[Spoilers lie ahead, so hold off on reading this interview until you’ve watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones, “Breaker of Chains.”]
Tyrion finds himself accused of Joffrey’s murder and yet a big Game of Thrones question remains: Whodunnit? We got a few pieces of the puzzle when Dontos ushers Sansa away from the scene of the crime and Petyr Baelish reveals that he was behind at least that part of the scheme. But where does Littlefinger — who, as you might recall, was raised with the Tully sisters, Catelyn and Lysa, and was called upon to cash in on that last season by wooing Sansa’s widowed aunt in the Vale — go to next, and what’s he up to, anyway? Aidan Gillen, who plays our favorite manipulator, chatted with Vulture about his character’s storyline, his rap skills, and the 1980s prog-rock band that shared a name with an unfortunate Game of Thrones troubadour.
When you refer to your character, do you call him Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger?
I don’t use Petyr Baelish as much. Littlefinger’s easier. I like Littlefinger. It’s nice to have a few names. I use a few names myself. I use a few different surnames. I call myself James sometimes. I actually use my mother’s name as a professional name. But if someone calls me Mr. Murphy or Mr. Gillen, I don’t like that. I don’t like being called mister and I don’t like being called sir. That’s just obvious, right? You don’t like to think of people on different levels, so I personally don't like that. I don’t call people sir, either.
I had a telemarketer call me ma’am today, and it was disconcerting.
What exactly does ma’am mean? It’s like a shorter version of madam.
And I don’t exactly run a brothel...
But I do, though! [Laughs] Maybe people should start calling me madam! Madam Littlefinger! Not bad. I miss the brothel. I think I’ve been away from that brothel for far too long. I’ve been out of there for some time. I think in my absence things do run as they’re supposed to, because there are instructions left out. There’s lots of stuff in place. I wouldn’t have just left King’s Landing and gone off on a ship, unless I was sure that things were going to be okay there.
The big surprise in this episode was learning that Littlefinger had something to do with Joffrey’s murder.
I wasn’t surprised by that. [Laughs]
Would you say that Petyr’s motivation is his unrequited love for Catelyn Stark and losing her in the Red Wedding? Or does he do what he does because he relishes having hidden power?
There’s some truth in that. I think a lot of why he became the person he became is because he was someone who loved a girl, who he could have had a chance with but was rejected by. And there was the humiliation of getting sliced with the sword [by Catelyn’s first fiancé, Brandon Stark] and being laughed at. He became a person who is never going to let that happen to him again. That was a big part in the formation of his character. And because he is the person that he is now, he’s gone off on another thing. And that’s what he does and what he likes. He loves being a gameplayer. He certainly likes to manipulate — we all know that. I don’t think he wants to be the one who is the absolute power, or the one who sits upon the Iron Throne. Pulling the strings is far more interesting, and not as dangerous. More satisfying. And Littlefinger also saw this as an opportunity to take out somebody who was quite dangerous. There are a number of other contenders for the Iron Throne, and the two most dangerous are Joffrey and Stannis, with Melisandre behind him. They represent the two extremes — fascism, and religious extremism.
Have you heard the rap song “Chaos Is a Ladder” that is built around a Littlefinger speech? In a way, that makes you a rapper ...
I haven’t, actually. Who did that? Common? There’s a lot of Game of Thrones stuff used in a lot of pastiches. I don’t know if I’ve seen a Lego Game of Thrones yet, but there must be one. And there’s an animated thing that’s been going on for quite some time, and Littlefinger is a newsreader in it, and it’s great. But I’ve not heard the rap. Does it have lots of swearing and everything in it? Brilliant. I’ll definitely have to check that out. My own rapping skills are quite good, actually. You get this thing, I think it’s called Songify or AutoRap, and you talk into them, and they auto-tune it and make it into a quite interesting musical number. And I got one where it builds it into a rap.
Jack Gleeson would apparently rap sometimes on set.
Would he? Did they film that?
Maybe. Maybe they’ll even release it as a DVD extra.
I don’t like DVD extras. No. Especially when they do things like put out alternative endings? I find all of that a little bizarre, because there should only be one ending. I don’t like to be told, “Oh, we could have had it this way,” for the director’s cut.
Like the Red Wedding. There’s only one ending for that: They die.
I’d like to see the Lego version of that! The Lego Red Wedding! There’s some really good Lego Wire stuff, with the shootout with Omar on the street. Little Lego guns blazing.
Well, Michael K. Williams has told me that he’s a huge Game of Thrones fan and wants to be on the show.
You’d have to give him a good part, you know what I mean? You don’t want him just playing a cameo. Put his head on a spike or something. He’s half ready to go, with that scar. I think Michael K. Williams is a brilliant actor. He would be fantastic. [Pause] I had a musician’s manager email me [a while back], “How can so-and-so get a role ... ?” and the guy actually looks like he’s from the Game of Thrones world. I thought he would be perfect to sing in episode two, but that part’s gone: Sigur Rós got it.
Maybe he would have worked for the part of Marillion, too...
There was a band in the ’80s who had a couple of hits called Marillion. It’d be funny if Marillion had played Marillion — singing “Kayleigh!” [Sings] “Kayleigh, I just want to say I’m sorry ... ” And then everyone gets their heads chopped off. Or their ears.