Lady Cat: Her strengths, frailties and flaws
Game of Thrones has surpassed all the actors’ expectations, writes Guy Davis
THE epic fantasy Game of Thrones returns with the third season of the award-winning drama fast-tracked to our screens after its US premiere.
One of its pivotal characters is Lady Catelyn ‘‘Cat’’ Stark, the noblewoman determined to return her family to its rightful place in the feudal hierarchy of the land of Westeros.
Irish actress Michelle Fairley, who brings a fierce, unstoppable and complex spirit to her portrayal of Lady Stark, speaks about Game of Thrones’ tough, and compelling vision.
Michelle, please tell us about your first encounters with Game
The first scripts were kept under wraps for a very long time and then we had a table read when everyone had been cast. (US network) HBO filmed that, which was terrifying – you thought they were going to look at it and go, ‘‘OK, you’re sacked, you’re sacked’’. From there, it was on to the first day of filming, which again was incredibly exciting but nerve-racking. There was always the possibility they might not like the way you came across on camera.
It seems like no character on the show is safe from the axe either.
As the series progressed, you became aware of the nature and the quality of the production . . . the extraordinary sets, the props and the costumes, all personally made for each character. The time, the effort, the research that goes into the writing and direction. As an actor, you’re the last link in the chain. You want it to work. We knew (it was) quality; we didn’t know how popular it was going to be. It’s gone beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.
What are your thoughts on Lady Catelyn Stark? Her strengths, her frailties, even her flaws?
I’m glad that you said flaws because that’s what fascinates me about playing her. In Game of Thrones, the Starks may represent some kind of moral centre in this corrupt world where life is cheap. As parents, she and Ned try to impart to their children good qualities of faith and morality and goodness and not abusing power. Cat is from a noble family and even though hers is an arranged marriage it’s a successful and happy one that produced wonderful children. But as a human being she is complicated and flawed and she battles with the actions and decisions she’s made in the past. She has to come to terms with her grief as a widow. Then there’s the loss and dispersion of her family and her efforts to bring them all back together. The grief isn’t making her crumble – it’s
making her stronger, building her up.
Do you connect with her more the longer you’ve played her?
Cat is quite a different character in the
Game of Thrones books. But, for the actors, the more (showrunners) David (Benioff) and Dan (D.B Weiss) get to know the character and get to know your strengths . . . the scripts are constantly honed and shaped – they get richer. Every word is there for a reason.
Are you ever taken aback by how graphic Game of Thrones can be?
People were. But the world that’s been created is similar to the world we live in, I think. People do desperate things in desperate times. They sell their bodies or sell their souls. It’s a testament to some characters that they can do that and keep going. The show is about how people treat one another and how they interact. You have to play the game cleverly if you’re going to survive. You learn quickly how to be a tactician. Cat acts imperfectly and makes mistakes, but acts for her family’s sake. She wants revenge for her husband’s death. She has a dark side.
I’m guessing you’re bound by ironclad confidentiality agreements, that you can’t say anything about series three.
You’re right. I can say nothing. I’ve got four people watching me with steely eyes. I do understand the need to want to know, but I believe the enjoyment comes from watching it unfold and perhaps having that gut feeling about where it may be going.