Robb Stark shocker: 'Game of Thrones' actor talks heart-breaking twist
Ned Stark died maintaining his honor. His son died following his heart.
On Sunday night, The King in the North’s rebellion to avenge his father came to a heartbreaking conclusion when he was betrayed by the scheming Lord Walder Frey. Yes, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is dead. And so is his mom. And his pregnant wife. And his men. And it was all pretty horrific. True, Robb broke his word — marrying field medic Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead of a key ally’s daughter as he promised. But ultimately he may have died because he didn’t grow up fast enough to win the Iron Throne. Robb had all the battlefield prowess, but not yet the wariness and manipulative social expertise of more experienced players like Tywin Lannister to avoid a deadly trap.
But we’ll always have Madden’s terrific performance. The Scottish actor took a relatively modest character from the books and helped build him into a memorable figure who every bit the equal of the show’s major players. “Thrones has been amazing and I’m really sad to let it go and not be a part of it,” Madden says. “But I knew from the start that this would be my character’s [fate].
Note: The following interview includes Madden’s answers from an exclusive interview with EW conducted months ago, as well as responses from a press conference call with reporters last week (questions paraphrased).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn your character’s fate?
RICHARD MADDEN: A thousand people spoiled it for me before I had a chance to pick up the third book. I read by season-by-season. I don’t want to pre-empt where Robb is going and that’s what I’ve done since the show started. I also made the fatal flaw of Googling. So that kind of reinforced what people people were hinting — saying that something terrible was going to happen and giggling.
Google is one of the worst ways to find out, too.
Google is the enemy. I would tell that to anyone who enjoys any TV show like Game of Thrones to avoid it; it spoils so many storylines.
You eventually read the scene, right? What was your reaction?
Yes. Many times. It just really broke my heart. Arya being so close to getting to me. That really cut me up even more. With every episode Robb’s been further and further from the people he loves. For Arya to be so close to getting to me, I think that’s what really hurt because that’s what we all wanted — to get the family back together — even if it was only one of us coming back. And that’s what made me really emotional about it.
What was it like shooting the season knowing this was coming?
I pushed it back out of my head. We are a pretty big family, I’m sure a lot of people say that. I’ve worked with the same people for five years now since the pilot. We kind of put it out of our minds. Then I’ll go off to Croatia and [a crew member will] say, “Oh this is the last time I’ll see you on this show.” It was challenging to not hint at anything even though I know it’s coming, especially with Catelyn knowing what the Freys are. We have to hint the Freys aren’t good guys but hopefully keep the element of surprise.
What about shooting the scene itself?
It was an amazing experience all because of David Nutter directing it. He made it an operatic epic sequence that just blows you away. The shocks you get in the book and subtleties from the book I remember reading. Those little details that suddenly all piece together in one big slamming action. If we’ve done it, all the subtleties come together and hopefully it hits you like a sledgehammer.
Talk about shooting the scene with Michelle Fairley.
There’s a moment in the scene where we look at each other. It’s Robb Stark essentially saying goodbye to his mother and giving up. Rather than it being something really bad, it’s a moment of tragedy and utter relief, actually. These characters have fought and fought and fought and it’s finally over. And I think me and Michelle felt a lot of that, and a lot of the crew, actually.
NEXT: Tears on the set and hard feelings about Robb’s ending
How do you hope Robb is remembered?
Just like his father. He’s a just man. Typically in Game of Thrones people who are honest and just and do things for the right reasons tend not to survive. I hope he’s remembered as a good man and the man who would have been the best person to lead the Seven Kingdoms. It’s tragic that he’s killed because I think he’s the best leader of all the candidates available at the moment.
Were you tempted to lobby for Robb to live longer?
I didn’t want to change it at all. I know that [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have spent years structuring out things beautifully. I’m not going to come in and try and push any of that around … I wanted it to be a sudden and shocking as it was when I read the book.
Any hard feelings about the way Robb Stark dies?
I think Robb Stark dying in that way is one of the best things that HBO and Game of Thrones does so beautiful and that’s just rip these characters hearts out in front of you. Maybe it would have been better for Robb to die gloriously on the battlefield, or something else. This is so sudden and violent and horrible. The way I and the writers have tried to build him up, there’s no other way we could have killed him. Because he is great on the battlefield and despite his poor choices he is a great leader … he’s been outsmarted and it comes from his good heart and his trust in other people.
Robb Stark’s wife didn’t die in the books. Why was it important that Talisa (Oona Chaplin) die in the show?
I think it’s a full stop to the story of [Robb’s] army. I think it’s more tragic that there’s nothing left over from it. There’s no possibility that Talisa’s in hiding and having that baby and one day that baby will become the King in the North. There’s something more tragic about having it all be cut short … She’s a wonderful actress.
Favorite scene to film?
One scene, actually, I started to set into Robb’s shoes was a goodbye scene with Bran. I’m going off in the night and I’ve got a sword on my waist and my cloak on. This was a significant change point for Robb Stark leaving Winterfell and going off and becoming a man.
Do you have a message of encouragement for fans who might want to stop watching after the Red Wedding?
No one is safe on Game of Thrones.
Heard there were some tears on the set?
It was horrible. It was a very difficult day for everyone … Yeah. It wasn’t just my last scene in the show, it was also my last day on the set. It was, Michelle and I, our last scene on Game of Thrones. Yeah, after we wrapped, it had been an exhausting five-day shoot. We were mentally exhausted. I cried my eyes out, completely — as did a lot of the crew and other actors. It was very emotional. The wrap party was that night, but I had to start filming another job the next day. So I washed my blood off and got on a plane.
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Game of Thrones
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'