As the final season of Game of Thrones came to an end, the future prospects of its stars past and present became a heated subject. Some careers are, and have been thriving—Sophie Turner, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Pedro Pascal—while others seem to be a little more directionless; Natalie Dormer is doing sponcon for Crocs, while Maisie Williams is out here saying she was born to make dolls with “skin suits.” OG King in the North, Richard Madden, falls somewhere in the middle. No, he’s not breaking box office records or heading franchises of his own just yet, but with a few notable Netflix roles, a recent Golden Globe, and a role in this weekend’s Rocketman, we may be entering the golden age of Richard Madden.
For those who have been watching closely, rather parched (not saying this is me, also not not saying this is me): This has been a long time coming. After Madden’s untimely demise during the Red Wedding toward the end of Season 3, it seemed as if the talented young Scottish actor was destined for fame, or at least strong Internet Boyfriend status. A few love-interest roles right out of Thrones didn’t hurt—Madden first starred opposite Lily James as Prince Charming (or “Kit,” as he’s called in the film, which … OK) in the 2015 remake of Cinderella and then steamed it up as iconic bad boy Oliver Mellors in an adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. While Madden’s Prince Charming wasn’t anything particularly special (the same could be said for Cinderella overall, with the exception of Cate Blanchett), his press tour appearances were as charming as they come.
After Cinderella, Madden’s at bats slowed down considerably, with a few streaming series appearances—in Netflix’s Medici, and Amazon’s Oasis and Electric Dreams—and one meaningful bright spot as a DJ in Netflix’s Ibiza in 2018. It was a small role, but one that captured Madden’s appeal in a way that the coming year would fully capitalize on: His natural, unbelievably attractive Scottish accent was on full display, as well as his now-iconic gray streak. Movie? Bad. Richard Madden? So, so good.
It was the beginning of the Madden Moment we still find ourselves in, which then amped up considerably with his Golden Globe–winning (winning!) role as David Budd in Bodyguard late last year. Once again, the accent was back, this time accompanied by memeable quotes (“very good, ma’am!”), tense action, and, OK, a sex scene or two. It was an outright success—again, and I cannot stress this enough, he won a Golden Globe for it.
We’ve now hit the point in this ascension in which Madden is verifiably feeling himself. During the recent Rocketman press tour, Madden has debuted an even more charming, slightly unexpected persona, especially on the fashion front. The gray streak has occupied much of the spotlight, thank god, but Madden has also put in work below the neck, from a white tux at Cannes to an oversized safety pin accessory at the Met Gala. And we can’t forget his devastating run of photo shoots, which has included a scruffy-chic cover for Interview and this absolute attack on me, personally, from GQ.
He’s also turned up the charm once more on the press circuit, combing through Bodyguard fan theories for Elle and talking about the Game of Thrones finale with The New York Times. There comes a time in many stars’ arcs where a sort of comfort and self-confidence sets in, and where every move they make seems to be so delightfully them. But you know what? Maybe I should just let Rocketman star Taron Egerton sum up Richard Madden—or as he calls him, “Dicky Madden.” “What Richard has as an actor is great weight and assuredness,” Egerton told the Times. “People call it sex appeal—and hell, there’s no doubt he has that—but it’s more than that. The sex appeal is a byproduct of his strength. You feel safe around him, because he has this certainty about things.”
Madden has limited screen time in Rocketman; he mostly looks good in a bad wig and says mean things in That Accent. But despite the minimal part, many moviegoers may find themselves leaving the theater thinking not of Egerton—who yes, plays Elton John—but of Madden.
Even bigger projects may be on the horizon: Madden is reportedly in talks to join Marvel’s The Eternals, which would add him to the roster of Thrones stars with thriving superhero careers. With Chloé Zhao directing, and Kumail Nanjiani and Angelina Jolie already signed on, The Eternals could do for Madden what Aquaman and Dark Phoenix are doing for Jason Momoa and Sophie Turner. And we can’t forget those Bond rumors. Yes, every white male actor from the U.K. has been floated for Bond at some point by now, but Madden’s casting rumors in particular have had more sticking power than most. (Which makes sense—just look at this photo.) Either way, whether the future holds box office hits, more Netflix roles, or—god forbid—Crocs sponcon, as long as they let Madden keep his natural accent and his natural hair, all will be right in the world.