Richard Armitage reveals how Michelle Keegan's role in Netflix drama nearly went to Julia Roberts - exclusive

Richard Armitage head shot for Obsession
Richard Armitage head shot for Obsession

"It's a Harlan Coben hat trick!" says Richard Armitage – star of Fool Me Once. After collaborating with the bestselling author on The Stranger and Stay Closer, Richard is teaming up with his good friend and master storyteller, Harlan, for a third time running – and Michelle Keegan's signed on too.

"It's such a brilliant story. It's about a character called Maya Stern played by the brilliant Michelle Keegan," Richard, 49, tells HELLO!.

"She sees something unthinkable on her nanny cam, which is her four-year-old daughter playing with her husband in the playroom. But, he was brutally murdered three weeks before, so he can't possibly be in that image. She then has to go on a journey to find out what really happened. It's just a brilliant suspenseful thriller and that's out on 1 January next year."

Michelle Keegan as Maya Stern and Richard Armitage as Joe Burkett
Michelle Keegan as Maya and Richard Armitage as Joe (Matt Squire/Netflix)

Cast as Maya's husband, Joe Stern; throughout production, Richard worked closely with Michelle, but it was Julia Roberts, who'd set her sights on the role.

"It was amazing. You know, I've always loved working with people who have come up through the ranks," explained Richard. "With Michelle, she came through soap operas because she was in Coronation Street for quite a long time. She's such a hard worker.

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"She was such a trooper, you know. That part was actually optioned for a film with Julia Roberts, and Michelle Keegan finally got the role. She's such a hard worker, such a good-natured person, and really fun to work with. And I hope it does really well for her."

Michelle Keegan and Joanna Lumely in Fool Me Once
The role of Maya was actually optioned for a film with Julia Roberts, before Michelle landed the part (Netflix)

As for why he's so fascinated by Harlan Coben's stories, Richard recalled: "I finished The Stranger and immediately wanted to do a second season, but Netflix has commissioned them [Harlan's novels] as stand-alone stories. But what happened – by accident – is that I've been able to do a second and third season within a Harlan Coben cinematic universe by playing different characters.

Richard Armitage in a Q&A panel with Harlan Coben and Jennifer Saunders
Richard's role in Fool Me Once marks his third TV collaboration with author Harlan Coben (Getty)

"I just love him as a crime writer. I think he's a page-turning author and you get hooked on his Netflix shows. You can't stop watching them. You have to watch all eight episodes in one sitting."

An acclaimed author himself, Richard's debut thriller novel, Geneva, has also been optioned for TV – although for now the actor is keeping his cards close to his chest. "I'm definitely gonna be in it if we get it made soon enough otherwise, I'll be too old," he revealed. "But yeah, it's very early days. We're just looking for writers at the moment."

MORE: Richard Armitage is set to star in new ITV thriller - and it sounds seriously good

READ: Obsession star Richard Armitage talks sexuality and coming out as teenager

In the meantime, Richard is feeling festive with the release of his latest Audible collab. Portraying the villainous Mr Murdstone in a new adaptation of David Copperfield, the actor joins a star-studded cast, with Ncuti Gatwa, Helena Bonham Carter, Theo James, Jack Lowden, Jessie Buckley, Toby Jones, Indira Varma, and more lending their voices.

richard armitage book
Richard also stars in Audible's retelling of David Copperfield

"David Copperfield was one of my all-time favourite books," said Richard. "I mean, I think it's up there in my top five favourite books of all time. I did a production of it in drama school and I did a solo recording for audible of the book. So I jumped at the chance."

Released Globally on November 30, fans can now head to Audible for a retelling of the classic Dickensian tale.