Robson loves a good story and that's what appealed to him when he first read the script for Blind Ambition. Says Robson; "I liked the pictures that the story conjured up. It's triumph over adversity. There's a universal theme to the story and I really think people will care for all of the characters in Blind Ambition and that's what makes you follow the story."
Robson plays Richard Thomas, a keen sportsman, whose life is turned upside down when he is tragically blinded in a car accident. "People will say 'I know what this man's going through' even though they've never suffered blindness in their lives. What they'll understand is an emotional, human story about relationships. People will identify with the situation and what I always try to do, as an actor, is to make people care for the character and about what they do.
"Richard's a hero and I like heroes. He travels on this incredible journey where one minute his life is normal and the next he becomes a patient. He suffers trauma and to try and articulate trauma to anyone is a very difficult thing to do." Robson explains; "it's a very human story. I don't know what it's like to lose your sight, but talking to people who have, they say you either go one way or another - you give up and become negative or you carry on. The one thing Richard discovers he can do in his life is run and this is what brings him back from the depths of despair, but it does cause problems with his wife, Annie."
Lack of communication between the couple is what essentially causes the rift in their marriage. Says Robson; "How do you explain what you are going though when you're going through hell. What you should do is talk to the one you love, but Richard and Annie are going through the same hell. There's tension in their relationship and it collapses. They started off so in love and being together was the most joyful thing until his accident and then everything wonderful in his life disappears. He says to Annie; 'What is it you want' and she says 'I want my husband back' - but he's gone."
On another level, Robson thinks that the loss of sight actually heightens Richard's awareness. "Touching, smelling, hearing the notes in the voice - it's all heightened - even sexuality and love are heightened - so it has its advantages. When you're acting, you try to use your senses more and even when I defocused and couldn't see, I got my perception of vision back through my senses. This also helped with the running."
For the role of Richard, Robson had to undergo arduous training in order to be fit enough to play a convincing Olympic athlete. "I was fit from the training I had done for my role as a fencer in The Last Musketeer for ITV, so the fitness level I had to achieve for Blind Ambition was a natural progression from what I'd been doing." However, Robson admits that playing the part of an Olympic athlete was an enormous challenge. "I approached the fitness how I approach my acting - it's an obsession - I put a lot of determination into my acting and a lot of focus and I've done the same with the running. I trained five days a week, three hours a day and probably drove my trainer round the bend. I have enjoyed it though and there's a definite air of health around and that gives you a positive outlook."
Even more challenging for Robson was playing the part of a blind person, but he was determined to get it right. Says Robson; "I spoke to many blind people and I looked at videos of blind runners and I realised that in terms of blindness, everyone's different so you have to bring an organic look to the part. Some people's eyes are very erratic and they move fast and some people's eyes are shut. I've got very blue eyes and if white light hits the bottom of your eyes, it really focuses in on the blue. After consulting our make-up artist, we decided to kill the light that's under them as it deadens the eyes. In terms of how Richard was feeling, I just played scared."
Robson admits that he was very anxious the first time he ran with his eyes closed. "Running blind is frightening, but I had complete trust in Mark Womack and the way he played Clive, my running guide. We went flat out and if you fall, you fall together. The first time I closed my eyes we got the right effect because we were genuinely tentative and that comes across in the film. Suddenly you're relying on your senses and all you can hear is this heavy breathing and you don't know where the track is or if you're going in a straight line and you just have to trust the person you're with. I really trust Mark and we've enjoyed training together although he's a lot fitter than I am!
Anyone would think Robson is becoming obsessed with his newfound fitness. "Not really", he laughs "although the other day my mother did say 'shut up about diets' when I said 'Mam, look at the fat on that bacon'. Normally I'd mop it up with a piece of bread."