If you’re the main character on a TV series, you generally remain the main character as long as you’re on the show.
But not much about HBO’s Game of Thrones is typical. Season one starred Sean Bean, whose character was killed off in the ninth episode. In season two, Peter Dinklage took over as the show’s unofficial lead, since his character, Tyrion Lannister, had a major arc defending King’s Landing against an invasion. In season 3, the game board is shaken up once again. This season really doesn’t have a main character. There are instead 27 series regulars with roles of varying significance. Make no mistake — Tyrion is still a major player — but this time he is one of several.
So we were curious. Does the Emmy-winning Dinklage mind no longer being the show’s focus?
“I don’t mind,” he says, and then adds in a very Tyrion-like aside: “My character probably minds.”
“It’s still fun, but easier,” he says. “I’ve had fewer days shooting. With all the [show’s] different story lines, the focus sometimes shifts, which is fine.”
Dinklage is relaxing in his trailer between set-ups on the Thrones set in Belfast last fall, where he has been reading the thriller Gone Girl (written by former EW staffer Gillian Flynn). Last season his character barely survived the climactic Battle of the Blackwater, but received a harsh facial scar for his efforts in what appeared to be an assassination attempt by one of his own men. In George R.R. Martin’s novels, Tyrion actually loses his nose in the attack. Thrones producers opted for a less extreme injury.
“It would cost a lot of money, because they’d have to put a little green sock on my nose,” Dinklage says of the nose-less option. “Every scene I was in they’d have to [digitally paint] over my face in every frame and that’s costly and time consuming. I think a scar solves everything.”
Still, in Sunday’s premiere, expect a shout-out to book readers who expect Tyrion to appear more damaged.
In season 3, Tyrion will jockey for position with his sister Cersei (Lena Headey) to impress their cruel father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who has now returned to King’s Landing and taken over Tyrion’s position as Hand of the King (a move Tyrion isn’t too thrilled about). As during our interview last year, Dinklage expresses some concern about his performance (proving, like in most workplaces, that people who worry the most about their abilities are the same ones who have the least reason to worry). “The three of us spar a lot this season,” Dinklage says. “That’s a challenge because we’re a family and it’s a family with a very dark history with each other. They’re really rich, really well-written long scenes — six-page scenes — of just us talking. I really want to do those justice, you really want to serve it well.”
On the set, Dinklage isn’t as intense as you might expect. He frequently jokes with cast, such as flipping off Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) behind his back during one scene, and, during my interview with Lean Headey, bursting into her trailer pretending to serve the “queen” coffee. (You quickly discover on the Thrones set the characters who hate each other the most on screen, such as Headey and Dinklage, have some of the strongest off-screen bonds).
Also receiving plenty of screen time this season is Tyrion’s love life with his secret prostitute lover, Shae (Sibel Kekilli). “In the book, she’s a much more minor character, hardly mentioned,” he notes. “Here she’s a bit more central to Tyrion’s life.”
All told, Dinklage notes some of Tyrion’s finest attributes will be on display this year. “He’s a survivor,” Dinklage says. “He crawls his way back, to a certain extent. But that’s what’s fun about this character. He’ll make the best out of every situation no matter what position he’s put in.”
17 DAYS OF THRONES
EW rolled out 17 Game of Thrones stories with exclusive and spoiler-free behind-the-scenes content, largely drawn from our Northern Ireland set visit last fall, leading up to the show’s season 3 premiere on March 31. After each episode air we’ll have our popular recaps (catch up on the recaps for the first two seasons here) and interviews. Follow me on Twitter @james_hibberd for Game of Thrones news and bookmark our Thrones hub here.