Esmé Bianco discusses the evolution of her character, why she spied for Varys, and what's so appealing about life in King's Landing.
HBO: Since Ros isn't a part of the novels, can you explain how you joined the show?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I was supposed to be in one scene in the pilot, the scene she has with Tyrion in the brothel. Just after they got the greenlight, I got an email from David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and they said, "We love your character, we really like what you did. Would you consider coming back if we wrote you in?" So they kept sending me scenes and it went from there. It progressed naturally as they were writing the season.
HBO: Did not being a character from the books put you at a disadvantage? How much of the story did you know?
ESMÉ BIANCO: For David and Dan, it gave them the liberty to use her and write her in as they need her. I read as far as Book 3 ('A Storm of Swords'), so I didn't spoil too much for the story for myself. I think if my character had been in the book, I wouldn't have read them because I wouldn't have wanted to know.
For the fans, some love her because she's not in the books and because she's fresh and brings a different element in. But lots of hard-core book fans... they hate her.
HBO: Ros has had some memorable scenes—with Theon in Season 1, telling him to get a wife; in Littlefinger's brothel. Do you have a favorite?
ESMÉ BIANCO: Scenes that I did with Theon are the ones I enjoyed shooting the most. Alfie [Allen] and I work so well together; he's such an easy actor to work with. We just clicked when we were on set. I look back at those scenes and I am proud of them. Ros takes no bullshit but she knows how to play guys. Theon is an upstart, he's so gobby and arrogant. They work perfectly together because they have that great dynamic, that push-pull.
I also like the scenes with Varys, in Episodes 304 and 110. There's a similarity in their characters: They're both trying to make the best of where they came from and they're both definitely climbers, as we've learned. Shooting the scene in Season 2 where I have to beat the other prostitute, and the scene with the baby killing were the hardest two for me.
HBO: Ros managed to gain the confidence of both Varys and Littlefinger. What is about her that made them trust her?
ESMÉ BIANCO: Everyone thinks she has lower expectations. I think people underestimate her because she's not someone who's trying to marry the king or steal the throne. She's on a different level. But she is so clever at being a woman. She knows how to use her feminine wiles to gain trust, so people have that confidence in her, but they're underestimating how ambitious she is.
HBO: She gets savvier and savvier, keeping Tyrion's secret, cracking Littlefinger's packing list. Were you surprised by her evolution?
ESMÉ BIANCO: David and Dan talked to me about it as we were going along. They said she was going to be growing and climbing the ladder, but I didn't realize to what level. She's so embedded in these plots and has gained so much confidence. That she climbed as high as she did was a surprise, but I had my suspicions she was going places even in Season 1. That scene with Theon on the cart, she knows she has to go where the guys are going.
HBO: In fact, when her profession is brought up, she reminds Varys it's her "former" occupation. What future do you think she saw for herself?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I think ultimately she would have liked to be independent of the men that ruled her, from constantly having to appease these powerful men. It's important that she says "former" because she definitely wants more for herself, more of a "normal" life—for Westeros. As you've seen, it's not been an easy ride for her. I think she wanted to settle down and have a family.
HBO: How did you find out about Ros' death?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I got an email from the production about the scenes I was going to be in. I remember thinking, "Oh that's not quite as many episodes." Then I got a call from David and Dan. They were so sweet. They called me themselves and broke the news to me. In all honesty, it's amazing she survived as long as she did, considering that Ned Stark lost his head in Episode 9 of Season 1. But I didn't know immediately how it was coming about. I was furious when I found it was Joffrey—Joffrey of all people?
HBO: Do you think it was better that we didn't see the details?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I think so. We see a lot of gory deaths on 'Game of Thrones.' It's another example of how evil Joffrey is and how cruel, but I like that you don't actually see it happening. I think there's more of a shock. I've seen stills and it looks absolutely beautiful, like a painting. Really, every scene she's been in is like a Caravaggio. I'm just glad she didn't get her head chopped off.
HBO: Littlefinger warned Ros before about protecting his investment. Did she know the risks?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I think she did and possibly, she underestimated Littlefinger. I think she knew there was an inherent risk when she started spying for Varys, but it was something she knew she had to do if she didn't want to be Littlefinger's whore for the rest of her life. You can't get anywhere in life without taking risks. She realized it was part of the game she was playing, but I don't think she knew it would come to this. She probably thought that Varys could protect her more than he could.
HBO: Which character do you admire the most?
ESMÉ BIANCO: It would be easy to say Daenerys, but I've got a lot of admiration for Catelyn Stark. I think Catelyn holds to her beliefs, what she believes is the right and proper thing to do—like when she lets the Kingslayer go. She's been through so much and is still standing proud and supporting her son. I mean no one has had it easy, but I really admire her.
HBO: Which character or being scares you the most?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I'm totally creeped out by Grand Maester Pycelle. And the warlocks with the blue lips terrify me.
HBO: Do you have a favorite prop?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I have this ring that I wear on my thumb. It snaps open and you can store potions or pills or snuff. I love that. Once I put it on, I was totally in character. So that and the gold lion pendant that Tyrion gave Ros.
HBO: Given the story's distinct locations, in what region would you most want to live?
ESMÉ BIANCO: King's Landing. They're always talking about eating lemon cake and figs.
HBO: Is there an animal you'd like to warg into?
ESMÉ BIANCO: I would be the three-eyed raven—you get to carry all the secret messages.
HBO: What phrase would you most like to say in Valyrian?
ESMÉ BIANCO: "Dracarys." I want to be able to say that and have things spontaneously burst into flame.