Note: Do NOT read on if you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 9 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," "The Rains of Castamere."
As soon as he wrapped the bloody "Game of Thrones" scene in which his character, Robb Stark, was killed, actor Richard Madden went straight to the airport and flew home to London.
"And I cried the whole way," Madden said in a recent phone interview. "I was the crazy boy on the plane crying."
In an interview with a small group of journalists on Friday, Madden talked about how difficult it was to film the Red Wedding, a tragic event that was even bloodier on the screen than it was in the George R.R. Martin book.
Not only did Robb Stark, the King in the North, perish in Sunday's episode, but Robb's mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), also died -- all of which tracks with what transpired at those cursed nuptials in "A Storm of Swords," the third book in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. As payback for Robb not marrying one of his daughters, Lord Walder Frey engineered the deaths of the Starks -- but even those who've read the books may have been shocked by the third significant death at the so-called Red Wedding.
In the episode, Robb's pregnant wife, Talisa, was also murdered, thus eliminating the Stark clan from competition for the Iron Throne (at least for now). As fans know, Talisa (Oona Chaplin) is a new character; in the books, Robb married Jeyne Westerling (who did not die in "A Storm of Swords").
Below, Madden talks about filming Robb's final moments, working with his great friend Fairley and the tears that were shed on set that difficult day. He also offers thoughts on why Talisa had to die and discusses what the King in the North had in common with his ill-fated father, Ned. Don't miss HuffPost TV's interview with Fairley.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What did it mean to film your exit with Michelle? Can you talk about that, and how you supported each other as actors and people through this huge scene? [Asked by AccessHollywood.com]
We developed the best relationship on and off the screen over the course of the past few years. And we went into that scene with a heavy heart, because we really love being on that show and we love working together ... It was a really hard thing to push through, but the scripts were great and the whole episode was so operatic.
When we shot the scene, it took a few days because it's huge. There's actually a moment in the scene that we look at each other, and it's Robb Stark essentially saying goodbye to his mother and giving up. And rather than it being something really bad, there's a moment of tragedy and utter relief, actually -- because these two characters have fought and fought and fought and fought, and it's finally over. Me and Michelle really felt that on the day, as did a lot of the crew, I think. It was a big emotional moment because we're one big family that's plowed on through this for years, and it's a sad day.
When did you know Robb would die? When did you read the books, and when were you aware of the course of his future? [HuffPost TV]
As soon as I got the job, people managed to spoil a lot for me. Constantly, people would be like, "Oh my God, your death, that was so terrible." And you're like, "What? Oh, right."
But I read [the books] season by season, because ... I never wanted to preempt where the character went. And as an actor, it was a much better challenge for me to make decisions based on the scripts and based on the first book and then the second book. And then, by the time you get to the third book and Robb's making other decisions, then I'm, as an actor, forced to bend the path I put Robb on and change it and keep the surprises coming. Hopefully, I managed to do that.
How do you hope Robb is remembered by fans? [HBO.com]
I suppose, much like Ned, I think it's constantly been in my brain through the whole time -- I mean, less so into Season 3, where he starts making worse decisions. But just like his father, as an honest man and a just man.
You know, typically in "Game of Thrones," people who are honest and just and do things for the right reasons are the people who tend not to survive, and Robb's a great example of that. But I hope he's remembered as a good man and, essentially, the man that would have been the best person to lead the Seven Kingdoms. It's tragic that he is killed, because I think he is the best leader of all the candidates available at the moment.
Because of the fans of the books and this show are so devoted, how are you anticipating the next couple of weeks are going to go for you? [Calgary Herald]
I don't know. I just hope people really enjoy the surprise of it. I hope a lot of people haven't been as stupid as I was and Googled that kind of thing before the time came. I learned that lesson very quickly in Season 1, not to Google things... [It's] great for research purposes but not great dramatically, because you learn about all the stories before [they] actually happen.
One of the big changes about the Red Wedding is the fact that Talisa dies. And she's pregnant at this point. Why do you think that it was important to have her character die when [Robb's wife] lives in the books? And also, what was your relationship like working with Oona? [Zap2it.com]
I think it was important for her to die, because in the books the characters are very different ... It's just a full stop to that train of a 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 going to have a baby, and one day, that baby will take over as King of the North. There's something tragic about it just all being cut short instantly.
And I have such a great relationship with Oona on set. She's a wonderful actress and I think she did something very clever with the part that was honest and kind, but had a strength deep inside her. And I think that resonates a lot with Catelyn -- even though they are very different characters and very different women, essentially there's bits of the characters that [have] real parallels. There's that quiet strength that Oona has, that Talisa has, that Catelyn has, that Michelle has. [It] really powers things through and makes it all the more tragic when those characters get killed, because they're the least deserving of being slaughtered in such a way.
[Executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have said] they effectively wanted to make the show in order to make it to Season 3, and the Red Wedding is the reason why. As the central figure in the Red Wedding, I was wondering what it feels like to have that kind of weight on your shoulders from Dan and David on down? [RollingStone.com]
I consider it a bit of an honor, actually, that David and Dan trusted me with this character. I think I was, like, 21 when I first met them. After I got cast and got familiar with them and became friends with them, I learned so much about how [much they wanted to get to this point in the show]. It was a gift for me in Season 2 -- they really gave me a lot more material than the book featured. Hopefully, I've been able to build a character with them, and that means that by the time the audience gets to see this episode, they are as involved with Robb Stark as I am, as David and Dan have been since the very beginning. So I consider it less of a weight and more of an honor that I was trusted with that responsibility.
Obviously you must empathize with this character, having been a part of him for so long. Did you feel a little bit of bitterness in the way he went? Because not only doesn't he avenge his father, but he's denied that big heroic, glorious death that we're used to in this genre if someone is bumped off. Do you have any hard feelings about the way he's going out? [New York Daily News]
I mean, it's horrible, obviously. I don't have any bitterness to it, because I think Robb Stark dying there in that way is one of the best things [the show has done]. One thing HBO does so beautifully, and "Game of Thrones" does so beautifully, is just rip these characters' hearts out in front of you. You know, it's hard, and yet maybe it would have been better for Robb to have died gloriously on the battlefield or something else like that. But this is so sudden and violent and horrible. And I think the way that I've tried to build Robb Stark up and the way the writers have [written him], there's no other way we could have killed him. Because he is great on the battlefield, and despite his very poor choices, he is a great leader. A lot of people would stick up for him and watch his back. [At the Red Wedding,] he's been outsmarted, and it all comes from his good heart and his trust of other people. His trust that people will do the right thing and not just destroy each other like they do.
What was mood like on the set when you hit that key part of the sequence? [New York Daily News]
Honestly, it was horrible. It was a really difficult day for everyone, and there was lots of tears from many people, including myself. Just ... the way it happens -- Robb Stark with his dead queen in his arms and his stomach ripped open and blood pumping out of that. His mother getting her throat slit. It was a really disturbing day. And just because it's such a big part of my life and of Michelle's and Oona's and all of the crew -- we've been through a lot together, from extreme weather conditions to just the journey of trying to make this show as best as we can, and pushing forward against lots of things that have been pushing back against us.
There was just a total sense of exhaustion, and it was horrific. And these characters that you love get slaughtered. And it made me think of my dad: When he read all the books and he got to the Red Wedding, he put the book down and didn't go back to it for a couple of months. And I think it's obviously because he ties Robb Stark in so closely with me. The journey of that character and the fondness that we all had for each other as a cast and the crew [made it hard]. As the characters playing the story, it was really moving and not very nice. And I left [the] set and got straight to the airport and got on the plane because I didn't want to be there anymore. It was very difficult.
How long did this stay with you? How long did it take to shake this off? [AccessHollywood.com]
It won't shake off until I've seen the episode, so it is still there. That will be really difficult to watch. I think it will dredge up a lot of emotions and stuff that I maybe just pushed aside for a while ... It's not like any other job I've had, because you don't close the book on that character. It's just like you become him for six months, and then, [next season] you come straight back into his shoes, literally the same boots that you were wearing the season before, the same costume.
It's funny because I'm still very close with all the crew, and I've been talking to the hair department and the other actors who are all gearing up and going back into it. It's really strange for me. It's like when you've done a play for four months and the first night that you don't do the play, it gets to about 7 p.m. and you realize that you're pacing up and down ... Something’s missing. You realize, "Oh, God. It's because I'm not just about to go on stage." I suppose there's a little element of that that's happening.
Did it ever occur to you to lobby for altering Robb's fate or extending his time on the show? Obviously the producers were open to changing the character of Talisa from Jeyne, so did you ever discuss extending Robb's time a little bit or maybe going about this a different way? [HuffPost TV]
No, I knew when it was in the placing of the books and the placing of the scripts from the start of the job. I knew that's when we were aiming to do it. And I think it's the perfect time for that. Other stories are going to move forward and progress, but it's also shocking enough at this stage. I didn't want to change it at all. And I know that David and Dan have spent so many years structuring things out beautifully, and I'm not going to come in and try to push any of that around because I want an extra season of "Game of Thrones," or anything like that.
I wanted to stick to it, and I wanted it to be as sudden and as shocking as it was when I read the book and I read that section. Hopefully, the audiences are going to be shocked by it. It [takes place in] Episode 29, so that's very [early for a show to be] killing off another character, just like what happened to Sean Bean's character [Ned Stark]. I think it's essential. I did not want to mess with that.
Do you have a favorite scene or a moment over the past three seasons? [HBO.com]
Instantly, I get flashbacks of all of my scenes with Michelle Fairley. And in one Season 1 scene, I feel like that was the moment I started to kind of really fit into Robb's shoes. [It] was with Bran, when I come to say goodbye to him and I'm going off in the night and I've got a sword around my waist and my cloak on. I think that was something where you go, "This is a significant change point for Robb Stark, leaving Winterfell and going off and becoming a man." That was an important scene for me, because I love Isaac [Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran] a lot, and that was a really great scene to film. But any time I'm on set with Michelle Fairley, it's a joy.
You were saying you came on to "Game of Thrones" when you were 21 and you grew and developed as a person, as an actor on the show. And does your journey parallel Robb's in some ways? [Calgary Herald]
There's been a lot of that, from Robb Stark being a young man, not expecting anything, thinking his life's going to be on one path, and then he gets pushed more weight and responsibility put onto him and demands made of him. And I suppose for me as an actor, there was similar [journey]. David and Dan started to push me more and give me more responsibility, writing scenes into Season 2 that never existed and giving me more of an on-screen journey and responsibilities. So that was something I really enjoyed, because as an actor I get pushed and I grow more and I have more responsibility to keep up with and deal with, like Robb has. But you rise to the challenge -- I mean, Robb did and hopefully I did.
Do you have a message for fans who are going to be watching this happen for the first time on the show -- encouragement to keep watching after the Red Wedding takes place? [Zap2it.com]
I don't. Apart from: No one is safe in "Game of Thrones."
Obviously, it was an emotional sequence, but I was wondering if you were ever able to step back and think about its potential place in TV history. It seems to me that it could well be talked about like "Who shot J.R.?" from "Dallas" or the finale of "The Sopranos" and these really pivotal television moments. Did you have any kind of sense of that while you were making the show? [RollingStone.com]
Never. I've never had any sense of that as an actor. I think I get too involved in what [I'm filming] that I always get surprised ... For me, I just shoot a television show in Ireland. And then you travel around the world and you realize there's so much more than that. I'm not being ignorant when it comes to that, it's just that I go and I've made this program with people that I consider my friends for years now, and so I have no kind of concept of the significance of that.
I only have an awareness of what I'm trying to achieve as an actor and what my job as the character is. I remember the scale of it and the emotion that it brought out of me and the other people there, and thinking that this was something significant. But the lines get a bit muddled up between characters and actors sometimes ... and that's what keeps me from having an awareness of the outside world. I'm just focused on doing my job well.
[Michael McElhatton, who plays Roose Bolton,] was the one who delivered the killing blow in the scene, as this character does in the book. Did he apologize at the end of it, once the cameras stopped rolling? [New York Daily News]
No, not at all. Not at all. Just like Roose Bolton wouldn't. There was no apology at all there. Quite funny, because you're covered in blood and he's got his prop knife in his hand, and then we have a hug to say, "Pleasure working with you." So that's quite an odd image that just comes up in my head.
Could you clarify where the plane was going [when you left the set]? [AccessHollywood.com]
Home, London. And I cried the whole way. I was the crazy boy on the plane crying and, at about midnight, landing in London.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.