In a STACK exclusive, Aidan Gillen – better known as the devious Littlefinger in Game of Thrones – tells us where this master manipulator is at in season seven, and who he thinks could be sitting on the Iron Throne at the very end.
When discussing Game of Thrones’ most hissable villains, Petyr Baelish – AKA Littlefinger – may pale in comparison to the likes of Joffrey and Ramsay Bolton, but he’s always been a Machiavellian figure in the Seven Kingdoms, and in some ways is the most malicious player of them all.
“The last four seasons have almost been a road trip,” says the Irish actor, who rose to prominence in HBO hit The Wire before establishing an insidious presence in Westeros. “For Littlefinger, the story is about Sansa and Littlefinger – Robin Arryn to a degree, and the Vale, but it’s on its own track like a lot of the stories in this multi-stranded story universe are.”
Having played a pivotal role in season six’s Battle of the Bastards, we last glimpsed Littlefinger in the Great Hall of Winterfell, lurking in the shadows just to the left of a brazier, gazing enigmatically toward Sansa Stark.
“What you did see me doing was trying to sow some seeds of doubt in Sansa about Jon Snow, knowing that he’s going to come into a powerful position – that they together are more powerful and that there are may be even more alliances which make it the right team to be on, to be a part of, which is what happens.
“I always thought of [Littlefinger] as a politician and a magician, in some way”
“[In season seven] I’m there waiting, watching my protégé, if you like. Also of course, aware of the fact that she is not really my protégé anymore because she has been such a good student and observer – she’s now an equal. For somebody like Littlefinger, that is a joy to behold but also a problem, potentially.”
When Gillen first read the role, he saw the character as a politician of sorts – or more specifically, one politician in particular.
“I pictured (former British cabinet minister) Peter Mandelson,” he recalls. “I said, ‘could you make me look like that? Peter Mandelson in 1984.’ They went, ‘Interesting, okay.’ I’m talking purely physical – hair and mustache – although Mandelson had that reputation of being a prince of darkness.
“[Littlefinger’s] role in the first season was more political in that he was a member of the small council, which is like a government – he was master of coins, which is treasurer or minister of finance or whatever. So I always thought of him as a politician and a magician, in some way.”
The actor admits to being unfamiliar with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels and the fantasy genre at the beginning, but found them a useful starting point, personally, in terms of character reference.
“I got what I needed out of them. There came a point when things were differing [from the books] so I kind of didn’t want to be reading them. You don’t really want to know what everyone else is up to all the time either, or finding great scenes that aren’t going to make it in to the thing – although they are always good to read, because then you can imagine your own side story as well. You can make up your own stuff that suits even better, that’s beyond the books, which is a whole different thing.”
The series’ potent combination of politics, war, revenge and redemption has seen it hook an audience who would otherwise avoid the fantasy genre altogether, and Gillen notes it was a clever strategy to initially withhold the more fantastic elements.
“Mostly there’s hardly any of that in the first season. In fact, at the end of the first season it’s so startling when it happens, with the fire, the dragon eggs and all of that, you’re like, “F–k! This is what we’re watching – we’ve just been lured into this other world and we didn’t know.”
With one season of Game of Thrones left to be played out, and characters continuing to drop like flies, is the actor willing to place a bet on who will finally sit on the Iron Throne?
“I suppose the bigger question is, ‘Will there be anything there?’” he offers. “To be honest, I’ve always liked the character of Cersei – I don’t think it’s going to be her but it could be, even though she’s there already. I quite like the Sansa, Arya, Bran triumvirate – Jon also, not to put him before them. Then there could be something, some real bolt out of the blue and that would be more interesting to me. Something that nobody saw coming.”
Game of Thrones: Season 7 is out on Dec 11
The traditional sigil for House Baelish of the Fingers is the head of the Titan of Braavos, which Petyr changed for the Mockingbird crest he proudly wears.