Richard Madden is a surprising choice for ‘Strange New Things’ role

09.09.16 12 months ago

Robb Stark is set to travel to another galaxy.

Richard Madden will star in Amazon”s pilot The Book of Strange New Things as Peter Leigh, a pastor who leaves behind Earth (and his wife, Beatrice) to be a missionary to the native population of a distant planet called Oasis. TVLine first reported the news that the Game of Thrones alum had been cast.

The Amazon project is based on the 2014 novel of the same title by Michel Faber. No, it is not Amazon”s sneaky way to capitalize on the popularity of Stranger Things. “The Book of Strange New Things” is what the Oasans call the Bible.

Having read the novel, my first instinct upon seeing this casting news is “that”s not at all how I pictured Peter.” This guy played Prince Charming and Romeo (both for director Kenneth Branagh). Peter is no Prince Charming, as anyone who read the book is especially aware. Madden”s chiseled jaw, piercing blue eyes, and lush curly hair is not the image I had of this character.  (Though I know Hollywood producers casting far-prettier-than-average people in all sorts of roles is par for the course.)

But flipping through my copy of the book now, I see Faber did give his lead character “unruly blond hair,” “big bright eyes,” and “strong cheekbones.” Though with some taming of that blond hair, Peter could look like a suave Hollywood star, he never acts like one. Faber also writes that Peter “seldom looked in mirrors.” It”s just that his probably attractive physical features aren“t often invoked in the book. The story of Peter and his wife”s relationship is an epistolary one told with the pair separated by trillions of miles, so Faber”s rarely got us thinking about how cute this couple is.

Strange New Things may require a bit of physical transformation for the British actor, akin to the frail frame fellow hunk Chris Hemsworth recently had to achieve for In the Heart of the Sea. After Peter”s spent a lot of time in the Oasan community, he”s supposed to come back to the USIC building sunburnt, unshaven, and having lost a lot of weight.

In any case, Strange New Things should give Madden a compelling challenge, potentially his meatiest screen role to date. He”ll have to play both tender compassion and a frustratingly lack of empathy. He”ll have to interact with what I assume will either be puppets or tennis balls (until VFX comes in) for the Oasans. There are a lot of subtleties to Peter and to his arc that I will be curious to see if Madden pulls off.

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