"Bodyguard" and "Game of Thrones" actor Richard Madden dropped by the Los Angeles Times video studio and answered questions about wearing too much — and too little.
"I think it's quite often you find yourself reading scripts that have got — I mean, I think nearly every script I read has some kind of nudity from the leading male or female characters," he said when The Times' Mary McNamara asked him about his recent comments in British Vogue about the pressure the increasing prevalence of onscreen nudity places on men. It's a topic we often hear about in the context of female actors, but Madden acknowledged the unrealistic body images projected on male actors as well.
"I'm aware of the pressures put on actors and actresses all the time to kind of … bulk up or slim down," he said. "If I'm playing a soldier who's a bodyguard, then my body needs to be a certain way, and I understand that. And then other times it's not as relevant, but it's just what the norm is we're used to seeing in magazines and television. That's something I don't want to feed into but you find yourself doing."
The external aside, Madden has spoken before about delving into the core of "Bodyguard's" former soldier David Budd, a PTSD sufferer who takes on the job of protecting a top British politician. In the video chat, he talked about many aspects of the character, chiefly the fragile sides of his humanity that are sometimes not addressed in hero-centric thriller television. He has enjoyed wide acclaim (including a Golden Globe Award) for his portrayal, as has the show. Perhaps that has something to do with how he internalizes his circumstances — whether traumatic flashbacks, dealing with his character's divorce, or, yes, nudity.
"Sometimes it's really relevant," he allows. "You know, you talk to someone very differently when you're naked, lying in bed, then when you're fully clothed, sitting in a cafe. So there's times when it can be necessary because there's a certain intimacy that comes through the dialogue from being naked with someone. Then there's other scenes where it's just thrown in that the character takes off his shirt and takes a shower. You kind of go, 'This is not relevant; this is just to take a character's shirt off … there's lots of other ways you can show a person getting ready in the morning. Why don't we watch them boiling the kettle, making the coffee or something?' "
Though Madden's Robb Stark was famously killed off on "Game of Thrones" years ago, he still follows the show closely and insists he doesn't know how it ends. Perhaps the runaway success of "Bodyguard" (it's one of the most-watched shows in England in years) has taken the sting out of comparisons between the two series — or at least regarding the relative weight of appearing in either. Or perhaps the relative weight of the costumes. The actor traded in his "Game of Thrones" battle armor for similarly restrictive gear.
"I mean, I cursed it at the time, but now I look back on it and think it was great — I wore a full Kevlar vest, a bulletproof vest. You're strapped in tight and it kind of acts like a back brace, so you do end up being in this bodyguard posture that actually works really well for the character and gives you that kind of stature and size that helps," says Madden.
"It's so heavy. With 'Bodyguard,' it was good because it was actually much lighter than the 'Game of Thrones' stuff. The 'Game of Thrones' stuff could end up a bit of a nightmare some days. You'd see all these men on set looking brave, and then when they call 'Cut,' everyone collapses and throws the cloak off and drops their sword. You know, not everyone's so brave all the time when the cameras go off."