The un­ex­pected suc­cess of Richard Mad­den

Star knows about spoil­ers, just don’t ask him about Bond, al­though he favours a vodka mar­tini

Sunday Tribune - - COVER STORY - KATHRYN SHAT­TUCK

AF­TER three sea­sons as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, Richard Mad­den thought he knew a thing or two about tele­vi­sion block­busters. Then the Bri­tish thriller Body­guard came along and blew his mind.

Writ­ten by Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty), Body­guard stars Mad­den as David Budd, a Ptsd-af­flicted Afghanistan War vet­eran as­signed to pro­tect the home sec­re­tary, Ju­lia Mon­tague (Kee­ley Hawes), whose hawk­ish pol­i­tics he loathes – and icy al­lure he can’t re­sist.

When it de­buted in late Au­gust, the num­bers were stag­ger­ing: ac­cord­ing to the BBC, 41 mil­lion peo­ple (and count­ing) watched the six-episode set, mak­ing it the high­es­trated drama since Down­ton Abbey. Then in Oc­to­ber, Body­guard moved to Net­flix and was widely binged, lead­ing to Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions for Mad­den and the se­ries, in the best tele­vi­sion drama cat­e­gory. Mad­den won his cat­e­gory – best per­for­mance by an ac­tor in a tele­vi­sion se­ries – drama at the Globes.

“Peo­ple asked me, ‘Did you know it was go­ing to do so well?’ And no, I didn’t have a clue be­cause it was about sur­viv­ing quite a gru­elling shoot,” Mad­den said. “And to think this lit­tle Bri­tish TV show that we all worked re­ally hard on had such an im­pact is a bit over­whelm­ing for me. I think one in four peo­ple in Bri­tain watched it, which is crazy.”

It also so­lid­i­fied Mad­den, a 32-year-old Scots­man, as lead­ing-man ma­te­rial and cast him as a fron­trun­ner to re­place Daniel Craig as the next James Bond. Make what you will of re­ports that he favours a vodka mar­tini.

But if Mad­den knows any­thing, he’s not say­ing.

In a phone in­ter­view from Los An­ge­les, he talked about keep­ing his cool un­der the pa­parazzo’s glare. Here are edited ex­cerpts from the con­ver­sa­tion.

Those rat­ings! What was the magic for­mula?

I wish I knew be­cause I could recre­ate it on ev­ery job I did. It’s some­thing to do with this grey zone that we all live in, this moral am­bi­gu­ity. Things can some­times be so clean-cut in who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy. And this strad­dled the lines of both, and played with the au­di­ence’s per­cep­tion.

Then there’s Budd’s steamy re­la­tion­ship with his pow­er­ful boss. I un­der­stand that’s not such a far-fetched story line.

Ac­tu­ally, we worked closely with a lot of men who had been in that po­si­tion – look­ing af­ter for­eign dig­ni­taries and MPS and roy­alty – and said, with­out nam­ing names, that these bonds do get made and the lines do get crossed. Be­cause this per­son that you live with all the time, you see them a lot more than you do your own fam­ily, and you go through ex­treme sit­u­a­tions.

What was so gru­elling?

It was six-day weeks, and we were film­ing 14 hours a day, and the cam­era was al­ways on my char­ac­ter. And I had this bul­let­proof vest on the whole time, and that’s phys­i­cally un­com­fort­able. But it was more down to the men­tal­ity of some­one who’s strug­gling very much with men­tal health is­sues while try­ing to keep his life to­gether.

Surely there has to be a sec­ond sea­son.

There hasn’t been an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment yet. Me and Jed very much want to work to­gether again, so we’re play­ing about with ideas of where it can go. You have to take in con­sid­er­a­tion how well-known the char­ac­ter would be be­cause he’s been on tele­vi­sion with the bomb vest strapped to him through Cen­tral Lon­don. So I won­der how that’s go­ing to af­fect his fu­ture ca­reer path.

Later this year, you’ll sing and dance your way through

star­ring Taron Eger­ton as El­ton John and you as John Reid, his for­mer man­ager and boyfriend. So I guess you’re go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent kind of sex sym­bol.

I don’t know about that. Have you seen my hair in the movie? It’s very long and very 70s, with some real big blow-dries go­ing on and huge crests and things. And dyed very black along with my eye­brows, which was not fun.

So, Have your friends from the show told you how it ends?

I don’t know how it ends, and I wouldn’t let them tell me. Not that they would, but I don’t let them have con­ver­sa­tions around me about it be­cause I don’t want it to get spoiled. That’s the joy of not be­ing in the show. I can just en­joy it as a viewer with­out hav­ing read the scripts and know­ing what’s com­ing next. And I think they filmed mul­ti­ple end­ings, so I don’t even know if they know.

Now for the topic you’ve been avoid­ing: 007.

So many peo­ple have such great own­er­ship over that char­ac­ter and who they think should play it, so for peo­ple to be en­dors­ing me pub­licly, that’s very, very flat­ter­ing. But no, there’s not any con­ver­sa­tions be­ing had on that front. That’s all just spec­u­la­tion.

Is Bond some­one you would like to play?

You know, I’ll see what hap­pens in the fu­ture. Yeah, I think we’ll deal with that when we get to it.

Body­guard is cur­rently stream­ing on Net­flix.

| MIKE NEL­SON

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