Tyrion is going back to jail. The witty, chronically misunderstood Lannister played by Peter Dinklage gets himself into serious trouble in Game of Thrones season 4, as you’ve doubtless seen from all those trailers. About an hour of screen time will take place in Tyrion’s cell this year, yet producers say this is the Emmy winner’s best performance on the show to date. Last September, the actor took a break while shooting the series in Croatia to speak to EW about acting and Tyrion’s next journey (spoiler free).
How has Thrones changed you?
The first couple of years it was pretty quiet … but the last couple of years have been crazy. I mean, I’m recognized, let me put it that way. When you’re on a TV show you get recognized more [than doing films] because it’s immediate, like, “You were in my living room last night.” So, that’s changed me quite a bit. I’m not one of those people who takes it in stride. I’m a private person in many ways.
The impression I always get is you are someone who likes the work, but when it comes to award shows, press junkets and interviews, you’ll do it if you have to, but you don’t enjoy it too much.
I just think the less you know about an actor, the more serious you’ll take them as an actor, because they will disappear a little bit. Nowadays, there’s so much information about everybody that it’s hard to see the performance when you know what [the actor] had for dinner last night. You want to keep a mystery. I think it’s healthy too. You want your privacy as a human being.
You’re not on Twitter, which is not surprising. What about that doesn’t appeal to you?
There are people on there saying they are me. I saw a report on the news, “Peter Dinklage tweeted…” – What? You know, I don’t need any of that stuff. I got an email account, that’s all I need.
What have you learned, acting wise, since being on the show?
When you do 30 hours of a character, it’s a different rhythm. You can pull way back. On a show like this, the tendency is — because we’re knights in shining armor and we’re on horseback in all these glorious locations — the tendency is to get bigger than life. You have to watch that. Because at the end of the day, why this show is good is because it’s character driven. And the minutia is very important and you have to stay on top of that — where you are in the storyline. It’s much more complicated than in a movie when you hundreds of pages versus 90 pages.
What can you tell us about Tyrion this season?
Well, to anyone who has read the books, we stick fairly closely to that plot-line and those reversals of fortune really send him down the rabbit hole. What’s interesting about this character is how much he changes [this season]. It’s remarkable. When Dave and Dan and I met for the first time, they talked about this stuff and I found it to be so interesting as an actor to go on that journey because he really ends up in a different place than he thought he was going to. It’s fueled a bit by anger towards his family, and trying to find his place in the world. You see that some people rely on drunk, funny Tyrion. I think funny and drunk lasts only so long. He sobers up in many ways. And love is in his life [with Shae] and that causes a tremendous amount of damage — because he’s vulnerable and he doesn’t like to be vulnerable. He’s completely stripped of his defense mechanisms.
We know you spend most of the season locked up.
Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m very well acquainted with the prop guys who have to handcuff me every 10 minutes. On the road in the first season, I was dirty and tied up a lot, out in the mud. It’s fun. I’ve been too clean for two seasons. I gotta get back out in the dirt.
It’s sad that Tyrion’s best friend and his lover are basically prostitutes, they’re both financial arrangements.
And there’s an honesty to both relationships, too. They know exactly what it started as. No matter what they are now, it’s that honesty of, “Yes, I pay both of you for your services,” and this is actually a friendship and a love came out of those.
Tyrion’s brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is back in his life, what’s that like?
I hadn’t worked with Nikolaj since season one, and we had very little in the beginning in season one before I went off, so I hadn’t seen him in years — I mean, I’d seen Nikolaj at events and stuff, but I hadn’t worked with him. It’s great. I love working with all my Lannister siblings and parents. It’s fun to play the family relationship. If anything, [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] stripped it down to the bare minimum. If you’re raised together, you have an unspoken dialogue many times and it’s very easy, especially between Jaime and Tyrion. They have a real friendship, a good brotherhood. They look after each other. So, it’s been great to get back into that. We have quite a few scenes together this year so it’s been nice.
Have you ever nixed anything in the script that you either didn’t like or weren’t comfortable with?
No, but we’ve obviously had collaborations on the day of shooting or reading a scene. I would consider Dan and Dave friends now and part of being an actor is figuring out [the character] with the writers. If it doesn’t work for me, they have this brilliant way of convincing me how it works and then suddenly it’s like, “Oh yeah, that works.” Nine out of 10 times they’re right. Occasionally, I’ve been right, but it’s not really right or wrong. It’s sort of shaping and fitting to the situation. There hasn’t been anything that’s made me uncomfortable, but in a way we are filming stuff this week [during Joffrey's wedding] that is uncomfortable for my character and I like that. I think it’s challenging. I think actors get too comfortable. I like being uncomfortable as an actor because it keeps you alive. I don’t know, I think it’s important.
Many of your co-stars have had nude scenes on the show. Will a nude scene ever be in Tyrion’s future?
I haven’t read a script yet where it is one. But if it’s appropriate for the material, I will definitely go to the gym.