‘The Queen’s Gambit’ star couldn’t believe a show about chess became Netflix’s biggest limited series

Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images

It’s been a year and a half since The Queen’s Gambit swept through Netflix’s audiences and announced “checkmate” on eleven different Primetime Emmy Awards, and even though weirder things have happened in the media landscape since then (Morbin’ Time, anyone?), the attention garnered by the chess drama was one of the biggest surprises in recent years.

This is a sentiment shared by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who portrays Benny Watts in the show. In an interview with The Guardian, the actor gave an abridged account of the conversations that led up to what would become The Queen’s Gambit.

“I don’t think anyone would have said that a show about chess would have the legs that it did. That’s why it went to Netflix – it was supposed to be a film but no one wanted to make it. It’s chess. No one is gonna go and watch that. Eventually they said: ‘OK, we’ll do it, but make it a series.'”

Needless to say, expectations seemed low, which made it all the more dizzying when The Queen’s Gambit shot to the top of the world, quickly becoming the most-watched Netflix limited series and topping the U.S. streaming charts for three weeks in a row, to say nothing of the overwhelming acclaim and success at award shows that the show would also bring.

The show, based on the 1983 Walter Tevis novel of the same name, stars Anya-Taylor Joy as Beth Harmon, a 1960s-era chess prodigy who aims to climb to the top of the chess world while battling drug addiction and alcoholism.

Brodie-Sangster will next portray Malcolm McLaren in the Hulu miniseries Pistol, which examines the life of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. The series releases tomorrow, May 31.