I didn’t think that point needed clarification, but apparently I was wrong.
Let’s walk things back a bit. Richard Madden (Robb Stark) recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his role as Cosimo de’ Medici in Medici: Masters of Florence, a historical drama about the Italian merchant family that helped form modern banking. But Madden used to be on this show called Game of Thrones, and that topic inevitably came up. For example, THR asked Madden if he could draw any parallels between Robb Stark, the young King in the North, and Cosimo de’ Medici, whose family wielded enormous influence in Renaissance-era Italy.
In a way there are parallels. Robb Stark was a young man when this was thrust upon him, as was Cosimo, his father thrust this upon him. The difference is we see Cosimo much later in life. Robb Stark reacts, has to react to the situations around him, whereas Cosimo molds it, he’s the one that acts out, he’s the one that is creating it, and rather than kind of reacting to these situations he’s the one that’s making other people react and moving the story forward that way.
Madden also notes that, unlike Robb Stark, Cosimo follows the advice of his parent and enters into a politically advantageous marriage, rather than stay with the girl he liked who didn’t offer any particular advantage to his position. As Madden says, marrying for love “never works out well, does it?”
Then came the weird stuff. THR asked Madden about a fan theory that holds that Robb may return to Game of Thrones as a zombie intent on getting revenge on the people who murdered him, his mother, and his wife at the Red Wedding. This theory bears a lot of similarities to a storyline that appears in the books but not in the show, a storyline involving a character named Lady Stoneheart. Hence the theory’s name: Lord Stoneheart.
If anyone out there was hoping this would happen, Madden crushes your hopes. “I haven’t gotten a call,” he said.
I’ve not heard anything, of course. I suppose I wouldn’t have the phone call, because they’re very secretive about everything, unless you get some of the cast drunk and they’ll tell you what they are doing. Or you’ll accidentally sit there with someone and say “How is the filming going,” and they’ll say “Great yeah I was on set with so and so the other day,” and you go “Don’t tell me that, because then I know that you know that character again!” So I try to avoid it just so I can watch it and enjoy it now. I kind of forget that I was in it, and just watch it as a TV show now and remember my character as something as separate to me, which is quite odd.
Okay, but would he like to play a vengeful zombie?
I don’t know, I’d have to read… I stopped reading the books a couple years ago because the show kept changing and I’d much rather just watch it and see what came next.
So Lord Stoneheart ain’t gonna happen. And even if it did, let’s all recall that Robb Stark was beheaded—do we really want to see him running around with Grey Wind’s head affixed to his neck?
And anyway, Madden is pretty happy with the way he left things.
I feel very, very proud to have been a part of that. But Robb Stark had such a great storyline, three seasons where he had this great start, middle and end to his character, and it set up such a great purpose to the show up to that point. Every character really progresses the show along. Now I can just watch it and enjoy it.
Madden isn’t the only ex-cast member who prefers to enjoy Game of Thrones as a fan. Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon) still watches the show, although he sounds a little more invested. For example, he told Digital Spy that he “physically couldn’t watch” the Season 5 scene where Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) was burned at the stake. “That young actress was so incredible, it was a very moving moment. And it was like… that’s my niece! So I get involved.”
I’m very excited as a viewer to see what happens next season. It feels like it’s all coming together now at the end of season six, with all those characters pointing in the same direction, if you like – geographically, at least!
We’ve got one more interview with a former cast member for you: Vulture talked to Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon) during his visit to New York Comic Con. Unlike Anthony, Gleeson hasn’t watched the show since his character died (“[T]here’s too much to catch up on.”), and famously swore off TV or film work after his time as Joffrey came to an end. He gave a little insight into how the Game of Thrones sausage gets made when asked what it was like playing such a cruel and vicious character.
Thankfully, I’m not a good enough actor to believe the things that my character believes. When you go on to a set, you realize the very visceral reality that you see on the TV show is a product of a huge amount of processing and editing and storytelling that is not present at all on the day of the filming. You go and put your makeup on, put your costume on, wait in your caravan-trailer thing for an hour and then you go the set and you film for three minutes and then they change around the lights and the camera angle and you wait for an hour and then you film for another three minutes. It’s a very boring, tedious process. If you’re a really good actor, you can completely believe what you’re doing in those three minutes, but one is oneself for 99.9 percent of the day of filming. So for that .01 percent, you’re this other character. Anyway, I just kind of say the lines in a mean way. I don’t really get into the emotions too much, ’cause I’d probably go crazy.
Gleeson is hilariously frank throughout the interview. Some highlights:
- On his audition for showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss: “It was the scene, I think it’s in the very first episode, where the whole Lannister gang goes to Winterfell and Joffrey’s squaring up against Robb Stark. They’re talking about archery or something like that, and Joffrey’s trying to assert himself. I just remember Dan and Dave actually LOL-ing during my audition. I was like, Maybe they’re laughing at how bad the performance is. But I think they were laughing at how mean and cruel my portrayal was. Almost camp.”
- Gleeson’s not sure what his best work on Game of Thrones was, but he really enjoyed filming the scene from Breaker of Chains where Joffrey’s body was laid out in the Sept of Baelor. “You know when you’re dozing off, and then you wake up and you realize that you were asleep, but you shouldn’t have been, and you kind of … [jolts]? I got like that. That was the one I enjoyed the most.”
- Gleeson appeared briefly as a little boy in Batman Begins. He reminisced about working with director Christopher Nolan. “I remember I was trying to act scared at one point. I obviously wasn’t acting very scared, so he was like, ‘Just imagine your sisters. Imagine them in danger and how that would make you feel?’ And I was like Ehh, I don’t really care about ’em.“
Although he’s not involved in screen roles, Gleeson is heavily involved in the theater. He recently wrote, produced, and starred in a show called Bears in Space, which is what it sounds like. Also there are puppets.
It’s a far cry from Game of Thrones, but we’re glad Gleeson is enjoying himself. “My dream is getting into some Adult Swim–style [thing] — short little bursts of wackiness, maybe a multimedia thing with puppets and animation and live action. We’re looking into that at the moment.” We’ll be looking out.