Robb Stark (Richard Madden) has gone from the Young Wolf in Season 1 of "Game… (HBO )
Richard Madden knows how lucky he is that “Game of Thrones” executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss didn’t follow George R.R. Martin’s "A Song of Ice and Fire" books exactly for Season 2 of the HBO hit.
If they had, he would not have been in it. His character, Robb Stark, would not be arguing with his mother, defeating the Lannisters in battle or, maybe most importantly, meeting the woman of his dreams.
“It was a huge compliment for me that David and Dan kind of believed in what I was doing enough to allow that to happen and me to run with it,” Madden, 26, told me last week during a phone interview. “It’s allowed me to do scenes that no one has seen because they weren’t in the books. So I was very thankful and very pleased.”
In the latest episode, “Garden of Bones,” Robb’s army wins another battle and afterward he meets Talisa (Oona Chaplin), a healer helping the injured on the battlefield. It isn’t clear if Talisa is meant to be Jeyne, a character from the books, but one thing is certain: She has cast a spell over Robb.
“She’s a breath of fresh air, kind of light in this darkness. He’s never met or seen anyone like her before,” he said.
The romance gave the Scottish actor another chance to interpret Robb in his own way, and to play emotions he hasn’t had a chance to explore with the character. This being “Game of Thrones,” it also gave him a chance to ditch Robb’s heavy costumes of leather, furs and armor.
“Umm, without spoiling it, I think you’re going to see Robb wearing less armor than normal,” Madden said, laughing. “How’s that?”
I’m sure fans will be happy to hear it. Madden and I talked more about Robb’s evolution, working with Michelle Fairley (who plays his mother, Lady Catelyn), and whether Robb’s honor could lead to trouble like it did for his father, Ned Stark.
We’ll talk about “Game of Thrones,” of course, but also I wanted to ask about “Birdsong,” which airs on PBS starting this weekend.
Does it? This weekend? Oh, fantastic! I’m in the second part a little more.
Right. I’ve seen it and it made me a bit sad.
It was kind of a shocking moment.
It kind of just comes out of nowhere, doesn't it?
Was it nice to be able to get away from playing Robb Stark for a more modern character in Michael Weir?
Yeah, completely. It’s great. I always try to pick my parts to be as diverse as I can, and especially when you do “Game of Thrones” for so many months of the year. I try to take those opportunities to go into something completely different and I did with that and got into a totally different kind of character mind-frame. It’s also nice to wear a little less costume all the time and be in a warmer climate, which we shot it all in Budapest, so this is a little different from Ireland.
But you were pretty muddy. There’s a lot mud.
Yeah. And it was worse. Like in Ireland, it’s like, “OK, enough of the mud. Let’s try and keep the boys dry.” And over in Budapest, it was like, “More mud!” We had to run under hoses. They sprayed hoses and we had to run under them to keep our mud wet, because after five minutes in the heat we’d just dry up straightaway. We had to look as if we were wet and in the trenches just coming out of these holes in the ground. So we had to kind of constantly get soaked and soaked and soaked.
I need to kind of get a job that's going to take me to like Hawaii or Rio or something, right? Maybe I need to make better decisions with that.
Not only are you in “Birdsong,” but so is Benjen Stark, Joseph Mawle.
Exactly. How fantastic is Joe? I thought he was fantastic in “Birdsong.”
Yeah, he’s great.
He’s outstanding, outstanding actor to work with.
I think you both were pretty good in it.
All right, so let’s talk about “Game of Thrones” now. How has Robb changed this year in your mind?
In my mind, in Season 1, you see Robb, he’s reacting to situations, isn't he? He’s being pushed and pulled and demanded of and forced into places. And in Season 2, we see him much more taking things up in it and driving things as a man. He’s a driving force. He’s the one that's pushing people and driving situations. So we see him pushing the action a lot more and also he’s gotten a bit smarter. I think he was kind of overwhelmed at points all through the first season, and this season he’s got better at wearing this mask.