The title of the season 6 premiere – “The Red Woman” – makes her importance perfectly clear: Carice van Houten’s seductive sorceress Melisandre has a key part to play in the return episode of Game of Thrones on April 24. With the media about to get its first glimpse of the ultra-mysterious first hour at a screening in Hollywood on Sunday night, the Dutch actress and singer spoke to EW about her role in the show.
Last season, Melisandre made a disastrous attempt to use her powers to save Stannis Baratheon’s besieged army by sacrificing his innocent young daughter Shireen, then fled to Castle Black. Season 6 picks up right after the murder of Lord Commander Jon Snow by the Night’s Watch traitors…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What has been the reaction from fans to Melisandre orchestrating the killing of Shireen last season?
CARICE VAN HOUTEN: I didn’t win a lot of sympathy points there. I got a lot of death threats to my character. “Die bitch, when are you gonna f–king die” – that I heard a lot. It’s nice that people are so worked up about it. It’s fair to say it wasn’t a friendly act.
Even though the sacrifice of Shireen didn’t save Stannis, there’s been a bunch of theorizing about how Melisandre might still be able to help Jon Snow.
I know. When he died, a lot of people who wanted to kill me after episode 9 came back and said, “We’ll forgive you if you resurrect Jon Snow!”
What can you tell us about Melisandre’s role this season?
The arc of my character is finally going into a different direction. It’s changing and I really like it. We see her from a really different side of her now.
We see somebody whose whole belief system is tumbling down. She’s completely confused, and I really like to play that. After all the security and strength and pride, now we see something completely different. I’ve been really waiting for this moment.
That started at the end of last season, that sense of uncertainty – and perhaps even shame – when she returned to Castle Black.
Yes, you can see me go “oh f–k” when Stannis’ camp is defeated – it starts there. It’s nice to play different colors and it’s something I normally do in the roles I play. In my own country, I play roles that are more vulnerable – sympathetic, anxious and doubtful. Melisandre is so the opposite. It was a great challenge for me, but it’s nice to now put my own into it too.
Also, on the big screen, you recently played the notorious German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in Race.
It’s a beautiful story about Jesse Owens. [Riefenstahl] is a very fascinating character and I would love to see more of her. It was such a challenge for me, language wise. I had to speak fluent German, and also speak English with a German accent — that is tricky as a Dutch person.
More to come from our interview with van Houten after the April 24 premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO.
For more on GoT season 6, get the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, which goes behind the scenes in Northern Ireland and Spain, plus profiles six of the show’s female stars. Follow @jameshibberd for ongoing GoT coverage, subscribe to our Thrones email newsletter, and bookmark this page for our latest GoT stories.