Carice van Houten looks back on playing the mysterious Melisandre


On last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, Melisandre left us as mysteriously as she was introduced. In a drift of dust, she disappeared from Westeros having played an integral part in helping Arya Stark to acknowledge and then fulfill her destiny (“Brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes”). Now that the end has come, actress Carice van Houten talks to Entertainment Weekly about her iconic turn as the Red Woman.


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“I knew I’d have something to do with Arya,” she said when asked if she’d predicted how her final episode would go. “I thought probably something with fire. I did know I was going to come back one more time as an old lady.” Well, that’s three for three.

"I expected to live a little bit longer. But I really liked the way they ended my character. She actually saves the day, so she’s a bit of a hero in the end, which is cool. For a long time she was hated — and fair enough. I got some points when I brought back Jon…I would have liked to know a bit more about her past. Because she was a slave. It would have been a nice moment to show she is human and connect her to to others. As an actor it’s more interesting to play doubts and secrets. And it’s nice to tap from your own s—. I wish we knew a bit more about her s—."

So Melisandre was mysterious to the end, but van Houten was pleased that the episode answered at least one question about her motivations.

"I really like that we finally know what she came for, and it’s the end of her journey. “I can go now, my work is done” — without it being really dramatic. It’s a life that’s been hundreds of years that’s come to an end now."

It was hard to see her go. Melisandre was always a controversial, contradictory character, but incredibly compelling. Within the space of a few episodes, she sacrificed an innocent child (the moment when Melisandre realized that she’d burned Shireen for nothing was her favorite bit to play, FYI) and then resurrected Jon Snow. And here, she gave Arya the push she needed to realize her purpose. “I felt like that guy in the movie who gives the main character one last push to do it, like in a football game,” van Houten said.

So how was Melisnadre feeling in her final moments? “It was kind of relief,” van Houten said. “I tried to play it with tiredness but also with relief. I can go now. It’s done.”

Those emotions definitely came across. Melisandre’s final walk out of Winterfell had such a perfect cadence to it; of all the deaths that we saw this episode, it was hers that felt the most impactful; she faced her own end willingly and in the face of the morning sun.

Van Houten makes all that look easy, but pulling off Melisandre’s preternatural confidence is quite the endeavor:

"This wasn’t an easy part for me at all. It’s not like me to be so sure of myself. The first shooting day I had to do the burning of the gods [on the beach at Dragonstone; season 2, episode 1]. I had to do that speech for all the soldiers. So many great actors were there and I had never been so cold in my life — and my character is never supposed to be cold. I got unlucky there because I get cold in the summer. That dress was so fitted I couldn’t wear anything underneath. I was so nervous and shy and insecure about what I was going to do and how I was going to do it and I couldn’t use [those feelings] because I had to be all about the Lord of Light. A lot of people bought [the performance], which is fun."

So is this really the last we’ll see of the Red Woman? After all, Melisnadre is very old, and there is Game of Thrones prequel coming up. “I don’t want to be cynical, but I believe in the right moment. Maybe they can CGI me into a young girl. At the same time, all good things come to an end.”

Speaking of endings, can van Houten tell us anything about how Game of Thrones will conclude? Obviously, no she can’t, but she did speculate about how the audience will react:

"People have had so much time to make up their own story. I guess they become attached to something they wish or fear for. Some will be surprised. Above all, they’ll say that it’s over. It’s a pretty f—ing unique show, let’s face it."

Thanks for the brilliant portrayal of Melisandre, Carice van Houten! We won’t soon forget the Red Woman.

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