Fans of HBO’s sprawling fantasy epic Game of Thrones have long been curious about when the TV series will move past George R.R. Martin’s books. After all, the fifth season of Thrones, which premieres April 12, will wrap up books 4 and 5 (A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons), and Martin is still hard at work on the next tome, The Winds of Winter.
Sure, the show has featured several plot deviations from the books, but speaking to the Oxford Union last month, Thrones co-creator David Benioff stated that both parties know how things will end, and that the television program and books will wrap things up the same way.
“Luckily, we’ve been talking about this with George for a long time, ever since we saw this could happen, and we know where things are heading,” Benioff said. “And so we’ll eventually, basically, meet up at pretty much the same place where George is going; there might be a few deviations along the route, but we’re heading towards the same destination. I kind of wish that there were some things we didn’t have to spoil, but we’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. The show must go on… and that’s what we’re going to do.”But in an interview with The Daily Beast, Thrones star Carice van Houten, who steals every scene she’s in as the fiery seductress Melisandre, said that Season 6 will be “completely” off-book.
“I know that we’re wavering off the books,” van Houten says. “The thing that I really like about the coming season that we’re going to shoot now, Season 6—if I’m still alive, no spoilers!—is that we’re going completely off the books. Everyone is in the same boat since there are no books anymore. And it’s fun because now the book readers will be in the same boat as everyone else.”
The stunning Dutch actress’s Red Priestess of the Lord of Light was somewhat of an afterthought last season, but plays a very important role in Season 5 as Stannis Baratheon’s army commingles with Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch.
As far as the similarities between van Houten—a gifted actress (see: Black Book) who also happens to be an accomplished singer—and Melisandre go, well, they’re few and far between.
“I’m not at all a hero. I’m a wussy,” she says. “I’m completely the opposite of what I play on Game of Thrones. All of Melisandre’s virtues—self-confidence, faith—are things I don’t really have myself.”
Donning her tight dress helps her posture, and that glorious red wig makes it easier to channel her mischievous side. Playing Melisandre has even had an effect on van Houten’s wardrobe. She says she “never really wore red in my personal life, and now I’m starting to wear it.”
No amount of preparation, however, can prepare you for giving birth to a shadow baby-assassin. When asked whether Renly’s smoky killer returns, she says, “No,” before letting out a laugh. “It’s quite absurd to act against a smoke creature that is not there,” adds van Houten. “It’s this CGI creature and I was wearing a prosthetic belly and a merkin, and it was November in a cold cave at night in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t very comfortable, per se!”
“It was quite a shock,” she adds with a chuckle. “But you’re in for a big treat this year if you like shocks.”
Shadow babies aside, van Houten’s character has done quite a bit of disrobing on Thrones. And in the first four episodes of the upcoming season, she does so once more. What isn’t there, though, is the slightest glimpse of penis.
As far as the nudity discrepancy goes, she says she’d like to see a bit more “equality.”
“I think a female body is nicer to look at, to be honest!” she says. “But I think the nudity should be equal because we’re showing real life. I think it’s still quite a taboo to see a penis, and if you’re showing reality, then I wouldn’t mind seeing reality. I think it would be good to show the male body more frequently to take away taboos about sexuality. A breast is something that your mother has, and a penis is something that your father has. It’s the human body!”She continues, “It might be because I’m Dutch and it’s a European thing, but it’s actually not something I’m too happy about doing, and I get very nervous when I have to do a nude scene. I think, ‘Oh, I’m old, I should’ve gone to the gym 10 years ago!’”
One thing the actress is very excited about is her upcoming cameo on The Simpsons. In a May 3 episode titled “Let’s Go Fly A Coot,” she plays Annika, Millhouse’s rebellious Dutch cousin.
“She’s this cool Dutch kid that knows games nobody knows there, she smokes e-cigarettes, has an earring, and looks very alternative—probably the image of what Americans think Dutch people look like,” says van Houten. “She’s free and ballsy, but she looks like Millhouse with the same blue hair and eyebrows. It’s one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. Bart is very affected by her, but it’s not a very long love. It doesn’t really stick!” Eventually our talk turns to Melisandre’s mantra: The night is dark and full of terrors. It’s a line van Houten has been forced to utter hundreds of times during her run on Thrones. The very mention of it makes her giggle.
“It keeps perpetuating, which is funny to me!” she says. “I think we know by now that ‘The night is dark and full of terrors.’ How many times do I have to keep telling you all, man!”