If power is calculated by who wins the most battles, then Robb Stark, the King of the North, is the most powerful of the five kings in Game of Thrones. While he tries to shore up allies — sending his mother off to make a treaty with King Renly and his foster-brother Theon to make an offer to Balon Greyjoy — Robb spends his time sneaking up on other regiments, taking them by surprise. His ultimate goal is to defeat the Lannisters, one of whom, Jaime, he already holds captive. So far, so good. But as readers of the George R.R. Martin books know, good luck can be short-lived in Westeros. The Scottish actor Richard Madden, who plays Robb Stark, was in town recently, and was good enough to hold court with Vulture and discuss his thoughts on his first time in New York, which of the GoT moms would win in a fight, and wanting to kill Joffrey. (SPOILERS BEHIND THE CUT)
When we last saw Robb Stark (Richard Madden), he was leading the North to war against King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to avenge his father’s death, and after a string of victories that stretched south into the Riverlands, it looks as if the King in the North is on an unstoppable streak. However, as the late Ned Stark’s eldest son will learn, this game of thrones is not all about winning the battles.
In Season 2 of HBO hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones” (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET), the newly-appointed King of the North will need to start using his head more than his sword. He’s already sent his mother Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) off to negotiate an alliance with King Renly (Gethin Anthony) in Highgarden, and he also has his captive, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), at his — and his direwolf Grey Wind’s — mercy.
Yet, Robb Stark is still his father’s son, and his honorable nature is something that actor Richard Madden says might get the Young Wolf into trouble. After all, fans of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” know that oftentimes, honorable men have no place in war.
“Honor is a Stark trait, and it’s going to be a real problem for Robb,” Madden told HuffPost TV. “What I love so much about him is that he follows his heart in everything he’s does. He’s one of the only characters where everything comes from a sense of good, and being just and fair. But this whole situation has become much bigger than him just looking after his family. He’s looking after 20,000 men, and they’ve all got mothers and wives and daughters and sons all behind them, so now he has 20,000 families to look after. He’s got a great heart, and he cares about people a lot, but that will also end up causing him a lot of problems later.”
Madden also talked to HuffPost TV about what’s to come for Robb Stark. Apparently, this means that viewers will get to see a bit more of Robb this season.
Besides good looks and a Scottish accent, Richard Madden shares another trait with his Game of Thrones character, Robb Stark: a love of horses. But it didn’t start out that way.
“I didn’t know how to ride before I got the part,” he tells PEOPLE. “I actually ended up really enjoying it, and continue to do it [on my own].”
After learning he had landed the plum role on HBO’s epic series, Madden immediately began taking horseback riding lessons to successfully portray Stark, a highborn lord who grew up on horseback.
“That’s something that’s very natural to Robb,” Madden says. “I don’t want to be thinking about trying to keep a horse in check or trying to control him; I want it to be second nature to me so I can focus on doing the job.”
His appreciation for the animals has come around so much that Madden now enjoys squeezing in a ride when he’s not needed on set.
“Horses are these amazing creatures, and very cunning actually,” he says. “When I can, I’ll just jump on a horse and go for a race around in between scenes. It keeps the horses awake and it keeps me entertained too.”
“To be totally honest, buying clothes is out of necessity. I have endless supplies of pants and socks because filming overruns and I don’t have time to go to the laundrette so I end up buying more,” grins an infallibly dressed Richard Madden.
Best known for his captivating portrayal of Robb Stark in leading fantasy drama Game of Thrones – and not to forget for knocking the likes of Gerard Butler clean out of the water winning Best Dressed Man at the Scottish style awards – Richard remains perplexed as to how he scooped such a prize: “When I dress myself it’s definitely not well planned. It’s like shit, I need a shirt for now, so I’ll go into the shop and find something and then afterwards think ‘you bought that….really…why!?’ Horrible mistake!”
Today classic, understated and dashing as ever, dressed head to toe in black apart from the charcoal trench in tow, the glistening grandiose of London’s Soho Hotel couldn’t be further removed from the actors onscreen sword-laden, horseback rampages through a reminiscently medieval landscape.
“As soon as I put on my costume my physicality instantly is changed because I have to walk a certain way, that and the fact that I’m in the accent all the time really helps me get into character.”
A fantasy tale of warring families and avenging warriors, the hit television series based on the bestselling novel A Song of Ice and Fire by American author George RR Martin, sees Richard find his footing as a coming-of-age King, following the death of his father (Sean Bean).
“Sean’s an actor that knows what he’s doing in front of the camera, you can just watch him and he’s got it all in his eyes. My character follows his character so much and looks up to him it kind of mirrors me being a young actor looking up to someone who’s loads of stuff.”
Returning to our screens this April for its second season, Game of Thrones is already on everyone’s lips and the show’s second offering promises to deliver an equal level of cult hype and acclaim.
“It’s been great how many people have really tuned into it, people who don’t usually like the genre. That’s what I get a lot of the time, people saying I’m not into any of that but I love the show. This season you go deeper into a lot of the characters. Robb Stark has more confidence – he’s learning by doing – we have a little love story or two, there are some new faces, some people get more evil, some get smarter and of course there’s a bit of death thrown in their too.”
Pausing momentarily with the arrival of more coffee, Richard shakes his head in jests: “Musicians get beers and ice buckets when they do anything press related, that’s what I want!” He laughs. “On a serious note, I’m definitely not one of those actors who just want honey and lemon and think if they act like an athlete their performance will be better. To be honest going to the gym is the last thing I want to do every day, but I have to because my character has topless scenes and is meant to be fit and I need to convey that to the audience.”
It is clear that attention to detail is important to the rising star. Although his character’s journey is already mapped out in the novels, Richard explains he doesn’t read ahead, allowing the audience discover his character with him. He is also very selective about which roles he chooses to play: “Things have just jumped for me which has been nice but I’ve tried to keep it as diverse as I can. I try not to play parts that I’ve done before or that aren’t particularly interesting to me. I feel if I’m not that interested in it then an audience won’t be either.”
The result has seen Richard unleash his talent on many a role from classic characters like Romeo to a gay paramedic in Sirens, most recently gracing our screens as Captain Weir in the BBC’s adaptation of Birdsong, alongside Burberry’s new muse, Eddie Redmayne.
Unlike his ubiquitous co-star, the unassuming Scotsman has so far shied away from the flashlight of fame: “I’m terrified of a still camera but if it’s rolling I’m fine. Whenever I’ve done any photo shoots in the past we’ve had a really good photographer who’s helped me A LOT! I just become instantly terrified, totally aware of my face and body and I just crumble and hate it. I don’t know how to do it,” he smiles. “I have huge respect for people like Eddie who can!”
That’s not to say the twenty-five-year-old can’t stomach a challenge. Currently on hiatus from filming Game of Thrones he hopes to secure a ‘more adult male’ role in his next show of versatility: “I always take some time trying to find the right thing for me. I’ve been playing young men for years so I’d like to try a late twenties masculine character in a really meaty drama, I think that will test me as an actor. I want to push myself at the moment. It’s all about what catches me and what’s going to make me work…!”
HBO has granted the show a second season, sending show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss back to Belfast, where they are furiously working on adapting a script from the second book of the saga, “A Clash of Kings.”