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'Game of Thrones' Exclusive: Dutch actress Carice van Houten on Melisandre's return in the final season

'Game of Thrones' Exclusive: Dutch actress Carice van Houten on Melisandre's return in the final season

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Text: Aravin Sandran


Image: Helen Sloan/HBO

In the days leading up to the eighth and final season premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones on 14 April, we will be taking a look back at the show's four most fascinating supporting characters. Along with brief highlights that include their backstory, an iconic mic-drop moment and speculations on where they might be headed (read: dead), we'll be reminiscing with the outstanding actors who play them, in a Singapore-exclusive interview courtesy of HBO. Up next: the enigmatic Melisandre played by Dutch actress Carice van Houten. 

Backstory: Born a slave in the ancient city Assahai in Essos (presumably hundreds of years ago), Melisandre's story is defined by her steadfast fanaticism as Red Priestess for the Lord of the Light, a mysterious deity. Appearing in season two, she peddles the prophecy of Azor Ahai, a saviour sent by the Lord to battle an approaching darkness. She aligns herself with Stannis Baratheon at first. She births a shadow demon along the way and even persuades him to sacrifice his daughter Shireen through immolation. However, when his military strength is diminished, she moves on to Jon Snow but when her vile deeds are uncovered, she's banished. In season seven, she pops up again in Dragonstone to urge Daenerys to meet with Jon Snow before departing for Volantis.

Breakthrough: The extent of Melisandre's magic wasn't exactly clear from seasons two to five. We knew that she possessed some sort of precognition that was faulty at times, and she is resistant to cold and poison, as evidenced when she downed an entire glass of poisoned wine like a champion. Her breakthrough moment arrived in episode two of season six when she resurrects Jon Snow from the dead by burning a couple of strands of his hair and a simple incantation.

Iconic mic-drop moment: Not exactly a mic-drop moment per se, because not a single word was uttered in this jaw-dropping scene. It was widely known that Melisandre was old, but in episode one of season six, she shows the probable source of her immortality and her true appearance. She takes off her chunky ruby necklace and undresses before bedtime, morphing into a withering old woman with long silvery hair. If there were any fans who fancied her seductive tone and moves, all desire was all crushed with this horrifying reveal.

Prediction: Definitely dead. In season seven, during a stand-off with Varys, Melisandre states she will return to Westeros one last time, where she will die. However, unlike other deaths, we expect hers to have huge repercussions on the lives of Jon Snow and Daenerys as well as the upcoming epic nighttime battle with the army of undead.

Where do we find your character at the beginning of the final season? 
I was banished and I can take a hint but I do turn up again. There are people even thinking that I might not be coming back, so I guess that's a spoiler.  

What was it like when you found out what was going to happen in the show? 
I thought the group read-through was magical.

What won't you miss from Game of Thrones?
I don't want to complain too much but I had a tricky costume as well. In the end, all the costume girls around me were like, "I want to burn this bloody costume." You can't see it but there's a long shawl and I am very small so everything that's big that just falls off my shoulders. And it was really heavy. I had to hold it with my hands through the mud. It was a bit of an arm workout but that's okay.  

With the horses, I always felt really cool unless they shat or something. That always felt like I was farting in public or something. One of the things  and this isn't a complaint, just a fact  is that as the show got bigger and bigger and bigger I felt like I was smaller and smaller and smaller. You felt like an extra sometimes. That was to do with the nature of it being so huge.

How do you look back on the show?
It was a huge thing. I've done other things that I'm just as proud of, but as a character, the whole experience was something I've never had before. Also, the people that I've met and then the crew give you that sense of family. I will miss them all.

Is there a set, a location, a moment from the series as a whole that you view as a highlight?
The thing that pops up always is Liam (Cunningham), because how can he not? He's just a goofball! He comes up whenever I think about the show. Liam and I are pretty close so that I can just say shut up to him when I want to but he made me laugh so many times. When he was not there, I could totally feel it and I missed his craziness.

Stream the eighth and final season on HBO GO (available on the App Store, Google Play, SingTel, StarHub, and Toggle) or watch the premiere on HBO (Starhub TV Ch 601/Singtel TV Ch 420) on 15 April at 9am, with a same-day encore at 10pm, or catch it on HBO On Demand.

Catch up on all of Game of Thrones news and collabs.

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