McNulty on "Game of Thrones"? It almost happened, according to actor Dominic West.
On Wednesday, I interviewed West, who played the iconic cop Jimmy McNulty on "The Wire," about the second season of the period drama "The Hour," in which he plays newscaster Hector Madden. I asked what other kinds of roles he was interested in, and "Game of Thrones" came up in the conversation.
"I was offered something on 'Game of Thrones' and unfortunately, I hadn't seen it, but my nephew and his father said, 'Gosh, "Game of Thrones" is the only great show on!' And I felt terrible, because I'd just turned them down," West said.
So what part was West offered? He hasn't read the books, so the name didn't stick in his head. But he did say that taking the role -- a substantial one and similar in stature or importance to Sean Bean's Season 1 character Ned Stark, according to West -- would have involved being "in Reykjavik for six months." ("Game of Thrones" shoots the scenes set north of the Wall in Iceland.)
So was it King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder, which seems like the strongest possibility to me (and the only notable Season 3 role that hasn't been cast)? Was it a member of the Night's Watch north of the Wall? One of Mance's men? Alas, West couldn't recall the name of the character, so we're left to speculate. (I've asked HBO if they know which role West was offered, and I'll update this post if I get more information.)
In any event, "it was a lovely part, a good part. I'm going to regret it," he said with a rueful laugh. "My problem is, I've got four kids, and at the moment, I'm reluctant to be away from home for a long time. I can get a lot of work in London and still be at home. That's one of the many brilliant things about 'The Hour.'"
"Should I have taken it?" he asked, semi-seriously. As much as I would have loved to see Baltimore's most famous fictional cop on another fine HBO program, I can certainly respect West's devotion to his family obligations. Besides, the Iceland scenes look amazing on the show, but the actors in those scenes also look very, very cold.
So now that "Thrones" is out, what kind of roles are West, who won a BAFTA award for his work in the TV movie "Appropriate Adult," looking for? There really are no limits, but he doesn't want to repeat himself, he said.
"There isn't enough work out there to be that picky, so the only real criteria are, is it well-written, and the other criteria is about trying to be at home," West said. "If someone says, which they have done, 'We've got a great part, it's a drunken cop,' I might say, 'Maybe not.'" Same goes if he's offered the role of a booze-soaked but ambitious newscaster like Hector Madden of "The Hour."
Speaking of "The Hour, a well-regarded BBC America drama that returns in November, things go very awry for Hector this season, according to West: He starts to party hard at Soho nightclubs, he gets mixed up with questionable people, and he has serious troubles with his wife, Marnie (who is, as it happens, played by Oona Chaplin, who also appears as Talisa in "Game of Thrones").
"It's meaty stuff," West says of Hector's Season 2 troubles. "In those days, the head of those news programs got 20 million viewers every night, so they were huge -- everybody knew who they were and they were in everybody's house every night. That's viewing figures we can only dream of now, and I suppose they were big celebrities," and the temptations of that lifestyle tempt Hector a little too much.
Correction: This article originally said that "The Hour" returns in October. That error has been corrected.