Once again we’re here with more lovely (and bloody!) TitanCon content!
I had the pleasure of finally meeting Ron Donachie, the stalwart man behind Ser Rodrik Cassel. The interview I have here barely scratches the surface of this man, however. (See below!)
Ron can easily be called one of the “elder statesmen” within this young group of Game of Thrones actors, and he was, blessedly, a calming influence (and a voice of reason) during the Fall of House Stark panel. Well-dressed but casual, Ron was happily game for an interview, and with his easy smile and fatherly mien he sets any interviewer immediately at ease. (I was more nervous interviewing the quiet Thomas Brodie-Sangster, believe it or not!)
I must warn you all ahead of time, the audio is a lit-tle problematic. We were stuffed in a small “green room,” along with the other guests and their families, so to say it was a crowded scenario is understating things a bit. My cameraperson did her best to squeeze the camera (and mic) in as closely as she could so as to be able to pick up our (relatively) soft voices over the din, but…
Well, it was still a fun interview. Apologies in advance if some of the wording gets muddled in ambient babble.
Winter Is Coming BONUS: Thanks to the sharp ears of our resident Q (thanks, Q!), we have a transcript of that noisy interview! So without further ado…
FaB: This is Fabio with Winteriscoming.net, I am here with the amazing Ron “Donak” – “Donakie”?
Donaghie on this side of the Atlantic, and…
Donak-hey. Do they see “chee” on anywhere else?
In the States a lot of people say Don-AT-chie.
Yeah, I’ve had that for years.
NEW YORK! EY, DONATCHIE!
New York, yeah, “Mistah Donatchie ya car’s waiting for ya.”
*laughter* Awesome, awesome.
Yeah, it’s cool. The first time I went to the States to… not the first time, the first time I went to L.A. I’d an Italian driver met me at the airport and it was “Mistah Donatchie, come this way please”, and that’s cool, that’s fine.
Your name translates, the names translates.
It does fine.
It does fine, awesome. You’ve been, unlike a lot of the Game of Thrones actors, some who are just beginning their careers, and I mean you’ve had a pretty spectacular career up to this point. You were in Titanic…
I was, yeah.
It was a very lauded role, I mean people … when we found out you were cast as Ser Rodrik we were like “OK, what has he done, what has he done?”
And all the stuff, the Titanic stuff comes up, we were just “Oh, this is awesome he’s gonna be great”, and of course you were great.
Thank you very much.
Yes. But I had heard an interesting thing, someone said that you had actually read George R.R. Martin’s books prior to the cast.
Well, what happened was I hadn’t read the Song of Ice and Fire but when the job was mooted I went out looking for it, got to the bookshop, none of them were there, but Fevre Dream was there, and Fevre Dream was the book that I had read when it was published in 1981, so that well that bodes well because I remember it very fondly it was a good book.
A vampire book!
Yeah, that’s right, it’s a really good book, so I figured OK, eventually I got hold of A Game of Thrones and started reading it and I was only intending to read the first book to prepare for the audition, but it was so good, the first one, that by the time the audition came up I had read everything that was published up to that point, I mean I just sat down and read, and up to that point A Feast for Crows was the last published book, and I read right through them.
Right through it.
Yeah, and you love it.
I love it, yeah, I mean I think it’s fantastic, watching it.
That’s great, I know that thrilled a lot of the fans too, it’s something for me it’s kind of a moot point because some people are like “they need to read the books” but I… well, you have to explain that some actors’ processes are different, they don’t want to know what happens and some people want to be informed, so it’s a completely different process.
I do remember, and this was I think during filming of the pilot, there was a book signing that George did. And they brought in a lot of the actors over at the same time, and you attended it along with all of these essentially new faces, these people who’ve hardly been on stage… tell me what goes through your head when you’re basically you’re kind of the elder statesman, and you have these kids running around, kind of getting this kind of strange attention. I mean is it, were you kind of a calming presence at that stage, or what was it like?
I guess maybe I was, I mean for all of us, if you, you know whenever you go into something as an older actor and there are kids involved, you’re a hostage to fortune because kids, you are with anybody but kids particularly you’ve got, you’ve got that. And we’ve been enormously fortunate with this show because the kids are fantastic.
Yes, they are.
And that was apparent very very early on, you could tell how talented they were and how good they were going to be to work with, so the day signing in the book store in Belfast where we did that, we signed books I think uh in the little book shop in the afternoon and then George had a Moot that evening.
George’s Moot in a local bar, which was really cool as well. But yeah, you do begin, you know, when you start working with people and you’re just about old enough to be their granddad and all of a sudden you realise “Mmm, I have been doing this a lot.”
“I have been doing this a long time.”
A long time! The kids have been fantastic, and obviously because I was working with the Stark family I had a lot to do with the kids and they’ve just been marvellous.
And you get to watch them grow, I mean it’s crazy.
Oh! Yeah, well I only see them, you know, once a year now, you’re coming back and people who were really small children, young kids, you know they’re now looking you in the eye and they’ve developed as people, they’ve developed as performers, they’re still all really good, good kids and nice people to be with. We’re all gonna have dinner tonight I think, after the convention, we’re all gonna go and have a big meal.
Oh that’s fantastic. OK, last question. If you could play any kind of character in an ongoing series, like you watch television or your movies, you watch certain series of films like Star Wars and stuff like that, if you could pick any one and say “You know what? I really want to be involved with that kind of thing” what would you pick?
OK, that’s a good question, uhh, ongoing stuff, I mean, I’d love to be in stuff like Band of Brothers, I think that’s great material, you know I could’ve, liked to have been, I think there’s some brilliant acting in that, some of the unsung guys, the guys that play the sergeants who are in the background rather than the foreground, I think there’s some wonderful acting going on there, there’s always great material for actors in that kind of role. I like stuff like, I’ve spent so much of my life playing cops, that I always think back to the criminal things all the time. Anything where there’s essentially a good hearted character but there’s conflict involved as well, it’s always a good thing for a character to be involved in and Rodrik was the perfect man.
Yes he was, and he was kind of a cop in his own way.
He was, yeah, yeah.
But um, and I know this is kind of talking out of school because we didn’t get any of this on tape but the last panel we had prior, people were talking how much they were affected by the Rodrik beheading scene, especially with him giving his last line about “I’m going to see him” and when you read that line in the script you must have said “Oh, nailed it, I can do that.”
Yeah, yeah, you do, you go “Mmm!”, you do, it’s also a tough line to play because you’re in the character and that’s always difficult, but also the boys, Isaac and Art, and the other actors that were there, Donald and Kristian, and we’d all got on so well and it was a big farewell moment, and a horrifying moment, and I think I said to someone earlier Rodrik’s not a friendly guy, Rodrik’s a man that’s been a soldier all his days and he’s expected death I think since he was old enough to hold a sword, what horrifies him is leaving his boys without protection, and just at the very last second he tries to give them just a tiny bit of consolation, it was great to do.
That was such a fantastic scene, amidst all these other fantastic scenes, it’s so great that the show has been able to put together, and Nina Gold, we have a saying over at Winteriscoming.net “In Nina Gold We Trust.”
Yeah, because she’s put together just this fantastic group.
It’s a great ensemble, and again that’s the thing HBO does, they’ve got away from the bother of having a big star performer and the rest of the cast sort of draped on top. I mean they have extraordinary big name actors in it but what they go for, Band of Brothers is a perfect example, they go for strength across the board that makes the stuff so watchable and so cracking with it. You don’t look anyplace on screen and find a weak link. And that’s great.
And as fans of the books, that’s what we hoped for… and that’s what we got. Ron, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.
Alright, with Ron Donachie this is Fabio. Winteriscoming.net, we’re out.
(Thanks again, Q!)
Later, after all cameras and recorders were set aside, I had an even greater pleasure of sitting down and having a private conversation with the man. And let me tell you, his reputation as a true gentleman is not without merit.
We spoke for the better part of a half hour about all sorts of things; from his friendship with George R.R. Martin, to the relationship he had with his own father, a war veteran. One particular touching anecdote was about how his father, a gruff Scotsman through and through, finally acknowledged that his university-educated son could actually make a living in theatre by saying, [paraphrased] “I think you could make a pound or two with that.” (High praise for a Scot.)
I asked him about his very first day shooting on Game of Thrones (outside of the pilot), in which Rodrik gets injured fighting the hill tribes; I mentioned how Rodrik, already a rather stiff-backed man, seemed even more upright and erect after the injury, so as to conceal it from Catelyn. He smiled at me and acknowledged that was indeed the intent: “Didn’t want to worry the lady. She had enough to worry about.”
Another great story was how he had been scheduled to film Titanic for James Cameron over a simple two-day period… until an assistant director asked Cameron, “D’you want to see him die?” Cameron replied that, yes, he would very much like to see Donachie die, so they kept him on for many more weeks of shooting.
Fantastic. I kind of regretted not having my mic at the time… but a large part of me doesn’t regret it at all, because really, he was just speaking one-on-one with me, a fan of his work. And these are the kinds of nice, private conversations that just happen at small conventions like TitanCon.
Fire And Blood: I can’t state it enough: he’s just a fantastic man. My thanks again to Ron, and to TitanCon! More to come!