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The Real Reason Richard Madden Left Game Of Thrones

HBO's juggernaut series "Game of Thrones" spent a decade on the premium cable network, becoming a worldwide sensation and making stars out of its enormous cast. However, some "Thrones" stars didn't spend the show's entire run tied to the fictional world of Westeros. Since the series was known for literally killing its darlings, actors like Sean Bean, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, and Pedro Pascal (who played Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark, Khal Drogo, and Oberyn Martell, respectively) only spent a little bit of time on "Game of Thrones," cementing their legacy on the show while also leaving them free to take new projects.

One of those actors was Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark on the first three seasons of "Game of Thrones." The eldest son of the highborn Stark family of the North, Robb, much like his father Ned, served as one of the show's moral centers — though his noble attitude and thirst for justice was ultimately his undoing (again, exactly like his father). In his quest to overtake opposing Lannister forces, Robb entered into a treaty with Walder Frey (David Bradley), agreeing to marry one of the lord's daughters in exchange for an army, but when Robb met Talisa (Oona Chaplin), he fell in love immediately and eloped with her instead. Furious and betrayed, Walder plotted his revenge, leading to the show's infamous "Red Wedding," in which Robb, his mother Catelyn, and his pregnant wife Talisa were slaughtered.

Many were heartbroken over Madden's departure from "Game of Thrones," but the actor himself doesn't feel entirely the same way. Here's why Richard Madden left the program after just three seasons.

Richard Madden wanted something more post-Thrones

Obviously, the big reason why Richard Madden left "Game of Thrones" is because his character was always meant to be murdered. The show was an adaptation of George R.R. Martin's novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire," the first of which is entitled "A Game of Thrones." In the third book, "A Storm of Swords," Robb is killed at the event known as the "Red Wedding." While it's not uncommon for TV and film adaptations to take creative liberties when translating the source material, Robb's death was unavoidable.

That said, Madden didn't protest leaving "Game of Thrones." In a June 2019 installment of the Variety series "Actors on Actors," Madden sat down with Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams and revealed that he was actually "thankful" that he was killed off "Thrones" early. Madden explained his gratitude by saying, "I died at the end of Season 3. It was such a hard thing to finish because from the first pilot to my death was five years. But five years was a great time to be on the show. It helped me so much with my career and experience. I learned a lot from shooting 30 hours of television."

He then went on to praise the people who stuck out the entire series: "You really start to learn the trade doing that. And then I was thankful to leave it. The actors on it now must be 11 years into playing these characters. Give these guys some medals, because that is a marathon."

Madden also expressed the desire to move on from the Robb Stark "type," worried that he might be typecast going forward. "I'd like to explore things that are a bit not Romeo. I think I spent 10 years playing different versions of Romeo," he said. "From Robb Stark to literally playing Romeo twice on stage, once when I was 21 and once when I was 30, I've played a lot of these good guys that bad things happen to," he explained.

Richard Madden's next moves

As it happens, Madden's first major role post-"Thrones" was a welcome departure from his best-known "Romeo" roles — and before that, he tried his hand at fairy-tale blockbusters as well. After leaving "Game of Thrones" in 2013, he appeared in Kenneth Branagh's 2015 adaptation of "Cinderella" as the Prince. Madden also made a first-season turn on the historical drama series "Medici" as Cosimo de' Medici, and snagged a spot alongside Idris Elba in the 2016 action film "Bastille Day," playing an American pickpocket named Michael Mason.

His next leading role came in 2018 with the BBC and Netflix production "Bodyguard," on which he played war veteran and professional security guard Sergeant David Budd. For his work on the series, Madden earned international acclaim and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series, Drama. Following the outrageous success of "Bodyguard," which went on to be the most-watched series in England since 2008, Madden was awash in opportunities — appearing in the Netflix original film "Ibiza" alongside Gillian Jacobs, in "Rocketman" with Taron Egerton, and in Sam Mendes' Academy Award-nominated war film "1917."

Beyond that, Madden has continued to find success in the world of blockbusters. The actor appeared as Ikaris as a part of Marvel Studios and director Chloé Zhao's 2021 film "Eternals," which also stars Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani, among many others. Additionally, Madden has signed onto an Amazon original drama called "Citadel," helmed by prolific Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo and starring the likes of Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Stanley Tucci, to name a few. 

What did Madden think about the Game of Thrones finale?

After Robb Stark's death and, therefore, Richard Madden's departure, "Game of Thrones" had plenty of story left to tell. In fact, it extended on for another five seasons before bidding HBO viewers farewell in May of 2019. To call the show's final season controversial would be an understatement considering the widespread backlash it received online from fans, who didn't shy away from sharing their disappointment, confusion, and everything in-between. As one could imagine, some looked to the "Thrones" cast for their thoughts, too, and Richard Madden was no exception.

A mere few days after the "Game of Thrones" finale hit the airwaves, Madden stopped by "Good Morning America" for an interview. While he admitted that he didn't actually watch the last episode when it came out, he did have its contents spoiled for him by numerous people. He adds that he was very much surprised by where all of the surviving characters wound up — particularly his on-screen brother, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), who took the famed Iron Throne by the time the credits rolled — and that he'd have to check it out once he had the time.

Even though he left the title early on, Richard Madden will remain a large part of the legacy of "Game of Thrones" all the same. Not to mention, the series will always be a part of his, seeing as it went a long way in making him a regular on screens big and small.