'Game of Thrones' Actor John Bradley Says Samwell Tarly Role Gave Him a Stammer, Anxiety Issues

Actor John Bradley put his all into playing Samwell Tarly on Game of Thrones, so much so that it is still affecting him to this day. The actor played Game of Thrones' most awkward, socially anxious character, and after nearly a decade in the role, Bradley says he is still dealing with those symptoms in himself to some degree.

Bradley talked about playing Sam in a new episode of the Blank Podcast with hosts Giles Paley-Phillips and Jim Daly. He said that he spent so much time in Samwell's head that he brought some things back with him.

"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," he said. "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."

Sam's verbal and physical ticks were described in the books, as was his abusive childhood. His father took extreme, violent measures to try and "toughen up" his son, and it never worked out. At times, feeling the gravity of that abuse became overwhelming for Bradley.

"There are takes of me where it felt like it would be five minutes where I am just standing with the other actors and I couldn't speak and I just can't get the words out and certain sounds would trip me up," he revealed. "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," he added.

(Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

Bradley said that he needed to go looking for roles outside of Game of Thrones, so that he could keep his acting skills sharp in a more general way. He admitted that there were times when Sam's persona slipped into roles where it did not fit.

"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," he said. "I think people thought it was part of me but it wasn't, but it was performance anxiety."


In the end, things turned out pretty well for Samwell Tarly, who ended up on King Bran's council in the series finale. He even co-authored a history called A Song of Ice and Fire — the title of the novel series that Game of Thrones is based on.

Game of Thrones is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.