Why this Game is serious business
Starring in one of the biggest shows in the world certainly isn’t a game for either Liam Cunningham or Carice van Houten, discovers
Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham has a simple explanation as to why there isn’t more male nudity on the show. ‘‘Because women are much infinitely more beautiful to look at than men are. Men are built for f...ing digging holes and pulling ploughs. Women are there to be painted and adored. That’s the only reason,’’ says the Irish actor who plays smuggler turned knight Davos Seaworth in the fantasy drama that returns to Sky TV’s SoHo channel on July 17.
It might not be the feminist thing to say he’s told as we sit down for a chat alongside fellow Thrones actor Carice van Houten (Melisandre) in London’s Corinthia Hotel .
‘‘Well it’s not the lesbian thing to say ... no you know what I mean,’’ says Cunningham.
Well not really, because the reality is it’s hard to know just how seriously to take the former electrician who spent three years working at a safari park in Zimbabwe before returning home and turning his hand to acting.
Take a suggestion he made earlier this year that the advance of Game of Thrones‘ zombified ice creatures The White Walkers is a metaphor for climate change.
‘‘I opened my f...ng mouth,’’ says the 56-year-old actor, when reminded of his views.
‘‘What did you drink. What were you on?’’ asks Van Houten.
‘‘Some drug I was on. I don’t know what is was at the time. They said it was heroin. It f...ing wasn’t heroin,’’ says Cunningham.
‘‘No, I’m only joking. I don’t like getting too heavy about this, but I kind of thought it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to compare The White Walkers coming from the north as climate change.
‘‘Don’t forget in Westeros, we’ve been denying them, nobody believes them, it’s myth, it’s legend and this, that and the other, it can’t happen. We obviously know on the show they’re on their way and no army, no one army, no Daenerys army, no Cersei army, no Jon Snow army is going to be able to defeat [them]. They’re very difficult to kill and I just kinda said at the time maybe it’s a little like climate change.’’
It’s not a view shared by 40-year-old Van Houten who says, ‘‘To me I see The White Walkers as a metaphor for death coming for all of us and whether you’re a king or a peasant, man, woman, strong or weak or whatever, you can’t escape’’.
And also what she can’t escape is comments about the amount of nudity on the show, especially as far as Melisandre is concerned.
But she says, ‘‘When I say I am comfortable being naked, that’s not entirely true. I just feel like it’s part of our job. If it’s just about nakedness and tits, I agree, I don’t like that either. I wouldn’t agree on doing that but if it serves the purpose, and if it’s part of a character, and in my case or in my character’s case, it’s a weapon [’’A f...ing dangerous weapon,’’ chips in Cunningham] – that’s when it’s a little different.
‘‘In America, it’s still really uncomfortable with nudity, so that’s something I’d like to address some time ... oh s..., my English has gone.
Struggling for words, the
Dutch actress adds, ‘‘It’s hypocritical when you can show machine guns and people blowing their heads off ... but if there’s one nipple ...
‘‘It’s just about how uncomfortable people are with sexuality in general, I think. I don’t want to be the woman who likes to always takes her clothes off. Definitely not. Especially after giving birth and especially now I’m a little bit older woman. I’d really rather not any more, but if it serves the purpose it can be beautiful to show, you know, cellulite. Of course, I’m also a vain person, but if it’s about the arts then you have to surrender.
That’s part of our job.’’
And part of the job, for Melisandre at least, is a possible alliance with Daenerys in season seven, as she faces up the the reality that she might have backed the wrong horse in supporting Stannis and burning his daughter Shireen at the stake.
It was a scene that outraged fans but not, says Cunningham, to the extent they were upset by the Sansa rape scene in season five.
‘‘The internet went mad, everybody went mad with Sansa – the whole rape thing,’’ he recalls.
‘‘ At the same time, there wasn’t the same furore about burning a little girl to death. I’m not saying one shouldn’t have been talked about, but I was surprised. I was kinda looking at the levels.
‘‘What I kind of got with the whole Shireen thing, and again the best writing is open to interpretation, it’s not this or that, it’s not a lesson, but for me it was ‘look what the desire for power can cause a sane person to do’.
The drug of power that drives people to horrific things. I’m sure Barack Obama didn’t want to be sending drone flights to kill innocent men, women and children in Pakistan, but he felt the need to do it.’’
Van Houten describes the burning scene as ‘‘the worst scene I have ever shot’’, but says that it is only since giving birth to Australian actor Guy Pearce’s son Monte in August last year that she has felt its full implications.
‘‘I couldn’t really feel what it meant. I just knew it was a horrible thing. And now I cannot even watch anything on TV with children or animals. You’re an open wound once you become a parent,’’ she says.
And motherhood even led to tears on the set when she returned to work six weeks after giving birth.
‘‘One scene, that I did, I was in the green room, and I just sort of broke apart because I was alone and someone came in and said, ‘Are you OK’ and I said, ‘I just want to go to my baby’. It all became unimportant to me. It’s a great, important show but once you’ve just had a baby, nothing else really, really matters more than that.’’
Season 7 of Game of Thrones debuts on Monday, July 17 on SoHo. It will also be available to stream on Neon.
Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham is not a man who likes to mince his words - either on or off screen.