Continuing our interview series, next up is actress Rose Leslie, who had a memorable turn as Ygritte last season.
In this interview, she gives some hints about things to come, discusses just how often Kit Harington smiles, and much more. I note one place where she laughs… but truth be told, she laughs often and was clearly enjoying herself immensely at being involved in a project like Game of Thrones.
What can you tell us about season 3?
“I think it’s going to be very exciting. There’s lots of twists and turns this season. We’ll see our characters tested and pushed to the extremes.”
Why is Ygritte interested in Jon Snow? What piques her interest?
“She’s never come across someone like Jon Snow in her life. He’s not so rough and ready in the way that the wildling men are. And the fact that he takes himself so seriously means that she enjoys aggravating and teasing him the way she does.”
How is it like working with Kit? Jon Snow never seems to smile on the series, is Kit as serious?
“Oh, Kit is lovely. He’s wonderful! He’s very, very different from his character. It’s awesome working with him, he’s so talented. And he does smile off set! I think you’re right, Jon doesn’t really smile… but you never know, season 3 might be different!”
It’s been said that fantasy shows haven’t really appealed to women. Why do you think Game of Thrones is different?
“You have such powerful, dominant women. You have such characters like Cersei or Daenerys or Brienne of Tarth. These amazing women who men answer to. I think that appeals to women.”
How is it for you to enter into the show in the second season, when it was already so successful?
“It was wonderful. They’ve been so welcoming. It’s a real family on set. It’s a blessing to be involved, and I couldn’t quite believe my luck.”
You came from one big series—Downton Abbey—to another.
“Yes! It was great. Downton opened up the doors to Game of Thrones, because I had the same accent and all that. But there’s no corsets, which is a great thing.”
Has the show opened other doors for you?
“It has! Kind of difficult not to, really, with the HBO machine making it so easy to get noticed.”
Any plans to move to the States for work?
“Oh, I’m not sure! I’m a terribly pale person, so I’m afraid I’d just burn up. But never say never.”
Which do you prefer working on, Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey?
”Game of Thrones!”
Do you ever look at Downton and think it’d be great to still be involved?
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been part of both shows, but… I don’t know if I should say this, but I much prefer Ygritte! She’s much more fun, and she doesn’t have corsets!”
Do you still watch Downton?
“I do! It’s one of my favorites.”
Any chance you’ll be invited back to Downton?
“Oh, I don’t know. I suppose it’s up in the air, but I think not.”
Would it even be possible, though, to be on both shows?
“Iain [Glen] did, so I suppose they can juggle schedules to make it work.”
Your family owns a castle and that you come from the Leslie clan, so all this stuff on Game of Thrones must be old hat for you!
” No, no, no! No, there’s no link at all. Game of Thrones being so wonderfully fantastical, I don’t feel any mirror between my life and Thrones ... ”
You’re very young in your career, but you’ve been on these two massive shows. Do you feel pressure from it?
“I suppose it’s slightly overwhelming when you think about it, but you have to take it in stride. I know everyone else on the show is feeling the immense hype and are trying to take it in our stride. “
What’s your next project?
“Oh, I’m afraid I can’t tell you! Not even a title. I’m sorry!”
But you do have projects in the pipeline?
“Yes! Exactly. It’s good to know that there’s something waiting in a few weeks or months.”
How many books have you read so far from the series?
“I’ve read four. I’m on A Feast for Crows at this moment.”
How often have you gotten to meet the main cast?
“Comic-Con was the first time I met some of the cast members, and then at the hotel in Belfast you’d run into others since we’re all in the same hotel even if our locations and sets are very different. So I’ve met a few, but I’m dying to meet some of those I haven’t met yet.”
“I haven’t met Peter Dinklage, and I’d love to meet Jack Gleeson. They’re my two favorites on the show, and I will not play it cool when I get to meet them!”
What was Comic-Con like?
“It was a hell of an experience! It was so daunting with so many people. I loved it. I’d never been to California before, as well, so that was great.”
Taking it back to season 3, what can you tell us about Mance Rayder?
“He’s the King-beyond-the-Wall. There’s no actual crown, but he’s crowned himself basically. He’s a leader, charismatic and intelligent. Ygritte has absolute faith in him in getting over the Wall. She believes in him in a way that her relatives before her, her ancestors, wouldn’t have quite believed in other Kings-beyond-the-Wall. CiarÃ¡n Hinds is wonderful, a very nice man.”
Kit has called Orell a “mean bastard”. Does Ygritte try to protect Jon from Orell?
“She does, yes. Orell distrusts and dislikes Jon, and doesn’t think he should be around. He really lays into Jon. He’s a real nasty piece of work. But then, I also feel a little sympathy for him because he’s looking out for the wildlings as he sees it, he just goes about it in an aggressive way. But he’s only ever lived in an aggressive society, among aggressive people.”
And an aggressive climate, giving the filming in Iceland. What was that experience like?
“God, it’s incredible! It’s so dramatic. The landscape is so vast. It’s perfect for Game of Thrones; I may be biased but I think I’d watch the show for the scenery alone. Iceland is very inspiring. And also it’s very, very cold especially when you’re stuck in a blizzard. But it’s all part of the experience.”
I get the impression that Ygritte is used to using her sexuality—that it’s something she’s done before—
Do you think she uses it on Jon because it’s a challenge?
“I think it amuses her to see how this boy reacts, and seeing how he deals with someone so sexually charged. At the beginning that playfulness was absolutely there. I suppose you’ll see the relationship develop… in whatever way it does.”
From the trailer, we’ve seen Tormund and the wildlings scaling the wall. We’ve seen you south of the Wall as well, so it’s safe to say you’re involved in that. Was that done with greenscreen, and was that the first time you’ve done it?
“I did! It was my first experience. It was such an amazing experience. And I learned to rock climb, and I’d never ice climbed before either. Training for it took a long time.”
Being in these two period shows, are you looking forward to doing something more modern?
“I am! I am, and also using my own accent. But I don’t think Game of Thrones is period in that way. Only because I’ve always associated period with horrible corsets and not being able to eat lunch because you can’t get anything down.”
You keep mentioning corsets—it’s safe to assume you don’t have one on Game of Thrones.
“Can you imagine Ygritte in a corset? For me at least, I don’t have to wear one, anyways. It’s refreshing.”
Do you find the accent difficult or do you enjoy it?
“I love it, I really love it. I’m fascinated by phonetics and the placement of the tongue and mouth and so on. “
Do you stay in the accent between takes?
“No, no. I should say I’m a true professional and that I do… but no!”
You joined in season 2, and you watched season 1 before… Who were you rooting for?
“Oh, back then, I can’t even remember! But I suppose I can say I’ve always been Team Jon Snow.”