It must be so frustrating for her: Margaery Tyrell should be winning this thing! The Game of Thrones character has the cunning smarts, the dynastic family name, and the skills both social and, yes, sensual. Three times she’s been queued up to be queen, yet circumstances beyond her control keep pushing a comfy reign just beyond her grasp. Now headed into season 6 of the HBO drama, Margaery is at her lowest point yet: Imprisoned by the Faith Militant while arch-rival Cersei (Lena Headey) is free at the Red Keep.
“Over the five years that I’ve played Margaery we’ve seen in her in a lot of sticky situations, but she’s never been out of her depth,” Natalie Dormer tells EW. “She’s always given the impression, at least, of being a step ahead. In season 6, you see her genuinely fearful of how best to handle the situation. She is scared and uncertain. She starts to look unrecognizable in places.”
Margaery is the latest Thrones character to spend a stretch behind bars (her brother Loras is also locked up). Like Cersei before her, she’ll contend with the stern and shaming Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham), as well as the Faith Militant’s leader the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) — who’s perhaps the first man Margaery has met that’s seemingly immune to her charms.
“Jonathan Pryce is the best sparring partner any actor could have a hope to have,” Dormer says. “He has such an affable, self-deprecating, charismatic manner about him, and the way Jonathan plays the character come across so sincere. He’s not like any other man Margaery has had to handle, where she could just throw her sensuality at him, or use their greed or ego against them — the most common human foibles. The High Sparrow indulges none of these things. She’s trying to work out whether he’s for real. There’s a bit of ‘who’s bluffing who.'”
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But it’s a challenge she’ll have to overcome if she’s to avoid taking The Walk of Shame through the streets of King’s Landing — or worse. “The Walk of Shame looms large in Margaery’s brain, that somebody as powerful and savvy and veteran as Cersei can be taken down that way,” Dormer says. “Margaery doesn’t have the normal comfort zone of courtly politics, being thrown in a jail cell has psychologically broken her, to a certain extent. It’s definitely brought her down, made her desperate.”
Which could mean we’ll get less of the delicious Cersei vs. Margaery sparring we’ve enjoyed in recent seasons, but Dormer notes she’d much rather have her character face the Lannister matriarch than the High Sparrow.
“Cersei and Margaery are two women who in a different context might have been friends and great allies,” Dormer says. “But the religious revolution that’s happening is something that is much more dangerous and harder to navigate. I’m sure she rather be locked in the Red Keep with Cersei managing her – because she knows she can handle that.”
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In addition to Thrones, Dormer has been amazingly productive, having appeared in seven films since joining the show in season 2 – including recent titles The Forest and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. She’ll next appear on the big screen in this fall’s pandemic thriller Patient Zero.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO on Sunday.