Part of the problem with reading the books ahead of time is trying not to get too invested in an actor you know is slated for the proverbial chopping block. This was especially hard for many fans who loved Renly Baratheon… and three times harder knowing he was played by Gethin Anthony—by reputation one of the nicest, even-keel and giving actors in the world today.
Gethin Anthony has ridden quite a rollercoaster with the ASoIaF fan base. I remember when he was first cast, and the majority of responses were pretty positive. Fast-forward to Renly’s actual introduction and the reveal that he and Loras were gay (a fact that was somehow still shocking to certain book-readers who hadn’t picked up on that rather obvious twist before)…
The response was clearly mixed. Some people reacted badly to the sight of a man kissing another man; others flinched at the infamous shaving scene. We heard various other complaints; “his hair is too short,” “Renly shouldn’t be so meek, why does he fear blood?” “Where is the brazen younger brother we know and love?” Etc.
But as season 1 grew into the powerhouse it became, so did he. Renly was one of very few who dared call out his brother the king, and—as noted by most people—was strategically ahead of the game when he tried to urge Ned Stark to make the first bold move and take Cersei’s children captive. It seemed a much stronger, intense Renly that left King’s Landing.
In season 2, Renly was reintroduced with a vengeance; political-minded and intense had been replaced by kingly and confident. It’s easy to see where Gethin gets the reputation for being a “giving” actor; when Renly looks at you, he really looks, and he allows the talents of other actors to play their course—not so much a typical “straight-man” as an active sounding board, of sorts. He seems comfortable in his own skin in any scene, unthreatened by other, more showy performances. Gethin’s eyes don’t just train on another actor’s gaze, they flicker back and forth between the eyes (not held in a dead stare the way some actors do while trying to recall their lines), or glance off past, as though Renly’s mind is already onto wherever the conversation is ultimately going. Watching Gethin, I always imagined Renly to be just a bit impatient with conversation, especially if he already knew where it was headed.
Of course actors are trained to use their eyes (John Bradley wields his puppy-dog look like a weapon), but Gethin has the range to express nearly every emotion without his mouth so much as twitching. And this is hard to do when your character is trying to project a kingly patience!
But anyone who ever questions Gethin’s skill needs to remember: this is a straight man who made us all believe he was so disgusted by kissing Natalie Dormer that he almost threw up in his mouth. Some people will claim it’s hard to kiss a man if you’re a straight male. You can’t tell me that’s more difficult than not kissing Natalie “Is So Hot We Often Insert Chuck Norris-style Elucidations For Hotness” Dormer.
Scoreboard. That’s basically Emmy-worthy right there.
The way Gethin inhabited Renly, from beginning to end, allowed us to see that growth amidst all the other thousand things happening on the show. No one on Game of Thrones gets the king’s share of screen time (not even kings) and the fact that he was able to show us his range during his limited time onscreen…
Well he did the character justice, and more, in the end. He made Renly more beloved than the already-beloved one in the books, and that’s the highest compliment an actor on this show can be paid.
Gethin is clearly not done with entertaining, both in front of and behind the camera; he’ll appear in Justin Trefgarne’s Dreck, and is producing a short thriller called David. (You can see the trailer for David here!) He continues to be a highly recognizable face for the Straight But Not Narrow project; is it any wonder this guy is so beloved?
Fire And Blood: Gethin, you will be sorely missed. You did this story proud. And yes, you would have made a great king.