The real “Game of Thrones” is about to begin.
On Sunday, HBO’s new fantasy drama, based on the books by George R. R. Martin, lost its first “good” guy – King Robert Baratheon — who mysteriously came back from hunting boars, impaled by one of the beast’s horns. The mortal wound ended the ruler’s life, and his death amps up the power struggle for the Iron Throne in the Seven Kingdoms, according to British actor Mark Addy, who gave a robust performance as King Robert, right until his end in episode 7.
“Up to this point, the scene is really just being set, and you’re getting to know who’s who and what the relationship is with the other character and where they stand in the order of things. But once that throne becomes vacant, things start to crack along,” Addy told Access Hollywood. “The fight for power hasn’t even started yet.”
Addy, an alumnus of the CBS sitcom “Still Standing,” alongside Jami Gertz, wasn’t aware his character would meet his end when he first was approached with the role, but the material swayed him to take on the important part.
“They sent me about three or four scenes to learn for the audition and I thought, ‘This is actually really good stuff,’” Addy laughed. “Then subsequently, [I] went and bought the book and thought, ‘This is a really good book.’ So it was great to have the opportunity of being part of something that is such a huge and beloved thing.”
His final scene in Sunday’s episode paired the actor with Sean Bean, who plays Eddard “Ned” Stark, the King’s best friend. Throughout the season, the two have had a close relationship on screen, as their older characters reminisced about loved one’s lost (like Robert’s late love Lyanna, who was Ned’s sister) and battles won. That relationship was strengthened by the actors’ real life histories, which are intertwined.
“We were involved in a trilogy of films a year ago called ‘Red Riding,’ but we were at drama school at the same time — same drama school, same time, different years, so we sort of go back, oh, longer than most of us can remember,” Addy revealed, adding that Bean, even back in college was, “an extraordinary actor.”
“We got on really well and that was a huge help playing those characters, being with somebody you know and trust and admire, and they feel the same way,” he added. “So you can just go ahead and play the scenes.”
Despite their on-screen distance, he was also close with Lena Headey, who plays Robert’s wife-turned-widow, Queen Cersei Lannister.
One of the most intriguing scenes of the season paired Addy and Headey as Robert and Cersei, where the two talked about what went wrong in their marriage and what could have been.
“Lena and I got on like a house on fire,” Addy told Access. “We absolutely adore each other, so it was terrific to have a scene where I wasn’t snarling, ‘Be quiet woman!’ at her, and to get — from our point of view as actors — to get to explore a little bit more of what these characters are on a maybe a slightly more personal level than the image that they presented as ‘The Monarchy’… was intriguing. That was a scene that [Producers and writers] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] created… It was fantastic to have something like that to play and to really plunge the depths of who these people are.”
From his entrance to his death, Addy added depth and detail to King Robert, but he steered clear of taking the credit for the well-informed performance.
“It’s a little bit of everything really,” he said of what made up his honor-worthy portrayal of the King. “The fact that George has written such extraordinarily rich characters that are described in the finest details in the books gives you a really, really strong framework on which to create your own version of that. And physically, the kind of costumes that they made for us helped. Once you get into that gear, it sort of gives you a feeling of who that person is, and then you’ve got directors who know the books, know the characters as well as we do, so they wouldn’t let you get away with anything that was too far away from who these people are.
“You kind of figure out what makes a person, the way George has written such great history. Your entire back story is right there for you,” he continued. “In the books, you find out what these guys are like as boys growing up into men and assuming positions of power, which they’re probably not best suited for, and consequently being involved in a loveless marriage, which is really more of a political move than born out of any kind of real feeling for the other person. It all combines to create somebody who is a very flawed character who has turned to the drink [and] the whores in order to kind of keep himself sane.”
Even if the producers decided to do flashbacks, Addy said he doesn’t expect to return in any form for Season 2, which is getting ready to start filming overseas.
“Where we’re at in Season 1 is a lot later, when the complacency has set in and you’ve been unopposed for so long you’ve grown fat and lazy and drunk. I don’t think I could work out for long enough to look the way Robert did when he was 20, 21,” Addy laughed, guessing that if there were flashbacks, they would be of Robert’s youth.
Instead, he’s moved on to the other side of the coin, following the serious “… Thrones” up with a return to comedy. Filming in Bristol, UK, Addy has a British series in the works, currently going under the title, “Trollied,” a British slang word for the kind of state one find themselves in after a hard night of drinking.
“It’s set in a supermarket that just happens to be staffed by people that are off their heads basically,” he said, of the new show, which sees Addy playing the head butcher.
“It’s great to be varying things up,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about this job.”