Michelle Fairley Knows Cat Was Fallible



HBO: Are you a book reader? When did you learn about the Red Wedding and Catelyn's fate?

Michelle Fairley: I read the series so I knew what was coming and I knew how many years I signed on for. It makes for dramatic reading and I'm sure it makes for dramatic viewing as well. I haven't watched it—I don't know if I'll be able to watch it, but I hope we did it justice because it does have a knock-on effect.

HBO: Having read the book, did you approach the scene differently?

Michelle Fairley: No. I used the book as a reference. Sometimes David [Benioff], Dan [Weiss] and Bryan [Cogman] take from the books and sometimes they don't. And you're in the third year of a production so you know your character at that point. If I want to get inside what George [R.R. Martin] is thinking, I go back to the book, but mainly it's David and Dan's thinking and my interpretation of that.

HBO: What was going through Cat's mind when the "Rains of Castamere" start to play?

The last thing on her mind is that Walder Frey would use this occasion to seek his revenge.

Michelle Fairley: I remember shooting that and having to turn. She's thinking, "What is this music?" It says something ominous to her, like something has walked over her grave; her hackles are up. But she doesn't know what it is because she's an honorable human being. The last thing on her mind is that Walder Frey would use this occasion to seek his revenge.

HBO: What is she thinking when she appeals to Walder to let Robb live?

Michelle Fairley: All of Catelyn is about keeping her children alive and getting them together again. She's bartering with her own life in the hope that her son is going to get away. And she does have Walder's wife and a knife at her neck. But Walder Frey is not the same person as Catelyn Stark. He is driven by anger and revenge.  

HBO: Can you give an idea of what it was like filming that day?

Michelle Fairley: We had a week to shoot the whole sequence, and we shot it chronologically so throughout the week, you knew we were coming to the end. It's incredibly emotional – because of the subject matter and the mindset and physical state you have to get yourself into, the breathing and thought process. You think, "What is she trying to achieve here?" She's emotional, yes, but at the same time she's trying to be rational. She has to listen to what Walder Frey is saying and she has to keep her wits about her. She tries everything with this man in order to save this son but he's without care. She doesn't know it was already planned.

HBO: The episode starts with Robb admitting she was right about Theon. What were her misgivings about him?  

Michelle Fairley: I think she's an observer. In certain scenes, there is a way that Theon reacts. He may have been brought up in the Stark household with the same morals, but there's something about his nature and his family that she doesn't trust. Remember, the knowledge of these families has been passed on for generations. If there's a flaw in the family somewhere, it's likely it's been passed on. 

HBO: Earlier this season, she makes a poignant speech about Jon and her inability to love him.

Michelle Fairley: Her whole anger at Jon Snow is completely displaced. It should have been at her husband. But she's a fallible human being. She hasn't got the strength of character to do that. Jon is the embodiment of her husband's infidelity and she obviously cannot cope with that. It's something that is in her, almost like a cancer that’s got in to her body and it's stronger than she is. And try as she might to counteract, she can't. But she can acknowledge it, as she does with Talisa.

HBO: Can you talk about Catelyn's faith? She makes a lot of prayer wheels.

Michelle Fairley: The figures represent the different aspects of life and prayer. And she believes in them. If you follow any religion, it's meant to be a guide in how you conduct your life, your belief system and your moral system. This is hers and what was passed on from her family.

HBO: Which is so different from Cersei, whose father discouraged praying.

Michelle Fairley: That's what's so brilliant about the women in the show. They're all incredibly strong, but in different ways, with different moral fibers. They're all acting for the own gain, whether for their children to be king or to get their family back together again. You can't fault them for their drive or passion because they have to be stronger than the men. They're the ones who stay behind. They're the ones that have to run the family, constantly anticipating what the men are thinking. They almost have to be psychics and foretell what will happen, when it will happen and the repercussions of it.

HBO: Esme Bianco says of all the characters, she admires Cat the most. What are your feelings about Cat?

Michelle Fairley: There are aspects of Cat I want to shake out of her and there are aspects that I really admire. I love her strength, her drive, her belief – I have some of that. If I believe in something I'll follow it through. We're all filled with flaws, peaks and troughs, and we're constantly learning and evolving. I don't think Cat ever thought herself capable of being able to slit someone's throat. But that's the journey she goes on.

HBO: Having now met Edmure and Lysa, it's easy to see why she was Lord Hoster's favorite child.

Michelle Fairley: I know – they're a pretty screwed up lot. I think she was right to get away. She was meant to marry Ned's brother, but she probably thought: "Get me the hell out of here. I'll take Ned."


HBO: Which character do you admire the most?

Michelle Fairley: I admire Cersei because of her drive, but I don't agree with what she does. I admire Tyrion: He's coming from such a disadvantage within a family like that yet makes the most of his life. I love characters that come against adversity and topple it. Like Arya. For Tyrion and Arya, it's about survival; knowing that this could be your last day on earth so you go out and live it.

HBO: Which character or being scares you the most?

Michelle Fairley: Cat completely mistrusts Lannisters and she always has. But with Melisandre, there's this conjuring up of spirits, this evil. You can't control that.  

HBO: Do you have a favorite prop?

Michelle Fairley: My costume, really. You spend about 45 minutes getting your hair piece in and it’s a very gradual putting together of pieces. It makes you think about the way it makes you hold yourself. And the Tully sigil, once the cloak is closed and the sigil is in place, my hand always went to it like a talisman.

HBO: What's been your favorite scene or moment from the past three seasons?

Michelle Fairley: I loved the Red Wedding, the whole process of putting it together and taking it step by step and achieving it.  

HBO: If you could warg, what animal would you be?

Michelle Fairley: I think human beings getting to other parts of the world through flight is an incredible privilege. So I'd say an eagle – they've got great eye sight and they can see what's going on on earth.

HBO: What phrase would you most want to say in Valyrian?

Michelle Fairley"Winter is coming."