Carice van Houten

Mel and Dave 

Words: Holger Potye
Photography: Getty Images 

Liam Cunningham and Carice van Houten talk about the future of Davos Seaworth and Melisandre in season 5 of Game of Thrones.

THE RED BULLETIN: Do you think one of the reasons the show has done so well is because it has parallels with what is happening in the modern world? 

LIAM CUNNINGHAM: If actors and writers and artists are doing their jobs properly then they should hold up a mirror to society. The show is about people in extreme situations, about paranoia, revenge, power, legacy and control. When people are finding similarities between our show and what is happening in the real world, especially around the Middle East and the Ukraine and all these kind of places, then it is time to get a little bit scared.

The portrayal of power that we have in our show - that the little man is of no concern to the people in power - I think very much reflects what is happening ath the moment. I think most of the time, I don’t want to get too political about it, but most of the time when the politicians are arguing it is essentially over who has got the biggest dick. When it comes to the show I think we show what power can do to even decent people and how it can and does corrupt. 

Game of Thrones- Season 5

The new season is scheduled to premiere on April 12 on HBO

Liam, you starred in Dog Soldiers directed by Neil Marshall, who also directed the famous ‘Blackwater’ episode. 

LC: That’s right I’ve worked with him on his first movie Dog Soldiers and on his last movie Centurion. Blackwater was the first time he had done television. He is a good mate, he sent me a text because he is living in L.A., and he wrote: “Just got a review in from Rolling Stone.” And in quotation marks the Rolling Stone had written: “Blackwater is possibly the best hour of television that has ever been made.“ And underneath Neil wrote: “Not bad for a first timer!” I thought that was sweet. He is a funny guy and a fine director. He is a good guy. Hopefully I will work with him again. I really like him.

There is an ever-increasing presence of strong females in the series – Sansa, Missandei and Daenerys are more self aware – so how are things looking for you, Carice?

GoT

Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth”

CvH: Oh, how am I going to say this without spoiling anything? Let’s say it is my favorite season so far for my character. I had more to do than ever before and also there are slight shifts in her focus, ahm … I’m not allowed to give anything away.

LC (jumps in): She has an incredible journey, yeah!

CvH: This is a good year for me.

LC: Yeah, maybe not for other people! Maybe!

CvH (laughs): There was a scene where I, when I read it …

LC: Careful!

CvH: I was shocked…

LC: Yeah, I think I read it at the same time and I was like: What?!? There were certainly many WTF moments…

Tell us a little bit about the relationship between your characters and Jon Snow. How does that evolve? We saw them together at the end of season 4… 

LC: Well Jon is married to the wall, so even if we wanted there to be a journey, it would be difficult. He is the Night’s Watch. He has devoted his life to it. So that makes things difficult. However we are in quite a positive position at the start of season 5, the most positive position “Team Stannis” has been in since we met. Blackwater was a disaster, we had nothing, we were powerless and frail.

CvH: They didn’t listen to me!

LC: See, that’s how women work! “Why didn’t you do what I told you? I told you this was going to end badly.” Fair point! So, what we are trying to do now is get Stannis on the throne. We just have to take it from there and this story will roll out, whether it is going to be with the help of Jon, or not. It would be logical to try and get him to come along. I mean he has only got 100 men at the wall, but he is a honorable man. I suppose he is a bit like Davos, except a lot more handsome…. Carice, at this point you are supposed to say: “You are being too hard on yourself, Liam! YOU ARE BEING TOO HARD ON YOURSELF, LIAM!“ 

Carice just looks at him and smiles.

LC: I get f—ing nothing off her. Throw me a fricking bone. Yeah, it’s an interesting alliance, isnt it?

CvH: Yeah, it is!

Let’s forget that you are “Team Stannis” for a moment. If you were to choose, who should rule Westeros?

CvH: I want to live in a world where Sam Tarly is king.

LC: I want to be Joffrey!

CvH (imitates him): “I want to be Joffrey!” I can see the headline.

“When Joffrey walks into a room everybody shits themselves.” 
Liam Cunningham

Why would you want to be Joffrey?

LC: He is a badass. And it is great to play f—kers like him. It’s so evil, man! I love playing bad guys. I have played lots of bad guys. I love playing Davos as well, I love that intricacy and the politics of dealing with these two, Stannis and Melisandre. 

CvH: Stan and Mel …

LC: Stan and Mel, that’s what we call each other: Stan, Mel and Dave. But when you look at someone like Joffrey. I mean he is so black and white evil. When Joffrey walks into a room everybody s–ts themselves. They don’t want to make eye contact with him. This ripple effect from him was extraordinary. We really miss him on the show, don’t we?

CvH: Yeah, I really miss him.

LC: And Jack was gorgeous, a lovely guy.

Carice, GoT has incredibly strong female characters. Is that one of the reasons why such a wide audience has been drawn to it?

Carice: Ah, maybe, one of the reasons. Game of Thrones is a little bit like Shakespeare. It is for everyone. And yes, again it reflects certain elements of our current life, but for me personally that is something that I was drawn to. I just read an article in Time magazine that roles for women are descreasing in movies. That is very saddening and a bad sign. I have experienced it for myself. I have had great oppotunities to be the co-star to great movie stars, but you will always be the ex-wife, the wife, the girlfriend, the housewife, the woman with the kids. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with all those roles, but they are not so interesting per se to play. 

They are stereotypes …

CvH: Yes, and in that sense that’s why I decided to not let go of the position I had in my own homeland in the Netherlands. We have a lot of female directors and I can play meaty big female main parts. Thats why I decided not to take my suitcase and go to Hollywood to be the wife all the time. That’s not what I am made for.

LC: Meryl Streep said in an interview, the year she turned 40 she was offered three witch roles. She was only forty! But then on the other side you have to look at the resurgence in television, specifically American television. There are and have been incredibly interesting female roles like Six Feet Under, and then you have got Game of Thrones which is probably 50/50 down the middle of these extraordinary dangerous female characters. They find themselves in the worst possible position, in this kind of medieval futile system which is run by men, so they have to be even more devious, even more dangerous, even cleverer, to the extent that you have got someone like Arya, who is a murderer, she is a killer.

I don’t think the problem exists so much on television, but it is a big big problem in movies. They are just so one-dimentional. I don’t think it is sexist. It’s just without any intelligence, which is what sexism is part of, I suppose. The tales and characters in cinema are just so flimsy. Even the male characters are crap. That’s why I think that a lot of really really good actors are turning their back on a lot of movies and turning to television, because that’s where they are getting the parts, where they can express themselves as human beings, not as one sex or another.

“Game of Thrones is a little bit like Shakespeare. It is for everyone.”
Carice van Houten

Liam, you are playing an ex-smuggler on Game of Thrones. Have you ever smuggled something through customs in real life?

CvH: Oh, in real life? Have you?

LC: Frequently. (To Carice) When they stopped me at customs, do you know what I said? 

CvH: No, I don’t.

LC: Well, they said: “Do you have anything to declare?” And I said: “I have nothing to declare but my genius!” (Laughs.)

Liam, you shared a very interesting relationship with Stannis’ daughter Shireen, played by Kerry Ingram. Do we get to see any of that in the new season?

LC: It is funny, I remember Alex Graves was shooting an episode when we were doing season 3, I think it was. I was sitting down and Shireen was teaching me to read and I kissed her on the head, and I remember Alex saying: “This is incredibly sweet, this scene. It is just really really lovely.”  Which is very weird as you never really think you can use the word sweet with Game of Thrones. And then he said to me: “This morning I was shooting one of the most horrific scenes I have ever directed in my life, and I am doing a really sweet scene in the afternoon.” Davos is the surrogate father and Shireen is his surrogate son. That’s what I love about it. They kind of found each other. So it is gorgeous, this relationship. When we did a wrap party - Kerry (Ingram) is getting to the age now where she is putting on a little make up and she caught me up and said: “Can we do a selfie?“ And I said: „Yeah, yeah, yeah!“ And she took the selfie and I tweeted it and the amount of replies we got: “Oh, you two are so lovely together!“  … the whole thing was just so sweet. But yeah, we might have a little bit more stuff coming along.

You mentioned this very brutal scene that the director filmed. Do you think it is important that GOT is umcompromising in its depiction of brutality?

LC: I think we would be insulting the audience if it wasn’t. It’s the same when people talk about the sex and the nudity. Given the quality of writing on it, and the production, if we had no sex scenes and no violence in it, then the audience would turn around and go: “Don’t f–king patronize us!” We would be doing the audience a disservice. 

CvH: It is Paul Verhoeven-style!

LC: I mean the violence is horrific, but violence is horrific! It is not being shot down with a machine gun and going “Oh, I’d better go to the hospital here!“ It’s being split in two. It is disgusting, and it should be. It should be near the limit. A lot is expected of you as an audience member as well because your sympathy shifts with characters. You have to watch the show with somebody, because you can’t be going: “Why did he say that? What the f–k is going on?” without somebody to talk to.  It is certainly one of the joys for me as well. What I am saying is, that the sex that’s in it, the violence in it, are absolutely necessary to keep up the reality of this show.
 

“I hope HBO are making millions because they are giving us a platform to do beautiful work!”
Liam Cunningham

Liam: People say now is the golden age of television. I think it is true. When you look at Sopranos, Mad Men

Carice: Breaking Bad!

Liam: Breaking Bad, of course. And the stuff from Denmark as well, with The Killing and Borgen, all of this beautiful stuff. I think a lot of creative people are getting a little bit bored with the studios and hollywood because there is so much money involved and it is difficult to get your return. So now a lot of movies are made by spreadsheet rather than by quality. With this here, there is a little bit more maneuvering, because you have got people who are as brave as AMC and Showtime and HBO, who realise that: “Hold on a minute! If we tell a really good story, put really good people in it, spend money on it, we’ll make lots of money. And I don’t mean that in a cynical way. I mean that do the content, and do it properly and you will attract an audience of people who appreciate the effort. I hope HBO are making millions because they are giving us a platform to do beautiful work! And the fact that you guys are here, talking with us about the show, is a testimony to it. Everybody is a winner on this, I think.

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