Game of Thrones is epic in every sense of the word, it’s just spectacularly vast. The cast has been both impressive and huge, but what has been the subject of debate are which characters you’re really rooting for. One Jaime Lannister is seen as hateful in one series, but as you get more of an insight into his character in the next, your perspective on him softens somewhat.
Tyrion Lannister appears to be extremely popular not only with the audience but with George RR Martin himself, and sure, he’s one of my favourites too. But Ser Barristan Selmy, played by Ian McElhinney is a welcome straight forward honest to goodness knight who does his best under difficult circumstances. I put this partly down to some excellent character development from George Martin, and some terrific acting from Ian too.
When talking to Ian though at this years Milton Keynes Collectormania, I find myself implicitly trusting him. He’s a likeable guy who’s charming and honest so it’s no surprise I like these same qualities in Ser Selmy too, but if George Martin twists his character in later books, I may just cry a little. No George, don’t do it. Please.
We only had five minutes with Ian, and it would have been nice to talk to him a little about the company he and his wife own / run, Rathmore Productions, and his work as a Director too, but there’s only so many questions you can fit into a short time!
Where were you when you got the role in Game of Thrones and how did it feel?
Funnily enough there were some people earlier who brought a copy of a programme from the Almeida Theatre of a show that I had done there and funnily enough I was working in the Almeida at the time that I got the role in this [Game of Thrones], and I didn’t know this was based on a series of books. But the girl who was the project house manager at the Almeida said ‘Oh I’ve got book one of that series, they’re great. I’ll bring it in to you’. So she brought it in to me, and I’ll be honest I thought ‘Fantasy. I’m not sure fantasy’s my thing’. I was delighted to be doing the role, but fantasy’s not my bag. So I flicked open the book and it was eight hundred pages of very small print. And I thought ‘Oh I don’t know if I can read this’.
So it sat for two weeks on my dressing room table in the theatre, staring at me. And then one night ‘Oh come on you’re a professional, you’re doing this job, you may as well read the book and get some feel of what it’s about’. So I took it with me as I left the theatre and started reading it on the tube on the way home, That was about twenty minutes. I got into the house, made a cup of coffee and carried on reading it. For about two and a half hours. I eventually decided I should probably go to bed. I was totally hooked, totally hooked and just started reading it. And after that I read all of book on in very short order. Fantastic read. I mean, two things about it will knock you sideways. One is the scale of the vision. The number of characters, the number of houses, it’s phenomenal. It’s –
Lord of the Rings but without the talking trees and Elves.
It’s overwhelming. The other side of it, of course, is it’s actually really well written. It’s great entertainment. It’s really readable. And on that Lord of the Rings thing, someone on the show last year was saying it’s like Lord of the Rings meets the Sopranos. And that’s what I like about it personally. I like the fact that it’s Lord of the Rings meets the Sopranos. It’s a real sense of intrigue, mystery and double dealing and politics and you know family relationships and everything’s in there. It’s a joy to do, it’s a joy being in you know.
I actually think your character is one of the more likable characters.
He’s a true, decent guy who does try to remain so. But then, you know, Sean Bean was the honourable man and look what happened to him! So who knows where that leads?
Is it difficult acting in that environment with all the CGI as well?
You know, generally it’s not too bad because most of the scenes are straight. I mean you do, you know, you’ve got a real setting and real people and real situations. Sometimes you’re doing a scene and you realise ‘oh when they do that shot there’s a bit of green screen they’re going to create a vista we don’t know exists’. There’s a bit of that. But we haven’t had to act that much against green screen.
But when the dragons come into play… The thing about that is it makes for quite a long, slow day and it’s quite time consuming because when the dragons were smaller – they’re going to get bigger obviously – but when the dragons were smaller you would have the dragons figure in and then you would have to have a bit of stuff done and they’ll move here and they’ll move there. Of course it’s not moving. We’ve got to play, oh it’s moved there and it’s moved there. They’ve gotta shoot it with different colour schemes and then different senses of composition and technically there are a lot of things they have to do which I have to admit I don’t understand. It should be obvious I don’t understand the way I’m talking about it! But, you know, they have to do that.
So it means that a scene on the surface doesn’t look that complicated, because the dragons are there it becomes more complicated and makes for a slower day.
The last question, have you watched yourself on Game of Throne? Have you watched the series? Some actors don’t like watching themselves.
I’ll be honest with you I don’t know why… It’s never easy to watch yourself and that’s a fact of life. Who ever you are it’s never easy to watch yourself. I don’t think it’s because I don’t like watching myself, but I have not got round to watching the series yet. I’ve seen the odd clip, I’ve seen some stuff when I’ve done some ADR, you know, when we have to post in some voice work or something like that. But I haven’t sat down and watched the series as a whole.
Oh, I will, I will! But I haven’t done it yet, I’ve just seem some snippets.
Thank you very much for your time!
We’d like to thank the Showmasters Crew as ever, as well as Ian’s fans for being patient with us while we did the interview.