John Bradley got so into character during GoT that Sam’s anxiety became all too real

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As a character, there’s embodying a character and then there’s becoming said character. Apparently, John Bradley may have unwittingly gone too far in his decade-long portrayal of Samwell Tarly, as the character’s characteristic stutter eventually got out of control and started even affecting Bradley outside of his role in Game of Thrones.

As we learnt via Metro, as a recent guest at the Blank Podcast with Giles Paley-Phillips & Jim Daly, Bradley opened up about his performance anxiety caused by playing Sam Tarly:

“I got into this trap with Sam, I set myself traps, because he had a traumatic childhood and suffered a lot – and it manifested through a stammer and a twitch sometimes. It can cause psychological barriers to show how he was brought up in a highly charged environment and he was almost frightened to speak and he’s not sure whether he’s allowed to speak or to express his opinion on things and so I thought how am I going to show that?,” the actor explains how he as an actor arrived at Sam’s stammering.

Unfortunately, things went a bit too far. By the mid-point of the show, Bradley had reportedly lost complete control of when he stammered or not. And, in his words, “towards the end of Game of Thrones, it became the only way I could act, and I got into the unconscious mindset that people want me to do this.”

“There are takes of me where it felt like it would be five minutes where I am just standing with other the actors and I couldn’t speak and I just can’t get the words out and certain sounds would trip me up,” he recounts, highlighting one incident with Jon Snow’s actor in particular: “In one scene I came in first with Kit Harrington and in the nicest way he said to me ‘can you come in a bit quicker?’ so I can react a bit quicker and I was like ‘I can’t, I just can’t.’ As lovely as the crew were, they assumed it was because I had forgotten my lines. It took me a while to get out of it and it went away over time.”

Jon Snow Samwell Tarly season 5

To make matters worse for poor John, this stutter ended up being not only an uncontrollable part of his portrayal as Sam but a habit that seeped into any other roles he’d portray: “Towards the end of that journey, that stammer would turn up in non-Sam acting and I’d do auditions when I’d stammer because it just seemed like the default place that I went to when I acted. I think people thought it was part of me but it wasn’t, but it was performance anxiety.”

I think we can all agree Bradley did a wonderful as Sam from start to finish, and that he embodied the character as few others could. Nevertheless, it’s a pity to hear that such an excellent portrayal had a dark side of sorts to it, or at least unintended consequences.

I myself can’t imagine getting into character so much that the character takes a live of their own; but that’s (one of the many reasons) why I am not an actor. As for Bradley, who is very much an actor, I believe all there’s left to say is that we should all wish him well and hope Sam’s contagious performance anxiety was only temporary.


  1. Sydney:
    It’s adorable how D&D comment here.

    It’s brilliant, really. Probably the most brilliant brilliance that ever did brill! 😜

    John has always been one of my favourite Game of Thrones actors when it comes to interviews. He’s just one of those people who seemed to genuinely like his character, and got into his head. Now we see that he really did, perhaps too far! But he’s a good actor, and I think he’s got a long career ahead of him. 🙂

  2. Pigeon,

    Brilliant comment. 🙂

    I’ve seen Bradley in the Borgias (Europe version not Showtime) and he was brilliant in it.


    Brilliant choice.

    Best drama I only watched GoT of that list, so that’s the one that I hope for. But it’s a shame that some other great stories didn’t get nominated. I personally think Mr. Robot should have been nominated. The last season is highly rated by fans and critics alike. But maybe it can’t be nominated because it’s not done yet? (Ends 21 december the whole show)

    Kit Harrington for actor or else Tobias Menzies (I don’t watch the crown but I know he’s a great actor).
    Nicole Kidman for best actress. What she did in Big Little Lies was just brilliant.

    Peter Dinklage for support actor.

    For support actress I know:
    Helena Bonham Carter, Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep.
    All 4 are great actresses, and I which all 4 could win. But if I would go which I think would win it’s Meryl Streep. But they all deserve to win, especially the 3 I watched act in the series they are nominated for. Laura Dern was also brilliant as was Gwen.

    And Chernobyl should win limited series.

    Best movie either El Camino or deadwood. But I have to say that I was let down by both of them. I expected more. But it served the closure of the characters.

    Mahershala Ali or Jared Harris for best actor in limited series.
    Emily watson for support actress limited series.

    Haven’t seen any movies from this year so I won’t react to that.

  3. John immersed himself into his character pretty deeply! Not surprised as Sam was a shy, verbally abused person and John needed to show how he was affected to his core. With the length of this series, it’s not a surprise that actors would take on some of the personality traits of their characters.
    John seems like a sweetheart IRL.

  4. Brilliant insight from John. Just brilliant.

    This sounds like something that all/most actors go through though. I’m sure John Bradley will be just fine.

  5. It’s almost crazy and out right scary the things actors do to themselves to bring the best representation of the character to the screen. I remember Christian Bale famously losing a dangerous amount of weight. Funnily I hear John Bradley going radio adverts here in the uk and he sounds immediately like Sam albeit without the stammer, definitely going to get typecast too.

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