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Natalie Dormer masters the 'Game of Thrones'


April 16, 2013|By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol | RedEye

Margaery Tyrell's family has offered her up as bride for creepy King Joffrey on HBO's "Game of Thrones," but according to actress Natalie Dormer, she's no pawn of Westeros politics.

Dormer, probably most familiar in the U.S. for her role as Anne Boleyn in Showtime's "The Tudors," said that Margaery is different from the child bride in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels on which the show is based. Under the tutelage of her cunning grandmother Olenna Redwyne, aka the Queen of Thorns (Dame Diana Rigg), Margaery knows exactly what she must do to win over the unpredictable Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).

"She's definitely a player," Dormer told me during a recent phone interview. "The Tyrells are moving into the capital and I think they bring with them a whole new element to the game: Margaery courting public opinion."

"It's an interesting new take on the idea of power and how you assume power," she added, laughing. "It's basically good, old-fashioned PR."

By giving to the poor orphans of King's Landing in Joffrey's name, Margaery has put a much-needed positive spin on the reviled royal family. In private, she's solidifying her place in Joffrey's heart--and on his manipulative mother's (Lena Headey) list of rivals--by stroking the King's ego and playing into his twisted love for death and destruction.

In this Sunday's episode, Margaery takes another bold step by encouraging Joffrey to show himself to the public that has reviled him. "If you give them your love, they will return it a thousand-fold," she tells him. "They adore you."

OK, so that's a lie, but Dormer says Joffrey responds to her attentions. "You can see the beginnings of her changing Joffrey," she said. "Could Joffrey be controlled if he's handled psychologically correctly? The answer to that question is not immediately apparent, but the Tyrells and Margaery are doing the best they can."

Things also are going well for the actress, who has started filming a three-episode arc for "Elementary," CBS' modern take on the Sherlock Holmes' stories. She plays the iconic character Irene Adler, the great detective's only love.

Although Dormer is excited to trade period costumes for something more modern, her thoughts are still with the dangerous road ahead for her "Game of Thrones" character. Margaery and the Tyrells seem to be winning the game so far, but Dormer teased that might not last.

"She's going to get some nasty shocks, isn't she?" she said with a chuckle. "Who'd really want to have Joffrey lying in bed next to them? Let's be honest."

Dormer talked more about Margaery's plans for Joffrey, her probable face-off with his mother and who has the better clothes, Margaery or Anne Bolyen. All after the preview for Episode 4 airing April 22.

Do you feel that Margaery is a player or a pawn in the game?
She's definitely a player. She's under the tutelage of her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns. So she's very much the protege of Olenna [Redwyne]. They're kind of like a tag team. [Laughs.] Diana Riggs' character is trying to sort of cover the top echelons of the Lannisters, Tywin Lannister and Cersei. And Margaery is left more to try and work out and handle Joffrey.

It's been fun developing with the creators this element to Margaery ... She's very PR savvy. She's very aware of public opinion, and this is going to be a better angle for which she's going to try and control things.

She seems to be trying to win him over with kindness.
Yeah. Absolutely. She's trying to, she's quite psychologically savvy, Margaery, which is an interesting thing to play. She's trying to work out Joffrey's psychology and see how she can control him. You can't help but fear for her, because the audience knows how dangerous Joffrey is in a way that perhaps Margaery does not yet realize. [Laughs.] Well she's learning very quickly; put it that way.

Do you think that she's genuinely nice and as sweet as she comes off? Or is she just good at hiding other devious intentions?
I think the ambiguity of the situation is, as an actress, the most interesting thing to play. And, you know, human beings in real life, you and I, we often do things that are motivated subconsciously by stuff or not fully aware of.

I don't think Margaery is heartless in so far as I think she genuinely cares about Sansa. I believe she genuinely cares about poor, poverty-stricken orphans in Kings Landing. Yes, I do believe she has a heart. There is a political advantage to behaving nicely to Sansa and in charitable work. Yes, of course, that's an element of which she is completely aware. But I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. I think you can be a good human being and a good politician as well. Or, you can believe that you are. [Laughs.] Plenty of our baby-kissing politicians in Western society believe that, you know?

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