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When John Bradley met with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss about their new series “3 Body Problem,” the first thing they told the “Game of Thrones” actor is that they’d written a role in the sci-fi mind-bender for him. Quite literally. “They said, ‘It’s as close to yourself as any character you’ll ever play,’” Bradley says. “It’s kind of a daunting prospect. It’s a bit like you’re going to see yourself drawn by one of those caricature artists on the street. I’m going to find out what these highly perceptive, very bright people think I am as a person.”

The character Benioff, Weiss and co-creator and co-showrunner Alexander Woo created for Bradley — Jack Rooney, part of the “Oxford Five” of college friends and scientists at the center of the series — may not, on its face, seem all that flattering. Jack is brash and blunt, telling his university mates they’re foolish for not abandoning their promising academic careers like he did to pursue their fortune in the private sector (in Jack’s case, as a snack food magnate). But Bradley found the comparison “very flattering.”

“He’s the character that mostly plows his own furrow,” he says of Jack. “A little bit like me, he’s come from a working-class background, and he’s over-achieved in life. As a result, he’s determined to look everybody in the eye and not do what he’s told.”

While Bradley does see several major parallels between himself and Jack — “We cut people down if we suspect they’re starting to believe in their own bullshit,” he says — there are some differences. “Jack is the side of myself that I’d like to be all the time. I do worry if I’ve said the wrong thing. Jack doesn’t mind the consequences of what he says if he believes it to be true. It was very freeing, actually.”

Of course, Bradley also hasn’t found himself, unlike Jack, inside a hyper-realistic virtual reality game used as a recruiting tool for an alien race hoping to colonize Earth in roughly 400 years. Shooting these sequences — often on a completely green-screen set — required Bradley to imagine himself in the barren desert environment Jack is supposed to be inhabiting.

“When you’re a kid, you can imagine that you’re anywhere you want to be,” he says. “As you get older, you just become more self-conscious. You have to unlearn a lot of those barriers that you’ve put in place and contact a childlike side of your imagination.”

The VR game places each user into a historical period, and in period clothing, from their specific cultural background — which, in Jack’s case, is 16th century England. “It was a strange, split personality thing, to suddenly be in a period scene, but still play in 21st century mentality. I did, I think, seven costume fittings for a completely made-to-measure costume that’s on screen for probably less than a minute.”

That’s not the strangest aspect of the VR sequences, either. To enter the game on the show, the character must put on a sleek, chrome helmet that covers their eyes, creating an experience that Bradley calls “one of the most unsettling things that’s ever happened” to him.

“You start to look into your own eyes from half-an-inch away,” he says. “It’s a bit like you’re staring right into your soul. You can’t see anything else but your eyes.” If Bradley hadn’t already felt a kinship with his character before, staring into Jack Rooney’s eyes — or having Jack Rooney stare back at him — certainly clinched it.



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