During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Thursday, the actor revealed that he was living off of about $5 a day before he was cast in the HBO show, which went on to become a mega hit.
“I had two options: I could either buy one meal, or a newspaper and a pint,” he recalled. “It went the other way usually.”
“Then I got that phone call [about Thrones] and I was on my last month’s rent,” he continued. “I asked my agent for an advance and that helped me get through the next little bit.”
So what would he have done if he hadn’t gotten his big break?
“Moved back to my parents’ house,” he admitted. “I was at that stage. So, very lucky.”
Madden, 32, played Robb Stark for three seasons, from 2011-2013, until his character was tragically killed off during the Red Wedding.
In 2018, Madden landed the leading role of David Budd in the BBC thriller series Bodyguard, which has since been picked up by Netflix.
“I thought this would just be a little show in the U.K.,” he told host Jimmy Fallon on Thursday. “And then it kind of got carried away with itself, so I was thrilled about that.”
In January, Madden won the Golden Globe for best actor in a TV drama for the part, an honor he told Fallon he “didn’t expect at all.” In fact, he was so sure he wouldn’t win that he initially wasn’t going to prepare a speech. Luckily, his dad convinced him to.
“Just before we were going, he said, ‘You’ve got to write a speech in case you win,’ ” he recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to win this, not getting near it.’ He was like, ‘Just write a speech, write a list of people you want to say thank you to.’ “
“Then I won it and I turned to Julianne Moore, which is kind of surreal enough, and she was like, ‘Congratulations!’ ” he continued. “I was like, ‘Thank God Dad told me to write that speech.’ “
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights (11:35 p.m. ET) on NBC.