Two women fighting over Joffrey? Only on Game of Thrones.
On HBO's fantasy drama (airing Sundays at 9/8c), Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is the young king's (Jack Gleeson) energetic new fiancée... and the chief rival of his mother, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
"It's about having power and control over Joffrey," she tells TVGuide.com. "I'm sure many of your readers will be able to identify with having problems with the mother-in-law. It's quite a human commentary, isn't it? The husband has to reconcile the No. 1 woman in his life going from being his mother to being his wife, and that's difficult for both women. Margaery is angling for control of Joffrey. If Margaery has control of the king, her family has control of the throne. Cersei is legitimately concerned about having that power over Joffrey taken away from her."
Margaery is quickly making headway with Joffrey though. Not only is she attractive, wealthy and popular with the King's Landing people, but she knows how to flatter a fellow (and his crossbow). She had better be careful, however. It's not easy to keep the bloodthirsty and unpredictable Joffrey in check. Just ask his previous fiancée Sansa (Sophie Turner), whose father Ned (Sean Bean) he had beheaded despite promises to let him live.
Will Margaery underestimate her king? Dormer answers this question and more below:
How would you describe Margaery's ambition and ability to play the political game?
Natalie Dormer: The audience is very much acquainted with Joffrey and Cersei and they know the darkness and the danger of the Lannisters. The Tyrells have come and arrived at King's Landing, underestimating the situation. They think that they can control the Lannisters and can take them on. They're going to get a nasty shock. Even though they are great politicians and pragmatists, I think the Tyrells weren't quite expecting the level of gameplay and danger that find against their in-laws-to-be. The interesting thing about Margaery is that yes, she is an opportunist. Margaery is very much the protégé of the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna, Diana Rigg's character. There's a pragmatism to her. She knows how to survive.
Can Margaery match the Lannisters in the scheming department? Her charity seems calculated.
Dormer: The interesting thing to play for me is where the calculation starts and the sincerity stops. I think people can get Margaery wrong; she is a sincere, genuine girl. She has genuine sympathy for Sansa. And I don't think her public PR is completely disingenuous. We're all used to politicians kissing babies ... I don't think she's necessarily a calculating bitch who likes playing the public and likes playing everyone around her. She's trying to reconcile being a good human being and being a good ruler. She genuinely thinks that if she marries Joffrey and has a son, she can create a good, strong, peaceful king sitting on the throne with her as the Queen Mother type of thing.
What does Margaery think of Sansa's revelation that Joffrey is a monster?
Dormer: I think there's genuine trepidation there, definitely. That's the way Diana and myself were playing it. This is a genuinely dark, dangerous problem. At least it's not going to be easy. Of course she's scared; she's not immune to fear. The beauty of writing Thrones is that the characters aren't immune to fear. It's now her struggle to now conquer it.
There's an intriguing line that Margaery says when she's admiring Joffrey's crossbow: "I imagine it must be so exciting to squeeze your finger here and watch something die over there." Is she just playing him or is she really intrigued by that dark side?
Dormer: Margaery is not safe. Although that scene was shot in a very sensual, sexual way, it's more psychological than that. She's trying to work out what makes Joffrey tick because if she can work out what makes Joffrey tick, she can control him. And not just control him in a nasty, manipulative way, but control him for the better of the kingdom. Joffrey is a loose cannon. Manipulation of a person is not necessarily a negative. We manipulate our children in trying to make them better people. It's about psychology. Margaery is a student of psychology.
I remember the director said to me, "He's holding a crossbow at you when you walk into the room. It's like somebody holding an AK-47 on you. That's the Westeros equivalent." The guy, my fiancé, is holding a gun pointed at me as I walk into the room. So it's like, take a deep breath and try to find a way to point it in the opposite direction. It's an echo of that previous scene when Joffrey holds a crossbow pointed at Sansa. There's a direct comparison there of, "How does that girl handle it? How does this girl handle it?" There's genuine fear there. She's working really, really hard because I think she knows how deep the water she's swimming in is.
Margaery doesn't seem to be having much luck with Cersei though...
Dormer: She has another great scene where she's trying to work Cersei out and she completely misfires. She doesn't win that scene as she does with Joffrey. She doesn't get what she needs out of it: information. She realizes that she's even more lost at sea with Cersei than she thought she was.
What is the dynamic between Sansa and Margaery?
Dormer: It's tentative because the two women are in quite a scary world, and it would be oh-so-much nicer and more reassuring if they could actually be friends. Had those two girls met in another situation, under different circumstances, it's highly likely that they'd genuinely be friends. They both come from privileged families, ruling families. and they both come from close families. We both know how close the Starks are, and it's commented on that the Tyrells are a close family as well. I don't think it's beyond the realm of reason that in different circumstances, Margaery and Sansa would be completely, innocently genuine friends.
Margaery looks up to her grandmother Lady Olenna. Is that how you view Dame Diana Rigg, who plays Olenna?
Dormer: Insofar as Dame Diana Rigg, the Tony Award-winning actress is a veteran, and when you're in the midst of a grand dame like that, you just sit back and you watch and you learn. So there's a nice parallel there for Sophie and I as younger actresses to listen and learn the way Margaery and Sansa would listen and learn from Olenna. I think that parallel is obvious and completely creditable.
Diana Rigg is a joy to work with. We had a nice glass of wine in a bar at the hotel after our first day at work. We both had our wig and wimple off. She told me old stories going back to the theater she's done, the people she's worked with back in the '60s and '70s. She's a legend. It's great to hear those old war stories. I'm sure off-camera, Olenna is doing the same with Margaery, telling her all the gossip of the old days of Highgarden and King's Landing, doing what grandmothers and granddaughters do: having a bit of gossip.
What's coming up for Margaery?
Dormer: It's about Margaery realizing what she can and can't control and who she can and can't control and what that means for the future. And the other side of the wedding, if we get to the wedding, how she's reconciling herself to this cage. The cage that Cersei herself talks about. Margaery is reconciling herself to the cage and at the minute she's struggling to see how big she can make the cage for herself.
What do you think about Margaery? Is she a match for Joffrey?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. Check out this preview of Sunday's new episode, "And Now His Watch Is Ended":