Interview: Carice Van Houten and Conleth Hill of ‘Game of Thrones’ would never play the other characters on the show

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Melisandre played by Carice Van Houten. (PHOTO: HBO/Helen Sloan)

Carice Van Houten and Conleth Hill play two of the most cryptic characters on the show, so when they both met in Season 7, on a cliff, there’s bound to be some teasing involved.

(Spoiler alert) Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) who was hiding from Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) revealed that she was headed to Valantis, although Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) advised her to never set foot in Westeros again.

Oh, I will return dear Spider,” she replies. “One last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you.” Did she foretell Varys’ fate? Only time will tell, now that Season 8 has descended upon us.

When met face-to-face in London, both Carice and Conleth exuded an icy cool vibe, just like the characters they play on the show. Once they started to warm up though, most notable about Conleth was his humility, and matter-of-fact way he approached the show, not getting caught up in its success. The glossy red-haired Carice, on the other hand, scrunched up her face when she reminisced about the troubling shadow baby birthing scene, which was the most challenging scene to her, being buck naked and all.

“She’s misread a few things. It’s like looking at a crystal ball and it’s just a little bit too foggy. But I do think she knows more than any other character I would say.”

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BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 12: Conleth Hill attends the Sky Atlantic ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 premiere at Waterfront Hall on April 12, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Sky Atlantic UK)

You’ve been in the show from the beginning till the end. How does it feel?

Conleth: Very lucky! I was saying earlier that I was very fatalistic about it. I’ve never asked the bosses about what’s happening to my character, I just had faith in them. I missed the smaller crews we started with, but that’s just what happens because it’s a successful show.

What was it like at the last shoot for the both of you?

Carice: I got really emotional. Not only (do) you know you’re finishing it… I (sic) hate saying goodbye to people you won’t see for a long time. And apart from that, you stop playing a certain character. It’s also just the end of a seven year period of my life, and it was a pretty intense period.

Conleth: I wasn’t as emotional. Also, I think I was trying to be brave for everyone else.

What was the most challenging moment of filming?

Carice: Well, I thought giving birth to the shadow baby was a bit of a challenge, because it was in a cave. I had a prosthetic belly with tubes, and there were people a few meters away trying to blow up my belly with wind. So I was half naked, and Liam Cunningham was standing there (laughs) and I had to look at some sort of a cross, where something would appear later on, which nobody knew what it would look like!

So that was just like, okay, what am I doing, versus looking at this little cross, half naked… it was ridiculous but I had a really fun time. It was a challenge in terms of logistics and acting, and all the elements.

Conleth: I had a glass of wine; that sounds quite scary, challenging, or difficult. (Laughs) It was all just lovely.

Carice Van Houten. (PHOTO: HBO/Jonathan Ford)

From the perspective of someone playing these complicated characters, how do you think the characters think about themselves versus how they are viewed by the audience?

Carice: Well, I don’t think she looked in the mirror thinking, well I’m a b**ch. She believes that someone will guide her and she’s a vessel, but the Lord of Light sort of disappointed her.

Conleth: That’s what was brilliant about it; that someone with such a strong faith questions that because of what she’s certain is going to happen, didn’t happen.

Carice: You know, she’s a bit older. And of course, she’s not just a human being. If you play an evil character, you just try to understand where they’re coming from.

What’s the biggest thing about Varys that helped you add nuance to the character?

Conleth: Very early on, I was given a note by George R. R. Martin which was “he’s a good person” so that’s all I held on to the whole way through. Whatever he did, it was for the better good, and I think the other characters have a problem with that, because they couldn’t understand why he didn’t have the same ambitions as them. He thought knowledge was power and it was.

Conleth Hill plays Lord Varys, The Master of Whisperers. (PHOTO: HBO/Helen Sloan)

Do you regret not having some sword fights or horse riding scenes?

Conleth: Not so much of the sword fights but the horse riding, yeah. But I feel guilty sometimes because these poor guys were in muddy fields for two to three weeks.

We finally see that your character is over 100 years old, and she’s lived through the years. Do you think she could have foreseen Jon Snow’s fate somehow?

Carice: Well as much as she had magical powers and has sort of an overview, she’s also made mistakes… so in that sense, she is a human being. She’s misread a few things. It’s like looking at a crystal ball and it’s just a little bit too foggy. But I do think she knows more than any other character I would say.

Do you think you share any similarities with your character?

Carice: I hope not (pauses), she does have better posture than me (laughs).

If you could play other characters in the show, apart from yours, who would it be?

Conleth: Sorry for being boring, but I love what I do.

Carice: Yeah. I would love to have my character be put together with Cersei (played by Lena Headey) as I’d be very curious to see what would have happened between those two ladies. I think the cliche would be some sort of catfight but it would be more interesting if they were bonding over something.

Conleth: I was pretty lucky; I got scenes with great people including yourself, over the years.

Carice: I was so, so overwhelmed by Joffrey’s (played by Jack Gleeson) performance; he’s such a nice boy (laughs).

New episodes of the eighth and final season of GAME OF THRONES premiere same time as the U.S. every Monday at 9am exclusively on HBO GO and HBO, with a same day encore at 10pm on HBO.

This story is the result of a trip that was sponsored by HBO Asia.