Leaving the life of prostitution behind is no guarantee of happiness on Game of Thrones.
One former whore recently paid the ultimate price for betraying her boss, and on Sunday's all-new episode (9/8c, HBO), Shae (Sibel Kekilli) is dealing with the bad news that her lover, the highborn Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) will marry the teenaged Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) for political reasons. And even though Shae began as Tyrion's paid mistress, they've both developed genuine feelings for each other. "I think yes, she's more than that now," Kekilli tells TVGuide.com. "Shae's in love with Tyrion, and Tyrion is in love with her too. She's jealous sometimes when he talks about other women, and that's a typical relationship problem."
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It's a sticky and somewhat tragic situation all around: Tyrion is honor-bound to House Lannister to make the match, Sansa finds him unappealing (especially after her previous engagement to the knight of her dreams), and Shae knows that political marriages are all about producing an heir. "She may have thought, 'Maybe, even though I was a prostitute, I could change things. I could marry Tyrion one day.' But now, the real world shows her the reality, that it's not a game," Kekilli says. "She's never going to be a girl like Sansa. I think she feels hurt and at the same time, she is angry."
Check out the rest of Kekilli's interview for insights into how Shae has changed over time, her feelings towards Sansa and more:
We first meet Shae as a camp follower whom Tyrion offers to set up as his mistress in Season 1. But other than that, her background is mysterious. Have the producers Dan Weiss or David Benioff told you her backstory?
Sibel Kekilli: [Laughs] No! Please ask Dan and David for me. I would love to know it. In the first season, when they played that game in the tent, we find out that her mom is not a prostitute, but Shae didn't like to talk about her parents.
When you first tried out for this role, how was Shae described to you?
Kekilli: They only gave me that first scene for the audition, not the whole description ... and after [I got the part] they gave me the description of Game of Thrones and told me that Shae is a prostitute and will become the girlfriend of Tyrion. I was like, "Uh, OK, a prostitute. Let's see how this works." So I was a bit frightened [to play the role].
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What were Shae's feelings for Tyrion when she first met him?
Kekilli: At first for Shae, she's like, "Is this guy rich? Can he give me things?" And I don't know if you remember the first scene, but she was looking around like, "What else can I take with me from this tent?" So at first, it's really selfish of her because it's a world of power, fighting, losers and winners. That's how she was thinking. So the first thing was not love at first sight, it was, "OK, this would be a good business for me."
How have Shae's feelings for Tyrion changed over time to where we see her now?
Kekilli: At the end of the second season, when he lost his power [as the Hand of the King] and he is wounded — that was the time when she could have left him easily, but she didn't. She said, "I am yours. You are mine. We promise to each other to stay together." And I think it started at that point that she fell in love with him.
This season, Shae is taking care of Sansa, sort of undercover as her lady's maid, but also as a confidant and protector. What is that relationship like?
Kekilli: The first time that Shae met Sansa, she was like, "I don't want to be here with one of these rich, spoiled girls," but now, I think she would die for this girl. She would do anything to protect her. She's like an older sister to Sansa.
Shae knows that Tywin (Charles Dance) threatened to kill any whore that his son Tyrion brought to King's Landing. Does she realize the depth of the danger she's in just by staying there?
Kekilli: In the last season, she had told Sansa, "Don't trust anyone," and I think she still believes that, but when you're in love ... you sometimes have [rose-colored lenses]. She knows it's a dangerous world, but she's started to hope. She is a friend, not just a handmaiden, of Sansa's. Sansa likes her. Shae wants to forget the danger around her.
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Ignoring danger won't help though. We just saw Ros was killed in the last episode for spying on her own master. How careful is Shae being?
Kekilli: In the first episode [this season], you can see that Ros knows about Shae's true identity, but Shae is clever. I think she knew about Ros, but she didn't want to talk to her. Shae thinks like, "I [will only] have contact with Sansa and Tyrion." She's really careful. She's had to fight for herself her whole life ... trusting just herself on her own.
Tyrion is hilarious. How fun is it to work with Peter Dinklage?
Kekilli: He's really one of the funniest guys I have ever met. I love to watch him act. It's really mesmerizing. We have known each other now for three years or more, and I think I can call it a friendship between him and me. He's really lovely. I met his family: his wife and his child.
How different is it to then work with Sophie Turner, whose character Sansa is always so tragic?
Kekilli: She's like every 17-year-old girl, freaking out for Justin Bieber. [Laughs] She makes jokes of my English. She keeps telling me wrong words in English, and I believe her, so I will use these words, and in the end, she'll start to laugh at me. "These are the wrong English words. I was just making fun of you." That's really mean! But that's Sophie. I love her.
If you won the Iron Throne, what would your first edict be?
Kekilli: My answer is a bit boring. I think it would be freedom. I would stop people from fighting each other and killing. It sounds like Greenpeace or something. But I have to say that. Freedom.
Who would you choose to be your Hand?
Kekilli: To revenge myself, I think it would have to be Sansa and Tyrion. But in real life, it would be my best friend Ute. We've known each other for 17-18 years. She's one of my closest friends. I trust her — in German you say "blind." I wouldn't even call her the Hand of the queen. I'd call her queen. I'm so bad in that kind of game, games of power. I would always lose.
Do Shae and Tyrion have a chance? Check out this preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones episode, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," airing at 9/8c on HBO: