Richard Madden: 'I try not to let my Bodyguard character get into my head too much'
The actor discusses why his new role was difficult to live with - and why he still gets asked about The Red Wedding
Richard Madden plays police protection officer David Budd in Jed Mercurio's BBC1 drama Bodyguard
How did you get your part in Bodyguard? You played Mellors in Jed Mercurio’s adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover – did he just call you?
I was sent the first script then met Jed for a chat. The character is so complicated, I wanted to find out where he was going with it. I’ll always have to audition for some roles. But luckily the more work you do, the more they can just imagine you in a role. For this, I just talked to Jed over coffee rather than trying to impress him.
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How does David compare with Mellors?
They’re incredibly different in every way. Mellors lived a simple life and fell in love. David struggles with his duty versus his personal feelings. He’s a functioning adult, holding down a job and a family, but he’s in denial about his mental health following his time in the Army.
Why did the role appeal?
David and Julia would never normally engage with each other. They have opposing political opinions and yet are forced into spending most of their day not more than six feet away from each other, so it’s an odd relationship.
How do you choose parts?
It’s just whatever tickles me. I’m not much of a planner. You have to see what scripts land on your desk and ride the wave.
You were in the long-running Game of Thrones. Ever worry about being typecast?
I did it for five years and that’s an unnaturally long time to sit with one character. It was lovely to leave with such a great surprise for the audience. As an actor you want to do different things and, besides, I can now watch the show as a fan. I’m still close friends with the cast and have to persuade them not to tell me spoilers.
Is there a type of role you’re always offered?
When people see you do something, it’s easier for them to imagine you doing it again. I’ve played royalty and I’ve played Romeo twice, and I’ve seen those parts creep in. That’s why it’s so nice to do something like Bodyguard. I’m not playing a son again, I’m playing a father. If I can stay one step ahead then it’s more interesting.
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How did you research for this role?
We had advisers on set who work in security in Parliament. Unfortunately, the nature of the job means they couldn’t tell me as much as I’d have liked! I got a sense that it’s exhausting because they’re in a constant state of anxiety. It takes a specific kind of person to put another person’s safety ahead of their own.
Does being in the public eye compromise your security or anonymity?
Most people who come up to me just want to say they’re really sad about the Red Wedding [in Game of Thrones]! I’ve been with actors who play bad guys when they get abuse in the street. People are so passionate that they do get mixed up. That’s strange and intimidating, but at the same time it’s rewarding and exciting that people are so engaged in the moment that they go with their gut reaction.
How security-conscious are you in real life?
My father was a fireman so it was built into me from an early age that whenever I go to a new building, I work out my fire route. While we were filming, I was hyper-aware of my environment. But now I try not to let David Budd get into my head too much. I mainly cycle instead of getting the Tube anyway.
Would you ever consider going into politics?
Not at all. We like to verbally attack politicians and a lot of the time they bloody deserve it! But you’ve got to remember these people put themselves in danger every day simply by doing their jobs.
Are there any professions you’ve tried on screen that you would consider as an alternative if the acting dried up?
There was something about Mellors and that simple life of cutting down trees and tending plants, which I could happily do. But realistically I might get bored. And maybe in the dead of winter it wouldn’t be so fun.
What’s next for you?
I’m filming Rocketman, the Elton John biopic [released next year]. I play John Reid, Elton’s first male partner and manager for 28 years.
Jed has said that he’d like to do more series of Bodyguard featuring you as a personal protection officer but guarding different people. Would you be up for that?
Did he say that? That’s the first I’ve heard of it! But that’s exciting. I love working with Jed. This character is really fascinating so we’ll see if people like it.
Bodyguard will launch on Sunday 26th August at 9pm on BBC1.
Episode two will air the following night on Monday 27th August at 9pm, and then it’ll continue every Sunday thereafter.