Game of Thrones returned to HBO with a vengeance this week, and it got me thinking of those poor, unfortunate souls who earn their living bringing writers’ characters to life.
Disclaimer: I don’t really feel sorry for actors. They’re living their dream, and that’s amazing. We should all be so lucky.
Game of Thrones lends itself pretty easily to criticism of casting because we fans of George R. R. Martin’s novels are so rabid. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion? Amazing. Unbelievable. He plays the character exactly as written, smart, witty, bitter, but with an added layer of kindness that makes Tyrion the most admirable on the show. Sean Bean as Eddard Stark? Heartbreaking, and so perfectly noble he could never exist in that universe.
Michelle Fairley as Catelyn? Um… Not so much. The fan-community was thrilled back when we all thought it would be Jennifer Ehle, but somehow or another that fell apart, and we were left with an actress who plays Catelyn as a shrill, shrewish mother and wife with few redeeming qualities. (Disagree with me, if you dare.) While the written character may tend a bit toward the harridan on the shades-of-wifeliness-scale, she has a core of steel that is strong, not brittle. TV Catelyn always seems one nagging-bout away from stamping her foot and crying.
It got me wondering how I would like to see my characters portrayed—dare to dream, after all. I’m not one of those writers who has my novel cast right down to the last extra from the very first draft of the very first chapter. I have no specific actor in mind.
But my characters are so vivid in my imagination that sometimes I wonder how I would react if they suddenly appeared on my doorstep in Stranger than Fiction fashion? Would I scream and throw something at them? Would I be friends with them? Conversely, how would they feel about me? Hate me for my cruelty? Worship me as their goddess?
Maybe I have too much free time on my hands.
George R. R. Martin‘s characters would probably tremble in fear and hatred before him.
Do you think about these things, fellow writers? Who would portray your characters? Would you like to see your characters literally come to life? And—most importantly—who would you have cast to play Catelyn Stark?