Michael McElhatton’s Roose Bolton became one of the most infamous men in Westeros during the “Game of Thrones” Red Wedding in Season 3, when he turned against his king and delivered the final death blow to Robb Stark.
“The Lannisters send their regards,” Roose said as he drove his knife into Robb, sending shockwaves across America as TV watchers (who hadn’t read George R.R. Martin’s books) saw the huge betrayal.
In the “Game of Thrones,” you win or you die, and swapping sides to support the Lannisters certainly helped the Bolton cause. As a result of his actions, Roose was named Warden of the North, with responsibilities his creepy, bastard son – Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) – is expected to help out with in Season 4.
As we count down to the Season 4 premiere (April 6 on HBO), AccessHollywood.com spoke with Michael about heading back to the series, what’s next for Roose, and what fans had to say to him after they saw The Red Wedding.
AccessHollywood.com: Season 4 is nearly here. Are you excited?
Michael McElhatton: I am excited. I am excited to see it. I’m going over to the premiere.
Access: Let’s talk a little bit about Season 3 where you became one of two of the most infamous men in all of Westeros. … Are people still inviting you to weddings after that?
Michael: (Laughs) Yes, they are actually. I didn’t actually receive too much hating. In fact, I think I’ve garnered more respect, if anything.
Michael: Yes. No, I didn’t get too much [hating]. … I did a play in London in the summer and there [were] a lot of people that came… you know, fans waiting outside. But actually, no, there wasn’t too much hating and debating actually. It was more respect I would [have] thought. Fear and respect (laughs).
Access: Well, in some ways, Roose is really standing up for his family at that moment. How do you justify what he did? Let’s face it, Robb broke an oath. That’s a big deal.
Michael: Yeah, well, I think Roose is a very cold and pragmatic character, really. He’s a political character through and through and he wants to back the strongest horse really and even though… Boltons have a strong alliance with the Starks… he felt Robb was failing miserably and not taking his advice and making bad choices and he decided to switch allegiance. I think that has been kind of the nature of Roose Bolton is that he is a very cold, intelligent, practical man and he makes decisions without feelings. So to shift power and obviously his own power, which worked out… he took the advice of Jaime [Lannister] and shifted allegiance and joined forces with Tywin and managed to become Warden of the North by the end of Season 3. So that was a good season for Roose, really.
Access: So it’s been a slow build, but we’re finally gonna get more of you.
Michael: Yeah, he was kind of kept to the sidelines, really. He has more to do in the books, but they wanted it to be the shock that it was. I think he was a more obvious bad guy and stuff like that and a kind of creepier character in the books, but they wanted to play [it] for the shock factor of The Red Wedding. So now, in Season 4, there is a major shift in power… and without giving too much away, I am not in it a huge amount, but when I’m in it, it’s fairly full on and it’s about gaining further power basically.
Access: Did you read the books? Is that useful to do, or not to do?
Michael: It kind of is a bit of a double-edged sword. I did read the first two books and kind of did lots of work before it and then realized that the way they’d written Roose Bolton was very, very different to the character in the books actually. … He’s a creepier character. He has a very soft, whispery voice. You can’t read any emotion on his face whatsoever, and that’s not the way he was written in the scripts and I couldn’t play him [the way he was in the books] because it just wouldn’t have worked. So, I felt I wouldn’t read any more of the books. I had to make my character really from the scripts and from the dialogue that was given to me by the wonderful scripts that were there by David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss].
Access: Are you happier then that you get to play the handsomer Roose Bolton?
Michael: The handsomer. Well that’s very nice of you (laughs). … You really don’t know what you’re going to be offered until you get it really. So there is… a growing in stature, but there’s always that wariness about him, which is why he’s still around. It’s just not letting the guard down ever.
Access: He’s a survivalist.
Michael: Totally! Totally and he’s one of the best. … In this season now, he deals more with his son.
Access: Have you and Iwan Rheon [who plays Ramsay, Roose’s bastard son] gotten to spend any time together off camera? He’s an interesting young actor.
Michael: Yeah, we had a few drinks after some of the night shooting last year and stuff like that and he’s a wonderful actor and a really lovely guy to work with. It’s a joy working with him.
Access: What was it like going back to set without Richard [Madden – Robb Stark] and Michelle [Fairley – Catelyn Stark]. Were people missing them?
Michael: Yeah, they were, obviously. All my stuff had been with them, particularly Richard — my first day and all that and so yeah, it was strange. … It must have been so strange for them because The Red Wedding was a wonderful week of filming, but it was also a very emotional week for everybody, and so it was a little strange, but I suppose in the ‘Game of Thrones,’ you toughen up like everybody else, because a lot of people don’t hang around too long.
Michael: No, I’m afraid I was much more cynical than that. I just went off and had a drink. I think I was fine. … It was a bigger deal for them, they’d been in it since the start and they were gone.
Access: What’s the fan reaction been like? I know you were just in New York doing a play.
Michael: Well it’s a funny thing with TV … if the program is on at the time, you’re much more in people’s minds and they tend to recognize you more on the streets. … But if a few months kind of [pass] by, you can kind of get around okay. So there was a little bit in New York, but kind of more in London because it was on at the time we were doing that.
Access: What were people saying to you?
Michael: People say, ‘I hate you for what you did, but shake my hand, buddy. Well done,’ is the general term (laughs), and a little bit more respect and a little bit more reverence, I would’ve thought for Roose. Not bad.
Access: You were in the first season of ‘The Fall’ and people are getting into that over here now because it’s on Netflix.
Michael: Yeah, which is great, which is really wonderful actually. I believe it’s going up on the charts there or something like that.
Access: And it’s a dark thriller and [your ‘The Fall’ co-star] Jamie Dornan has a little bit of an increased profile now.
Michael: Absolutely. I did a thing in Bristol last year that’s coming out, I think at the end of the month, that Jamie is in as well. We were both in a thing called ‘New Worlds,’ which is a historical thing. There was a series done about five years ago called ‘The Devil’s Whore’ with a young Michael Fassbender about Charles I and Cromwell and this is a sequel to it, which is called ‘New Worlds,’ with [UK network] Channel 4. Donald Sumpter is in it as well. There’s a few ‘Game of Thrones’ people in it. And James Cosmo. There’s three or four, so that’s another thing I did with Jamie, but that’s great that ‘The Fall’ has got a life over in the states. It’s really great. It was a good series.
“Game of Thrones” premieres April 6 at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash