Carice van Houten Says Melisandre Is Working for the Greater Good

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Take one Baratheon bastard, prime him sexually, sprinkle on some hungry leeches and voila—king’s blood. Actor Carice van Houten discusses the scene, on-screen nudity, and what she really thinks of Davos.

HBO: How does Melisandre view her relationship with Stannis?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: She's convinced that he's the chosen one. She believes he's going to defeat the "Great Other," so she loves him—but not necessarily in a sexual way. She respects him, but it's not a romantic relationship. I wouldn't say either of them are the romantic kind, per se.

HBO: What was it like filming the scene with Gendry and the leeches?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: There were a few real leeches. You need some movement in the animals for the close-ups. I wasn't keen on touching them-they're tricky little animals. Joe [Dempsie] was very, very brave to have them crawl on his chest. They move so much that it can be difficult to place them. Some takes I'd put them on Joe and they'd roll off, so it took us a while to shoot the scene.

HBO: Was it uncomfortable to be naked for so much of the scene?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: I wore a modesty patch and Joe did too. I come from Holland, and there's a lot of nudity in film there. We're very used to it. That doesn't mean that nude scenes are my favorite to do-not at all. But I'm not uncomfortable. I also believe that on set, the more you change into a robe or the more timid you are, the more people will want to see you. At the end of that day, I was basically walking around naked the whole time. That took away the sex and the tension. I pick up on other people's discomfort. I'd rather than have people be bored with my naked body. But again, it's not my favorite thing in the world. I had less trouble with it when I was younger.

HBO: How did this scene size up to your birthing scene from Season 2?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: That scene had less to do with sex or seduction; it was more of a magic moment. It was a little uncomfortable because it was at night in a real cave in Ireland. It was cold and wet, I was half-naked and didn't know what was coming out of me. They tried to explain it to me but I couldn't really visualize it. I was basically acting to nothing.

HBO: What did you think when you watched the episode and saw your "son"?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: Like everyone else, I was very impressed by what they did with it. It's something you've never seen. It was really cool that I was a part of that. The whole scene of giving birth was both painful and ecstatic... It was a mixture of almost orgasm and extreme pain, which made it a little different, a little weird, and a little spooky. I quite liked that direction.

HBO: Melisandre seemed awed by Beric Dondarrion's resurrections; was she surprised or jealous?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: I don't think I'd say "jealous," it's not that black and white. She's in it for the greater good. It's nice to know that she's not one-dimensional.

HBO: Is she bothered by skeptics like Davos and Arya?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: Yes. They're difficult flies around her. She genuinely is convinced that this is the way and everyone that doesn't believe her is just a nuisance.

HBO: Does she want to squash those flies?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: Not necessarily. When they're really in her way and it becomes dangerous, then yes, but there is something bigger to do.

HBO: Your character speaks in Valyrian; what was it like learning the language?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: It wasn't easy because there was no reference. I speak French, German, English and Dutch, and I can say a few words in Spanish-none of these languages have anything to do with Valyrian. It took me a really long time; I had to study. Then when I finally got it, I thought, "Why can't I just talk only in Valyrian?" It gives you freedom in your speech and in your acting as well. I've had some moments where I tripped over some words. Fortunately there are no bloopers on the DVD—I'd be part of a lot of them.

HBO: Would you want any of Melisandre's powers for yourself?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: Hell yeah! Obviously I would never kill anyone, but it would be a nice Halloween prank.

THINK FAST

HBO: Which character do you admire the most?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: The khaleesi seems the most fair. And Melisandre cannot say this, but I admire Davos. I love his character. He is smart, modern-thinking and loyal—a good guy. Maybe Melisandre even knows that he's a good guy, even if he's a nuisance. That actor [Liam Cunningham] is a good friend. In this series we hate each other, but I've done a film with him called "Black Butterflies" where we played lovers. It was very funny when I met him again in a completely different setting.

HBO: Which character or being scares you the most?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: Obviously Joffrey. That guy is really creepy. You wouldn't want him at your child's birthday party.

HBO: Do you have a favorite prop?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: No. I have my necklace, but that's more of a costume thing.

HBO: Direwolves, eagles, ravens, which animal would you most want to warg into?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: I would pick an eagle, because then I could say, "The eagle has landed!"

HBO: What would you most like to say in Valyrian?

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: The first thing that comes to mind is, "Can I order a crepe?"

HBO: The night is dark and full of _______.

CARICE VAN HOUTEN: TERRORS! I couldn't say anything else!