- The Queen’s Gambit follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a chess prodigy, who eventually meets a fellow chess star named Benny Watts.
- Benny is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who has been in a number of high profile projects, including Game of Thrones, prior to Gambit.
- He took a two year break prior to shooting Gambit, but then the world shut down due to COVID. “I went on to Queen’s Gambit and I felt a bit rusty, but I also left feeling like ‘I can’t wait for the next job!’ And then this all happened…” he told NME. “Kind of annoying!”
The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s 7-part limited series from writer/director Scott Frank, follows the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she rises to the top of the competitive chess world. Growing up in an orphanage without any family to speak of, Beth is forced to find her own family in the world; in some cases, this is the orphanage’s janitor, who teachers her chess. In another case she grows particularly close to her adoptive mother following her adoptive father abandoning the family. But perhaps the most interesting character who crosses paths with Beth throughout The Queen’s Gambit is Benny Watts, a U.S. Chess champion himself and rival-turned-friend of Beth’s.
Benny, who wears a long leather jacket and carries a big knife strapped to his leg everywhere he goes, is played with a cowboy-of-chess gusto by 30-year-old actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Brodie-Sangster plays Benny with a swagger unlike anyone else in the show—and it plays perfectly. Where Taylor-Joy plays Beth with a quiet assurance that grows into confidence over the course of the many years that the show envelops, Brodie-Sangster brings Benny onto the screen from the very first moment with a strut that would be arrogant if it wasn’t so damn charming.
Before Gambit, Brodie-Sangster says that he took a two-year break from acting. “I took two years off just to chill out and focus on other things,” he said in an interview with NME. “I went on to Queen’s Gambit and I felt a bit rusty, but I also left feeling like ‘I can’t wait for the next job!’ And then [COVID-19] happened… Kind of annoying!”
He’s got a great working relationship with The Queen’s Gambit writer/director Scott Frank.
One of the last projects that Brodie-Sangster completed before his two-year break was Godless, which was also a Netflix limited series project from Scott Frank. In that, he played Whitey Winn, a fearless deputy in the town’s Western setting. When it came to working with Frank again, Brodie-Sangster said in the interview with NME that he was worried briefly that a show about chess might not be the most exciting premise—but it wasn’t a worry that lasted long.
“There was a worry…but Scott called me up and I trust him as a writer and as a director,” he said. “He’s just very good at storytelling.”
Franjk also made Gambit Brodie-Sangster’s most ‘adult’ role yet (despite his youthful appearance, he turned 30 this year) by asking him do something he’s never done for a role before.
“He said, ‘I want you to start growing as much facial hair as you can,” he said in the interview. “That’s all I could muster, but it was about six months of growth there.”
He might be best known for his role in a holiday season classic.
While Brodie-Sangster has a very impressive resume that also includes the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall, the Maze Runner movies, and voiceover work on the wildly popular children’s cartoon Phineas and Ferb, his most regognizable work has got to be as Sam, the precocious, lovestruck kid in the 2003 classic Love Actually, which has become a modern holiday classic.
Brodie-Sangster also seems to be OK with the fame that he initially garnered—or that has grown with time—from the movie. In the interview with NME, he said that he’s recognized more during the holiday season, and he’s OK with that. He’s also learned to see the movie for what it is—maybe a little corny, but definitely with some good themes to take away.
“It’s just about love and about companionship and togetherness,” he said. “It’s a little bit cheesy and it’s a little bit unrealistic sometimes and the score is really lovey-dovey, but it follows several different paths and different people and different ways in which people can all find love. I think there’s something beautifully simple about that.”
While many people make it a point, specifically, to have Love Actually in their rotation at a certain time of year, Brodie-Sangster said in the same interview that he hasn’t actually watched it…in years. “I might watch 10 minutes every now and again,” he said. “But the last time I sat down and watched it all the way through? God, I don’t know, it might be the premiere!”
He was also in two seasons of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones loyalists might also remember that Brodie-Sangster had a role in Seasons 3 and 4 as Jojen Reed, one of a group of characters helping Bran Stark travel and stay alive.
Not only has he not finished watching Game of Thrones (though he did like it), he says he hasn’t even finished watching the seasons he was on. Part of what’s fueling that might be the fact that he says he’s only heard negative things about the final season and finale episode (“I haven’t met anyone that likes it so far,” he said).
He did like his death scene, though. As he describes in NME:
“Well, I get stabbed repeatedly and that looks a little bit comical, but then my sister comes over and tries to put me out of my misery and slits my throat and then a girl comes out the middle of nowhere and throws a Molotov cocktail at me and I explode.”
Not bad. Not bad.
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