Peter Dinklage played Tyrion Lannister for eight seasons on Game of Thrones and remains the only cast member to take home an Emmy Award (multiple Emmys, actually) for his work. But he’s a fairly private person and doesn’t talk about his career in public that much, which is why it was a delight to see him give an extensive interview to The New York Times.
Dinklage gets into a lot in this interview, including why a show like Game of Thrones appealed to him and to so many actors working now. “I think what’s fascinating about Game of Thrones and why a lot of actors are now drawn to television, is because they get to do that slow burn,” he said.
“For example, if you take the character of Tyrion’s brother Jaime, he pushes a little kid out the window at the end of the first episode, but two seasons later, he’s a hero to the audience,” he said. “It’s like, did you forget he pushed a kid out the window? It’s crazy the way you can just surf this narrative and take it wherever you want to go. I got to do that with Tyrion and you get to do that in the movie if you’re the lead, though you have to condense it a little bit more.”
Dinklage also weighed in on the infamous ending of the series, where Daenerys Targaryen burned down much of King’s Landing. Fans have a lot of critiques of the ending—it was too rushed, people acted out of character, etc.—but Dinklage stands by it.
“It was the right time,” he said. “No less, no more. You don’t want to wear out your welcome, although I’m not sure that show could have. But I think the reason there was some backlash about the ending is because they were angry at us for breaking up with them. We were going off the air and they didn’t know what to do with their Sunday nights anymore. They wanted more, so they backlashed about that.” He continued:
"We had to end when we did, because what the show was really good at was breaking preconceived notions: Villains became heroes, and heroes became villains. If you know your history, when you track the progress of tyrants, they don’t start off as tyrants. I’m talking about, spoiler alert, what happened at the end of Game of Thrones with that character change. It’s gradual, and I loved how power corrupted these people. What happens to your moral compass when you get a taste of power? Human beings are complicated characters, you know?"
Peter Dinklage has issues with fandom culture
After Game of Thrones, Dinklage found it difficult to move to the next thing. “Game of Thrones wasn’t really a TV show—it was like my life,” he explained. “My family was there in Ireland six months out of every year, for almost 10 years. You dig roots down there, my daughter was going to school there. She developed an Irish accent because she was with little Irish kids all day long.”
Still, he did get there. “You feel this void, but then you also go, ‘Oh, wow. I don’t have to do that, so what am I going to do next?’ That’s the exciting thing.”
But the Game of Thrones fame doesn’t go away, which Dinklage says can be as annoying as it is flattering. “It’s myriad different reactions I get on a daily basis,” Dinklage said of getting recognized. “People mean well, but when you’re walking down the street with your kid and people take your picture without asking … I start to talk this way and then I stop myself, because for an actor to complain about that reflects poorly on you. Everybody is like, ‘You have a great life. What’s wrong with me taking your picture? You’re a performer, that’s my right.’”
You can read the entire interview here, and you can see Dinklage in the lead role in Cyrano, a new musical dropping into theaters on December 31.