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Sibel Kekilli has portrayed the character of Shae since the first season of Game of Thrones. Dan and Dave deliberately brought us a very different Shae than we were used to, not the shallow, selfish woman who only cares for Tyrion’s money, but a character with far more depth and complexity. Even George loved this new Shae. Sibel told Vulture “When I met George R.R. Martin for the first time, he said, “Oh Sibel, your Shae is better than my Shae.” It was a really big honor when he told me that. But even though David and Dan changed Shae in the show, it had to come to the same end, somehow.”

Sibel’s performance and belief in her character has been compelling. Sibel has given a number of recent interviews since her shock end in the season four finale, The Children.

On what led to Shae’s betrayal of Tyrion: Tyrion changed his behavior toward her. He was colder to her, from episode to episode, and in the second or third episode this season, she could see how tender and lovely he was to Sansa. Of course, he felt responsible for Sansa, but it hurt Shae very much. And so, as we say in German, it was “the last drop in the glass” when he tells her, “You are a whore. You can’t bear my children.” He stepped over the line. She was so loyal. For four years she was there for him — even when no one else was by his side. She took care of Sansa, even after he married her. She got hurt — and at a certain point, you don’t think anymore, you just react emotionally….
I try to understand why she’s behaving like that. She got hurt very much, and all her hopes just disappeared into the wind. Like an earthquake, the foundation she was building on their relationship was just broken. And at that moment, it was revenge, and I really understood that. After years of being loyal, cleaning [chamber] pots for his wife, being treated like a dog, she’s like, “I’m here for revenge. And I wouldn’t be here if you, Tyrion, had left the country with me. You forced me somehow to do this.” And did she have a choice, anyway? If Cersei wants something, if Tywin wants something, she’s a woman without family, she’s on her own. She didn’t have a real choice to say, “No, I’m not going to this trial.” It was revenge, but it was also blackmail and coercion.

On went through Shae’s mind when she saw Tyrion and why Shae ended up in Tywin’s bed: “The first thing is shock. “Why is here? He should be in prison.” But the biggest feeling is guilt. “Oh God.” She did that to him at the trial, and now she’s lying in his father’s bed and using words that were supposed to be just for Tyrion. And then there’s fear. “What’s going to happen to me now? I’m here on my own, and I have to fight for myself. I’m going to die or he’s going to die…

When I act, I try not to think like Sibel. I try to think like Shae. But, again, she didn’t have any choice after the trial scene. The people hated Tyrion after the trial, and she had been with him. Who could she be with after that? There was one choice. She had to choose the most powerful man in King’s Landing. And who is that? It’s Tywin. If she wants to stay alive, she has to take that step. In the end, she thinks Tywin is in the room, and she says “My Lion.” That expression was for Tyrion only. He was her lion. But because she’s a prostitute again, she’s lost all hope for a regular life, she’s trying to get rid of everything that reminds her of Tyrion — to make nothing special of what they had. (TV Line)

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Sibel on what may have happened if Tyrion didn’t find Shae in his father’s bed. I think he wouldn’t [have killed] her if he [found] her serving another lady, as you said. Maybe, just, ‘Okay, goodbye.’ It [ends] like that. … Or somehow, they would never be a couple again. … But, to lie in the bed of the father… wearing this necklace, which he tried to give her when he said, ‘I’m gonna marry Sansa,’ and then [she’s] saying, ‘My lion’– it was just for him, this [saying of] ‘my lion.’ And now she’s saying that to Tywin. That was it. It was like, ‘Okay, I’m now really, really angry and hurt and that’s enough.‘” (Access Hollywood )

On the lead up to her final scene, rehearsing and filming:  “We had dinner — David, Dan, and Peter and I — one day before the death scene. But we didn’t talk much about the scene. We didn’t even rehearse it, because that kind of scene is so emotional. I don’t like to rehearse a lot, or to talk too much about that scene. It should just happen with the raw feelings. He’s crying at the end, Tyrion.”(Yahoo)

My last hope was on that day when we had to shoot that scene, I said to David Benioff and Dan Weiss [the show runners], “I’m not coming. I’m sick. I don’t feel good.” They were, like, “O.K., Sibel, you have to do it.” They knew that I was joking. But I really didn’t want to do it. The death scene was really hard for me.”

“It was really emotional for me, and it was a really long day, more for Peter, because he had one more scene after ours. When you have a stunt scene, whether it’s with a knife or a necklace, you have to learn your choreography. Of course, the most important thing that day was the emotion of the scene. He’s crying and I was almost crying, too, but I couldn’t, because I had to act really angry and scary at that moment. I watched at the ADR [when additional dialogue is recorded in post-production], when he was crying, after I died, and it was really emotional.”(NYTimes)

Does Sibel consider Shae a victim? “Not a victim. For me, calling her a victim would mean she was weak. She was low-born. She had a hard life. She had to learn how to stay alive. She was a victim of the system maybe, of life circumstances, but she was also a really strong woman.”(Hollywood Reporter)

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George R.R. Martin discussed Shae and Tyrion’s story in the Season 4 finale with EW.

On Tyrion’s motivation heading in to confront Tywin: “I don’t think he’s thinking about it at that point. He’s at the nadir here. He’s lost everything. He’s going to be smuggled somewhere to safety, but what the hell is he gonna do there? He’s lost his position in House Lannister, he’s lost his position in court, he’s lost all of his gold — which is the one thing that’s kind of sustained him throughout his life. Whatever disadvantages he’s had in terms being a dwarf, he didn’t have the sort of physical abilities to be a knight, but he had the great advantage of an ancient and powerful name and all the gold that he could want to buy things — including followers like Bronn and other people to defend him. Now he’s lost all of that and he’s also found out that Jamie — the one blood relation that he loved unreservedly and has his back, and was always on his side — played a part in this traumatic event of his life, the ultimate betrayal. He’s so hurt that he wants to hurt other people, and it’s a moment of whim when he recognizes where he is from the account that Shae has told him and he knows that just up this ladder is a chamber that was once his that now his father has usurped from him. So he goes up to see his father. And I don’t think he knows what he’s gonna say or do when he gets up there but he — some part of him feels compelled to do it. And of course then we find Shae there, that’s an additional shock to him, an additional knife in his belly.

On Tyrion murdering Shae: I think sometimes people just get pushed too far, sometimes people break. And I think Tyrion has reached his point. He’s been through hell, he’s faced death over and over again, and he’s been betrayed, as he sees it, by all the people that he’s tried to take care of, that he’s tried to win the approval of. He’s been trying to win his father’s approval all his life. And despite his misgivings, he fell in love with Shae, he let himself give his heart to her. It just reaches a point where he can’t do it anymore. I think the two actions are quite different, although they occur within moments of each other. He’s furious at Lord Tywin because he found out the truth about his first wife and what happened to her, and Tywin keeps calling her a whore — which she is by Lord Tywin’s logic. Lord Tywin is convinced that since he doesn’t love Tyrion, then no one can possibly love Tyrion. So it’s obviously some lower-class girl who’s just trying to get the dwarf into bed because he was a Lannister, so she could become a lady and have money and live in a castle and all that. So basically the equivalent of being a whore — she’s just f–king him for possession of status and he’s trying to teach Tyrion a lesson in that regard. And so he keeps using the word “whore” which is like pouring salt into his wound, and Tyrion tells him not to do that, don’t say that word again. And he says that word again and at that moment, Tyrion’s finger just pushes on the trigger…

With Shae, it’s a much more deliberate and in some ways a crueler thing. It’s not the action of a second, because he’s strangling her slowly and she’s fighting, trying to get free. He could let go at any time. But his anger and his sense of betrayal is so strong that he doesn’t stop until it’s done and that’s probably the blackest deed that he’s ever done. It’s the great crime of his soul along with what he did with his first wife by abandoning her after the little demonstration Lord Tywin put on. Now by the standards of Westeros, that’s hardly a crime at all — “So a lord killed a whore, big deal.” He’s not likely to be punished for that any more than any other lords and knights who treat lowborn women and prostitutes and tavern wenches with contempt and use them and discard them. It’s nothing to the world, but it’s again something that’s going to haunt him, while the act of killing his father is something of enormous consequence that would be forever beyond the pale, for no man is as cursed as a kinslayer.

On Shae’s on-screen character: “Shae is one of the characters that really has changed significantly from the books to the TV show. I think that [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] wrote Shae very differently, and a symbol to Sibel Kekilli — the incredible girl playing her. Shae is much more sincere in her affections for Tyrion. This is almost contradictory, but with the Shae in the TV series, you can tell she actually has real feelings for Tyrion — she challenges him, she defies him. The Shae in the books is a manipulative camp-follower prostitute who doesn’t give a s–t about Tyrion any more than she would any other john, but she’s very compliant, like a little teenage sex kitten, feeding all his fantasies; she’s really just in it for the money and the status. She’s everything lord Tywin thought Tyrion’s first wife was that she actually wasn’t. So there are all layers of complexity going on here. They’re the same character, but they’re also very different characters, and I think that’s going to lead to very different resonances playing out in the TV show than in the books.”

 


 

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

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