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Richard for The Observer

“I didn’t sleep properly last night,” says Richard Madden, drinking a pint at his local. “I’m thinking it’s because I knew I was going to have to talk about this.”

“This” is an event that concerns Madden’s character in the HBO series Game of Thrones. If you’re not fully up to date with the show, scram. This is your spoiler alert. In an episode watched by half a million UK viewers on Sky Atlantic in June, Madden was killed off savagely and with so little warning that some (honestly, there’s video proof) leapt off their sofas.

In the aftermath Twitter went all capitalised and intense. US talkshow host Conan O’Brien called it “the most stunning thing any of us have seen in television. Maybe ever”. Madden, months later, says he’s still approached by the traumatised. “Just yesterday a guy came up to me, crushed. He asked, ‘Why would someone do this?'”

It’s a question, really, for George RR Martin, the American author whose novels have been adapted by HBO. Martin’s fiction takes place in a cruel, medieval-like world, where murder is commonplace. The author seems to revel in it, killing off popular, morally spotless characters knowing his readers (with their soppy, modern notions of fairness) won’t see it coming.

What it all means for those cast in the TV version is that when new episodes are hacked out of Martin’s long books, and scripts are distributed, “you get a lot of terrified actors,” says Madden, “tearing through the pages going ‘Do I die? Do I die?!'”

Madden, 27, who grew up in Elderslie, Renfrewshire, 15 miles from Glasgow, knew his character was doomed from the outset. He had worked in theatre (Romeo at the Globe) before being cast as Thrones’ youthful lordling, Robb Stark, in 2009. Senior producers admitted to Madden, early, that they couldn’t wait to get to the filming of his slaying. And on his first day on set, crew and cast approached, asking, “My God, do you know how you’re going to die?”

He managed to stay ignorant of the details for a few years. “I made a deliberate effort not to read ahead.” Madden’s girlfriend is the Doctor Who actor Jenna Coleman, so theirs is a household well practised in spoiler containment. One night, though, Madden risked a Google search …

(Read the rest at the source)

 

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