Richard Madden has said goodbye to gruesome and gory Game of Thrones – the show which catapulted him into the limelight – and transformed to take on arguably the most iconic prince of all time in Disney’s new live-action Cinderella.
“I was worried people would think I was wrongly cast or go, ‘He’s not my idea of a prince,” admits the 28-year-old star. “I felt a huge pressure.”
And he soon discovered that he had very little source material to work from: “I went back to the animation and he’s only in two, three scenes. We don’t even get to know his name. The King speaks more than he does.”
“That was great in a way because I could start from scratch,” he tells RadioTimes.com.
Madden was desperate to construct a man worthy of director Kenneth Branagh’s new and more modern Cinderella, who he reckons would actually “be fine without the Prince.”
“I had to create a character who was worthy of her affections. A real young man. Hopefully as much as she’s an inspiration to young girls, he can be an inspiration to young men, in ways of how you treat women and how to respect and interact with people around you.”
In the end, he says, much of his inspiration for Cinderella’s other half – known as Prince Kit, instead of Charming – came from his director.
“I had a guy like Kenneth Branagh guiding me through – you can’t ask for more than that. A lot of my Prince is based on him. He’s the ultimate gentleman.”
Madden is quick to admit that he’s a keen fairytale fan – “I know all those Disney films inside out, I still know all the songs” (Aladdin is his favourite, if you’re interested: “Straight up. Best one”) – and he thinks his latest role is pretty cool, especially for his niece (“her uncle’s the Prince!”)
He’s pleased Branagh didn’t decide to do a dark or ironic twist on the tale: “I’d much rather grow up with the idea that things can be great and things can be wonderful, than being told, ‘Right, you’re probably going to have a couple of divorces. Life’s going to be s***. You’re going to be skint for years.’ That’s not something we should be setting kids up for. Aim high!”
And he liked the change of tone, post-Thrones.
“It’s so different. In Game of Thrones you kind of don’t want to get attached to anyone because they might just die tomorrow, whereas with this you can get swept up in the story a lot more. You can go with it because you know it’s only going to turn out right.”
Plus on a personal level it was a whole lot less stressful: “It’s nice to not worry that someone is going to kill me, or kill my mum, or kill my brothers or my sisters. And it’s nice to not be worrying about if I’m going to kill someone’s mum or someone’s brother or someone’s sister!”
As for Cinderella, Madden’s sure that a positive message can be taken away from it.
“If we were all a little braver and a little nicer, we’d all be a little happier, I’m sure of that. But the thing I take away is this idea of perception.
“The stepmother has got a roof over her head, two healthy daughters and a bit of money in her back pocket, yet she views life negatively, wants more, is jealous of people and is thus unhappy. Cinderella’s life couldn’t actually be any worse. She’s basically a slave, she’s got nothing, she’s lost everyone important to her, and yet she finds the best in every moment. She views things positively and tries to get the best out of life, and is thus happier all the time. That’s the message that I like to take – that it is not about what you’ve got, it’s about how you view the situation.”
That’s not to say he isn’t still caught up in Game of Thrones’ bloodthirsty and morally questionable world, though. He will “abso-bloody-lutely” be tuning into series five when it airs next month: “I still love the show – I can’t wait to see it.”
Cinderella is in UK cinemas from today