Carice van Houten discusses Melisandre’s “nicer” demeanor and where the character is going


Melisandre has long been one of the most enigmatic characters on Game of Thrones. She’s done horrible things, but all in the service of the greater good, or so she’d have you believe. When she popped back up at Dragonstone in “Stormborn,” the latest episode of Game of Thrones, it was with a new, calmer demeanor. She talked about where her character’s at these days with The Hollywood Reporter, starting with how she felt at the end of season 6 when Jon Snow banished her from the North.

“The last time I had a conversation with Jon Snow and what’s-his-name, Davos, it didn’t really look good for me,” she said, throwing some serious shade at the Onion Knight. “I had no idea if I was going to come back. I just figured, good god, where does she go now? I was very happy to read that she’s back, not with per se a vengeance, but with an interesting and important mission.“

That mission, as always, is trying to save the world from utter destruction. Melisandre now has a clearer idea of the threat against humanity than ever before — she knows the Night King is on the way, and even though she’s taken a few hits to her faith during her journey, she has resolve back and is ready to do good work.

"The first shock of everything that she believed in isn’t true, that her whole world had fallen apart, and everything that came with that — the burning of Shireen, which she never allowed herself to feel anything about because she was so sure it would lead to good things in the end — she was a wreck in season six. She slowly regains her confidence. Not so much her own confidence, but maybe her faith. She sees herself as a vessel. I don’t think she’s in it for her own gain. I don’t see her as a selfish person, per se. I think she regained some of her power and confidence after Jon Snow [came back to life]. She had no idea that was going to work. The fact that he was alive again, she must have allowed herself to think: “I was on the wrong track before. I’m on the right track now.” And then to be sent away again? It’s very frustrating, of course. She leaves Winterfell more heartbroken for the world than for herself."

But her options weren’t exhausted. Although we’re not sure exactly how she came to the conclusion (it probably involved a lot of staring at an open flame), Melisandre clearly got the idea that Daenerys Targaryen is also important to saving the White Walkers, and went to visit the Mother of Dragons. “[Melisandre] has respect for [Daenerys]” Van Houten said. “At this point, she’s just thinking: ‘What do we need to do in order to stay alive? What do we need to do to stop the world from fucking ending,’ really? She’s very serious about bringing the right people together in order to direct some of it, at least. I do think she knows more about what it means, what’s going to actually come. She’s seen it.”

And even though Jon banished her, Melisandre still thinks he has a part to play. She asked Dany to summon Jon Snow, even though it puts her in harm’s way. After all, both he and Davos threatened her with death the last time they saw her. “That’s why I think this isn’t a selfish act. She’s on a mission. She was wrong, terribly wrong, about the other mission — her first plan, with Stannis. But now she’s all the more determined to get it right, I think.”

I will note that Jon and Davos threatened to execute Melisandre only if she came back to the North, so technically she should be in the clear on Dragonstone. Still, there’s no accounting for what Davos especially will do, since his hatred is so personal.

But that’s not what’s important to the new Melisandre, who Van Houten says is becoming “nicer,” in a weird way, after everything that’s happened to her. “She’s more realistic, I guess, and self-aware in that sense. She’s more ironic, almost. It’s as if she can look at herself better now. She doesn’t have that fanatic point of view. It makes her, to me, more interesting to play.”

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Conleth Hill as Varys and Carice van Houten as Melisandre. Photo: HBO.

As for what’s next for the character, Van Houten makes like a good Game of Thrones cast member and plays coy. “She might be getting toward her end,” she said. “She might be dying for all we know…I think she [feels like] she’s in her last days. But I can’t predict anything.”

Interestingly, Van Houten also weighed in on a long-forgotten plot strand from season 3 — the moment when Melisandre looked into Arya’s eyes and told the budding murderess that “we will meet again.”

“There’s some untied knots in some of these stories, and loose ends with Arya,” Van Houten said. “There’s still a few things I think are bound to happen still.” Spooky.

Next: Callbacks and Easter Eggs in 'Stormborn'

In other cast interviews, TV Line had a quick sit-down with Will Tudor, who played the prostitute/spy Olyvar during seasons 3-5 of Game of Thrones. You’ll remember him as the guy had an affair with Loras before narcing on him to the High Sparrow, on Cersei’s instructions.

Said narc session resulted in Loras’ imprisonment, which then led to Loras being blown to bits when Cersei exploded the Sept of Baelor a season later. “There was a mixture of emotions about that,” Tudor says. “When you get the script, you go, ‘Oh no!’ I mean, you love these characters. I was a massive fan before I joined the show, so I already knew the characters very well. So that guilt is definitely there, where you’re just like, ‘Oh my goodness. What is this guy doing?!’”

But that doesn’t mean he regrets what Olyvar did.

"As an actor, it was really exciting. This opportunistic young man is coming in and grinding these gears just for his own benefit. He’s someone who’s thinking about himself, and anything he can do to improve his own standing in the world, he will do. I got very lucky with that…As a human being, I was sorry. As an actor, I was sorry… then not sorry… and then sorry again."

The odds of seeing Olyvar again seem pretty low, but hey, if Hot Pie can pop up after three seasons away, anything’s possible.

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