INTERVIEW: Game of Thrones’ Stephen Dillane on how Stannis changed his life and The Tunnel series 2
Stephen Dillane has an incredible acting résumé. He’s starred as the husband of Virginia Woolfe (played by Nicole Kidman) in 2002’s The Hours, which received nine Oscar nods. He’s played Thomas Jefferson, of founding father fame, in acclaimed HBO miniseries John Adams, a role that garnered him a Emmy Award nomination (to date, John Adams has more Emmy Awards – a whopping 13 – than any other miniseries ever).
However, it’s been playing the part of the unpopular and intransigent rightful king Stannis Baratheon, who last season met a long-awaited death after burning his only daughter at the stake, that most will recognise him for today.
His performance in Sky Atlantic’s The Tunnel, a re-make of hit Swedish-Danish drama The Bridge, has been widely acclaimed and rightfully won him an International Emmy Award. In the series, he played Karl Roebuck – the British equivalent to The Bridge‘s Martin Rohde – a seemingly ordinary detective whose actions prior to the series spark an international vendetta against him with horribly tragic consequences.
The Tunnel has now parted ways with The Bridge and is back for a second season with an original storyline. It’s shaped up to be set on an even grander scale, the astonishing visuals of the first series put to shame with one spectacular jaw-dropping moment seen in only the first episode. We sat down with Dillane at a recent press day in London to discuss to new series of The Tunnel (and maybe squeeze a question or two about Game of Thrones while we’re at it) over breakfast.
The first thing we do is praise the shocking first episode of The Tunnel, and wonder aloud how different this season is going to be than the first. “It’s really hard for me to say, because I can’t see it objectively,” says Dillane, “I sense that the action is a little bit bigger, more epic, [and] the aesthetic is perhaps a little less continental.”
The first season ended with the shocking murder of Roebuck’s son by the same killer who had taunted detectives with his devastating, tightly-planned international schemes. It was within Roebuck’s own home that the series villain TT was able to lure Adam Roebuck to his lair, pretending to be an ex-girlfriend who had returned to town. Their correspondence had been established from the beginning of the series.
Karl was the – often funny – lighter counterpart to Poesy’s logical, emotionless Elise (played by Clémence Poésy). How, we ask, has what happened to his son changed Karl in series two? “One of the conversations [we had] right from the very beginning was: what form does Karl’s grief have to take in order that you don’t lose some essential component of the series? How light hearted and witty can somebody be? Clearly [in the first episode of season two], there’s an outpouring of something under the surface. The idea is it’s a year down the line and it’s been a really bad year. Karl thinks that he’s through it some way, but maybe it’s revealed that he’s not quite as on top of things as he thought he was.”
And how responsible does Karl feel personally? It was, after all, ultimately his sleeping with Ashton’s wife that provoked the rampage. “I can’t imagine he wouldn’t [feel responsible] on some level. I know she [Elise] feels responsible. You never know with people like that, do you? They say no, absolutely not. On some level, he’s your son and you didn’t protect him.”
Speaking of Elise, the chemistry between Dillane and Poésy as Roebuck and Wasserman has been well-received and a breath of fresh air as a close relationship between male-female partners that is not in any way, shape or form sexual. Asked his thoughts on their relationship, Dillane says: “It’s kind of contrary to the whole mythology of film, isn’t it? That you can have a man and a woman on screen that aren’t gonna end up in bed. I think that’s
As previously mentioned, it’s not the first time Dillane has played the grieving father of a child in his work. Now his role in Game of Thrones is probably over (we rule nothing out in that show with Red Priestesses running about), is Dillane going to watch the new series to see which ruthless individual claims the throne next? “No,” he admits, “It’s pretty brutal, I couldn’t watch much of that. It’s hardcore.”
It’s a surprisingly Stannis-like answer about the show. How has being on one of the world’s most-talked-about shows changed his life? It seems like Stannis’ anti-fun sentiment has scared fans into silence, because Dillane admits: “I very rarely get stopped. I often come up on the train where I live, just an ordinary suburban train, and I don’t get bothered at all.”
Dillane has a long, varied and critically successful filmography. What did he get out of doing Game of Thrones? “Money,” answers Dillane without hesitation, igniting a laugh from all journalists present.
Did he get nothing out of Game of Thrones then? Dillane relents: “Game of Thrones is so huge that if you were in Game of Thrones, something is landed a bit more than if you hadn’t. Like if you were in the Harry Potter films or something, it doesn’t matter who you were and what you did. It’s just part of it I think. I haven’t noticed it having an effect in terms of offers or anything like that.”
The Tunnel: Sabotage is available from 12th April at 9pm on Sky Atlantic, with all episodes available same night via Sky Box Sets.