Richard Madden: An Inside Look At The Scottish Star's Life And Career

Richard Madden is the total package — he's gorgeous, he's talented, and he's strikingly down-to-earth for a rising star. The actor began his career as a child actor on United Kingdom television, then stepped away from it for a bit before landing on the stage in London. He then became a household name in Britain with roles on television series such as "Hope Springs" and "Sirens," before achieving worldwide fame when he starred as Robb Stark on the wildly popular HBO show "Game of Thrones." 

After his time on "Game of Thrones" came to an end, Madden continued to find steady work in television, in fare such as "Klondike," "Medici," and "Bodyguard," which garnered him much acclaim (and a Golden Globe). He has also been active in film, appearing in key roles in large movies such as "Cinderella," "Rocketman," and "Eternals." Next up is the Amazon Prime series "Citadel," opposite Priyanka Chopra, which has no announced premiere date as of November 2022. If there's one thing his filmography proves, it's that he won't be pigeonholed. As he once told The Herald, "Doing jobs that are completely different to the last thing I did pushes me as an actor to change as much as I can."

With his career in full swing, it would be easy for Madden to let it all get to his head — but he has not. Here are some facts that will prove to you that the Scottish actor is as authentic, layered, and creative as they come.

Richard Madden grew up in a small village in Scotland

If you have seen Richard Madden give an interview, then you already know that he is Scottish, with his thick accent hard to miss. He was born in Elderslie, Scotland, a small village near Glasgow. According to The Guardian, Madden's father is a firefighter, while his mother was a stay-at-home parent until he hit the double digits, at which point she became a teacher. His upbringing still informs much of his life today, as the multimillionaire told British Vogue that he believes in the mantra "once working class, always working class." 

In that same 2019 interview with The Guardian, Madden said he grew up in somewhat of a free-spirited household as well, telling the publication that his parents were "hippies." And though would not know it from some of his most famous roles, such as Sergeant David Budd in "Bodyguard," there was never shame around feelings growing up. "It was a very emotional kind of house, very expressive," he told British Vogue. "My dad never instilled that 'west coast of Scotland male mindset' in me." 

He got into acting to combat his shyness

Richard Madden was an incredibly shy child, and acting classes were the strategy his family used to coax him out of his shell. Per The Guardian, Madden was 11 when he began acting and he got his first role soon after he started out, in the TV movie "Duplicity." He was soon cast in "Barmy Aunt Boomerang," a television series that ran for two seasons on BBC1. "I was going to a really rough high school on the west coast of Scotland, so I went to the youth theater to get some confidence," he told Elton John in a conversation for Interview. "It became my everything. Getting famous as a kid was a s***show, but that's just what I felt I needed to do."

Unfortunately, success was not without its downside for a young Madden, as his early fame led to him being ostracized and bullied at school. "I always had this great interaction with adults," he told The Guardian. "But at school it was different, and I wasn't having a good time with having been on the telly. I'd lost a bit of the joy of it. Acting wasn't good for my life then. It's like the opposite thing to making friends. It's the one thing to guarantee you won't have any." As Madden recalled in the interview, it certainly did not help matters that he was out of school for two years filming, during which time he gained weight, which became an additional thing for bullies to target.

He views Romeo and Juliet as his big break

Despite having achieved a small level of fame, Richard Madden decided to pursue higher education to study the craft of acting after high school. As noted in The Hollywood Reporter, he attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama but left after only one year to become a working stage actor. He did eventually complete his degree through professional work experience, which included what he considers to be his first huge role — playing Romeo in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" at London's famed Globe Theatre. In an Interview piece, Madden cited this experience at age 20 as his "big break."

Not only did Madden step into Romeo's famous shoes at age 20, but he did it again a decade later. "I found the process much less enjoyable," Madden said of his second stint in Interview. "I think by that point, I knew too much as a human to be present." Though he told Vogue UK that he loves the role, he seems more than okay allowing others to fill it going forward. Madden's other stage credits include "Tom Fool" at Bush Theatre, a production of "Noughts &. Crosses" for The Royal Shakespeare Company, and a National Theatre of Scotland's production of "Be Near Me."

He got sick of playing the good guy

Richard Madden is sick of playing "Romeo," and not just in the literal sense. In addition to his two stage versions of "Romeo & Juliet," Madden was for a long time stuck playing the good guy in his projects. This has included playing diligent paramedic Ashley Greenwick on "Sirens," lovable Robb Stark on "Game of Thrones," and the prince in the 2015 film adaptation of "Cinderella," amongst a slew of other fine gents. "I've played a lot of these good guys that bad things happen to, and 'Bodyguard' was my first real experience of this moral space that isn't so clean-cut as good guys and bad guys," Madden told Amy Adams in an "Actors on Actors" conversation for Variety. "I want to delve into that."

His darker performance in "Bodyguard" was much acclaimed, earning Madden a Golden Globe. His next role was in "Rocketman," where he was also quite able to delve into his shadier side, but with a dash of camp. Madden played Elton John's former lover and manager, John Reid, in the film. Reid was painted as a more villainous character — the film's anti-hero — which is something Madden enjoyed. "As an actor, your instinct is always to try to make something beautiful and to be liked. There's lots about John Reid that's not very likeable," he told Elton John in a piece for Interview. "It was really fun to play with that and be a c*** sometimes."

Richard Madden's famous friends

During his time working on "Rocketman," Richard Madden was able to develop a friendship with Elton John, on whom the movie is based. The two men celebrated their comradeship in a conversation they had for Interview, wherein they discussed the film, and Madden's life and career more generally. "I think your future is going to be so bright. And this is an amazing friendship we've started, and me at 71 years of age. I think that's f**king amazing," John said in the closing line of the article. Another profile on Madden, in Elle, referenced the pair going to a concert together in Sacramento, California.

But John is far from Madden's only famous friend. For instance, according to The Sun UK, he is close with actor Matt Smith, and Googling them together will show you many photos that point to the affirmative. He is also friends with Gemma Chan, with whom he co-starred in "Eternals." Per Entertainment Weekly, Madden and Chan had known each other for over a decade by the time they were cast in the 2021 film. And speaking of co-stars, Madden is still extremely tight with many of his fellow "Game of Thrones" actors. "I don't know any other jobs I've done where I'm still friends with so many people from it," he said in Interview. That list includes his "GoT" sisters Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, as well as Kit Harington, Rose Leslie, and Alfie Allen.

Richard Madden is big into scents

As handsome as Richard Madden is, we tend to focus on things like his chiseled jaw, glorious mane, and piercing blue eyes when we see him. And when he is on screen, add in his incredible ability to truly inhabit a character and there is not a lot of brain space left to think about anything else. Like, for example, how he smells. But just because we are not thinking about it does not mean that Madden isn't. The actor is a huge scent person, and even choose different colognes for different characters. "I imagine John Reid to be kind of over-perfumed, [with] really heavy notes," Madden said in a GQ UK interview. "And Robb Stark would be more like an earthy, grounded smell. I think he'd probably just smell like sweat and mud...and ale, maybe?"

Madden also tends to choose different scents based upon his locale. "I love deeper, woodier smells in the winter. When I'm in Scotland — when I can be — there's often that after-rain smell, that kind of grassy smell," he explained to Allure. "When I'm in Los Angeles, it's much more of that warm, ocean smell that I love." With his perfumer's nose, it is no surprise that Madden partnered with Calvin Klein on their cologne, Defy, which made its debut in 2021. Per Wonderland, Madden and Klein met at a party in New York City five years before they developed the scent, which is when they decided they wanted to collaborate.

He's been going gray since he was 21

Richard Madden has a lot of noteworthy qualities, but chief among them is his hair, which is lustrous and full, whether it is styled in longer curls or cropped shorter for a more slicked back look. If his hair is one of Madden 's most notable features, then the gray streak starting at the base of his hairline is its crowning glory. It kind of reminds us of Rogue from "X-Men," or even Stacy London from when she was on "What Not to Wear." People tend to either be gray all over or not all, so Madden's one thick chunk of gray makes him stand out.

Though he may be incredibly self-conscious about some of his other physical traits, Madden told Allure that his hair does not really phase him much, given that he has been going gray since he was 21. He often dyes it or wears a wig for his roles, which also does not bug him, but lets the gray run free when he is not filming. "My vanity doesn't really extend to the grayness of my hair," he told the magazine. "Every time I've been in a role for six or eight months, I get to see where my own hair is at at the end of it. Usually, I get a little surprise of a few extra grays. That's only going to continue, but I don't mind." Neither do we.

Despite many rumors, he refuses to discuss his dating life

There are tons of celebrities who seek out the attention of the media with a fervor, but there are also a host of famous actors who are more guarded about what they share and when. For Richard Madden, dating and relationships tend to be off-limits topics, and he has for years refused to confirm or deny rumors about his romantic life in interviews. Madden has been linked to multiple famous women, including Jenna Coleman, Suki Waterhouse, and Ellie Bamber, per The Guardian, but he has not discussed any of them much publicly. He has also been the subject of rumors in terms of his sexual orientation, as many actors have been when they choose to be private with their romantic lives.

The gay/bi speculation has ebbed and flowed in terms of prevalence, peaking at two key intervals. The first was when Madden appeared as a gay character in "Rocketman." Despite this not being his first queer role, media questioned whether he was indeed straight, amidst the debate about whether gay roles should be going to gay actors. When asked by British Vogue if he had questioned his own sexuality, Madden simply said, "I'd rather not talk about my personal life." As per The Daily Mail, his relationship with out actor Brandon Flynn also led to rumors, as the two at one point lived together and were speculated to be an item. His refusal to neither confirm nor deny the relationship in a New York Times piece only fueled the gossip.

The ways Richard Madden prepped for Bodyguard

Actors — or at least, the good ones — typically prep for their movie roles, and the need for extensive preparation for television content is now higher than ever due to prolonged shooting schedules, more complex characters, and more variety in the stories being told. Whereas episodic TV does not allow much room for digging deep week to week, a series that shoots only six or eight episodes often provides actors months to do character work. For Richard Madden, this has meant both physical and mental work, both of which were required when he took on his difficult role in "Bodyguard."

Madden's character in the miniseries was a veteran who suffered from PTSD, and he wanted to make sure he approached the role with nuance. And so, as he shared with Deadline, he spoke to soldiers and others who suffered from the illness. In an actor's roundtable video for The Hollywood Reporter, he said he also looked to what he has seen portrayed about PTSD in past media. Beyond the emotional and psychological prep, Madden also had to do quite a bit of physical training for the role. "He's a bodyguard, and he's an ex-serviceman, so he has to be fit," Madden said in the Deadline interview. "The shooting schedule was such that some of the action sequences were repeatedly done over, so I had to be fit for that too. I had to be in the gym at 4am before we started shooting for the day."

He had to take some time off after Bodyguard

Richard Madden earned widespread acclaim for his work in the BBC series "Bodyguard," which aired its six episodes on the channel in 2018 and was then sold to Netflix for international distribution. The show has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it earned Madden a Golden Globe at the 2019 ceremony. Due to the intensity of the role, however, Madden found himself in need of much rest and relaxation after the shoot. "I was so emotionally drained and very isolated from everything else in my life," he admitted to Deadline. "It had just engulfed me for such a long amount of time, and, as you know from the series, he's an insular man on a had taken so much out of me."

"Bodyguard" took such a toll on Madden that he even stepped away from acting for a bit. And while the break ended up being temporary — a few months, according Variety — Madden did also consider up giving acting for good. "You spend so much time in someone else's clothes, saying someone else's words, thinking someone else's thoughts, that you lose a bit of yourself," he said in an actor's roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter. "And I'm not a method actor in any way, but you get a huge hangover. And at the end of that, I felt broken, much like the character was." Lucky for us, "Rocketman" was interesting and different enough to get him back into things.

He still battles his insecurities

In addition to struggling with making friends, Richard Madden grappled with body image as a kid. As he once recalled to The Sun, "I was fat and shy." Madden has made reference to his childhood weight and the bullying he faced in many interviews, to the point where we can safely assume the wounds still sting. In British Vogue, he shared that he wanted to let his bullies fight him just so they could move on. "If I get beaten up it will end," he remembered thinking. Madden lost weight when he was in university because, as he told The Guardian, "I didn't want to be the fattest boy in drama school." 

Those insecurities have lingered, and apparently Madden still does not seem to know how handsome he is. "I don't like the look of me in the mirror," he said to The Guardian in 2019. He has also admitted to being surprisingly self-aware when he is being photographed, in a way that he is not when acting, per British GQ. It just goes to show how much impact our childhood self-esteem issues can have on our adult self-perceptions.

Richard Madden won't do nudity just for the sake of it

Because of all of his insecurities about his body and his looks, one would think Richard Madden would steer clear of nudity altogether. And yet, Madden has bared his bum onscreen in at least four projects ("Sirens," "Game of Thrones," "Oasis," and "Bodyguard") and his upper body in even more. Despite this, Madden is conscious of how often he goes nude and purposeful in terms of which projects he is willing to drop trou for. "I read scripts where, within the first 15 pages, it says, 'He gets into the shower...' And I think, I know exactly what this is, it's just a scene to get me to take my clothes off," he said in a British Vogue piece.

When they are useful for the story, Madden has no problem baring it all, as he told Amy Adams in a chat they had for Variety. In the article, Madden said that being naked even sometimes helps him to bring out the intimacy needed for scenes taking place in the bedroom. Not only is Madden thoughtful about whether nude scenes serve a purpose, but he is also critical about the way that they can reinforce problematic body standards for men. "We're projecting a very unrealistic body image. I find myself with actor friends – after we've done a kind of barely eating, working-out-twice-a-day, no-carbing thing for these scenes – looking at each other going: 'We're just feeding this same sh*t that we're against,'" he told British Vogue.

He relaxes by watching reality TV and going to festivals

Richard Madden's two most iconic TV shows are both known for their stereotypical masculinity — for instance, nearly every male character on "Game of Thrones" was prone to violence, including Madden's Robb Stark. So, it is somewhat delightful that Madden does not get too caught up on stereotypical masculinity in his everyday life. It turns out, the actor is a huge fan of cheesy reality television, and he is not scared to talk about it. "I got reaaaaallly deep into 'Below Deck,'" Madden confessed in a British GQ video. "I think I watched every episode of that."

Madden's reality tastes are not centered solely on Bravo, as he has also noted that he is a fan of Netflix's popular series "Love is Blind" and "The Circle." "I kind of found I wasn't able to focus on like, heavy drama or anything that was kind of serious or anything that was kind of traumatic," he admitted in the aforementioned British GQ video. In addition to watching reality shows, Madden is a big fan of music festivals. He is known to be a huge fan of Glastonbury, a huge five-day festival in England. As noted in The Guardian, he has even been seen attending with "Game of Thrones" co-stars and close friends Alfie Allen, Kit Harington, and Rose Leslie. He also likes green juices, weightlifting, and yoga, per British Vogue.

He dresses in basics to ward off the paparazzi

Some celebrities — like the Kardashians, Hiltons, or pretty much any reality TV star — are famous primarily for being famous. Others are known for their skills, like actors, but even then, certain ones cannot seem to escape the lens of the public eye, whether they want it or not. Madden does not appear to want the fame that so often accompanies acting success, and he has taken to trying to outsmart the paparazzi to handle that. His chosen weapon of choice? Fashion.

Madden has adopted a uniform of neutral basics so that he looks the same in all photos, which is something he mostly has to do in Los Angeles, per British GQ. "I have three of the same black T-shirt, jeans and boots and I wear the exact same clothes every day for three days at a time. So when the paparazzi follow you, you're wearing the same outfit and they've already run those pictures yesterday," he explained. "They can't use them, because it looks like the same day. This is why having a uniform works for me." In an interview with GQ Australia, he admitted to purchasing numerous versions of the same shirts in blue, gray, and black — though he also talked about a mustard-accented blue Stella McCartney tracksuit, which sounds anything but basic.