Moral gray zones, severe PTSD and a little bit of sex were all part of the recipe for success of the British action thriller Bodyguard. Richard Madden told Deadline that it was Jed Mercurio’s writing that initially convinced him to strap on his weapon and play David Budd, a specialist protection officer for the Royalty and Specialist Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service suffering from PTSD following a heroic stint as a war veteran.
“When I first picked it up, what blew me away was this moral gray zone that all of the characters live in and the reasons why they do things can change,” Madden said onstage recently at Deadline’s fourth annual The Contenders Emmys. “This man David Budd is suffering severe PTSD and in denial about it, has a really strong character and wants to do the right thing, and then he is thrust into a position of having to protect someone who he essentially hates and who has caused him to be in the position of the PTSD that he’s denying. You throw all of that in together with a little bit of sex.”
Speaking to a packed audience of Television Academy members and key guild voters, Madden said this conflict between his character and Keeley Hawes’ ambitious and powerful Home Secretary Julia Montague was key.
“I love what Jed did; he played with people’s motivations, and for an actor, that’s a gift to play,” he said. “Often we’d have takes with the camera right by my head and I could play it with what’s going on inside my head rather than what everyone else is seeing, which as an actor allowed me to go really deep into where he’s at and let the brilliant editors piece it together.”
One of the challenges was that protection officers, particularly stoic British ones, do not show much emotion, which, Madden says, as “a lead character is not very useful because then we can’t get into their head.” But the show was able to show how he grappled with these challenges through scenes of him at home alone or with his children. “I got to straddle these multiple versions of him.”
The show, produced by World Productions, was a huge hit for British broadcaster BBC One before becoming a global breakout via Netflix.
Madden credits Hawes, an “outstanding and generous” actress, as providing levity between scenes. “We had quite a lot of jokes because of her thinking that I’m calling her mum all of the time, which of course, I’m not,” he jokes.
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