I wanted to ask about that physicality. How did you and [director] Geeta Vasant Patel approach that sequence? I read in an interview that you wanted to find ways to “put the dragon in Viserys.” The way it’s framed, it almost looks like you’re a dragon crawling toward the throne. Did you two have a discussion about that?
No, not at all. And that’s really fascinating. I think it’s amazing that people have made that comparison. I love that, but it’s not my idea. It’s not something I came up with. Maybe it’s Geeta. She got it so brilliantly on a camera shot. I don’t know if that was her idea to frame it in such a way, but I think that’s a wonderful thing. I wish I could say that I thought about that, but I didn’t.
I am a big fan of an artist called Richard Hamilton. I’ve watched a documentary on him. He was someone who got cancer later in life. He was a drug addict, and he got [what] looked like scoliosis. I watched that, and I’d spoken to [co-showrunner and director] Miguel [Sapochnik] about visuals of him, going, “This is kind of where Viserys should end up physically.” A lot of it was informed by where the first lesion started at the base of his spine and how this thing’s just eating off his body. He’s just dying a very, very slow death. So that wasn’t a creative choice for me, but that’s amazing that visually, people are making that comparison to an old dragon. I think that’s fantastic.
Not only do you have that physical element, but there’s the makeup portion, too. Do you find that helpful in your performance? Is it hindering?
I think it is [both]. It’s what I’ve said in other interviews about the fantastic costumes as well. You wear the costumes, and they do inform how you stand. At the end of the day, you’ve got to play the human; you can’t play the costume. It’s the same with makeup. You’ve got to be able to perform through it and not let the makeup perform for you—if that makes sense. They know what they’re doing; the makeups were fantastic. It’s just sad, really, that people thought that he was an old man. On set, they go, “Old Viserys.” I’m going, “He’s not old!”
He hasn’t suddenly aged more than Otto, Daemon, or anyone. I said, “He’s got a skin-eating disease, and he’s dying slowly.” Plus, he’s poisoned by this chair that’s rejected him. But makeup, it’s just one of those things you have to go through. I used to love watching the images of Boris Karloff in the makeup chair and think, “One day, I’d love to do that.” And then you do it. Well, you get a 4 o’clock call, and you’re in there before anyone else. Everyone skips on at 9 o’clock, and you’re going, “Oh, fuck off,” [Laughs]. getting fed up with it. [Laughs]. Then, when you wrap, you gotta take it all off and say, “See you tomorrow,” growling at everyone as they leave. But, no, the makeup was massively important.
I used to hear stories of Jim Carrey playing the Grinch, [how he’d] get this locked-in syndrome thing and panic. I understand a bit about it. This sounds really a really silly comparison because I’m not head-to-toe this different kind of creature, but there is a bit of anxiety that creeps in every so often through the day that goes, “I just want this off my face, just get it off my face, just get it off my plate.” You’ve just got to sit with it and meditate it out of you. Even with the wigs early on, I was getting a bit like it from wearing a wig all day. So what I did was, on my days off, I’d just wear a tight wooly hat around the house and get used to having something tight on my head all the time, being the sensitive creature that I am. [Laughs].
All these little things add to it. They embellish the performance massively. The makeup was fantastic; the VFX were fantastic. But you’ve still got to play that character. If you look at manifestations of different interpretations of Frankenstein, only Karloff is able to bring that empathy to that character in a way. That’s him through that makeup. That’s what you’re aiming to do with it.