Spoilers ahead — don’t read if you haven’t seen the season finale of Game of Thrones, “The Children.”
Poor Shae. First she has her heart broken, then she’s forced to testify against her ex, and then she gets strangled with her own necklace — the very necklace that was supposed to help purchase an escape plan. (That, and the diamonds she refused from Varys). If only Bronn had managed to get her on that boat to Pentos, she could have lived out her days as a lady of a household in Essos. But since she refused to heed Tyrion’s warnings that King’s Landing was a dangerous place, our Shae had to learn the hard way. German actress Sibel Kekilli chatted with Vulture about her death scene, slut-shaming, and joking around with Peter Dinklage.
Book Shae is very different than Shae on the show. In the books, she really is just a prostitute. On the show, it becomes more of a love relationship. But it’s heartbreaking either way, because you don’t want her to die!
[Laughs] Yes, that’s true. When I met George R.R. Martin for the first time, he said, “Oh Sibel, your Shae is better than my Shae.” It was a really big honor when he told me that. But even though [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] changed Shae in the show, it had to come to the same end, somehow. It was really hard. It was a big scene, and it was really important to show her broken character. So I understood her, more than if I were to think like a fan. If I were to think like a fan, I wouldn’t understand her. How about you, do you understand her?
I have her in my head as two separate people. I understand her as book Shae — she’s pragmatic, she goes where the money is, she does what’s good for business, and she doesn’t discriminate between clients. And I understand her as show Shae — she was in love, but after Tyrion dumped her, she became a prisoner of the Lannisters, and she has been forced to do what they want.
Absolutely, yes. I think the same. In that trial scene, how she’s talking, searching for words, she’s looking at Tyrion’s sister, his father, when she says her lines. It’s like, okay, she had to say that. I understood it like that. At the beginning, when she met Tyrion, it was like, she was so loyal. For four years, she did everything. She cleaned the chamber pots of Sansa, you know? Even though he married Sansa. Even though she loved Sansa. But somehow, calling her a whore, that just stepped over a line. That was like spitting on her face, when he said, “You’re a whore. You can’t bear my children.” Of course, he did it to protect her, but somehow, it was too much, to call her a whore.
Because even if she started out as a prostitute, she wasn’t really anymore. She had graduated from that. Did your own past, graduating from porn films to more mainstream films, and the public reaction to that, help give you any empathy for Shae’s position?
Let me say it like this — you know, it’s my past. It’s a past. So I’m not … do you know what I mean? It’s nothing to do with my future, or with my present. It’s past. And with acting, I always try to understand my part when I act. It’s nothing to with my past, it’s nothing to do with me. If I prepare myself for a character, for a role, I always try to understand her. And of course when I act, I have to understand the character, why she’s doing this, why she’s doing that, why she thinks like that, why she acts like that. And I have an acting coach, so I talked with him about the character and her behavior, so it’s the work. It’s a part of acting.
Did Peter Dinklage make any of these scenes easier for you, by apologizing afterwards? “I’m so sorry, I have to kill you now?”
[Laughs] Yeah, it was like that. It was really funny. He’s always really sensitive, and he’s a really good colleague. I really like him. I really like his acting. By sensitive, I mean he was always taking care of others. Because I’m not a native speaker [of English], he was always asking me, “Hey Sibel, are you okay?” He was trying to make it easy, but it was not really easy, because I like our part in the show, and I didn’t want it to end. But he had to do his job, and I had to, too. Let me say it like this — he always acts with his eyes. He reacts when you act. That helps me a lot. He helped me a lot. It’s always a bit tricky when you have to do some stunt work, like how do you handle a weapon? You have to be careful, how you handle it. It’s like dancing steps.
And after three years together, he told me, “I can’t tell you jokes anymore, because now you understand!” [Laughs] I was like, “Okay, thank you for the last three years.” It’s hard, when you’re not a native speaker, because everyone’s laughing and you’re like, “What was that? Can you tell me again?” And he was like, “I can tell your English is improving, because now you understand the jokes even when they’re on you.” But he was always lovely, whenever I had questions about the lines or the words. The most important thing is the emotional part.
Of course, the emotional part is important, but Game of Thrones also does great death faces, like Joffrey’s at the Purple Wedding.
[Laughs] That was a great one! My favorite was Oberyn’s at the trial by combat. But I love all the death scenes on Game of Thrones, because it’s really funny. Not funny funny, I don’t mean that, but the people will never forget these memorable death scenes. That’s one of the most important death scenes on this show. Like on the very first season, the brother of Khaleesi, Viserys — he had a golden crown. That was fantastic, and I will never forget that.
Are you a fan of fantasy in general, outside of Game of Thrones? And will you continue watching?
A friend forced me to watch The Lord of the Rings, and even though it was a fantastic movie, I could only watch one. It’s not like I love dragons! Only on Game of Thrones! Our dragons are amazing, and they look really real. But I think after Game of Thrones, I won’t be a fantasy fan. Don’t get me wrong — Game of Thrones is the exception. I never would have thought that I would be such a big fan.