Actor thought show was silly

Producers tried to recruit Jonathan Pryce (above) for the first season but he thought the swords and sorcery, murder and mayhem were rather silly.
Producers tried to recruit Jonathan Pryce (above) for the first season but he thought the swords and sorcery, murder and mayhem were rather silly.PHOTO: HBO

When Game Of Thrones was casting its first season, the producers tried to recruit acclaimed actor Jonathan Pryce. Hearing about the swords and sorcery, murder and mayhem, however, he thought it all rather silly.

He declined the role.

How times have changed.

The fantasy show has gone on to become one of the most successful television series in recent years and Pryce has relented. He appeared in Season 5 last year, taking on the significant role of the religious leader the High Sparrow, and is set for a prominent part in Season 6.

"I was offered a role in the first series, but I was nervous about it," confesses the 68-year-old Welshman. "The show was described to me and it wasn't something I would normally watch. I remember looking at the script and the weird names and I thought, 'I don't think so'. And I passed on it.

"Then it became this massive, massive hit and when they came back and offered me the role of High Sparrow, I read the script properly and was attracted to that role," he adds. "The character is a game changer who has created a new world in the story."

Taking the role will have done Pryce's standing no harm.

The show has attracted a number of illustrious actors, from Diana Rigg to Charles Dance, while Max von Sydow joins this year.

And it has made superstars out of central players such as Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey.

Did Pryce kick himself for not taking that role in the first series?

"No because I never watched it," he says, smiling. "But when I started working on it, I went back and looked at lots of episodes and began to see that it was really good.

"I think it's got better and better. What surprised me when I came to work on it was the lack of cynicism from people. It is this worldwide hit and, yet, people are still intent on making it better and better. That's a rare thing."

The levels of violence in the show intrigued him, he adds. "I don't know if I was surprised," says the actor, whose most famous films include Brazil (1985). "But it was intriguing that they are able to do that. Reading this season, though, there were a few surprises."

His character last year imprisoned not only Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), but also the powerful Cersei Lannister, played by Headey, and then forced Lannister to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing, where she was pelted with offal. Even though nudity features often in the show, this was a humiliating and quite shocking turn of events.

Recalling the scene, Pryce says: "You will have to wait and see if there are any nude or sex scenes for the High Sparrow. Who knows if there are any little Sparrows on the way?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Actor thought show was silly'. Print Edition | Subscribe