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Listen: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star John Bradley on Sam Being ‘Back at the Heart of Things’ in Season 8

Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety‘s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarley on “Game of Thrones.” The final season of the HBO drama premieres Sunday, April 14th.

At the end of season 7, Sam and his partner Gilly (Hannah Murray) left the Citadel, a decision which Bradley says was extremely difficult to take for his character, but which has changed him for the better.

“His ideas are too progressive, and he’s dispirited about that because he’s invested so much into this place that completely lets him down,” Bradley says. “But he’s also galvanized because he’s worked out that being accepted into these institutions isn’t important, it’s about adhering to you own moral code and not letting rules and scripture and regulations get in the way of what you consider to be right.”

Bradley points to the staggering range of characters on “Thrones” as a key reason behind the show’s prolonged success, from the heroic Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), to the more low-key characters like Sam and Gilly.

He acknowledges that while there are some viewers who are only tuning in for the former, the latter are just as important to the series. Without characters like Sam, the colossal battles and gruesome deaths just wouldn’t payoff.

“There may be certain people who may find Sam and Gilly’s journey towards falling in love and healing their scars to be quite unsatisfying and frustrating because they want to see battles, and that’s fine, you’ll get a battle eventually,” Bradley says. “But I think for people who are more invested in a slow-burn examination of two damaged people, there’s that as well. Everybody has something in there that they like.”

Bradley discusses how, during seasons 6 and 7, he felt that Sam had become more of a “satellite” character who operated on the “periphery” of the show.

However, for season 8, Bradley says he is excited for Sam to be returning to the “center of the action.”

“Now he doesn’t have to follow anyone else’s rules, he’s guided by his own principals and his own sense of right and wrong, and his own sense of right and wrong is to protect people that need protecting, to protect the people that he loves…also to get back to Winterfell and get back to the thick of it and get right back into the middle of the action,” Bradley says.

He describes the Sam of early seasons as “crippled by insecurity and self-doubt,” after years of being told by his family and pretty much everyone he meets that he’s a “coward” and will never amount to anything.

However, the Sam of season 7 and 8 is a very different man, and Bradley adds that after playing the character for almost a decade, he “couldn’t be happier” with Sam’s arc.

“It’s almost like a different person, you’re seeing someone with so much more toughness about them and guile about them and Sam gets that through achievement,” Bradley says. “You feel like you’ve lived a whole lifetime with them by the end of season 7, and especially going into season 8, where a lot of stuff is going to come to a head and a lot of those journeys, narratively, those journeys are going to end.”

Later in the show, critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke discuss “Game of Thrones” and new Masterpiece mini-series “Les Miserables.” Finally, Joe Otterson joins the show to talk about what the end of “Game of Thrones” means for HBO, TV and the world.

John Bradley photographed exclusively for the Variety TV Take Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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