SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now unless you’ve watched tonight’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” (Season 3, Episode 9) — “The Rains of Castamere.” This story contains details of some major plot twists, including ones not from George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords.”
When Scottish actor Richard Madden finished shooting The Red Wedding, he went straight to the airport in Belfast, Northern Ireland, got on a plane and left the city.
The emotions of shooting not only his final scene of Season 3, but his final scene as Robb Stark in “Game of Thrones,” were felt deeply by the actor. Filming Robb’s death, at the hands of Lord Walder Frey’s men, and his own right hand man, Lord Roose Bolton (who betrayed the young wolf and dealt the final blow at the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey), left Richard with a heavy heart on his short journey home.
“I cried the whole way,” he admitted to AccessHollywood.com, at the end of a conference call with a small group of reporters, about his dramatic exit from the show. “I was the crazy boy on the plane crying at about midnight, landing in London.”
Playing Robb Stark meant a great deal to Richard, now nearly 27, but just 21 when he started his “Game of Thrones” journey as the eldest son of Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark and Catelyn Stark. Robb got under the actor’s skin more and more as his role grew. Scenes he filmed filtered into his dreams during Season 2, and Richard even admitted to Access in a 2012 interview that there were a few mornings when he woke up and would be, “kind of thinking thoughts, but… in Robb Stark’s accent.”
And so when it came to filming Robb’s tragic death, which came after his beloved (pregnant) wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) died in his arms (a plot twist not in George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords”), and as his mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) begged Walder Frey for mercy, it was tough. But despite the heartbreaking scene, Richard said that for Robb, there was finally — after all the pain (his father’s death), betrayals (Theon Greyjoy, Roose), stress (of leading an army) and heartbreak (of his wife’s death) — a kind of “relief.”
“The whole episode was so operatic almost, of how the writers had placed little details throughout the whole sequence of events that happen in Episode 9. And when we shot the scene, it took a few days because it’s huge, and there’s actually a moment in the scene that [Michelle and I] look at each other and it’s Robb Stark essentially saying goodbye to his mother and giving up,” Richard explained when Access asked him about filming his final moments opposite Michelle, his friend, and longtime acting partner on the show.
“And actually, rather than it being something really bad, there’s a moment of tragedy and — and utter relief actually, because these two characters have fought, and fought, and fought, and fought, and it’s finally over and I think me and Michelle really felt that on the day — as did a lot of the crew,” he added. “It was a big, emotional moment because we’re one big family that’s plowed on through this for years. And, it was a sad day.”
One of the big twists in Sunday’s episode that came as a surprise to readers of Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, was the show’s decision to kill off Robb’s pregnant wife, Talisa, at Edmure Tully’s nuptials. (In the books, Robb’s wife — who had a different name and storyline — was kept away from the event).
Asked by one reporter why he thought that plot twist was important, Richard said it made The Red Wedding even more devastating.
“I think it was important for her to die because it’s just a full stop to that train of the story of that army,” he said. “I think it’s more tragic that there’s nothing left over from it, that there’s no possibility that Talisa’s in hiding and gonna have a baby and one day, that baby will take over as King in the North. And, you know, I think there’s something tragic about it just all being cut short instantly.”
“A Storm of Swords” readers no doubt expected Robb’s exit. For those who didn’t read the book, Richard said he hoped they would get the unspoiled impact of his character’s death in the home of Walder Frey, a man whose daughter Robb was supposed to have married. (An arranged marriage agreement Catelyn made to Lord Frey in Season 1 so Robb’s armies could cross his bridge.)
“By the time you get to the third book and Robb’s making other decisions, I’m forced to bend the kind of path that I’ve put Robb on and change it and keep the surprises coming. Hopefully, I’ve managed to do that and I think the best thing about that was not pre-empting anything that [was] gonna happen —these things with The Freys, and not giving too much weight to Walder Frey,” he told another reporter. “But it’s been nice having Catelyn just reminding me that this man’s not safe and he’s not to be trusted.
Richard said he hopes Robb will be remembered by “Game of Thrones” fans just like Sean Bean’s Ned Stark.
“Just like his father as an honest man and a just man,” he told a writer from HBO.com during the call. “Typically in ‘Game of Thrones,’ in this world, people who are honest and just and do things for the right reasons are the people that tend not to survive, and Robb’s a great example of that. But I hope he’s remembered as a good man and essentially the man that would’ve been the best person to lead the Seven Kingdoms.”
As for what comes next for Richard, he recently signed on to play the Prince in Disney’s big screen adaptation of “Cinderella” (opposite “Downton Abbey” actress Lily James), and he’s also filming a miniseries for Discovery, called “Klondike,” in Canada.
Despite being thousands of miles away from Belfast, and months removed from filming his final “GOT” scene, Richard admitted to Access he hasn’t been able to shake off the emotions of The Red Wedding and say goodbye to Robb.
“It won’t shake off until I’ve seen the episode,” he told Access. “So, it’s still there. … [It will] be really difficult to watch. I think it’ll dredge up a lot of emotions and stuff that I’ve maybe just pushed aside for a while, but I think that’ll really kind of part me with Robb because we shoot for six months a year and you have six months where you go and do other things. … It’s not like any other job I’ve had because you don’t close the book on that character. It’s just like you step away from him for six months and then you come straight back into his shoes, literally the same boots that you were wearing the season before — the same costume.
“It was really hard shooting the end of it, but still very difficult for me to process that I’m not going back, that it is completely gone,” he continued. “And it’s funny, because I’m still very close with all the crew and I’ve been talking to the hair department and the other actors who are all gearing up and going back into it and it’s really strange for me.
“… We’re gearing up into summer. I should be starting back on the show, but I’m not. So until I see that episode I won’t be able to put it all to rest. But once I see it, I’m sure I’ll be able to send it down the river.”
“Game of Thrones” concludes its third season next Sunday night at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash
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