Freeman brings a level of humanity to every role that is unparalleled, and portrays flaws which are somehow character-defining, yet endearing. One early role that garnered him attention was Tim Canterbury in Ricky Gervais' comedy The Office.
Tim was the unsung hero of the production, and Freeman’s use of self-deprecating humour and darkness was perfectly balanced. Without Freeman, the show really wouldn’t have worked. Ricky Gervais would have taken up too much of the stage, and without the Brent-antidote provided by Tim’s endearing character, it would have quickly become boring.
Very few actors could make the character as he exists in the book to be enduring
Something which Martin Freeman showcased in The Office was his excellent ability as an actor to say so much through so little, especially through his characters’ relationship with Dawn. This is often the most remarkable attribute of his performances, elevating the productions he takes part in to a higher level.
For these reasons, he was perfectly suited to play Bilbo Baggins. In the original book of The Hobbit, Bilbo is a surprisingly complicated character, a slightly priggish, self-obsessed little person. Very few actors could make the character as he exists in the book to be endearing, due to the overbearing character defects and almost constant moaning. However, Freeman carries the role perfectly. It’s the very qualities of Britishness, channelling Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring, that makes Freeman’s performance so excellent.
His ability to meld unattractive character traits with endearing ones makes him a brilliant actor
These qualities of performance are also present in the comedy film, The Nativity! in which Freeman stars as the grouchy teacher, Paul Madden. The scene in which Madden realises the deep wells of emotion his students feel for him is deeply heart-warming, and the passion he brings to the character, while maintaining a profoundly funny performance, is very impressive.
Martin Freeman’s ability to meld unattractive character traits with endearing ones, and comedy with profound and wonderful emotion, and is, in my opinion, what makes him one of the most brilliant actors currently working on stage and screen. I can’t wait to see what he does next, and how he applies his specific set of skills to the next role.