As we head into Game of Thrones season 5 premiere weekend, here’s our Q&A with Emmy-winning star Peter Dinklage. When we last saw his character Tyrion Lannister in last year’s finale, he had just murdered his father and his lover and then was packed into a crate bound for Essos. Now a fugitive, we’ll meet up with Tyrion on Sunday night getting unpacked by Varys in Pentos with quite a hangover. Below, the actor teases (without spoilers) the new season and reveals his all-time favorite scene:
Entertainment Weekly: What’s in store for Tyrion this season?
Peter Dinklage: He’s in a world of pain and shit when we find him. Obviously for good reason. But he has some people around him who convince him to get back on his feet because he’s sort of ready to end it, which is very un-Tyrion like. He’s ready to give up.
He has a beard this season. Before the series started, that was your rule to the producers — no beard. Now five seasons later…
[Laughs] Well I was referring to a beard that reached down to my knees in a sort of dwarf-in-Lord of the Rings way. This is a beard I’ve actually grown, so it’s more Tyrion and not Gandalf.
More like Jim Morrison / rock star than Gimli.
Right on, man, thank you. It’s my crate beard.
Looks like your costume is a bit more grungy though.
He’s on the run. He adapts to his environment and wears the clothes of the new place he’s in.
The trailer shows Varys convincing him to seek out Daenerys. Why does he want to find her?
He’s curious. He’s heard so many stories about this woman. He hears that she’s a kindred spirit, someone who’s an outsider who’s been pushed to the edges, but has an unfortunate, dirty last name. Everybody associates the Targaryens with the Mad King. He wants to know her in person and is tired of hearing the stories. Varys helps convince him of the reality of her. And I think dragons are a big part of it — everybody is denying the reality of these creatures and certainly Tyrion has as well. But just like Tyrion going to The Wall in season one, he likes to see things first hand.
The courtroom scene last year had such a huge impact last year. Did you expect that?
The fight between [Gwendoline Christie and Rory McCann] was great too — that was my personal favorite. It was a chance for Tyrion — without any bullshit, without any humor — to tell everybody what he really thought. People say things about others in this show in corridors and in bedrooms. And this was Tyrion’s moment to pull back that curtain and pull the rip cord on the whole Lannister legacy, and especially expose his father; things that have been stuffed down deep inside of him. He’s always deals with things with humor and wit, but this time … enough’s enough. It would have been fine until the love of his life was brought into into [the courtroom]. Until then, he would have taken the deal.
Do you have an all-time favorite scene?
Yeah, I love reading these scripts. I loved the scene with [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in season 4] when we’re talking about our cousin. There’s so much in the show that’s necessary to push the story forward because everybody is just trying to stay alive. And so many of those scenes last year in the cell really defined all these different relationships in Tyrion’s life. I loved the lines about their cousin, who’s a bit thick and smashing the beetles. Because it was about something from their past. It’s like Tyrion’s in shock, or something. He doesn’t know why he’s telling that story and he just wants to know what it was about, and what life is about, and it had such an abstract non-f–king King’s Landing feel to it. It was such a fresh breath. I loved that monologue. Whether I serviced it or not is a matter of opinion.
Have you changed anything about your approach, the way you portray him over the years?
Yeah. I don’t think he’s as arrogant as he used to be. He’s always had compassion, his heart has been in the right place. But I think his arrogance has been diminished due to his terrible circumstances. He’s kinder, even though he’s a murderer. He also holds his tongue a bit more, which I like. He’s been put in his place a bit. I’ve talked to [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] about this, because everybody likes the Tyrion wit — well not everybody, but a lot of people, or whatever. But sometimes you shouldn’t give an audience what they expect from a character. What I love about this show is the evolution of Tyrion. If I’ve done my job right, he has hopefully changed from the first time you saw him until now.
After five years, do you ever find Tyrion’s voice seeping into your own personality? Like you think: “Oh, that was a Tyrion thought.”
Maybe that’s a question for my wife. Sometimes if I’ve had a long day … I don’t know. I would like to say I’m the Daniel Day-Lewis of Thrones, but I’m not. Tyrion’s much smarter than me.
There’s a line in the season 5 premiere where Tyrion declares he won’t end up on the Iron Throne. Do you think that’s true?
Nothing is certain, obviously. In that scene when I say that I’m in a very dark place, filled with self loathing. I just want to curl up in a dark corner and die. That’s not a time when you would say, “You know, I think I could sit on the Iron Throne. The interesting thing is he doesn’t stay in that dark place for too long and if that question was posed to him later in the season I think he might have a different response. He’s also at this point in the show where knows how the world views him and he’s being honest as well — “Those f–kers just wanted me to die, I’m a dwarf and everybody still sees me as that and only that.” I think he could and that he would do a damn fine job. I’d like him to get on the Iron Throne and melt it and create a democracy. I know that’s a contemporary idea for a show like this.
What’s your hope for Tyrion?
I want him to trust someone. I want someone to trust him. He has that in his brother, but his brother is too close, he’s family. Podrick was his employee. There’s a lot of issues of trust this season.
But wait, we’re just getting started:
Did you miss EW’s first Reddit AMA? I answered your burning Game of Thrones questions.
After Sunday’s premiere, come to EW.com for our recap and interviews. Follow me on Twitter to know when stories go live: @jameshibberd