Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 9 on HBO's "Game of Thrones," "The Rains of Castamere."
Earlier this season, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) delivered a monologue suggesting that there is a curse on House Stark -- and that it's all her fault.
But the Irish actress behind Catelyn on HBO's "Game of Thrones," doesn't think the curse is real. "I don't think she's to blame at all," Fairley told The Huffington Post via phone last week in an interview timed to this week's shocking episode, in which Catelyn Stark is killed along with Robb Stark; his wife, Talisa; and their unborn child.
Still, Fairley acknowledged that Catelyn's fierce maternal instinct had caused plenty of trouble, ultimately prompting her to make the fateful choice that sealed her own doom at the so-called Red Wedding.
Operating under the assumption that her younger children, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Rickon, have all been killed, Catelyn can't bear to see Robb die at the hands of Walder Frey's hired goons. "She thinks they're all gone, so she has absolutely nothing to live for," Fairley said. "Basically, when she slits the throat of Walder Frey's wife, she's inviting her death. She's already dead inside."
Fairley will be missed by fans who've taken comfort in her character's steely resolve. even as the Starks' fortunes have tumbled ever downward.
Below, Fairley explains how emotional it was to shoot the Red Wedding scene, reveals the treat she gave herself when it was finished and declares that Catelyn would not give her blessing to a marriage between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. She also reveals how the various Starks got their accents, and says why she doesn't object to the theory that the Starks are Democrats and the Lannisters are Republicans. Read on for more!
When did you first find out that your character was going to meet this grisly end?
I only read a book per season, but some of the actors had gone ahead and read all of them, so most people knew about the Red Wedding. And you know how long your contract lasts as well. So that’s a bit of a clue in itself.
People who've read the books tell me there's a chance you could reprise your role at some point in the future. Any truth to that?
I think you’re just going to have to keep watching and find out.
Speaking of the books, there are some differences between this Red Wedding and the original, aren't there? Robb's wife in the book, Jeyne Westerling, doesn't die at the wedding.
Obviously, there’s more at stake in the television series because you have more characters there. The stakes are higher.
Why does Catelyn threaten Walder Frey's wife?
She's trying to reason with Walder Frey in the hope that possibly, he loves his wife as much as Catelyn adores her son. At that point, she’s not concerned about her own life. She just wants her son to stay alive, basically. And unfortunately, it doesn’t go the way she wants it to go. Walder Frey doesn’t have that compassion or care for his wife. Robb gets stabbed, and Catelyn witnesses it. And then, as her final act, she slits Walder Frey’s wife’s throat, and in doing so, it’s enough to sign her own death warrant. But at that point, she’s convinced that she has nothing left to live for.
Because she thinks her other children are dead.
She thinks they’re all gone. So she has absolutely nothing to live for. There would have been no point to her life. Her whole life since the death of Ned has been to get her family back together again. Constantly, that’s the drive that has kept her going. And the fact that she’s witnessing the death of who she thinks is her final surviving child is enough for her to want to be dead herself. Basically, when she slits the throat of Walder Frey’s wife, she’s inviting her death –- she’s already dead inside.
It’s that maternal instinct that we always see with her, which has caused a lot of trouble -- her decision to take Tyrion hostage in retaliation for the attempt on Bran's life, her decision to send Jaime Lannister back to King's Landing in exchange for Arya and Sansa.
Yes, absolutely. Very much so. It’s coming from a good place, but it’s ultimately flawed at the same time. Her whole bit of operational drive comes from her being a mother and getting her children back together, but to her own detriment as well. She is prepared to do whatever it takes to get her children back.
How emotional was the Red Wedding shoot?
Very. We had a week to shoot the whole sequence, and it was shot chronologically. We started with the wedding ceremony on the Monday, then worked continuously until the Friday evening. On the Friday evening ,we reached a point where Catelyn was the last one standing. It was incredibly emotional because of what was in the scene. The stakes are high at that point for all of the characters. But also for me, internally, because you know this is a point where you’re possibly saying goodbye to people that you’ve come to know incredibly well and care about and love. It’s a very emotional thing to be involved in. You have to concentrate on the work. You can’t allow that to distract you.
When it was all done, did you and Richard Madden [Robb] and Oona Chaplin [Talisa] have a going-away party?
No, the cast had a shoot the next day. Richard went back to England that night, and I went and had my hair cut. Our wonderful hair designer, Kevin Alexander, said, "Listen, when this is all done, come in and I’ll cut your hair." I underestimated just how much the whole week took from me. I just felt completely exhausted. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. But it was a wonderful sort of exhaustion, because you hope to have achieved something. And then we went for dinner with [co-creator and showrunner] David Benioff and a couple other people. And drank a lot.
In the episode "Dark Wings, Dark Words," you had an incredible monologue where Catelyn reflects on her cruel treatment of Jon Snow and suggests that she may have brought a curse down on House Stark. Do you think the curse is real, or is she simply looking for a way to explain the horrible misfortunes that have fallen on her family?
She has tried to live her life in an honorable way, and she’s a religious person as well. She worships the old gods. I think with religion, there’s a lot of self doubt -- questioning your actions, especially if you have a conscience. I think that’s a natural state for her to find herself in. I don’t think she’s to blame at all, but I think the fact that she couldn't love [the baby Jon Snow] -- I think that comes from within. It’s misplaced anger. She can’t take that out on Ned, so she takes it out on an innocent child. A motherless child. That highlights her inadequacies and her frailty.
So the curse is real to her, at least.
I totally think she believes in it. It’s a measure of the doubt and the questioning constantly running through her veins. But she continues to do the honorable thing. She tries to have recompense for this right up until her last breath. Yes, she goes against honor and slits someone’s throat, but that is honorable in itself -- even though it’s murder.
I don't know how closely you follow U.S. politics, but I like to joke that the Starks are like the Democrats and the Lannisters are like the Republicans.
Well, if there’s a possibly that I could be married to Mr. Obama, then that’s nice. I like that.
I guess I mean that the Lannisters are much better at the game. The Starks are noble, but then, they make dumb mistakes and people get really hurt.
Yeah, they’re too honorable. There is such a thing as being too honorable. They don’t take risks in any way, shape or form. They’re good people, but they will be outwitted because they don’t think outside of the box, really. They don’t have that sort of mind that the Lannisters have. They are much better able to survive than the Starks are in the world that they actually live in. The Starks are the innocents abroad, basically. And their honor is the most important thing. They learn slowly, and I think you’ll start to see that happen with the children. Even though they have that good moral code in their genes, they are out in the world on their own. They have to survive, and that involves thinking like your opponent, and being one step ahead of him.
It’s interesting that Catelyn had that special relationship with Littlefinger, the master of the game and the climb. Is that an opposites-attract thing?
He was brought up with the Tully family, so there is a history there. He has been constantly, for all his life, in love with Catelyn. Littlefinger may be a master manipulator, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, he can’t control that. He’s still smarting from [losing Catelyn], and that’s what gives him momentum to achieve, because he’s getting retribution. But she places a lot of trust in him because he is a childhood friend. She won’t think badly of him. It takes a long time for her to realize that this is not an honorable human being.
Do you think Catelyn knew deep down when Rob married Talisa that they were all doomed?
I think there’s an issue with definitely not trusting Walder Frey. This is a man you do not cross. But the other issue is that you do not break your honor, either. You do not break your honor. And he is the king. If you want people to trust you and follow you and respect you, and possibly give their lives up for you, you have to set the example for them. If you break your word, that’s not an honorable thing for a king to do. So though the omens are already starting to form when he does this and she knows it. At the same time, she is the mother of her boy, who is now the king. So how do you talk to a king? Do you talk to him like a son, or do you give him the respect of a king? Are you a subject or a mother, basically? His actions there are not actions that she agrees with at all. Absolutely not.
Some fans like to speculate that Jon Snow and Daenerys are going to get together in the end and rule the Seven Kingdoms. Ice meets Fire, as it were. Do you think Catelyn would bless that union?
Considering the fact that she detests Jon Snow [laughs], absolutely not. She wants her son -- Robb -- to be the king.
Max Read of Gawker wrote an obsessive article about the accents on the show. Did you guys discuss who gets what accents?
Yes, absolutely. Ned was the head of the family and that was Sean Bean, and Sean’s accent is a Sheffield accent. It’s northern. Therefore, the older children were to speak the way Robb speaks, with a northern accent. But Catelyn is originally from the south, so she wouldn’t have a northern accent. And the children are educated. Some of the kids have northern accents, and Jon Snow has a northern accent. It was discussed individually with each actor about what they were expected to be.
So Arya and Sansa have educated accents because they're younger?
And what is Dinklage doing?
Peter? Peter’s doing English.
Just a stage English, Shakespearean English?
You've had a long and illustrious career on British television, and you played Hermione's mom in a Harry Potter movie, but this show must have brought you a new level of visibility. What's it been like getting recognized everywhere you go?
In my mind, I see a completely different looking woman than myself as Catelyn Stark. I don’t see my face as Catelyn's. I imagine somebody else. I’m always surprised when people recognize me. There was one guy who was crossing the road and he tripped ... His head did this theatrical turn. I was like, "Oh my God. Am I that bad?" [Laughs.]
I'd say it means you're that good!
I constantly get people who are like, "Hello, how are you?" And you can see it dawn on them that they don’t actually know me. But it’s incredibly humbling because, without people who watch it, we would not have a job. So huge thanks to them for continuing to follow it and stay with it.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.