John Bradley sees “a lot of similarities” between himself and Samwell Tarly


Samwell Tarly is one of the more thoughtful characters on Game of Thrones, and John Bradley seems like one of the more thoughtful cast members. He proved that in a new interview with 15 Minutes With You, a site dedicated entirely to interviewing people who either work with or are fans of cult musician Morrissey. And while Bradley spoke at length about Morrissey — he’s clearly an enormous fan — he also dug into Samwell Tarly, talking about him in a holistic way we don’t often see.

Bradley started by recalling his audition — he performed the scene from “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” where Sam tells Jon Snow his backstory. “That was such a lovely scene to audition because there’s so much character in it and it’s the full justification for that character,” he said.

"When he first arrived he was a source of great mystery and frustration and he incurs the wrath of people because he’s arrived at a place that’s very inhospitable and he’s expected to physically fight and physically survive.  He’s completely ill equipped for life up there. It’s only when he explains that he’s in an impossible situation because his father hates him so much and has basically told him, ‘Go there or I’ll kill you!’  That’s when you realise what it’s like to be this man; he doesn’t know where to turn, or has any choice in life.  He’s displaced."

For better or worse, Bradley sees “a lot of similarities” between himself and Sam, which is probably one of the reasons he got the part. “Good casting directors are able to pick that out of people. They can see stuff in you that you can’t see in yourself sometimes.”

"Despite growing up in a family that showed me a lot of love, I still had a lot of self doubt. I was always the last person to believe something good about myself, and the first person to believe something bad. People ask me what have I learned as I’ve gone along with playing the character Sam, and it’s not about what I’ve learnt, it’s about what I’ve un-learnt. It’s not about taking things on; it’s about stripping away stuff and finding out who you really are in your core. That’s just as important as learning sometimes. I make jokes about things to protect myself. I’ll mention my weight before anybody else and I try to be funny all the time because I think that’s a side of myself that is appealing. I push that side of myself forward because I want to distract everybody away from the things that I don’t like. So as soon as you start to analyse yourself like that, you can see that sort of stuff in that character as well. It’s only because I’ve learned that about myself that I can play Sam."

Nina Gold is the casting director for Game of Thrones, and considering the number of then-unknown actors who’ve turned into stars thanks to the show, she’s definitely done her job well. It’s sad to think that self-doubt helped get Bradley the job, but the results speak for themselves.

But as we’ve seen, Sam has gained confidence over the years, thanks in large part to the relationships he’s formed with people like Jon and Gilly (Hannah Murray). “When we were filming those scenes with Hannah and me the director said, ‘What you’ve got here is that you’ve got two birds and they’ve got a broken wing each. They can’t fly on their own but together they have a full set.’”

That’s a very evocative way to describe their relationship! I wish he mentioned which director said it. Whoever it was, Bradley found it helpful.

"Sometimes you’re just looking for a key to things and if you get imagery like that it can really unlock you, stay with you. These characters are very detailed and from moment to moment you’re in a different place. When Sam goes home to his family in season six that’s him in a different environment to what he’s ever been before. Sam is forbidden to have a wife so she’s not my wife. But he’s a rule breaker; he’s very subversive in his own low-key way."

Bradley also addressed how Samwell has gone over with fans, drawing a distinction between different groups. Lovable as Sam is, he is not “universally liked.”

"[T]here are people who hate Sam Tarly. Women seem to like him but a certain type of man doesn’t like to be reminded of their own vulnerabilities and they believe that men should be super strong and super stable. Men like that really hate characters like Sam. The thing about the character that I find interesting is that people say, ‘You turned brave.’ I think he was always brave."

I hate to admit it, but I actually didn’t like Sam at first, on the show or in the books. I don’t know if it was his failure to live up to the traditional masculine ideal that put me off, but something rubbed me the wrong way. I came around, though, and now I really enjoy what he brings to the story. All’s well that ends well?

You can head to 15 Minutes With You to read the rest of the interview, which is mostly focused on his love for Morrissey. Also, this bit: can Bradley tell the interviewer anything that Jon Snow knows?

"Jon Snow doesn’t even know who his parents are!  But I can tell you that he does know how to get great volume on a head of hair using just water."

So he knows the important things.

Next: Alfie Allen improvised Theon’s “baptism” scene from “The Dragon and the Wolf”

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