He was the last human face on screen when "Game of Thrones" wrapped up Season 2 on HBO last year. And on Sunday night, the very scared Night's Watch member Samwell Tarly, who came face to face with a White Walker, returns.
Although he started out weak and cowardly, shipped off to the Night's Watch in Season 1 by his cruel father who threatened his life if he stayed at home any longer, Sam, played by Brit John Bradley, has proven to be one of the most endearing characters in the series. He's loyal, has a strong moral compass, and what he lacks in physical prowess, he makes up for in book smarts - picking up the kind of Westeros historical knowledge that has already proven itself very, very useful.
So, when John hit Los Angeles in January (where he stepped out for HBO's Emmys bash alongside co-star Kit Harington), AccessHollywood.com invited him to meet us at Los Angeles restaurant Duplex on Third (just off celeb-friendly Robertson Blvd.) to chat about what's coming up for fan favorite Sam in Season 3. As we conclude our Access Countdown to Season 3 of "Game of Thrones," the always insightful John dropped hints about what's ahead for not only his black cloak wearing Sam, but what fans can expect of "Rome" star Ciaran Hinds, who joined the cast as Mance Rayder.
AccessHollywood.com: How exciting is your [part of the] Season?
John Bradley: I think it's absolutely pivotal for Sam, not only in terms of the narrative progression of him through the story, [but] both in terms of his development as a character, and development as a man - if you take Sam not to be a fictitious character, if you take him to be a human being and a man. It's a real defining time in his life - Season 3. It's where he gets his life together in terms of priority and in terms of developing emotions and developing feelings for people and certain things that he probably never thought he would, not only because of the constraints of being in the Night's Watch, but also the type of person that he is, he's got a lot of hurdles to get over, and I think he's starting to do that now.
Access: So I guess that means then, that you are coming back and Sam did not meet his fate, for those who are only watching the television show and not reading the books.
John: Yeah, well, Sam... got away this time, but that's not to say that he's going to get away every time.
Access: They have his scent, those White Walkers.
John: Yeah, it's a very strong scent. Once you've got Samwell in your nostrils, it's very hard to get it out.
Access: When you guys first went back on set for Season 3, was there more excitement than ever before because [the show] had just blown up so much? It really felt like at the end of Season 2, so many more people were in the fold.
John: Yeah, I think that [things have been] building and building for each season, really. With success and acclaim, there's a lot more pressure on, so every time we go on... set now for a new season, it's like we have to top the season before, which is getting harder because I thought [Season] 1 was great. I thought [Season] 2 was greater - just in terms of the way everything flowed, the way the new characters were introduced. Because that's the thing with initial seasons of things, especially with something that's set in such a fantasy world, so far removed from what we know - everything's got to be established and once everything has been established then you can start having fun and be a little bit more poetic and a little bit more dangerous. But [executive producers] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] always said that Season 3 was the season that they were most looking forward to when they started this project,
Access: Did they bring that [fire] to the set then? I spoke to Bryan [Cogman, 'GOT's' Executive Story Editor last year] and he was saying there's no more time for pranks [which they are known for] because there's so much to get done.
John: They inject a lot of humor into every single second of their lives, it seems, which is a great anchor to have because these are the guys - if anybody's got the weight of this whole show and all the expectation of the show on their shoulders, it's those guys. So when you see them laughing and joking around and putting everybody at ease, then... that makes you a lot calmer, because if anybody's going to crumble, it's going to be these guys, but they look steady as a rock.
Access: Which storylines are you most looking forward to this season?
John: In terms of a story, I'm desperate to get back to from where it left off, it'd be Theon's story line... I think that Alfie [Allen] was extraordinary [last season].
Access: What about the new people - you've got an 'Avenger' now on the cast [Dame Diana Rigg].
John: Yeah, that's beyond belief. That is really beyond belief. Just to have somebody with so much grace and so much dignity and somebody who has been there done that and is not daunted by anything [and is] utterly professional.
Access: [Her character is] like your own version of 'Downton Abbey's' Maggie Smith - the Dowager Countess.
John: Exactly, yeah. That's those types of actresses and actors... they're just astonishing people.
Access: You're not in Jon snow's storyline, at least when the drama resumes because he's now captured by the Wildings. Did you get to see any of that being filmed? Is it as epic as we're hoping it will be?
John: Well, I got to see little tiny bits.
Access: You got to see Mance... What can you tell us about him?
John: I can just tell you in terms of intimidating presences, it doesn't get much better than that. He's just - maybe it's because it's Ciaran [Hinds], who I love and admire as an actor, he's such a formidable actor, that is gonna be - those scenes between Jon and Mance are just gonna be off the scale.
Access: What can you tell us about where your storyline picks up, because you were the last face we saw on TV?
John: The last face apart from the White Walker, obviously. Well, I'd like to think people want Sam to stay alive. If they don't want him to stay alive, I'm doing something very wrong, but I don't know. I think that the people who are perceptive enough to notice that certain scenes have been planted already in terms of how this develops with the White Walkers, there are certain discoveries that have been made by Sam and the other Night's Watch guys, that have been made for a reason and they're just not additional things to bring up. Things have been planted already that are going to come to fruition later.
"Game of Thrones" returns to HBO for Season 3 on Sunday night at 9 PM.
-- Jolie Lash
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