One of “Game of Thrones'” sweetest romances is the one between Samwell Tarly and Gilly. The self-professed coward in the Night’s Watch and the daughter/wife of Craster might have met under pretty dark circumstances, but the couple has an innocent sort of attraction to one another — even if Sam’s vows to the Night’s Watch prevent him from acting upon it.
In Season 4, viewers will get to see that relationship continue to grow. John Bradley, who plays Sam on the HBO hit, tells Zap2it that his character is in one of his most comfortable emotional situations of his life this season now that he’s back at Castle Black.
“The only time we’ve seen him at Castle Black recently was at the end of Season 3. In that time, he’s literally escaped death twice — at least twice, because if you count the mutiny at Craster’s, it was three times. During those times where he was so frightened, I think it was only the thought of staying alive to save Gilly’s life or to keep his relationship with Gilly going or to protect baby Sam,” Bradley explains. “I think that was the only thing that kept him going during those periods, and I think he found a kind of reason to exist.”
He continues, “He’s never had a reason to exist before. He’s always an inconvenience to everyone, and he’s always been a servant to requirements, but as soon he felt depended upon and as soon as he felt this spiritual connection with this girl who’s had kind of similar traumatic experiences in family life to him, I think it really gave him an excuse to survive.
“I think it wasn’t for that, when he was faced with that White Walker at the end of Season 2, I don’t think he would have been too bothered about dying, to be honest. I think his life is so unbelievably unhappy that it wouldn’t have made a difference if he had died then. But I think that he just had a reason to push forward.”
Both Sam and Jon Snow returned to the Wall in Season 3 after being gone for about the same length of time. They both had experiences that hardened and strengthened them in their time away, and that’s something that will come across in Season 4.
“One thing that we’ve established about Sam, especially in Season 3, is that Sam is one person who really does tend to analyze, and he overthinks situations and he can get very intellectual and forensic about situations. But I think that when you see him having to rely on his impulses — and even when he’s not given time to think and when he panics and when he can only rely on his gut instincts — that’s when you see him at his best, really,” Bradley says. “And that’s when you see that he is a kind of natural hero and is very, very brave — very brave in a way that other people on the show aren’t necessarily brave, because he’s brave from a subconscious level. He’s unknowingly brave, and I think the audience and he himself only realize that when he’s placed in this highly dangerous situations.”
That sort of bravery will come into play when the Wildlings and the men of the Night’s Watch clash in Season 4.
“He could really get to shine if he’d just trust his instincts to be brave,” Bradley says. “I think it could turn out that he does have an enormous effect on the situation, and I think he finally realizes that he does have a lot of worth, and his presence there isn’t an inconvenience. His presence there is hugely beneficial to their cause, but I think he needs to be placed in extreme situations before he even starts realizing that himself.”
He continues, “There are some times this year where Sam has gained a confidence as anybody would who’s found something out that nobody else in the world knows. Your self-esteem is bound to be elevated by that.”
Sam is frequently comedic relief in “Game of Thrones,” which Bradley says is important to balance the extraordinarily dark storylines of the show, like the incest and mutiny at Craster’s Keep. The character isn’t as funny in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, but because showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know Bradley’s love of comedy, they’ve incorporated more funny moments into the show for him.
“Year upon year they seem to be very, very generous with knowing the kinds of scenes that I like to perform, and still challenging me,” Bradley says. “Still to take me out of my comfort zone and perform big emotional pieces that are physically challenging as well. But they also know that I like to do scenes with humor and scenes with talk and language that I can explore.”
He continues of the importance of having that comedy on “Game of Thrones”, “[Benioff and Weiss] are so finely attuned to the light and shade of a show. You need something to counteract that. You need warmth to come from somewhere, so they give Sam a lot of humor and a lot of warm, self-effacing gentle humor, almost. He’s not the humor of Tyrion, for example. Tyrion’s humor is more acidic and it’s more abrasive and it’s used as a weapon so often, that Sam’s humor is used as a shield and is used to draw people into him as opposed to used to attack people. I think that’s a very, very nice balance to have. Any slight glimmer of light in amongst all this darkness is going to shine very brightly.”
“Game of Thrones” Season 4 premieres April 6 on HBO. Check back with Zap2it in the weeks leading up to the debut for more insights from Bradley and other members of the show’s cast.