Richard Madden and how to become an action hero (superhero?)

Ahead of the release of ‘Citadel,’ the ‘Game of Thrones’ star talks about his association with action-heavy roles, his bond with the likes of Sir Elton John and Sophie Turner, and growing up as a child actor

April 20, 2023 06:14 pm | Updated August 31, 2023 05:42 am IST

Richard Madden

Richard Madden | Photo Credit: Tristan Fewings

It’s inevitable that we begin with the mention of his most famous role; a character that not just endeared him to fans in India, but also across the globe. 

“Richard, do you feel Robb Stark died too young?”

He doesn’t think so. “I actually loved that. Not because I didn’t want to continue my time on Game of Thrones, but my storyline had a definite start, middle and end; so I could engage in the narrative and tell it the right way. Also as actors, we shouldn’t play the same role for too long; 10 years was a bit too much for me. So while I feel lucky to have been part of it, dying in season three did give me the opportunity to go play various other characters in different genres and mediums.”

Richard Madden as Robb Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’

Richard Madden as Robb Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’

Richard does have a point. While other iconic characters from HBO’s fantasy-drama faded away over the course of the eight season, Robb’s legacy remained untarnished; his killing off was as sudden as it gets, at the peak of his eminence. 

Pulling no punches

He followed that up with a series of more high-profile action-thrillers: Bastille Day, 1917, Marvel’s Eternals(he played the superhero Ikaris) and Bodyguard. This comes after him playing Romeo on stage (twice) for several years in Romeo and Juliet, before his breakout on-screen. Did Richard just want to finally move on from being cast in romances?

But the Scot (he was born just outside Glasgow) says that he never really intended to do so many action-based roles, “I’ve just chosen the stories that I’ve been drawn to. And they are quite contrasting from one another. In Citadelfor instance, the action element is so radically different from the sword duels in Game of Thrones. Every fight is fast-paced and every moment on screen is essential; we had to work out a method of storytelling within the action. What Priyanka and I managed to do together in the action scenes, is not just showcase how good we (our characters) are at combat, but also depict what kind of people we are, how we interact and pre-empt each others’ next moves.”

Into Elton’s world

I point out that my favourite role (and probably his best yet) of his is not in this mould though; Richard steals the show playing John Reid, Sir Elton John’s former manager and lover in the biopic Rocketman. In fact, the actor developed a fast bond with the legendary musician while shooting for the film; a friendship that persists even today. “Thank you for saying that. I love Elton to pieces. I’m thrilled to have him in my life, go to his concerts and listen to his music often,” he tells us.

Richard Madden as John Reid in ‘Rocketman’

Richard Madden as John Reid in ‘Rocketman’

Richard is also still close friends with several of his Game of Thrones co-stars; the actor can be found partying with the likes of Maisie Williams, Rose Leslie, Kit Harington and Sophie Turner at the Glastonbury Music Festival annually (“I can’t go this year, I’m working sadly!”). It’s an interesting coincidence that Sophie — who plays Richard’s sister in GoT — is his Citadel co-star Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ sister-in-law in real life!

He’s delighted at me spotting the connection, and recalls, “But now that you mention it, I have never hung out with both of them at the same time! I first met Priyanka at a dinner around eight years ago in a room with around 400 people, but we ended up being seated next to each other and had such great fun connecting. So when I heard that she was part of Citadel, I knew we’d have a good time.”

Richard Madden in ‘Citadel’

Richard Madden in ‘Citadel’ | Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime

Being a pint-sized prodigy

Having started out acting as a kid, as a means to get over his shyness, Richard quickly proved his mettle both on stage and screen; he attributes some of his relative success today to his childhood experiences. 

“There’s definitely a discipline I learned right from an early age. At 11 years old, I had to turn up to the set on time, know my lines, make my mistakes and learn from them. Dealing with a certain level of fame back then, peers knowing you… all that taught me a lot by the time Game of Thrones happened. I had already worked my way up in different states, knew how to conduct myself as an artiste better, and there were no knee-jerk shocks for me. I wouldn’t say that my acting as a child was any good, (laughs) but I did learn a lot of technical aspects about the camera that are very useful to me today.”

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, left, and Richard Madden pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Citadel’ in London

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, left, and Richard Madden pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Citadel’ in London | Photo Credit: Vianney Le Caer

While promoting Citadel, Richard was asked at a press conference if he’d do a Bollywood film if given the opportunity, and the star answered that he’d love to do a comic role (the closest he came to it was in the 2018 rom-com Ibiza, playing a DJ.) Is that why?

“Yes! It’s definitely something I’d like to play around with; maybe I haven’t gotten the chance yet in Hollywood because I’m not very funny (laughs). Oftentimes I’m playing serious drama-heavy or action-heavy characters; as an artiste, it’s really good to diversify and play different things, as they all inform each other… be it in theatre or in film. So it’s really about time I do something light-hearted,” he signs off.

Citadel premieres April 28, with new episodes released weekly every Friday through May 26

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