Richard Madden is on the brink of potentially earning his first Emmy nomination for his performance as Sergeant David Budd in Netflix’s “Bodyguard.” The “Game of Thrones” alum won a Golden Globe earlier this year for his performance and also earned a Critics’ Choice Award nomination.
Madden spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria before his big Golden Globe win about “Bodyguard” becoming such a success, his difficulties in carrying a show on his shoulders, and his fondest memories from “Game of Thrones.” Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete interview transcript below.
Gold Derby: Richard Madden, you play Sergeant David Budd on “Bodyguard.” First of all, before we talk about anything else, I wanna congratulate you on your recent Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice nominations. That’s really exciting.
Richard Madden: Thank you very much.
GD: What do awards and accolades and things like that and good reviews and pats on the back mean to you as a professional?
RM: I don’t know. I tend to try not read reviews very much. I think it’s kind of a black hole to fall into because if I read the good ones and believe them then I’ve got to give as much weight to the bad ones and sometimes that can be crippling as much as you can get a real confidence boost when you get a good review. I suppose when it comes to awards, I’ve never really been nominated for awards so I’m still working out what that feels like. It feels great. I suppose I’m more excited that this show that we worked really hard on has been given this kind of recognition over here that we never really expected when we set out to shoot for five months in London.
GD: Yeah, it’s been a huge success, hasn’t it? Were you expecting this kind of international success for this show?
RM: Absolutely not. I had no idea. We just shot the show and people have said to me, “Did you know when you were shooting it? Did you know that this was gonna happen or that it was gonna go down so well?” And I didn’t at all because I was too busy focusing on trying to survive the show. It was a really grueling shoot so that was my focus, was just getting through it.
GD: Obviously your character is put through the wringer. He’s obviously dealing with a lot of issues from his past and I’m thinking as an actor when you’re preparing for that kind of role, what were your priorities in trying to get his particular story right?
RM: I suppose the PTSD was a huge thing that I wanted to get right and do it justice and honestly and as delicately as possible and that was quite a difficult one to navigate, I think, particularly when people really don’t want to talk about PTSD, so it was harder to research. Also, because I think it’s misrepresented in a lot of film and television, this idea that someone drops a glass and you duck for cover and have these flashbacks. Although that’s very much something that does happen and can happen, there’s lots of other subtle day to day living with things that PTSD has in it, and I think that’s something very different to try and express and navigate. I worked really hard on trying to bring out those subtleties.
GD: Does that kind of thing stay with you over time or are you able to switch it off when the cameras stop rolling?
RM: I’m not a method actor in any way. That said, I think it’s more in terms of, if I’m filming six days a week on something like this and you go home at night you have to carry something with you. It’s kind of like going into standby mode I suppose, because the next morning, you go straight back into that place again and I very much can’t jump into, go out and have a really good time and laugh and then come back the next day and dive straight into something like that. You kind of just put yourself in sleep mode for a minute because the next morning you go straight back into doing that again.
GD: Apart from having to portray PTSD in a realistic light and give this guy some reality, what was probably the most challenging part of doing this show for you?
RM: I think what I found really challenging was I’ve led shows before but this is slightly different because it’s completely single character perspective. You’re constantly on this guy and so I didn’t get any breaks in that way. You don’t get time to recover from one thing to the next, which kind of works for the character because he doesn’t get time to recover from those anxieties and neither did I. That was a constant thing for those months and you’re constantly prying away. As you know, the show is not a comedy and there’s not a lot of laughs and I think that’s something that really gets to you as well.
GD: My favorite part of the show is how every single time I thought that I had it worked out, I’d go, “Yeah I’ve got this. I totally got it,” it would just completely twist again, over and over again, even right to the end. Did you find that that was your reaction when you first read the script?
RM: Yeah, that’s what I loved about it. That’s what I loved playing with as an actor was playing with the audience and knowing I was playing the audience, this moral ambiguity that he has and that a lot of the characters have, this gray zone we operate in. We don’t know what their motives are and their motives change. I loved playing that until the point I waited as long as I could until I read Episode 6 because I didn’t want to preempt anything within my performance before I had to, so that I could play it out and that’s what’s so good about Jed [Mercurio]’s writing is having to commit to something and go down the path of it and then he slams you with, “Oh, actually, this is what the character is doing” and you have to dramatically work a way to twist around but keep the thread running through. That’s a great challenge.
GD: That’s fascinating ‘cause there was a point towards the end, not the last episode where I thought, “Maybe David actually is not the hero. He’s the bad guy.” Obviously, that was playing into how you were playing him because we were kind of fooled for a while. Was that something that you were really conscious of making him very ambiguous?
RM: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I wanted to do it and I think that’s what makes him completely human. Everyone has that ambiguity in them and that’s what was really exciting about playing this character was I could play all these gray zones. I don’t want to use the word “trick” but you could take him down a certain path and just as David’s working out his own motivations and where his allegiances lie, the audience are trying to work it out with him and what’s interesting, it changes and gets conflicted and you have the love story part of it, which slips in and changes things again. You never really know what he’s doing, actually. I think some of the times neither did he.
GD: One thing that I really loved as well is Keeley [Hawes], she plays one of the main characters, she’s the person that your character is guarding and without even any warning she’s gone. I see the show in two parts. I’m thinking just for the first part when you’re working with her, how did you find that dynamic in how you were able to develop that relationship with the character?
RM: I loved working with Keeley a lot. What I loved playing was this interesting thing of him technically hating someone and hating their views and what they stand for and their politics but then having to protect them and put his life in front of hers, which becomes an interesting dynamic and then we throw into that these two very lonely, independent, isolated people that find great comfort and that spark between them of love or affection, attention, to fold that in and then we add another layer onto that, and then we pull this one shining light of something that’s good in his life out from underneath him. And then it throws him into this next part of the story.
GD: My favorite scene is in the finale when David’s got a bomb strapped to him and you’re very clearly trying to negotiate your way out of that. Was that particularly challenging to do, ‘cause you’re at 11 the whole time?
RM: Yeah, that was a nightmare (laughs). He’s in a constant state of adrenaline and anxiety and you’re in London and it’s minus degrees outside and you’re just in a shirt, so you’re absolutely freezing and in pain and in a constant sense of hysteria. It’s trying to balance that especially after that section where David tries to kill himself, to then be put in a position where all he has to take his finger off the thumb and it’ll all be dealt with. What I love about that character is that desire to do right and to do the right thing and he’s got a real sense of honor to him. That’s what motivates him through this next section. That was a tough month.
GD: Yeah, I can imagine. It didn’t look easy at all. Now that you’re playing this very interesting character that people are really gravitating towards and the show’s a huge success, are you finding that when you’re dealing with people on the street that they’re not just wanting to talk to you about Robb Stark, they wanna talk to you about this guy, too?
RM: Yeah, that’s what I find quite remarkable. It’s very different. I’m used to Robb Stark for all these years, which is brilliant and I love that ‘cause I’m such a big fan of the show still but there’s something really nice about the range of people that have watched this. I could have a 70-year-old man or a 16-year-old girl talk to me on the street about “Bodyguard” and that’s really exciting, or have a father and son that they’ve sat and watched this together. “Game of Thrones” you might not want to watch as a family but “Bodyguard,” some people can actually. That’s been something really different and really exciting. It’s nice for me to be moving out of playing sons and princes and more into fathers and a very different area for me, acting-wise.
GD: What was your favorite or fondest memory from your time on “Game of Thrones”?
RM: There’s lots of fond memories. I think my favorite thing I’ve taken away from it are the great friends I’ve still got and I’m still very close with Kit [Harington] and Michelle Fairley, who every day I loved acting with every single day and it was a joy to go in and act with her, and some of the brilliant directors that I was lucky enough to work with in Season 1 and they come back in Season 2 and they do an episode in Season 3. It was a real family thing and I loved that. I very much loved that.
GD: For Season 2 of “Bodyguard,” is that locked in yet? What’s going on there?
RM: We’re talking about lots of different things. Me and Jed are very keen to work with each other again. Obviously, we’ve only just finished this season, really, and we’re still dealing with all the stuff that’s coming from that. We’re talking about what to do about another season so that’s very much a possibility. We’ll see how things go.
GD: That’s awesome. Really looking forward to that. Richard, good luck at all these award shows. Hopefully, you’ll get to take home some hardware in the next couple of months.
RM: Thank you very much.