“The high road’s very pretty, but you’ll have a hard time marching your army down it.”
Michael McElhatton has featured in Game of Thrones since early in season 2. Over the seasons, we’ve seen Roose Bolton’s growth from discontented bannerman, to traitor, to Warden of the North. While the show tends to shy away from the stereotypical “villain” role, Michael’s Roose was perhaps the only character capable of filling the shoes left vacant by the death of Tywin Lannister. As such, it is a pity to see him killed just as it seemed things were getting most interesting in his arc. However, Michael left plenty of memorable scenes in his wake, not the least of which is his deliverance of the coup de grâce to the betrayed Robb Stark.
Hailing from Terenure in Dublin, Michael pursued acting from a young age. He eventually graduated from London’s esteemed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, before returning to Ireland and taking an interest in theatre and smaller-scale films. He has since displayed an admirable range within his craft. To Irish fans, he is perhaps better known as a comedic actor and writer, having both written and starred in Paths to Freedom and Spin the Bottle as the character of Rats, as well as being heavily involved in sketch show Your Bad Self. It is through his marvelously understated portrayal of Roose Bolton, however, that Michael has made his talent known to audiences worldwide.
As Roose, his performance was quite deliberate and considered, and he displayed a distinctive knack for having the audience hang on every word he said. There was a certain resonant nuance to his line delivery, which added a unique flavour to both his character and the scenes he dominated through measured restraint. Purely on a surface level, fans will fondly remember Roose’s voice, which Michael gave a deep, silky, timbre. On a deeper level, however, resided a complicated character, one of dry humour and cold pragmatism. The foreground did not suit Roose. He was a background player residing comfortably in the shadows, watching the board and considering his options, making sure to strike at the opportune moment which would directly benefit himself.
In light of the cunning nature of the character, it is lamentable that the show tended to shy away from making Roose a more prominent player in the North. Along with Stephen Dillane, Michael was a personal favourite cast member of mine, and I think a lot can be learned from the subtleties in their vocal and physical performances. It’s a pity we never saw them both come head to head.
Michael has left a gaping hole in the cast which will prove difficult to fill. In recent years, Michael has appeared in both Ripper Street and The Fall, in the company of a number of his Game of Thrones cast colleagues. He is also appearing in a number of films due to release this year, including Jadotville, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and Handsome Devil. I certainly look forward to his future projects, and I’m sure many other fans do, too. As Roose abstains from alcohol, I won’t raise a proverbial glass to him, but I wish Michael the best of luck in his career going forward. He will be sorely missed.
We first met Elizabeth Webster’s Walda Frey at the beginning of season 4. From the outset, she seemed out of place alongside the Boltons – a shy, kind-hearted, innocent soul who bore none of the ill traits her name might suggest.
Walda was symbolic of Roose’s pragmatic avarice – a physical manifestation of one of his most interesting character traits. To reduce her to a mere extension of Roose, however, does her a disservice, because she was also a character in her own right. That character being memorable is due greatly to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth brought much-needed levity and brightness to many thematically dark scenes, and managed to do so without jarring the tone or seeming obtrusive. That takes skill, and she has shown that she has it. Perhaps her finest moments on the show were her last, as she begged Ramsay to spare both her and her newborn son’s lives.
In the grand scheme of things, Elizabeth doesn’t have many projects under her belt, but I hope that her stellar portrayal of Walda Frey will open the doors to many more roles. She features in Pubmonkey and Let Me Go, coming later this year. We at the Wall and all of our readers wish you all the best, Elizabeth. You’ve earned it.