Stephen Dillane (Stannis) looks back on Game of Thrones: “I didn’t know what I was doing”

Accomplished British thespian Stephen Dillane played Stannis Baratheon for four seasons on Game of Thrones, finally meeting his end at the hands of Brienne of Tarth in season 5. Dillane talked to The Times about the experience, and as befits a man who played the most uncompromisingly honest man in Westeros, he didn’t mince words.

I’ve flicked [Game of Thrones] on [since leaving] to see if I could figure out what was going on, but I couldn’t. Liam Cunningham [Davos Seaworth] is so passionate about the show. He invests in it in a way I think is quite moving, but it wasn’t my experience. I was entirely dependent on Liam to tell me what the scenes were about — I didn’t know what I was doing until we’d finished filming and it was too late. The damage had been done. I thought no one would believe in me and I was rather disheartened by the end. I felt I’d built the castle on non-existent foundations.

This isn’t the first time Dillane has expressed some misgivings about the show and his role in it. “I understood neither the series nor its success when I was a part of it,” he told French outlet Libération in 2016. “The experience was very strange, it passed under my nose. For a role like it to me, I must get interested…which was not really the case. I was a bit overwhelmed.”

I guess you could hear stuff like this and wonder if Dillane is being ungrateful, but I don’t think so. In fact, I think this just goes to show how perfectly he was cast. Of COURSE the guy who played Stannis would be unsatisfied playing Stannis. That’s, like…the most Stannis thing ever.

And it’s not like he regrets being on the show — he said as much to Libération. And he appreciates how much it did for his career, acknowledging that the professional freedom he now enjoys is due to the money he made when working on Game of Thrones. “I can only work with what attracts me, and unfortunately that’s often not what attracts anybody else. Game of Thrones pays for all this looking around and waiting.”


Dillane talked about some of his other projects, too, and once again displayed a very Stannis-like unwillingness to compromise. He’s the star of a British-French series called The Tunnel, which is coming back for a third season in 2018. Dillane, who is — may I remind you — the star of this ongoing show, pretty much openly said that he didn’t think the second season was all that great. “The second one didn’t seem to have much impact,” he said. “Although people whose opinions I respond to seem to think it was really good.”

“I’m not sure we’ve fulfilled Emilia’s [di Girolamo] style,” he says of The Tunnel showrunner’s scripts. There were “no particular standout moments” during filming. And the series as a whole? “I hope it’s achieved a level of quality in what can be a little generic.”

What actor talks this way about their own projects? One who absolutely refuses to obscure the truth or soften the blow, just like Stannis. Every time Dillane talks about his discomfort with Game of Thrones, I become more convinced than ever that no one else could have played the would-be King of the Seven Kingdoms.

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