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‘Game of Thrones’ actor feels the pressures facing the successful show

By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — “Game of Thrones” has the look of a conquering king right now — HBO renewed the series for a third season just two weeks after the Season 2 opener earned glowing reviews and posted a gaudy 77 percent increase over last April’s series premiere. But one of the stars, Peter Dinklage, says any success is a double-edged sword.

When asked what challenges lie ahead for the “Game of Thrones” team, the 42-year-old actor said he sees them coming from several directions, including the most passionate fans of the show.

Specifically, the Emmy and Golden Globe winner said he frets a bit about the relentless Internet drumbeat of fantasy fans who want the medieval epic to be more, well, epic.

“There’s so much pressure to, in terms of this genre, make it bigger,” Dinklage said. “There’s all this talk about, ‘We want more battles!’ and there’s so many fan sites. And the show is based on a very successful series of novels (by George R.R. Martin) and so there was so much anticipation for it — and so much pressure put on it. You can’t really listen to all of that if you’re going to be successful. It’s just too much to take in, too much to take on. You have to block all of that out and tell the really smart story that was told by George and not try to take on too much that takes the (priorities) in other directions.”

It’s hard to find many die-hard fantasy fans who don’t love scale and sprawl — one of the defining hallmarks of epic fantasy is the immersive experience of visiting a place like Middle-earth, Narnia, Hogwarts or the Dark Tower, where things are not just strange and magical but also ancient and immense.

“Thrones” certainly nods to that too, with plenty of time spent at the colossal landmark called the Wall, an 8,000-year-old barrier of ice at the grim northern border of the Seven Kingdoms. But Dinklage also knows that characters and the fascinating physics of family and power have made “Thrones” the must-see show that it is, which is why he’s leery of anything that would shift emphasis from words to wars. For that reason, Dinklage sounds conflicted even about HBO’s decision to add 15 percent to the “Thrones” production budget.

“I think more money can be very detrimental to movies and TV because things get solved economically rather than creatively and that’s never a good solution,” the New Jersey native said. “I think with a lot of filmmakers, their first film is their best film because they had to think on their feet and solve problems with ingenuity. The more money there is too, the more cooks you have in the kitchen and suddenly you have 20 producers showing up on the set and you don’t know who they are or what they even do.”

Those are the experiences Dinklage brings in from his film work — his feature credits include “Elf,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and “The Station Agent” — but he’s not hitting the fire alarm on “Thrones”: “Look, the way we just shot the second season and the way it went, I think we’re keeping the right things in mind. Things are going along swimmingly. I think though we always have to keep (the eagerness to expand) in check.”

If Dinklage sounds as if he’s over-worrying, perhaps it’s all the time he’s spent looking through the wary eyes of Tyrion Lannister. This season, the “Thrones” character secured his position as Hand of the King (making him chief advisor to the cruel King Joffrey) but is losing sleep (the city teeters on mob violence, his new lover presents a target to his vindictive sister and he’s leading men into battle). Dinklage portrays Tyrion with a sly, soulful nuance that cuts against the character’s cynical airs.

The second-season finale of “Thrones” last weekend drew in a series high 4.2 million viewers, 38 percent improved over last season’s finale, suggesting these are sunny days in the Seven Kingdoms, but even Dinklage reminds viewers that, for every series, winter is coming at some point.

“With a lot of shows, they start off really well and they’re very original, but they become sort of a version of themselves,” Dinklage said. “They stand outside the show … they become a cliche of the show they once were. That’s the whole ‘jumping the shark’ thing.”

Well, “jousting the dragon” seems more likely but, again, Dinklage is talking about a distant distress, not any pressing anxiety. “We’re too young (as a series) to be even thinking about that (pitfall) … it’s up to the writers to give us good stories to tell, and David Benioff and Dan Weiss are so good at that, and I think they will continue to do great things. Knock on wood.”

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