Stephen Dillane reflects on his disheartening experience on Game of Thrones

stannis

As much as Stannis’ demise at the end of season 5 was fiercely debated and mourned by fans, it seems that Stephen Dillane was – and remains – quite happy to have left the show. In an interview to promote a new project, Dillane mulled over his tenure on Game of Thrones and didn’t pull any punches when offering his opinion.

While chatting with The Times about his upcoming crime thriller series, The Tunnel, Dillane briefly touched on Game of Thrones and bluntly admitted that he’s lost all track of it since departing the show.

“I’ve flicked it on [since leaving] to see if I could figure out what was going on, but I couldn’t. Liam Cunningham is so passionate about the show. He invests in it in a way I think is quite moving, but it wasn’t my experience.”

To be fair, Dillane said (in reference to The Tunnel) that for all the attention that actors tend to receive from the press and fans, they tend to be the people who are most out of the loop on any given project.

“We can only say how we’re coming at it, but the end result will hardly ever be anything to do with what we think,” he said. “It goes through so many transformations before it reaches the viewer that whatever we think we’re doing is almost irrelevant.”

This was reportedly also Dillane’s experience with Game of Thrones:

“I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late,” he said. “The damage had been done. I thought no one would believe in me and I was rather disheartened by the end. I felt I’d built the castle on non-existent foundations.”

Fortunately, Dillane remains passionate about his career in general and has found at least one major benefit from his time on Game of Thrones

“I can only work with what attracts me, and unfortunately that’s often not what attracts anybody else,” he said. “Game of Thrones pays for all this looking around and waiting.”

90 responses

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    1. Aw no, it sucks to be you, guy who got a ton of exposure on the most popular TV show of the last 20 years. Let me get my tear-cup for you. /cry

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    2. Nice to hear from someone being honest instead of the usual “it’s so amazing to work with_______ on ________” crap.

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    3. Ironically, all the more reason he was the perfect Stannis.

      I can empathize with Dillane, being in the industry myself, and I appreciate his candor.

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    4. I seriously like the guy. I appreciate when people don’t profess to have rainbows and unicorns coming out their arse just to hype a show they’re on. He obviously respects coworkers like Liam, and others I’m sure. I’m willing to bet he was a complete professional to work with. But he doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges.

      He was a perfect Stannis, truly.

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    5. Local man who gets paid tons of cash to play make believe isn’t all that bright. Film at 11:00.

      I appreciate the honesty, but if you can’t be arsed to read the book your character is in, why complain about it when you don’t get it? I think he would understand all the transformation his character goes through once the show comes out if he’d read it. His character was so close to the book character. He’s a really good actor.

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    6. Pigeon,

      Do you know what he means by the following quote?

      “I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late,” he said. “The damage had been done. I thought no one would believe in me and I was rather disheartened by the end. I felt I’d built the castle on non-existent foundations.”

      What’s he mean, no one would believe in him? Or that he’d “built a castle on non-existent foundations”? Is he talking about his acting, or Stannis’s character?

      The whole interview was kind of strange. I thought he was great as Stannis on GoT, but if he didn’t know what he was doing, and had to rely on Liam C. to explain things to him after the fact…then I feel like an idiot.

      Unlike another well-known actor who didn’t take his [one-episode] role on GoT seriously – and just “phoned in” his performance – I thought Stephen Dillane immersed himself in his role. Damn it, he’s even the star of one of my All-Time Top Ten GoT scenes! (The one concluding with his speech offering to legitimize Jon Snow…still gets me every time…)

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    7. I rather enjoyed that candor from Mr. Dillane. I got a chuckle when reading that he depended on Liam Cunningham (Davos) for perspective. For those who have read ASoI&F, that is exactly the perspective we got too. All of his appearances in ASoI&F were from 3rd party perspectives (Davos, Jon, Mel, Theon…), never from his own perspective. 🙂

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    8. Fortunately, Dillane remains passionate about his career in general and has found at least one major benefit from his time on Game of Thrones

      “I can only work with what attracts me, and unfortunately that’s often not what attracts anybody else,” he said. “Game of Thrones pays for all this looking around and waiting.”

      The last paragraph sums up Dillane perfectly – The guy is a mercenary little shit! I never liked him as Stannis and don’t rate him as a first class actor either. I’ve watched both series so far of ‘The Tunnel’ and wasn’t that impressed. Either by Dillane’s acting or the series in general.

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    9. Black Raven,

      I must agree with you–not necessarily about Dillane’s acting abilities, but certainly about his attitude towards GoT. I’ve always been confounded about why he auditioned for, and subsequently took, a role he had no intellectual or emotional investment in. To me, it came across onscreen; I always thought he was boring as hell, and not because that was “just his character.”

      A couple of years ago, I watched The Hours again for the first time since it was first released, and was shocked to see Dillane as Leonard Woolf. He became the character, and had such a wonderful screen presence that I wondered, again, why he’d wasted his own time (and ours) on something he clearly had no interest in.

      /end rant

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    10. I can sympathize with him. The show is so badly written from season 5 onwards, no wonder the poor guy was confused about what was happening. There is no rhyme or reason anymore, no logic. As evidenced by interviews even the directors and actors were not sure what was going on in the Sansa-Arya-LF plot last season. Sophie Turner had to pull out a random reason at comic con for why she did not tell Jon about the Vale, the nonsense wight plot last season etc. etc.

      For an old school actor like Dillane who does it for the passion of acting and telling a story, this show must have been completely baffling – Stannis, one of the best generals in asoiaf gets taken out by Ramsay’s 20 good men!! Dillane has always admitted that he did GOT for the money and it’s nice to see someone who is refreshingly honest as he always is. His disgruntlement did not affect his job in any way and I continue to think he was the best actor on the show and portrayed Stannis perfectly despite his confusion with the character and story. Liam has always talked about missing him and how much he enjoyed working with him.

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    11. Black Raven:
      Fortunately, Dillane remains passionate about his career in general and has found at least one major benefit from his time on Game of Thrones


      “I can only work with what attracts me, and unfortunately that’s often not what attracts anybody else,” he said. “Game of Thrones pays for all this looking around and waiting.”

      The last paragraph sums up Dillane perfectly – The guy is a mercenary little shit! I never liked him as Stannis and don’t rate him as a first class actor either. I’ve watched both series so far of ‘The Tunnel’ and wasn’t that impressed. Either by Dillane’s acting or the series in general.

      You are a pathetic loser. How is an actir a “mercenary”? What a fuckin idiot.

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    12. Imp hand Strong: You are a pathetic loser. How is an actir a “mercenary”? What a fuckin idiot.

      And you are a fuck’n moron! Look up the definition of “mercenary” as used as an adjective – “Interested only in the amount of money that you can get from a situation” – Which is why Dillane accepted the part and has always said that was the reason.

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    13. Wolfish,

      I agree with your comments – I thought Stannis “was as boring as hell” also. I’m not saying all of his scenes were bad, but felt no remorse when Brienne finished him off!

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    14. Fans are so passionate about GoT and ASOIAF that they tend to react badly to people that either do not get it or do not like it.

      In my adult life, I had at least a couple of working experiences that makes me relate to what Stephen said. The company hiring you paints you an amazing reality with ” great chances of mobility ” and whatever crap they think you want to hear and you go there and see that is NOT the case. You do feel cheated. I also would only go to work everyday just because of my co-workers AND because it was good money.

      So, yes, MAYBE it would have made a difference if Stephen had READ the books, but I do think he is not complaining or bitter, just being honest about not having enjoyed.

      I know from a fellow Tumbler that Stephen is actually quite a nice guy- a GoT fan went to see him perform in theater and asked him to sign a fanart of Stannis, said he was visibly happy about it. He complied and heard the fan explain why Stannis was so good, and was nothing but a gentleman.

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    15. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      Do you know what he means by the following quote?

      “I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late,” he said. “The damage had been done. I thought no one would believe in me and I was rather disheartened by the end. I felt I’d built the castle on non-existent foundations.”

      What’s he mean, no one would believe in him? Or that he’d “built a castle on non-existent foundations”? Is he talking about his acting, or Stannis’s character?

      The whole interview was kind of strange. I thought he was great as Stannis on GoT, but if he didn’t know what he was doing, and had to rely on Liam C. to explain things to him after the fact…then I feel like an idiot.

      Unlike another well-known actor who didn’t take his [one-episode] role on GoT seriously – and just “phoned in” his performance –I thought Stephen Dillane immersed himself in his role. Damn it, he’s even the star of one of my All-Time Top Ten GoT scenes! (The one concluding with his speech offering to legitimize Jon Snow…still gets me every time…)

      I also love that scene….

      I don’t know exactly, but I think he was perhaps more than a bit ‘wtf’ that his character, built up for all those seasons as someone meant to be beyond ordinary, went out in a less than 10 minute “Stannis and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” fashion. It was almost comical. I mean, the acting was fine, but dang, imagine having that as your last episode:

      “Sir it appears much of your army has buggered off.”
      “Sir, it appears your wife has offed herself and the red woman has run off.”
      “Uh, if I may draw your attention to a comical number of Bolton soldiers, Sir…”
      “Hellooooooo I’m Brienne and will avenge my beloved Renly!”

      Stannis: “What in the actual….ok, can I at least bring Shireen back to life so she can be the only sane one around here left???”

      I mean, if anyone’s castle was built on non-existent foundations it’d be Stannis, due in more than small part to Mel.

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    16. This proves he was the perfect Stannis. And making it all the more ironic he doesn’t even realize it. Hey I think it’s great he speaks what he thinks. It’s a change from the on and on and on and on and on and on and on about how it’s the greatest thing to ever hit entertainment in the history of the planet earth.

      I also like that he successfully trolls people with these comments as if it’s a personal insult to some that Stephen Dillane didn’t like working on the show. Even to the point where now some of you are referring his pay. lol. Who cares that he didn’t like working on your favorite show? I’m not sure why some of you do.

      Ryan,

      I don’t know about his son, but all I have ever read about Stephen Dillane couldn’t be more opposite from what you suggested. It’s okay that he doesn’t like the show as much as you do. There’s no need to take it so personal where you start calling the guy a “giant a-hole”.

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    17. I think an actor like Dillane likes to immerse himself in the character they’re playing, really familiarize himself with the character’s context, but the world was just too complex for him to understand. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried reading the books and just got confused. Or if he felt, as actors like Charles Dance have articulated, that reading the books would be counterproductive, since hopefully the writers have possibly changed aspects of the world/character in the adaptation.

      I think we hardcore fans sometimes underestimate just how complex and vast and daunting the world of GoT is to so many others. Especially if your avenue is the books, which purposelly drop names of characters before they are super relevant (Mance gets name-dropped by Ned in one if the first chapters if the book, for example) and generally bombards you with info before you can completely understand it. I think some actors get confused but settle on their limited understanding, and they don’t let it bug them too much. I doubt Dance, for example, had a much better understanding than Dillane of the world of Westeros when he started working on Season 1. But for some actors that bugs them more, they feel that they “build castles on something nonexistant,” and I respect that reaction.

      I also don’t begrudge his choice to do the job for the money. What actor hasn’t done that? One in a million, I’d say. I love it when actors express enthusiasm for the show I love, but it’s weird and unfair to expect that of everyone. What matters is whether he committed to the work, and even if you don’t like the performance, I don’t think you can accuse him of phoning it in. He didn’t enjoy the job, unfortunately, but he put in the effort, and it shows. If he didn’t try, I don’t think you would see directors, fellow actors and viewers raving about him. That reaction doesn’t occur when the actor isn’t trying. Personally, I think his is one of the strongest performances of the series.

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    18. You wanted to be king so you killed your brother by having sex with a witch. Then you went up north and burned your daughter alive to make it stop snowing.

      What don’t you get? I mean it’s all pretty standard stuff dude.

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    19. “Robert could piss in a cup and men would call it wine, but I offer them cold clear water and they squint in suspicion and mutter to each other about how queer it tastes.”

      Reading through some fans’ reactions, this Stannis quote comes to mind. 😀

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    20. Hodor Targaryen,

      Wait… I hope you know I was NOT referring to Stephen Dillane in my earlier comment (12/5 at 9:06 pm) when I mentioned an actor who I thought was “phoning in” his performance.

      [You wrote: “What matters is whether he committed to the work, and even if you don’t like the performance, I don’t think you can accuse him of phoning it in.”]

      If you were not replying to me, please forgive the intrusion.

      I was reluctant to identify by name the actor I thought had “phoned it in.”

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    21. Leuf:
      You wanted to be king so you killed your brother by having sex with a witch. Then you went up north and burned your daughter alive to make it stop snowing.

      What don’t you get?I mean it’s all pretty standard stuff dude.

      Ha ha! Very good! 👏

      To be fair though, Stannis was the rightful king by law of succession, and Renly committed treason by trying to usurp the throne. As Olenna acknowledged (S3e2):

      “It was treason. I warned them [Mace and Loras]. Robert has two sons and Renly has an older brother. How could he possibly have any claim to that ugly iron chair? We should have stayed well out of all this if you ask me.”

      However, burning his own daughter alive to change the weather was inexcusable. Maybe Stephen Dillane couldn’t reconcile that horrific act and Stannis’s defeat with the character’s qualities.

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    22. “I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late,” he said.

      As someone who joined the fun only at Season 4, knowing less than Jon Snow, I’m not very sympathetic. You don’t even have to read the books. Two hours with a wiki and you’ve got most of what you need to know about a single character. This is ‘bare minimum research’ for a viewer, let alone an actor.

      He also refers to how so much changes in post-production, which is a common struggle for actors these days. Anyone working with CGI has only the faintest inkling of what their scene will end up actually looking like. The dragons make scant appearances due to budget, but a second reason is how difficult Clarke and the rest find it to act with something that doesn’t exist. I’m more sympathetic on that front – I get the feeling Dillane is too old school drama to fit easily with what a modern production needs.

      (Directors need to improve too when they are doing big fantasy shots. Apparently just showing the actors a picture goes a long way. Search for “You feel really stupid and you hope the CGI team makes you look good” on Ars Technica.)

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    23. Pigeon,

      ”I also love that scene….”
      ……………………………..

      In tribute to Stephen Dillane and Stannis, I’m going to excerpt that scene from S5e2 in which Stannis offers to legitimize Jon. I’m also including the part in which Stannis grouses about Lyanna Mormont’s note.

      ***

      Stannis: Do you know this wretched girl? Lyanna Mormont?

      Jon: Lord Commander’s niece.

      Stannis: Lady of Bear Island…And a child of ten.
      I asked her to commit her house to my cause.
      That’s her response. (Gives Jon handwritten scroll.)

      Jon (reads scroll, and smiles): “Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark.”

      Stannis: That amuses you.

      Jon: I apologize, Your Grace. Northerners can be a bit like the Free Folk. Loyal to their own.

      Stannis: I know. My brother, Robert, went on often and loudly about how difficult it was to control them. Even with your father’s help.

      Davos: Tonight, the Night’s Watch elect a new Lord Commander. Ser Alliser Thorne is going to win.

      Jon: Most likely.

      Stannis: Unpleasant man.

      Davos: He thinks you’re a traitor. What’s your life going to be like here at the Wall with Thorne in command?

      Jon: Unpleasant, I expect.

      Stannis. Your bravery made him look weak. He’ll punish you for it. I don’t punish men for bravery. I reward them.

      Jon: I don’t doubt that, Your Grace. But I am a brother of the Night’s Watch. I have pledged them my life, my honor, my sword. I don’t know what I have left to give you.

      Stannis: You can give me the North.

      Jon: I can’t. Even if I wanted to, I’m a bastard. A Snow.

      Stannis: Kneel before me. Lay your sword at my feet. Pledge me your service. And you’ll rise again as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell.

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    24. Black Raven,

      When I was first on this forum there were so many Huge “Stannis the Mannis” fanboys that he of course went on to win for best actor in the WotW awards. I remember feeling a bit let down because I thought it should have gone to Kit lol. Not that Dillane wasn’t a great Stannis (I have never read the books but they say he was perfect) but as a viewer only I just felt the younger, more earnest actor was putting more heart into his role.

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    25. SerNoName,

      I do like that he’s honest, and it is refreshing when an actor veers off the standard oft-boring “everything was wonderful” script. I’m curious what were the things about his character that he didn’t understand.

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    26. Pigeon,
      I’m thinking another beef might be the burning of his fictional daughter. It could have left a bad taste in his mouth as, heck, nothing seems to have come of it other than to wreck the persona of Stannis before offing him.

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    27. SerNoName,

      By no means I want to sound rude because you are entitled to have your opinion and express it but….. Why do you still watch the show if you think the writting is dreadful? and most importantly, Why do you go to a web page dedicated especifically to the show?

      I am not attacking, is just a curiosity, it always puzzles me when people (especially youtubers) who watch the show and say that is dreadful, I mean, Why would you watch it if it only frustrates and enfuriates you?

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    28. He has the right idea. It’s just a job. You do it you move on. Don’t bask in past glories – look to new challenges. I hope all the actors on GOT don’t get stuck in a rut (typecasting) and best way to do that is be dismissive of your past work. It’s just a job after all.

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    29. From the sounds of it he hated his whole time on the show. Did he do ANY research at all or did he just sign up for the money? Nobody told him he had to audition for the role or even accept it.

      Oh well I don’t like the character of Stannis in either medium so tbh I don’t really care.

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    30. ygritte,

      I felt that people ignored what they actually saw on screen or confused it with their beloved “Book Stannis.” That was always odd to me as they clearly weren’t getting Book Stannis and as a consequence there never was any reason to hail Show Stannis at all let alone chant “Stannis the Mannis”.

      Personally, I never felt that Dillane acted very well. He seemed stone faced, boring or “dead” to me but he had a few well written lines. “Fewer” is of course a classic by now. I suppose this emotionless acting went well in hand with a show character who ended up choosing to burn his daughter alive for power.

      It’s lovely for Dillane that GoT has enabled him to pick and choose his future parts but I’m not sure I feel he deserves the luxury.

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    31. House Monty,

      Exactly, the people doing the casting really made it good when they gave him the role of Stannis. Even in this interview you tend to think “Thats something Stannis would have said”.

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    32. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      Do you know what he means by the following quote?

      “I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late,” he said. “The damage had been done. I thought no one would believe in me and I was rather disheartened by the end. I felt I’d built the castle on non-existent foundations.”

      What’s he mean, no one would believe in him? Or that he’d “built a castle on non-existent foundations”? Is he talking about his acting, or Stannis’s character?

      When an actor becomes fully immersed in a character, there comes a point when their portrayal feels completely real to them even though it is fiction. It seems as though Stephen Dillane never really reached that place when portraying Stannis and why he probably felt like he “built the castle on non-existent foundations.”.

      I personally enjoyed the character and feel he should be proud of his portrayal as Stannis.

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    33. From what I’ve read about Stephen Dillane’s thoughts on GOT, they actually sound very similar to what Alec Guinness always said about Star Wars – He liked the cast & crew just fine, and he REALLY liked the money it made him, but he just felt the actual product itself was very overhyped.

      While I obviously love the show, I don’t hold this against him. It’s a shame he didn’t enjoy his time on the show, but at least it seems to have been good for him financially, and I’m glad his career is going well. He really was the perfect Stannis.

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    34. Leuf:

      You wanted to be king so you killed your brother by having sex with a witch. Then you went up north and burned your daughter alive to make it stop snowing.

      What don’t you get? I mean it’s all pretty standard stuff dude.

      😂 😂 😂

      Thanks, Leuf. I needed this with my morning coffee!!!

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    35. I would also like to take this opportunity to explain why I’m a Stannis fan. I’ve always liked the character, not because I think he’s a good person, but rather because I found it interesting to see how far he was willing to go, how much of his soul he was willing to sacrifice, for (what he perceived as) “the greater good”.

      Melisandre had convinced Stannis that he had a great destiny to save the world (and due to his claim to the throne and his ego, he was susceptible to her seductions and praise), so he was willing to use any means necessary to achieve that. At first, he tried to take the Throne through legitimate means, but as he encountered one obstacle after another, and became more and more desperate, he resorted to worse and worse methods… eventually culminating in the ultimate evil act of burning his daughter alive.

      I never saw him as a hero. The only time I really rooted for him was when he saved Jon from the Wildlings (well… okay, I was kind of rooting for him to defeat Ramsay, but only because… well… it’s Ramsay). I saw him as a fascinating look at what can happen when someone becomes too consumed by religious beliefs and ideas of destiny.

      And frankly… I kind of respected the way he went out. He didn’t beg for his life or deny what he did. He knew his crimes had caught up with him and accepted his fate.

      So, yeah. Sorry if that was a bit long, lol. I just wanted to explain why I’m a fan of Stannis. It’s not because I like him as a person. I just find his character and what he represents fascinating.

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    36. As I’ve said many times here over the years, there are people who cannot understand sf/fantasy or its appeal. I used to think that it was a failure of intelligence, but I now see it more as a failure of perspective and imagination. Participating in a “real” world story is easy–putting yourself in context there, as a reader or a watcher or an actor. Imagining the world and then placing yourself in the context of the story is simply too much for some, especially such a well-realized alternate reality as GoT. The basic context of the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the characters are missing for someone who derives those concepts from sources dependent on a external norms, then can’t imagine and extrapolate those in external conditions that don’t apply easily to their inner selves. Dillane may suffer a bit from this limited self. Liam Cunningham, on the other hand, does not.
      I’m not expressing this very well, so I’m just gonna quit. I just feel bad for him for missing out on the richness of the experience.

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    37. I’ve never really understood why fans care about the reason an actor takes a role. If they come in and do their job, so be it. If he did it for the money, that’s fine…he wouldn’t be the first and he won’t be the last. He’s been gone from the show for so long I don’t see why it even matters anymore, or if it ever did matter.

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    38. Though I loved the scene where Stannis offers legitimacy to Jon, my favorite Stannis scene remains the meeting with Renly in S2. Just watch Dillane’s acting here. Pretty excellent. His job is acting and probably, like the rest of us, you like some jobs better than others. This in no way affects my opinion of show Stannis.

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    39. ygritte: When I was first on this forum there were so many Huge “Stannis the Mannis” fanboys that he of course went on to win for best actor in the WotW awards.

      (for S5) Twas surprising to me as well. I don’t have much care for book!Stannis and that carried through the show so I never understood the ‘Stannis the Mannis’ stuff. Occasionally with the WotW Awards there are categories that get overrun with a slew of people narrowed on one thing or person. Your thoughts on this particular vote are similar to mine with Bella Ramsey’s five minutes of work in S6 beating Essie Davis for best guest actress. Essie was second, but like S5 best actor final vote, it wasn’t very close. (I fully expect Bella to win with her ‘two lines’ this year too considering the limited field (and for some reason not including the category qualifying Indira.))

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    40. Clob,

      Yes I felt the same about the lady Mormon (my phone wont type the last name of Bear island ruler and i forget the first) adulation. She’s a s spunky little thing sure and made an impression for how they decided to portray the young no nonsense ruler but Essie character far more nuanced.

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    41. SerNoName:
      I can sympathize with him. The show is so badly written from season 5 onwards, no wonder the poor guy was confused about what was happening. There is no rhyme or reason anymore, no logic. As evidenced by interviews even the directors and actors were not sure what was going on in the Sansa-Arya-LF plot last season. Sophie Turner had to pull out a random reason at comic con for why she did not tell Jon about the Vale, the nonsense wight plot last season etc. etc.

      For an old school actor like Dillane who does it for the passion of acting and telling a story, this show must have been completely baffling – Stannis, one of the best generals in asoiaf gets taken out by Ramsay’s 20 good men!!Dillane has always admitted that he did GOT for the money and it’s nice to see someone who is refreshingly honest as he always is. His disgruntlement did not affect his job in any way and I continue to think he was the best actor on the show and portrayed Stannis perfectly despite his confusion with the character and story. Liam has always talked about missing him and how much he enjoyed working with him.

      The show is so badly written from season 5 onwards……lol he’s been dead since season 5 so that argument is null and void lol

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    42. lol he didn’t lie

      I remember one of the directors who worked with Benjen’s actor said he had to rely on him to tell him what the deal was with the character.

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    43. As I was reading the article it made me wonder if he just didn’t care for the genre… However, as far as his role on the show it wasn’t out of line with some other work he’s done during his career, to include playing Edward I in the upcoming Outlaw King. *shrug* It shouldn’t be expected for every actor to fully invest in the projects they do I guess. Still, while not a huge, huge role, while appearing in 24 of 40 episodes from introduction to exit one would think he’d want to figure out what that role is. 😛

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    44. I was never a Stannis fan though I always thought he played the character very well. Sucks he didn’t get more joy out of it but then again that’s Stannis for you lol.

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    45. Stormborn:

      “I personally enjoyed the character and feel he should be proud of his portrayal as Stannis.”

      I did too, and feel the same way. I did not get the impression while watching the show that the actor wasn’t invested in his character, or didn’t know what was going on in a scene.

      I am biased though, because after watching the HBO miniseries “John Adams”, in my mind Stephen Dillane will always be the definitive Thomas Jefferson. The miniseries was ostensibly about the life and family of John Adams (Paul Giamatti) and Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), but its best parts traced the friendship – and rivalry – of John Adams and the dignified gentleman from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, from the run-up to the American Revolution and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, to their deaths on the same day – July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the birth of the nation. [Somebody – I suspect my mischievous little brother – “modified” each nickel in my change jar so that next to the portrait of Jefferson, instead of the word “Liberty”, the coin now bears the word “Fewer”.]

      I also liked Stephen Dillane as the National Security Advisor in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

      Anyway, echoing what others have said already, Dillane’s frank appraisal of his portrayal of Stannis really is quintessential Stannis: Instead of spouting the usual platitudes and cliches that would endear him to the fandom, he expressed his unvarnished, harsh opinion. Just like Renly told Stannis at their parlay, Renly – who was good at PR – was popular with the people, but nobody wanted the grim Stannis to be their king.

      So yes: It’s as if Stephen Dillane’s interview comments had been delivered in-character as Stannis Baratheon.

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    46. I can imagine if he doesn’t watch the show and only reads his own parts in the script, he can’t follow. He probably doesn’t know who Jon and Ned are, where Brienne suddenly comes from, who Mance is, …
      To tell the show in a short resume isn’t easy because there are so many storylines.

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    47. Clob,

      Well, wouldn’t it be hard to argue that Stephen Dillane was undeserving of Best Actor for Season 5? In addition to the classic scenes with Jon Snow (eg S5e2, excerpted above), there was his wonderful speech to Shireen in S4e4:

      Shireen: Are you ashamed of me, Father?

      Stannis: When you were an infant, a Dornish trader landed on Dragonstone. His goods were junk except for one wooden doll. He had even sewn a dress on it in the colors of our house. No doubt he had heard of your birth and assumed new fathers were easy targets. I still remember how you smiled when I put that doll in your cradle, how you pressed it to your cheek.
      By the time we burned the doll, it was too late. I was told you would die, or worse, the greyscale would go slow, let you grow just enough to know the world before taking it away from you. Everyone advised me to send you to the ruins of Valyria to live out your short life with the Stone Men before the sickness spread through the castle.
      I told them all to go to hell. I called in every maester on this side of the world, every healer,
      every apothecary. They stopped the disease and saved your life.
      Because you did not belong across the world with the bloody Stone Men. You are the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And you are my daughter.

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    48. Black Raven,

      Oh, I really liked him as Stannis (he was perfect, I thought. The same way that Peter is a perfect Tyrion.) and as Thomas Jefferson. I know I’ve seen him in a few other things but none that really registered.

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    49. Perfect Stannis. Ever galvanizing, even in death. I don’t blame Dillane for his experience.

      I think the producers screwed up his arc, really bad, when they had him kill Shireen.

      What is the defining set of traits we associate with Stannis? We see him as someone bound by iron to the concepts of honor and duty- but he throws all of this out the window, repeatedly, for his belief in the prophesies of a maniacal witch. He discards his honor at every turn, culminating in a terrible act of kinslaying- an act so dishonorable it is held in contempt of the all the gods.

      In the end, I think his character suffered the same fate as others who were abruptly, conveniently killed as a result of expedience. Only so many hours to tell this story on TV, and they opened so many storylines in the first three, four, five seasons that there were a slew of quick deaths that seemed like afterthoughts. “How do we keep this story moving?” Of course, keeping Shireen and Selyse around after Stannis’ death would not have been practical- and it seems as tho the princess suffered the same fate she ultimately will in the books- but the show runners didn’t have to do it this way.

      I thought the decision to include the scene with Shireen where he actually showed her love was probably intended to make her death and his demise more meaningful, but in the end the effect was the opposite. I think it made no sense at all. No wonder he felt confused- I don’t blame him for failing to understand the motivations of his character.

      Also- to anyone who says “why didn’t he read the books?”- most of the actors read the script as their main source material, so they can approach the character as written specifically for the show. If the character hasn’t been written well, all he can do is do his best, despite in this case, what he felt was a poor foundation. I think I understand what he is saying, and appreciate his candor.

      Was excited for his portrayal as Stannis, as I thought he did fine work as Thomas Jefferson in the Adams miniseries. I think his acting was the only thing that saved “show Stannis” – a character I actually really appreciated in the books.

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    50. Peter Dinklage has said from day one he hasn’t watched a single second of the show other than what he sees at the premieres. I don’t know if she caught up but as of season 6 Sophie Turner hadn’t watched the entire season 5. Rory McCann said he watches the show if he remembers to. If I recall even Kit Harington said he needed to catch up at one point. This is just for this show. I can pull examples of similar comments from people who acted in other shows or other movies.

      I believe it easy to forget that as a rabid fan of all things Game of Thrones, some people and especially those with the cast and crew possess different interest levels in the show compared to us. When an actor or actress says something like “it’s just a job”, or expresses disinterest in the product, I wouldn’t take that as an insult. That statement is truthful to them as it is a job in their chosen profession. No requirement exists to like nor care what they sign up for.

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    51. Hodor Targaryen:
      Ten Bears,

      Nah, someone else kinda implied that.

      Thanks. Just wanted to make sure. The actor who I felt “phoned it in” even made derogatory comments about the show, belittled fans, and in an interview before S6, blithely gave away a huge spoiler about his character’s function in the upcoming season.

      (I have not named him, but you probably know who I’m talking about.

      When he appeared on screen, he seemed out of place – like an anachronism. He could’ve been walking out of a bar in 20th century New Jersey. It was as if he just dialed up one of his stock personnas and plugged it in, with no effort to convincingly portray his fictional role in the time and place in which the show is set.

      ) End Bashing.

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    52. orange,

      To be fair, lots of actors don’t like to see the finished product because they’re so self-critical of their own perfornances. It’s not because of lack of interest.

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    53. Sister Kisser,

      About the burning of Shireen: I think Stannis’s motivations could’ve been made clearer, eg, by a short scene demonstrating that Melisandre convinced him that the very fate of humanity depended on this sacrifice, and a brief follow-up scene showing him agonizing over his decision.
      I understood that his decisions were not made out of selfish ambition, but the unselfish belief that he was required to do unspeakable things in order to save the world. As it was, Melisandre simply buggered off and let poor Stannis march to his doom. (Though I thought the whole purpose of the sacrifice was to insure victory, not merely to obtain a thaw.)

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    54. I’m just left with the impression that Dillane didn’t make any effort at all beyond reading the lines in his own scenes.

      Not saying he should have read the entire source material (as we know it differs from the TV version anyway), but it wouldn’t take much to read up on the context of his role. Liam obviously did so and understood it all.

      If Dillane just didn’t bother, then he truly did “build the castle on non-existent foundations”. With an attitude like he displays here, a casting director might think twice about using him in future.

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    55. Hodor Targaryen:

      I also don’t begrudge his choice to do the job for the money. What actor hasn’t done that? One in a million, I’d say.

      I think the reality is more like one actor in a million gets paid at all for acting. Because the people at the top of the profession – the ones we see regularly on TV and in movies – get paid so well that they can afford extravagant lifestyles (that often make them end up in the scandal sheets), audiences seem to have this impression that acting is a walk in the park. But the stars who can demand and get high fees represent only the very tip of the pyramid.

      Think about the actors you’ve known personally. I’d be willing to bet that most of them are actor-slash-somethings who audition all the time and occasionally get a part, for which they get paid nothing at all, or a small stipend if the community theater group was lucky enough to get a grant to support this season’s productions. Or they get paid to be a high school English teacher and pour their heart and soul into coaching the Drama Club on their own time. For every hundred of those, maybe, there’s someone who actually got a gig teaching Theater Arts at the college level.

      People who can act as their sole means of making a living are an extreme rarity. Among those, the number who can afford to be choosy about what offers they accept are even smaller. Stephen Dillane was not exactly a household name before GoT, and I’d venture to guess not even one now, outside the most invested of the fandom. But he is lucky enough and talented enough to get regular work (on the actors’ scale of ‘regular,’ which generally translates as ‘sporadic and unpredictable and ulcer-inducing’). Having been on GoT for several seasons should certainly help keep him bankable. No one who has ever had to struggle to get work should begrudge him that, regardless of what we think of his performance as Stannis.

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    56. Ten Bears:
      Sister Kisser,

      About the burning of Shireen: I think Stannis’s motivations could’ve been made clearer, eg, by a short scene demonstrating that Melisandre convinced him that the very fate of humanity depended on this sacrifice, and a brief follow-up scene showing him agonizing over his decision.I understood that his decisions were not made out of selfish ambition, but the unselfish belief that he was required to do unspeakable things in order to save the world. As it was, Melisandre simply buggered off and let poor Stannis march to his doom. (Though I thought the whole purpose of the sacrifice was to insure victory, not merely to obtain a thaw.)

      Lol. I actually understood the opposite. I think at the end of the day he was motivated by selfish ambition.

      When Mel told him this in 2×10 “You will betray everything you once held dear.
      And it will all be worth it because you are the Son of Fire. You are the Warrior of Light.
      You will sweep aside this pretender and that one. You will be king.”

      I understood that he got all excited about it because of the last part. The idea of him being King.

      I also understood that part of Davos’ role in the story was to show how other more sober people reacted to Mel’s story.

      He literally never bought what she was selling and quite simply in 6×10 says “if your god requires burning little girls than your god is evil.” Also, Stannis stands in stark (no pun intended) contrast to Jon who despite having benefited personally from Melisandre’s magic sends her away for what she did.

      Ultimately the question is why where Jon and Davos able to see through the bullshit and Stannis was not? Its possible part of it was Stannis became a hardcore true believer. But I think deeper than that is he wanted to believe. He wanted to believe that his destiny was to be King and save the world so bad he was willing to do the horrible things a red witch told him to do despite the fact that other people could see that there was something not quite right about what she was preaching.

      He wanted to believe so bad that he didn’t stop and think what if she is wrong. And I do think part of that desire to believe was driven by an ambition to be King and The Hero of the story. The irony is that by trying to be The Hero he became nothing more than just an expendable Anti-Villain.

      These comments just apply to TV Stannis.

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    57. By George RR Martin’s words character of Stannis is in large part inspired by Tiberius Caesar as played by George Baker in “I Claudius” it might be possible that was direction chosen in casting .

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ00EdKDa6w

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxI2OymYRok

      Though acting in “I Claudius” is generally of different style and in character is Stannis is more like in books (example description of “shaking head when angry like mastiff breaking neck of rabbit”), Emoting is toned down in GOt a bit. Dillane has done great job considering he hasn’t read books and lack of consistent motivation and characterization of various roles.

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    58. hyrkoon:
      ByGeorge RR Martin’s words character of Stannis is in large part inspired by Tiberius Caesar as played by George Baker in “I Claudius” it might be possible that was direction chosen in casting .

      Oh, that IS interesting. From my very first acquaintance with ASoIaF/GoT, I have suspected that GRRM was inspired as much by ‘I, Claudius’ as by the Wars of the Roses or Tolkien. The backstabbing families have so much in common tonally with the Caesars. And the character of Tyrion has reminded me from the get-go of Claudius himself: the guy in line for the throne who isn’t taken seriously enough to be considered a threat – or a good candidate for power – on account of his surface ‘disabilities’ (as a result of which, he manages to survive). Not to mention that he’s the smartest and best-educated of the lot.

      The driving force behind Tiberius, per Robert Graves, was not his own sense of entitlement, but his mother Livia’s ambition. The GoT character who seems most Livia-inspired is Cersei. Imagine Stannis with Cersei as his Mom! Scary thought.

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    59. I feel sympathy for the actors who do not read the books or watch the finished episodes.

      Months of their lives are spent working on this, living out of a set trailer, doing press appearances, basically being immersed in its production or promotion 24/7.

      Then when GoT has a Season wrap, if they want to get any other work in, they have to be on another set for the remaining months of the year, immersed in that.

      I know when I finish a big, exhausting work project I am completely invested in, the last thing I want to do is revisit it. I want to go home and do something completely unrelated for awhile.

      It is no wonder that most of them aren’t caught up on the show.

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    60. Firannion,
      Yep scary thought 😀
      http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m4j91kGfTC1qd4iho.jpg
      I agree with Your insight, also Sejanus played by Sir Patrick Stewart reminds of book Littlefinger in that he is too low rank to be a threat to new regime , and Sutorius Macro and what happens with Sejanus family and scouring of Rome is similar to sack of King’s Landing and Gregor Clegane,
      This and many other historical , literary or television sources may have inspired him especially with his story about Turtles-pointing out part of his thought process.

      “Turtles have always been my sigil, I suppose. When I was a kid, growing up in Bayonne, NJ, I lived in a federal housing project, and we were not allowed to have a dog or cats. The only pets I could have were turtles. So, I had an entire toy castle filled with dime-store turtles. I gave them all names, and since they were living in a toy castle, I decided they were all knights and kings…and I made up stories about how they killed each other and betrayed each other and fought for the kingdom. So, Game of Thrones, actually began with turtles. I decided later to recast it with actual human beings”

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    61. mau:
      Pigeon,

      Don’t act like he liked the show in seasons 2-4.

      When did I say he did? It doesn’t matter – he did his part well, imo. I don’t like my job half the time either – doesn’t mean I’m not good at it or don’t like being paid. 😉

      ygritte:
      Pigeon,I’m thinkinganother beef might be the burning of his fictional daughter. It could have left a bad taste in his mouth as, heck, nothing seems to have come of it other than to wreck the persona of Stannis before offinghim.

      That would make sense, for sure!

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    62. SerNoName,

      This, so much. I think he was actually extremely invested in the character and that it is his bitterness and confusion from DD’s assassination of his character.

      Damn, I miss Stannis so much. I honestly even shed a tear about him sometimes. I won’t accept him being dead. To me, he still lives. Haha, I shed a tear writing this …

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    63. I don’t understand. It makes me so sad to read this. Stannis’s story in GoT is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen on TV, and I’ve never cared so for a character, ever. To this day, I still cannot and will not accept that he’s dead, and I honestly shed a tear about it sometimes. Yet … his actor – the one who embodies him and brings him to life – cares little for him? I can’t believe that. Actually, I think he did care a whole lot, otherwise he’d never be able to perform so well. I think he cared to the extent that Dumb and Dumber’s assassination of the character left him embittered …

      I literally cry posting this. Stannis was such a good man, but ironically his righteous nature is what made people hate him. I will never accept that he’s dead. Ever.

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    64. After reading about his experience with GoT, he comes off as a dimwit fool. He couldnt figure any of it out? What an aloof idiot.

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    65. Black Raven</strong
      The site doesn't seem to want my comment. Basically before that comment disappeared into cyberspace I said that Mr D had spoken with more truth than tact but I didn't hate him for it.

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    66. Dame of Mercia:
      Black Raven</strong
      The site doesn’t seem to want my comment.Basically before that comment disappeared into cyberspace I said that Mr D had spoken with more truth than tact but I didn’t hate him for it.


      Agreed. His candour is refreshing even if it’s not what we want to hear. It’s possible the actors are not well-informed about motivations and implications of what they’re doing. Over the years Dillane, Gillen, Pryce and more have expressed bafflement about where their character fits in to the thrust of their own story. Is it possible that they’re directed about actions and emotions in given scenes but not much more. The fragmentation of story lines in an episode comes from major editing and splicing, so the actors don’t get the continuity till it’s on-screen.
      This might bother the older, theatre-trained actors a lot. Perhaps it also contributes to the perplexing disparity between what many GoT actors say their characters were doing and how it eventually comes across to us.

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    67. BigMac:
      I would also like to take this opportunity to explain why I’m a Stannis fan. I’ve always liked the character, not because I think he’s a good person, but rather because I found it interesting to see how far he was willing to go, how much of his soul he was willing to sacrifice, for (what he perceived as) “the greater good”.

      Melisandre had convinced Stannis that he had a great destiny to save the world (and due to his claim to the throne and his ego, he was susceptible to her seductions and praise), so he was willing to use any means necessary to achieve that. At first, he tried to take the Throne through legitimate means, but as he encountered one obstacle after another, and became more and more desperate, he resorted to worse and worse methods… eventually culminating in the ultimate evil act of burning his daughter alive.

      I never saw him as a hero. The only time I really rooted for him was when he saved Jon from the Wildlings (well… okay, I was kind of rooting for him to defeat Ramsay, but only because… well… it’s Ramsay). I saw him as a fascinating look at what can happen when someone becomes too consumed by religious beliefs and ideas of destiny.

      And frankly… I kind of respected the way he went out. He didn’t beg for his life or deny what he did. He knew his crimes had caught up with him and accepted his fate.

      So, yeah. Sorry if that was a bit long, lol. I just wanted to explain why I’m a fan of Stannis. It’s not because I like him as a person. I just find his character and what he represents fascinating.

      This!

      I enjoyed seeing that ‘slow burn’ as he went from believing himself to be the legitimate successor to Robert (which he was) to the final, point-of-no-return, sacrifice of his daughter.

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    68. Stannis isn’t one of my favourite characters and I believe he’ll be killed off in Winds too but this interview from Dillane strikes me as odd, in that he really doesn’t seem fond of the series or his time there. It’s just so rare to hear an actor talk so negatively towards such a successful show.

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    69. Why do people get so upset by the real-life comments of an actor? It’s not like he said what he said to rile everyone up, it was simply his experience on the show — and it makes perfect sense to me. He doesn’t say that he hates Game of Thrones, he doesn’t trash his fellow actors, he even says he tried to tune back in to see what was going on (and failed, but many actors wouldn’t even care enough to do that). Personally, I thought he was just about perfect as Stannis. It probably helps when the actors don’t entirely know what’s going on, allows them to play it more naturally, with no foresight. Anyhow, I enjoyed what we got from Dillane, and now enjoy the image of Cunningham giving Dillane the Cliff Notes version of ASoIaF.

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    70. He’s an actor doing his job. He took direction and performed very well, bringing his character to ‘life’, and from what he said he also took understandings from his fellow actor (Liam) who was much more invested in the story.
      I think he brought Stannis to our screens in a way that well represented the showrunners’ interpretation. I’m glad to have seen him in these performances. And, I’m also pleased that he is honest about his doing this as a job and not being invested in the story. Others are more so and that’s fine too. Not everybody has to be a fan of the show they are in!

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    71. Not sure that I am buying this one. Dillane’s performance as Stannis Baratheon was never anything other than clear as a bell. He created a character that although you knew he was going to make a bad decision, you also felt that he was agonizing his way down the path to his own personal hell. Dillane very much succeeded in creating and completely inhabiting the character of a man who was completely seduced by the romance of power. I would love to see Dillane do Iago in Othello or Brutus in Julius Caesar. There were elements of those characters in Stannis.

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    72. House Monty,

      Maybe it’s just the whiskey thinking, but I think Stannis and Jon make for a fascinating contrast, as they both seemingly think in black-and-white terms–but whereas Jon (cough*Aegon*cough) can think critically and in nuanced terms when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, for some demented reason Stannis could not (or would not).

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    73. I’ll echo what others have written: Dillane’s comments sound like they could have actually been spoken by Stannis!

      Wolfish, the character parallels with Jon Snow are fascinating. Each was the legitimate heir to a King of All Westeros: Stannis knew he was Robert’s true heir; Jon did not know he was heir to the Targ’ dynasty. Stannis pursued his Kingship doggedly and to his death; Jon did not pursue a leadership role, but has received two high offices, one of which led to his death. In the eyes of Melisandre at least, Jon has supplanted Stannis as the chosen one of her Lord of Light. Jon was (and is) uncomfortable in his role as a leader; Stannis was an archetype of the fanatic who always believes he is right.

      I find this all fascinating with the reveal that Dillane honestly thought he’d done a poor job in the role of Stannis, whereas we who watched intently believe he did an excellent job. It’s almost as if Dillane’s performance was actually very well informed by the underlying themes of his character — whether the knew it consciously or not.

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    74. Tensor the Mage, Who Perhaps Has Been Up Too Late At Night Arguing Geneaology With Sir Hillary Bray,:

      Wolfish, the character parallels with Jon Snow are fascinating. Each was the legitimate heir to a King of All Westeros: Stannis knew he was Robert’s true heir; Jon did not know he was heir to the Targ’ dynasty. Stannis pursued his Kingship doggedly and to his death; Jon did not pursue a leadership role, but has received two high offices, one of which led to his death. In the eyes of Melisandre at least, Jon has supplanted Stannis as the chosen one of her Lord of Light. Jon was (and is) uncomfortable in his role as a leader; Stannis was an archetype of the fanatic who always believes he is right.

      I find this all fascinating with the reveal that Dillane honestly thought he’d done a poor job in the role of Stannis, whereas we who watched intently believe he did an excellent job. It’s almost as if Dillane’s performance was actually very well informed by the underlying themes of his character — whether the knew it consciously or not.

      Well put – I agree on all counts. I thought Dillane was marvelous and really depicted the rigid-but-well-intentioned Stannis, who I could never quite like but have always had a lot of sympathy for.

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