Master of intrigue: Exclusive chat with Aidan Gillen on Petyr Baelish
Aidan Gillen plays the role of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Game of Thrones, the chief mastermind, manipulator and architect of the show’s framework. Be it in his conversations with the lords and ladies of the show’s many houses or his tête-a-tête with Varys, Baelish has always been sure of his next move. If things didn’t work out, he always had a contingency plan too.
Much too often, Baelish has been seen admiring the Iron Throne and in not so many words, it has been shown that he was quite a weakling as a boy — he even lost the love of his life to Brandon Stark in a duel and finally lost her to Eddard Stark. Aspiring to achieve two things – unbeatable power and Catelyn’s love, he didn’t succeed with the second, but made considerable progress in amassing the first.
Baelish has always been motivating the actions of characters from the shadows, and he rarely makes mistakes (read: giving Sansa away to the Boltons). In fact, Season Four reveals that Baelish was, in fact, the one who masterminded the main plot of the War of the Five Kings. We soon find Baelish joining the most powerful people in Westeros, even while being responsible for the downfall of the major houses.
To state it simply, several major plot twists are hinged on Baelish’s intrigues, including the framing of Tyrion Lannister for the attempt on Bran Stark’s life, the downfall of Lord Eddard Stark, and the deaths of Lord Jon Arryn and King Joffrey Baratheon.In an exclusive interaction, Gillen speaks about the dynamics of his role, while John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly, also joins in to say that his character isn’t entirely of a joker’s – as you can hope to discover in the show's upcoming Season Seven.
Where do we find Littlefinger as we begin this season?
Aidan Gillen: When we first catch up with Littlefinger, it’s almost like a direct push from when we last saw him in Season Six. Then, he was standing against the wall in the Great Hall in Winterfell, in the shadows. For his first scene in Season Seven, he is in the same room.
So I thought I would stand in exactly the same place, at exactly the same angle — that could be interesting. We left him wondering what he’s up to and we take up asking, what he’s up to now? Obviously, he’s working some of his magic on the power structure at Winterfell. It is now under the command of Jon.
You saw through Season Six and maybe even from the end of Season Five that Littlefinger been trying to sow some seeds of doubt in Sansa. Doubts about her brother’s validity as a leader, in fact, doubts about his validity as a brother at all.
How much of a brother is he, really, you know, biologically? How much credit did you, Sansa, really get for saving him down at the Battle of the Bastards? Don’t you deserve a little more? That’s Littlefinger’s thing — he’ll push people. He’ll nudge people in a certain direction, but then, they don’t always take it. And Sansa doesn’t always take the bait, because she’s getting clever.
Why does he do it? Is it for power, for fun?
AG: For the fun would be a correct answer. It’s not just about the result; it’s about the thrill of manipulating on that scale. The danger of it: even though his plans are extremely well thought through, they could go wrong easily at any point, and that would be end of story. But if you don’t take major risks, you’re not going to get major results.
For him it is about the fun of it, the game of it — and you want to be seen having fun. That makes the character even more interesting to look at. If it’s just all devious and nasty, people will lose interest I think. So I’ve always tried to have a bit of fun with it, and show a bit of a playful side.
Do fans boo and hiss when they meet you?
AG: I don’t get booed and hissed that much. I was greeted very cordially by a group of
something like 12 students off a train in Manchester the other day. They were like, ‘Littlefinger!’ It was as if they’d met their favourite uncle just stepping off the train with sweets. I think some people are confused. They say to me, “Hey you know, your character confuses me because… I like you.” And that’s what you want in a villainous role I guess.
It’s important to show that this is somebody who can get away with things, precisely because people do find him trustworthy in some way or attractive. Without that it just wouldn’t work. And his plans are so well laid, they go so far back you know — there’s a certain glee watching them unfold.
Where do we find Samwell Tarly this season?
John Bradley: We first meet Sam at the Citadel, and if you know anything about Sam at all, what he’s been striving for for the past few years, you’d think that he’d be happier than ever.
I mean, for somebody who has been told all of his life that his interests are meaningless and that you’re not going to affect the world in any positive way unless you could swing a sword, to find yourself suddenly in a place where your interests and passions — knowledge, books — are shared with everybody there must feel like coming home.
Initially, in the early seasons, you felt Sam was comic relief, a foil for Jon. Now it seems his discoveries are driving the action…
JB: Yeah, and I think as well as his desire to have an effect on things, a part of what’s spurring him on is a certain amount of vengeance on his father — he wants to prove him wrong: “I know you said that I was useless and reading books is useless, and I should be able to fight, and I should be able to get on a horse, but I’m the one who’s actually making a difference.”
Game of Thrones Season Seven premieres on Star World and Star World HD on July 18 at 11 pm.