How different might Game of Thrones have been if Carice van Houten, whom fans know as the enigmatic Red Woman Melisandre, had instead played the imperious Queen Cersei Lannister? That’s the question knocking around my head after learning that van Houten was actually asked to try out for the part before the show’s first season, but couldn’t do it due to scheduling conflicts.
She actually revealed this tidbit way back in 2012, the year she debuted as Melisandre, but it’s news to me. “I thought the queen would be a great part, and [the producers] asked me to audition, but I couldn’t do it, because I was shooting something else,” van Houten told Vulture. “I think it was Intruders, with Clive Owen, and there was no way.”
As we all know, the role of Cersei went to Lena Headey, who played it to the absolute hilt. “It makes sense, because they’re sort of the same wood, as we say,” van Houten later told The Times. “But it all turned out for the best, because Lena couldn’t be a better Cersei.”
I guess “cut from the same wood” is the Dutch version of “cut from the same cloth.” Also, is it a compliment to say that Lena Headey had some things in common with a megalomaniacal, mass-murdering incest enthusiast? Well, as long as the performance is good.
Lena Headey definitely brought a fire to Cersei it’s hard to imagine the character without. As Melisandre, van Houten was a little more cool and distant. I think it worked out the way it was supposed to, but it’s fascinating to wonder what might have happened if the actors had switched parts.
Interestingly, when asked if she’d have liked anything about her time on Game of Thrones to be different, van Houten mentioned wanting some screentime with Cersei. “I would have loved to have some sort of little scene with Cersei. I’m so curious what would have happened if those two women got together. That would have been an interesting meeting.”
That certainly would have been a cool way to complete the circle.