It’s Lena Headey’s birthday, and she’s spending it in total emotional turmoil, shooting a grueling top-secret scene from the upcoming fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. We’re in Dubrovnik’s historic Old Town district, where the tourists (and, HBO suspects, a few sneaky paparazzi) are jockeying for vantage points on the city’s high stone walls to get a look down at the pivotal moment. Crew members erect a large screen to hide Headey from all the watchers on the wall.
Headey gives the performance seemingly everything she has, trying to make sure she delivers what the director needs the first or second time—or else, she explains later, her performance begins to feel artificial. “It’s that weird thing of being an actor,” she says. “I can can maybe do two or three scenes if I’m”—she suddenly pretends to wail, then snaps back to her typical cool composure—”and then my truth is finished. I f–king hate ‘lying’ in a scene.”
Later, she’s cheered by a couple visitors: Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill, two of her favorite scene partners who have come to wish her a happy birthday on their day off. This season, Headey and Dinklage, longtime friends from before Thrones came along, are disappointed that they don’t get to work together; her character, Cersei, remains in Westeros, while Dinklage’s Tyrion is now traveling the continent of Essos.
Still, the season is a great one for her character, one that producers have told her for years would be pivotol. After spending decades at the mercy of her husband and her father, their deaths have now paved the way for Cersei to have control of King’s Landing; her young son, King Tommen (Dean Charles Chapman), isn’t old enough to directly rule. Yet having power isn’t always a good thing—especially if you’re Cersei, whose paranoia and resentments have been known to get in the way of making savvy decisions.
“Not that it was a love fest, but at least she had guidance from her father. And sadly, she doesn’t really know much about their finances and political allies,” Headey says. “She thinks she’s found an influential power group to join and manipulate, but she invests in the wrong people. She just has too much hatred for certain people, so she doesn’t help her cause.”
Indeed, Cersei’s enemies list can nearly rival Arya’s at this point—with her fugitive younger brother at the top of the list. “She’s obviously disliked [Tyrion] since the beginning, since she holds him responsible for the death of her mother. And now she’s holding him responsible for the death of their father ,too,” she says. “She also believes—she doesn’t really believe it, but is happy to believe it because she can hate him more—that he murdered Joffrey too.”
And then there’s the Tyrells, especially the crafty and comely Margaery (Natalie Dormer)—who further woos Cersei’s son this season. “There’s some great scenes with Margaery and Cersei this season. I think everyone will dig that,” she says. “There’s a stab one way, then a good stab the other way—they’re fun and dangerous. And also, there’s a moment between Cersei and Olenna [Diana Rigg] which is awesome as well. She’s got two thorns deeply in her side.”