After three seasons as Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones,” you might expect Richard Madden to aim for lighter fare. Instead, he’s the titular “Bodyguard,” the UK series that shattered ratings records during its initial run on BBC One, and has now found international success via (what else) Netflix.
As David Budd, the specialized protection officer tasked with protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), the Scottish actor with the James Dean face is now a rumored contender to take over the role of James Bond. Both Budd and Bond are lawmen of few words (Madden’s clipped delivery of “Ma’am” speaks volumes, although some U.S. audiences thought he was calling his paramour Julia “Mom”). However, Madden said he considers the iconic British spy to be of another world altogether.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) September 7, 2018
“I think that they’re completely different characters,” he said. “It’s a totally different beast. They’re two different things.”
To his mind, one of the biggest separations is while Bond movies have moments of comedy, “Bodyguard” maintained a stiff upper lip. “There’s not a lot of laughs on set and it’s grueling, you know, it’s just grueling shooting,” Madden said. “Everything’s lined with anxiety and undercurrent of the PTSD of the character — you add them in, and it makes it quite a grueling day. But that’s what it needed to be to make this story happen.”
Madden said he became “hooked” on the series after he worked with “Bodyguard” creator Jed Mercurio on the 2015 BBC adaptation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” “I was just really grabbed by them. And, you know, I turned around immediately and went back and started reading them again. Just because I was so excited by it and I wanted to get into the head of this character that Jed had created.”
Sophie Mutevelian/World Productions/Netflix
The series begins with an intense 20-minute sequence in which David finds himself trying to diffuse a literally explosive situation on a train. “We did this thing where we’d shoot a scene, we’d all see it the way the world sees it, and then at the end we’d shoot it again with the camera right up in my face and we’d shoot it from basically how I’d see it, from the internal perspective of David,” Madden said.
Shooting it twice meant Madden could have the best of both worlds. “By nature, his job is something that you don’t show what you’re feeling, or what you’re going through in your head,” he said. “I kind of loved being able to play everything twice, being able to hide everything in one take and then expose everything in the next.”
Madden said when he took the role, there was no discussion of a second season. “It was just a plain six-part series — that’s what we set out to make, planned to make and that’s what we made,” he said. “So it’s quite overwhelming to have this much response to it, this much of a desire for people to want a Season 2.”
That said, Madden said that he and Mercurio were planning to “have a chat and decide, you know, what to do. Whether that’s something we want to do or whether it’s better to leave it at that as a one-off piece. I don’t think that’s been decided yet. We want to be able to tell the best story.”
That said, Madden still wants to switch things up when it comes to the roles he takes — he recently completed a role as Elton John’s manager John Reid in the upcoming biopic “Rocket Man,” which required him to do some singing and dancing (and also play “a bit more of a villain”).
“I think one bad thing is if you do something … audience and directors and casting, they want to see you do more of that because they know that you can do that and they enjoyed watching that,” he said. “So I think it’s something you have make a conscious effort to do as an actor, is try and do things that people haven’t seen you do before in order to keep yourself creatively interested, and to keep the work you do challenging.”
“Bodyguard” is streaming now on Netflix.