When I met Richard in 2012, it was for an interview we were doing with Simone Boyce. It was, in fact, the first on-camera interview I ever did with Simone, and I didn’t really know what to expect. You hear stories about how this actor wants to be presented this way, or in that light, or how you can’t ask about X, Y, or Z…
So it cheered me to quickly learn Richard was not one of those kinds of actors. He was in the middle of a whirlwind PR tour—had just flown into L.A., in fact—and was a little punch drunk from jet lag. If I had a descriptor, I would say he was “giggly,” and though that may not sound too flattering, it’s only to highlight what a cheerful, warm and open person he is in real life. Anyone in the world could be excused for a lack of patience after having gone without sleep for numerous hours on end, but he was the opposite: patient to a fault with my n00bish camera handling and nerdtastic questions.
What struck me the most was his friendliness, and the sheer joy he took from playing the role of Robb Stark. He’s called “The Lovely Richard” by more than a few of his cast-mates, and for good reason: Richard Madden is simply delightful to be around.
We here at WiC first learned of him when he was cast (as much as there was to learn), and we were chuffed when he (along with Ron, Sophie, Maisie, Kit, and Alfie) showed up at a GRRM book signing in Belfast, mingling with the fans and maintaining his repute as the “Best-Dressed Man in Scotland.”
(Wow. That was 4 years ago. “Best-Dressed” Indeed!)
Most people thought Richard would fit just fine into the role, and why not? He was good looking, and could adopt a commanding presence seemingly at whim.
Still, I have always thought a character like Robb might be tricky in the long haul. This isn’t Robb from the books; this is Game of Thrones Robb—a boy who will within one season of television go from boy to man. And you have to be able to show the growth without being ham-fisted about it. You have to be able to walk a fine line between youthful naïveté and the burgeoning awareness, and you can’t go too far with either, or it doesn’t allow us to grow with the character.
What won me over—convinced me utterly—was the “Farewell Brother” scene in episode two (not coincidentally it also won me over to Kit Harington) in which we see the stark (!) dynamics that separate Robb from Jon; the fact that, unlike Jon, Robb’s emotions are on his sleeve, yes, but still guarded until he’s clasped in that hug. Robb is realizing what he’s losing, and we see that pain, that sadness etched so clearly. Jon can’t see it, which is purposeful; Robb is protecting Jon even as Jon protects Robb with the little lie he tells about Catelyn.
Robb’s realization of his importance in the grand scheme of things (in season 1) felt real because you felt like it was something he truly did not want. Yes, Robb wanted to be like his father, but I always felt he wanted to be like peacetime Ned; wartime Ned was not a happy Ned, and Robb would have much preferred to have been a peacetime lord than a wartime king. I’m glad the “what would my father do?” question seemed to inform many of his decisions early in the series, but less so later, when Robb came into his own.
I’m also glad the show was confident enough in Richard to allow him that growth—especially in season two, since we saw so little of him in A Clash of Kings—placing Robb in these capable hands. The scene in which he faces down the caged Kingslayer, Grey Wind casually restrained beneath his hand, told me all I needed to know about Richard’s ability to pull of the long haul.
And so yes, we are sad that he is leaving. The fact that he is now a part of the so-called zeitgeist—a heartbreaking focus of what is being called the biggest, most shocking water-cooler moment in television history—will help ease that pain. One doesn’t forget J.R. Ewing getting shot, after all, so this scene, though agonizing to watch, is going to be a calling card for years to come. Talk show hosts can’t get enough of it, and some of the most respected television critics in the field are, justifiably, calling the Red Wedding the most stunning ever.
That’s high praise. And no, of course, it wasn’t just Richard—it was Michelle, and Oona, and Michael, and David, and… hell, everyone. I was even impressed with “Lame” Lothar Frey. It’s a testament to the casting, really.
All of these people, Richard especially, are going to remember the experience of shooting this show for the rest of their lives. It’s the sort of thing you tell your grandchildren in years to come (when they’re old enough to understand and not be severely traumatized); I am confident Richard is as appreciative of the show as we are of him.
It’s sad, yes. But it’s also beautiful.
And I take heart in the fact that while this may be the end of Robb Stark, it is certainly not the end for Richard Madden. He is even now preparing to film Cinderella (with Cate Blanchett and Lily James), and has already filmed A Promise with Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman. It’s not as though he won’t have anything to do.
But I want to thank him; he will always be “The Lovely Richard” to me, and to his cast-mates as well. And, fingers crossed, if he’s not too busy, I hope to meet him again at a Comic-Con, or a TitanCon, or at any con, really.
But this post isn’t just for him—it’s for us. Richard was in the pilot, and is thus far by merit the longest tenured actor on the show to garner a Curtain Call. I feel as though we’ve known and loved him for many years.
I hope he knows how much we appreciate what he did for this show—and for us.
I think he does. Fare ye well, Richard!