As a main character in one of the most popular television series to exist, John Bradley has a face almost everyone knows. Yet he has a backstory that’s almost unheard of. For most every successful figure in the entertainment industry, landing a role on a show like Game of Thrones comes to fruition following years of growing pains, hardship and rejection. But for some, like 33-year-old British actor Bradley, talent and stars align in ways most could only dream.
“I come from a very working-class family that never had anybody that had been involved in movies or theatre, entertainment of any kind. All my family members are manual workers pretty much,” he describes as he lays the groundwork for his success story. “But I was just bitten by the acting bug very very young. We didn’t go to the theatre much, we didn’t even watch many movies. [My desire to entertain] was purely from TV and TV comedies.”
“Before I even knew what an actor was, I knew that I wanted to be one,” explains Bradley. “I used to watch people that I loved on screen … and just thinking that to be able to make somebody else feel the way they were making me feel when I watched them would be such an incredible thing to do.” To make people that happy, to be a cause of joy for others, was the motivational spark that energized West upon his path to professional acting.
After completing the usual schooling for English youth, he dove into drama college for three years. There he was immersed in the craft with emphasis on theatrical training (Shakespearean and similar classics). Hot off the stage and freshly graduated from drama courses, he booked the role that would change his life as he knew it; he landed the role of the beloved Samwell Tarly on the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, a series that enthralled millions and could arguably be described as a cultural phenomenon unlike many others.
“It was my first audition out of drama college,” he admits.
Take a moment to let that sink in. HIS FIRST AUDITION.
“My very first audition,” he smiles. “It was one of those strange things where I just wanted to do a good audition. I had just signed with my agent and wanted to do a good audition for her, to let her know that she had backed the right horse and I wasn’t going to embarrass her.”
“When it came to when I got it, it was… it was a totally unexpected thing,” he continues. “It set everything going. I am incredibly grateful.”
Bradley felt extra pressure to nail his character, as Samwell’s personality is based on the book series’ author, (in which the HBO series is based on) George R.R. Martin, himself.
“I felt a certain amount of pressure to play that part, but it was a real honor,” he confirms.
Starting off as somewhat of a sidekick character to a lead, Bradley found that his character began to step into the leading light on his own, with his own storyline to be explored in further seasons. This progression gave him the space to grow into his own as an actor, and in truth, he blossomed.
With Game of Thrones concluding, Bradley found himself with multiple opportunities to chose from. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as the stories and characters one chooses can set the tone for an actor’s entire career. He accepted separate roles in two new films that are releasing this February (they were shot a year apart, but Covid adjusted the release timelines to coincide with each other).
“As movies, they are both so incredibly different and they both occupy such different spaces and different themes that you don’t necessarily get too fatigued talking about any one subject; you can flick backwards and forwards between the two and you can save your energy a little bit by not having to talk about the same things and the same movie and the same plot points for two weeks straight,” explains Bradley. “It’s nice to flick backwards and forwards.”
On February 4, Bradley will be seen in film director, screenwriter and producer Roland Emmerich’s highly anticipated film, Moonfall. On February 11, Bradley’s other film, the Jennifer Lopez-led romcom Marry Me, debuts.
“Moonfall was always going to be a cinematic, theatrical release because it was financed like that and Roland is a big advocate – a big evangelist for seeing movies in theaters. There was a time when I was wondering if Marry Me was going to go [straight] to streaming, but thankfully Universal has kept it back and they’re releasing it now that people are allowed to go back to theaters again. So they’re releasing it in the environment that it should be seen and hopefully people feel safe enough – I’ve always stressed that point – if people feel safe I’d really like them to go and see these in the theaters because it’s just a completely unique experience.”
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I was talking people into something they didn’t want to do or if they got sick as a result of it and I had that on my conscience,” he continues. “Theaters and cinemas and… community-based entertainment where a group of people gets together is becoming rarer and rarer at the moment. People seem to be able to watch absolutely everything at home and it makes you slightly concerned for the future of theatre and we hope we can do our little bit to get them back up and running.”
If you miss in-person cinema as much as we do, Bradley’s upcoming roles are the two perfect films to bring that joy back. For more on 2022’s best movies and the inspiring young career of Bradley, don’t miss this week’s episode of the L.A. Weekly Weekly podcast. Listen on Spotify, Cumulus Los Angeles or wherever you get your podcasts.
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