Varys plays a mostly benign ‘Game’ in HBO’s block­buster fan­tasy

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv -

“Big, big­ger, big­gest” seems to be the motto for the eighth and fi­nal sea­son of “Game of Thrones,” which premieres Sun­day, April 14, on HBO.

The epic fan­tasy block­buster has just six more episodes in which to wrap up its sprawl­ing storylines, al­though the last four of those will clock in at 80 min­utes each in­stead of the usual hour’s du­ra­tion.

The Sea­son 7 fi­nale teed up some jaw-drop­ping cliffhang­ers, in­clud­ing the re­lent­less march south­ward by the army of the dead, led by the Night King perched atop a fly­ing zom­biedragon.

But the other big shocker in that fi­nale was more per­sonal: Jon Snow (Kit Har­ing­ton) was re­vealed to be, not the il­le­git­i­mate son of Ned Stark, but a royal descen­dant of the Tar­garyen line and, as such, the true heir to the Iron Throne.

It’s a de­vel­op­ment that is sure to have head-spin­ning im­pli­ca­tions for some of the show’s power play­ers and un­der­the-radar ma­nip­u­la­tors alike, in­clud­ing Varys (Con­leth Hill), the cun­ning spy­mas­ter with a knack for mov­ing hu­man chess pieces to en­sure the most fa­vor­able re­sults for Wes­teros.

“If you no­tice, most of the neg­a­tive things that are said about Varys are said about him by those who don’t like him or trust him, but I al­ways have be­lieved he’s a good man,” Hill says. “He does his best. He’s not as self-cen­tered as Littlefing­er was, who was both ego­tis­ti­cal and wanted ev­ery­thing for his own good. I be­lieve Varys when he says ‘for the good of the realm,’ which he says so of­ten it’s al­most his hash­tag. I’ve cer­tainly seen noth­ing to con­tra­dict that.”

In a mem­o­rable Sea­son 3 scene with Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lan­nis­ter, Varys re­vealed de­tails about the bru­tal life that had taught him sur­vival skills, but also the value of kind­ness.

“Varys sees that kind­ness can be as ef­fec­tive as cru­elty,” the ac­tor says. “I loved a scene in Sea­son 6, I think, where you saw him ac­tu­ally in­ter­ro­gate some­one, and it was the op­po­site of what you may have been ex­pect­ing. In­stead of ‘I’m go­ing to tor­ture you and you’ll tell me what I want to know,’ it was ‘Why don’t I give you lots of money and get you and your son out of here?’ He knew what ap­pealed to peo­ple, what but­tons he could push to get in­for­ma­tion that would be use­ful to any­one, not just him­self.”

The first time he had to shave his head for this role, a col­league helped him main­tain per­spec­tive.

“Rory McCann, who plays The Hound, could tell I was un­happy and asked what was wrong,” Hill re­calls. “‘I’ve sold my soul to HBO,’ I said. ‘Shut up and get in your Bent­ley,’ he told me.”

Con­leth Hill plays the clever Varys in “Game of Thrones,” pre­mier­ing Sun­day on HBO.

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