Game of Thrones Interview: Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark)

In the lead up to the Season 2 Premier on April 1st, we will be posting the series of interviews to wet your appetites for what will surely be another monumental season.

I attended a round-table interview with some of the cast and producers of HBO€™s award winning new series Game of Thrones. They were in town for the press launch of the Season 1 DVD/Blu-ray, which is available now. We reviewed it HERE. In the lead up to the Season 2 Premier on April 1st, we will be posting the series of interviews to wet your appetites for what will surely be another monumental season. Last week was Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister. Next up is Michelle Fairley, born in Northern Ireland and a veteran of British stage, television, and film, you may have seen her as Mrs. Granger in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Michelle plays Catelyn Stark, the wife of Ned Stark, a strong, driven women who will stop at nothing to defend and protect her family after it is torn apart by Lannister plots. Please note the interview was from a roundtable session and not all questions were asked by WhatCulture€ Q. So what€™s it been like, to be part of such an enormous show?Michelle: Well when you get a job like this you realise the standard of people you€™re working with, the production, the company, you know, the writing for a start. Then there€™s the calibre of the actors and the people you€™re working with and you realise that you have all the elements there in place to have something which could be extremely popular and because George Martin has such an enormous fan base for the books there is a pressure on that you know, to represent that world successfully and so you want it to be a success but you have no idea if it is going to be. You just know that what you see as an actor, the quality, and the craftsmanship that people are delivering is wonderful so you just hope that the audience is going to love it as much as we have loved doing it. Q. What feedback have you received from fans of the books?Michelle: Well personally I don€™t go anywhere near the Internet! I don€™t do any of the sites or things like that. I don€™t read reviews if I do plays. I think for me I like to talk to people if they stop me in the street, absolutely I will stand and talk to them because most of them are absolutely gorgeous and lovely and they are passionate about the books and the series and they know what they€™re talking about and I appreciate that, that€™s what I€™m working for. We were lucky enough to see Episode€™s 1 and 2 (Season 2) and it€™s just incredible. It€™s actually gone up a level. It€™s incredible, it€™s amazing. Q. Do you know what will happen with Catelyn in the future?Michelle: Well if anyone has read the books they know what happens to Catelyn so in that respect, yes I do. But before she gets there it€™s her journey that€™s the interesting thing. It€™s what she has to go through, she€™s just lost her husband but she€™s on a trajectory now to get her family back together again that€™s it. She€™s sent as an envoy by her son Robb to go and talk to Renly, to try and join forces with Stannis and Robb so they can be a united army against the Lannisters and then she wants ostensibly to get her children back together, she wants her family back at Winterfell, that€™s it. Q. Can you relate to her in some ways?Michelle: I think a lot of people can relate to her, even though a lot of people ask, €œHow does it feel to be in a fantasy production?€ I tend to view it as a very human production because of the nature of the character that I€™m playing. They live in a world that contains different elements you know, they have gods, they have folklore, and they have a history. They have a really rich history so I personally think that, coming from the family she comes from, the histories that George has written in his books, the interaction with other characters that she knows, her knowledge, her strengths and her weaknesses. These are wonderful things to play. And they€™re universal. Any mother would fight to the death (flails arms) to protect her children or get them back or want revenge for the wrongful murder of her husband! Go into any literature, whether Shakespeare, Sophocles, you name it, these are the issues that people lose countries over and fight wars over! Q. George Martin gives a lot of importance and strength to his female characters, especially Lady Stark. How important was it for you to play such a character?Michelle: Yes, that€™s one of things, all of the women in Game of Thrones, irrespective of whether they€™re noble, whether they are highborn, whether they are prostitutes or servants, whether they€™re wildlings, you name it, they€™re all extremely strong, every single one of them, they have a reason to be strong because it is very much a mans€™ world and they have to exist within it and sometimes to be in that world you have to start behaving like a man or operating like a man. Thinking like a man but with a women€™s spin on it. Q. In the early episodes of Season 1, Catelyn urges Ned not to go south with Robert, yet this is the opposite in the books, where Catelyn is the one encouraging him and Ned is the doubter. Was there any reason why this was changed?Michelle: Well I think she doesn€™t want him to go full stop. She doesn€™t like the Lannisters at all and I think she smells the break-up of her family. Ned has run the North for years and years and years for Robert very happily and successfully and she€™s also brought up a family and been able to have a really lovely family life and a happy marriage up there so the fact is she doesn€™t want him to split it up, but in the books, I know what you€™re hinting at, in the books she gets a letter from her sister Lysa to say that the Hand, Jon Arryn has been murdered so Catelyn goes to Ned to say €œYou have to go south to find out who killed him.€ That€™s in the books but I think dramatically, in the television series, it€™s so much more rewarding to play, €œI don€™t want you to go,€ you know especially since her son is lying cripple and unconscious in a bed at the same time and you€™re (Ned) about to waltz off to King€™s Landing to become the Hand of the King. So dramatically it makes more sense that way. Q. Tell us about your most memorable moments on the set of Game of Thrones?Michelle: Well you get to work with so many actors and directors as well and the locations are incredible and then there are also the horses! Some days are awful because you€™re standing in a mud field all day and you feel like you€™re never going to get warm again! There was one scene we did last year, towards the end in a field and the snow started and we had shot a previous bit of the scene with no snow so the props people were out in the middle of the field brushing the snow off the grass and you think; this is mad! Do you know what I mean? This is absolutely mad! There are wonderful things that you think you€™ll never see like the days when we shot at Winterfell with all the kids together, they were fantastic fun. Then the first time you see a set like the Eyrie set which is amazing and is actually a life-size set. Nothing on that set is CGI, it was actually created, it is actually astonishing. Also seeing people costumes or being excited about a certain scene that you€™ve got to play, there are so many things, it€™s brilliant! Q. How impressed were you by the young actors?Michelle: Oh I think they were wonderful and they€™re such lovely people as well. It€™s a pleasure to be around them and they will grow up to be lovely people as well I€™m absolutely one hundred percent sure about that! They were incredible fun! It€™s lovely to have young people like that around on the set because the more you work, the more you see so it€™s lovely to see the excitement through their eyes. Q. And how about working with Sean Bean?Michelle: I loved working with Sean; he€™s very professional, very honest, very direct, and very hard working€ like Ned! He has a lot of the same qualities. He€™s very quiet and assured actually, a very solid figure on set. The thing about it is, we were talking about this the other day, that I actually didn€™t have a lot of days with Sean but it looks like I had a lot more because of the nature of their relationship. We didn€™t really have that many days filming together but it feels like they have more time when you see it on screen which is lovely actually because the relationship obviously works. Q. You played in another popular franchise, Harry Potter; do you think Game of Thrones can have a similar impact on popular culture?Michelle: Well Harry Potter is finished now I think that will always have a place in history you know, because of the books, J.K Rowling, the young actors who were in it and because it was British as well so it€™s never not going to known and I think Game of Thrones is a virtual baby in comparison to Harry Potter so hopefully, given years to come it will be on the same level. It€™s incredible for a television show, it€™s epic, and it€™s almost like it is film. The quality is incredible I think. It€™s very hard to beat the standards of this production I think, very hard. Q. After Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, would you like to act in more book adaptations?Michelle: If the job is good and the script is wonderful and I am available and it excites me absolutely! You want your product to be loved just as much as you love doing it. To love it and have pride in it. You want to be able to utilise what you can and what you have in you in a production like this. You want to be able to use you brain, you want to be able to use you physical skills, you want to be able to use your horse riding skills, you want to create a proper world so anything that has such broadness and scope is exhilarating for an actor. You€™re pushing yourself constantly. Q. Just on the horse riding, is that something you could already do?Michelle: Well everybody was given horse-riding lesson before if your character rode, but my sisters and I grew up with a pony basically so we did Pony Club Camp and stuff like that but I hadn€™t ridden for€ gosh, about ten or fifteen years? But it was just like a duck to water, I love it. Camilla who runs the horses and her team and her horses are just amazing. It€™s lovely having animals on set, they€™re so elegant, so beautiful and they€™ve all been there, some of these horses are acting veterans, they€™ve been in so many movies you know, they€™ve got more credits than some of the actors! Q. Do you have a predilection for playing fantasy roles like in Game of Thrones or Harry Potter?Michelle: No, not at all. It€™s that thing of time and place and sometimes luck. I haven€™t been typecast if that€™s what you mean. I don€™t think I€™ve done anything enough to be typecast in that respect. You could say that the nature of the theatre that I do, the Chekhov, the Shakespeare, the Sartre, the big meaty roles, Greek tragedy, you know, you could say Catelyn is an emotional animal because it is an emotional journey in that way but I think they€™re all so different and especially in today€™s market with people wanting to put a new stamp on things the nature of that genre changes dramatically. It€™s a human story with something else lurking in the background. Keep your eyes peeled as we post more of the interviews in the days leading up to the Season 2 Premier on April 1st. For our top 10 reasons to watch Season 2, read HERE.
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