Game of Thrones: What Meeting Samwell Tarly\'s Family Means for Season 6
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Samwell Tarly has changed a lot since the early days of Game of Thrones, and according to actor John Bradley, there\'s only one thing that could cause him to backslide again: the loss of his best friend and Lord Commander, Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
On the eve of the release of Game of Thrones: Season 5\'s Blu-ray and with the premiere of Season 6 on the horizon, Bradley got on the phone to reflect on Sam\'s growth over the past year -- especially considering he\'s one of the few characters to which good things has happened. He opened up about whether these positive changes are permanent for the former craven, and teased what meeting Sam\'s father Randyll (James Faulkner), mother Melessa (Samantha Spiro), brother Dickon (Freddie Stroma) and sister Talla (Rebecca Benson) means for his character in Season 6.
John Bradley and Hannah Murray in Game of Thrones: Season 6
Full spoilers for Game of Thrones: Season 5 continue below.
IGN: What was your favorite moment for Sam in Season 5?
Bradley: There were so many favorite moments. I think across the 10 episodes it was the most satisfying narrative arc and journey that Sam ever went on, because in episode 1 you establish his motive the season, and by episode 10, he\'s achieved it. It was kind of a perfect little success story in the microcosm, really, because he established early on that he didn\'t want Alliser Thorne to become Lord Commander, because that would mean Gilly would either be killed or banished from Castle Black, so he gets to unelect him. By the end of it he\'s on the way to the city. He\'s on the way to achieve his life\'s ambition. So I think it was a real success story for Sam.
But in terms of good moments, individually, it would have to be the speech that got Jon elected as Lord Commander, because you just saw a different side to Sam. You saw Sam as a political speaker and a kind of manipulator. I think it was nice to see him use the tools that he has to get where he wants to go. I think it was really inspiring.
IGN: I\'m impressed that you went with that over Sam and Gilly finally hooking up. [
Bradley: Oh, yeah, that was a symbolic moment as well, because you\'re getting two people who have been so abused and as a result don\'t really trust anybody. The only person Sam has ever really trusted is his mother, and Jon, and the fact is that they were so reluctant for so long because they have to walk on eggshells around each other, because they\'re so damaged. That was the moment that they decided they trusted each other enough to show their love in this physical way. But in terms of development for Sam, in terms of development in his own narrative from now until the end, I think that was pivotal to get him on his way to the Citadel, really, and that was a crucial part of it.
IGN: This season was a big turning point for Sam. We heard him less talking about how much of a coward he is and saw him more doing things that were proactive for the Night\'s Watch and also for what he believed in. So what is your hope of all the character developments for something that changed in Sam in Season 5 that you hope that he keeps with him as he moves forward in the story?
Bradley: It\'s just acceptance and becoming aware of the fact that he does actually possess a certain set of skills that are actually useful and can actually be used devastatingly effectively for the greater good. I mean, he was told from the day he was born that what he likes is nonsense, what he likes is just folly and luxury, and the sooner he stops reading and the sooner he stops thinking about the world and picks up a sword and starts fighting people, that\'s when he\'s going to turn into a man. But I think slowly over time, he\'s starting accept that there is a place in the world and a place in conflict/solution and problem-solving for an academic approach.
I think so many things in that season led him to believe that, either because he\'s able to convince Jon that him going to the Citadel is something that will be useful for everybody, something he can use, that knowledge, in order to solve problems and do his bit and have an influence on things; and the second is having that word of encouragement from Stannis. I think that was hugely important for him in the middle of the season because Stannis reminds him of his father a lot -- Stannis even refers to his father -- because they\'re both war tacticians and great war leaders. But the fact that Stannis says, "Keep reading," he appreciates the role that that could play, and it\'s not all about necessarily what happens on the battlefield. You can win in lots of different way. So to get that nod of encouragement from somebody like that I think set Sam on his path. It gives him the resolve to try harder, really, because he knows what an important role he can potentially fill.
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IGN: Looking back at Season 5, I think Sam is really the only storyline where good things end up happening to him. Everyone else has a lot of losses, but Sam has some really good wins in there. What does it mean for you as the actor on the show that they felt this was the year for Sam to really come out ahead in a lot of ways?
Bradley: I think it\'s been a long time coming, really, but I think the character\'s progressed so organically, I think. It\'s such an amazing feat and an amazing achievement because Dave [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] have got these huge books and this huge story they have to condense into 10 hours. So sometimes you worry sometimes that the character development will be a little bit rushed, maybe a little bit forced, but I think all the characters -- and especially Sam -- it\'s something where, in fact, it\'s really gradual. It\'s almost a kind of indiscernible change, you almost can\'t see it. He\'s like the minute hand of a clock: you can\'t really see him changing, but he is.
The lazy approach would be he kills a White Walker and after that he\'s walking around with supreme confidence like he owns the place, but it\'s not really like that. They know that psychology is a very delicate thing, and it takes years to evolve and internal problems don\'t resolve that quickly. So it was just a case of pacing it and waiting until they felt he developed enough and developed organically enough in the right direction that it happened. He\'s able to take these proactive steps, but it\'s been a long time coming. That\'s because it would take a long time for him to overcome the boundaries that Sam has to overcome.
IGN: That actually perfectly segues into my next question. Do you think there\'s anything that could happen that would cause him to backslide in that confidence, in that growth he\'s had, or is he pretty rock solid in his opinion of himself at this point?
Bradley: I don\'t think he\'s rock solid. The only thing that could cause him to take a backslide would be discovering that Jon was dead in Season 6. That would be the only thing. You know, he\'s very masochistic, and he\'s got a persecution complex. He\'s been told that he was to blame for everything from the day he was born. So if he was to find out about that, it would be a case of him feeling responsible, feeling that if he was there he could have changed something. If he hadn\'t have left at the end of Season 5, it wouldn\'t have happened. So that was the only thing, really. That was the only thing that may rock his confidence, because it would be that classic thing: "If everything I wanted comes true and just as it comes true, because it comes true, this things happens where I feel this sense of loss" -- if that were to happen, he\'d really feel that luck wasn\'t on his side at all. I think that would really knock his confidence, yeah.
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IGN: Looking forward to Season 6, I\'m so excited that we\'re going to meet Sam\'s family. What do those characters bring to the show, and what are your thoughts on the characters and the great slate of actors portraying them?
Bradley: What they bring to the show is they make sense of Sam. I think that was quite important. Randyll\'s always been a character on the show, way before he ever appeared on screen, because he played such a part in Sam\'s psyche and you always felt that the shadow of Randyll was standing behind Sam all the time. He\'s actually something that\'s penetrated the entire series when it comes to Sam, because he\'s always got him in the back of his mind. But when you see them made flesh and you see the performances and you see just how formidable Randyll is and how loving the mother is and what a dysfunctional family it is and how potentially abusive it can be, that\'s when Sam makes sense. That\'s when all of Sam\'s psyche and all of his low self-esteem and all of his crippling doubts about himself and pain he suffers, that\'s when it all starts to be contextualized, because you can see the home that he grew up in.
You can see the home that raised the child that led onto the man. I think that\'s really what you needed to see -- and it was strange for me because I\'d been referring to Randyll since the first. One of the first lines he said was, "My father said so," and I\'ve been thinking about him and picturing him in my mind, picturing the mother and picturing my home. It was strange for me to then see it, because then I had to think backwards and see all the times I was talking about Randyll and talking about my mother and Horn Hill, I was actually talking about this guy. This is the guy I was talking about. He looked like this when I was talking about him and seeing him look like this and the place look like that. This fills in the gaps for me in retrospect. It was really interesting to see them come to life.
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Game of Thrones: Season 5 is available on Blu-ray on March 15. Season 6 premieres on April 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Terri Schwartz is Entertainment Editor at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz.
Game of Thrones First Aired Apr. 2011
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