Spoiler alert: Major “Game of Thrones” plot points will be discussed in this article, so if you have not yet watched Season 3 episode 9, “The Rains of Castamere,” and do not want to be spoiled, do not read this interview yet.
If you cried over the deaths of Robb, Talisa and Catelyn Stark during “Game of Thrones'” Season 3 episode “The Rains of Castamere,” then you are not alone. During a recent conversation, star Richard Madden admitted that he was the “crazy boy on the plane crying” when he flew away from the show’s Ireland set after filming the Starks’ slaughter, an infamous event that is dubbed the Red Wedding.
Fans of George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series have known since “Game of Thrones” was greenlit that Robb would be betrayed by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, and that the betrayal would result in his death. So too did Madden, who had the big plot twist revealed to him not long after he got cast in the role. But he says he hopes that fans solely of the HBO fantasy series didn’t see Robb’s death coming, and were as affected by it as he was.
“I just hope people really enjoy the surprise of it. I hope a lot of people haven’t been as stupid as I was and Googled that famous thing before the time came. I learned that lesson very quickly in Season 1 to not Google things,” he says during a recent conference call. “I wanted it to be as shocking and as sudden as when I read the book and I read that section.”
“Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have made no secret of the fact that their main goal in creating the series was to get through Season 3, and with it the Red Wedding. They opted to co-write “The Rains of Castamere” so that it would unfold exactly as they imagined. Still, Madden describes shooting the weeklong production as a “difficult time” and says it was particularly hard to shoot with Michelle Fairley, the actress who portrays Catelyn Stark who he has been working primarily with since Season 1.
“We went into that scene with a heavy heart because we really love being on that show and we love working together. You don’t get to work with the same actors very often, and me and Michelle just had this great dialogue,” Madden says. “When we shot the scene it took a few days because it’s huge and there’s actually a moment in the scene where we look at each other and it’s Robb Stark essentially saying goodbye to his mother and giving up.”
He continues, “Rather than it being something really bad, there’s a moment of tragedy and utter relief actually because these two characters have fought and fought and fought and fought and it’s finally over. I think me and Michelle felt that on the day, as did a lot of the crew. I think it was a big emotional moment because we’re one big family that’s grown through the years and it was a sad day.”
Once Madden wrapped the Red Wedding sequence, he says he left set immediately, “got straight to the airport and got on a plane because I didn’t want to be there anymore.” He headed home to London and “cried the whole way. I was the crazy boy on the plane crying.”
The mood on set was similar, especially during Madden, Fairley and Oona Chaplin‘s death scenes. When asked what it was like having to film those moments, Madden answers simply, “Honestly, it was horrible.”
“It was a really difficult day for everyone. There was lots of tears from many people, including myself, just for the fact the character, the way it happens, Robb Stark with his dead queen in his arms and her stomach ripped open and blood pumping out of that. His mother getting her throat slit,” he says. “It was a really disturbing day and just because it’s such a big part of my life, of Michelle’s and Oona’s and all of the crew. We’ve gone through a lot together, from extreme weather conditions to just the journey of trying to make this show as best as we can and pushing forward against lots of things that have been pushing back against us. There’s just a total sense of exhaustion and it was horrific. These characters that you love get slaughtered.”
Interestingly, the Talisa Maegyr-type character who Robb married in the books, named Jeyne Westerling, doesn’t die at the Red Wedding. During the current storyline of the novels in “A Dance With Dragons,” she is still alive. But Madden felt it was necessary to have the pregnant Talisa die in the television series.
“In the books the characters are very different and that’s something we have gone away from. The books into the script is a different story. I think it was important for her to die because it’s just a kind of full stop to that train of the story of that army,” he says. “I think it’s more tragic that there’s nothing left over from it. That there’s no possibility that Talisa is in hiding and is going to have a baby and one day that baby will take over as King of the North. I think there’s something tragic about it just all being cut short instantly.”
The hardest part of Robb’s death, Madden admits, is that he won’t be a part of “Game of Thrones” anymore. He says that he still feels like he should be heading back to set with the rest of his friends on the cast, and doesn’t expect the fact his character is dead to sink in until after he watches “The Rains of Castamere.” Still, he says he’s not bitter about the fact Robb had to die or the manner in which he was killed, and never tried to convince Benioff and Weiss to change his character’s fate.
“[The episode] will be really difficult to watch because I think it will dredge up a lot of emotions and stuff that I maybe just pushed aside for a while. I think that will really kind of depart me with Robb,” Madden says. “It will be after I watch the episode that I’ll maybe understand a bit more of the start, middle and end of this journey for Robb and this journey for me, Richard, as well.”
He adds, “Hopefully I’ve been able to build a character with them that means that by the time the audience gets to see this episode that they are as involved with Robb Stark as I am, as David and Dan have been since the very beginning.”
As for how he hopes Robb is remembered, Madden says, “[I’d like him to be remembered] just like his father [Ned Stark], as an honest man and a just man. Typically in ‘Game of Thrones,’ in this world, people who are honest and just and do things for the right reasons are the people who tend not to survive, and Robb’s a great example of that. I hope he’s remembered as a good man and essentially the man that would have been the best person to lead the Seven Kingdoms. It’s tragic that he gets killed because I think he is the best leader of all the candidates available at the moment.”
Many people who read “A Storm of Swords,” the novel that Season 3 is based on, found it difficult to continue reading once the Red Wedding took place — including Madden’s own father. When asked if he had any encouragement for fans who will be heartbroken by Robb’s death to keep watching the show, Madden answers, “I don’t.” After a pause, he adds, “No one is safe in Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones'” Season 3 finale, “Mhysa,” airs Sunday June 9 on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.