The Dutch actress and singer opens up about her characters big scenes in Season 6, keeping up the lie, and how she was going through a really rough period during filming. “>
A strange thing happens when you tell the same lie over and over again enough times: You start to believe it.
So it went for Carice van Houten, who plays Game of Thrones mysterious Red Priestess Melisandre. For close to 10 months, she was entrusted with TVs most talked-about secret: the fate of Jon Snow, the heroic Lord Commander who was betrayed by his fellow Nights Watchmen and murdered in the final scene of the HBO dramas fifth season.
Sunday nights episode, Home, finally confirmed what fans had hoped for all along: the Bastard of Winterfell rose from the dead thanks to the restorative power of Rhllor, the Lord of Light, as channeled by Melisandre. It was a redemptive moment for fans, many of whom suspected the outcome all along, for Snow, whose biggest moments are now yet to come, and for the priestess herself, whose faith in her lifes purpose had been shaken to its core.
Most of all, van Houten says, it was a bloody relief. For nearly a year, she was forced to lie to family, friends, and fans (it was necessary, she says) in order to preserve the mystery of the Lord Commanders return. After a while, even after shooting the scene, she says, that lying started playing tricks on her mind.
At some point, I really believed myself, the 39-year-old Dutch singer and actress says. I had to lie so, so much, you know, you sort of believe in your own lie. You cant keep up with it. So at a certain point, I was like, Of course hes dead. No, hes not gonna come back. I almost forgot that we shot that scene.
Her memories of the long, tense shoot (the episodes director Jeremy Podeswa was exacting: We were shooting it from, like, 50,000 angles, van Houten remembers) are bittersweet. When the scene was shot last summer, she says, I was going through a really rough period myself. So when I look back at it A pause to audibly shudder. It all comes back to me. There was tension in that room, definitely.
Jon Snows resurrection, however, is only the latest indication that Melisandres magicheretofore assumed to be mostly smoke and mirrorsis real and more powerful than previously imagined. Van Houten hopped on the phone from Amsterdam to discuss the latest twists in Melisandres story, viewers uncomfortable reactions to seeing a nude and wrinkled female body onscreen, and what she hopes to see as Game of Thrones nears the beginning of the end.
Sunday night was obviously huge for Jon Snow truthers, but I cant get over what this might mean for Melisandre.
Yeah, it was a pretty big moment for me. (Laughs.)
The resurrection scene itself is so muted and understated, mournful and quiet. Not at all like the flames and the blood theatrics that weve seen from some of her other spells. What did that quality of it mean to you?
I think thats great. The atmosphere on set was the same way. It was all up to me, I really felt the big pressure. This was the scene that everyone was waiting for and we were shooting it from like 50,000 angles and were doing it the whole day and here I am cleaning Kits body and trying not to tickle him and wake him up. So there was a lot of pressure in that room. And I was going through a really rough period myself. So when I look back at it, it all comes back to me. There was tension in that room, definitely.
Yes. It was difficult. From them, from family and god knows how many people at conventions that have asked us. (Laughs.) We had to keep with a straight lie. And I dont like lying, but it was definitely necessary. At some point, I even believed myself. You know, I had to lie so, so much you sort of believe in your own lie. You cant keep up with it. So at a certain point, I was like, Of course hes dead. No, hes not gonna come back. I almost forgot that we shot that scene.
What did you make of peoples reactions to the scene?
I tweeted this tweet that said, Happy now? And I never had more retweets in my life. The people were just insanely happy about it. Im sure they would have hated us more if we would have told them earlier. Yes, its true, were gonna resurrect him. Im pretty sure they would have hated that much more.
Melisandre resurrecting Jon comes just one episode after another huge reveal: that she is actually ancient, maybe hundreds of years old, and her magic is real, not just smoke and mirrors like she led us to believe before.
I loved that, oh I couldnt wait for that episode. I don't think anyone saw that coming. At all.
It was such a satisfying twist too, since Melisandre is one of the characters whos depicted naked most often. Having that immaculate, powerful body turn out to be a ruse hiding extreme age and fragility feels almost subversive.
Yeah, and its funny to see how people react to that physical part. Apart from the shock, but also how uncomfortable people get with older nudity. A natural, older persons body. Because of course in our society, in our world, everything that has to do with aging is a taboo. Its something that we wanna stay away from. Its a little sad. And here we see this woman, who we think is just going to disrobe, actually show [something else]. I really loved that moment.
I did too. It was hugely powerful.
And of course I understand the reaction of keep the necklace on! But mostly, I enjoyed the comments of how fragile that [makes her] look. How sympathetic that immediately makes someone if they are that fragile.
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