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Season 4 Interview: Sibel Kekilli

This past February, I had the opportunity to interview a number of actors in London. One of the ones I was most eager to meet—because she had been rather difficult to get an interview with previously!—was Sibel Kekilli, who plays Shae. Although given the early date of the interview it was difficult to approach anything discussing her big turn this season, it was a good chance to catch up with the actress.

An award-winner in her native Germany for her powerful work in films such as Head-On and When We Leave, Kekilli proves to be a very enthusiastic interview subject—a lot of exclaimations, a lot of smiles, and not a little laughter.

Interview

What was it like, when you first got involved in Game of Thrones?

It was my first significant work in English, and for HBO as well. The first season, when I was auditioning in June 2010, we started filming not long after that. People didn’t know how long the show would last, that it may not even go to a second season, that I may just have a few episodes to do. So I was, okay, I liked the character, and I didn’t know where the journey goes so that’s interesting. I was very naive, I thought perhaps I’d die in the second season.
But then it got a second season, and I said, “Oh, I don’t want to die! I want to be on it as long as I can!” I was so proud to be part of this big show.

Why do you think you were selected to play Shae?

Dan Weiss and David Benioff had watched me in Head-On. That was in 2004, but six years after they knew me from it and they wanted me to audition. It was a big honor to be asked to do audition.

What’s Peter Dinklage like to work with?

Oh, he’s terrible. No, no! You know, there are two kinds of actors. Some are full of ego, they don’t listen to you, they don’t let you even finish their lines. Then there’s the second sort of actor, the ones who listen, who react when you act, who act with their eyes. I think that’s the most important thing I think about acting, to be able to act with your eyes. He’s that kind of actor. He helps you, when you have some problems, or trouble with a line. He’s always asking if you’re okay or not.

Have you been a fan of the fantasy genre?

Not at all. It was new to me! I never watched Harry Potter, just one part of The Lord of the Rings which I was, like, “Yeah, okay, it’s very nice.” Now, I started to watch Game of Thrones. For the first two seasons, I did not want to watch it. Then something embarassing happened on set—I didn’t recognize that Joffrey was the king!—so I said, “Okay Sibel, you need to watch your work!”
And now I am addicted!

Do you not like watching yourself on screen, is that why you didn’t watch?

I actually often do, to see what mistakes I did. When I watch, I always critique myself and analyze. And then the second time watching something, I can watch it just as a program without thinking about how I did.

How is it to see all the reactions that the show has gotten from around the world?

It’s crazy! I’m so happy I’m not Cersei. I love Lena and her character, but I know people love to Cersei. With Shae people did not know if they should love her or not. Now it’s getting a bit better.

It’s a bit scary for me. Last year I was a premiere and there were fans waiting at the airport. And I asked, “Who are they waiting for? Is Meryl Streep here?” And they were shouting, “Sibel! Sibel!” And it was—oh my god, they know my name, wow!

At the end of the third season, Varys approached Shae and offered her money to go away. Some viewers had taken it to be Tyrion who arranged it, and obvious Shae believes it. Is she feeling more and more insecure in her standing with Tyrion because of things like this?

It started in the third season when she was told Tyrion had to marry Sansa. At first, Sibel didn’t really care or trust Tyrion—she was a prostitute, he was a client—but she started to feel real love for him and started to want him to go away with her, to have a normal, regular life together without these cruel people all around them.
he has to marry Sansa. At this point, this started to shake her beliefs. At the end of the third season, she realized she couldn’t trust anybody anymore.

How has it been working with Sophie Turner?

I love Sophie! I feel like a mother—she’s growing so fast! She’s so tall, too! She was a kid in the first season, and now she’s a young woman, even more beautiful. I feel like I have to take care of her in private life. I love her.
Last season, she had a really difficult scene where she had to cry as she watched Littlefinger’s ship leave without her. It was such a heartbreaking scene, and she did it so well—she couldn’t stop crying! She’s a really good actress.

Can you single out some favorite scenes, or toughest scenes?

The first scene I had in the first season. My English wasn’t as good as it is now, and I was nervous about it. And the most important scene for me was the one with Varys at the end of the third season. There was a lot of emotion for Shae in that scene.

Last year, there was a Youtube video that was humorously critiquing the show for the abundance of naked women, and the lack of equal nudity of men. What do you think about that aspect of the show?

I’ve never seen it, but I will say I’d like to see more naked men on the show. Lets start with Nikolaj!

Is there anyone you wish you could have more scenes with on the show?

I have been very lucky—I’ve had scenes with Cersei, with Tyrion, with Sansa, with Varys, so I am happy with what I’ve been able to do and who I have worked with.

What it’s like to have lasted so long on Game of Thrones?

It’s a big honor to be part of the show from the beginning!

Would you say this season will be about her love for Tyrion, or about her survival?

She is always in danger! Tywin said to Tyrion that if he ever caught the person he loved, or his whore, he would kill her. So it’s always been about loving him, but surviving too.
Clever answer, right?
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