Natalie Dormer was always one my favorite performers on Game of Thrones. Or maybe it was Margaery Tyrell. Looking at her career, it’s hard to separate the two. She’s long had a fondness for playing strong, cunning, self-possessed women, whether it’s Margaery or the demoness Magda on Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which is airing now on Showtime.
“I’m fascinated by powerful women who transform their strength into sensuality,” she told The Mirror. “I’m very shy in real life and I think there’s a side of me that hopes that by taking on these roles, I can become a great seductress. But I also want to be part of stories that show how women can lead interesting, engaging lives apart from their romantic relationships.”
We need to keep sending that kind of message to young audiences, and young women in particular. I keep gaining confidence every time I play these kinds of women. That’s why I want to find projects that frighten me in many respects, because I know at the end of it, I will be much more confident. It’s the old saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I believe in pushing myself whenever I can because I know that’s the best way I can grow as an individual. I’m constantly trying to challenge myself.
Margaery Tyrell definitely fits the description of a “powerful woman who transforms her strength into sensuality.” Margaery leveraged her cunning to become queen of Westeros…which was great while it lasted, anyway.
And playing characters like Margaery has helped Dormer offscreen, too, where she used to be more of a shrinking violet. “I suffered a lot of bullying in school and, ever since, I’ve made it a point not to back down and to rise up to every situation and become a stronger person,” she said. “That’s a key aspect of my personality and how I try to live. I needed to work on my confidence level in my 20s until I became more forceful. I’m much more open now and I’m pretty straightforward.”
On Penny Dreadful, which tells the story of rising tensions in 1930s-era Los Angeles, Dormer is kicking it up another notch, playing a demon who takes multiple forms with the intention of stirring society to explosion. “It was a delicious kind of thrill to be able to take on all these different iterations of Magda,” Dormer said. “She’s the ultimate agent of chaos who is trying to stir things up and expose the flaws in humanity. She’s very cynical about human nature and in the very first episode she explains her perspective: ‘I give human beings a choice, but they choose time and time again to be seduced by the more base, selfish roles’. Her argument is that mankind is its own worst enemy.”
There’s been an incredible political polarisation that has been going on in recent years – the demonisation of the other, the resurgence of nationalism, pointing the finger at others, and this nasty brand of identity politics. I personally find that terrifying. What has happened to the world? There are very uncomfortable parallels between the state of things today and the kind of things happening in the mid-to-late 1930s and the lead-up to the Second World War. One of the big philosophical questions the series poses is whether mankind is innately selfish and prejudiced, or whether there is something fundamentally good about being a human being.
Although Dormer is still playing a manipulator, this role really shows off her range. She slips easily into the skins of a put-upon German immigrant, an angry Pachuco insurgent, a mousy government bureaucrat, and Magda’s true form of a vengeful demon. It’s really impressive stuff. If Dormer at one time had trouble with her confidence, she clearly has plenty now, and I can’t wait to see what she continues to do with it.
h/t Digital Spy