One of the very first characters we meet in the series is Catelyn Stark, played by Michelle Fairley, whose journey through the turbulent power struggles is an intensely emotional one and here she talks about the experience of walking on set as well as giving us hints to her character’s path in the much-anticipated Season Two which begins in April.
If you are still to pop your Game of Thrones cherry let me be clear. There is, towards the end of the interview, a howling spoiler, so go and watch it first, then come back.
On Catelyn Stark
She’s multilayered and extremely interesting. From my point of view the show is so character driven and its a very humane story, irrespective of whether or not it has a fantasy element to it. It’s about human nature, it’s about what people want today. It’s about greed, power, revenge and about caring for people you love and people can associate with that. It’s epic – it could be Greek, it could be Sophocles – or Shakespeare. Even kitchen sink drama – it could be Ibsen! There are so many elements and that appeals to a broad range of people.
On ‘the Fantasy thing‘
I think people expect it to be very fantastical, but it’s not. It all comes from the soul of a human being. The quality of the characters and the writing is wonderful. These are massive emotional topics; family, honour, love, loss, grief. Irrespective of genre or setting – be it a castle or a council estate – that’s the emotional target and you have to be honest towards that. The fantasy element comes in very slowly. You are aware that you’re in a world where there are larger forces at play – almost like these other Gods, the old Gods and we are superstitious and pray to them. The fantasy element is almost like science fiction at times – it’s not – but there’s folklore and it creates another character which these characters has to battle against.
On getting into character
One of the things that attracted me was the fact that she’s a mother, she’s from a noble family and brought up in this world so she knows how it runs. She appears almost as a Prime Minister’s wife but actually she’s a lot more than that. She’s very intelligent and she has observed how people manipulate all her life. The aspect of her relationship with Ned which appealed most is that they seem to have a very good marriage, they are able to talk and discuss their kids, but also his realm and his moral strength and that shines through on both of them – they both come from a very strong moral point. But there are lots of cracks in Catelyn’s armour, which the audience start to become aware of. She’s not pure as the driven snow, she’s not a punchbag. She’s strong and vocal and she will fight for her family. She has a very good sense of right and wrong. And revenge.
On costumes and the complete world they created
They are by Michelle Clapton, who is the costumer designer with her team, and I love them. You put them on and you stand differently, you hold yourself differently and you have a different shape. My costumes are very understated comparatively and the colours are from the North, they reflect the countryside she inhabits, the colours are very earthy, almost like rocks and heather. The majority of it is made. When you step on set you are transported to another world. The attention to detail is wonderful, the armour – even that the horses wear, the specific armour – it’s amazing. I met these women on set and I had read about them in the books and there they were. They create everything.
On Season Two
I have one scene with Melisandre of Asshai (find out more here) but I can’t say any more than that I’m afraid. in Season Two Catelyn is off travelling with her son Robb who is now fighting the King of the North who is ostensibly using his mother as an envoy and she dispatched to go and talk to Renly Baratheon, who is Robert’s brother – he has two brothers – Renly and Stannis who are both fighting to be King of the North. One thinks he is right, the other is the eldest so believes he HAS the right… So I’m dispatched with the promise that when I come back I can go back to Winterfell and see my children. That’s what she wants to do – after Ned’s death she wants to get her family back together.
On Ned’s Death
In Season One Catelyn has such an armour to present to the rest of the camp that at times she can’t collapse – she has to keep on going. And Ned’s death makes her stronger. It steels her. Her suffering is the energy she needs to keep going and it primes her determination to have revenge and she can’t indulge the sadness because she has to keep going, for her children.
On the writers and the complicated set up
David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] did a wonderful job of setting it up. The first two episodes were crucial as you’re setting up the characters, the continents and you have to get to know them and their individuality of their worlds and to know where they fit into them. It’s a massive task to do and then to balance it so you know at the end of episodes two who they are, what their motives are. And nobody is what they appear to be! Somebody always has a ricochet effect and they’ll respond in a certain way to each event. The writers know these books inside out and they created these family trees which are in the books as well. So you can read the histories, and we call got a document concerning who these families are, their histories, who they fought wars with, who they fathered, who split off after which war and so on. We felt totally immersed.