When a 10-minute video compilation of Joffrey getting slapped tallies up over 1 million views, it's safe to say a loathed character has been born. But unlike many other "Love To Hate 'Em" characters, the consensus seems to be that fans straight up hate Joffrey, making it difficult to generate excitement when times comes to watch his Game of Thrones scenes.
But that all changed this season when Joffrey wife-swapped Sansa Stark for Margaery Tyrell, played by the electrifying Natalie Dormer, and Kings Landing actually found a queen worthy of devotion (both from the show's viewers and from the Lanister's subjects). Now, with only two episodes left in the third season, Dormer opens up to ETonline about Margaery's quest for the crown, the roadblocks that stand in her way and the "traumatizing" finale.
ETonline: Coming in, had you read the books?
Natalie Dormer: No. I learned about Margaery through the scripts. I spoke to [creators] David [Benioff] & Dan [Weiss] when they offered me the role and asked them if I should read the books. They said no, and since we're now friends, three years down the lines, they've confided in me that they didn't originally know what to do with the character; they were on an exploratory adventure with her as well. They had a gut instinct about me and, as a threesome, we've all worked to flesh her out. It seems to be going well. We seem to have, more or less, got the fans approval.
ETonline: I actually feel like that's a massive understatement. The fans seem kind of obsesses with Margaery.
Dormer: It's amazing because my first proper interaction as at C2E2 in Chicago about one month ago, which was my first convention. I managed to go there for two days because I was, serendipitously, in New York shooting Elementary. It was a hop, skip and a jump to Chicago and it was the most amazing interaction with the fans. I was so glad I could stay for the weekend because I had such an enthusiastic and supportive experience with the fans, so I feel bolstered a little bit heading into next season. They like what we're doing, and that's worth its weight in gold to me.
ETonline: What have you enjoyed about the role Margaery's played this season?
Dormer: I really loved Margaery getting close to Sansa. Sophie [Turner] and I have had so much fun together. I love that big sister dynamic -- Sophie and I are pretty much agreed that if the circumstances were different, Sansa and Margaery would actually be good friends if you removed their families and those agendas. I think Margaery was really taken with the idea of adopting Sansa. The Starks were a very close family, and the Tyrells are too. There's real affection and loyalty there, and having the adding dynamic of Diana Rigg was so wonderful. It was incredible that the authority of this family, and Margaery's mentor, is a matriarch We're starting to feel more like a nuclear family -- one that could honestly take on The Lannisters.
ETonline: Watching Margaery and Cersei go head-to-head all season long has been so fun to watch. What's your take on that dynamic?
Dormer: I think Margaery is a pragmatist and a politician, but I don't think she's an insincere person. You have to be reasonably savvy to be in politics, period. You can't be an innocent; you wouldn't survive the world. But I don't think she's as Machiavellian as other characters in Thrones, at all. She's in a very steep learning curve and that's the thing I love about Margaery: she genuinely doesn't know what she's gotten herself into.
ETonline: Do you think Margaery's slowly realizing she may have bitten off more than she can chew?
Dormer: Absolutely. She's still realizing. It's more fun and interesting as an actress if there's genuine fear and concern there and I feel like she keeps getting these nasty shocks at realizing what Joffrey actually is, what Cersei really is. She does worry that she's out of her depths. But bolstered by Olenna, she has the courage to overcome those fears. As a family, they're still gathering the data. Yeah, they want to win, and are convinced they will win -- Margaery believes she can out maneuver Cersei and control Joffrey, but she's realizing it’s going to be a lot more difficult than she'd anticipated.
ETonline: The audience has seen what Joffrey is capable of in the bedroom, and watched Sansa go through it, but I feel like Margaery is still in the dark about that. True?
Dormer: True. She has not seen the dastardly, dark, sadistic side of Joffrey and it will be very interesting when it happens -- I think it's only a matter of time [laughs]. When she comes directly against it, how she will handle it? We had a taste of that where she managed to flip the conversation on its head and gained control of it in a way Sansa would have never been able to, but as we all know, Joffrey can go to a physically malicious place. If he gets that extreme, it's going to be very interesting to see how Margaery will handle that. She'd definitely be changed by it, that's for sure.
ETonline: There are two episodes left in the season, what are you excited for the fans to see?
Dormer: The fans will go through a very traumatic climax of 30 hours of television -- the finale and the penultimate episodes will flip everything on its head. Some of the stories get resolved, the people you would have thought invincible end up in a very unhappy dark place and the ones you would have never bet on find themselves in promising circumstances. Dan and David always talked about this as the game changing season and I think the fans are going to feel quite traumatized about a lot of the characters they've grown close to over the last three seasons. It will have a real shock factor. And yet, so brilliantly, it almost wipes the slate clean for season four, which we start shooting in July.
ETonline: Later this year you'll be seen in The Counselor (starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Barden, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott). I feel like that's a stacked ensemble to be a part of.
Dormer: Oh yeah. I'm very lucky to be in projects that have such skilled writing in them. It all originates from the text. The reason The Counselor affected me so profoundly is it's so f*cking brave. It's bold. It's exactly why people love Thrones. We're so used to reading or watching things that are safe, so when you come across something that's not afraid to challenge you, the audience responds with half-glee, half-terror. Cormac holds the unsavory sides of human nature, all the Joffrey-esque characters out there in the modern world, up to your face and forces you to look at them. It's curiously addictive and intoxicating when a writer does that.
ETonline: Sounds like your fans shouldn't expect to ever see you in one of those cookie cutter, big-studio romantic comedies.
Dormer: Well, we try to keep our careers at a certain level, but you never know what twists and turns await in life. We all aim for the Iron Throne, but occasionally we end up in Flea Bottom [laughs].
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.