Defying boundaries

Talking Calvin Klein, self-confidence and reality TV binges with Marvel star Richard Madden
Fashion | 20 July 2021

Calvin Klein have started the latest chapter in their fragrance portfolio with the brand’s newest scent, Clavin Klein Defy, unveiled earlier this month via a new campaign starring Richard Madden. The Scottish-born actor has captivated audiences over recent years with his roles in Game of Thrones and Bodyguard, and now joins the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Kate Moss as recent CK campaign stars.

As the brand’s first major men’s scent in almost a decade, Madden’s casting feels symbolic, a face we’ll doubtlessly be seeing a lot more of over the next ten years. Performing has always been a means through which the actor was able to overcome his own boundaries, and his journey from early self-confidence struggles to one of the most coveted actors working today embodies the fragrance’s own call for defiance.

With a number of hugely exciting projects in tow, none more so than his role as Ikaris in Marvel’s forthcoming new epic Eternals, Madden is preparing to ascend new realms of international recognition. Such landmark moments bring new challenges and opportunities for self-doubt, things Madden has learned to embrace as evidence of his success. Below the actor recalls some of his earliest memories of Calvin Klein’s Fragrances along with a secret lockdown binge and his criteria for feeling confident in front of the camera.

Finn Blythe: During lockdown when all TV, theatre and film production was at a standstill, what did you miss most about your job?
Richard Madden: I love working and so what I missed most was something that I’m still missing now as I’m filming, I think that’s interaction with people I’m working with on set. I missed that when we were all locked down and I kind of mourn for it a little now because we can’t stand close together, we can’t eat our meals together, everyone has masks on so you don’t know what people look like. So I really miss that human interaction element, which I think everyone has in lockdown. But particularly in my work, I’m lucky enough to meet so many different new people and work with so many different creatives, spending fifteen, sixteen hours a day together. Hopefully we’re going to be able to return to something that’s a bit closer to what it was before.

The scent and the feeling behind it is to do with bravery and kindness and compassion and empathy…”

FB: What are your earliest memories of Calvin Klein fragrances?
RM: The first fragrance I ever had was CK One, which I got as a gift when I was eleven years old or something. So I always remember having that and it being such a special thing, this little bottle of liquid gold. When you’re a kid it’s that first moment of feeling like a grown-up, and also just feeling good when you put it on. So that was my first experience of scent, really.

FB: If you had to sum up Defy in three words what would they be?
RM: The scent and the feeling behind it is to do with bravery and kindness and compassion and empathy – that’s four. But there’s something about it that is strong and honest, all within these accessible, warm tones. I mean I’ve given you so many words there but that’s how I feel.

FB: How did the Defy campaign resonate with you personally?
RM: I met the Calvin guys in New York years ago and we wanted to work together. Then we came up with this concept with Defy which, for me, is all about defying your own limitations, your own self-doubts, your own restrictions that we all put on ourselves. Particularly as an actor I can have five job interviews a week and not get any of them, so self-doubt creeps in and thoughts of, “Am I good enough? Do I have the capacity to achieve what I want?” The whole heart of Defy is about that, about pushing yourself further, defying your restrictions and things that hold you back. That’s what really tickled me when we first started talking about this as well as trying to create something that embodied the positive aspects of looking inward.

You feel like you’ve achieved something when you look at the page and it comes to life…”

FB: What obstacles does acting help you overcome?
RM: The more I do something the better I become at it and the better my self-confidence. As we’ve just said, self-confidence can be an issue for many people, especially actors and for me absolutely. So the harder I work and the better I become at something, the more believably I can convey a character, the more my confidence is boosted.

FB: What makes you feel most confident in a job? Is it a connection to the script or conversations with the director?
RM: I feel confident when I feel in-tune with the writer and director in a way that we collaborate. We’re all interpreters, the director and I are interpreting the writer, the director’s interpreting me, the writer’s interpreting a character. So when we all manage to sync together something clicks where you elevate these words and the director works out a way to shoot it that shows a part of you that is not just in the words but a moment captured between lines. When we manage to get that synchronicity and we elevate something, that’s a really great feeling. You feel like you’ve achieved something when you look at the page and it comes to life, if your imagination lines up with the product, that’s what gives me confidence. 

FB: Can you tell me about any books, films or plays you’ve read or seen in the last eighteen months you’d recommend?
RM: I’ll be completely honest, I think the last eighteen months have been such a global struggle and there’s been a lot of negativity and hard things. So I did an absolute deep-dive into reality television, which I’ve never engaged with in my life. I found that a lot more palatable than hard-hitting dramas, I’d much prefer to watch Below Deck or Love Is Blind, all these reality shows that just gave me some joy and I suppose an element of interacting with human beings that I’m used to at work. I was able to kind of watch human beings on screen and I’m not ashamed about that [laughs].

FB: Any recommendations?
RM: Survivor, the old American series, I must have done about ten of those. I got into American Big Brother which is a whole other deal to the British one. I’m an expert on these things now.

Calvin Klein Defy is available now nationwide at Boots

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