Liam Cunningham arrived in Sydney this week to promote Game of Thrones and bring the travelling exhibition to Ausralia. The Exhibition will take over the Museum of Contemporary Art on Monday night, but Liam has already been busy making the press rounds. In a number of new interviews Liam talks about his role as Ser Davos Seaworth, what fans can expect from the Exhibition, and more.
Liam spoke with Pop Sugar Australia about where he’s headed in Season 5 after the big set up in the finale, and whether or not he believes Stannis would make a good king.
Season four ended with a big set-up for your storyline.
Yeah! Well George said a really interesting thing; I saw an interview where he was asked about Stannis. And he said what’s interesting, what has changed in Stannis’ thinking about everything, is from wanting to be king and saving the realm, it’s now the other way around. It’s now saving the realm that will make him king, so there’s been a 180 in the thinking, in a sense. So it’ll be interesting where this goes. We’re right up north of Westeros, and obviously we have our eye on King’s Landing, but we’ve got get south, so it will be interesting, what I presume will be that journey to get south, and what happens along the way.
As the actor playing Davos, do you believe in Stannis? Do you believe Stannis would make a good king, or would he be viewed as a tyrant? Basically, do you agree with Davos?
You know what? It’s one of those weird questions where, ‘Do I have to make a leap of faith?’ is basically the question. No, not really, because on paper, he’s [Stannis] is the one with legitimate claim to the throne! Joffrey shouldn’t have been there because he’s not even a Baratheon, and we know Daenerys was thrown out, but she was never queen at the time; the king was killed and that happens in feudal societies. So when Robert Baratheon came in, and he died, next in line was Stannis! On paper, he’s definitely the man for the job.
In regards to my belief in him, again, that’s one of my favourite reasons for playing Davos, it’s not even a conscious decision about his loyalty and his honour and his decency. One of the reasons he does back Stannis is because — even though he did that [demonstrates cutting off fingers] to him — he did it for the right reasons, and Davos has a certain respect for that. Stannis took Davos out of being a small-time criminal, made him a knight, and as he says to [his son] Matthos on the show, “He gave you an education I could never have given you. He’s given you a life; he’s improved our lives.” The irony is, with Davos bring from Fleabottom, the lowest of the low, he’s probably one of the most noble characters in it, and yet he’s a small-time criminal. And I love that about the show, that the people who should have had an education, should have had the decency and freedom and money to be a good person, are usually, as we know in life, not the most reliable of people; power corrupts. And I like that the show holds that mirror up to society; there’s magnificent people who are poverty-stricken, but have a dignity about them. And Davos is one of them! And I like that.
Are you aware of everyone else’s storylines as you’re shooting or do you just get scripts for your part?
Everybody in the cast will get the 10 episodes, or the main cast anyway, which most of us are. It’s wonderful, because one of my favourite ways of working, for not the obvious reason, is ensemble. It’s all well and good if you’ve got the ego to want to be your Tom Cruise or whatever and lead a pack of actors, but with this, what’s wonderful about it, is that one of the reasons why it’s so good is because there are so many beautifully drawn characters. That’s the toughest thing for a writer — not only for a novelist, but for the guys doing the show, David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], and Bryan [Cogman] and George [R.R. Martin], who write the scripts. It’s a difficult thing to write, but if you can pull it off, those relationships are just wonderful, because you’ve got your fully-formed characters. You’ve got Jon doing his thing, and in the season that’s just gone, it was quite weird for Stannis, myself and Melisandre to show up at Castle Black, when for four seasons we’ve never seen it! Which is really kind of odd, and it’s like two worlds colliding.
In an interview with News.Com.Au Liam discusses whether or not Davos has successfully won back the favor of Stannis, and how his relationship with Shireen developed.
So your character, Davos. He’s had a big season, and really proved his worth, I think. It was his idea to go to the Iron Bank in Braavos, it was him who argued the case when it was going so badly. Do you think he’s wrestled back Stannis’s attention from Melisandre? Is he back to being the top adviser?
If I was in Stannis’s position, I would be taking advice wherever I could get it. But yeah, at the end of season three, Stannis wanted to have me killed. It was the Red Priestess that saved my arse. So to come back with this — with the help of Shireen (Stannis’s daughter) of course, who gives me the idea — to come back and do this, I mean it’s a step forward.
But has he grown in influence? I mean, he was locked in a dungeon last season. Has he become the top man again, the guy Stannis relies on?
Well, I think he’s always gone to him. My sort of … metaphor for him, and the way I’ve always thought of him is — for those of your readers who know their movies — I’ve always thought about him as the Robert Duvall character in The Godfather. He’s kind of the Tom Hagen, consigliere. Not quite part of the family, but his advice and his counselling are highly respected. And Stannis has always kind of respected that, you know, hard truths have to be listened to, and Davos is not afraid to say them.
Stannis says to him, “You don’t have much regard for your life, do you?” And he says, “No, not really.” He wants to do the right thing. He’s a principled man. He’s decent. He’s got honour. Not because that’s the right thing to do, but because that’s who he is. He’s a great man to have in your corner.
Has the death of Davos’s son changed his character at all, in a way that you’ve noticed?
You could tell there was a fantastic relationship between the two of them, and I think the relationship with Shireen has developed because he’s lacking his one son, which I think was seven sons in the book.
I think what’s great is that, in the show, we’re able to show that this guy’s a good dad, and he’s probably the only dad that Shireen has, and she’s comfortable around him. I remember Alex Graves, one of our esteemed directors, saying it’s extraordinary that we have these sweet scenes in this show — this hardcore, sexy, violent show — and we’ve got these sweet scenes between Davos and Shireen. And they fit quite beautifully into the tapestry of this show, and I think they’re really valuable, they really build the characters. And I think they’re one of the reasons the fans really like Davos. He’s one of the few decent characters in it, who isn’t out for himself.
Liam tells Gizmodo Australia what fans can expect from the exhibition, and explains some of the production aspects of Game of Thrones and how it differs from other projects he’s worked on.
I wanted to ask about tying into the exhibition. It’s a very unique show in its props, right?
“All the stuff that’s here, it’s bizarre — on the hand, the default on my hand is a sewn glove, which is what [Davos] would have done — he would have said “look, sew these up”; Dragonstone’s not that kind of place where I can get somebody from Paris, let’s keep it real. “Just sew those fingers up.” When the glove comes off, there are various methods that we use. At the start of season three, after Blackwater, when the sun comes up and they had the shot of my hand I had a prosthetic made, and for Braavos in the bank they made a little green glove and they cut them out digitally.
“So there’s various methods of doing it. But the interesting thing about the exhibition is, these aren’t reproductions. This is the actual stuff. That’s why it has to get back out of here to go back, because that’s what we’re wearing in the show. The real props, the real swords, the real axes, and whatever it may be — I think Jamie’s hand is here as well? Beautiful costumes — Michele [Clapton, the show's head costume designer]‘s work is astonishing. Obviously you can’t bring sets down, but there’s representations and storyboards and stuff like that.”
“For genuine fans, people that want to look into the show deeper, you can’t miss it. My daughter’s a huge fan as well, and she came up and squealed with delight when she saw it. And it’s really gratifying — with the show being a phenomenon now, it would be very easy to charge stupid prices, and it’s free. And I think that’s kind of classy. It’s not there for a cash-in, and the exhibition is a thankyou to the fans for making the show what it is, which is one of the reasons I go along with it.”
So you find out what’s going on when you read the scripts, then.
“For each particular season, yeah. If I’m doing movies, I won’t get the entire arc of the story because of actor availability or locations or budgetary constraints or whatever — there’s been quite a few movies that I’ve worked on where in the first week of shooting we’re doing the end of the movie, so it’s hard to know your arc and exactly where you’re going. But with [Game of Thrones], because it rolls out, there’s just something really refreshing where you’re playing each strategic move in the game of thrones as it’s delivered to you.
“With some of the locations, there’s time constraints — if they have to go to Iceland, for example, depending on how much is in the season. For the first season, they only had three and a half hours of light a day. So now they’ve brought that back to August, I think, so if they’re out with the wildlings they have to shoot all the north of the wall scenes, and the vistas, they have to be done in that three week period.
“So there’s constraints. But they’re generally very much aware that it helps the actors, and it helps the directors, to shoot as chronologically as possible. So we don’t shoot episode 10 in the first week; we try as much as possible to shoot episode one in the first two or three weeks — which is very different to filming a movie. And it’s very rewarding for an actor.”
Has that given you a chance to settle into the role, as the show has developed over the seasons?
“Everybody’s got a bite of the apple on this. I suppose you could say to a certain extent Tyrion, and Cersei, and Jamie, and obviously the Mother of Dragons, are sort of the hub that everything else operates around, very much vying for power. But you’ll get some seasons where [some characters] are not particularly active, and then all of a sudden there’s a break in the power struggle, and we’ll come through, and that will big it up.
“Like the first season with Rory [McCann], the Hound, he wasn’t featured much at all, and the same with Brienne — she was introduced slowly, and slowly became sucked into this nest of vipers — and more attention was paid as they became more important to the rolling out of the story. So, you really don’t know how much, or how little, you’re going to get. And again, I kind of like that in a way — there’s an unpredictability about it that I kind of like, it’s slightly anarchic, although beautifully planned.
“[Season five scripts] should be arriving in the next few weeks, end of July. This is my downtime.”
Liam spoke with Concrete Playground about the massive amount of diverse fans Game of Thrones has gathered over the years.
There are some fans, aren’t there?
Nobody knew it was going to be such a phenomenon. It’s just this really expansive backdrop to an incredible story of family and paranoia and jealousy and power and how power corrupts and how the powerful, generally speaking, are just taking care of themselves.
Our first female PM loved the show.
Yeah she’s a fan, a big fan! And Barack Obama. He insisted on getting season four before the public got it.
So power does corrupt.
That’s how you know you’ve got power. He’s a big fan. Jack Nicholson is a fan. Martin Scorsese. Who else? It’s extraordinary the amount of people who love this show. You see it at the exhibition. You’ve got the emos and the goths and those people coming along who are kind of hardcore but generally speaking it’s kids from sixteen to one hundred and sixteen watching it. It’s not a niche program at all because it’s unpredictable. Right from when our leading man Ned Stark got chopped it was a game-changer, because it broke, especially for the States, where your leading man gets in trouble, overcomes, gets the girl and disappears, boring boring boring. People went, ‘What? Hold on, we need to watch this thing properly, because this is just messing with our heads.’
If Davos suddenly turned around and told Stannis to shove it I don’t think we’d see that coming.
It’s not in his nature. He’s the kind of guy, if you were in trouble you’d want him in your corner. His loyalty and decency is unquestionable. Listen, he’s treated well apart from having his hand chopped off.
Liam also visited 2DayFMSydney for a radio interview, and in the studio videos below he reacts to the University of Sydney’s Game of Thrones tribute, and recounts a stunt gone bad from Season 2.
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