Scottish actor Richard Madden (Prince) is best known for his compelling performance as Robb Stark in HBO’s acclaimed series “Game of Thrones.” Other television credits include the Discovery Channel’s original miniseries “Klondike,” the BBC series “Hope Springs” and “Birdsong,” and the Channel 4 series “Sirens.”
His London stage credits include: Romeo in the Globe Theatre’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”; Callum McGregor in Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts & Crosses”; and Mark McNulty in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of “Be Near Me.”
We sat with actor Richard Madden who plays the Prince, where he shares what type of Prince he wanted to be, how many dresses he destroyed learning how to waltz, and his infamous white pants. ‘Cinderella’ is rated PG opens in theaters March 13th, 2015.
Interview: Actor Richard Madden
Q: What's the magic to making the prince in this Cinderella story laughable, likeable, and still assure every woman in the world is going to fall in love with you?
Richard Madden: I just wanted to make someone who has a bit more depth to him, and a bit of humor and awareness of his privilege. In the original animation he has only two or three scenes, so we don't know his name in the original. In this film we got to see him as a son, and that's really important because we got to see Cinderella as a daughter first and foremost, and it was really important to see that side of the prince.
Me and Ken discussed that a lot, because Cinderella and the Prince are so defined by their parents. I wanted to see him as a friend, and a soldier, as well as a prince to Cinderella. Luckily in this version we had the opportunity to make a real character out of him rather than being this 2-d prince that lives in a palace.
Q: You mentioned being a son, and that's one of the key elements that makes Kit so relate-able. Working with Derek Jacobi, what did the two of you do, because truly you see this great love on-screen?
Richard Madden: I love working with Derek. Since the minute I met him, I was like ‘I really like this guy.' We had such fun, and we improvised on set, and we played around, and I've obviously loved his work for years.
When you're on set with Derek, and you're looking in his eyes, it's not hard to tell the truth and just be pleasant, because he's so there and honest. He's a joy.
Q: What was it like working under the direction of Kenneth Branagh?
Richard Madden: Wonderful. I'm working with him again in 2016 because we've enjoyed it so much. It's like a master class every day in acting and how to conduct yourself. There's a lot in my prince that's based on watching Kenneth, because he's a true gentleman and he instilled a confidence in me every day on set which was important.
This being my first big movie and also playing a character a lot of people have an idea of who he is, I had to try to bottle that anxiety and Ken really carried me through that.
Q: How are you hoping that this new interpretation of Cinderella will speak to this generation of kids, and kids at heart?
Richard Madden: I think what's important about this one, and what I want to speak to people about is actually, it's two young people bringing out the best in each other, not a damsel in distress and a knight. I think that's an old-fashioned view and not the best thing to be teaching young girls, and this film is different like that. And hopefully for young boys watching it, it's going to be good.
I learned about love and death, loss, grief, joy, good, bad, from all these original Disney films, and hopefully we can do that as well with this. That's what Disney does so well, that's the first introduction to children of those elements, and hopefully that's what we do with this film but in a more modern way, a more equal way.
Cinderella is an amazing woman, and an amazing character, and I wanted to find a man worthy of her affections.
Q: Another dimension of Kit we get to see that has never been fleshed out in any version is, as a friend, particularly working with Nonso as Captain. You've got a great witty humorous rapport between the two of you, which we don't get to see from you typically, and we don't normally get to see it from Nonso. How did the two of you go about developing the on-screen comradery?
Richard Madden: We became friends straight away anyway, and I think that's what was so good. You've got these lines in the script, where the Captain's asking Cinderella's if she has a sister, and I think that's what stems back to our first conversations where we're asking what's been happening in the years leading up to the film. The guys have been at war, and what kind of soldiers are they. Were they at the back, or up on the front lines with the men, and that's where we decided they were.
That's when we started to decide what the banter was going to be like between these two men, on the front line between the regular guys. There's going to be dirty jokes, as far as we can go with Disney. [Laughs] I think that was what was really good, building up you see the prince as a bit of a lad, as well as being this regal guy that has to be on form.
Q: Did you have any costume malfunctions? We've heard a lot about he white pants.
Richard Madden: Sandy Powell is amazing, and an amazing costume designer, and that was something we talked about. I wanted to retain a masculinity to this prince, not have him be waif or foppish. A lot of that is going to come from the costume, of how do we keep him masculine while being so decorative and elaborate.
I remember trying on that ball outfit for the first time and going to meet Sandy, we've had these conversations about masculine, and it's white with sequins and glitter. I'm like, ‘I thought we talked about this masculinity thing.' [Laughs]
Actually, once you put it on and you step into the ball room with all the other characters in these amazing costumes, it's really actually masculine. It gives you a really regal feel, it helps with my posture, you stand up and feel strong and masculine in it, despite the sequins.
Q: What was it like learning to Waltz for the film?
Richard Madden: Miserable. I'm not a gifted dancer, so I had to train three or four days a week for three or four months to get my dancing up to scratch. Also, because of Cinderella's dress, they wouldn't meet it until I got rid of my clumsiness because I would just destroy it. I did destroy a couple of practice dresses, ripped them to pieces with my boots. But, I wanted it to be where the Prince really enjoys dancing and is probably quite good at it, so I wanted to make it look as if that was the case.
Q: Early on in the film, Cinderella's mother tells her to have courage and be kind, and that shapes who she becomes. What has anyone said to you, that has helped shape who you are today?
Richard Madden: There's a piece of art I saw, it was a print, and the words said ‘Work Hard and Be Nice to People.' I've got that in my house and I try to remember that. I think that's a really good rules to live by.
Q: Did you have to take fencing and horseback riding for this film?
Richard Madden: Yes, I was fencing a lot for this. I can ride from other films I have been in, but particularly that first scene when Cinderella and the Prince first meet each other, that was really important. The dance they do around each other on these beasts that they're trying to control while talking to each other, and the metaphors for that being the feelings going on.
The detail of it, we had these marks on the ground for the horses that we had to hit, and you can't mess around with that. So I wanted to train even harder and started doing a lot of dressage and jumps. But Lily couldn't ride before the film, she had never ridden before, so I felt like I had to be good enough to make sure we could maneuver that and choreograph that. I loved doing it.
Q: How was it working with Lily?
Richard Madden: A joy. Everyday. She couldn't be a more perfect casting for Cinderella. She's kind, and generous, and loving, and giving, and fun, and a proper actress. She's a movie star.
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family.
Directed by Academy Award®-nominee Kenneth Branagh (“Thor,” “Hamlet”) and starring Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine,” “Elizabeth”), Lily James (“Downton Abbey”), Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) and Academy Award-nominee Helena Bonham-Carter (“The King’s Speech,” “Alice in Wonderland”), “Cinderella” is produced by Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Elysium”), Allison Shearmur (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) and David Barron (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”). The screenplay is by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy,” “The Golden Compass”).
Portions of the material for this event has been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios, all opinions are my own.