Jonathan Pryce (High Sparrow) was shocked fans thought his character was “the bad guy”

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

Actor Jonathan Pryce played the High Sparrow during Game of Thrones seasons 5 and 6, during which time his character oversaw the cleansing of the rampant corruption inside the Faith of the Seven, the reinstatement of the Faith Militant, the arrest of the Queen Mother Cersei Lannister for the murder of King Robert, and a strengthened relationship between the Faith and the Crown, then held by King Tommen.

With all those good deeds to his name, you’d think he would be remembered as a good guy, but as Pryce tells, after the High Sparrow’s death in the season 6 finale, he was surprised to learn that fans saw him in a different light. “It surprised me when it was eventually shown on TV how many people said what a terrible man he was. I hadn’t for one minute thought he was the bad guy.”

As it turns out, being a homophobic religious extremist who arrests and punishes beloved characters (or characters fans love to hate, like Cersei) doesn’t win you friends among fans. Although to be fair, fans have embraced other morally grey characters in the past, with one-time attempted child murderer Jaime Lannister being Exhibit A. In any case, Pryce objects to the High Sparrow’s “bag guy” reputation. “I saw him as the savior of that society. He was the ultimate socialist. He works for the poor, he washed people’s feet, he didn’t go so far as healing the sick but he was a socialist.”

"I don’t make a judgment about what [characters I play] do, whether it’s good or bad. What you don’t want to do is comment on the character while you’re being them, or give too many suggestions that he’s a bad guy. I believe in the moment, in what the character is saying because he believes it’s the right thing to say."

I think most fans would agree that the High Sparrow, at the least, wasn’t a hero — he did too many objectionable things — but I like that it’s at least possible to read him more sympathetically, and I credit much of that to Pryce’s nuanced performance.

In his newest film The Wife, Pryce portrays a novelist who is about to receive the Nobel Prize for his “acclaimed body of work.” His wife of 40 years (Glenn Close) soon starts to look back on their lives together. She has poured “her considerable intellect, grace, charm, and diplomacy into the private role of Great Man’s Wife,” and it hasn’t always been easy.

Pryce says that Joe, his character, could be seen as a villain, but that it’s “up to the audience to decide whether he was a horrible man.” Shades of the High Sparrow.

The Wife, which also features former Game of Thrones star Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen) as a younger version of Pryce’s character, is in theaters now.

Next. Mark Gatiss (Tycho Nestoris) is not returning for Game of Thrones season 8. dark

To stay up to date on everything Game of Thrones, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Watch Game of Thrones or Succession for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels