Richard Madden explains the pressures that forge a young leader.
HBO: Robb Stark's world has changed so much this season ... how has going to war affected him?
RICHARD MADDEN: In Season 1, Robb was being pushed into all these situations and reacting to them. In Season 2, he's the one who's driving the action much more, forcing other people to react to his decisions. So he's much more independent-minded in Season 2, and he's gotten a lot better at pretending to be a man. He's still a boy at heart, but he has to pretend to be this leader of men - and in the act of pretending, he's becoming this king he needs to be. I think he's surprising himself.
HBO: What's it like for Robb to come back to camp with Talisa and find out his mother has freed his most valuable prisoner?
RICHARD MADDEN: He's crushed. He's met this woman who seems like a light in the darkness for him - someone he can talk to who isn't his mother. And the longest he's spent with her was this journey they went on, and the worst thing has happened while he's gone: The Kingslayer's escaped, and it's his mother's fault. There's the rage and the anger that comes with that, but I think the deepest element is this betrayal from the last person he'd expect it from. He's been playing by the rules; he's been the good guy with everything he's done. And the payoff for that is to be betrayed by the two people closest to him? It makes him question everything he's doing, how much he's sacrificing and suffering.
HBO: Is that what pushes him into Talisa's arms?
RICHARD MADDEN: He's so alone right now. He's lost his father. As far as he knows his brothers are dead. One sister is missing and the other is probably going to get killed at the hands of Joffrey. The only person he had at his side was his mother, and she's betrayed him. Talisa is the only person who questions him and challenges him and doesn't treat him like the king - she looks him in the eye. So he kind of thinks, "F**k it. I've been playing the game, and look where it's got me." There's a good chance he'll get killed in this war before he ever gets a chance to marry the Frey girl. He's never met a woman like Talisa, and his passion and desire take over. In this moment, he doesn't want to be king or fighting a war. He just wants to be back at Winterfell, with this woman, living a normal life.
HBO: Except Theon has overtaken the Starks' home. Is Robb to blame at all for Theon's disloyalty?
RICHARD MADDEN: I think that's one of the great things about Robb - he believes in the good in people, even if it's to his detriment. Theon was raised with him, like a brother, and even though his mother advised him not to trust Theon, Robb thought he knew better. And sometimes, Robb does know better than everyone else - he's proven it with his battle tactics - but sometimes he makes bad choices. Little did he know that this would be one of the worst choices he'd make, to send Theon away.
HBO: You and Alfie Allen have shot so much together throughout the series. Was it tough personally when Robb and Theon's stories diverged?
RICHARD MADDEN: It was. Robb couldn't be more alone. The men he's got around him are men like Roose Bolton, a dangerous man he has to keep on a short leash. And for me, as an actor, I worked so much with Alfie and then he disappeared ... I was dealing with a bunch of people I'd worked with on and off, but not like I had with Alfie.
HBO: You had your first love scene in this episode. Did Alfie have any advice, since playing Theon has given him so much practice?
RICHARD MADDEN: I wouldn't take Alfie's advice in any of the sex scenes! I think the way Theon makes love is pretty different from what Robb would do. It was my first sex scene in the series, though, and Robb's first sexual experience. I worked with the director and with Oona [Chaplin] on it. We just tried to make it as organic as possible. We fumbled about and kind of did it wrong, just like you would if it were your first time, if you know what I mean. And just let the passion take over and try not to overthink it too much.
HBO: It's almost time for you to head back to Belfast to shoot Season 3. Are you ready to return to the war camp?
RICHARD MADDEN: I can't wait to get back to being knee-deep in the mud. It's just so true to what Robb's going through. Everything is touchable, and you can smell everything - my camp usually smells like horseshit. If you're out in the rain, then your cloak soaks up water, your boots leak and your feet are bleeding and damp. At the end of the day, you gradually unbuckle and unpeel and unclick every bit of the costume. Your back and shoulders and neck are just raw. But I wouldn't change it at all. That weight and shape of the armor dictates my posture and how I breathe. The drag of the cloak affects the way I walk. So all those things help me create Robb as a character; if it were fake chainmail and plastic armor, it wouldn't be the same.
HBO: Have you run into many fans as the show's popularity has grown even more this season?
RICHARD MADDEN: I don't get recognized that much, actually. I think I look a lot different off-screen. If I ever get recognized, people say, "I expected you to be MUCH bigger."