Sansa Stark and Margaery Tyrell are going to have a bit of a girl-mance on Season 3 of “Game of Thrones,” so it’s a good thing that the actresses who play the two characters, Sophie Turner and Natalie Dormer, get along very well in real life.
Zap2it participated in a recent “Game of Thrones” press day where we spoke to Turner and Dormer in a roundtable interview about Season 3. They teased their characters’ motivations in the upcoming 10 episodes as Margaery moves to become Joffrey’s princess and Sansa remains a prisoner of the crown, and discussed working with actors like Rory McCann and Diana Rigg. Here are the highlights of the conversation.
On seeing a new side of Margaery Tyrell in Season 3…
Dormer: “It’s really exciting to do that, and that was always [showrunner] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss’] plan. When I took the role, when I spoke to them about it, they were like, ‘So this is what we’re thinking, We’re going to flesh her out a bit.’ We can’t all be really important POV characters.” [looks at Turner and laughs] “That was really great, and it was really good this season to join the family proper. Really get in there and hang out with [Turner].
“[Margaery’s] a pragmatist. What Soph and I have been trying to do, Margaery has been trying to take [Sansa] under her wing a bit. She’s trying to teach her to be a little bit practical. Obviously there’s strings and conditions attached to the friendship, but I think she genuinely cares. Margaery identifies with Sansa because they both come from very close families. It’s referenced, it’s mentioned that the Tyrells are a close family and we all know how close the Starks are. So I think Margaery looks at Sansa and genuinely gets a shiver down her spine about the horrible things that have happened to her.
“Insofar as the Tyrells are in the house, we have come to take on the Lannisters. We have moved in, and obviously we want to win Sansa over to our side. We want her to be on our team. It’s a little bit of manipulation, but it’s sincere too. It’s not just all Machiavellian twisting the mustache. It’s practical. It’s very practical it’s sincere in that way.”
On Sansa getting in on the game of thrones…
Turner: “Sansa realizes that you do have to kind of be a sole player and form alliances in order to get where you want to get. But Sansa, she’s still a little bit na�ve and she still hopes that she could just be a normal 14-year-old with friends. So she forms this sort of alliance/friendship with Shae. She’s learning to trust people, but she’s learning to trust the right people who she believes in. She’s not going to trust Littlefinger. I mean, the really bad ones. She’s making better choices than she would have if Ned perhaps hadn’t have [been executed], but she’s learning her way, and I think Margaery realizes that.
“Sansa, after the end of Season 2 when she realizes that she is still Joffrey’s prisoner but kind of with no purpose now — because she thought, ‘I can become queen and then I can have the power to reunite myself with my family,’ and now she’s a prisoner on her own with no kind of purpose — in this season she feels like she has to be really independent to not kind of use other people to get back to see her family. She has to be very independent and she kind of becomes one of the players of the game rather than one of the pawns of other peoples’ games. She will refuse to let herself be used and she becomes kind of an initiator to get home, hopefully, and to see her family. I think you’ll see her becoming a lot more independent for sure.”
On Sansa and Margaery’s friendship…
Dormer: “If it wasn’t for the internal politics that was going on, Sansa and Margaery would probably quite sincerely, genuinely friends. They’re two young girls that quite like each other, it’s just the circumstances that sort of put them in this very ambiguous, difficult situation.”
Turner: “It’s a forced friendship.” [Dormer gives her a look] “Take it or leave it.”
Dormer: “I was totally sincere.” [laughs]
On working with Diana Rigg as the Queen of Thorns…
Dormer: [to Turner] “What did you say in the other room? ‘When you’ve met Diana Rigg, you know you’ve met Diana Rigg.’ Of course, Dame Diana Rigg is a veteran and legend. Insofar as Margaery is the prot�g�e of the Queen of Thorns, she is learning directly from her grandmother. As younger actresses, it was kind of ‘N.A.R.’ — ‘no acting required.’ Sophie and I watching Diana at work; there’s a nice parallel there between Margaery and Sansa watching Olenna at work because she’s been there, done it, got the T-shirt and she just comes straight in with so much wisdom and authority, doesn’t she?”
Turner: “But she also knows her character off by heart, but she kind of is her character as well at the same time. There’s a lot of parallels between her and Olenna.”
Dormer: “It’s really fun to watch the Tyrells line up against the Lannisters, and to watch the matriarchal power of Diana Rigg take on like Charles Dance, Tywin Lannister. It’s a real chess play happening within King’s Landing and we’re just pawns, lesser players.”
Teasing Season 3…
Dormer: “It’s not just about King’s Landing. Insofar as talking about the whole season, there’s a lot of big epic shocks, isn’t there? There’s a lot of big events.”
Turner: “It’s a pivotal season, to be honest, in the scale of if it went to eight or nine seasons, Season 3 would be the one to pick out.”
Dormer: “You would look back and say, ‘It was a pivotal season.’ David and Dan really they wanted to get to this point. They felt very attached to the idea of getting to Season 3. When you see the season, it’s completely understandable why. There’s a lot of reversal of fortune and there’s a real change. People have a lot of traumatic things happen to them.”
Turner: “It’s a lovely season.”
Dormer: “If we did all the seasons, if we did all the books, this is like the big end of the first act. … This is the massive finale of the first act.”
On fans hating Sansa…
Dormer: “This is news to me. I’ve been hearing this as we’ve been going around the rooms.”
Turner: “Did you not realize?”
Dormer: “No! Did you get a lot of flack when you started?”
Turner: “Yeah. I know.”
Dormer: “I’m proud of you — oh, that was so patronizing. That was so Margaery Tyrell. Well done, it’s tough [to have detractors].”
Turner: “I think that people are definitely starting to like [Sansa] a little bit more, but because she’s such a realistic character, there’s always going to be controversy surrounding the character. I mean, there is in every day life. The thing that frustrates me is the fact that if you were a 13-year-old girl thrust into exactly the same situation, I can almost guarantee that you would make the same decisions that she makes because she makes them for a reason. But I think people are kind of warming to her because, as I said, she’s not going to let people kind of use her and she’s not going to be so na�ve as to let people do that and she does kind of become a player of her own. That’s what I think will hopefully attract the viewers to her and perhaps think a bit more kindly of her.”
On Sansa almost killing Joffrey in Season 1…
Turner: “A lot of people would see that [scene] as a moment of strength, but I feel like that was a moment of weakness because Sansa’s game is that she never loses face. She will always kind of keep this fa�ade and she won’t let her emotions through to sort of show people that she could potentially be a little bit dangerous to them in a way. I mean, she was kind of loopy. But I think that she in some ways is an underdog and she wants to maintain that because she knows that was a moment of weakness for her and I think she’s learning from people like Littlefinger that she has to very much please the people that she wants to please and do all the manipulating behind their backs to survive and, in the end, hopefully win this game.”
On Sansa’s one smile in Season 2…
Turner: “I think because I’m so close with Sansa I feel that she is like my first love, in a way. It’s weird, but she kind of is, so I feel the frustration that she feels when she hasn’t smiled in the whole show. She hasn’t had this relief and she is being suffocated by Joffrey and the court and she finally thinks that she is free of the court and free of Joffrey and you just totally have to get in the mindset of it. It was nice to have a little smile. I’d been anticipating it for like the whole second season after I’d read the script. Like, ‘Maybe I’ll get to smile this season!'”
On Sansa’s relationship with the Hound…
Turner: “The relationship between the Hound and Sansa is this very kind of beautiful relationship where this imposing figure on pretty much everyone that comes across him is absolutely petrified of him, and yet he finds this one young girl that he can kind of be sensitive around and feel like he can protect her. I personally don’t think it’s love. I don’t think he loves Sansa or has these feelings for her. I think it’s just because he’s been through the same thing that Sansa went through with Joffrey with his brother [the Mountain].
“He can identify with his younger self and therefore he can identify with Sansa and it’s beautiful in the way that there’s no one else — there’s no even knight, because he’s a knight you’d think he’d identify with the other ones — but he identifies with this young girl and it’s such a bizarre relationship. You would never put those two together because she frustrates him. I loved all the scenes that I had with Rory [McCann] and that Sansa had with the Hound, but I think that because it was a relationship which translated so well to screen that perhaps the showrunners, if they wanted to, they could take it in a totally different direction.”