The actor behind the clever queen discusses trial day, watching the show as a fan and not dying at the hands of Cersei Lannister. (Spoilers follow.)
HBO: What did you think when you first read the Season 6 scripts?
Natalie Dormer: We get all the scripts at once, which is wonderful. I read the King’s Landing scenes so I know what’s going on in the capital, but I purposely chose not to read other storylines. I watched Season 1 as a fan, and in the last few years I’ve really tried to go back to that feeling – on Sunday night I have the most amazing experience like every other audience member.
HBO: Was there any storyline that you were not expecting?
Natalie Dormer: I’m just so relieved that we finally got Jon Snow’s maternity out, because I’ve had that theory for a long time. Sophie [Turner, who plays Sansa Stark] and I were close for a number of years, and I love watching her complex, dramatic growth as Sansa becomes this woman who can play the game herself. When the Knights of the Vale rode over that hill in Episode 9, I was whooping and jumping up and down on the sofa. Also, Rory McCann is a great guy, so the Hound coming back was such a joy to see.
HBO: What was the most challenging aspect of playing Margaery?
Natalie Dormer: Trying to play a character so finely-nuanced that people believe you can be a good person who is also politically savvy. It’s easier to play a nihilistic person or a baddie; you have to get your hands dirty and have real talent, as Jack Gleeson [Joffrey Baratheon] proved, but it’s a simpler task to play a straight psychopath. The thing I wanted to communicate with Margaery is that good people can, hopefully, be in positions of power. I think that’s quite pertinent. I’ve tried to make her a plausibly real, sensitive, good human being with the skills of a good leader.
HBO: Is there any truth to Margaery’s line to Tommen: “I’ve had lots of time to think about how good I was at seeming good?”
Natalie Dormer: I think she’s articulating out loud something she’s always known about herself. If any of us were forced to sit in a dark cell on our own, we would do some soul searching. But I’ve always held firm that Margaery’s heart is true – I don’t think she has a dark spirit. She’s giving a narrative to Tommen that helps convert him at that moment. Maybe she was able to mix a bit of the truth in there – that’s the most effective kind of lying isn’t it?
HBO: Are you satisfied with how her story ended?
Natalie Dormer: I give [series creators] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] a lot of credit for the choices they made. They had to tie a lot of things up and move the whole King’s Landing story forward, and obviously the whole religious coup was such a complex thing to grapple with. I loved that Margaery’s demise was not at Cersei’s hand, but at the hand of someone else underestimating Cersei when Margaery wasn’t in a position to wield the power herself. That feels right, because Margaery’s done such a good job over the years of keeping up with Cersei. They’re pretty well-balanced.
HBO: What’s running through her mind when she is dressing for the trial?
Natalie Dormer: It’s the most serious situation we’ve ever seen Margaery in. What I think I was able to play this season was her genuine concern and fear that she wasn’t going to get out of this situation. You see that in her fear for the lives and safety of her family – that’s why she sends Olenna away, and it’s why she appears to seem converted in a last-ditch attempt to save Loras’s life. Loras has been profoundly damaged, and now she’s trying to limit the damage as much as possible. Obviously she doesn’t think she’s going to die, but she’s not sure what is going to happen; I think there was a massive question mark over the whole day.
HBO: What do you think about the terrible irony that she knew something was wrong right before the explosion?
Natalie Dormer: That’s the beauty of what Dan and David wrote. They gave her the privileged position of being the only person to realize what’s happening, a moment of vindication that just summed up her personality. She was always a couple of steps ahead of everyone else, even to her last moment. I’m very grateful, because Margaery Tyrell was never a victim – even in her last moment they allowed her to not be. It’s also very poignant that she’s standing there holding Loras, because her love and her closeness with her sibling has always been in the background. For Finn [Jones, who plays Loras] and I to go out together, literally holding on to each other, was a beautiful moment.
HBO: How was your last day of shooting?
Natalie Dormer: My actual last day was with Diana Rigg [Olenna], where I hand her the bit of paper with the rose drawing. It was very fitting: the actor hugging the actor goodbye, and the character hugging the character. Dan and David were both there in order to give me the proper send-off. It was an emotional day.
HBO: Did you take a souvenir from the set?
Natalie Dormer: They gave me Margaery’s wedding crown, with the roses interwoven around the Baratheon antlers which sits on my bookshelf and will be loved from now until the rest of my days.
HBO: If you were King, who would you choose for your Hand?
Natalie Dormer: It would have to be Tyrion Lannister, wouldn’t it?
HBO: Which character would you choose to warg into?
Natalie Dormer: The Hound. I really do love Rory’s character, I think he’s been on such a cool trajectory, and I think there’s more to come. And it’d be nice to play the opposite of Margaery who’s sitting around in silk skirts – to be a big, bulking man in armor.
HBO: Queen of the Seven Kingdoms: Cersei, Daenerys, or Sansa?
Natalie Dormer: Sansa’s amazing, and I’m really looking forward to see where she ends up, but probably Dany. That’s where I am at the end of Season 6, but hey, it changes!
More From "The Winds of Winter"
- Interview with Bella Ramsey, who plays Lyanna Mormont
- Interview with Dean-Charles Chapman, who plays Tommen
- Watch the behind-the-scenes docuseries The Game Revealed on HBO NOW