HBO’s epic masterpiece Game of Thrones is back for Season 3, with bigger battles, devastating betrayals and more deaths, as everyone fights for control of the Iron Throne. Now that magic is growing stronger and the dragons have been let loose, there’s no telling who might be in jeopardy or in power next.
At the show’s press day, co-stars Sophie Turner (“Sansa Stark”) and Natalie Dormer (“Margaery Tyrell”) talked about how nice Jack Gleeson is versus how much people hate King Joffrey, how the relationship between Sansa and Margaery will evolve in Season 3, what it was like to work with Diana Rigg (“Olenna”), how Sansa has found her strength after the Battle of Blackwater, what sort of relationship both women will have with Cersei (Lena Headey), how much of the books they’ve read, that the actors get together in Belfast for a read-through of five episodes over two days before each season starts shooting, how they feel like fans of the show themselves, and how much of an effect the success of Game of Thrones has had on them. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Does it amuse you to see how worked up fans get about Joffrey?
SOPHIE TURNER: It is funny because people are totally different about Jack [Gleeson], when you talk to them. It is really kind of amusing, thinking that people really detest him, when he’s the nicest guy, ever.
NATALIE DORMER: He’s the nicest guy. He’s stupidly nice.
TURNER: It’s ridiculous!
DORMER: And he’s very erudite. He’s studying at Trinity College in Dublin, at the moment.
TURNER: He’s a scholar.
DORMER: He’s doing theology. He’s off the charts. So, he’s this really contemplative, erudite, really gorgeous, generous human being, and he plays Joffrey so well. It’s very disturbing.
Does Margaery realize that Joffrey is crazy?
DORMER: The interesting thing of Season 3 is that the Tyrells move in to King’s Landing, and they’re trying to work out the dynamics of the capital. They’ve only heard rumors, so they’re turning up as strangers, really, and as outsiders. That’s what Margaery and Olenna and Loras are trying to figure out. Well, Loras has obviously been around a bit longer, but the two women from the Tyrell family are certainly trying to discover where the power lies and what people’s personalities are. We have a few conversations with [Sansa], trying to work her out. Is she on our side? Is she not on our side? Do we like her? Do we not like her?
TURNER: How can you not like her?
DORMER: Who could not like Sansa?
How was it to work with Diana Rigg?
TURNER: Amazing! She is one of a kind. She’s so funny! After some of the takes that we did, she’d be like, “That was perfect! I don’t think I need to go again.”
DORMER: She’s a vet, so for very young actresses like Sophie, and reasonably young actresses such as myself, working with someone as experienced, and who is a Tony Award-winning actress, is just a joy. We watch and learn a bit. We shut up and watch.
Natalie, when you came onto this show, was there an acclimation period? And Sophie, did you help her out with that, at all?
TURNER: I don’t think Natalie needed any help. She’s pretty amazing! Because Game of Thrones is such a – and I hate using the word – big happy family, the new people just fit in really well. I feel like I’ve known [Natalie] since the pilot, which I haven’t. So, it wasn’t difficult for Natalie to fit in because she’s good at what she does and she’s good at making friends. We’re the best of friends. It was easy for her, and it was easy for us.
DORMER: The dynamics on the Thrones cast are quite special. Because it’s such an all-encompassing, huge cast with a complete range of ages, backgrounds, trainings and experiences, it is one big happy family. It’s bizarre, but it is. The people that have been there are very receptive and welcoming to the people that arrive. We’re all kind of terrified. People come and go constantly in the show. I meant terrified in a joking way. It filters down from Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff].
TURNER: They feel very fatherly.
DORMER: They’re very relaxed. They’re jokers and they’re fun-makers and they’re piss-takers a bit, as well, but in a nice way.
DORMER: So, they have a very happy, casual, relaxed feel, and that filters down to the whole cast.
Does Sansa trust anyone in King’s Landing?
TURNER: I think Sansa definitely has trust issues, after the death of Ned. He trusted the wrong people and he, as a result of that, died. So, she’s not ready to trust anyone too soon. You see her starting to trust Shae, which is kind of ironic because she is one who is playing the game and is not actually who she says she is. She is learning to trust people, but the right people – the people she knows that she definitely can trust. So, she might make some alliances in Season 3. We’ll see.
Has she found her strength, after the Battle of Blackwater?
TURNER: After the Battle of Blackwater, the scene with her and the Hound, where she says, “No, I’m not coming with you. You won’t hurt me,” it was this big moment where you’re like, “Wow, she is strong and she will stand up for herself, even against this Hound, who is so imposing and scary.” So, I think she’s found her strength. Much like the scene in Season 1, where she says, “Well, maybe he’ll give me yours,” to Joffrey, it was another moment where you feel like Sansa is growing up. And she’s growing up again in Season 2.
DORMER: It’s a really interesting dynamic. It’s kind of life imitating art because Isaac [Hempstead Wright], Maisie [Williams] and [Sophie] were kids when they started the show. They weren’t kids, kids, but they were younger, and they’re all growing up so fast. They’re honing their craft, as actors, so beautifully. What’s triggered me saying this is [Sophie] saying that Sansa is finding her strength, and I’ve watched [Sophie] develop and grow. I watched her in the first season, and then the following two seasons I’ve worked with her, and she’s growing stronger, as an actress and a woman, in her own right, as well. That’s no small feat, to be that age and be acting opposite Diana Rigg. I think there’s that beautiful thing that happens with the younger characters of Thrones, and the Stark children, particularly. They’re growing, and they’re growing in strength as actors, as well, within this big happy family. I think everyone is really proud of [them], to be honest.
Sansa has this weight lifted by not having to marry the horrible guy who had her father killed, but that puts her in a precarious situation. Is she trying to figure out her role now?
TURNER: Yeah. The thing is that she felt like she had a purpose, even though she was Joffrey’s prisoner, because once she became queen she felt like, “Okay, then I’ll have the power to maybe reunite my family again.” Because the Starks are very much driven by family, that was her aim. Now that she’s not going to become queen and she’s not going to become Joffrey’s wife, but she’s still his prisoner, she kind of feels like she has no purpose. She’s thinking, “Well, how am I going to escape?” So, she’s forming alliances with people to figure out how she might go about that. She’s learning to play the game, and she’s playing it well, might I say.
Does Margaery love anything besides herself, her brother and the pursuit of power?
DORMER: Oh, my god, that’s such a harsh thing to say about Margaery! You’ve hurt me! People have got Margaery all wrong. She’s so much more sincere than people think. Genuinely, she is. She’s just a pragmatist. She genuinely is a pragmatist, which is what Sansa is becoming. If you’re not pragmatic around Cersei Lannister, bad things are going to happen to you. So, it’s not about being vindictive and conniving. It’s about survival, which is what the game of thrones is. That’s why people identify with the characters. They’re not goodies and baddies. There’s a humanity to these characters. They’re anti-heroic, in various forms. You understand their motivation ‘cause everyone’s just trying to survive, and we can all identify with that.
What sort of relationship will your characters have with Cersei, in Season 3?
DORMER: The thing that Sansa and Margaery have in common is that they both come from very close families. It’s commented on, that the Tyrells are a very close family, and we know how close the Starks were. Sansa is used to belonging, and Margaery has that luxury of belonging. The Tyrells are not stupid in identifying that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Without giving things away, the idea is to isolate Cersei. That’s what the Tyrells are hoping to do. They’re trying to marginalize the Lannisters power and their control over [Sansa]. Talking about ambiguity and not trusting people, it’s interesting because these two girls, if they’d met under any other circumstances, would really probably be very genuine, good friends.
TURNER: I feel like Sansa and Margaery’s friendship is real, but perhaps their intentions towards each other are not.
DORMER: It’s out of their control, really. Their friendship is not just exclusively in their control.
TURNER: It’s been forced and it’s been manipulated.
DORMER: It’s been manipulated by other people, and that’s sad, in a way, because you figure that the girls would get on sincerely, if they weren’t in the middle of this game. Well, that’s how we’re playing it.
Have you guys read any of the books?
DORMER: Because I joined the party later, I asked David and Dan, when I started, if I should read them. I was straight-forward about it. And David and Dan said to me, “Hell, read them, if you want to read them. Of course, read them for recreation and to know what everyone else is doing. But, don’t necessarily read them, per se, for you and for Margaery because we’re fleshing her out in a slightly different way.” Not different, but they’re enhancing her, and doing it faster. So for that reason, I will probably read them, but I think I’m going to enjoy reading them retrospectively. But, every actor makes their own decision. Not everyone has read them.
TURNER: I’m reading them, season by season.
The orphanage scene wasn’t in the books, and it’s a great scene.
DORMER: Yeah, we’re going a bit Lady Di with her. She’s so sweet. Can it be real? Is it true? Is she that sweet?
TURNER: No, she’s a bitch!
DORMER: It’s that ambiguity. That’s the fun of the show, that ambiguity of the characterizations.
With fans of this show, there’s a huge split between people who have read the books and who hasn’t, and people have to be careful what they say about what’s coming up with the story. Is it the same for you guys, on set?
TURNER: Well, I think everyone pretty much knows their storyline vaguely, and I like to spoil the storylines for the rest of the actors. So, I’m fairly sure everyone pretty much knows their fate, if there is one. I’m like, “Listen, come here. Guess what?”
Do you guys get together before shooting, to talk about what’s going to transpire for the season?
TURNER: There’s always the read-through, which is nice. That’s where you get all the actors together and you discuss the storylines and you read the script together with all of the producers in the room. But apart from that, you won’t see them again for another six months.
DORMER: Maisie said that you’re never quite sure where you’re going to end up because, even if you know the broad strokes of the books, you don’t know if they’re going to do that particular arc of your story in two episodes or in two seasons. It’s a surprise. It keeps you on your toes.
Are those read-throughs done on location?
TURNER: We do one read-through of five episodes, over two days. That tends to be the routine, and it’s in Belfast.
DORMER: I’ve never done a read-through because I was working before. A couple of the actors will always be shooting or working somewhere else, so there are always absentees.
Have the episodes started to depart even more from the books, at this point?
DORMER: You’re asking the wrong person!
TURNER: [Natalie] has no clue what the story is. She just got the part and thought she’d wing it.
But as Tyrion said, it’s not slander if it’s true.
TURNER: Good quote. I like it! It is an adaptation. It tends to follow the route that George R.R. Martin has set out, and it will get to the same point. There are major plot points that are pretty much the same because they affect the rest of the story, but they can go around it differently. They can wiggle their way around it to make it easier for the screen, and to make the stories either less complicated or a bit more complex. Some things will be different, but some things will be the same. At the end of the day, it’s George R.R. Martin’s story that he’s written and that we’re supposed to be following.
DORMER: It’s a hybrid thing that’s happening now because the season is catching up with the books. George is a producer on the show, and he writes for the show, as well, so there’s starting to be a cross-pollination. You have to bear in mind that he’s now writing the last two books, and he knows who those cast members are for certain roles. He knows what we look like and how we’ve played the roles, so there is a cross-pollination going on. When you’ve got really big names that sign on dotted lines to be a part of this show, they join under an agreement and a contract that they’re going to do so much work. So, sometimes the plot has to be fiddled with slightly because, if you want Diana Rigg or you want Charles Dance, you have to give them something to actually really work with, which might not have been in the book, necessarily, for Olenna or Tywin Lannister. So, this interesting translation thing is starting to happen now, hopefully only for the better.
Because your storylines are so separate and you shoot in different countries, are you excited to see what’s happening with the other characters?
TURNER: Yeah, I feel like a fan of the show because you get to see all of your stuff, but you never know what’s going on with Daenerys. You can hear it in the read-throughs, but you’re just getting ready to read your bit. I’m very vain, like that. So, I only really learn the other storylines when I sit down and watch the show. And then, you read what actually happened to the characters in the books. But, you have no idea, to be honest. You’re just like, “Kit, what did you do today?” And then, he’ll tell you and you’ll be like, “That doesn’t make sense!” until you watch it. So, I feel as much like a fan as the next person, to be honest.
DORMER: Yeah, I totally agree with that.
Now that you’ve been on this show for awhile, does it enhance your standing, when you’re looking for other work? Do you find that more offers are coming your way, and that more people are noticing you, in your day-to-day life?
TURNER: I think it definitely opens up a lot of doors.
DORMER: She’s a movie actress now.
TURNER: I just did one. We’ll see. But, it does open up a lot of doors because it’s pretty big in America and people like it, and they respect the showrunners and they respect George, and they love the story. People are immediately drawn to it. When people hear that someone from Game of Thrones is coming in, I guess they get a little bit excited. I don’t know. They probably see people like Shailene Woodley, and then they’re like, “Okay, she’s cooler.” But, it’s good. It’s a good platform, especially for something that I started out on. It’s useful. I’m only doing it for movies. No.
Do you go for a lot of the same roles as Shailene Woodley?
TURNER: Oh, I don’t know. I just used her as an example. But, I like her. She’s good.
Do you not find the popularity of the show to be on the same scale, when you’re back home?
DORMER: It’s big at home.
DORMER: Yeah! Don’t you get stopped in the street?
TURNER: No, I live in the middle of nowhere.
DORMER: Okay, that’s what it is. I live in London, and it’s big!
Game of Thrones returns for Season 3 on HBO on March 31st.