“After ‘Game of Thrones’, no one wanted to try their luck with me”

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SAmwell Tarly is dead. Long live John Bradley. the game of thrones The actor may be best known as the nicest (and nerdiest) guy in Westeros, but he’s long since moved on from frosty zombies and playing second fiddle to Jon Snow. When we speak, via Zoom from his home in Manchester, he looks a lot like what you’d expect from the King in the North’s trusty sidekick. He’s warm, polite and (OK, that threw us) sitting in front of an autographed photo of soccer legend Eric Cantona. He’s also very excited about his two new movies, which are coming out this week.

Those are moon fallthe silly sci-fi game in which a spaceship outruns a tidal wave, and Marry me – the romantic comedy J-Lo about a pop star wedding. They mark his big return to Hollywood after a self-imposed sabbatical. Following thronesIn the much-maligned final season of 2019, Bradley took two years to choose his next job.

CREDIT: Press

“No one seemed to want to take a chance on me,” he says, “and my confidence started to suffer.” So he waited. And then I waited a little longer. “I wanted something different… Every time you have a show as successful as game of thronesfull of [similar characters] to follow. But I said to myself: “I will resist them”.

Bradley describes landing the role of Samwell in 2010 as “lightning in a bottle”. Born and raised in Wythenshawe, Manchester, he landed the gig straight out of drama school and initially provided the slightly chubby comic relief to Kit Harington’s stark-faced hero. As the show grew, so did his prominence – and he quickly became one of the most popular members of the ensemble. In the darkness and desolation of George RR Martin’s fantasy epic, Sam’s basic sense of humanity endeared him to fans. He defended women, advocated for democracy and was unfailingly loyal. Meanwhile, the series rode a wave of critical and commercial acclaim – until it didn’t…

“The last season was never going to please everyone”

“We were never going to please everyone,” Bradley says today, nearly three years after those last episodes. “People had invested too much.” Indeed, fans had waited seven seasons for the climactic showdown between Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen and the ruling Lannister clan. In the end, what they got only infuriates them. Mad with power, Danerys descended into madness, slaughtering thousands of innocent people with her scaled animals before being killed by her cousin/lover Jon Snow. Fans took to Twitter and started a petition to remake the final season which garnered 1.8 million signatures.

If you ask us, that was a bit of an overreaction — and Bradley agrees “the fans lost their minds” at the time. He also takes umbrage at people who said the cast and crew “knew it was going to suck.” He says that couldn’t be further from the truth: “We really wanted it to be great. We honestly thought it was going to be great. We were really proud of that. We weren’t arrogant enough to think, ‘Oh, we’re just going to put it out there and they’re going to swallow it. We just wanted people to like it… I was really disappointed.

game of thrones
Alongside Kit Harington in “Game Of Thrones”. CREDIT: Alamy

He continues: “The fan reaction has been so fierce and loud, when people think of game of thrones, they feel disappointed because they didn’t like the final. I’d like it to be considered a complete work… These great moments aren’t going to be forgotten and they shouldn’t be faded or deleted because you didn’t like the ending.

In addition to the social media firestorm, Bradley personally struggled with the show’s ending. It meant saying goodbye to Sam, goodbye to the friends he had spent eight years working with, and goodbye to a steady paycheck. “It was a strange thing to master,” he says. “game of thrones was always in the future and then it wasn’t anymore.

John Bradley
Like Samwell Tarly in HBO’s fantasy epic. CREDIT: Alamy

To make matters worse, Bradley risked being typecast. He was desperate to prove that he had more in his locker than a “clumsy but good-hearted guy”, but no one wanted to hear him. He was always offered the same thing: Samwell 2.0. “I was lucky to get this thing,” he says. “The chances of me getting another role [as big as] it seemed pretty weird.

Luckily, he needn’t have worried, and the perfect gig soon presented itself – albeit from an unlikely place. “I got a phone call from my agent and he said Jennifer Lopez is doing a movie in New York and she wants you to play her manager,” Bradley recalled. “I said, ‘Send me the audition script.’ Corn [my agent] replied: ‘There is no audition, she wants you. She’s a fan of the show and has seen you in interviews. Now, a romantic comedy couldn’t be more different from game of thrones! It was the reset I needed.

“Jennifer Lopez saved my confidence”

Bradley’s character in Marry me, pop star Colin Calloway’s manager, may still be a supporting role, but it’s another genre to add to his resume. And you’re not refusing J-Lo. So, what was it like being on set with a bonafide megastar?

“She’s so amazing,” he says. “I’ve worked with many wonderful actors like Jim Broadbent and Peter Dinklage [both on Game Of Thrones] that I admire, but then you work with [Lopez] and she is not only a good actress but also a singer and a dancer and she is also respected in the fashion world. She has risen to the top of so many forms of entertainment, you can’t help but be inspired by her.

Bradley also credits Lopez for reaching out to him and “saving my confidence.” He sounds as sincere as can be when he says the role “broke him out of a nightmare…I’ll always be so grateful.”

Marry me
With Jennifer Lopez in “Marry Me”. CREDIT: Alamy

BEven more important is Radley’s other new film: Roland Emmerich’s Master of Disaster (Independence Day, Two days later) new mega blockbuster moon fall. It follows a group of astronauts (Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson and Bradley) who fight to save humanity in space when the moon is thrown into a collision course with Earth. As he was in game of thrones, Bradley is the emotional heart of the film. He plays KC Houseman, a conspiracy theorist caught up in the adventure.

For Bradley, this wasn’t just an opportunity to pay the bills. It was a chance to break the narrow perception the industry had of him. He’s very aware that most heroes on the big screen don’t look like him – and he says it was “brave” of Emmerich not to opt for the usual chiseled pin-up girl with hard abs. “It seems like there are very few romantic leads who are people of a certain body shape,” he says. “You rarely see a couple who have this form working together and if they are, they are the butt of the joke and their romantic life will not be explored. I don’t know why that is.

It’s true that if you were to count the number of currently successful actors with larger bodies, you’d probably be hard pressed to top two or three. It’s not something Bradley worries much about, but he admits it has “played on [his] spirit” recently. Fortunately, he thinks things are starting to change – and we have the pandemic to thank. “[People have realised that] ordinary people can be heroes,” he says. “Ordinary people have the ability to impact the world around them and to make sacrifices, to effect change with humanity at large in mind.”

moon fall
Bradley’s latest film is “Moonfall”, Roland Emmerich’s new disaster blockbuster. CREDIT: Alamy

Things are looking up for Bradley then. Back in the multiplex and with critics singing its praises (NMEJames McMahon called his performance “the best thing about moon fall”) the former one-trick pony has re-established himself as a dependable, multi-talented actor. And he does not intend to stop there. He tells us about his next job. It’s about one of those top secret Hollywood projects you’re not allowed to say anything about. What Bradley can tell us is that it’s called The three-body problemand is game of thrones the first series from creators DB Weiss and David Benioff on Netflix. Featured Companion thrones former Liam Cunningham alongside A-listers Eiza González and Benedict Wong, the show is adapted from a Chinese sci-fi novel of the same name that involves alien invasions, time travel and virtual reality. It is part of a series of books so dense that it makes game of thrones look like The hungry caterpillar.

“If David and Dan are successful, it will change the rules of television again,” Bradley teases excitedly. “Fingers crossed it will have the impact they want. I’ve never read such an ambitious script. I’ve never wanted anything so much to succeed because if it does, the game Well, if you’ve completed one game, why not try another?

“Moonfall” is in theaters now

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