Whether you know him best as Game of Thrones’ scheming Littlefinger or ambitious Baltimore politico Tommy Carcetti on HBO’s The Wire, actor Aiden Gillen has the uncanny ability to make any bad guy seem a bit more humane — which also happens to be the reoccurring theme in his newest project, indie flick Beneath The Harvest Sky.
In the film, Gillen plays a prescription drug dealer in rural Maine whose teen son Casper (Emory Cohen) fuels his desperate need for cash by becoming involved in his dad’s undercover dealings.
“It’s my kind of gig,” says Gillen of the movie, available now on VOD and opening in limited release May 2. “To be honest, I’m probably more attracted to the smaller scale stuff and always have been.”
For Gillen, 46, appearing in projects like Beneath the Harvest Sky — by first time directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly — represents a much-needed break from his time on the GOT set concocting intricate plots as Littlefinger.
“It’s a matter of fulfillment,” explains the reticent Irish actor of his balancing act. “I have to do both to make a living, but I’d say with this film, there was the draw of wanting to play a character that’s quite warm, even though he’s a drug dealer.”
Aside from playing a drug dealer (for the record, Gillen says “anyone who involves themselves in drugs is involving themselves in death”), the actor found himself enjoying another aspect of the small-scale production: improvisation. “There was quite a bit of improvisation, which actually came from the directors,” explains Gillen, who shot the film on location in rural Maine. “Anything that happened happened on camera. But I liked it that way — I don’t like rehearsing. ”
And while Gillen — the father of two children, Berry and Joe — was happy to embrace the role of on-screen dad, he says that he was predominantly drawn to the film because of the way it portrays the friendship between teens Casper and Dominic (Callan McAuliffe).
“I really like coming of age dramas. It’s probably the most intense period in anyone’s life, those years before you become an adult,” notes Gillen, who includes American coming of age films like Breaking Away and Out of the Blue among his favorites. “Dramatically, there’s so much to explore there. And it’s nice to be around young talent coming through.”
But don’t dare forecast his next project based on that declaration. Gillen refuses to disclose his wish list of directors (“I don’t think that way”) and isn’t about to pen the next great coming of age story any time soon (“If I wanted to write, I’d [have] done it already”). Instead, he says, he just wants to try his best to pursue a wide variety of films — and stay under the radar.
“You want people to forget about you,” admits Gillen, who will next be seen in Irish television mini series Citizen Charlie, playing politician Charles J. Haughey. “I’ve always been quite conscious of that, of staying low profile.”
“The challenge, of course,” he chuckles, “is that to get the smaller, no-budget things, you need to have some kind of profile.”