Conleth Hill talks Varys’ motivations, meeting with Daenerys and that merman theory

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It might mean throwing cold water (pun intended) on a fan-favorite theory, but Varys is not a merman – although he does find the idea amusing.

“I’m not annoyed or anything, I think it’s funny, but I really don’t know where it comes from,” said Conleth Hill, who plays the scheming Spider, in a recent interview with Insider. “I think, as in real life, in fiction if people don’t know enough about someone they will either accept it or … make things up. When we did press for the premiere I got asked about that 17 times in a row and so by the end I was a bit impatient, but I think it’s genuinely funny.”

Merman or not, as a character who has seemingly switched loyalties from one ruler to the next, Hill also said it wasn’t unexpected that Varys might be met with a certain measure of suspicion from Daenerys. However, in “Stormborn,” when the Dragon Queen did confront Varys about his history whispering into the ears of the Mad King and Robert Baratheon alike, Hill said it was a necessary conversation – and having it at Dragonstone was an important factor.

“Had you not done that scene people would have gone ‘well why did she take him on her team so easily?’ ” Hill said. “And we couldn’t do it in Mereen because she was off with the Dothraki and I was off … with Olenna and the rest, so it was nice that we had it as soon as we got there – where she was born.”

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Hill also discussed the conversation between Varys and Melisandre in “The Queen’s Justice,” one that – with its talk of their past lives and coming deaths – was unsettling at best. It also served to reiterate not only Varys’ obvious disdain for magic, but also his unease at not being the smartest guy in the room.

“Let me put it like this: If someone from a faction or a sect or a religion or cult dismembered you and left you for dead, wouldn’t you hate them?” He said. “To me that’s very reasonable behavior and also I think the combination of that – a total mistrust of them and what they do – plus the fact that they know things about him freaks him out because he’s the one who knows things about everybody else.”

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The interview also touched on Varys’ loyalty, which he has assured more than once is “to the realm.” Hill genuinely believes that Varys isn’t interested in power for himself – that, despite misgivings by both viewers and the other players in the game of thrones, all he wants to do is make “a better world for everybody else.”

“I don’t think he was ever a big power player — I think all the decisions that were made in recent history weren’t made by him, but he was certainly there to advise on how to react to certain decisions and those big confrontations,” he said. “He’s almost like a headhunter in a careers firm rather than the boss of everything. I don’t think he ever wanted to be, by his own admission. He said very early on, in season two or three, ‘I don’t want to sit on the Iron Throne. I must be one of the few people in the Seven Kingdoms who doesn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne,’ and I genuinely believe that he’s not interested in that.”

To read more about Varys’ motivations and Hill’s take on his manipulative character, read the article at Insider.

52 responses

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    1. here’s something I’ve wondered about: Conleth Hill has a full head of hair, Vary’s is bald. Does the actor wear a bald cap or shave his head? Also, where is Vary’s Funko doll? He’s been om the show for all the season.

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    2. Honestly, the perfumed, high pitched, flamboyant Varys from the books has faded entirely from my mind when it comes to this character.
      Conelith Hill’s Varys will always be Varys to me. There is something mesmerizing about him.

      thorne garnet,

      He doesn’t wear a bald cap.
      He shaves his head every season.

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    3. Meanwhile…. I am counting on the show runners to give us a payoff on the Varys-Kinvara scene: Whose voice did he hear and what did it say?

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    4. Dee Stark,

      Because Mel said that he will die. And he doesn’t get some stupid death that has nothing to do with his character it seems that his death at Dany’s hand is the most likely.

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    5. I absolutely adore Varys, mainly because of the actor. He nails the role, his facial expressions kills the scenes.
      Completely different subject : was Highgarden CGI? I thought they used Almodovar del Rio which looked much better than the actual castle they seem to have created… Well actually the castle itself looks like Almodovar but not the environment).I’m really disappointed by the exterior design, just check some photos of Almodovar and see how perfect it would have been…

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    6. Dee Stark,

      I’ve seen a fair bit of speculation on this Dee and I suspect there is set-up for him switching allegiance to Jon. Listen to everything that gets said and I’d guess Varys will switch and perhaps Dany will burn him alive for it. Jon is thrust into power by his birth right and by others nominating him, he does what’s best for the people. Dany believes she has a similar birth right but craves power despite wanting to do well for the people that goes out the door as soon as she gets frustrated. Varys is likely to pick up on this and switch to Jon.

      By the way Varys is a merman is such a tinfoil theory!

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    7. In Season 4 there was a scene between Varys and Oberyn where Varys said he was asexual and this leaves him “free to pursue other things”, then looked at the iron throne before walking away. What is this guy up to?

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    8. Jon Snowed,
      Those speculations/theories are the type that come from people that believe Daenerys will go mad and/or are anti-Daenerys. They look for anything as fuel in that process. Oh, she burned that guy for treason did she? “The one who passes the sentence shall swing the sword.” Well… Jon has killed men for treason as well. Daenerys’ sword is fire. While Tyrion and others may think it’s more cruel than beheading, it’s still an effective method of punishing treason and doesn’t mean she’s gone mad.

      leaked info doesn’t show any sign of Daenerys going insane through the end of the season. They’ll be dealing with the NK and an already crazy Cersei in the final season.

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    9. Where does all this ‘Varys is a Merman’ shite come from?

      Could it be from that scene years ago when he was talking with Shae after she arrived at KL and Tyrion came into the room? I vaguely recall Tyrion stopped him at the door on the way out to a small council meeting and something about him ending up in the sea and Varys saying he would float and paddle along with the fishes – or something along those lines?

      Jesus H Christ! If it was that reference which started this tinfoil theory, it just goes to show how fucking stupid and moronic some of the people that watch this show are – analyzing every sentence to see if there’s some hidden meaning!

      Seems to me a like a typical answer Varys would give when Tyrion threatened him? Nothing ‘tinfoil’ish’ about that 🙂

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    10. Ten Bears,

      I always thought that the name he heard was “Jon Targaryen” and when he realizes that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and a leader who cares about his people, will betray Daenerys and support Jon

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    11. Black Raven,

      It was a long reddit theory, just written as a big joke… and it was quite funny and went viral.
      and yes, its base off of the scene where Varys says “the big fish eat the little fish and I keep paddling”

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    12. Even if he’s exaggerating, the fact that he got asked this merman thing more than twice is embarrassing for GOT fans. Do better people.

      As far as who or what kills him? I think he falls in the first White Walker attack. It would be fitting for him to die at the hands of something magical and something he doesn’t understand and doesn’t believe.

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    13. I think he will die in a confrontation with Qyburn. They are each other’s counterparts in the Cersei and Dany camps, after all, and Qyburn took the little birds from him.

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    14. That’s fair Clob, Dany isn’t my favourite character as you know but I don’t believe she will go insane, I’m not sure she will be happy to find out Jon is the rightful heir either though.

      As for the leaks, I recall

      Tyrion and Varys will begin to openly question their loyalty to her after she burns the Tarly’s alive next week, but I didn’t want to spoil Dee

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    15. Just out of interest Dee how do you think the final ten episodes will play out? I love hearing your views and the other posters who are totally unsullied as you know and this is why I ask. Also as you know whilst I know the broad outline of this season I don’t know too much more than you now.

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    16. Ten Bears,

      If it means we get Kinvara again, I’m all for including this in the few remaining episodes.

      HelloThere,

      I have a feeling he didn’t always shave his head. In fact I seem to remember back in season 2 or 3 there was a scene where a bald cap was apparent for a while.

      Luka Nieto,

      What is this “merman theory” about, if I may ask? First heard it mentioned probably this week. Has that anything to do with his fast maritime travels at end of last season and a very hydrodynamic shape of his bald head?

      EDIT: Oh, new replies seem to indicate it has something to do with his mention of fishes and keeping on paddling… Disappointing.

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    17. I wouldn’t characterize the merman conjecture as a fan-favorite theory. To me at least, it has always represented the lunatic fringe of GoT/ASoIaF fandom.

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    18. Wasn’t there something in the books about mermen – something to do with Patchface and his memories of being drowned. Perhaps that was a factor as well.

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    19. mau:
      Dee Stark,

      Well every character will die of old age. Sansa, Arya, Bran,..

      I think he will die before the end of the show. That’s the point.

      Maybe, maybe not.
      Melisandre’s prediction was that Varys would die in Westeros, but not when.

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    20. Clob,

      Yep, that’s the scene, but I still find it incredible that some fans have come up with this ‘Varys is a Merman’ theory! Even if someone posted it on Reddit as a joke, for it to have gone viral, the ‘retards’ there must have considered that was a real possibility?

      Jesus H Christ – There really are some dickheads on the internet, but then again, hasn’t that always been the case 😀

      Firannion:
      I wouldn’t characterize the merman conjecture as a fan-favorite theory. To me at least, it has always represented the lunatic fringe of GoT/ASoIaF fandom.

      Yes, I couldn’t agree more. There really are some prize morons in the Got/aSoIaF fandom coming up with shite like this! I often wonder what Conleth Hill must think of fans of the show who ask him that ridiculous question. He must despair at times and hope he doesn’t think that all GoT fans are typical of those that do!

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    21. Selmy’s Kingsguard:
      In Season 4 there was a scene between Varys and Oberyn where Varys said he was asexual and this leaves him “free to pursue other things”, then looked at the iron throne before walking away. What is this guy up to?

      Yeah, that was weird. Maybe it just meant “free to pursue his agenda to seat a good ruler on the throne” ?

      Varys’ character has been all over the place anyway. This is one of the things that won’t hold up well when we go back rewatch the whole show as one big story.

      Varys’ scene with Illyrio in Season 1 completely contradicts the characterization they’ve given him these past few seasons.

      He was clearly plotting to take advantage of the conflict between the Lannisters and the Starks to have the Dothraki come in with Viserys as their leader. This is not something you do if you want the good of the realm.

      Plotting for someone he doesn’t know (who ended up being a cruel idiot) to come in with a horde of famously savage warriors is not good for the realm. But that scene is from the book, and we know that in the book Varys is a radically different character, who is trying to create chaos in order to seat a specific person on the throne, who isn’t Dany.

      They should have removed that scene between Varys and lllyrio if they knew they were going to make him a good guy who just likes Dany for some reason.

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    22. Jon Snowed:
      That’s fair Clob, Dany isn’t my favourite character as you know but I don’t believe she will go insane, I’m not sure she will be happy to find out Jon is the rightful heir either though.

      As for the leaks, I recall

      At this point, and given the leaks you just mentioned, it’s very hard for me to fathom why Dany considers her father an “evil man”.

      She is little better than he is at this point, and based on what we’ve seen of her, she probably would have burned Ned’s father alive just like the Mad King did.

      She just threatened to burn Varys alive if he betrayed her. Mad King saw traitors everywhere, and burned them. The only difference between her and her father is that Aerys was excessively paranoid and irrational, and suspected even people who were completely loyal.

      But the bottom line is that if he felt betrayed by someone, he would burn that person alive, and apparently, so would Dany.

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    23. Clob,

      I always thought Varys would survive all those kings and queens because of that scene. He’s not as power hungry as Littlefinger and he’s playing the long game.

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    24. Grandmaester Flash: Maybe, maybe not.
      Melisandre’s prediction was that Varys would die in Westeros, but not when.

      The sinister way it was done, and the decision to include that in the show, obviously means it won’t be after the series ends, and it won’t be from old age. He’ll obviously have a death on the show.

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    25. Chilli:
      Clob,

      I always thought Varys would survive all those kings and queens because of that scene. He’s not as power hungry as Littlefinger and he’s playing the long game.

      I used to think this of Varys and also that he would survive all the game of thrones players. However he clearly told Melissandre that that give smallfolk a taste of power and they are like a lion that has tasted humans; nothing else is as sweet. I am truly confused as to the Varys situation now. One theory is that he does like power, but unlike Littlefinger, he likes to wield it from behind the scenes. He likes to have the power over the most powerful. He likes to be a Kingmaker or a destroyer of Kings, someone with power over Kings. As long as the King/Queen in question acts as per Varys’ advice, they are OK. As soon as they act independently or are a loose canon, off with them! 🙂 If this is true, then he will not remain Daenerys’ Spider for too long.

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    26. A lot of people think that Varys’ scene with Dany from last week indicates soms future plotline, in which he betrays her. I think the scene was intended to close off some lingering plotlines from season 1. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong about this show. Anyway, here’s hoping he makes it to the last season. Hill is an amazing actor.

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    27. Clob:
      TOIVA,
      Here’s the scene:

      OMG!! Someone made a merman theory out of that?!!!! He’s telling Tyrion that no matter who is on the throne by whatever methods they took to get there, he will still be around, healthy and wise. I had totally forgotten the scene, but commend Tyrion for not falling for the threat. But merman? from that? That is embarrassing.

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    28. Markus Stark: The sinister way it was done, and the decision to include that in the show, obviously means it won’t be after the series ends, and it won’t be from old age. He’ll obviously have a death on the show.

      Meh. I’m not saying he won’t, just pointing out that telling someone they’re going to die isn’t particularly prescient.

      Varys did seem a bit put out though, which made me wonder if he’d got plans to end his days elsewhere.

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    29. I love Conleth Hill, the man with the fastest growing hair on the planet. Always thought Varys was shady as fuck, and would pull something spectacular near the end, but unless Hill is just misdirecting us, it seems perhaps he is for the greater good (the greater goooood). Huh.

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    30. Grandmaester Flash: Meh.I’m not saying he won’t, just pointing out that telling someone they’re going to die isn’t particularly prescient.

      Varys did seem a bit put out though, which made me wonder if he’d got plans to end his days elsewhere.

      The laws of TV and storytelling in general dictate that such foreshadowing must lead to something significant.

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    31. If he means what he says about being for the people, then I guess I can see him betraying Dany somehow because he thinks Jon would make a better king. But I also don’t think Jon wants the throne, so what would be the point? I thought his words to Melissandre about tasting power was a warning/suspicion on his part questioning HER motives and what SHE wants out of this meeting between Jon and Dany. (I know, I could be wrong – and I never read the books so I don’t have anything to go by other than what’s shown on screen).

      As for taking the throne himself, I’m not sure how that would happen. He won’t marry into it (like Euron wants to do with Cersie, or Littlefinger with Sansa), and I doubt he’d be able to control/command any armies to help him — at least, we’ve never seen him do anything military-like. That would leave the option of pulling a Cersie and getting the throne by flat-out killing any other person who is closer to the throne than he is, and getting it basically by default. But with so few episodes lefts, how would that play out?

      Also, as for Dany questioning Varys, yes she should have done it earlier. But I don’t think Varys is any more suspicious than Tyrion switching sides. Now that I think about it, Selmy also served the mad king, then Robert, then (very briefly) Joffrey, then finally Dany. Not that different from Varys.

      Anyhoo, Varys was always one of my favorites — and now that Olenna is gone, I guess he’s moved up to #1 now.

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    32. Agree Jon doesn’t want the throne but he didn’t want to be KitN or Lord Commander either, he got both because the people wanted it. I can see a similar scenario given he’s the one rallying the realm and also is the rightful heir ahead of Dany. He’s certainly not going to enjoy being told about his heritage and neither is Dany.

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    33. Markus Stark: The laws of TV and storytelling in general dictate that such foreshadowing must lead to something significant.

      You already said that.
      I had moved on to make a different point.

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    34. I quite certain that the merman theory comes from the books, not that one scene, but I’ll have to do some research on that.

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    35. TOIVA,

      He’s always shaved his head.

      As for the Merman theories, most of the ‘clues’ are from the books (Varys’ character is different in the books) and they’ve been around for several years now…kind of funny that they are just now getting noticed.

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    36. Jon Snowed:
      Dee Stark,

      I’ve seen a fair bit of speculation on this Dee and I suspect there is set-up for him switching allegiance to Jon. Listen to everything that gets said and I’d guess Varys will switch and perhaps Dany will burn him alive for it.Jon is thrust into power by his birth right and by others nominating him, he does what’s best for the people. Dany believes she has a similar birth right but craves power despite wanting to do well for the people that goes out the door as soon as she gets frustrated.Varys is likely to pick up on this and switch to Jon.

      By the way Varys is a merman is such a tinfoil theory!

      But why would anyone take Bran’s word that Jon is the son of Rhaegar? Daenerys sure won’t! Even if he proved he can see all with some demonstrations of knowledge, I don’t see anyone taking Bran’s word on it. He is Jon’s brother (sort of) after all.

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    37. Bergeron,

      Hmm, I’ll have to pay closer attention to Varys’ head on my next rewatch then.

      ginny,

      Thing is, not only can Bran easily prove he knws thngs (because… he knows things), he can always point to other people that have been somewhere, seen parts of something as well (like, say, Howland Reed at the Tower of Joy incident).

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    38. I think that is going to be the key Ginny, how does it get verified but I believe it will be proven and people will rally behind Jon, especially as he’s the only one right now more concerned about saving the realm rather than gaining power.

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