While the final season of Game of Thrones won't arrive for viewers until sometime next year, for the cast the time to say goodbye has in many ways already come and gone. Major characters on the show have already shot their final scenes, including Emmy-winning star Peter Dinklage.
Dinklage — who was already a respected actor when the HBO series began but rose to superstardom as Tyrion Lannister — is the closest thing Game of Thrones has to a single main star. He's one of its most recognizable characters, he's garnered multiple Emmys for his work, and as Tyrion he's had the chance to play several different sides of the great game throughout the course of the series. Now, with the final season looming, he's reflecting on what it means to say goodbye.
Speaking to Vulture while promoting his new HBO original movie My Dinner with Herve, Dinklage noted that it's been "a couple of months" since he completed his work on the series, and that it's been strange returning to life in America after living a large chunk of his life in Northern Ireland (where the show's production is based), because the transition was in many ways an abrupt one. He also talked about his last day on set, and the familial aspect of bonding with the show's cast and crew.
"It’s always anticlimactic for the character’s last day. Nothing is shot chronologically, so you don’t get some big mountaintop scene or anything. It’s just, 'That’s a wrap on Peter Dinklage.' But as anticlimactic as it was, my last day was also beautifully bittersweet," he said. "A lot of people whom I love were on set that day. Even if they weren’t working, they came to set, which was beautiful. I tried to do the same thing when other [Game of Thrones] actors were wrapping out. If it was their day, you would go to set to say good-bye. It was really hard. I won’t say their name or their character’s name, but one of the young people on the show wrapped this past season and everybody was a wreck. This person had grown up on the show, you know? They were a child and now they were an adult. And then they’re done. It’s like we were witnessing this person saying good-bye to their childhood. I know Game of Thrones is just a TV show, la-di-da, but it was our life."
While saying goodbye to the show and the friends he's made over his years was an emotional experience, though, Dinklage doesn't seem to attach that same emotional resonance to bidding farewell to what's become his signature character. When it was time to leave the Game of Thrones family, it was a big deal. When it was time to leave Tyrion Lannister, it was less so.
"I don’t know if I’m [a] Method [actor] in that way," Dinklage said when asked what it was like to say goodbye to Tyrion. "I was a little Method with Hervé — staying in that voice. But you can’t really be Method for nine seasons of a TV show. You’d go nuts. And there’s a difference between being Method and indulgent. You can smell that ego thing a mile away. It’s good to stay in the zone, but if it’s about showing off your peacock feathers, I’m not buying it. Acting is a trick. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. Elements of it are. For me, the fame thing is. But the work itself — we’re not digging ditches for a living. I think acting is one of the professions where everybody who’s doing it wants to be doing it. That’s not true for every job."
Dinklage's "acting is a trick" musings are something Tyrion or his pal Lord Varys might agree with, and it's clear he's taken some of their practicality to heart when it comes to saying goodbye to the role. Thanks to Game of Thrones and other roles that have spun out of it, Dinklage will have a steady career for years to come, so there will be no shortage of interesting, new people for him to inhabit. Plus, given how rabid Thrones fandom is, it's not likely he'll ever be able to forget the Imp from the House of Lannister.
And of course, no discussion of the show at this point in time would be complete without an actor reflecting, spoiler-free, on where their character has come from and where he or she is going in the final season. Dinklage in particular has become a bit of an expert in musing about Tyrion's arc and thoughts and feelings, and this time was no different. When asked about the character's arc, he had this to say.
"He certainly developed a deeper sense of responsibility over the course of the show. He was a pretty irresponsible character to begin with. He used his position as the outcast of his family like an adolescent would. He pushed it in their [the Lannisters’] faces. The beauty of Tyrion is that he grew out of that mode in a couple of seasons and developed a strong sense of responsibility. Not morality, because he always had that, but what to do with his intelligence."
Game of Thrones returns in 2019.