There aren’t many people left out there who have never sat down and watched Game of Thrones, but Northern Irish actor Richard Dormer – who plays Beric Dondarrion in the hit TV series, just so happens to be one of them.
Speaking exclusively to the talented actor – known primarily for his starring role in the magnificent biographical drama Good Vibrations, and for playing Dan Anderssen in Fortitude – he explained why he’s chosen not to watch any Game of Thrones, and whether we can expect to see his character return in the forthcoming season. He also discusses his latest project Hyena, and what it was that attracted him to getting involved in this gritty crime drama.
Well I saw Gerard Johnson’s previous film Tony and I thought it was great and I’d heard good things about him and thought I’d like to work with the guy.
Is the director the biggest draw then when deciding whether to enter in to a project?
Yeah the director, the script and the cast. But probably the script most importantly.
Both Gerard and lead star Peter Ferdinando are of course cousins, and Gerard even had his brother do the soundtrack – it sounds like such a personal, passion project for him. Was that something that came across in his directing and rubbed off on the cast?
Yeah I think so, but then again every director who gets to a point where they’re getting their film made, they have to be personal and they have to be passionate, otherwise they can’t put their stamp on it. I think it was just business as usual really. Gerard puts his head down and is a hard worker and he’s great fun to work with as well.
Did you do much research into the police force?
Gerard sent me a couple of DVDs about bent coppers so all I had to do was a bit of online research, but not much. I was just playing the guy how I thought he should be played.
Was it quite eye-opening – and terrifying – to hear and witness that level of corruption going on behind the scenes…
Yeah it was pretty scary. A lot of the stuff in Hyena is based on similar events, so there’s a pretty dark, seedy underbelly to the London crime scene, it’s pretty gross.
Peter actually went on a real life police raid – I’m assuming you didn’t get involved with that?
[Laughs] No, I didn’t. But that’s Peter, he likes to really throw himself in. But then again he’s the lead character and in every other scene so he really had to disappear into that part, whereas I didn’t have such a tough job, I was only on set for about four days, so it was a lot easier for me.
In regards to the character of Nick, we sort of like him, but he’s flawed to say the least. He seems to fighting for the right cause, but doesn’t necessarily go about it the right way…
That’s the challenge, if you spend too long with monsters you become a monster. The character spent too long looking into the abyss. He’s working with horrible people and it’s only natural that some of those traits wear off on the good guys, so the good guys, in a sense, almost become like the people they’re trying to get.
When you played Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations – somebody who is so inherently optimistic – compared to Nick, who has quite a negative view on the world – is there one type of character you enjoy portraying more on screen?
Oooh. I haven’t played enough screen parts to favour one or the other, good or bad. I just like a character in a story that is interesting, that has something to say. Whether it be a raging, wild-eyed optimist, or somebody incredibly dark and destructive. It’s the story and the character – and whether they’re good enough, and if so, I’m there.
You’re still moving between TV and film at the moment – and given how similar they are these days, is it quite easy to move between the two? Are they almost interchangeable?
They are now, largely thanks to the production value going in to TV these days. I just started True Detective and I watched two episodes, and I was thinking while watching it, this is a movie. It’s the same with Fortitude, the production values are so good it just looks incredibly cinematic. The reason you’re getting these good actors is because they are able to go on a journey through 10 hours that they would normally do in two – and an actor really loves to do TV because they really dig deep into the character.
It must give more opportunities to actors such as yourself too – because you don’t have TV actors and film actors, you can just be both.
I think so yeah, because it’s easier to cross from the small screen to the big screen. But the big screen isn’t what it used to be. People can get their entertainment now at home, though to be honest that has been the way for the last 30 years because of VHS… God, I’m so old. But you don’t get the big a-listers, the Bruce Willis and Mel Gibsons of the world doing TV, so there are still big cinema stars, so it’s not as simple as that I suppose.
Talking of the production value of TV – Game of Thrones has been shown on cinema screens. It must be nice to know that shows you’re in on the smaller screen qualify to be shown in cinemas as well?
Totally, and we did that with Fortitude. We did a world premiere and showed it in a cinema, and it sat incredibly well on the big screen, because in a way, that’s what the cinematographers and directors were aiming for – a truly cinematic experience. Nowadays of course you’ve got these big 50 inch TV screens in your own homes, so that’s like a small cinema.
As for Game of Thrones, not long now until the forthcoming season – can we expect to see any Beric Dondarrion at all?
Well, I’m not in it. I don’t know whether Beric is coming back, they haven’t spoken to me about it. But no, I’m definitely not, as far as I know! At least, I can’t remember being in season five. But he may come back, I don’t know.
As you’re not in the next season – will you still be watching it now as a fan might, enjoying it as an audience member would?
I haven’t seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. When I got the part I did a lot of research on the internet and wikipedia, and I watched a lot of the fight scenes stuff to get a gist of what the world was – but no I didn’t watch it. I felt the character pretty much stands alone.
Do you often avoid stuff you’re in?
Well, I loved watching Good Vibrations, it was a very emotional experience watching that because it was my first lead in a film, and because it was such a labour of love, everyone involved made one big family and we did it on so little money, and we achieved a great little film. I’ve been watching Fortitude – I’m somebody who doesn’t find it that difficult to watch myself, just because it’s not me, it’s a character. It’s not that difficult.
Hyena is released on March 6th.