Rose Leslie made a big impression as the fiery Wildling Ygritte in Season 2 of “Game of Thrones.”
Strong, proud and perceptive, Rose’s Ygritte went from being captured by the men of the Night’s Watch in her debut episode (“The Old Gods and the New”), to turning the tables on the young man ordered to execute her – Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
No shrinking violet, Rose’s character didn’t cry and plead for her life when her head was literally on the chopping block. Instead, she tried to persuade Jon to join Mance Rayder (the turncloak Night’s Watch member who became King Beyond the Wall) and the Wildlings. And, when that didn’t work, she encouraged Ned Stark’s son to get it over with.
He didn’t, and after a chase, filmed across an Icelandic glacier, Rose got to bring a flirty playfulness to the drama. Captured again by Jon, tied up and told to bed down for the night, Ygritte scooted her little frame towards his body, confusing the honorable young man, as her character nodded off with a sweet little smile.
Before Season 2 was done though, the tables had turned, and after Jon became the prisoner of her group of people, she actually saved Jon’s life, when her harsh Wildling pals (like the Lord of Bones) wanted to take his head off. (Ygritte said Mance would want to meet Ned Stark’s illegitimate son).
Rose is, of course, back for Season 3 of the drama, which kicks off on March 31 at 9 PM on HBO. And as AccessHollywood.com kicks off our countdown to Season 3 interview series, we chat with the delightful redhead about the drama ahead in the Wildling camp, the debut of Mance Rayder, and whether she gets asked by fans to say her character’s most famous line, “You know nothing Jon Snow!” (Hint: Yes.)
AccessHollywood.com: Have you gone on YouTube yet to look at the ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3 trailer? There’s a little surprise when you get there.
Rose Leslie: I know it’s out, but I haven’t done that yet… I am kind of dying to. Once I get a spare moment, of course I will.
Access: It’s been viewed more than 17 million times!
Rose: (Gasps) That’s wonderful. Oh wow. That’s incredible. Oh my God. I’ve got to watch it now. That’s amazing.
Access: You may not have seen the trailer, but in one of the flashes, you’ve got a bow and arrow.
Rose: I do. I was so happy to be holding a bow and arrow. I was so happy about it because I just thought it embodied Ygritte, as to who she is, being such a fiercely independent character. She’s powerful and strong and I felt that a bow and arrow fitted her beautifully… I was able to kind of do some archery lessons before just so I didn’t look like a right numpty [Editor’s note: British slang for fool] when I was drawing back the bow… just so that I looked a little bit authentic. But it is really cool. Oh, I loved it!
Access: The other thing of yours people might have hit pause on in the trailer — it looks like Ygritte and Jon Snow have a little chemistry. What can we expect?
Rose: You can expect a chemistry between the two characters and Season 3 you see these two characters — their journey develops and you see how their relationship develops.
Access: Former ‘Rome’ and ‘Political Animals’ actor Ciaran Hinds joined the series in Season 3 as the much-talked about, but not yet seen – at least until the trailer – Mance Rayder. What can we expect from him?
Rose: In Season 2, Mance Rayder — the name at least was certainly built up, wasn’t it — to an extent where you were looking forward to finally meeting this character. And he is dominant and he is a leader, and especially from Ygritte’s perspective… She has put all her eggs in one basket so to speak, when it comes to Mance Rayder.
Access: What is it about Mance that makes her want to follow him, that she’s so devoted to? Is it just because he chose the life of a free person, is he just so charismatic and strong, does he respect her?
Rose: I think it’s an amalgamation of all those things that you mentioned, actually. He is strong and I feel that the kind of wildling community, because they are harsh and brutal, and of course, that is the environment that they have all been brought up in, you, as a wildling look up to that. And I think with Mance Rayder, because he is a turncloak and because he no longer wants to bend the knee, she has a huge amount of respect for him because she feels that he is now 100 percent on their side.
Access: Another new character we get in your storyline – because you have a gang now…
Rose: Yeah! We’ve got a crew. We’ve got a crew, definitely.
Access: You have Mackenzie Crook from the original ‘The Office,’ and he was in ‘Pirates’… Can you tell us anything about his character, Orell, because I imagine he’s very delightful to watch.
Rose: Yes! He is absolutely incredible. He’s such a lovely, lovely man. But, his character is incredibly different to who he is, obviously, which is a huge accolade to him. But Orell, oh, he’s a nasty piece of work. He’s vicious and he does not trust Jon Snow and not wanting to give too much away, he’s incredibly loyal to who he is and his love of his people… and yeah, he’s nasty!
Access: As an actor, this has to be an easy show to watch, because even if you hate watching yourself, which many actors do, there are so many other storylines that have absolutely nothing to do with your own, that could allow you enjoy it.
Rose: Totally! Absolutely and that is the most wonderful thing and I feel that every other character is so vibrant and so colorful in that respect, as are their storylines because the show is just so vast and [when] it does come to characters, there are so many — I think there’s like 200 plus — you get incredibly impressed by what’s going to be happening around the other locations that they’re shooting in. I know that they shot again Dubrovnik, they also went to Morocco for Dany’s storyline and I’m so excited about seeing how it’s going to develop and expand – because it’s such a multi-layered, vibrant and [imaginative] show that you get gripped by every other storyline. Even when we’re doing the read-throughs we’re kind of like, ‘Oh my God! What’s going to be happening?’ and you’re flipping through and it’s not really your storyline… you’re like, ‘What’s going to happen to Tyrion! Oh my God, what’s going to happen to Sansa, what’s going to happen to Arya, what’s going to happen to Robb?’ You get incredibly attached and I think that is a testimony to the writing and also to George R.R. Martin, for his imagination and how original his world is.
Access: Ygritte is such a strong character, despite a lot of adversity. Do you get younger people coming up to you telling you they find your character inspiring?
Rose: I certainly relate to Ygritte in the fact that she is so strong and also ruthless as well and I feel that especially within ‘Game of Thrones,’ I think that as a show, it is one of the frontrunners for showing dominant female characters and making sure that men answer to women rather than the other way around… Nobody’s actually come up to me saying that she inspires them, but she certainly inspires me to be tougher. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold. My God, knowing that Ygritte is Wilding to the bone, it was fun to kind of give that a go and to portray that.
Access: Do people ask you to say, ‘You know nothing Jon Snow!’ — because that is a huge line for superfans of this drama?
Rose: You know, they have. They have. And it’s come at random times.
Access: What are some of the odd places this has happened?
Rose: You know what? It doesn’t happen often and the fans… they’ve been so lovely and passionate about the show that it’s only ever been positive. But it’s either on the bus or it’s in a restaurant where my mind is totally elsewhere and straight away I say, ‘You know nothing Jon Snow,’ but it’s in my voice, and it doesn’t sound right in my voice and then I’ve got to think of the accent (laughs), and say it again in the accent. And it’s all a bit of a like whirlwind in my head for those split seconds.
Access: Wow… you have given command performances!
Rose: Well I have just because I feel so bad, because you don’t want to be like, ‘No.’ I feel so privileged to be a part of the show, so privileged to be portraying Ygritte.
“Game of Thrones” Season 3 premieres March 31 at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash