Featured Game of Thrones Interview

Actress Diana Rigg says Lady Olenna Tyrell is “pretty evil”

When we were first introduced to the Tyrell clan in Game of Thrones Season 2, it seemed like young Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) would be our main point of contact. Sly and ambitious, Margaery climbed the royal over the course of her five seasons on the show, but was finally brought down by Cersei Lannister in the Season 6 finale.

We met Margaery’s grandmother, Olenna Tyrell, in the second episode of Season 3, “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” With her quick wit and bold manner, she became an instant fan favorite. She stayed that way right through to the end of Season 6, where she was last seen making an alliance with Varys and the Sand Snakes, effectively throwing her support behind Deanerys Targaryen. She’ll assuredly be around in Season 7, and if she survives into Season 8 (not something we can safely assume on this show), she’ll have outlasted her granddaughter and become the most prominent Tyrell on Game of Thrones.


 

Rigg recently sat down with BBC HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur to talk about her time as Olenna Tyrell, and about her acting philosophy in general. “If you do justice to the acting, you have to have a profound knowledge of the human condition and of yourself,” she says.

What happens when you accept a part is you have to measure the distance between yourself and that part, and you have to fill it with truth…You have to turn that written page into nature.

That is some very high-minded thinking, although Rigg admits that it hasn’t stopped her from taking parts when they’re offered. “I’ve generally thought, ‘If I don’t believe in this, it’s a bit of a challenge,'” she says. “I’ve got to make it believable.”

Lady Olenna 507 Olenna Tyrell

As for her time as Olenna, Rigg says that she was “deeply grateful” to get the part, although she didn’t realize at the time what it meant. “I wasn’t aware that I was getting involved in something so huge,” she said. Still, she, like fans, considers the role “a good part.” “I really enjoy doing it.” It shows.

Most intriguingly, Rigg makes a comment about Olenna’s nature. Sackur calls the character “something of a harridan,” and Rigg is quick to agree.

Oh, yes. She’s also pretty evil. I’m good at evil.

Rigg may have been speaking with her tongue planted in her cheek, but that’s one way to read Olenna’s actions. She did commit regicide, albeit against someone few would miss. But generally speaking, Olenna’s motives are sympathetic, even if she’s done some questionable things in the name of her family’s well-being.

Lady Olenna Tyrell and Kevan Lannister Official

There’s also the possibility that Rigg knows something we don’t. Yesterday, Sophie Turner (Sansa) said that she had received scripts for Season 7. Rigg may have received them too, and seen something that’ll change our perceptions down the line.

There’s a longer version of the interview out there that can be viewed by people living in the U.K. Rigg has had a long career outside of Game of Thrones, including as the lead on The Avengers TV series in the 1960s and as a Bond girl, so there’s a lot to go over.

17 Comments

  • I don’t think Olena is evil. She got rid of joffrey because she wanted to assure the safety of her grandchild. And killing is the only way to get rid of someone in westeros lol. I think Diana slipped up and this “evil” is due to lady olena’s actions next season, which i’m very excited to see it.

    • I definitely do not view The Queen of Thornes as evil, not by a long shot. Evil people do evil things and the killing of an evil boy King is certainly… NOT evil. Nor is allying herself and her house with Dany against Cersei evil either. With where her story is heading, I can’t imagine anything she does in the future constituting evil as well.

      • Any character who’s not afraid to stand up to the Sand Snakes – all the while knowing what they have done – or poison Cersei’s son – all the while knowing what Tywin can do – is either really stupid or really dangerous. And Olenna doesn’t strike me as stupid.

  • Diana Rigg certainly has form when it comes to playing an evil character while wearing an exterior cloak of charm.

    Nothing better illustrates this than her appearance as Regan in an all-star cast production of “King Lear” for British TV, with Sir Laurence Olivier taking the title role. It is one of the most memorable TV Shakespeare adaptations ever filmed and the image of a grinning Diana Rigg gouging out Gloucester’s eyes is seared onto my memory to this day.

    Filmed in 1983, Rigg has lost none of the coquettish charms she displayed so alluringly (but innocently) in “The Avengers” which was filmed in the 60s, but in combining this with a ruthless, sadistic lust for power, Dianna Rigg has never found a better vehicle to showcase her extraordinary range as an actress.

  • In a world as harsh as Westeros, does ruthless necessarily equal evil? Olenna’s a tough cookie, but mostly she’s smart and strategic. It would be great to have some chatty scenes with her and Tyrion, now that they’re both on the same team. If he finds out that she was Joffrey’s assassin and threw him under the bus…er, the oxcart…there should be some very enjoyable verbal fireworks. I wouldn’t even mind too much if Tyrion went for some revenge, though he might think that Cersei wiping out the rest of House Tyrell was punishment enough. In any case, I’ve been a fan of Diana Rigg since her Emma Peel days and hope the character gets to stick around until the final season.

    • Any Tyrion-Olenna scene would be a series highlight. One of the things I enjoy most about the show is novel pairings we do not get in the books (Tywin + Arya for example). Diana has proven she can go toe to toe with Charles Dance and Lena Headey. I’d love to see my favorite Tyrelll up against my favorite Lannister. Bring it on!

    • I don’t think she implicated Tyrion in Joffrey’s murder, but rather, it was common sense to assume he would be blamed by Cersei no matter the circumstances. So, I don’t think Tyrion would be angry with her and instead congratulate her on a job well done.

  • One thing I love about GoT is the ensemble casting for characters both young and old. It introduces us to actors of the future, in their prime, and also veteran actors who still prove they belong in the limelight.

  • this is actually a little embarrassing because i see the lady Olenna to be one of the more morally centered characters within the time period of the show. i would say she is incredibly shrewd, pragmatic, and the presence of a cynicism has been gifted with her years, pretty normal stuff for everyone.

    a conspirator in Joffery’s death, seems to me, she is doing everyone a favor, lol. well, almost everyone.

  • I don’t think she’s evil. She’s loyal to her family and fighting characters (such as cersei) who actually are evil.

  • Ummmm, she has already outlasted her granddaughter! Olenna doesn’t have to wait until the 8th season to accomplish that.

    I hate to complain, but is it that difficult for the WiC staff to proofread their articles before posting them on the website??? I don’t recall ever seeing so many mistakes on any other website. Usually I come across one once in a blue moon on all the other sites I go to, but on here, there’s literally something in every single article. I’m not perfect, no one is, but come on guys, take a little pride in your website and work, and spend the extra ~3 mins it will take to give each of your articles a read-through to spot the conspicuous mistakes that are right smack there, for anyone to find if they actually read the work they drafted. It is simple, easy, not time consuming and would show your readers that you actually give a s*#t about your product and them. If it’s too much to ask of each of you, then hire someone to read every article before posting it, as most websites I’d imagine have a content editor or someone of the like. Surely all the $ earned from click bait can afford a proofreader. Heck, I’ll do it; email me!!

  • The article is referring to how long the character has been in the show (5 seasons for M, and only 4 for Lady O).

  • I think she is referring to the whole deal with the poisonous necklace. She went out of her way to get the right necklace to put on Sansa’s neck so she can poison Joffrey thus implicating Sansa and Tyrion by extension since he was married to her. The ‘evil’ would be implicating innocent people to take the fall. She is one of my favorite characters. So sassy. And she rid us of Joffrey LOL

  • All of you claiming that she isn’t evil, have y’all forgotten that she did try to frame Tyrion for regicide? I know it’s more complicated than being good or evil but still…