Peter Dinklage is back in his Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning role as Tyrion Lannister in “Game of Thrones” Season 2, and he’ll have a new ally in his court as he journeys to King’s Landing beginning April 1 on HBO — Scotsman Daniel Portman as Podrick Payne.
One of the freshest faces in the cast this season, the 19-year-old Glasgow-bred actor is thrown into the heart of the King’s Landing drama upon its return, playing quiet observer Pod, the insecure and youthful squire to the new Hand of the King.
Daniel had just one major credit to his name (British director Ken Loach’s “The Angels Share”) when he was offered the role of the shy and endearing Pod, who shadows and assists the newly raised-up political power player, Tyrion.
A talented sportsman throughout his early teens (he nearly went pro with rugby), who kept up his personal fitness through intense training sessions, Daniel let his six-pack and regular gym routine slide to play the young and far less cut squire Pod.
But axing the weightlifting and workouts was the easy part. When Daniel first realized something lovers of the books already know – Podrick’s interactions are most often with Tyrion – and would therefore pit the rising star opposite the veteran, Daniel told AccessHollywood.com he ended up with a major case of nerves.
As we continue with the second installment in our weekly “Game of Thrones” Season 2 countdown series, AccessHollywood.com caught up across a transatlantic phone line with Daniel to find out how things turned out when he finally met his co-star. First, though, Daniel explains just who is Podrick.
AccessHollywood.com: So who is this young man Podrick as we find him in Season 2? What’s his history?
Daniel Portman: Pod is from a very, very, sort of lowly branch of House Payne. He is a distant cousin of the executioner Ser Ilyn Payne, and he’s really just sort of been passed about for a wee while… a squire from knight to knight and, I think, in the books, it’s almost seen as a bit of a prank that Tyrion’s been landed with this apparently useless squire.
Access: How do you figure into the drama as the season begins? Are you kind of following Tyrion around and bigger things are to come?
Daniel: Yeah, to be honest, he’s introduced very just sort of, as if he’s there, it’s not a big deal that I’m there, I’m just another squire… another piece of help or servantry that just ends up by the end of the season, becoming Tyrion’s sort of personal squire. I think that’s just about all I can give away.
Access: But there are bigger things to come for Pod as the drama heats up, right?
Daniel: Yes. Pod’s not exactly what he seems. Yeah, he’s going to play quite an important role towards the end of the series.
Access: Let’s talk about meeting Peter Dinklage last year – did you meet him before his Emmy win or after?
Daniel: I met him briefly to film one scene that I didn’t have very much to do in — before — and we didn’t really get a chance to talk. It was very hectic. It was a long scene so people were keen to get on with it… I was over in Ireland for about a month solid for my second spell filming… Most of my stuff, if not all my stuff, is with Peter and we ended up just sort of chatting and we ended up getting on like a house on fire. By the end of it, we were really good pals, really good mates. [We had] a good laugh on set together, and I think that will be apparent on the screen for us. As the series goes on, we become, I think, more comfortable with each other, and there’s a bit of realism as our relationship is developed because we ended up becoming better friends as the series went on… I was terrified to meet him. I was absolutely shocked because I think he’s a wonderful actor and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him. He’s so down to earth and so funny and relaxed.
Access: Had you seen his ‘30 Rock’ appearance?
Daniel: I hadn’t seen that. I’d seen him in [2003’s critically acclaimed film] ‘The Station Agent’ years ago and was just spellbound by it. I thought it was excellent and when I heard I was up for a TV series that he would be involved in, I was very, very excited. And the fact that we were working together was absolutely great because you can learn a lot. As young actor I did learn a lot from watching him.
Access: Did you have to do any training to play Podrick?
Daniel: No… I read up on the character and… we’re quite different in personality. He’s very nervous and very shy and quite weak and he’s not confident in himself in any way. And I’m completely the opposite… I decided — to make it look a little bit better — I’d stop training for a while and I cut some muscle mass and decided to try and put on a wee bit of weight to make myself look a little more endearing.
Daniel: Not scrawny… [I wanted to make it] so he looks a wee bit out of place when he’s in his clothes and folks sort of look at him in a strange way. That’s why I did it. It wouldn’t look terribly authentic if this shy, like crippling nervous boy comes up with a six-pack and was busting out of his shirts. I thought that would probably best if I cut my regime for a bit and let myself go a wee bit so I looked… more convincing.
Access: In the books, Pod’s about 12. Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys, is 14 or 15, but they aged everyone up in the show. Have you figured out how old your character is?
Daniel: I’m looking at it as if Pod is 16… There are kids that age around that have grown up much quicker than he has and he’s been kind of left behind… The way I was looking at it was to keep the weakness and the awkwardness prevalent I thought it would be nice if he was sort of in between being a teenager and sort of grown up into a young man – and that sort of awkward stage a lot of boys get themselves into and they’re not comfortable in their body. They’re really clumsy, and they think they look terrible all the time.
Access: You read for other ‘GOT’ parts before you landed this one. Looking back, did it work out for the best – you get to work in scenes with primarily one person?
Daniel: For me, it’s definitely worked out for the best, because I’ve… only really started out a few years ago. I’m not that experienced in [this] and the fact that, you know Pod’s there or there abouts. He’s not a major player in terms of speaking. He doesn’t say that much because of the nerves, but having the opportunity to play around with my face and what I’m doing and… you’re right, it’s usually smaller scale stuff, I’m usually working just with Peter or with Peter and Jerome [Flynn, who plays Bronn]. It has worked out for the best.
Access: How much of George R. R. Martin’s books have you read?
Daniel: I had watched the first series and then read the first two books before I was involved in it just because I thought it was great and I wanted to read on a bit. Now that I’m involved, I’ve read up to the third book and I’m not gonna go any further just now. I don’t really want to race ahead and make [acting] decisions and things like that.
Access: The ‘GOT’ fans are a dedicated community. As soon as people found out you were cast, did your life change? (Click HERE to follow Daniel on Twitter)
Daniel: Yes, it did. It’s strange. I’m a point of conversation for my friends. My friends will talk to people who read the books or they’ll bring it up in the pub or in public — something like that… because it’s one of the hottest series on the planet. Everyone’s going daft over it. They’re going mad over the thought of it and it’s just been pretty surreal… Even the fan sites, you know, Winter Is Coming, and Westeros, and things like that, they keep up to date with the cast and they had the photo up when I was cast and I was recognized a few times when I was in Glasgow by real diehard fans of the books. People came up and asked me if I was the boy who was going to be playing Podrick Payne, so it’s been fantastic. Very surreal, very surreal.
-- Jolie Lash