Five seasons into its run, Michelle’s Fairley’s turn as battered matriarch Catelyn Stark remains one of the most compelling performances on Game of Thrones. She brought a subtlety and presence she honed throughout a lengthy career on the London stage, including as Iago’s wife Emilia in a 2008 production of Othello, the role that convinced the Thrones writers that she would be a good fit for Catelyn.
Fairley dropped these and other Game of Thrones-related nuggets during a recent interview with Gulf News Television. Looking back, here’s what she had to say about her arc on the show.
I think in retrospect [the writers] needed somebody to go on an emotional journey…Catelyn goes through the loss of her husband, the loss of her children and eventually makes the decision to kill herself because she thinks that there’s nothing left to live for — and they thought, because of the final scenes in Othello, that I could maybe achieve that for them.
Now, the bit about Catelyn killing herself might strike some readers as strange, seeing as she memorably—and horrifyingly—had her throat slit at the Red Wedding. Gulf News Television posits that Catelyn’s murder of Walder Frey’s young wife in the immediate wake of her son Robb’s death was a suicidal act, as she knew it meant her life was forfeit.
Speaking of the Red Wedding, Fairley said that director David Nutter told her to play it “on a level” with Walder Frey, and anyone who remembers her intense performance as a proud but cornered mother threatening to kill Frey’s wife before his eyes if he didn’t give her what she wanted will probably agree that she succeeded. “It was not to be as a woman pleading with him,” she said. “It was to be commanding in some way. That they are two equals meeting each other.”
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Fairley is currently back on the stage as Genevieve, the best friend to the wife of a dictator, in Splendour, currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse in London. After her role on Thrones wrapped up, she took a few other onscreen roles, including in Suits and 24, but the theater is where she’s most comfortable. She doesn’t seem terribly enamored of Hollywood. “I hate the place,” she said. “I hate that world. I hate everything about it.” So don’t expect her to be cropping up in a lot of American-produced shows or movies.
As far as Fairley is concerned, that includes Game of Thrones. There’s been speculation—as there has been every year since Fairley left, incidentally—that Season 6 might finally be the year we see Lady Stoneheart, the resurrected version of Catelyn Stark, on Game of Thrones. Fairley made her thoughts on the matter pretty clear. “I am not under contract to Game of Thrones,” she said. Okay, then.
Something as straightforward as a flat denial isn’t likely to stop Game of Thrones conspiracy theorists, of course, and we’ll have to wait until Season 6 airs to be completely sure of anything.