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Game of Thrones’ Daniel Portman on Podrick Memes, Horsing Around, and What Really Happened at the Brothel

Game of Thrones’ Daniel Portman, a.k.a. Podrick. Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

The buddy comedies within Game of Thrones — Arya and the Hound, Tyrion and Bronn, and now our latest mismatched duo, Brienne and Pod — should get their own spinoffs already. Until that happens, we’ll have to content ourselves with watching Tyrion’s loyal squire, Podrick Payne, a character famous all over the internet for his fun facial expressions, as he ventures out into the world beyond King’s Landing to assist Brienne of Tarth on her mission to locate the Stark girls. Can he learn to cook a rabbit on the way? Or ride a horse? Only time will tell if he’ll provide more than dead weight on the quest. Daniel Portman, the actor who plays Pod, chatted with Vulture about becoming a meme, horsing around on set, and what Podrick really did in that brothel.

The expression you gave when Pod learned he was going on the road with Brienne was priceless.
[Laughs] Yeah. People seem to have reacted quite well to that. That was a funny little exchange, a nice, sweet little exchange to start us off. He’s a very enthusiastic young man, Podrick.

It’s become a whole internet meme, Pod’s expressions.
I’ve seen quite a few of them from over the years that they’ve been doing that. It’s nice that the fanbase has taken a shine to them and made them funny. It’s a bit strange, but it’s strangely rewarding, in a sense. People send them to me all the time, and I can’t really choose a favorite. “I’m going to be the best squire that ever squired!” — that was good. And the ones from season three involving the prostitutes.

Is Podrick’s enthusiasm what made him so popular at the brothel?
Maybe! Maybe he’s just got a lust for life. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who would like to talk about that kind of stuff that much. I don’t think he would be a guy who would kiss and tell, either. Whatever happened between him and those girls is going to stay between him and those girls. He doesn’t want to give away his secret, I suppose! [Laughs] There are a few conspiracy theories that he had just spoken to them, that he just listened to them talk about their pasts. But I’m not really sure what happened. Whether they save it to talk about in the future or not, I’m fine with them leaving that an open question. I like it being mysterious.

So you think it’s possible that he’s still a virgin and all he did was talk with them?
Oh, not at all! But I don’t think that’s what happened. I reckon he lost his virginity. I imagine it was just pretty straightforward, and it was just beginner’s luck, really. Maybe they’re used to seeing the same old customers, so I was a breath of fresh air for those girls. Not what they were expecting. Who knows? And if they thought he was cute, that’s nice, I suppose! [Laughs]

But that’s not what impressed Brienne. Killing a man, however …
The fact that it was in conflict, that’s probably to his benefit. It’s very daunting for Pod to be on the road with her, and she probably feels like he’s extra weight and completely unnecessary. But Podrick’s learned a lot of things in the service of Tyrion and he’s not entirely useless. He has access to a lot of knowledge about the outside world despite not having any experience of it. He knows about what’s going on outside of King’s Landing or over at the Wall. And at the end of the day, Brienne is going off on a serious mission to find somebody. And while their exchanges might be quite funny, she’s very determined, even if Pod is just being dragged along the way. Pod was originally given to Tyrion by Tywin as a joke, almost. A useless squire given to his dwarf son that he’s horribly ashamed of, as a sort of cruel joke. But it just so happens that the useless squire isn’t useless!

Except at horseback riding. It must have been tricky, shooting those scenes.
It’s just the repetition of it. If you’re filming a scene on horseback, if you’re trying to control an animal that’s much larger than you and trying to get it to do the exact same thing so you can match things up, that can get tricky, especially if the horse gets tired, or angry, or something. But we had good lessons. My horse was called Concorde, and he was slow and lazy, but he was very obedient. He does what he’s told to. Not at the stables, when we were hanging out or having a laugh, but on set, absolutely everything I told him to do, he did. He was a very professional horse! He was very good at it. [Laughs] Gwendoline Christie’s horse was called Blondie. Blondie and Concorde. It’s important that you get to know them, because if a horse gets to know you and starts to realize you know what you’re doing, they obey you. You can’t just jump on and do what you want. It’s good to let the animal get comfortable with you and make friends first. You have to be more focused and quiet and not so much horsing around, because they can still be quite dangerous animals. If you lose your concentration, something really bad can happen.

Are you usually laughing a lot on set?
Peter Dinklage, Jerome Flynn, and I were known for laughing, the three of us. We would hold things up, because sometimes you get that way. There’s nothing that funny, but you can’t stop yourself, and it becomes infectious, and the next person laughs, and then the next person laughs, and then the next person laughs. And I’m terrible. I’m always the first person to start laughing. We would just be talking, and something would make me buckle. And then when everyone’s done laughing, we do our best possible work. So by the end of the day, Gwen and I were so knackered from laughing at Pod’s comedy horse riding, because he’s not used to it. I look like such an idiot doing it! I looked completely incompetent the whole day. Hopefully you get the impression that the horse just drags him around.

Gwendoline Christie seems positively gleeful about a scene she has coming up in which she bites off someone’s ear.
I was there for that scene, and at the time, I don’t think it was so funny! It was an incredibly demanding shoot for her, and she did an incredible job with it, and it’s going to be a phenomenal scene. It was incredible to witness — it was so violent. But the joy of it is that we can walk away at the end of the day and talk about this cool stuff we’re getting to do, like biting off somebody’s ear or stabbing a spear through somebody’s head. It’s a nice thing to have on your C.V. in Westeros.

Game of Thrones’ Daniel Portman on Podrick Memes