armstrong

Sweltering heat, heavy costumes and physical sword fights - it is all in a day's filming for the cast of BBC One's Robin Hood.

With the third series about to hit TV screens, the BBC News website was granted access to the shooting on site in Budapest, Hungary.

"It's extremely physically demanding," says Jonas Armstrong, who plays Robin Hood.

"We all start in a boot camp the first week just to get our bodies re-used to the battering we're going to get.

"The more you put into it, the better it looks. So we try to keep ourselves in shape and we've got a great stunt team who look after us, it's part of the job."

Richard Armitage, who plays bad guy, Guy of Gisborne, says he feels like all he does is fight in this series.

"I seem to engage in a lot more sword fights and they're very skilful sword fights, often involving more than one person, so that's been very exciting to play this year," he says.

Actor David Harewood with a behind the scenes tour of the Robin Hood set in Budapest

The show is shot in Hungary because there was already a set built there, including a castle made of wood, paper and polystyrene.

The cast dedicate six months to filming, and after three years of doing just that, Armstrong has announced he is hanging up his bow and arrow.

"It's been a great thrill, a great ride, but you can't play one part forever," he says.

"I feel like I've done my bit with the show now and it's time to move on."

How he leaves is a tightly kept secret, which only a few members of the cast are allowed to know.

But there have been rumours that once Armstrong goes, the series will continue without him.

"There's more to Robin Hood than just Jonas," says co-star Lara Pulver, who plays Isabella.

Attention to detail

"He's brilliant, but it's such an ensemble piece that I think it stands in good stead for the future."

During rehearsals however, the future of the show could not be further from the actors' minds.

The heat at midday is unbearable, but Armstrong says it gets hotter later in the summer.

Between takes the actors gulp down bottles of water and try to hide away in the shade.

Robin Hood stunt co-ordinator Bela Unger explains how the action is choreographed

They all have their own trailers to retreat to, where they can shower and lie down, the extras however do not have that luxury.

Standing around in thick medieval costume, while they await direction, they all look weary and fed up, but transform as soon as the director shouts "action".

Walking round the rustic set, which has a market set up inside the castle grounds, it is clear that attention to detail is taken very seriously.

Even the market stalls have been stacked with realistic-looking plastic produce.

Walking inside an old shop the shelves are packed with candles and pots.

Outside on the dirt road, hanging on a wall, are several dead pheasants - not real but enough to make anyone jump when not expecting to see them.

The production team do use other sites as well, including a nearby church for an integral scene in the final episode.

Lifelike and stylised

Rehearsals of a fight scene go on for hours.

The stuntmen are brought in to make sure the cast are performing the actions correctly.

Some actors need more coaching than others, but because of a lighting problem, the cameras are unable to start rolling.

When the scene does eventually get off the ground, there is movement everywhere and the sequences look both lifelike and stylised.

Jonas Armstrong
Rehearsals for a fight scene go on for several hours

Strange to see how easy it is for the actors to slip into character and start fighting with the person they had just been laughing with.

Despite the BBC refusing to reveal what the budget was for this series, all the cast members agree that this year it is bigger and better.

"Series three is pretty epic," says Pulver.

"It's beautifully shot, it's got some great action, some great storylines and some nice romantic storylines."

Joanne Froggatt, who is new to the show and plays the role of Kate agrees.

"We've had some fantastic guest lead characters come into it and it's fun, it's adventurous, it's got everything going on," she says.

But Armstrong reckons this year the show is "much darker" than previous series.

So, with Armstrong leaving, what die-hard fans of the show will be wanting to know is how Robin Hood leaves.

Unfortunately none of the cast would reveal anything but Armitage admitted he had just finished reading the final scenes.

"It's like being hit round the head with a plank," he says.

"It's incredibly moving what happens at the end of this. It's a fantastic series finale.

"I think he's going to be greatly missed, but what the series will lose by his departure, they gain with his incredible storyline. I was really choked."

Robin Hood can be seen at 1850 GMT on BBC One from Saturday 28 March.

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