Aidan Gillen made his mark as the conniving Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones, but his career is so much more than that. It’s really taken off over the last few years, with lots of projects on both the big and small screens. At the moment, he’s starring History’s Project Blue Book, which premiered on Syfy earlier this month. He’s also appeared in Netflix’s Peaky Blinders, the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and a lot more.
Given how much talent he has, Gillen’s success doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Just go back and look at some of his Game of Thrones episodes; didn’t you just love to hate Littlefinger?
Like Thrones, Project Blue Book is a genre series…of sorts. Gillen plays real-life ufologist Dr. J Allen Hynek, an astronomer hired by the U.S. Air Force to look into UFO sightings between 1952 and 1969. Gillen talked to Backstage about getting into the right headspace for this very different kind of role.
It may seem really simple, the idea that a bunch of family photographs is really going to help you work out who you’re supposed to be playing, but that’s what happened…. I have been in touch with the family. They would answer any question [I] had, but it was just the little things of giving you a thing like a book. Having a copy of Hynek’s book that I know was in his office and that I know he read is just a little magic, like a totem. It’s there and it can get you through things.
After playing the duplicitous Littlefinger for seven years on Thrones, Gillen says he “actively went after something that was a bit warmer and on the side of good and not so self-serving.”
I don’t know about you guys, but this interview is making me want to check out Project Blue Book.
When Gillen was first starting out, he intended to follow in the footsteps of performers he admired. But over time, he came to realize that you have to embrace who you are and be proud that you are the only you.
Embrace your quirks and idiosyncrasies. I did that, and if I hadn’t got it, I might be still trying to be something else.
Touche, Mr. Aidan Gillen.
As can can guess based on the kind of projects he does — Thrones, Peaky Blinders, The Wire — Gillen is all about an ensemble cast. His philosophy is that while you may be overshadowed by other actors on the show, that show is also more likely to get watched.
Even if you’re only coming in and doing a scene every two weeks or whatever, if the world is well-drawn, the audience feels like everyone is there all the time and, you know, I quite like being part of these big ensembles, these big tapestries, as opposed to, ‘Oh, well, you’re supposed to be the star of this.’
Perhaps the best part of this Backstage interview is Gillen’s sincerity about how far he has come. No matter the work he has gone on to do, he always remembers where he started and who helped him in his early days. “And you have to remember the people who let you sleep on their couches, too,” he reminds himself. How sweet is that?